Boing Boing 

"Copy Me" episode 3: "Early Copyright History"

Alex writes, "It features censorship, hangings, dissent and criticism, a whole bunch of state and church control, angry queens, sad Stationers, and, of course, our terrible culprit: the printing press."

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Kids who sext more likely to be comfortable with their sexuality


In Longitudinal Association Between Teen Sexting and Sexual Behavior [PDF] (Pediatrics, Temple & Choi), a 6-year study of 1,000 diverse American teens finds that sexting is common, not correlated with future risky behaviors, and correlated with overall comfort with sexuality.

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Emergent: a realtime Internet rumor tracker


It's like Snopes for Twitter, from Columbia U's journalism school.

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Medievalists on Disney's middle ages

A fascinating new scholarly essay collection, The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past, looks at Disney's portrayal of the middle ages and reflects on how these are inextricably linked to other Disney settings, from Tomorrowland to Frontierland, and how the "Americanized" medieval narrative has played out over the decades.

John McChesney-Young sent me a great review of the book by Yale historian Paul Freedman, which is in the current issue of The Medieval Review (but not yet in its online archive):

Fantasyland is the home of neo-medieval stories, especially of princesses and their accoutrements; it has been gendered female. Adventureland, Frontierland and Tomorrowland incline towards a male audience, or at least they did in their heyday. Changing public perceptions have meant that the Old West as a setting for the making of rugged American character runs up against an appreciation of the fate of Native Americans, while with the fading allure of pre-internet "Gee Whiz" technology, Tomorrowland has been partially reinvented as "Retroland," a kind of self-mocking "Jetsons" take on what we once thought the future would look like (p. 69).

Fantasyland remains the core of the Disney imagination, and it is lightly dusted with medieval fairy-sparkle. It can't really call to mind even a first-order artificial nineteenth-century romantic Middle Ages, because that would interfere with the goal of presenting Disney's modern world as "the happiest place on earth," a happiness that is more goal-oriented and, one might say, middle-class values-centered than escapist or expressive of discontent with the present. The pastness of Disney's fantasies is tempered and in effect denied by anti-elitist, can-do characters. Amy Foster in "Futuristic Medievalism" shows how the medieval past is shaped by American anti-elitism and the promise of technology. Unidentified Flying Oddball was a 1979 reworking of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in which a NASA engineer is transported to Camelot. Not only does he amaze the court with his scientific knowledge and gadgetry, his "regular guy" nature is paramount. He treats peasants, servants and King Arthur alike, for example. Bob Gossedge, in an essay devoted to the 1963 animation of The Sword in the Stone, points out that young "Wart," the future King Arthur, is the only principal character in that film with an American accent. Merlin, in a cultivated English voice, instructs Wart that he needs to get "these medieval ideas out of your head--clear the way for new ideas: knowledge of man's fabulous discoveries in the centuries ahead" (pp. 127-128). One sees similarities in the all-American rendering of underdog heroes like Zorro in the 1957-1959 television series or Remy in Ratatouille (2007). Disney's principal characters tend to be resourceful Americans (whatever their putative nationality) stuck in a past that is attractively fantastic, but irritatingly hierarchical and behind-the-times.

Disney's egalitarianism is about universal opportunity, not economic equality. It amounts to what Foster (p. 164) refers to as "sentimental populism" based on Horatio Alger, not Marx. Anyone can be a princess, anyone can cook (in the non-medieval Ratatouille). The mistreated Snow White and Cinderella are eventually exalted and not only does "happily ever after happen every day," but it happens to anyone receptive to the Disney message or "magic."

The Disney Middle Ages: A Fairy-Tale and Fantasy Past [Pugh and Aronstein, eds]

(Thanks, John!)

Downvoting considered harmful

A study [PDF] published in a journal of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence found that sites that have a "downvote" button to punish bad comments lock the downvoted users into spirals of ever-more-prolific, ever-lower-quality posting due to a perception of having been martyred by the downvoters.

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Walking for 5 min/hour prevents negative health effects of sitting


In "Effect of Prolonged Sitting and Breaks in Sitting Time on Endothelial Function," forthcoming in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers from IU Bloomington report on a study that holds out hope for anyone worried about the health effects of prolonged sitting.

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Half the remains of slain Vikings in England are female

In Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 AD, published in 2011 in Early Medieval Europe 19/3, Medievalists from the University of Western Australia survey the remains of fallen Vikings found in eastern England that had been assumed to be male, partly because some were buried with sword and shield.

