Friday five: drones, whistle-blowers and literature

A selection of the articles that grabbed my attention this week:

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The Drone Papers – via The Intercept

This is going to be huge:

“The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars — between 2011 and 2013… The source said he decided to provide these documents to The Interceptbecause he believes the public has a right to understand the process by which people are placed on kill lists and ultimately assassinated on orders from the highest echelons of the U.S. government. “This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source said.”

the drone papers

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The benefits of getting comfortable with uncertainty – via The Atlantic

“In our everyday lives, we might avoid a lot of anxiety and jumping to wrong conclusions by accepting that sometimes people do feel two ways at once. Things can be similar without being exactly the same. Some things we can never know.”

Certainty is not what we think it is. And it’s not even necessarily a good thing. Go figure. I’m relieved, I’ve always wondered how people can be so sure of things. You need an opinion (in my opinion), but it’s important to realize that you may be wrong.

“We always think we’ve settled into ourselves and we’re always wrong.”

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How the Internet is uniting the world – via Medium

A bit utopic perhaps, but with some good points about the massive impact that fast connections and public communication have had on our sense of humanity. I thoroughly agree that too much communication has its downsides, but the upsides are so much more important and are having a much greater impact on how we see ourselves in relation to our fellow humans.

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The first great works of digital literature are already being written – via The Guardian

image from the game Journey, via The Guardian

image from the game Journey, via The Guardian

“Your experimental technological literature is already here; it’s the noise you’re trying to get your children to turn down while you pen your thoughts about the future of location-based storytelling.”

Naomi Alderman of The Guardian gives us a brief overview of video games that verge on literature. Don’t roll your eyes, these games are works of art, not only visually but also in terms of story line. What lifts them to a new level is the interaction of the story with the visual, and the role that you, the player, have in the development and the overall effect.

And I say this as someone who does not particularly enjoy video games, with a couple of notable exceptions (I’ve raved written about The Stanley Parable and Monument Valley before), but who loves to try the new ones just to see where they fit into my particular spectrum of new media. We are re-inventing story telling, not to replace the old, traditional way, but to bring new possibilities into the mix, to stimulate mind-blowing creativity and to push the boundaries of what is considered art. In my mind, video games definitely are.

“To pick just 10 examples from recent years, it’s hard to imagine how you could opine on the future of literature without having played the brilliantly characterful and fourth-wall breaking Portal, the sombre and engrossing Papers, Please, or the dazzlingly surreal exploration of the American subconscious, Kentucky Route Zero. Are you interested in discussing experimental “read it in any order” literature? Then for goodness’ sake, play the mystery narratives of Her Story andGone Home and the hilarious and unsettling The Stanley Parable. If you want to talk about how writers can engage with politics, capitalism, or the environmental movement, you’ll be showing your ignorance if you haven’t played Oiligarchy.

Interested in how storytellers can engage with themes of mortality? You’ll want Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, or Jason Rohrer’s short, powerful gamePassage, or the sublime Journey. Each of these games could – and probably should – be taught in schools to inspire the next generation of creators.”

A similar article appeared in Quartz this week.

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You are not a brand, you are a person – via Medium

I gave a talk in Bilbao a couple of weeks ago about whether a personal brand was necessary for a leader, or for anyone, really. My message was “No, it isn’t.” Not everyone needs to be strong online to be employable. Often it’s enough to be good at their job and to have an excellent reputation. And let’s face it, not everyone is good at the whole social media thing. If you’re not good at it, it’s better to not do it than to subcontract it out. Find another way to cultivate your market. A personal brand is not obligatory, and the attempt to convince us that it is piles on unnecessary additional pressure, which we really don’t need.

And I say that as someone who does have an online brand, and who enjoys it. I just don’t see why we should expect everyone to spend valuable time communicating to a vague market on channels that they don’t have the time to understand.

“But maybe I wanted to tweet a picture of my cat. Or maybe I wanted to rant about some political thing I had an opinion about. And maybe I wanted to use the word “fuck” in a blog post. How does that fit in? Wouldn’t that muddy my personal brand?

“… Maybe. But I think inconsistency is part of human nature, and what are social media users but human? Heck, even brands on Twitter and Facebook are run by humans.”

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A choreagraphed dance of 100 Sphero balls

This isn’t an ad for Sphero, the programmable robot ball. Ok, maybe it is, sort of, but I want to show it to you anyway because it’s quite charming, and it involves the programming of 100 Sphero balls! 100! I have one at home, I love it, and having to program a hundred of them sounds like so much fun.

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Have an amazing, stimulating but at the same time relaxing weekend! Do something new, surprise yourself.

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