Philosopher Derek Parfit has died. The author of the landmark Reasons and Persons was 74. If you've never heard of Parfit, you may have heard of the Repugnant Conclusion (which highlights paradoxes in how we understand obligations to future generations). Or if you've ever mused on what would happen to you if you used a Star Trek-style transporter, you may enjoy Parfit's treatment of the philosophical implications in the teletransportation paradox. For more about Parfit, read this profile by Larissa MacFarquhar in the New Yorker.
The Ad and the Ego (1997; 57mins; transcript; study guide [PDF]) is a classic documentary featuring sound design by Negativland; it incorporates many well-known ads to ask "Where does advertising end and myself begin?" Aileen Farrar's beginner's introduction (2015; 25mins) to Jacques Derrida's "The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)" [PDF] offers oblique suggestions regarding the "mixed and confused messages" of Orangina's anthropomorphic animal ads to address another matter of self and difference--how "human identity ... rests upon following the animal."
Wonder and worry as a Syrian child in Canada transforms [slNYT] The Mohammads were from a particularly conservative village in Daraa Province. Their union was arranged by their families and governed by clear tenets. Back home, Eman Mohammad, 36, did not leave the house without asking her husband’s permission. She did not socialize with men who were not relatives. Women in the village did not drive. Against the odds, and Abdullah’s initial reluctance, she had worked as a nurse, one of only a few women in her circle to be employed outside the home after having children... [more inside]
The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin - "Ursula Kroeber was born in Berkeley, in 1929, into a family busy with the reading, recording, telling, and inventing of stories. She grew up listening to her aunt Betsy’s memories of a pioneer childhood and to California Indian legends retold by her father. One legend of the Yurok people says that, far out in the Pacific Ocean but not farther than a canoe can paddle, the rim of the sky makes waves by beating on the surface of the water. On every twelfth upswing, the sky moves a little more slowly, so that a skilled navigator has enough time to slip beneath its rim, reach the outer ocean, and dance all night on the shore of another world."
Greg Rucka on Queer Narrative and Wonder Woman [Comicosity] [Interview] “Ah. We’re talking about the “Northstar Problem.” The character has to stand up and say, “I’M GAY!” in all bold caps for it to be evident. For my purposes, that’s bad writing. That’s a character stating something that’s not impacting the story. I get nothing for my narrative out of that in almost any case. When a character is being asked point blank, if it’s germane to the story, then you get the answer. But for me, and I think for Nicola as well, for any story we tell — be it Black Magick, be it Wonder Woman, be it a Batman story — we want to show you these characters and their lives, and what they are doing. We want to show, not tell.”
On Carefree Black Boys: Understanding the Appeal of the 'Carefree' Aesthetic to Black Male Musicians From Young Thug to Chance the Rapper [MTV] “Chance has found a slogan to represent what is irrepressible in him: #BlackBoyJoy. Following his appearance at the 2016 VMAs, he started sharing photos of himself at the event, preening, dancing, and posing, with the hashtag. He was a natural spokesman. Others followed suit, posting photos of boys and men frolicking and grinning. The #BlackBoyJoy hashtag preceded Chance’s use of it, and its origins are in the broader, voguish idea of “carefree blackness.” Like the loose digital community that bore it, this carefreeness has an ambient quality, a collection of aesthetics and identities that many laud as a generalized form of activism.”
Lionel Shriver delivered the keynote address for the 54th edition of the Brisbane Writers Festival titled Fiction and Identity Politics addressing cultural appropriation in fiction writing. [more inside]
From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
How did Southeast Asian identities originate? The legacy of the 19th century continues to shape us more than we think 'We also wanted to show how many of the things that we may accept and take as ‘normal’ and ever-present in our part of the world were, in fact, fairly recent innovations introduced to Southeast Asia during the colonial era'. Political scientist and historian Dr Farish Noor hosts a three-part series examining the legacy Western colonialism has left upon a region now known as Southeast Asia. The first episode, 'Conquerors & Merchants', is now available for viewing online. [more inside]
What We Lose When POC Entertainers Crack Into The Mainstream [Buzzfeed] How Lilly Singh’s Superwoman and Jasmeet Singh’s JusReign navigate between two worlds.