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Journal of Peer Production seeks papers for issue on Feminism and Hacking


They want articles and experimental pieces exploring the relationship between hacking and gender, race and orientation.

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Large study of low-carb eating finds weight-loss, muscle-gain, better cholesterol


The NIH-funded Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine reports on an unusually large and diverse study of the impact of low-carb eating and finds huge benefits relative to low-fat diets.

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Open Intellectual Property Casebook: free, superior alternative to $160 textbook


James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins, eminent copyright scholars at the Duke Center for the Public Domain, have released their 788-page Open Intellectual Property Casebook as a free, open, CC-licensed download, replacing textbooks that normally sell for $160 (you can get a hardcopy is $24); it's not just a cheaper alternative, either -- it's a better one, enlivened with sprightly writing, excellent illustrations (including comics in the vein of Boyle and Jenkins's Bound By Law).

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Respected medical journal changes hands, starts publishing junk science for hire


Experimental & Clinical Cardiology published for 17 years out of Oshawa, ON, but is now owned by shadowy figures in Switzerland, whose payments are processed through Turks and Caicos, and they'll publish anything under the journal's banner, provided it's accompanied by a payment of $1200.

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Northern Illinois University's terrible net policy censors political Wikipedia entries

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The university's new head of technology has instituted blocks for torrents, "obscene," and "unethical" pages, "misrepresenting identity," "political activities such as surveying, polling, material distribution, vote solicitation and organization or participation in meetings, rallies and demonstrations, among other activities" -- and any attempts to access blocked pages are logged and are grounds for disciplinary investigation by the school administration.

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Security researchers buy pornoscanner, demonstrate how to sneak in guns & bombs


(Rapiscan images showing a subject carrying no weapon (left) versus a .380 ACP pistol sewn to the side of his pants leg, (right) which is practically invisible in the scan)

Researchers from UCSD, the U Michigan, and Johns Hopkins will present their work on the Rapiscan Secure 1000 at Usenix Security tomorrow; the Secure 1000 isn't used in airports anymore, but it's still in courts, jails, and government security checkpoints (researchers can't yet get their hands on the millimeter machines used at airports).

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$35 electrochemical analyzer


Aaron writes, "The good folks of the George Whitesides Laboratory have been dedicated to making cheap medical tests and analytical gadgets for quite some time. Now, they've really outdone themselves with this beautiful $35 electrochemical analyzer that can do everything from glucose tests to environmental analysis."

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UC Riverside's world-class science fiction library under threat

Science fiction author Nalo Hopkinson, a professor at UC Riverside, sounds the alarm about a change in management at the Eaton Science Fiction Collection, the largest public science fiction and fantasy in the world.

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Biology student in Colombia faces jail for reposting scholarly article


Colombia's draconian copyright law (passed after US pressure) provides for prison sentences for simple copyright infringement; Diego Gomez, a biodiversity conservation Master's candidate at University of Quindío shared a paper related to his fieldwork, and the paper's author has brought a prosecution against him.

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Economist examines empirical evidence of file-sharing on box-office revenue

A paper from University of Kansas economist Koleman Strumpf (whose work we've featured here for years) empirically examines the impact of file-sharing on box-office revenues.

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Unions considered helpful (economically)


A paper in Industrial Relations A Journal of Economy and Society performs a meta-analysis of a wide range of studies the impact of trade unions on productivity and finds a complex puzzle.

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Big Data should not be a faith-based initiative

Cory Doctorow summarizes the problem with the idea that sensitive personal information can be removed responsibly from big data: computer scientists are pretty sure that’s impossible.

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Study: People prefer electric shocks to being alone with their thoughts


Matthew writes, "A new paper in Science reports that when people are asked to entertain themselves with their own thoughts for 15 minutes, many resort to giving themselves painful electric shocks they'd previously said they'd pay to avoid."

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Facebook manipulation experiment has connections to DoD "emotional contagion" research


Here's a new wrinkle on the massive emotion-manipulation study that Facebook conducted in concert with researchers from Cornell and UCSF: one of its researchers is funded under a US Department of Defense program to study "emotional contagion" and civil unrest.

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3D weaving produces strong, flexible solids


Oluwaseyi Sosanya, a Nigerian American student at London's Royal College of Art, produced an amazing technique for 3D weaving, computer-controlled weavers to produce stable, three dimensional topologies.

