Current Reblogger: Chloë Bass

Chloë Bass is an artist, curator and community organizer based in Brooklyn. She is the co-lead organizer for Arts in Bushwick (, which produces the ever-sprawling Bushwick Open Studios, BETA Spaces, and performance festival SITE Fest, which she founded. Recent artistic work has been seen at SCOPE Art Fair, CultureFix, the Bushwick Starr Theater, Figment, and The Last Supper Art Festival, as well as in and around the public spaces of New York City. She has guest lectured at Parsons, the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, and Brooklyn College. Other moments have found her co-cheffing Umami: People + Food, a 90 person private supper club; growing plants with Boswyck Farms (; and curating with architecture gallery SUPERFRONT ( Chloë holds a BA in Theater Studies from Yale University, and an MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) from Brooklyn College.

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San Francisco Gets Inter-Bus Stop Multiplayer Gaming

San Francisco Gets Inter-Bus Stop Multiplayer GamingYahoo recently installed huge poster-size touchscreens at 20 San Francisco bus stops, allowing commuters to play online games against people at other bus stops. Nothing brings out my allegiance to my neighborhood like some crazyass futuristic sports trivia.

That's one of the several games available to people waiting for the bus, along with puzzles and others.

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The Tweetagraph uses an Arduino to capture the dots and dashes created by the telegraph. The Ardruino itself is running Firmata (now comes as a built in library with the arduino software) so that it can talk to Processing. The Processing sketch is using the java library twitter4j which handles the communication with the Twitter API.

Project by Joe McKay of Beacon NY

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Why the Internet Is a Great Tool for Totalitarians

Photo: Brock Davis

Photo: Brock Davis

The Internet advances the cause of freedom more effectively than ballistic missiles and Hellfire-equipped drones; at least that’s the conventional wisdom among US diplomats and policymakers. “Information freedom supports the peace and security that provide a foundation for global progress” is how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in a speech last January, her first on democracy and the Internet. George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda” is out; the Twitter agenda is in. Unfortunately, this kind of technological romanticism relies on false historical analogies and sloppy thinking. Modern communications technologies are already being deployed as new forms of repression.

The last time American leaders were this ecstatic about the power of information was at the end of the Cold War, when illicit fax machines and photocopiers and the work of broadcasters like Radio Free Europe were presumed to have been a leading cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union. (In 1990, Albert Wohlstetter—the ur-technocrat who was one of the inspirations for Dr. Strangelove—told an audience of perplexed eastern Europeans that “the fax shall make you free.”) Today, most historians reject such views as reductionist, but they are still extremely popular among US politicians (probably because celebrating smuggled technology allows them to celebrate the politicians who made the smuggling possible—particularly Ronald Reagan). Such Cold War thinking showed in Clinton’s speech: “Virtual walls,” she said, are “cropping up in place of visible walls,” and viral videos and blogging are “becoming the samizdat of our day.”

But not all blogs are revolutionary. China, Iran, and Russia all have bloggers who are more authoritarian in their views than their governments are. Some of these governments are even beginning to follow the path laid by Western corporations, actively deploying regime-friendly bloggers to spread talking points. Is this “samizdat”?

Cold War baggage, in short, severely limits the imagination of do-gooders in the West. They assume that the Internet is too big to control without significant economic losses. But governments don’t need to control every text message or email. There’s a special irony when Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggests—as he did in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations last November—that China’s government will find it impossible to censor “a billion phones that are trying to express themselves.” Schmidt is rich because his company sells precisely targeted ads against hundreds of millions of search requests per day. If Google can zero in like that, so can China’s censors.

Calling China’s online censorship system a “Great Firewall” is increasingly trendy, but misleading. All walls, being the creation of engineers, can be breached with the right tools. But modern authoritarian governments control the web in ways more sophisticated than guard towers.

This isn’t just theory. The Kremlin is allegedly soliciting proposals for data-mining social networking sites. The police in Iran and Belarus reportedly browse such sites in order to find connections between opposition figures and dissidents. China tried to launch Green Dam, a technology that studies the browsing habits of its users before deciding to block access. And contrary to what Eric Schmidt believes, authorities do have the ability to locate and monitor mobile phone users, as well as censor their messages.

