29 Apr 2017

Reading List

29 April 2017: Clifford Lynch traces the hidden agenda behind analytics (First Monday): “Historically, most of the language has been about competing values and how they should be prioritized and balanced, using charged and emotional phrases: ‘reader privacy,’ ‘intellectual freedom,’ ‘national security,’ ‘surveillance,’ ‘accountability,’ ‘protecting potential victims’ and more recently ‘personalization’ perhaps. These conversations are being supplanted by a sterile and anodyne, value-free discussion of ‘analytics:’ reader analytics, learning analytics, etc. These are presented as tools that smart and responsible modern organizations are expected to employ; indeed, not doing analytics is presented as suggesting some kind of management failure or incompetence in many quarters.”

19 April 2017: Brian Bergstein draws lessons from television history for Facebook (Technology Review): “Why are we finally now in what’s often called a golden age of television, with culturally influential, sophisticated shows that don’t insult our intelligence? It’s not because broadcasters stopped airing schlock. It’s because the audience is more fragmented than ever—thanks to the rise of public broadcasting and cable TV and streaming services and many other challenges to big networks. It required a flourishing of choices rather than a reliance on those huge networks to become better versions of themselves.”

30 March 2017: Emily Bell and Taylor Owen hand down the verdict on the tech giants ( “Platforms cannot put a firewall between their own activities and journalism… Facebook, Google and Apple have an instrumental need to at least appear to be protecting journalism and free speech. Any desire to assist the viability of journalism, however well motivated, bumps up against the design and incentive structures of the platforms. Until these are changed, or until there is an effort to delineate and incentivize high-quality material, social platforms will continue to undermine rather than sustain good journalism.”

29 March 2017: danah boyd asserts that the “fake news” issue won’t be fixed by tech (Backchannel): “We have a cultural problem, one that is shaped by disconnects in values, relationships, and social fabric. Our media, our tools, and our politics are being leveraged to help breed polarization… [We need to] develop social, technical, economic, and political structures that allow people to understand, appreciate, and bridge different viewpoints. Too much technology and media was architected with the idea that just making information available would do that cultural work.”

11 February 2017: danah boyd has a thesis about how the current social and political polarisation came about ( “If we want to develop a healthy democracy, we need a diverse and highly connected social fabric. This requires creating contexts in which the American public voluntarily struggles with the challenges of diversity to build bonds that will last a lifetime. We have been systematically undoing this, and the public has used new technological advances to make their lives easier by self-segregating. This has increased polarization, and we’re going to pay a heavy price for this going forward.”

11 February 2017: Ethan Zuckerman remembers how 19th century postal service subsidies let newspapers thrive ( “Newspapers could send copies to each other for free, with carriage costs paid by the post office. By 1840, The average newspaper received 4300 exchange copies a year — they were swimming in content, and thanks to extremely loose enforcement of copyright laws, a huge percentage of what appeared in the average newspaper was cut and pasted from other newspapers. This giant exchange of content was subsidized by high rates on those who used the posts for personal and commercial purposes.”

11 February 2017: Kathryn Schulz finds some solace in loss after all (The New Yorker): “When we are experiencing it, loss often feels like an anomaly, a disruption in the usual order of things. In fact, though, it is the usual order of things. Entropy, mortality, extinction: the entire plan of the universe consists of losing, and life amounts to a reverse savings account in which we are eventually robbed of everything. […] Disappearance reminds us to notice, transience to cherish, fragility to defend. Loss is a kind of external conscience, urging us to make better use of our finite days.”

3 January 2017: Maciej Cegłowski pulls the plug from artificial superintelligence fearmongering (Idle Words): “A recurring flaw in AI alarmism is that it treats intelligence as a property of individual minds, rather than recognizing that this capacity is distributed across our civilization and culture.”

18 December 2016: Zadie Smith has a musical metaphor for the current state of our world: (The New York Review of Books): “Individual citizens are internally plural: they have within them the full range of behavioral possibilities. They are like complex musical scores from which certain melodies can be teased out and others ignored or suppressed, depending, at least in part, on who is doing the conducting. At this moment, all over the world […] the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind. […] Those of us who remember, too, a finer music must try now to play it, and encourage others, if we can, to sing along.”

21 November 2016: Brian Phillips dissects the aporia of contemporary political communications (MTV News): “If the left found itself in the strange position of supporting science on the one hand while insisting that truth was a cultural construct on the other, the right found itself in the even stranger position of investing in meaning even as it dissociated itself from fact.”

21 November 2016: Brian Phillips boils post-fact society to the essence (MTV News): “Authoritarianism doesn’t really want to convince its supporters that their fantasies are true, because truth claims are subject to verification, and thus to the possible discrediting of authority. Authoritarianism wants to convince its supporters that nothing is true, that the whole machinery of truth is an intolerable imposition on their psyches, and thus that they might as well give free rein to their fantasies.”

18 November 2016: Tim O’Reilly points to the secret sauce to curating news on the Internet (WTF!): “For the better part of two decades, Google has worked tirelessly to thread the needle between curating an algorithmic feed of a firehose of content that can be created by anyone and simply picking winners and losers. And here’s the key point: they do this without actually making judgments about the actual content of the page. The ‘truth signal’ is in the metadata, not the data.”

16 October 2016: I take a swing at defining Solutions Journalism: “This means that investigating and pointing out good practices, lessons learned, or problem-solving approaches are key elements of reporting activities. Notably, however, this does not entail any whitewashing or sugarcoating; grievances and wrongdoings encountered will still be exposed. Solutions journalism is rather a forward-looking mindset that interrogates the facts as a means to an end, while at the same time keeping up all its guards related to the scrutiny and accountability of all actors involved.”

31 August 2016: Chenoe Hart develops a radical vision for a future with autonomous vehicles (Real Life): “The user interface for navigating space would no longer be a map, but a clock or calendar. Distances once traced on a map would be transmuted into blocks of time plotted on one’s daily schedule. Place would be synonymous with occasion, with movement through time corresponding to automatic movements through space. Frequent destinations such as ‘home’ and ‘work’ might transform into abstract zones differentiated mainly by when rather than where they happen.”

21 July 2016: Luke Mogelson waives journalistic impact (Literary Hub): “A truly candid disclaimer would require me to inform the subject that not one of my articles has resulted in a policy change or improved in any meaningful way the lives of the people whom it was about. (…) Influencing policy is not my objective. Making any real difference of any sort isn’t my objective, can’t be my objective, because if it were, I would have switched to a different line of work by now.”

13 July 2016: Mark Zuckerberg feels that people seem to be keen to adapt to a post-privacy world (BuzzFeed): “People look at live video and they think this is a lot of pressure because it’s live; it takes a lot of courage to go live and put yourself out there. But what we’re finding is the opposite. A lot of the biggest innovations have been things that take some of the pressure out of posting a photo or video.”

13 July 2016: Ben Thompson perceives a paradigm change in Facebook (Stratechery): “Before the advent of Live Video, (…) Facebook could more easily claim to be a neutral provider, simply serving up 3rd-party stories via an allegedly objective algorithm that was ultimately directed by the user itself (…). And while the reality of Facebook’s News Feed is in fact not objective at all — algorithms are designed by people — actually creating the news will, I suspect, change the conversation about Facebook’s journalistic role in a way that the company may not like.”

12 July 2016: Katharine Viner sums up what is worth defending about today’s journalism (The Guardian): “Above all, the challenge for journalism today is not simply technological innovation or the creation of new business models. It is to establish what role journalistic organisations still play in a public discourse that has become impossibly fragmented and radically destabilised.”

5 July 2016: Maciej Cegłowski has a nice explanation for the current enthusiasm about macine learning (Idle Words): “Instead of relying on algorithms, which we can be accused of manipulating for our benefit, we have turned to machine learning, an ingenious way of disclaiming responsibility for anything. Machine learning is like money laundering for bias. It’s a clean, mathematical apparatus that gives the status quo the aura of logical inevitability. The numbers don’t lie.”

23 February 2016: Craig Mod nails down what makes a great product by example of the Leica Q ( “A product has to earn its place in the world. Especially a product that’s being commoditized and attacked from all sides. It has to function not only at absolute peak performance (in this case, infallibly take great photos), but it has to do so while simultaneously delighting us. I’m a stickler for that: the delight.”

19 February 2016: Software agency Postlight explains how you know that something went really wrong at your company (Postlight): “Someone went to fix a problem five years ago, kind-of-fixed it, and created a new problem that has now become so large and looming that it’s easier for everyone to quit and get new jobs than deal with it.”

19 February 2016: Elspeth Reese unveils the secret ranking of social networks (The New Republic): “Those blessed with early-onset hotness are drawn to YouTube, the fashionable and seemingly wealthy post to Instagram, the most charismatic actors, dancers, and comedians thrive on Vine. On Facebook, every link you share and photo you post is a statement of your identity. Tumblr is the social network that, based on my reporting, is seen by teens as the most uncool.”

