Boing Boing 

Interview with a cyborg anthropologist

Jon Lebkowsky sez, "Former bOING!bOING! 'cyborganic jivemeister' interviews 21st century cyborg anthropologist Amber Case. A discussion of cyborganic mind and memory and the new world of digital tribes. In the SXSW Interactive issue of the Austin Chronicle."

Case spends a lot of time studying and thinking about how digital extension affects our brains and behaviors. "The brain doesn't really need that much stimulus in order to create a virtual reality," she says. In early computing, "we thought it would take much more to incite people into these realities," but text and good two-dimensional interfaces are enough to absorb us totally in virtual worlds. "It's mixed reality, where you can be anywhere and you have different virtual realities going on around you – the different tabs in a browser window, text messages you get, Facebook messages, Twitter messages. All of those are different realities in simultaneous time zones that people are living in all the time, and we switch rapidly between these contexts all the time. People are living multiple virtual realities while existing in one reality at a time."

I asked about the overhead for all the virtual switching we do as we bounce from one to another reality, referring to it as "virtual jet lag." "To be fully aware of an environment and take something in that is not fragmented is important for learning and embodying knowledge," she says. "But the problem on the Internet is, say you learn something on Wikipedia; you're not embodied in that knowledge. Rather than learning in a lab, you're reading something about biochemistry on Wikipedia, learning it there. And halfway through the article, you may be checking your email or looking at Facebook; it disrupts the writing of that memory to your brain." This leads to greater fragmentation of memory than we might otherwise experience. "By the time you've finished loading that memory, you've only loaded part of it," she notes. "And if you stay up late, don't get enough REM sleep, your brain can't get through the natural defragmentation process. And you wake up with a sloppy hard drive of a brain."

Man or Machine? Circle Option C. (Thanks, Jonl!)

Sony's dual-screen Tablet P arrives

Sony's double-screened Vaio P Tablet comes with "4G" internet via AT&T, dual 5.5" touchscreen displays, and a selection of apps optimized for the new format. Running Android 3.2, the data plan costs $35 a month for 3GB and $50 for 5GB. At $550, though, it'll be a difficult sell. With a two-year contract--itself a thousand dollar proposition--it's $400. Product Page [Sony]

If you are upset about the Bully rating, watch This Film is Not Yet Rated

Bully is a documentary on bullying that follows the lives of bullied teenagers. By all accounts, it is a brilliant and important film, the sort of thing that young people should see. Except that they won't, because the MPAA's secretive, unaccountable ratings board has given it an R rating for "language." Despite widespread calls to reconsider (including 165,000 signatures gathered by a Katy Butler, a 17-year-old Michigan high school student) the MPAA is standing pat.

Redditor awertz23 suggests that people following this should go watch Kirby Dick's funny-but-horrifying documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, which investigates the MPAA ratings board. Dick hired a private investigator and determined the identities of the MPAA raters (a closely held secret) and discovered that the panel was not composed of parents of young children, frequently rotated through -- rather, it was mostly composed of studio insiders who served extended tenures. Dick documents the complicity between the ratings board and the major studios and the crummy deal that indies get, and the systemic bias towards violence (including sexual violence) and against consensual sex, especially gay sex.

Red Moon: short movie about soviet werewolf submariner


Ben Sellon submits Red Moon, a short film about a werewolf aboard a Russian sub. An Official Selection at the 2011 Atlanta Film Festival, Hollyshorts Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival, and 2012 Oxford Film Festival, it stars Ben as Capt. Alexei Ovechkin and was directed by Jimmy Marble.

Expert medical help and a listening ear‐at the library

In her first week working at the Pima County Public Library, Registered Nurse Emily Pogue helped a newly-homeless woman find safe shelter and access to the medications she needed. She listened to the stories of military veterans, helped them organize a buddy system, and she helped library staff deal sensitively with a child's case of head lice. In just a month, library staff noticed a drop in calls to 911 and experienced far fewer behavioral incidents.

Where people gather in large numbers, public health is always a consideration. But a trained health responder has been missing from the library—until recently.

Read the rest

Censorship is surveillance, and privacy is a public health problem

My latest Guardian column is "Censorship is inseparable from surveillance," which discusses the fact that network censorship entails surveillance, and how this exacerbates the public health problem caused by our difficulty in evaluating privacy trade-offs.

There was a time when you could censor without spying. When Britain banned the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses in the 1920s and 1930s, the ban took the form on a prohibition on the sale of copies of the books. Theoretically, this entailed opening some imported parcels, and it certainly imposed a constraint on publishers and booksellers. It was undoubtedly awful. But we've got it worse today.

Jump forward 80 years. Imagine that you want to ban www.jamesjoycesulysses.com due to a copyright claim from the Joyce estate. Thanks to the Digital Economy Act and the provision it makes for a national British copyright firewall, we're headed for a system where entertainment companies can specify URLs that have "infringing" websites, and a national censorwall will block everyone in the country from visiting those sites.

In order to stop you from visiting www.jamesjoycesulysses.com, the national censorwall must intercept all your outgoing internet requests and examine them to determine whether they are for the banned website. That's the difference between the old days of censorship and our new digital censorship world. Today, censorship is inseparable from surveillance.

Censorship is inseparable from surveillance