"Single, childless, I’m all I’ve got: me – and the accumulated external markers of who I am, which are also narrative prompts for the ongoing story of my life. These stories connect me to the past, present, future, and live in nearly everything I own. " Lee Randall explores the anchoring of self-identity in possessions. [more inside]
In China: Chinese dialects fight for survival. Outside China: Meet the Hong Kong academics fighting to safeguard the Cantonese language (Hong Kong); Taiwanese: a doomed language? (Taiwan); Do you speak Singlish? || The Death of Dialects in Singapore (Singapore); Penang Hokkien will be ‘dead’ in 40 years if people stop using it (Malaysia) [more inside]
Vitalik Buterin invented the world's hottest new cryptocurrency and inspired a movement — before he'd turned 20 - "I think a large part of the consequence is necessarily going to be disempowering some of these centralized players to some extent because ultimately power is a zero sum game. And if you talk about empowering the little guy, as much as you want to couch it in flowery terminology that makes it sound fluffy and good, you are necessarily disempowering the big guy. And personally I say screw the big guy. They have enough money already." [more inside]
Let these chipper YouTube science vids fill you with existential terror. Popular YouTube education channels CGP Grey and Kurzgesagt teamed up to produce a pair of videos designed to cause you to question everything about your existence.
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Britain has changed so quickly, the gains of 40 years of social progress undone in half a generation, that most of us are still struggling to compute it, but the evidence is right there in front of us, on our cinema and television screens. It’s not posh-bashing to say this is a problem.Why Working-class Actors Are a Dying Breed, The Observer (8 May 2016).
World After Capital by Albert Wenger [Work in Progress; GitHub; GitBook; PDF; FAQ] - "Technological progress has shifted scarcity for humanity. When we were foragers, food was scarce. During the agrarian age, it was land. Following the industrial revolution, capital became scarce. With digital technologies scarcity is shifting from capital to attention. World After Capital suggests ways to expand economic, informational and psychological freedom to go from an industrial to a knowledge society." (previously)
Nguyen's book was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Literature and is about a Vietnamese spy who flees wartime Saigon Drawing upon his own experience as a refugee of that war who later settled in the United States, Nguyen tells the program host Michael Krasny: "I knew that in writing a novel about a communist spy that the easiest way for me to write this book would be for the spy to renounce communism and embrace American individualism. This is how one gets published in the American literary industry, and I refused to do that." [more inside]
How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell: For the last decade, [Joyce] Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat. All in all, the residents of the Taylor property have been treated like criminals for a decade. And until I called them this week, they had no idea why.
At Blandly we believe that you need a rich set of perspectives to build the perfect bland. That’s why we’ve incubated a company culture that grows unique bland outcomes. We are an eclectic team of avid outdoorswomen, comic book collectors, whiskey nerds, fixed-gear bicycle aficionados, Rosicrucianists, and bacon lovers.
How do you quantify the effects of things that don't happen to you? "The whole point of living in a culture is that much of the labor of perception and judgment is done for you, spread through media, and absorbed through an imperceptible process that has no single author." (previously; via)
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World - "With interviewees ranging from Elon Musk to a gaming addict, Werner Herzog presents the web in all its wildness and utopian potential in this dizzying documentary." (via)
Writer Hale Goetz had just finished Christmas dinner with her family when she got the call: “A picture of you is on the front page of r/funny,” my friend told me. I’m not a regular Reddit user, but I know about r/funny—it’s a popular subpage, a place with a lot of cat pictures. Funny? Had I been funny? I traced back through the past week, wondering if I had finally made one of my 119 Twitter followers laugh, but then my stomach clenched as my friend explained my stardom wasn’t because I had been funny. It was because I had gotten fat.
One of the most investigated 'John Does' has been positively identified. 20 years after he was killed in a car accident, and a year after a new campaign to identify him began on Imgur and Reddit, 'Jason Doe' or 'Grateful Doe' has been positively identified through DNA as Jason Callahan of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. [more inside]
There Once Was a Girl. A work of criticism and of memoir on the false narratives surrounding anorexia in life and literature.
(Some may find the descriptions in this essay disturbing or triggering.)
(Some may find the descriptions in this essay disturbing or triggering.)
The Future of (Post)Capitalism - "Paul Mason shows how, from the ashes of the recent financial crisis, we have the chance to create a more socially just and sustainable global economy." (previously; via) [more inside]
"To help shed some more light on this subject matter, here are 12 terms related to sexual and romantic identities that are beginning to receive more attention in the media but that are still regularly absent or erased from conversations currently taking place in popular culture." Noah Michelson sheds light on sexual and romantic identities in a beginner's primer at Huffington Post.
Violet Blue, a technology journalist and sex blogger, describes how she has been locked out of her Facebook account and cannot access it without providing a government ID.
