Social media platforms are engineered to maximize engagement. What happens when engagement becomes an addiction? Or when engagement inadvertently leads to fatal consequences? Black Mirror tackles this and other complex issues in another brilliant season of their epic series. The episode ‘Smithereens’ begs the question if social media platforms like Facebook will have their "Phillip-Morris" moment any time soon.
Great comics are academics, social critics, politicians, preachers and of course funny as hell. Watching Bruce Bruce amuse, tease, target and navigate through so many hilarious stories on stage, is to see a master reaching into decades worth of practice to deliver what is often a remarkable display of improvisational skill. Wielding a mic like its a saxophone, Bruce Bruce riffs through an entire concert never missing a beat.
With 5000 data points on several millions US voters, Cambridge Analytica played a pivotal role helping the Trump campaign alter the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The Great Hack is a remarkable documentary that helps visualizatize how data and weapons grade information science are being used to manipulate democracies around the world. You’ll need a Netflix account to see this, but it’s worth the time and money.
“Cover Band” doesn’t usually evoke the idea of virtuositic musicians doing wildly creative versions of pop tunes. But in the case of Dirty Loops, the Stockholm, Sweden based trio of Jonah Nilsson (vocals and piano), Henrik Linder (bass) and Aron Mellergårdh (drums), that's exactly what you get. In their spunky corner of the Internet you can find them tearing up Britney Spears or Adele tunes with remarkably fresh arrangements that speak to Jazz, Fusion, Gospel, R&B and Soul. And make no mistake - these boys can really play.
Having already coined the phrase "Surveilance Capitalism,” scholar Shoshana Zuboff's master work “The Age of Surveilance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power” has become the definitive work on the subject. The talented crew at Raw Data have skillfully condensed Zuboff’s 500+ page book into a timely and powerful podcast that’s quickly become one of this year’s most exhilarating examinations on the subject.
Privacy is a thing again. After years of being subverted by free, powerful but invasive tools (think Gmail), as well as the target of another round of significant breaches, society seems ready to be fed up all over again. The NY Times is exploring the complexities of privacy in their excellent new Privacy Project series. Moving from reporting to social practice, this series aims to help people gain a better sense of control over the information that defines our digital lives.
In 1977 Charles and Ray Eames produced a movie on the relative scale of the universe called ‘Powers of Ten.’ It captured the magnitude of scale in the world all the way from microscopic to cosmic levels. The super talented folks at melodysheep.com have taken on a similar project, attempting to visualize the end of the universe some many billion, trillion, trillion years from now. Spoiler alert - it’s pretty dark.
Making sense of musical culture can be daunting work. Today’s pop music is a marvelous and bewildering mashup of styles, influences, messages and corporate salesmanship that shows how deeply ingrained music is within our society. Each year The New York Times Magazine gathers some of the best minds in music criticism to help make sense of this phenomenon. Makes for a great read and a wonderful online experience.
Now in its 18th year, the war in Afghanistan has become the longest in US history. Miles Lagoze’s stunning new film ‘Combat Obscura’ is a remarkably uncensored view of this deadly, complex, and often paradoxical conflict. Going beyond “embedded reporting,” the film provides a raw truth about the bravery, dedication, and ongoing confusion associated with this political and military reality.
Working late one week I found myself drifting from my usual Jazz playlists to Joni Mitchell. Through the evening was a rotation of three of her landmark recordings: ‘Hejira,’ ‘Hissing of Summer Lawns’ and ‘Court and Spark’ - all sounding as fresh and creative as when they first came out more than thirty years ago. Recently PBS celebrated Joni's 75th birthday with a special concert. It stands as another beautiful reminder that she remains one of the preeminent musicians and composers in American popular music.
These days as so much of our society seems to devolve into dysfunctional reality TV, I’m thankful for gifted thinkers like the Pultizer Prize winning writer Wesley Morris. Check out his article on ’The Meaning of a Scene,' a prescient breakdown of this year’s Oscars and the superb podcast ‘Still Processing’ he co-produces with technology journalist Jenna Wortham.
Our smart phones are insanely useful and remarkably addictive tools. If you’re getting to the point where intervention might be required, New York Times columnist and writer-at-large Kevin Roose put together a great piece on creating some healthy boundaries around phone use so he could reclaim a more balanced life. Great reading from one of the better technology journalists out there right now.
His tips prove sane and quite productive.
As the world embraces a new technological "arms race", China is moving forward with bold plans to be the preminent power when it comes to artificial intelligence. The Center for a New American Security recently published a report that outlines this stategy and its effect on shaping the world’s governmental, business, military and cultural practices.