A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘internet

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly describes the collapse of an online community she quite liked.
  • Cody Delistraty links to his article in The Atlantic about the benefits of multilingualism.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers the numbers and implications of low-wage earners.
  • The Frailest Things’ Michael Sacasas links to articles about big data, suggesting ways in which it undermines our sense of self-control.
  • Geocurrents considers alternate history maps.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that West Germany had high inflation in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Otto Pohl thinks pan-Africanism can start by creating uniform electrical plugs.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer considers alternate histories for Mexico, paying particular attention to the idea of a smaller Mexico after 1848.
  • Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc argues John Tory bested Olivia Chow by not being over-specific.
  • Torontoist notes the travails of a girl who became an amateur hockey player in the mid-1950s.
  • Window on Eurasia considers how Russian liberals could return Crimea, deconstructs the alleged Chinese threat, and notes a startlingly anti-Russian press conference delivered by Belarus’ Lukashenko.

[LINK] “How to mark the 20th anniversary of the Netscape Navigator?”

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Colby Cash’s article in MacLean’s marking the 20th anniversary of Netscape Navigator is a delight.

The Netscape Navigator web browser celebrated its 20th anniversary this week. For many of you, Netscape will have been the first browser you used, and was therefore your first introduction to ubiquitous digital connectedness. This, in turn, means it was probably responsible for a permanent change in your neurology and in the essentials of your lifestyle. Which seems worth observing—or mourning, according to your view of it.

When I say “Netscape,” of course, your instinctive reaction is probably to recoil at the memory of crude, dead technology. You think of four-digit baud rates, image files loading with agonizing slowness, and the raspy scream of the old-fashioned modem. But Netscape, practically speaking, probably changed your life much more than changing religions or cities or even spouses would.

Even if you are a literal hermit who has never come within five metres of a computer, you have some relationship to the browser and its consequences: It has altered politics, decided elections, changed regimes, reshaped the economy, exploded and reassembled the media, transformed the news. The children raised with (within?) the browser will have consciousnesses we cannot comprehend. They will live according to axioms, and on the basis of expectations, that are foreign to us, and that would be foreign to every generation of humans that has hitherto lived.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 17, 2014 at 2:04 am

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO looks at what the Financial District was like in the 1970s and 1980s, recommends things to do in Little Italy, and has ten quirky facts about the Toronto Islands.
  • Centauri Dreams notes simulations of how solitary stars like our own Sun are formed.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting that evidence of a planetary system outside our own was first gathered in 1917, from a spectrum taken of Van Maanen’s Star. It was only a matter of no one recognizing what the spectrum meant.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a study of filesharing services suggesting that rich countries tend to see music downloads while poor ones download movies.
  • The Planetary Science Blog takes a look at the discoveries of Dawn at proto-planet Vesta.
  • pollotenchegg maps changes in industrial production in Ukraine, noting a collapse in rebel-held areas in the east.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer compares the proposed Home Rule that would have been granted to Ireland in 1914 with current proposals for Scotland.
  • Torontoist notes that despite population growth nearby, the Redpath Sugar Factory will be staying put.
  • Towleroad notes that Estonia has become the first post-Soviet nation to recognize same-sex partnerships.
  • Why I Love Toronto recommends Friday night events at the Royal Ontario Museum.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the collapse of Russian civil society is a responsibility of Russian citizens as well as of their state.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes a projection suggesting there will be nearly seven million Torontonians by 2025.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining how
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper examining a very unusual planetary system around a subdwarf B star and fears the Russo-Ukrainian war will heat up again.
  • Language Hat examines the nearly extinct dialect of Missouri French.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders about the impact of big data on the criminal justice system and argues Neew Zealand might have the best-designed government in the world.
  • Torontoist shares the 125 years of history of the Gladstone Hotel.
  • Towleroad notes that gay asylum seekers in Australia might be resettled in anti-gay Papua New Guinea.
  • Transit Toronto notes the expansion of wireless Internet to College station.
  • Window on Eurasia predicts that the European Union and the United States will try to engage Belarus while accepting the dictatorship.

[NEWS] Some Sunday links

  • Al Jazeera notes the quilombos of Brazil founded by escaped slaves and looks at the strength of the separatist vote in Scotland’s largest city of Glasgow.
  • Bloomberg notes continuing tensions between North Korea and Japan over Japanese abductees, looks at Russian state subsidies to sanctions-hit companies, suggests a softening of Polish foreign policy versus Russia, and notes how Johannesburg is flourishing as gateway to Africa despite high crime and inequality.
  • The Bloomberg View notes separatist concerns depressing yields of Catalonian and Spanish bonds, and wonders if Gujarat’s industrial economy might serve as an example for all India.
  • CBC notes that national newspapers are no longer being sold in Yellowknife, looks at the case of an Iroquois girl refusing chemotherapy, and notes that the Angelina Jolie effect boosting breast cancer screening endures.
  • Open Democracy examines Catalonian separatism, looks at India’s changing Palestinian policy, considers trends in ideology in Hungary, wonders if Jordan will be next to succumb to the Islamic state, and examines anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon.
  • Wired examines teletext and notes the strength of China’s Alibaba.