12 February 2016: Thomas Fischer bringt das Verschwinden der ‘Deutschland AG’ auf den Punkt (Zeit Online): “Das abgehängte Viertel schließlich hat erfahren, was seit 1949 verborgen war. Ihm wurde und wird gesagt: Die Deutschland AG ist für euch nicht mehr zuständig. Eine gemeinsame Aufgabe, euch zu retten, euch zu emanzipieren, euch wichtig zu finden, gibt es nicht mehr. Dafür kriegt ihr aber Hartz IV und RTL2 und notfalls Sachleistungen, wenn’s sein muss. Und wenn ihr frech werdet, ein paar Hundertschaften Bundespolizei auf den Hals.”

12 February 2016: Thomas Fischer hat eine ganz eigene Definition der Presse (Zeit Online): “Presse ist eine Vervielfältigungsmaschine, deren Betreiber sich selbst im Gegenlicht glitzern sehen als Schöpfer der Wirklichkeit, und die doch zugleich im Geiste umherkriechen als ihre gehorsamen Diener.”

28 January 2016: Larissa MacFarquhar summarises why most world-changing plans are doomed to fail (The New Yorker): “Failure of imagination, failure of courage, bad governments, bad planning, incompetence, corruption, fecklessness, the laws of nations, the laws of physics, the weight of history, inertia of all sorts, psychological unsuitability on the part of the would-be changer, the resistance of people who would lose from the change, the resistance of people who would benefit from it, the seduction of activities other than world-changing, lack of practical knowledge, lack of political skill, and lack of money.”

5 January 2016: Suzanne Saledin smartly compares machine intelligence to traditional human organisations (Quartz): “There’s a sense in which humans are already building a specific kind of AI; indeed, we’ve been gradually building it for centuries. This kind of AI consists of systems that we construct and endow with legal, real-world power. (…) The system as a whole can act with an appearance of purpose, intelligence, and values entirely distinct from anything exhibited by its human components.”

23 December 2015: Paul Ford reminisces about a programming language called Lisp (Bloomberg Business): “Back in the 1980s, while the Fortran programmers were off optimizing nuclear weapon yields, Lisp programmers were trying to get a robot to pick up a teddy bear or write a sonnet. But one day, the people who ran the funding parts of the world came in, yelled, ‘Shut it all down,’ and pulled a big red switch (which was probably programmed in Fortran).

23 December 2015: Michael Malherbe neatly sums up the problem with the European public sphere (Décrypter la communication européenne): “Au bout du compte, on distingue une dichotomie de plus en plus flagrante entre d’un côté, une presse ultra-spécialisée sur l’Europe, très difficile d’accès, au sens strict, par son coût et la difficulté que représente sa lecture pour le non-spécialiste, et de l’autre, une presse populaire nationalo-centrée, qui se désintéresse de plus en plus de ces questions et laisse le grand public largement dans l’ignorance de la chose européenne.”

22 December 2015: Liviu Nedelescu draws a line between machines and humans (Harvard Business Review): “Any task that has an output or outcome which can be pre-stated or even guessed, should eventually be performed by a machine. Humans should eventually be left to more or less exclusively deal with open-ended endeavors that generate new organic value (as opposed to efficiency derived value).”

22 December 2015: Alan Rusbridger eulogizes the ideal journalist (Columbia Journalism Review): “You are a journalist. You are not part of the state or the government. Your job is disclosure, not secrecy. You stand aside from power in order to scrutinize it. Your job is to be fully sensitive to all the public interests raised by the story – and to publish what you judge to be significant as responsibly as you know how.”

22 December 2015: Thomas Baekdal differentiates between loyalty on Twitter and Facebook (Baekdal plus): “On Twitter, my feed is defined by who I follow and it hasn’t been ranked or edited. This means that my loyalty goes more to those I follow, and less so to Twitter itself. But on Facebook, the NewsFeed is a curated and edited view of what Facebook thinks I would like to see, meaning that I’m no longer in control over who and what to see. So the loyalty goes to Facebook because they are the ones I’m now interacting with.”

22 December 2015: Lara Goitein knows why doctors are becoming increasingly overchallenged by making a proper diagnosis (The New York Review of Books): “Whereas previous generations had emphasized searching for and learning from what was new or unusual – what stretched and challenged current understanding – now training emphasized classification of patients into categories and algorithms in order to cope safely with the pace.”

22 December 2015: Jill Lepore chronicles why Warren and Brandeis first conceived of the right to privacy (The New Yorker): “The right to privacy, as they understood it, is a function of history, a consequence of modernity. Privacy, they argued, hadn’t always been necessary; it had become necessary – because of the shifting meaning and nature of publicity. By the end of the nineteenth century, publicity, which for Bentham had meant transparency (the opposite of secrecy), had come to mean the attention of the press (the opposite of privacy).”

22 December 2015: Paul Krugman explains why a lack of competition increases income inequality  (The New York Review of Books): “Consider those monopolies controlling local Internet service: their high profits don’t act as an incentive to invest in faster connections – on the contrary, they have less incentive to improve service than they would if they faced more competition and earned lower profits. Extend this logic to the economy as a whole, and the combination of a rising profit share and weak investment starts to make sense.”

22 December 2015: John Herrman finds that explainers are, in fact, a kind of anti-journalism (The Awl): “The new explainers are well adapted to feeds: they assert authority without invoking expertise; they mimic the language of their audience; they offer closure and satisfaction in an endless stream. (…) The onus to provide an opposing viewpoint transfers from ostensibly balanced publications to you and your platform peers.”

22 December 2015: John Herrman finds a silver lining in journalism increasingly being shut out by politicians and celebrities (The Awl): “A reporter that depends on access to a compelling subject is by definition a reporter compromised. A publication that depends on cooperation from the world that it specializes in is likewise giving up something in terms of its ability to tell the truth about it. (…) [But] remove the presumption of access and you have no choice but to report against the wishes of powerful subjects.”

22 December 2015: John Herrman pinpoints the predicament of conventional media under the thumb of social networks (The Awl): “A generation of publications and channels that were built and configured around the maintenance of large and exclusive audiences now find themselves borrowing much less coherent audiences from platforms that mediate their every action.”

22 December 2015: John Herrman points out how cunningly we are fooled by social media companies (The Awl): “We are persuaded that our feeds are our fault, which minimizes the systems through which they are continuously created. (…) Neutral editors or publications were always an illusion. They’re people, or made of people! Neutral feeds are an even trickier one. They’re the products of systems. Systems designed by people.”

22 December 2015: Derek Thompson explains how charts render pop music more boring (The Atlantic): “If you give people too much say, they will ask for the same familiar sounds on an endless loop, entrenching music that is repetitive, derivative, and relentlessly played out. (…) Even when offered a universe of music, most of us prefer to listen to what we think everyone else is hearing.”

23 November 2015: Tim Urban glances into the uncanny valley of machine intelligence (Wait But Why): “Given the combination of obsessing over a goal, amorality, and the ability to easily outsmart humans, it seems that almost any AI [artificial intelligence] will default to Unfriendly AI, unless carefully coded in the first place with this in mind. Unfortunately, while building a Friendly ANI [artificial narrow intelligence] is easy, building one that stays friendly when it becomes an ASI [artificial superintelligence] is hugely challenging, if not impossible.”

23 November 2015: Derek Thompson looks into the face of a world without work (The Atlantic): “Decades from now, perhaps the 20th century will strike future historians as an aberration, with its religious devotion to overwork in a time of prosperity, its attenuations of family in service to job opportunity, its conflation of income with self-worth. The post-work society (…) holds a warped mirror up to today’s economy, but in many ways it reflects the forgotten norms of the mid-19th century – the artisan middle class, the primacy of local communities, and the unfamiliarity with widespread joblessness.”

5 August 2015: Thomas Baekdal points to the discrimination of small players on the Internet (Baekdal plus): “As a small publisher myself, I’m sick and tired of these constant partnerships between huge tech companies and legacy media titles. It violates the very promise of the internet.”

5 August 2015: Barack Obama sends a wake-up call to Silicon Valley (Fast Company): “The tech community is more creative, more innovative, more collaborative and open to new ideas than any sector on earth. But sometimes what’s missing is purpose.”

5 August 2015: John Herrman explains the risk news organisation run when they agree to cooperate with platforms (The Awl): “Finally doing the work of a news organization on Facebook’s platform will help news organizations figure out what news on Facebook should actually look like. It will help Facebook figure out the same.”

