The Glass Room

I’m recommending a visit to The Glass Room in London this weekend if you’re able. (It’s free but donations are welcomed.) I went yesterday late afternoon. It’s an impressive looking space. Walking around the exhibit, however, I couldn’t help thinking that the overriding sense visitors would come away with, after learning how our data is collected, stored and used, is one of powerlessness.

I brought this up with one of the Tactical Technology Collective who are dotted around and available to chat to. He recognised visitors do get a sense of being creeped out or not in control, but this is exactly why TTC had put together, and people could pick-up for free, their Data Detox Kit (now also available online). With this kit, he said, people not only left with a practical tool to enable them to take back some control, but they hoped these people also left with a sense of optimism.

 

Reading: The Driver’s Seat, Muriel Spark

The robots aren’t the problem, the bosses are

In every single one of these cases what has occurred is that those in control of a company have made an active choice to pick the machine over the human – and such machines were largely created to provide these owners with just this choice. The robots did not voice any opinion in the matter. To put it more plainly: the burger flipping robot does not want to replace any human workers (nor for that matter does it want to not replace human workers) because the burger flipping robot does not want anything. The robots aren’t the problem, the bosses are – Librarian Shipwreck

Sold

What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.

I’m left wondering what will happen when and if this $450 billion penny drops.

John Lanchester, LRB

I’m not so sure people don’t realise. And of those that do perhaps it’s just they don’t care or, more like it, is they don’t mind, have learnt not to mind? So two billion monthly users is not only Facebook’s biggest achievement to date, that is too.

Recording Technology

Interesting this on recording technology by Keith Richards, and as interesting is Alan Jacobs’ take on it:

Keith rails against “technology” but what he’s actually doing is making the case for one kind of technology rather than another

Listening to the music the Stones (and Dylan is another example) made in the 80s, I think it remained of a quality in the early part of this decade because of the new recording technology not despite it. It was only when everyone involved in making the records became more adept and familiar with the recording technology – and now after reading Richards’ account, felt they had to use all of it – the music of these two suffered. This perhaps is connected to what I was feeling when I wrote about ‘Emotional Rescue’.

Recently I’ve been listening to a few albums from the mid to late 90s. There is definitely a sound they share which dates them to that period; it’s not always prevalent through a whole album (not on the good ones anyhow), and you can get a sense of it listening to albums that don’t share it, but as yet I can’t quite put my finger on what “it” is or how, or even if, the recording technology around that time played a part.

Related maybe to this is this interview with Ewan Pearson, where the subject of dynamic range compression being used more (and so becoming an issue) in the first half of the decade of the 2000s comes up.