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News 08.23.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 08.23.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@lisadanielle__ via @dana_chels
News 08.23.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Valerie Quant Zecchetto
News 08.23.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@lisadanielle__ via @dana_chels

By the 1990s, narrative storytelling had all but disappeared from America’s radio airwaves. What had been the signature radio format in the 1930s and 1940s, had been replaced by news, angry talk, rock and roll, and, above all, television. Not only had video killed the radio star, in the words of The Buggles’ 1979 hit, but it seemed to be killing radio itself.

Then, in November 1995, the producer and journalist Ira Glass debuted Your Radio Playhouse, an hour-long magazine featuring quirky tales about ordinary Americans. That program would eventually morph into public radio’s This American Life, which has aired, thus far, for 680 episodes.

With Ira Glass hosting and producing, This American Life launched a storytelling revival on the radio. What Glass and his team did was to present first-rate journalism stylishly packaged as intelligent entertainment. Like the New Journalists of the 1960s, he deployed the techniques of fiction and applied them to his factual reports.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Review of Books

News 08.23.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.23.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

We are swimming in writing. Our lives have become, in the words of the author and academic Shoshana Zuboff, an “electronic text”. Social media platforms have created a machine for us to write to. The bait is that we are interacting with other people: our friends, colleagues, celebrities, politicians, royals, terrorists, porn actors – anyone we like. We are not interacting with them, however, but with the machine. We write to it, and it passes on the message for us after keeping a record of the data.

The machine benefits from the “network effect”: the more people write to it, the more benefits it can offer, until it becomes a disadvantage not to be part of it. Part of what? The world’s first ever public, live, collective, open-ended writing project. A virtual laboratory. An addiction machine, which deploys crude techniques of manipulation redolent of the Skinner Box created by behaviourist BF Skinner to control the behaviour of pigeons and rats with rewards and punishments. We are users, much as cocaine addicts are users.

What is the incentive to engage in writing like this for hours each day? In a form of mass casualisation, writers no longer expect to be paid or given employment contracts. What do the platforms offer us, in lieu of a wage? What gets us hooked? Approval, attention, retweets, shares and likes.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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Stuffed closets. Dangerous junk drawers. Crowded cabinets. Bloated bookshelves. All have come under the gaze of Marie Kondo and her legions of folding-frenzied fans. But none hit a nerve quite like the bookshelf. On an episode of her smash-hit Netflix special, Kondo advised a couple to edit their shelves, maybe get rid of a few. The Internet did what it does best: It went bananas. How dare she come for books! #TeamClutter, meet #TeamCensorship. Of course, there was a backlash to the backlash, with the expected explanation from Kondo that not all books gotta go.

The visceral reaction, even without the social-media hyperbole, was hard to ignore. Books are more than objects. They are filled with ideas, stories, versions of ourselves, memories. Bookshelves are like your wardrobe: they send a message. And the message these famous book-lovers shared with us is loud and clear: Books spark joy.

Read the rest of this article at: The Independent

News 08.23.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

For a decade, Christopher Reeves, an Uber driver in Seattle, used Facebook for everything: talking with friends, communicating with fellow drivers, meeting singles. But one day in June, as he was uploading photos from a comic book convention and a family trip to Disneyland, he found himself abruptly logged out.

When Mr. Reeves, 32, tried to sign back in, the Facebook page said that his account had been disabled. It requested a photo to verify his identity. He took a selfie with his iPhone, but Facebook rejected it, as well as several other self portraits. Eventually he gave up and sought out a page in Facebook’s help center for people who think their accounts have been disabled by mistake. He provided his name, email address and a photo of his driver’s license.

Days passed. Mr. Reeves heard nothing. He searched in vain for a way to talk to a human at Facebook. He sent Twitter messages to Facebook and was ignored. After a week of growing increasingly frustrated, he went to Facebook’s office in downtown Seattle, where, he recalled, five receptionists sat behind a counter in the lobby.

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Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

I have no entirely satisfactory answer to the questions that prompt these reflections; but I do think the right approach to the answers can be glimpsed fairly clearly if we first take the time to define our terms. These days, after all, especially in America, the word capitalism has become a ridiculously capacious portmanteau word for every imaginable form of economic exchange, no matter how primitive or rudimentary. I take it, however, that here we are employing it somewhat more precisely, to indicate an epoch in the history of market economies that commenced in earnest only a few centuries ago. Capitalism, as many historians define it, is the set of financial conventions that took shape in the age of industrialization and that gradually supplanted the mercantilism of the previous era. As Proudhon defined it in 1861, it is a system in which as a general rule those whose work creates profits neither own the means of production nor enjoy the fruits of their labor.

This form of commerce largely destroyed the contractual power of free skilled labor, killed off the artisanal guilds, and introduced instead a mass wage system that reduced labor to a negotiable commodity. In this way, it created a market for the exploitation of cheap and desperate laborers. It was also increasingly abetted by government policies that reduced the options of the disadvantaged to wage-slavery or total indigence (such as Britain’s enclosures of the commons starting in the middle of the eighteenth century). All of this, moreover, necessarily entailed a shift in economic eminence from the merchant class – purveyors of goods contracted from and produced by independent labor, subsidiary estates, or small local markets – to capitalist investors who both produce and sell their goods. And this, in the fullness of time, evolved into a fully realized corporate system that transformed the joint-stock companies of early modern trade into engines for generating immense capital at the secondary level of financial speculation: a purely financial market where wealth is created for and enjoyed by those who toil not, neither do they spin, but who instead engage in an incessant circulation of investment and divestment, as a kind of game of chance.

For this reason, capitalism might be said to have achieved its most perfect expression in the rise of the commercial corporation with limited liability, an institution that allows the game to be played in abstraction even from whether the businesses invested in ultimately succeed or fail. (One can profit just as much from the destruction of livelihoods as from their creation.) Such a corporation is a truly insidious entity: Before the law, it enjoys the status of a legal person – a legal privilege formerly granted only to “corporate” associations recognized as providing public goods, such as universities or monasteries – but under the law it is required to behave as the most despicable person imaginable. Almost everywhere in the capitalist world (in America, for instance, since the 1919 decision in Dodge v. Ford), a corporation of this sort is required to seek no end other than maximum gains for its shareholders; it is forbidden to allow any other consideration – say, a calculation of what constitutes decent or indecent profits, the welfare of laborers, charitable causes that might divert profits, or what have you – to hinder it in this pursuit.

Read the rest of this article at: The Plough

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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