Friday five: definitions, stereotypes and trust

Yes, more than five, I know… I’ve been away for a while, so I’m allowed, right?

You May Have Seen My Face on Bart – via Medium

How to turn public embarrassment into a hashtag, a website and a social movement. A fascinating story, a worthwhile cause, and an original media spin. Worthy.


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A new Devil’s Dictionary for our age – via The Verge

A very tongue-in-cheek, sardonic, cynical, and sometimes sarcastic dictionary of relevant terms, there are some gems here:

album (n.): An antiquated custom in which musicians would bundle 2-5 functional songs with 5-10 sub-prime factory remnants.

angel (n.): (1) A winged paragon of supernatural power. (2) A mortal who writes large checks to children wearing flip-flops.

binge watch (v.): To marinate the brain in preparation for a post-embodied future.

bubble (n.): What bubble?

clickbait (n.): A headline that tricks someone into fulfilling their own desires.

cyber- (prefix): (1) A linguistic cue informing the reader that the meaning of the word to follow should only be construed in the context of vaguely imminent threats and the need for more federal funding. (2) Something “computery.”

dating (n.): To receive unsolicited pornography.

ebook (n.): A technophobic regression from the codex to the scroll.

hacker (n.): Anybody who understands computers more than you do. 

hype (n.): Obsequious devotion to something that does not yet exist.

i- (prefix): Nobody knows what this means.

You get the idea… Worth looking through.

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My kids always told me that my baking was “out of this world” – so we all loved these quirky and creative photographs by artist Dina Belenko, featured in Wired.

(image by Dina Belenko, via Wired)

(image by Dina Belenko, via Wired)

Check out her portfolio in 500 for some breath-takingly inventive creativity.

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The Smartphone is the new sun – by Benedict Evans

Put all your other gadgets on the shelf. The smartphone is now the center of your universe. And the shift probably happened without your even noticing.

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Media literacy and Internet truth – via Quartz, by David Webber

According to Pew Internet Research, over 70% of search engine users expect the answers to their typed-in questions to be true. Which is a bit frightening, when you think about the sheer amount of false information that is out there. From biased reporting to unusual interpretations of science, we tend to believe what we read. I mean, they wouldn’t publish it if it weren’t true, would they? Frightening.

Should we insist that our search engines provide truthful answers? Or should we learn to choose sources that we trust, and to check with other sources anyway? As Ronald Reagan said: “Trust, then verify.”

“Google’s a business and we have to be careful about who is managing truths. If you put too much power in the hands of a private company, that’s very dangerous. Google should not be in charge of what is true today or what is true tomorrow.”

“…Yet we users treat digital search as though it were designed to provide the truth.”

So we need to arm ourselves with tools that help us to figure out if a source is credible. Does it have a good reputation? Are all quotes and facts sourced? If the article’s information seems to come from reputable people or places, the credibility increases. What is this article’s purpose? Is it to inform, or to persuade? Is there a declared bias? An implicit one?

It’s a sea of information out there. Sending people, especially our young ones, to navigate these waters without learning the basics of navigation and good rowing practices is verging on irresponsible. The thing is, no-one taught us. But we do need to come up with guidelines to help students of any age to learn well and to research carefully. Because Mr. Webber is right: we should never completely trust a source to tell us the truth. A superficial trust and a grain of salt are worthy tools.


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Offices aren’t designed for women in general – via City Labs

Let me just say that I do NOT miss working in an office. At all. Working from home I get to open the window when I’m warm, hustle to the cupboard to pile on more jerseys when I’m cold, I have great coffee on tap, healthy snacks in the fridge, and I don’t waste time on a commute. Articles like this make me realise (even more than I already do) just how lucky I am.

(Did you know that one possible solution for the airconditioning battle of the sexes in the modern office space – with more women than men complaining about the over-enthusiastically low temperatures – is that we wear shirts that don’t show cleavage? I bet you didn’t think of that. At least I hope you didn’t.)

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A spectacular work of pyrotechnic art on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, by the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, via Colossal.

by Cai Guo-Qiang, via Colossal

by Cai Guo-Qiang, via Colossal

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Government data and the Uber question – via TechCrunch

Duh. It’s all about the data. Apart from the service, the value of Uber, Airbnb and similar is in the data. This data not only helps their own operations become more efficient, but it can help cities better allocate resources. This is data that would be very expensive for the municipalities to gather for themselves. So they could “buy” it from these new services that have been ruffling the established interests’ feathers, for… I dunno, permissions and concessions, maybe? A good deal for all?

“The common denominator in all of this [change] is data. And not just public sector data. Today’s opportunity lies in combining public, private and nonprofit data to create a new “golden triangle” of information — one that helps mayors get a complete handle on how their cities live, breathe and move. It’s this information mashup that has the potential to dramatically change how cities govern, moving from political decision-making to data-driven decision-making.

We’re now at the dawn of a new data revolution, one in which governments, private companies and nonprofits have the the opportunity to collaborate and truly make their cities better places to live.”

This really is becoming the data economy.


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