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Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal


Researchers from Facebook, Cornell and UCSF published a paper describing a mass-scale experiment in which Facebook users' pages were manipulated to see if this could induce and spread certain emotional states.

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Online roundtable on the works of Octavia Butler

The Hooded Utilitarian is hosting an online roundtable on the work of Octavia Butler, one of science fiction's greatest writers, and also one of the first women of color to attain widespread recognition in the field. The initial installment, from Qiana Whitted, is a challenging, sharply critical essay about the ways that Butler's work (including Fledgling, a book I very much liked) literally nauseated the writer, and what that says about both Butler and her critics.

Ugliness, Empathy, and Octavia Butler (Thanks, Noah!)

(Image: Leslie Howle)

Copyfraud, uncertainty and doubt: the vanishing online public domain


In Enclosing the public domain: The restriction of public domain books in a digital environment, a paper in First Monday, researchers from the Victoria University of Wellington document the widespread proactice of putting restrictions on scanned copies of public domain books online.

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Best-paid CEOs perform the worst


In Performance for Pay? The Relation Between CEO Incentive Compensation and Future Stock Price Performance , a paper from U of Utah business-school professors, the relationship between executive performance and executive pay is intensively investigated. The authors carefully document that the highest-paid executives in the 1,500 companies with the biggest market cops from 1994-2013 perform the worst, and that the higher a CEO's pay, the more likely it is that he'll perform worse than his low-paid colleagues. The effect was most pronounced in the 150 highest-paid CEOs.

The authors propose that sky-high pay leads CEOs to be overconfident -- after all, if they're getting $37M for a year's work, they must be pretty damned smart, so anyone who disagrees with them is clearly an idiot, after all, look at how little that critic is paid! The longer a CEO is in office, the worse his performance becomes, because he is able to pack the board with friendly cronies who keep hiking his pay and overlooking his underperformance. And CEOs suck at figuring out when to exercise their stock options, generally getting less money than they would by following conventional financial advice.

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Job interviews reward narcissists

Self-presentation style in job interviews: the role of personality and culture, a UBC study presented in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that job interviews were optimized for self-aggrandizing narcissists, while people from cultures that value modesty and self-effacement fared poorly (it probably helps that everyone conducting a job interview had to pass a job interview to get that job, making them more likely to have confidence in the process). (via Reddit)

Anti-forensic mobile OS gets your phone to lie for you

In Android Anti-forensics: Modifying CyanogenMod Karl-Johan Karlsson and William Bradley Glisson present a version of the Cyanogenmod alternate operating system for Android devices, modified so that it generates plausible false data to foil forensic analysis by law enforcement. The idea is to create a mobile phone that "lies" for you so that adversaries who coerce you into letting them take a copy of its data can't find out where you've been, who you've been talking to, or what you've been talking about.

I'm interested in this project but wonder about how to make it practical for daily use. Presently, it maintains a hidden set of true data, and a trick set of false data intended to be fetched by forensic tools. Presumably, this only works until the forensic tools are modified to spot the real data. But you can conceptually imagine a phone that maintains a normal address book and SMS history, etc -- all the things that are useful to have in daily use -- but that, on a certain signal (say, when an alternate unlock code is entered, or after a certain number of failed unlock attempts) scrubs all that and replaces it with plausible deniability data.

Obviously, this kind of thing doesn't work against state-level actors who can subpoena (or coerce) your location data and call history from your carrier, but those people don't need to seize your phone in the first place.

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Court finds full-book scanning is fair use


The Hathi Trust has won another important victory in its court battles against the Authors Guild over the right of academic libraries to scan books under the banner of fair use. Hathi creates full-text indexes of books from academic institutional libraries that were scanned by Google, so that academic libraries can access full-text indexes of the books, as well as offering the books in assistive formats used by people with visual disabilities, and providing long-term archives of rare texts that are still under copyright.

The Authors Guild members are overwhelming trade-book authors; the books scanned by the Hathi Trust are overwhelmingly scholarly books written as part of an academic tradition that takes free access and sharing as its foundation. The court remanded a question of standing in the case, asking the Guild to demonstrate that it represented authors of the affected works.

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Academic publisher tried to stop publication of paper on price-gouging in academic publishing

The editorial board of the journal Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation has threatened to resign because the academic journal's corporate owners, Taylor and Francis, have ordered them not to publish a paper critical of the academic publishing industry. The paper, Publisher, be damned! from price gouging to the open road, was written by academics from the University of Leicester's School of Management.

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