Last weekend, as I sat locked out of my Facebook account ‘for security reasons’ (and you tagged me in something, not knowing I can’t respond), my friend’s boss Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the United Nations. He talked about plans to expand Facebook use into refugee camps, and made no pretensions about how this would be used to benefit his company. I personally know what this will do. [...] De-anonymizing refugees usually precedes murder on a grand scale.[more inside]
Everyone you know will be able to rate you on the terrifying ‘Yelp for people’ — whether you want them to or not
A Dying Young Woman’s Hope in Cryonics and a Future - (SLNYT) Kim Suozzi knew she was dying, but believed that cryonic preservation had a “1 or 2 percent chance” of offering her another shot at life. And for that, it was worth trying.
In case you missed it Ethereum announced its first developer release a week ago. What is Ethereum? According to the video it's a "planetary scale computer powered by blockchain technology." Given the breathlessness, some skepticism is in order, but what if it purports to do on the tin is true? [more inside]
For a time this summer, it seemed all anyone could talk about was the N.A.A.C.P. chapter president whose parents had “outed” her as white. The tornado of public attention has since moved on, but Rachel Dolezal still has to live with her choices—and still refuses to back down.
DoubleX Gabfest: The Beazel Better Have My Money Edition - "On this week’s Gabfest, Slate’s Hanna Rosin and June Thomas join New York editor Noreen Malone to talk about what it means to be asexual, Rihanna’s music video for 'Bitch Better Have My Money' and other prefatory uses of bitch, and the 1939 film The Women." [more inside]
This Is What Ruby Rose Thinks About The Entire Internet 'Going Gay' For Her - Erin Whitney, Huffington Post | Girl On Girl: Why We Never Talk About Male Sexual Fluidity by Morgan Cohn, The Frisky | We Heart: Ruby Rose on Gender Fluidity - Emma Niles for Ms. Magazine
What does it mean to be black if you're a cop? Or Lupita Nyong’o? Or in the STEM fields? Or in the UK? Or China? Or simply black-ish?
StyleLikeU's "What's Underneath" Project features short videos of people from all walks of life slowly stripping down to their underwear, while giving revealing interviews intended to show that 'style is not the clothes one wears, but spirit, and comfort in one's skin.' Topics covered are as diverse as their subjects, and include beauty, fashion, disability, diseases and chronic conditions including albinism and cancer, career, gender, identity, body image/dysmorphia, abuse, miscarriage, etc. The majority of the subjects are women. Some videos may be NSFW. (Via)
Univalent Foundations Redefines Mathematics - "When a legendary mathematician found a mistake in his own work, he embarked on a computer-aided quest to eliminate human error. To succeed, he has to rewrite the century-old rules underlying all of mathematics." (previously) [more inside]
Understanding e to the pi i - "An intuitive explanation as to why e to the pi i equals -1 without a hint of calculus. This is not your usual Taylor series nonsense." (via via; reddit; previously) [more inside]
Adnan Khan: ‘Our Brownness Does Not Belong Here’
Do You Prefer "Native American" or "American Indian"? 6 Prominent Voices Respond "Wherever I go, from the reservation to the city, through the halls of academia, from younger to older, to the grassroots, and in social media, I hear numerous discussions and debates around how people choose to identify with certain references, e.g., which word is the most appropriate: Native American? Native? Indian? American Indian? Indigenous? My task here was to ask several friends and people whom I (and many others) admire what reference they feel most comfortable with."
The Asians Art Museum is a parody site bringing a cirtical lens to orientalist tropes in art museums, prompted particularly by rhetorical choices of the San Francisco Art Museum's 2009 Lords of the Samurai exhibition [audio]. It highlights the tendency for museums showing Asian art to present their shows as a"a harmless trip to a fantasyland of romanticized premodern Otherness, a place where dreams of Manifest Destiny never have to die?" [more inside]
Bruce Jenner Says He’s Transitioning to a Woman [New York Times]
Bruce Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist and member of the Kardashian family, ended months of speculation Friday night when he announced during an ABC television special that he identified as a woman and was making the transition from male to female.[more inside]
What Russians really think - "Many in the west see Russia as aggressive and brainwashed. But its citizens have a different view." Meanwhile,[1,2] in Moscow and Lviv...
The Trans 100 (pdf) is not an award ceremony. It is not a list of the “Best” or the “Most Important” trans people. It is not a popularity contest and there are many individuals absent from the list who are doing excellent work. More are no longer with us. To quote The Trans 100 Co-Founder Jen Richards, The Trans 100 “is an intentionally curated list of out trans people who are working on trans issues in the United States and having a positive impact.” [more inside]
"What would it mean to live in a society where people seek only the significant same." Reductionist discourses tend to infiltrate both genetic and big data enterprises. Could these discourses imperceptibly close rather than open the prospect for us to decide what we want to become—what we want our futures to be? Could such discourses also “hide rather than reveal the deepest sources of social ills,” which shape the evolution of our genes and identities?