The Machine and the Ghost
July 12, 2012
Moralizing Technology: Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things By Peter-Paul Verbeek (University of Chicago Press, 183 pp., $25) JUST WEST OF SEOUL, on a man-made island in the Yellow Sea, a city is rising. Slated for completion by 2015, Songdo has been meticulously planned by engineers and architects and lavishly financed by money from the American real estate company Gale International and the investment bank Morgan Stanley.
Anatomy of a Wishful Viral Rumor
July 05, 2012
The 2012 campaign isn’t the first to be marked by rumors and distortions. But it’s already setting new land-speed records for the time it takes a tossed-off comment or flat-out falsehood to develop into a “fact” accepted by half the political world. The “report” that Obama would be traveling to Paris to hold a European fundraiser on the Fourth of July was just the latest example of partisan lying. Every time it happens, supporters of the rumor’s target bemoan the gullibility of their partisan counterparts. How could anyone think Obama was born in Kenya?!
The Metropolitan Nature of IPOs
May 18, 2012
Facebook’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) is projected to value the company at $104 billion. Reportedly, only Visa has had a larger IPO. Only time will tell if Facebook is really worth such an astronomical sum, but one thing about it is not all extraordinary: Its location in the Bay Area. From 1996 to 2006, 9 percent of all U.S. IPOs were headquartered in the San Francisco metropolitan areas--where Facebook is located--and another 10 percent came from the San Jose metro area. The data come from University of California-Davis professor Martin Kenney and his colleague Don Patton.
May 18, 2012
Lodge 141 of the Fraternal Order of Police is housed, along with 446 jail cells, inside the Mahoning County Justice Center, a forbidding brick and steel hulk at the edge of the frayed downtown of Youngstown, Ohio. It’s a humble office, but its proprietors have embellished it with a number of rather pointed political decorations.
The Facebook Part of Your Brain
May 08, 2012
Why do I post my opinions online, day after day? Ostensibly it's to earn money to feed my family. But there are much easier ways to do that. According to a new study by Harvard psychologists Diana I. Tamir and Jason P. Mitchell published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (and written up in the May 8 Wall Street Journal), I suffer from a "species-specific motivation to share one's beliefs and knowledge about the world" that kicks in at about 9 months, which means I've been doing it almost 54 years.
How the Obama Administration’s Narrative About Chen Guangcheng Unraveled, One Tweet at a Time
May 04, 2012
When Chen Guangcheng departed the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday with apparent guarantees that he would lead a safe and productive life in his native land, it seemed that a major international crisis had been averted. In a startlingly short period of time, American and Chinese officials had hammered out an agreement that seemed to protect Chen, while preserving the bilateral relationship.
Brush with Controversy
March 29, 2012
In April 2007, Czech artist David Hons replaced the human silhouettes in 48 Prague crosswalk signals with figures engaged in decidedly less pedestrian activities. One signal depicted a man urinating; another had a bottle raised to his mouth. A man squatted to defecate; another appeared to be falling down drunk. “I wanted to show people, they don’t have to walk or stand when the system says so,” Hons wrote on his website. A Prague municipal court found Hons guilty of vandalism, fined him $3,750, and ordered that he come up with an additional $5,000 to repair the signals.
The Stalled Revolution
March 29, 2012
On a Monday in late February, I received a Facebook message from a Syrian activist notifying me that a demonstration was due to start in half an hour in a heavily guarded section of Damascus. The occasion was a funeral, and so the protest was likely to be large. “Two of the five martyrs are children, and funeral processions for children are always big,” the message explained. I took a cab to the Kafr Sousa district, an area that is home to many government buildings, and walked for 20 minutes, until I came upon about 75 casually dressed men toting machine guns.
The Assault on Turkish Journalists Continues
March 15, 2012
Istanbul, Turkey—Last week, the Turkish journalist Oray Eğin returned to Turkey to attend his father’s funeral. It was the first time he’d been home in months, and when he arrived at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, he was detained. The news immediately spread, making headlines: Yet another Turkish journalist arrested! It turned out, however, that Eğin was being questioned for an entirely different reason—a benign legal matter unrelated to his profession.
In Defense of Dick Vitale
March 11, 2012
When I was 18, I met ESPN announcer Dick Vitale on a flight to Charlottesville, Virginia. The photo I had taken with him that day is still, years later, proudly displayed in my apartment. The reason is simple: I absolutely, unapologetically love Dick Vitale. It’s safe to say that many, maybe even most, sports fans would deem this opinion crazy.