5 August 2015: Markus Spath versteht die Verlage nicht (live.hackr): [Es ist] “absurd, dass die verlage mit aller gewalt gegen google kämpfen aber apple und facebook in den arsch kriechen, weil google gwm. der einzige kanal ist, über den sie intentional offene, weil eben genau nach dem thema suchende besucher bekommen. alles was sich über sharing aufschaukelt oder ausdifferenziert ist zwar viel ‘erfolgreicher’, muss aber auch mit einem gähnenden wegwischen nach 2 sekunden rechnen.”

5 August 2015: Benjamin Hunnicutt points Derek Thompson to the paradox of today’s jobs (The Atlantic): “If a cashier’s work were a video game – grab an item, find the bar code, scan it, slide the item onward, and repeat – critics of video games might call it mindless. But when it’s a job, politicians praise its intrinsic dignity. ‘Purpose, meaning, identity, fulfillment, creativity, autonomy – all these things that positive psychology has shown us to be necessary for well-being are absent in the average job,’ he said.”

5 August 2015: David Weinberger summarises the Internet’s development so far (The Atlantic): “Over time, the Internet escaped from its creators’ intentions. It became a way to communicate person-to-person via email and many-to-many via Usenet. The web came along and the prototypical example became home pages. Social networking came along and the prototype became Facebook. Mobile came along and the prototype became apps – although I’m not convinced that this last step has actually happened.”

15 July 2015: H.J. Jackson puts the finger on why great literature and art don’t fade (The New Yorker):  “Great deeds, no matter how meritorious, can never be experienced at first hand again, but thoughts can.”

15 July 2015: Stijn Debrouwere demystifies the traditional news industry (  “An industry can’t survive on symbolic capital alone – grand talk about democracy and the Fourth Estate. If things that are not journalism entertain, inform and facilitate agency better than things that are, don’t bet on journalism to thrive.”

26 May 2015: Isabelle Graw tracks the emergence of the art market (Texte zur Kunst): “The economic dimension implicit to how we think about art has a history and can be traced to the very invention of the conception of modern art in eighteenth-century aesthetics: by releasing art from its bondage to external purposes and declaring its autonomy, aesthetics created the perfect conditions for art’s marketing. […] Although an artwork carries with it the precipitates of its economic history, it cannot be reduced to these sediments.”

26 May 2015: William Davies gets to the bottom of the success of social media (The Guardian): “What makes social media so compulsive, even addictive? It is the experience of social life, stripped of all its frustrations and obligations. People who cannot put down their smartphones are not engaging with images or gadgetry for the sake of it: they are desperately seeking some form of human interaction, but of a kind that does nothing to limit their personal, private autonomy.”

26 May 2015: Tad Friend sums up the aporias of venture capital (The New Yorker): “Only human beings could have created such a supercollider of contradictions: a font of innovation that pools around conformity; a freedom train that speeds toward monopoly; a promoter of transparency that shrouds its own dealings; a guild that’s dedicated to flattening hierarchies, and that rewards its leaders with imperial power.”

6 May 2015: Leon Wieseltier defends (The New York Times) “the view that the strongest defense of the humanities lies not in the appeal to their utility […], but rather in the appeal to their defiantly nonutilitarian character, so that individuals can know more than how things work, and develop their powers of discernment and judgment, their competence in matters of truth and goodness and beauty, to equip themselves adequately for the choices and the crucibles of private and public life.”

6 May 2015: Liam Boluk explains why Internet distribution changes the whole dynamic of television (REDEF): “Content decisions will still be made in silos and under the impression, for example, that a Showtime viewer would watch more Showtime if more ‘good’ Showtime content were available – even if they might really want to watch more of CBS. In a multi-network world, the best that a network group head can hope for is to optimize each individual network. Netflix, meanwhile, programs holistically for and across its entire subscriber base.”

28 April 2015: Julian Baggini does away with the determinism debate (The Guardian): “Recognising how much our beliefs and commitments are shaped by factors beyond our control actually helps us to gain more control of them. It allows us to question our sense that something is obviously true by provoking us to ask whether it would appear so obvious if our upbringing or character had been different. It is only by recognising how much is not in our power that we can seize control of that which is.”

28 April 2015: Cory Doctorow warns of technology-driven dystopia (The Guardian): “We are headed for a long age of IT-powered feudalism, where property is the exclusive domain of the super-rich, where your surveillance-supercharged Internet of Things treats you as a tenant-farmer of your life, subject to a licence agreement instead of a constitution. ”

28 April 2015: Dan Zambonini puts blind belief in data into its place (Medium):  “There is so much invisible, fluid context wrapped around a data point that we are usually unable to fully comprehend exactly what that data represents or means. We often think we know, but we rarely do.”

28 April 2015: Reinhard Sprenger fasst die Grundregeln der Mitarbeiterführung zusammen (brand eins): “Finde die Richtigen, vertrau ihnen, fordere sie heraus, rede oft mit ihnen, bezahle sie fair und mach dann das Wichtigste von allem: Geh aus dem Weg.”

16 March 2015: Andrew Solomon praises the state of not knowing and of having no answers (The New Yorker):  “Belief in answers can get you through your early days, while the belief in questions, which is so much less tangible, takes a long time to arrive at. To know more is simply a matter of industry; to accept what you will never know is trickier. The belief that questions are precious whether or not they have answers is the hallmark of a mature writer, not the naïve blessing of a beginner.”

9 February 2015: Ian Bogost advocates against assigning algorithms godlike roles (The Atlantic): “[Games] willingly admit that they are caricatures… Games know that they are faking it, which makes them less susceptible to theologization. SimCity isn’t an urban planning tool, it’s  a cartoon of urban planning. Imagine the folly of thinking otherwise! Yet, that’s precisely the belief people hold of Google and Facebook and the like.”

8 January 2015: Zeynep Tufekci explains the wonders of the developed world (Medium): “In earlier societies, we more or less all did the same things, and felt similar to one another: mechanical solidarity, as Durkheim called it. In industrial societies, we live by division of labor: everyone does their little corner of the world, and depends on each other for everything.”

20 November 2014: Thomas Baekdal describes the two fundamental approaches to online commerce by example of media (baekdal plus): “The Amazon model (the supermarket of intent). Here you start with people’s intent, and then you deliver that with the highest form of targeting possible. The social model (the supermarket of interest). Here you start with what people are interested in, and then you build your offerings around those interests for that specific individual.”

20 November 2014: Volker Lilienthal begründet, warum sich Stiftungen besonders um den Journalismus verdient machen sollten (Netzwerk Recherche): “Stiftungen und Journalismus – das ist an sich eine kongeniale Verbindung. Denn mit kaum einer Zweckbestimmung können Stiftungen so viel für die Allgemeinheit tun… Medieninhalte, deren Produktion und Publikation sie mit ihrem guten Geld möglich machen, erreichen eine breite Öffentlichkeit, befördern die Meinungsbildung, revitalisieren Demokratie und Gesellschaft durch Information und Kritik und tragen so zur Kultivierung der Lebensverhältnisse bei.”

20 November 2014: Jody Rosen explores The Knowledge, the grueling exam every London taxi driver must pass (New York Times): “Knowledge boys speak of a Eureka moment when, after months or years of doggedly assembling the London puzzle, the fuzziness recedes and the city snaps into focus, the great morass of streets suddenly appearing as an intelligible whole. (…) To support the Knowledge is to make the unfashionable argument that expertise cannot be reduced to data, that there’s something dystopian, or at least depressing, about the outsourcing of humanity’s hard-won erudition to gizmos.”

20 November 2014: Lili Loofbourow puts a new spin to the debate about fiction, non-fiction, and journalism (The Guardian): “The fact that Game of Thrones is fiction means, ironically enough, that it feels unmediated. We aren’t reliant on a mythical agenda-wielding intermediary (a journalist, say, or a woman) and can instead witness the event in question ‘directly'”.

20 November 2014: Paul K. Saint-Amour elegantly defines intellectual property (The Copywrights): “Intellectual property is a frail gondola that ferries innovation from the private to the public sphere, from the genius to the commons.”

20 November 2014: Paul Currion criticises the humanitarian aid sector based on its recent history (Aeon): “The NGO response has been an implicit acceptance that humanitarian assistance is a market, and they need to maintain their market position, primarily though professionalising, in order to fit the technocratic logic of donor governments.”

20 November 2014: Clay Shirky gives the ultimate reason why DRM-free, affordable e-books are the way to go (Medium): “In the twenty-first century, not being able to correctly stock or distribute a product whose main ingredient is information suggests a degree of technical and managerial incompetence indistinguishable from active malice.”

20 November 2014: David Pemsel describes the benchmark for The Guardian’s financial survival (The Guardian): “It is about finding new, meaningful ways to monetise our huge audience of over 100 million global users, while protecting and affirming our commitment to open journalism without building walls around our content. It is very different to subscription retention schemes.”

