Tremble and drift

For philosopher Henri Lefebvre, rhythms are influenced by their context. They also vary. The waves on the sea provide an obvious example. Perturbations across water involve counter movements, complex overlays of movement, and the patterns rely on the shape and materials of the shore, the tides, weather conditions, and water traffic. He contrasts rhythm with…More

Sociable encryption: The secret of the five keys

Will encryption save us? Social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff explains in detail the methods employed by Google and other digital giants to track our clicks, sell our data, and auction targeted advertising slots to monetise our private on-screen experiences. Our online behaviour is the resource. We are the product, not the consumer. Google’s clients are advertisers…More

Is it getting harder to be good?

Episode 37 of the comedy series The Good Place delivers a clever parable about ethics. In this unlikely universe people gain entry to Heaven by totting up enough credit points. Good deeds add points to your tally. But a check on the records shows that no one has made it into Heaven for the past…More

The great debate debate

The European Commission is hosting debates around Europe at the moment: “Citizens’ Dialogues, in the style of town-hall debates, are taking place across the EU. Feel free to come along – it’s ‘first come, first served’!” Dialogue is good, but is debate always the best model for promoting public engagement? When I was in primary…More

Against empathy

“The term ’empathy,’ has provided a guiding thread for a whole range of fundamentally mistaken theories concerning man’s relationship to other human beings and to other beings in general, theories that we are only gradually beginning to overcome today” (203). That’s a quote from Martin Heidegger’s book of 1929-30 based on a lecture series bearing the…More

Mastering the universe

The Guardian newspaper recently ran a cover story on GCHQ’s top-secret project Mastering the Internet. According to a helpful summary from wired.co.uk, it seems that the UK and US intelligence services have invoked a legal workaround that avoids domestic restrictions on intelligence gathering. The NSA in the USA can check up on UK citizens and GCHQ…More

What’s wrong with the future

The book The New Digital Age by Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt and director of Google Ideas Jared Cohen was published this week. I’ve been reading the Kindle edition. As with other books of this genre, there’s much we’ve read before, but it’s of interest who is saying it. Google is after all a major…More

The happy medium

Over 40 million Facebook status updates are posted across the world every day. Status updates are simply short messages you post on your Facebook website prompted by a random question such as “What are you doing today?” “What’s going on?” or “How are you feeling?” Your Facebook friends get to read your status updates. Facebook…More

Mad crowds disease

Mobs, herds, battalions, minions, spectators: these are groups to whom we readily ascribe a mood – celebratory, triumphant, ugly, angry, battle-weary, hysterical, frenzied, supportive, enthusiastic, docile. I confess to being moved by the presence of crowds on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh as the Olympic torch relay passed by. I had stumbled across different segments…More

Network notion

It seems that societies organise themselves as networks, an idea brought into sharp relief with the development of online social networks. People with online profiles are the nodes, hubs or cells, and there are linkages with other people through their personal directories of friends and followers, who are similarly linked.More