Category: episode 2

‘Poor people don’t plan long-term. We’ll just get our hearts broken’:

In the autumn of 2013 I was in my first term of school in a decade. I had two jobs; my husband, Tom, was working full-time; and we were raising our two small girls. It was the first time in years that we felt like maybe things were looking like they’d be OK for a while.

After a gruelling shift at work, I was unwinding online when I saw a question from someone on a forum I frequented: Why do poor people do things that seem so self-destructive? I thought I could at least explain what I’d seen and how I’d reacted to the pressures of being poor. I wrote my answer to the question, hit post, and didn’t think more about it for at least a few days. This is what it said:

Why I make terrible decisions, or, poverty thoughts

There’s no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it’s rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.

Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6am, go to school (I have a full course load, but I only have to go to two in-person classes), then work, then I get the kids, then pick up my husband, then have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 12.30am, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I’m in bed by 3am. This isn’t every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr Martini [her partner], see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork.

Those nights I’m in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won’t be able to stay up the other nights because I’ll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can’t afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn’t leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn’t in the mix.

When I was pregnant the first time, I was living in a weekly motel for some time. I had a mini-fridge with no freezer and a microwave. I was on WIC [government-funded nutritional aid for women, infants and children]. I ate peanut butter from the jar and frozen burritos because they were 12 for $2. Had I had a stove, I couldn’t have made beef burritos that cheaply. And I needed the meat, I was pregnant. I might not have had any prenatal care, but I am intelligent enough to eat protein and iron while knocked up.

I know how to cook. I had to take Home Ec to graduate from high school. Most people on my level didn’t. Broccoli is intimidating. You have to have a working stove, and pots, and spices, and you’ll have to do the dishes no matter how tired you are or they’ll attract bugs. It is a huge new skill for a lot of people. That’s not great, but it’s true. If you fuck it up, you could make your family sick.

We have learned not to try too hard to be middle class. It never works out well and always makes you feel worse for having tried and failed yet again. Better not to try. It makes more sense to get food that you know will be palatable and cheap and that keeps well. Junk food is a pleasure that we are allowed to have; why would we give that up?

We have very few of them.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 2: Uncomfortable

How ‘the Internet broke America’ with The New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz – TechCrunch:

When Elizabeth Warren took on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook earlier this week, it was a low moment for what New Yorker writer Andrew Marantz calls “techno-utopianism.”

That the progressive, populist Massachusetts Senator and leading Democratic Presidential candidate wants to #BreakUpBigTech is not surprising. But Warren’s choice to spotlight regulating and trust-busting Facebook was nonetheless noteworthy, because of what it represents on a philosophical level. Warren, along with like-minded political leaders, social activists, and tech critics, has begun to offer the first massively popular alternative to the massively popular wave of aggressive optimism and “genius” ambition that characterized tech culture for the past decade or two.

“No,” Warren and others seem to say, “your vision is not necessarily making the world a better place.” This is a major buzzkill for tech leaders who have made (positive) world-changing their number one calling card — more than profits, popularity, skyscrapers like San Francisco’s striking Salesforce Tower, or any other measure.

Enter Marantz, a longtime New Yorker staff writer and Brooklyn, N.Y. resident who has recently trained his attention on tech culture, following around iconic figures on both sides of what he sees as the divide of our time — not between tech greats whose successes make us all better and those who would stop them, but between the alternative figures on the “new right” and the self-understood liberals of Silicon Valley who, according to Marantz, have both contributed to “hijacking the American conversation.”

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 2: Uncomfortable

Opinion | I’m a Black Feminist. I Think Call-Out Culture Is Toxic.:

These types of experiences cause me to wonder whether today’s call-out culture unifies or splinters social justice work, because it’s not advancing us, either with allies or opponents. Similarly problematic is the “cancel culture,” where people attempt to expunge anyone with whom they do not perfectly agree, rather than remain focused on those who profit from discrimination and injustice.

Call-outs are justified to challenge provocateurs who deliberately hurt others, or for powerful people beyond our reach. Effectively criticizing such people is an important tactic for achieving justice. But most public shaming is horizontal and done by those who believe they have greater integrity or more sophisticated analyses. They become the self-appointed guardians of political purity.

Call-outs make people fearful of being targeted. People avoid meaningful conversations when hypervigilant perfectionists point out apparent mistakes, feeding the cannibalistic maw of the cancel culture. Shaming people for when they “woke up” presupposes rigid political standards for acceptable discourse and enlists others to pile on. Sometimes it’s just ruthless hazing.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 2: Uncomfortable

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 2: Uncomfortable

The myth of the free speech crisis:

When I started writing a column in the Guardian, I would engage with the commenters who made valid points and urge those whose response was getting lost in rage to re-read the piece and return. Comments were open for 72 hours. Coming up for air at the end of a thread felt like mooring a ship after a few days on choppy waters, like an achievement, something that I and the readers had gone through together. We had discussed sensitive, complicated ideas about politics, race, gender and sexuality and, at the end, via a rolling conversation, we had got somewhere.

In the decade since, the tenor of those comments became so personalised and abusive that the ship often drowned before making it to shore – the moderators would simply shut the thread down. When it first started happening, I took it as a personal failure – perhaps I had not struck the right tone or not sufficiently hedged all my points, provoking readers into thinking I was being dishonest or incendiary. In time, it dawned on me that my writing was the same. It was the commenters who had changed. It was becoming harder to discuss almost anything without a virtual snarl in response. And it was becoming harder to do so if one were not white or male.