20 November 2014: danah boyd argues that privacy should also apply in public (Medium): “People want to be in public, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to be public. (…) When powerful actors, be they companies or governmental agencies, use the excuse of something being ‘public’ to defend their right to look, they systematically assert control over people in a way that fundamentally disenfranchises them.”

20 November 2014: Ethan Zuckerman looks into the mechanics of the online advertising market (The Atlantic): “Targeting to intent (as Google’s search ads do) works well, while targeting to demographics, psychographics or stated interests (as Facebook does) works marginally better than not targeting at all.”

20 November 2014: Kathryn Schulz pays attention to a side effect of representative constitutions (The New Yorker):  “1851, the French political theorist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon could observe that ‘to be governed is to be noted, registered, enumerated, accounted for, stamped, measured, classified, audited, patented, licensed, authorized, endorsed, reprimanded, prevented, reformed, rectified, and corrected, in every operation, every transaction, every movement.’”

10 October 2014: Wolfgang Hagen findet, dass das Internet kein Massenmedium ist (epd Medien): “Massenmedien sind definiert durch ‘Periodizität’ (regelmäßiges Erscheinen), ‘Publizität’ (Zugänglichkeit für jedermann), ‘Universalität’ (Themenvielfalt) und ‘Aktualität’ (Erwirken von Aufmerksamkeit der Gesellschaft als Ganzes). […] Das Internet, so paradox es klingt, ist kein Massenmedium. Es erreicht zwar weltweit riesige Menschenmassen wie kein Medium zuvor, aber es hat keine ‘Publizität’ im klassischen Sinn, weil die Zugänglichkeit der Inhalte entweder auf Vorkenntnis, auf Links aus einer ‘losen’ Gemeinschaft von ‘Freunden’ (anderen NutzerInnen), auf ‘Adds’ oder auf ausgetüftelten Algorithmen einer Suchmaschine basiert.”

10 October 2014: Jill Lepore takes Clayton Cristensen’s innovation theory to task, and funny (The New Yorker): “As Christensen saw it, the problem was the velocity of history, and it wasn’t so much a problem as a missed opportunity, like a plane that takes off without you, except that you didn’t even know there was a plane, and had wandered onto the airfield, which you thought was a meadow, and the plane ran you over during takeoff.”

29 August 2014: Richard Tofel assesses what exactly makes readers stick with a publication (The Fray): “I (…) believe that positive renewal and conversion decisions are driven, more than anything else, by a handful of stories each year, or quarter, or month, that strike a particular subscriber as valuable, for whatever reason — rather than some amorphous judgment of overall quality.  If that is the case, if just a few stories can drive each reader’s decision on renewal or conversion.”

10 July 2014: Christian Sandvig critiques Facebook’s “corrupt personalization” (Social Media Collective): “…the content selection algorithm is used by Facebook to get people to pay for things they wouldn’t expect to pay for, and to show people personalized things that they don’t think are paid for. But these things were in fact paid for. In sum this is again a scheme that does not serve your goals, it serves Facebook’s goals at your expense.”

16 June 2014: Amy Boesky describes the joys of writing (The Kenyon Review): “I lost myself in the research this work required, and I thrived on it, and — as always — the interplay of words, the construction of sentences and pleasure of articulation — compelled me as much as the material itself.”

16 June 2014: Ben Thompson explains what fixed and variable costs have to do with how the publishing industry changes (Stratechery): “The issue is that writing, editing, and publishing are all fixed costs; they are accrued before an article or book is published, and increasing the distribution of said article or book is, relative to these costs, completely free. The costs the Internet obviated, on the other hand, such as paper, ink, shipping, and retail space, were all variable costs; to create one additional book (or newspaper or magazine) required money.”

16 June 2014: Ian Leslie gives a new spin to the ‘I know it when I see it” dictum (Intelligent Life): “Great art and mediocrity can get confused, even by experts. But that’s why we need to see, and read, as much as we can. The more we’re exposed to the good and the bad, the better we are at telling the difference. The eclecticists have it.”

16 June 2014: Patrick Lin lays down some fundamental rules of developing ethics (Wired): “What’s important isn’t just about arriving at the ‘right’ answers to difficult ethical dilemmas, as nice as that would be. But it’s also about being thoughtful about your decisions and able to defend them – it’s about showing your moral math.  In ethics, the process of thinking through a problem is as important as the result.”

16 June 2014: Brandon Keim quotes experts on how we best understand what we read (Wired): “Reading experts say that sense of position is important: It provides a sort of conceptual scaffold on which information and memory is automatically arranged, and the scaffold is strongest when built from both visual and tactile cues.”

4 June 2014: James Bridle passionately makes a case for the written word (Grafik): “The mind continually enacts understanding, rather than passively receiving it. That understanding is composed of many multi-layered understandings which go far beyond the text itself, into memory and association, into anticipation and extrapolation. The text has depth, it has verticality, it lives in its own expanding light cone; a true hypertext, of which the world wide web is our best, but still incomplete, approximation.”

4 June 2014: Robert Picard recons sternly and soberly with today’s journalism and journalism education ( “Professional journalists continue to maintain that only they are able to effectively able to convey information, challenge power, and threaten illicit uses of power. This fiction may make them feel self-important, but it is not borne out in the realities of the 21st century.”

6 May 2014: Farhad Manjoo looks into how scale can become an obstacle to innovation (The New York Times): “For software companies, one of the perils of success is becoming shackled to your customers; the more users you have, the harder it is to innovate, because most will be averse to any change.”

6 May 2014: Wolf Lottner erläutert die Aporien des Messens (brandeins): “Es geht heute überall um Menge, Masse, Gewicht, Zahl. Was sich dem entzieht, gilt als Störung oder Bedrohung. Das ist eine krasse Abkehr vom Wissen-Wollen, dem guten Leitmotiv des Beobachtens. Das Messen dient dem Einordnen, nicht dem Verstehen und Erkennen. Man schaut bloß hin, weil man wissen will, wie viel von dem, was man schon kennt, da ist.”

27 March 2014: Tom Vanderbilt rounds up some reasons for the acceleration of our lives and thoughts (Nautilus): “Nineteenth-century libraries, [Clive Thompson] notes, were overwhelmed by increasing numbers of books and patrons. ‘The slow speed,’ he writes, ‘was not just a physical nuisance, but a cognitive one.'”

27 March 2014: Ben Thompson explains the shift in computer usage (Stratechery): “Ultimately, it is the iPad that is in fact general purpose. It does lots of things in an approachable way, albeit not as well as something that is built specifically for the task at hand. The Mac or PC, on the other hand, is a specialized device, best compared to the grand piano in the living room: unrivaled in the hands of a master, and increasingly ignored by everyone else.”

7 March 2014: Amid speculative and trivial writing, Michelle Dean (The New York Times) finds “a desire for stories substantial enough to withstand the ages, that are like smooth river rocks you can turn over and over again. It is an echo of the writing-for-the-ages stuff, and it’s worth preserving. Not least because it is, oddly, one of the last bulwarks of cultural appetite we have against the fast-moving vaudeville of ‘digital culture.’ I think we’d better treasure and nurture it.”

5 February 2014: Robert Picard examines the changing institutional definition of journalism (The Media Business): “The newsroom developed in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century after telephony altered the need for journalists to be constantly roaming the city and it has undergone several conceptual changes since that time. (…) [Hence t]here is growing pressure to expand the boundaries of the definition of a journalist to include non-professionals who regularly create and disseminate news and informational content.”

5 February 2014: David Sirota reminds us that the old days of journalism weren’t necessarily easier (pandodaily): “Because information’s newsworthiness and reach was disproportionately based on the perceived significance of its publisher, any journalist hoping for his big scoop to reach the audience it deserved was nonetheless at the mercy of the oligopolies’ shortcomings and agendas.”

27 December 2013: Kathryn Schulz aptly describes a writer’s plight (New York Magazine): “Eighty percent of the battle of writing involves keeping yourself in that cave: waiting out the loneliness and opacity and emptiness and frustration and bad sentences and dead ends and despair until the damn thing resolves into words.”

27 December 2013: Ethan Zuckerman finds a gold mine in the long tail of the New York Times’ online readership (My Heart’s in Accra): “The Times could start thinking of its readers in terms of subscribers, fans and passers-by… Fans could be encouraged to support content on the Times not through a threat of locking them out, but by encouraging them to support the paper, and especially, the parts of the paper they value the most.”

27 December 2013: Matthew Hutson re-examines the notion of objectification of human beings (Aeon): “In most cases, thinking of a person as a body does not lead to objectification in a literal sense, in which the person becomes an object. Rather, he’s dehumanised — he becomes a sensitive beast… The opposite of this competence-denying animalistic dehumanisation is mechanistic dehumanisation, in which someone is seen as lacking emotional warmth.”