Why all the tricky techniques? Superpowers like China have to engage with the global economy. So for them, the best censorship system is the one that censors the least. Millions of people already disclose intimate social data on Facebook, LinkedIn, Delicious, and their Russian and Chinese alternatives—and that’s all the data governments need to pick the right target. Online friends with an antigovernment blogger? No access for you! Spend most of your day surfing Yahoo Finance? Browse whatever you want. Satisfied Chinese investment bankers will have access to an uncensored web; subversive democracy activists get added to the government watch list.

Can the Internet empower dissidents and pro-democracy activists? Yes. But it can also strengthen existing dictatorships and facilitate the control of their populations. Washington’s utopian plan to liberate the world one tweet at a time could also turn American innovation into a tool for the world’s subjugation.

Evgeny Morozov (evgeny.morozov wrote The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom.

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Princeton study shows that easy fonts make things harder to remember

By Tim Stevens posted Jan 17th 2011 3:24PM
Princeton study shows that easy fonts on an e-reader make it harder to remember what you read

Clicking your way through Ulysses and having a hard time remembering just what it is Bloom ate for breakfast or, indeed, just what he did on the beach? Don't blame James Joyce, blame your Kindle! A Princeton study entitled "Fortune favors the bold (and the Italicized)" (their emphasis) has shown that readers retain information more reliably when they are challenged with so-called "disfluent" fonts (like the top one above). This flies in the face of the belief that easy to read text is easier to remember and should give typographical titans something else to ponder when placing text upon a page character by character.

Now, what does this have to do with e-readers? Most are stuck with standard fonts that cannot be changed and fall squarely in the "fluent" category -- they're so easy to read your brain spins down. The solution is, of course, to add more and broader font support to the devices, something we'd love to see regardless of scientific merit. Until that comes to pass try holding your Kindle at odd angles or squinting. Maybe that'll help. Or, you could just put down the Proust and pick up some Clancy.

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eCLOUD from Dan Goods on Vimeo.

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Evolving from graffiti and street art, urban interventions are the next generation of artwork to hit public space. Using any and all of the components that make up urban and rural landscapes, these mostly spatial interventions bring art to the masses. They turn the street into a studio, laboratory, club, and gallery. Modified traffic signs, swings at bus stops, and images created out of sand or snow challenge us to rediscover our environment and interact with it in new ways. The work is an intelligent and critical commentary on the planning, use, and commercialization of public space.

With a rich visual selection of projects and methods, Urban Interventions documents this new artistic approach to urban art that is currently making a profound mark on our contemporary visual language. The book shows the growing connections and interplay of this scene with art, architecture, performance, and installation. Propagators of urban intervention surprise and provoke with work in cities including New York and London, but also in countries such as China, Columbia, and Turkey. Everywhere the work appears it turns public spaces into individual experiences.

Urban Interventions is the first book to document these very current, personal art projects in a comprehensive way.

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Twitter Dialects

Microbloggers may think they're interacting in one big Twitterverse.
But researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science find regional slang is as common in tweets as conversations.
Postings on Twitter reflect some well-known regionalisms: Southerners' "y'all," and Pittsburghers' "yinz." There are also the usual regional divides in references to soda, pop and Coke.
Jacob Eisenstein, a post-doctoral fellow in CMU's Machine Learning Department, says more are evolving within the medium.
It shows in the automated method he and colleagues developed for analyzing Twitter word use.
In northern California, something cool is "koo." In southern California, it's "coo." In many cities, something is "sumthin," New York City tweeters favor "suttin."
Eisenstein said some of this usage clearly is shaped by the 140-character limit of Twitter messages. But geography's influence also is apparent.
Automated analysis of Twitter message streams offers linguists an opportunity to watch regional dialects evolve in real time.
"It will be interesting to see what happens. Will 'suttin' remain a word we see primarily in New York City, or will it spread?" Eisenstein asked.
The CMU team used to a statistical model to recognize regional variation in word use and topics.
The model predicted the location of a microblogger in the continental U.S. with a median error of about 300 miles.
Eisenstein recently presented at the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Pittsburgh. The paper is available online.
For this study, Eisenstein and his co-authors collected a week's worth of Twitter messages in March 2010.
They selected geotagged messages from Twitter users who wrote at least 20 messages. It yielded a database of 9,500 users and 380,000 messages.
Eisenstein was joined by co-authors Eric P. Xing, Noah A. Smith, and Brendan O'Connor.
Xing is an associate professor of machine learning. Smith is an assistant professor in the Language Technologies Institute (LTI). And O'Connor is a machine learning graduate student.
The research was supported, in part, by funding from Google, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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(photo credit)

