A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘internet

[PHOTO] “Selfies blur the line between high-art and social posturing”

leave a comment »

Russell Smith’s essay published in The Globe and Mail on the 25th of January, considering the claims of the selfie to cultural legitimacy, even the status of high art. I largely agree with him: There’s no reason why the self-portrait is a negative form when it’s a photograph, certainly not when it’s a photograph that’s a product of modern computing technology aided by social networking platforms. At their best, the properly-cultivated selfie really can be high art, or at least great fun.

Columnist after pundit has come out to claim that one of Obama’s many strengths was a familiarity with pop music and comedy, and an ability to goof around (as with the selfie), to appear natural and self-deprecating at the same time. He appeared on late-night talk shows, he played along with comedians (Zach Galifianakis, Key and Peele, Jerry Seinfeld), he had rappers at the White House. The guy compiled Spotify playlists (on an official White House account). This, surprisingly, did not make him look unpresidential, just cool.

This goes against the intuitive feeling that many of us – well, many of us over 40 – have when contemplating the role of the selfie in young people’s lives. The taking of many amusing, sexy or boastful phone-shots, does not look, generally, to be conducive to the obtaining of high public office. Most of the selfies we see posted by young people on their social media seem to be perpetuating a culture of narcissism. Their lack of dignity and their salaciousness, we fear, endanger their future careers.

[. . .]

Just as such anti-selfie sentiment seems to reach an apex, the Saatchi Gallery in London is planning a major exhibition, to open March 31, entirely devoted to the notion of instant self-representation in the contemporary age. It is more ambitious, though: called “From Selfie to Self-Expression.” It juxtaposes painted self-portraits – by van Gogh and Rembrandt – with staged and stylized contemporary photo self-portraiture – by Tracey Emin and June Calypso – and the candid, amateur selfies of celebrities, including Obama.

Its point is simple: that selfies are a part of a long tradition of great art. Painters have practised techniques on themselves since the invention of paint, and they have also used their own faces as vehicles for mood and self-expression. They are often vaguely defiant. (Think of all those sober, frowning painters’ faces: What are they so mad about?)

Endless photos of oneself in various guises or identities have also become a repeated form of feminist art: June Calypso shoots herself undergoing fantastical beauty regimens in luxurious bathrooms, surrounded by mirrors; Cindy Sherman poses as threatened heroines in nightmarish faux-Hollywood movies. Tracey Emin’s notorious narcissism – an oeuvre that celebrates the artist’s own trashiness – is also defiant, a challenge to received ideas about femininity. A photo of hers in the Saatchi show portrays her with legs splayed, scooping paper money into her crotch. These are in a sense commentaries on the selfie age and angry defiance of the disapproval of female vanity.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 6, 2017 at 10:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

leave a comment »

  • blogTO notes that a waterfront LCBO is set to become another Toronto condo development.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the difficulties involving with slowing down a light sail launched at relativistic speeds towards an extrasolar destination.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at a 1972 mail-order catalogue from a German retailer, full to the brim with retro-ness.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the discovery of a hot Jupiter orbiting T Tauri star V830 Tauri.
  • Language Log looks at Trump’s odd phrasing regarding Frederick Douglas, while Marginal Revolution notes the man’s opposition to racist immigration bars.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at how some children at Cambodian orphanages are not actual orphans, but are merely taking advantage of foreign funding.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at a proposal for a new probe to study Enceladus and Titan for signs of habitability.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes Trump’s command responsibility for a failed military raid in Yemen.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map looking at the word for “church” in different European languages.
  • Towleroad notes a court ruling in the United Kingdom barring an Orthodox Jewish transgender woman from interacting with her children in real time, and reports on a Russian website that purports to warn users how many gay people are in any given city.
  • Understanding Society describes the problems with implementing ideologies and even policies in a very complex world.
  • Window on Eurasia notes one Russian parliamentarian’s call for taking northern Kazakhstan, and reports on new border controls between Russia and Belarus.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

leave a comment »