27 December 2013: Jonathan Gray is unsettled by how politicians try to re-frame open government (The Guardian): “The prime minister’s speech typified a broader trend in open government discourse, away from political accountability and social justice and towards economic growth, digital innovation and supporting startups.”

27 December 2013: Jasper Jackson looks at the uncanny valley of online articles (The Media Briefing): “The place between 500 and 800 words is the place you don’t want to be because it’s not short and fast and focused and shareable, but it’s not long enough to be a real pay-off for readers.”

11 November 2013: Trish Hall explains the op-ed policy of The New York Times and at the same time the ground rule of good editorial work (The New York Times): “We will never tell you what to think, but we will always try to make your thinking and your writing as clear and orderly as possible. We will try to help you strengthen your argument. We want your thinking to win converts.”

18 October 2013: Ethan Zuckerman comes to the defence of advocacy journalism (My Heart’s in Accra): “The problem isn’t journalism that advocates – it’s journalism that advocates a sadly limited set of options: vote for this guy or for that guy. We need journalism that helps us understand how we can participate and be effective… We need to ask whether our stories are teaching our readers to be helpless, or helping them become effective citizens.”

18 October 2013: Frédéric Filloux defines what a great news editor is (Monday Note): “The difference between great newsroom managers (i.e. editors) and average ones lies in their ability to make some room for ‘managed inefficiencies’. An editor’s key, delicate duty is weighing the purpose of resource-intensive tasks such as flummoxing the competition, pursuing a worthy story, or launching a months-long journalistic project aimed at a Pulitzer prize.”

18 October 2013: Bruce Schneier points out the paradoxes of intelligence (Schneier on Security): “Even when we know something, protecting the methods of collection can be more valuable than the possibility of taking action based on gathered information. But there’s not a lot of value to intelligence that can’t be used for action.”

4 September 2013: Bruce Schneier looks into the aporias of modern risk mitigation (Schneier on Security): “The more we expect technology to protect us from people in the same way it protects us from nature, the more we will sacrifice the very values of our society in futile attempts to achieve this security.”

26 August 2013: Tim Parks analyses why Italian politics is stalled (The New York Review of Books): “Berlusconi’s insistence that the criminal charges against him are merely trumped up by his enemies finds fertile territory; even those who oppose him are willing to assume that an element of persecution is involved, as if what mattered were not his guilt but the spirit in which the investigation is carried out, since every politician is presumed guilty one way or another and it’s common credence that no action on any side of the political spectrum is ever genuinely undertaken with the public interest at heart.”

22 August 2013: Manuel Adolphsen and Julia Lück explore what made communications at the 2010 UN Climate Conference in Cancun special (Medien & Kommunikation): “Facilitated by the close spatial and temporal confines of the summit, (…) both sides are forced to continuously engage with each other. (…) This constitutes a unique setting for working relationships between journalists and political PR professionals – different from their everyday routines (…). Transnational debate surrounding high-level international political summits, then, seems to be based on less conflictual, more collaborative relations between both sides.”

17 August 2013: Leonore Skenazy shows how smiling became America’s default expression (Psychology Today): “The turn of the twentieth century was a watershed event for the smile. (…) Once it became de rigueur to show happy people at happy times, smiles became obligatory too – how else to demonstrate that a good time was had by all? Before Kodak pushed the public to ‘Save your happy moments with a Kodak,’ smiling was scarcely associated with picture-taking.”

16 August 2013: Bruce Schneier explains the “The Public/Private Surveillance Partnership” (Schneier on Security): “It would be reasonable for our government to debate the circumstances under which corporations can collect and use our data, and to provide for protections against misuse. But if the government is using that very data for its own surveillance purposes, it has an incentive to oppose any laws to limit data collection.”

25 July 2013: Bundesverfassungsgericht, Beschluss vom 16.07.1969, Az. 1 BvL 19/63: “Es widerspricht der menschlichen Würde, den Menschen zum bloßen Objekt im Staat zu machen. Mit der Menschenwürde wäre es nicht zu vereinbaren, wenn der Staat das Recht für sich in Anspruch nehmen könnte, den Menschen zwangsweise in seiner ganzen Persönlichkeit zu registrieren und zu katalogisieren, sei es auch in der Anonymität einer statistischen Erhebung, und ihn damit wie eine Sache zu behandeln, die einer Bestandsaufnahme in jeder Beziehung zugänglich ist.”

18 July 2013: Felix Neumann warnt vor einem falschen Ausweg aus der Kommunikationsüberwachung (fxneumann): “Verschlüsselung ist eine technische Lösung für ein rechtliches und soziales Problem; damit ihr Ziel in bezug auf Alltägliches wie Gespräche und Kontakte erreicht wird, braucht es aber weniger technische als rechtliche und soziale Lösungen. Wäre es anders, käme es zu einer Spirale der rechtlosen Eskalation, die die Leute abhängt, denen die Fähigkeiten oder Ressourcen fehlen, mit aufzurüsten. Macht statt Politik.”

15 July 2013: The Economist fears for democracy in the United States of America (Democracy in America): “How hollow must American exhortations to democracy sound to foreign ears? Mr Snowden may be responsible for having exposed this hypocrisy, for having betrayed the thug omertà at the heart of America’s domestic democracy-suppression programme, but the hypocrisy is America’s.”

3 June 2013: Alex Kozinski makes the case for the freedom not to tell the truth (United States Court of Appeals): “An important aspect of personal autonomy is the right to shape one’s public and private persona by choosing when to tell the truth about oneself, when to conceal and when to deceive. Of course, lies are often disbelieved or discovered, and that too is part of the pull and tug of social intercourse. But it’s critical to leave such interactions in private hands, so that we can make choices about who we are.”

3 June 2013: Heidi Moore summarises the paradigm change in journalism (Nieman Journalism Lab): “Newsrooms will be less about the day’s news (…) and become more like a war room, or a science lab, where teams of researchers think about how to contextualize, present, illustrate, and spread key information, whether it happened that day or not. (…) Instead of ‘news,’ journalism will be about ’emphasis,’ and each journalistic organization will define itself by how it defines ’emphasis.'”

21 May 2013: Bill Wasik explains what the Internet of Things really means (Wired): “Once connected things become ubiquitous, is to understand them as a system to be programmed, a bona fide platform that can run software in much the same manner that a computer or smartphone can. Once we get there, that system will transform the world of everyday objects into a design­able environment.”

21 May 2013: Illah Nourbakhsh highlights what the current progress in robotics may mean for society (Technology Review): “Without serious discourse and explicit policy changes, the current path will lead to an ever more polarized economic world, with robotic technologies replacing the middle class and further distancing our society from authentic opportunity and economic justice.”

21 May 2013: Philip Banse denkt das System öffentlich-rechtlicher Rundfunk weiter (t3n): “Gebührenfinanzierte Filme, Radiobeiträge und Manuskripte müssen automatisiert, komplett und maschinenlesbar nach dem OpenData-Prinzip im Netz stehen. Ganz wichtig: Diese Inhalte dürfen dann auch für kommerzielle Zwecke weiter verwendet werden.”

17 May 2013: Ben Thompson compellingly explains the difference between an app and a platform (stratechery): “An app can afford to be prescriptive about the user experience and means of interaction; in fact, the best apps have a point of view on how the user ought to use their service. Platforms, on the other hand, are just that: a stage for actors (i.e. apps) of the user’s choosing to create a wholly unique experience that is particular for every individual user. It follows, of course, that no successful platform can be built on advertising.”

10 May 2013: Doc Searls writes a compelling techno-political short history and swan song of television (Doc Searls Weblog): “An abundance system such as the Net gives business many more ways to bet than a scarcity system such as TV has been from the antenna age on through cable.”

4 April 2013: Morten Engeberg makes the case for the European Commission and why it works (LSEEuropp blog): “First, not only the administrative personnel, but also the political leaders, have the Commission as their primary affiliation in formal terms. Second, the organisation is specialised according to sector or function rather than territory/geography from the top to the bottom, thus creating a decision environment that partly de-emphasises particular national concerns.”

7 March 2013: Frédéric Filloux analyses the mechanics behind Google News (Monday Note): “Google intends to favor legacy media (print or broadcast news) over pure players, aggregators or digital native organizations… The reason might be that legacy media are less prone to tricking the algorithm. For once, a known technological weakness becomes an advantage.”

8 February 2013: Matthew Yglesias explains by example of Amazon how, when you need to subsidise something, to do it right (Slate): “Since the subsidy directly passes through customers’ hands rather than being hidden from them, it builds goodwill and brand loyalty… The basis of competition is still who can make the apps people want to buy not who can talk executives into writing a subsidy check.”