[LINK] “Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds”

Alison Flood’s article in The Guardian about the apparent issues associated with reading ereaders resonated with me, as it did with people around the world. I generally prefer reading from books to reading online, having noticed the same comprehension and retention issues in my own reading.

I wonder what the consequences will be in the future, when so much more reading material is only going to be online. Will ereaders technology advance enough?

The study, presented in Italy at a conference last month and set to be published as a paper, gave 50 readers the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback, with readers then tested on aspects of the story including objects, characters and settings.

Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University, a lead researcher on the study, thought academics might “find differences in the immersion facilitated by the device, in emotional responses” to the story. Her predictions were based on an earlier study comparing reading an upsetting short story on paper and on iPad. “In this study, we found that paper readers did report higher on measures having to do with empathy and transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence, than iPad readers,” said Mangen.

But instead, the performance was largely similar, except when it came to the timing of events in the story. “The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, ie, when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order.”

The researchers suggest that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does”.

“When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right,” said Mangen. “You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual … [The differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 22, 2014 at 8:14 pm

[LINK] “The First Gay Space on the Internet”

David Auerbach‘s Slate article on the USENET group soc.motss is a delight. I’m a participant in the Facebook group founded by many of the group’s long-time participants, and I myself have fond memories of USENET (soc.history.what-if, mainly). It’s a delight to see USENET get the attention it deserves.

(This article is the first in a series. There’s more stuff coming.)

I grew up in a time and place—the Los Angeles suburbs of the 1980s—where LGBTQ culture was pretty much invisible in everyday life. The first out people I met were online. In fact, LGBTQ culture played a significant, though underreported, part in shaping the overall online culture. Since the early 1980s, there have been many LGBTQ spaces on the Net: newsgroups, bulletin board systems, or BBSs, mailing lists, social networks, chat rooms, and websites. But the very first LGBTQ Internet space, as far as I’ve been able to find, was the soc.motss newsgroup. And it hosted conversations that had never been seen before online—and that arguably remain in too short supply even today. (I’ll be frequently using “LGBTQ” as the best available catchall term, with the awareness that categories and nomenclature have gone through many evolutions since the early 1980s.)

In 1983 programmer Steve Dyer started a discussion forum called net.motss (later soc.motss) on the Usenet newsgroup system. Built in 1980 atop pre-Internet networks such as ARPANET and BITNET, Usenet allowed for creation of hierarchical categories of interest groups (comp.lang.java.help, rec.arts.books, etc.) and public threaded discussions within each group, in much the same way forums and comments work today. The abbreviation “motss” stood for “members of the same sex,” an unflashy acronym that would make it less of a potential target for censorship. University of Colorado–Boulder professor Amy Goodloe, who went on to start many lesbian Usenet groups as well as found and run lesbian.org in 1995, calls soc.motss the first explicitly LGBTQ newsgroup—and possibly the first explicitly LGBTQ international space of any kind.

And it was a prominent space: By the early 1990s, motss member and software engineer Brian Reid estimated that about 3 percent of all Usenet readers were reading soc.motss, which was an audience of about 83,000 people. (For comparison, 8 percent were reading the perennially popular alt.sex.)

Dyer, who died in 2010, was a Unix hacker who worked at BBN before becoming a private consultant. In the very first motss post on Oct. 7, 1983, Dyer set out the newsgroup’s aims: “to foster discussion on a wide variety of topics, such as health problems, parenting, relationships, clearances, job security and many others.” Dyer stressed that the forum would provide “a supportive environment” for gay USENET members: “Net.motss is emphatically NOT a newsgroup for the discussion of whether homosexuality is good or bad, natural or unnatural. Nor is it a place where conduct unsuitable for the net will be allowed or condoned.”

According to engineer Nelson Minar, who was active on soc.motss in the early 1990s, newsgroups of the 1980s and ’90s tended to have a slower pace of discussion. A day could pass before someone replied to a thread, and responses were frequently closer to mini-essays than short comments. That sort of belles-lettristic group dialogue allowed for a deeply nuanced and intellectual discussion of gay and lesbian issues.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 22, 2014 at 2:00 am

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