  • At Apostrophen, ‘Nathan Smith writes about the status of his various writing projects.
  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling links to an article examining pieces of software that have shaped modern music.
  • blogTO notes the expansion of the Drake Hotel to a new Junction site. Clearly the Drake is becoming a brand.
  • Citizen Science Salon looks at how Internet users can help fight illegal fishing in the Pacific.
  • Crooked Timber asks readers for new Doctor Who candidates.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper finding that the presence of Proxima Centauri would not have inhibited planetary formation around Alpha Centauri A and B.
  • The LRB Blog notes the growing fear among Muslims in the diaspora.
  • The Map Room Blog shares a reimagined map of the Paris metro.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy and Towleroad have very different opinions on the nomination of Neil Gorusch to the US Supreme Court.
  • Transit Toronto reports on the reopening of the TTC parking lot at Yorkdale.
  • Whatever’s John Sclazi responds to the past two weeks of Trump-related chaos, and is not impressed.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that the Russian Orthodox Church carries itself as an embattled minority because it is one, and looks at the future of Russian federalism in regards to Tatarstan.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes that TTC tunnels will get WiFi in 2018.
  • Border Thinking’s Laura Augustín shares some of Edvard Munch’s brothel paintings.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the latest science on fast radio bursts.
  • Dangerous Minds shares some of the sexy covers of Yugoslavian computer magazine Računari.
  • Dead Things looks at the latest research into dinosaur eggs.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that a high surface magnetic field in a red giant star indicates a recent swallowing of a planet.
  • Language Log shares an ad for a portable smog mask from China.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money takes issue with the idea of NAFTA being of general benefit to Mexico.
  • Torontoist looks at the history of Toronto General Hospital.
  • Window on Eurasia is skeptical about an American proposal for Ukraine, and suggests Ossetian reunification within Russia is the next annexation likely to be made by Russia.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about the importance of showing up for major events.
  • Crooked Timber looks at e-publishing for academia.
  • Dead Things notes that the evolution of the human brain and human teeth were not linked.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to two papers about ocean worlds and greenhouse effects.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the hopeful seasteaders of French Polynesia.
  • Towleroad looks at the life of a trans man in the mid-20th century.
  • Window on Eurasia shares a Catalonian linguists’ argument that linguistic diversity helps minority languages.
  • Arnold Zwicky reflects on the gay cowboy scene.

[URBAN NOTE] “Craig Silverman, the man who exposed the fake-news racket in 2016”

NOW Toronto‘s Jonathan Goldsbie examines how Toronto journalist Craig Silverman helped expose the existence of the phenomenon of fake news.

It’s generally irresponsible to attribute an election result to any one thing – but in a presidential race as close as the one the U.S. just had, any one thing could conceivably have made the difference.

In addition to especially alarming factors such as apparent Russian intervention and the resurgence of white nationalism, another theme has dominated the post-election narrative: the ascendant influence of fake news. All of a sudden, it has become difficult to consider American political dynamics without wading in to questions of epistemology – how do people know the things they know, and how do those beliefs shape not only their positions on issues but understandings of reality at large?

Unlike an election result, however, this shift in political discourse can be credited to a discrete cause: the work of Toronto-based BuzzFeed reporter Craig Silverman, whose investigations into the propagation and effects of accidental propaganda have rippled through the world’s most powerful institutions.

Late last month, for example, The New Yorker reported that U.S. President Barack Obama “talked almost obsessively” about Silverman’s pre-election story (co-authored with British researcher Lawrence Alexander) that exposed the fake-news racket centred in the small town of Veles, Macedonia, where teenagers discovered that tricking American Facebook users into clicking and sharing pro-Trump hoaxes could be a ridiculously profitable enterprise. Another of Silverman’s pieces, showing that fake election news had outperformed legitimate stories on Facebook, had such thorough penetration into the zeitgeist that Reuters reported even Pope Francis had characterized the spreading of fake news as a sin. (The Vatican’s English-language transcript of his remarks, translated from the original Spanish, however, leaves some doubt as to whether he was actually alluding to the same phenomenon.)

When BuzzFeed News named Silverman its media editor at the start of December – promoted from his former role as founding editor of BuzzFeed Canada – the site’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, told Fortune that fake news is the type of story that “Craig has been kind of preparing for for some time – maybe his whole life.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 24, 2016 at 5:30 pm

[LINK] “Amazon chooses Montreal for its Canadian data centre operations due to cheaper hydro costs than Ontario”

The National Post shares Vito Pilieci’s Postmedia News article noting the advantage that lower energy costs gave Québec over Ontario.

Internet giant Amazon Web Services has opened a cluster of data centres near Montreal due to the ready availability and cost of hydro-electric power in Quebec.

The company, which is notoriously secretive about its data centres, said there are now at least two data centres just outside Montreal to offer web-based services to the “Canada Region.” Canada joins 15 other regions around the globe from which Amazon is running data services on behalf of clients.

Teresa Carlson, vice-president of public sector with Amazon Web Services, said the cost and availability of hydro-electric power is ultimately what made Amazon choose Quebec as its Canadian home.

“We picked the area that we did because of the hydro power,” said Carlson. “We did find them (Quebec) to be very business friendly.”

Carlson said Amazon conducted a thorough review of various options within Canada, including Ontario, that involved looking at a number of factors, including the price of electricity. She also said Amazon is keen to source green energy where it can as the company is attempting to get all of its data centres on renewable energy sources.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 21, 2016 at 10:00 pm