28 January 2013: Ethan Zuckerman explains just how difficult innovation is in complex infrastructures (My heart’s in Accra): “Solving infrastructural problems requires working with regulators and with massive competitors and partners. Innovators in infrastructural spaces need to be brilliant not just about their technology, but about their niche, understanding complex systems well enough to see novel opportunities.”

21 January 2013: Frank Partnoy and Jesse Eisinger cast a scary look at the fine print of bank accounting (The Atlantic): “The Financial Accounting Standards Board, an independent private-sector organization, governs the accounting in these filings. Don Young, currently an investment manager, was a board member from 2005 to 2008. ‘After serving on the board,’ he recently told us, ‘I no longer trust bank accounting.'”

12 January 2013: The Economist draws compelling connections between growth, innovation, and globalisation (The Economist): “In a somewhat whimsical 1987 paper, Paul Romer, then at the University of Rochester, sketched the possibility that, with more workers available in developing countries, cutting labour costs in rich ones became less important. Investment in productivity was thus sidelined.”

20 December 2012: Evgeny Morozov casts a critical glance at Apple’s philosophy (The New Republic): “Those who attack Apple as a quasireligion are more correct than they know: the company does function on the assumption that its designers, and Steve Jobs above all, are qualitatively different from the rest of us. The cult of the designer is the foundation of Apple’s secular religion.”

13 December 2012: Anil Dash reminds us of “The Web We Lost” (Anil Dash): “A great fallacy of Facebook, Twitter, et al. is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.”

30 November 2012: Patrick Meier introduces verification techniques for crowd-sourced information (iRevolution, PDF): “While wrong data can cost lives, this doesn’t mean that no-data doesn’t cost lives, especially in a crisis zone. (…) Perhaps the question is ultimately about tolerance for uncertainty – different organizations will have varying levels of tolerance depending on their mandate, the situation, time and place.”

27 November 2012: Clayton Christensen et al. lay down the law on changing the business model of legacy media (Nieman Reports, PDF): “It’s critical to avoid falling into the trap of believing that you can charge for content just because it costs money to produce.”

23 November 2012: Tim Heffernan illustrates how monopolies work by example of the global beer industry (Washington Monthly): “In 1980, forty-eight breweries served the fifty states, and the largest of them had only a quarter of the market. Today, again, the market is overwhelmingly dominated by two.”

11 November 2012: Robert Picard explains why journalism will only survive through added value (The Media Business): “News organizations have to start asking themselves whether it is because they are hiring the wrong journalists or whether their company practices are inhibiting journalists’ abilities to [carry out value-added journalism].”

15 October 2012: Till Kreutzer erklärt ultimativ den Widersinn des gegenwärtigen Urheberrechts (Wirtschaftsdienst): “Die im Urheberrecht angelegte – vermeintliche – Schicksalsgemeinschaft zwischen Urheber und Verwerter ist ein Geniestreich der Kreativwirtschaft [und] der Grund dafür, dass in Urheberrechtsdebatten sehr erfolgreich kulturelle, romantische und moralische Aspekte vorgeschoben werden (können), obwohl es fast ausschließlich um reine Wirtschaftsinteressen … geht.”

10 October 2012: Tarleton Gillespie gives a brilliant introduction into the power and meaning of algorithms (Media Technologies, PDF): “Though algorithms may appear to be automatic and untarnished by the interventions of their providers, this is a carefully crafted fiction.”

21 September 2011: danah boyd and Kate Crawford explain the pitfalls of Big Data: “In the era of the computational turn, it is increasingly important to recognize the value of ‘small data’. Research insights can be found at any level, including at very modest scales.”

10 August 2012: Michael Masnick and Michael Ho demonstrate that the entertainment biz is far from dying (Techdirt): “Instead of reflexively trying to protect traditional entertainment businesses, this research should provide a starting point for many to rethink some of the assumptions that have been made in the past about the state of the industry.”

8 March 2012: Roderick Parkes takes a different view on the audit society (European Voice): “According to students of trust, those who champion an uncompromising diet of transparency and scrutiny are usually those who have developed the strongest sense of their own rightness and of others’ inherent dishonesty. That is the only reason they put up with a system that exposes them to invasive scrutiny. ”

3 January 2012: Eli Pariser reviews the history of quality journalism (The Filter Bubble): “In the mid-1800s, printing a newspaper was hardly a reputable business. Papers were fiercely partisan and recklessly ideological. (…) But as newspapers became highly profitable and highly important, they began to change. It became possible, in a few big cities, to run papers that weren’t just chasing scandal and sensation – in part, because their owners could afford not to.” (p. 236)

15 January 2012: Cory Doctorow prepares for much greater disputes than the current online piracy/copyright battle (28c3): “[There are] lobbies and interest groups that are far more influential than Hollywood and big content are on their best days, and every one of them will arrive at the same place — ‘can’t you just make us a general purpose computer that runs all the programs, except the ones that scare and anger us? Can’t you just make us an Internet that transmits any message over any protocol between any two points, unless it upsets us?'”

2 December 2011: Jonathan Zittrain on the subtle power shift actuated by the manufacturers of operating systems (Technology Review): ” If we allow ourselves to be lulled into satisfaction with walled gardens, we’ll miss out on innovations to which the gardeners object, and we’ll set ourselves up for censorship of code and content that was previously impossible. We need some angry nerds.”

14 November 2011: Dean Starkman picks “news gurus” such as Jarvis and Shirky to pieces (Columbia Journalism Review): “The news-as-cheap-commodity argument was all along an ideological one couched in economic terms… The cruel truth of the emerging networked news environment is that reporters are as disempowered as they have ever been, writing more often, under more pressure, with less autonomy, about more trivial things than under the previous monopolistic regime.”

28 October 2011: Simon Anholt explains the USP of the European Union: “The European Union is the only successful – partly, largely – experiment in multilateral governance in the history of mankind. It is the lap, it is the place where so many advances have been achieved – a bit of strategy, a great deal of substance, not nearly enough symbolic actions –, but at heart the place where the global governance, the planetary order, the global society is being forged. We are so much further along that road in the European Union than any collection of humans have ever managed to be before.”

13 September 2011: Revisiting Newton Minow’s classic speech about Television and the Public Interest (1961): “I hope that you broadcasters will not permit yourselves to become so absorbed in the daily chase for ratings, sales, and profits that you lose [the] wider view. Now more than ever before in broadcasting’s history the times demand the best of all of us. We need imagination in programming, not sterility; creativity, not imitation; experimentation, not conformity; excellence, not mediocrity. Television is filled with creative, imaginative people. You must strive to set them free.”

12 September 2011: Horace Dediu correctly predicted in May 2010 how the computer industry would react to the iPad (Asymco): “Apple keeps a tight lid on new products so that competitors don’t get a head-start on copying, but in the case of the iPad, advance knowledge would not have had any impact. Competitors look at the iPad and see nothing.  They’ll only react once the market explodes and they start to feel belated pain.”

16 August 2011: Jonathan Zittrain suggests to imagine your house were curated by Apple (The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It): “…each house is ‘curated’ by its seller. Once you move in, that seller will get to say what furnishings can go in, and collects 30% of the purchase price of whatever you buy for the house… it still doesn’t feel very free when, two years after you’re living in the house, a particular coffee table or paint color is denied.”

11 August 2011: Bernie Hogan explains why forcing people to use real names on the Internet is counterproductive for free speech (Bernie Hogan): “Offline people don’t have to worry about their real name, because their behavior is tied to the context and the impressions they foster in that context. In fact, …if your speech is not confined to the context you are in – but available to a potentially unknowable audience – you are online.”

22 July 2011: Damien Horowitz explains why you should quit your technology job and get a Ph.D. in the humanities (The Chronicle of Higher Education): “It is a convenient truth: You go into the humanities to pursue your intellectual passion; and it just so happens, as a by-product, that you emerge as a desired commodity for industry. Such is the halo of human flourishing.”

10 July 2010: Clay Shirky defines the public value of news ( “Real news — reporting done for citizens instead of consumers — is a public good. This is true both in the colloquial sense of ‘good for the public’ and in the economic sense of ‘best provisioned for a whole group at once.’”

16 June 2011: Olaf Cramme analyses the current state of the European Union (Policy Network): “Whereas the Commission used to be the central mechanism for reducing the transaction cost of any contested bargain between member states, it has become almost powerless in the face of a shifting political agenda which is now dominated by greatly sensitive policy issues outside of classical community business.”

16 June 2011: Timothy Garton Ash diagnoses the inherent jinx of European achievements (The Guardian): “Those powerful driving forces [of the European project] included searing personal experiences of war, occupation, Holocaust, fascist and communist dictatorships; the Soviet threat, catalysing west European solidarity; generous, energetic American support for European unification; and a West Germany that was the mighty engine of European integration, with France on top as the driver… All these are now gone, or very much diminished.”