Sugata Mitra tells us that there are places on Earth, in every country where, for various reasons, good schools cannot be built and good teachers cannot or do not want to go. And those places, as it turns out, is often where trouble comes from.

In 1999, Mitra embedded a computer in a wall in a slum in New Dehli, connected it to high speed internet and left it there – the Hole in the Wall Experiment. He repeated this experiment in other parts of India and discovered that children learn what they want to do. We see a Rajastani village where children were recording music and playing it back for each other, only four hours from seeing the computer for the first time. His conclusion – children could learn to use computers by themselves.

An experiment in Hyderabad asked children who spoke English with a strong Telugu accent to use a voice recognition system on a computer. Two months later, their accents had changed and were closer to the neutral British accent of the speech synthesizer.

Mitra had a conversation with the late Arthur C. Clarke where Clarke said, “If a teacher can be replaced with a machine, he should be.” And Clarke told him that student interest is the most important thing in education.

As children begin to Google their homework, teachers in India are reporting that their English is improving… and they’re becoming surprisingly deeper thinkers. Mitra believes that this might be a shift from memorization to exploring information online.

How difficult a task can students take on? In Kalikuppam, a small village, Mitra decided to see if Tamil speaking children could learn about biotech in English on their own. After two months, the students sheepishly told him they’d learned nothing. He asked whether they’d learned nothing at all, and a twelve year old girl told him, “Apart from the fact that improper copying of genetic molecules could cause disease, we’ve learned nothing.”

Students took biotechnology exams and scored a 30, while they’d scored a 0 before… “an educational impossibility.” He asked one of the best students to teach the others and improve their schools. She asked how she could possibly teach them, and Mitra suggested “the grandmother method” – stand behind, admire, act fascinated and praise. After two months, the class score was up to 50.

Mitra is now conducting experiments in the UK, with students at Gateshead school. Students work in groups of four, using one computers, and can change between groups. One group started solving GSCE questions within 20 minutes – the least successful group took 45 minutes. They were using Google, Ask Jeeves and other sources. Teachers asked, “Is this deep learning?” Mitra sees evidence that test scores rise over time with groups like these, and believes that students have almost near photographic recall because children discuss what they’ve learned together.

He’s got a great new idea – the granny cloud. He’s recruited hundreds of British grandmothers who donate their time over online video connections and answer questions for children. In both India and the UK, he’s teaching children using groups, Google and the granny cloud.

Maybe the most amazing experiment comes from Turin, where Mitra went to a primary school and started writing questions on the white board in English for students who speak only Italian. Using Google translate, students were answering questions like “Who was Pythagoras and what did he do?” in a few minutes.

Mitra tells us that he future of education is self-organized learning environments. They let students learn together, use resources and people they can access online and explore on their own, and he plans on testing this going forward.

This post originally appeared on Ethan's excellent blog My Heart's in Accra.

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(Posted by Ethan Zuckerman in Education at 11:00 AM)

Tags: education
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That’s it. We’re putting a wrap on 2010. We’ll hit the ground running again on Monday. But, until then, we leave you with a handy list of our favorite and most popular posts from 2010, all ordered in a rather random way. If you crave a little more Open Culture goodies, you can always browse through our complete archive here, and follow us on TwitterFacebook, and RSS. Hope you have a safe, happy and prosperous New Year!

More to come Monday…

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Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education — the best teachers and schools don’t exist where they’re needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching. (Recorded at TEDGlobal 2010, July 2010 in Oxford, UK. Duration: 17:14)

Watch Sugata Mitra’s talk on where you can download it, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances from our archive of 700+ TEDTalks.

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