As a result, the Guardian overhauled its policy and decided that it would not open comment threads on pieces that were certain to derail. The moderators had a duty of care to the writers, some of whom struggled with the abuse, and a duty of care to new writers who might succumb to a chilling effect if they knew that to embark on a journalism career nowadays comes inevitably with no protection from online thuggery. Alongside these moral concerns there were also practical, commercial ones. There were simply not enough resources to manage all the open threads at the same time with the increased level of attention that was now required.

In the past 10 years, many platforms in the press and social media have had to grapple with the challenges of managing users with increasingly sharp and offensive tones, while maintaining enough space for expression, feedback and interaction. Speech has never been more free or less intermediated. Anyone with internet access can create a profile and write, tweet, blog or comment, with little vetting and no hurdle of technological skill. But the targets of this growth in the means of expression have been primarily women, minorities and LGBTQ+ people.

A 2017 Pew Research Center survey revealed that a “wide cross-section” of Americans experience online abuse, but that the majority was directed towards minorities, with a quarter of black Americans saying they have been attacked online due to race or ethnicity. Ten per cent of Hispanics and 3% of whites reported the same. The picture is not much different in the UK. A 2017 Amnesty report analysed tweets sent to 177 female British MPs. The 20 of them who were from a black and ethnic minority background received almost half the total number of abusive tweets.

The vast majority of this abuse goes unpunished. And yet it is somehow conventional wisdom that free speech is under assault, that university campuses have succumbed to an epidemic of no-platforming, that social media mobs are ready to raise their pitchforks at the most innocent slip of the tongue or joke, and that Enlightenment values that protected the right to free expression and individual liberty are under threat. The cause of this, it is claimed, is a liberal totalitarianism that is attributable (somehow) simultaneously to intolerance and thin skin. The impulse is allegedly at once both fascist in its brutal inclinations to silence the individual, and protective of the weak, easily wounded and coddled.

This is the myth of the free speech crisis. It is an extension of the political-correctness myth, but is a recent mutation more specifically linked to efforts or impulses to normalise hate speech or shut down legitimate responses to it. The purpose of the myth is not to secure freedom of speech – that is, the right to express one’s opinions without censorship, restraint or legal penalty. The purpose is to secure the licence to speak with impunity; not freedom of expression, but rather freedom from the consequences of that expression.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 2: Uncomfortable

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 2: Uncomfortable

BBC Radio 4 – Seriously…, Seriously… – Piers Plowright introduces a collection of his favourite documentaries for Seriously…:

Not so much a lunchtime lecture as a link to a full on audio binge.

Piers Plowright is a radio legend. During his time as a BBC radio drama and feature maker from 1968 to 1997 he won the Prix Italia for radio documentaries three times as well as three Gold and two Silver Sony Awards and a Sony Special Award for Continual Dedication and Commitment to the Radio Industry. Since then he has been made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an honourary doctor at Bournemouth University and a ‘Radio Luminary’ at the prestigious Chicago Third Coast Radio Festival.

If anybody knows about great radio, Piers does. We are honoured and delighted to present his personal picks from the Radio 4 archive, all of which are available for you to listen to right now…


Digital Human, Series 17, Ep 2: The Analogue Human

Amanda Palmer and Damon Krukowski talk analog vs. digital:

Bring back the noise.

Such was the prescription from indie musicians Amanda Palmer and Damon Krukowski ’85 during an animated discussion about digital creativity Tuesday night at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.

Krukowski, who came to the Consumer Research Center/store to kick off the tour for his new book, “The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World,” used “noise” to describe the ambient sounds such as air conditioning or breathing that found their way onto analog audio recordings, but he was also speaking of life in the pre-digital world before social media giants’ content streams.

Krukowski, who was the founder and drummer for Galaxie 500 in the late ’80s, worked on the idea of analog versus digital as a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society in 2015-16. By eliminating noise, he argued, digital technology has isolated authentic sound, though he hoped the debate would not be seen as old versus new, or good versus bad.

But Palmer, a rock ’n’ roll performer who has cultivated an intimate relationship with fans on and off social media, wasted no time lamenting the loss. Instead, she commiserated with Krukowski over a shared displeasure with Facebook. She quoted from Krukowski’s book: “Social media have no content to offer other than what their users provide. Yet that information, too, is limited to isolated signal as defined by the platform — a neat trick.” Then she made her own supporting argument.

“I also hate Facebook, and I hate Facebook more and more every day,” she said, bemoaning the algorithms it uses to determine what is signal and what is noise for its 2 billion users.

“Noise is necessary. If we’re going to stay human, visual, audio, emotional noise, it’s what makes life. If you don’t have it, you don’t really even have the conditions for living. If things are signal only, that literally means there is no room for coincidence, synchronicity, kismet, randomness — the things that make life feel realistic,” she said.

Digital Human, Series 17, Ep 2: The Analogue Human

Capturing the beauty and emotion of London’s young men:

Rosie Matheson’s Boys series is, in this humble digihuman research monkey’s opinion, bloody gorgeous. The light is beautiful, and somehow in each shot she captures something with simmering intensity and yet an overriding intimacy and sensitivity throughout the whole series. She has an incredible talent for getting touching the heart of her subject in each shot. Beautiful example of why film is still such a beautiful, vital medium.

Digital Human, Series 17, Ep 2: The Analogue Human

Rosie on Instagram: “@shanecoonie and Earl”:

You guys really should follow Rosie Matheson  on Instagram, always a good idea to get more beauty in your life.

Digital Human, Series 17, Ep 2: The Analogue Human