28 March 2011: Ethan Zuckerman finds Google a bit “unheimlich” (My heart’s in Accra): “…there’s something unheimlich about the idea that something as important an influencer as Google being as mercurial as it is. Personalization is disturbing to the extent to which it separates us from the real, true, stable search results, the ur-results Google is withholding from us in the hopes of selling us ads [more] effectively… but even more disturbing is the idea that there’s no solid ground, no single set of best results Google could deliver, even if it wanted to.”

14 March 2011: Jay Rosen diagnoses why journalists may get disenchanted with their own profession (PressThink): “…people who always wanted to be journalists and make the world a better place find that the professional codes in place often prevent this. It’s hard to fight for justice when you have to master ‘he said, she said’ stories. Voice is something you learn to take out of your work if you want to succeed in the modern newsroom. You are supposed to sacrifice and learn to report the story without attitude or bias creeping in.”

7 March 2011: Corinne Grinapol makes a case for increased self-confidence of bloggers (PressThink): “If the collective psychological profile of bloggers continues to be of that of a group that exits outside the mainstream, the culture of reacting to what [mainstream media] creates is maintained. Bloggers’ sense of empowerment is thus derived from being as outspoken as they wish about news streams that have already been created. Continuing to inhabit this space prevents bloggers from generating alternate streams of news, to bestow themselves with the authority to decide what is newsworthy, as that could put them in the place of institutional power they are trying to avoid.”

7 March 2011: Scott Rosenberg observes that the news cycle may just be a power thing ( “…one prerogative of an editor has always been the ability to declare, ‘This argument is at an end.’ The job of a news editor is to say, ‘And now this.’ The news cycle has turned! Time to move on. The trouble was, bloggers were under no obligation to pay attention to such marching orders… This characteristic of blogging became a profound irritant to editors who were accustomed to being able to set the agenda of public dialogue.”

2 March 2011: Mirko Lorenz, Nicolas Kayser, and Geoff McGhee answer the question What is the trust market? ( “Trust, not information, is the scarce resource in today’s world. Trust is something that is hard to earn and easy to lose. And it is a core element of journalism, few other professions are so dependent on trust. But it is not just a requirement, it is also an enormous underserved market. Media companies will learn that it is trust, not SEO, branding, or content farming that’s the road to success.”

7 February 2011: Jon Evans sings the praise of piracy, albeit with reluctance (TechCrunch): “Although it pains me to say this, it’s the pirates who are on the right side of history. Empires built on barbed wire inevitably collapse, and the sooner the better; while this one reigns, it perpetuates yesterday’s regimes, and squelches innovation and progress. Is piracy wrong? Yes, but that’s the wrong question. The right question is, which is worse: widespread piracy, or the endless and futile attempt to preserve DRM everywhere? So long live the pirates. Those jerks.”

30 January 2011: Doc Searls explains why free online services paid for by advertising might no longer be the best way to go (Doc Searls Weblog): “So I think we need to do two things here. First is to pay more for what’s now free stuff. This is the public radio model… Second is to develop self-hosted versions of Flickr, or the equivalent. Self-hosting is the future we’ll have after commercial hosting services like Flickr start to fail.”

24 January 2011: Mercedes Bunz sieht der Herrschaft der Maschinen optimistisch entgegen ( “Die Digitalisierung [verschiebt] die Rolle von Experten, indem sie von den sogenannten gehobenen Berufen – von Journalisten, Ärzten, Lehrern oder Ingenieuren – eine Neuausrichtung ihrer Legitimation einfordert: Weil jeder Wissen googeln kann, basiert die Autorität von Experten heute weniger auf dem Umstand, faktisch mehr zu wissen, als vielmehr darauf, den strukturellen Überblick zu besitzen, neues Wissen einordnen zu können und die Struktur entsprechend anzugleichen.”

21 January 2011: Bert Hoffmann makes a level-headed analysis of whether and how the Internet changed and empowered Cuba’s civil society (GIGA): “Some 15 years after Cuba joined the Internet, the web-based media not only represent a leak of voice to a globalized public, but they have led to a limited, yet important transformation of state-society relations. They empower a new reassertion of citizenship rights that challenge established rules and they empower the emergence of new social actors and forms of action. However, the case also shows that there is no automatism from such trends to a process of gradual reform or even regime change.”

26 December 2010: Zeynep Tufekci reasons about the merits of a free Internet (The Atlantic): “Remember, the Internet did not create freedom of speech; in theory, we always had freedom of speech–it’s just that it often went along with the freedom to be ignored. People had no access to the infrastructure to be heard. Until the Internet, the right to be heard was in most cases reserved to the governments, deep pockets, and corporate media. Before the Internet, trees fell in lonely forests.”

24 December 2010: Zeynep Tufekci calls for a different Internet infrastructure (The Atlantic): “It has become obvious that, increasingly, contentious content is going to require infrastructure far above and beyond what is necessary to support content that is mainstream, power-friendly, or irrelevant. And further, contentious content will likely be cut off from being funded through people-power.”

5 December 2010: Nikki Usher is surprised by how much the Wikileaks case shows the interdependence of legacy and online media (Nieman Journalism Lab): “Regardless of what you might say about the dependency of news organizations on official sources, this access to power is something that the average citizen combing through cables simply doesn’t have. And that access adds to our understanding of the impact of these cables… Look at what happens when mainstream news and whatever we want to call WikiLeaks work together. The forces are not in opposition but are united with a common goal.”

5 December 2010: Hal Roberts shows why a few Internet giants increasingly assume control over speech on the Net (Hal Roberts): “There are only a couple dozen organizations … at the core of the Internet who have sufficient amounts of bandwidth, technical ability, and community connections to fight off the biggest of these [DDoS] attacks. Paying for services from those organizations is very expensive, though… As a society, we have reached a place where the only way to protect some sorts of speech on the Internet is through one of [them].”

2 December 2010: Jeremy Bernstein explains what the financial terms everybody’s talking about actually mean (Edge): “These financial instruments are rather new. The commodity they trade in is money. They are very clever devices that were thought up by very smart people to make money from money and they are in the process of doing us all in.”

29 November 2010: Federal Reserve Bank, inflation, credit, and the creation of money – finally explained to non-economists (The Aporetic): “Amer­i­can his­tory broadly shows a long ten­sion between men on the make, who want low inter­est rates, paper money,  and infla­tion,  and peo­ple who’ve made it, who want a specie stan­dard and fixed prices and val­ues.”

28 November 2010: Kathrin Passig kann auf Bücher verzichten (Merkur): “Sobald das Lesen nicht mehr zwingend ein physisches Medium erfordert …, lässt seine Attraktivität als Einrichtungsgegenstand nach. Unter anderem aus diesem Grund war das private Horten und Zurschaustellen bei Filmen noch nie eine weit verbreitete Praxis. Filmbesitz in größerem Umfang war und ist eine Sache für Spezialisten. Der Besitz von Büchern wird es in absehbarer Zeit wieder werden.”

19 November 2010: Ethan Zuckerman describes the concept of serendipity by way of comparing book libraries and the web in search of knowledge (My heart’s in Accra): “Serendipity is the product of hard work, through the careful structuring of a system to encourage chance encounter (the work done to arrange library books by subject on shelves) or the efforts of a sage curator, who uses her knowledge … to offer recommendations. An understanding of serendipity that favors sage interpretations of random encounters rather than just the happy accident. (…) Libraries are as much about magical stumbling as about knowledge and information.”

10 November 2010: Clay Shirky performs a diligent analysis of newspapers’ paywall issues (Clay Shirky): “Paywalls do indeed help newspapers escape commodification, but only by ejecting the readers who think of the product as a commodity.”

5 November 2010: Kathlyn Clore asks why journalists don’t realise the redundancy of much of their work (Kathlyn Clore): “Mind-boggling is that [all journalists covering the event were] sitting next to each other, each writing slightly different versions of the same stories without realizing that portals like Google, Yahoo and MSNBC are aggregating all their work in the same place anyway. When are journalists going to realize that the only ‘on ramp’ to their work isn’t their brand’s website or printed product?”

20 October 2010: Thomas E. Weber found indications about how Facebook decides what to show in a member’s news feed (Business Insider): “Not only does Facebook decide who will and won’t see the news, it also keeps the details of its interventions relatively discreet. All the while, Facebook, like Google, continues to redefine ‘what’s important to you’ as ‘what’s important to other people.'”

18 October 2010: Farhad Manjoo corroborates the diagnosis that the difference between “articles” and “blog posts” ceases to exist (Slate): “Nearly all journalistic blogs … are thoroughly professional. They engage in reporting, they’ve got layers of editors, and they’re aimed at satisfying a target audience in order to gain traffic… When I asked Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds how he defines blogging, he said the most important thing was ‘the lack of an institutional voice.'”

4 October 2010: Craig Labovitz analyses structural changes to the Internet by example of Google (Security to the Core): “The competition for Internet dominance is … about infrastructure… In 2007, Google used transit providers for the majority of their Internet traffic … But over the last three years, Google both built out their global data center and content distribution capability as well as aggressively pursued direct interconnection with most consumer networks.”

4 October 2010: The OpenNet initiative asks what it means for the public sphere that most social networks are owned by private companies ( “But as private companies increasingly take on roles in the public sphere, the rules users must follow become increasingly complex. In some cases this can be positive… At the same time, companies set their own standards, which often means navigating tricky terrain; companies want to keep users happy but must also operate within a viable business model.”

28 September 2010: Eben Moglen compares the Internet to electromagnetic induction, i.e., power generation: “If you wrap the Internet around every person on the planet and spin the planet, software flows in the network. It’s an emergent property of connected human minds that they create things for one another’s pleasure and to conquer their uneasy sense of being too alone. The only question to ask is, what’s the resistance of the network? [It] is directly proportional to the field strength of the ‘intellectual property’ system.”

18 September 2010: Jonathan Zittrain is “intrigued with the idea of guaranteed capacity for regular Internet service” (The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it): “New specialized services should not be used to shrink the pie for regular Internet offerings.  Experimentation could continue apace on the open Internet, with some of its best results then bottled up and offered sleekly through a more appliancized offering.”

17 September 2010: Roderick Parkes’ view of why the EU exists (European Voice): “The unique selling-point of the EU is its capacity to accommodate and overcome differences between its members. Its strength, unrivalled by other organisations, is an institutional robustness formidable enough to give otherwise competing states the confidence to do far-sighted things together.”

15 September 2010: Jonathan Zittrain makes a plea for the self-empowerment of the netizens (Fordham Law Review): “It is time for a metaphorical NATO for the Internet, not among states but among Internet participants, something built into its fabric through Web servers and clients…  in order to gather otherwise powerless individual entities together into a stronger force.”

13 September 2010: Jay Rosen about the new breed of journalists formerly known as the media (Jay Rosen: Public Notebook): “Seeing people as masses is the art in which the mass media … specialized during their profitable 150-year run (1850 to 2000). But now we can see that this was actually an interval… Professional journalism … has lived its entire life during this phase, but let me say it again: this is what your generation has a chance to break free from.”

9 September 2010: Carolin Emcke fordert einen anderen Journalismus angesichts von Globalisierung und Internet (Carolin Emcke): “In analytischer Hinsicht ist die Ambivalenz der große Gewinner der Globalisierung… [Das] bedeutet zunächst, dass der Konzept-Journalismus, der Geschichten gern in Gewinner und Verlierer aufteilt, … dass diese Art von Geschichten zu … grobkörnig sind für die Figuren und Strukturen einer so verwobenen Welt.”

8 September 2010: Chatham House expert Fadi Hakura about the state of Turkey’s modernization process (Common Ground News Service): “Turkey’s society and business community are uncharacteristically steaming ahead of its politicians in terms of adopting modern political and social values. (…) A reduced dependency on the European Union will finally debunk the myth that only Europe can spur the liberalisation of Turkey.”

4 September 2010: Über den Innovationsbedarf der Medienaufsicht (epd Medien): “Vielfaltsicherung ist heute nicht mehr darauf angewiesen, einer erlesenen Handvoll Veranstalter binnenpluralistische Auflagen zu machen, um dem Missbrauch knapper Ressourcen vorzubeugen. Als Anwälte der Mediennutzer müssen die Landesmedienanstalten heute schon eher die Infrastruktur selbst sichern und aktiv fördern.”

28 August 2010: Frank Rieger zieht Parallelen zwischen militärischer Rationalität und modernem Management ( “Die Methoden, nach denen Management-Consultants … vorgehen, sind teilweise direkt aus den jeweils aktuellen militärischen Vorgehensweisen übernommen. Der geradezu fetischhafte Glaube an Quantifizier- und Messbarkeit … und Optimierbarkeit ist historisch in enger Wechselwirkung zwischen Militär und Geschäftswelt entstanden.”

21 August 2010: Larry Downes explains that the Net was never neutral in the first place, and why (Future Tense): “Voice and video packets have to arrive pretty much at the same time in order to maintain good quality, so Voice over IP telephone calls … get priority treatment. (…) Google … has deals with some ISPs to locate Google-only servers in their hubs to ensure local copies of their web pages are always close by.”

21 August 2010: Christian Sandvig instructively likens the Internet to Railroad services (Future Tense): “Back when railroads ran the economy, or much of it, they did so to further their own interests. In general terms, we got out of this mess by establishing novel new independent commissions to apply a set of legal rules called common carriage.”

21 August 2010: Danah Boyd explains why considering Facebook as a utility changes everything (apophenia): “When people feel as though they are wedded to something because of its utilitarian value, the company providing it can change but the infrastructure is there for good… [Therefore we need] to think about what it means that regulation is coming.”

16 August 2010: Jonathan Zittrain on the essential facts and questions of Net Neutrality (The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it): “When each ISP can, in effect, speak on behalf of its unwitting subscribers, … offering up different conditions for access to them, the economics of the Net will start to favor the consolidated, the well-connected, the well-heeled.”

9 August 2010: Revisiting Langdon Winner’s now-classic essay “Do Artifacts have Politics?” (1986): “In our times people are often willing to make drastic changes in the way they live to accommodate technological innovation while at the same time resisting similar kinds of changes justified on political grounds.”

6 August 2010: The Digital Media Test Kitchen at the University of Colorado School of Journalism looks into current and future uses of smartphones:  “…the smartphone represents not merely a smaller digital screen on which to present … existing news from other media platforms, but a larger range of opportunities, even for in-depth news packages: presentation, personalization, real-time geographic news and ad targeting, interaction, user engagement and action, and mobile-original content and features.”

15 July 2010: Ethan Zuckerman examines the added value provided by conventional newspapers (My Heart’s in Accra): “While there’s something appealingly populist about the idea of building a media property around what people are searching for, … you’d give up the critical ability to push topics and parts of the world that readers might not be interested in, but need to know about.”

10 June 2010: Christian Sandvig explains how phone numbers were originally allocated by the time it took to dial them on rotary phones (multicast): “You see, youngsters, the weighted dial on a rotary telephone requires a fixed amount of timeto dial each number.”

7 June 2010: Jürgen Kuri ruft nach der Digitalen Aufklärung ( “Wer das technische Wissen den Technikern überlässt, wird blind für die möglichen Problemlösungen und die Gefahren des algorithmischen Versprechens.”

6 June 2010: Jonathan Zittrain about the security implications of an increasingly oligopolistic Internet (The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it): “The lures of security, interoperability and economies of scale have propelled much of the Web from a vibrant ecosystem of different, and differently managed, PCs and sites to one where a handful of private Fort Knoxes take responsibility for security.”

22 May 2010: Christian Sandvig discusses the politics of wireless(multicast): “Technical jargon is a way to keep us out of vital conversations by making them seem arcane, boring, and specialist. (…) New wireless technologies … suggest a re-imagining of the spectrum itself and how we use it.”

5 May 2010: Danah Boyd sheds an ethnographic light on data privacy issues (apophenia): “Even in public situations, people regularly go out of their way to ignore others, to give them privacy in a public setting.  (…)  You may be able to stare at everyone who walks by but you don’t.”

13 April 2010: Christian Sandvig on the future of video on the Internet (multicast): “I fear that television is evolving backwards.  (…) trends are now pointing toward a retrenched mass media that may restrict future innovation and participation in online video.”

2 April 2010: Cory Doctorow about why not to buy an iPad (BoingBoing), rehashing Langdon Winner: “The real issue isn’t the capabilities of the piece of plastic you unwrap today, but the technical and social infrastructure that accompanies it.”

26 March 2010: Michael Lewis explores the mechanics of the Credit Crunch (Vanity Fair): “The market made no sense, but that didn’t stop (…) Wall Street firms from jumping into it.”

10 March 2010: Mark Thompson on context in journalism ( “Journalists spend a ton of time trying to acquire the systemic knowledge we need to report an issue, yet we dribble it out in stingy bits between lots and lots of worthless, episodic updates.”

7 March 2010: Jay Rosen on context in journalism (PRESSthink): “…if journalists could put themselves in the shoes of ordinary users more effectively they would realize all the places where It was in the news all the time but I didn’t know what they were talking about applies.”

10 February 2010: Eben Moglen on liberty in cloud computing (Software Freedom Law Center): “There is a technical challenge for a social reason… It’s a frontier for technical people to explore. There is enormous social payoff for exploring it.”

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