a computer program learned?


How Google acci­den­tally uncov­ered a Chi­nese ring of car thieves by Rus­sel Bran­dom at The Verge

Google’s Adwords pro­gram designed to spot ads being used to sell coun­ter­feit prod­ucts or phish­ing scams flagged ads by a ring of Chi­nese car thieves that sold stolen cars to unwit­ting buy­ers. The pro­gram spot­ted sus­pi­cious behav­ior that humans did not, and that wasn’t exactly the pur­pose of the program.

interview with feminist philosopher Sandra Harding

S.Harding poster

Beyond the “Sec­u­lar­ism Tic” – An Inter­view with Fem­i­nist Philoso­pher San­dra Hard­ing by Nina M. Flo­res at Ms. blog

Stand­point the­ory is a the­ory of knowl­edge, but in most dis­ci­plines it is regarded as a method­ol­ogy, a way to do research. Stand­point approaches use the dif­fer­ences between a dom­i­nant group’s val­ues and inter­ests and those of sub­or­di­nate groups to pro­vide research that is for the sub­or­di­nate group – that answers the kinds of ques­tions they want answered. Stand­point is a logic of research that seems to emerge every time a new group steps on the stage of his­tory. For instance, ex-​colonized groups, the civil rights move­ment, the LGBTQ move­ment and other groups ask sim­i­lar kinds of ques­tions. They may not use the lan­guage of stand­point the­ory, but they tend to say, “Well, from the per­spec­tive of our lives things look different.”

Fem­i­nist stand­point asks why what is regarded in dis­ci­plines as the very best research so often ends up mak­ing sex­ist, racist, het­ero­nor­ma­tive, clas­sist or abled claims. What does it tell us about research processes and stan­dards for objec­tiv­ity when the very best research pro­duces these results? Well, when the whole research com­mu­nity is andro­cen­tric, it has no way to detect those andro­cen­tric assump­tions shap­ing its research – it’s like a fish try­ing to see the water it swims in. Fem­i­nist stand­point pro­poses start­ing research from the daily lives of women (or oth­ers who didn’t design the dom­i­nant frame­works) for three rea­sons: first, to under­stand women’s lives through con­cepts and terms that come from those lives. Soci­ol­o­gist Dorothy Smith says the term “house­work” would never be coined by peo­ple who do it – it clearly comes from the lives of peo­ple who work out­side the home, for whom the house­hold is not a place of work. Sec­ondly, to “study up”: to crit­i­cally ana­lyze the dom­i­nant insti­tu­tions, their cul­tures and prac­tices through the lens of peo­ple who receive few ben­e­fits from those insti­tu­tions. Third is to under­stand how the assump­tions and prac­tices of those insti­tu­tions – such as the Pen­ta­gon, the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, the State Depart­ment, Wall Street – shape the daily lives of women, and how does what women do shape those institutions?

And also, when the whole research com­mu­nity and lib­eral arts and social sci­ence dis­ci­plines are White suprema­cist, it has no way to detect those racist assump­tions shap­ing its research and their lib­eral arts and social sci­ence the­ory – it’s like a fish try­ing to see the water it swims in, when the white fish have decided that they’re col­or­blind blind. Fish with col­ors!? We’re all white! Except we aren’t.

nanotechnology: graphene


Nan­otech­nol­ogy at Scitable

One of the great achieve­ments of nanoscience to date is the devel­op­ment of graphene, a man­made sheet of inter­linked, honeycomb-​patterned car­bon atoms that is exactly one car­bon atom thick. Due to its thin­ness on the one hand and the uni­for­mity of the hon­ey­comb arrange­ment on the other, graphene is both extremely light and extremely strong. In fact, amaz­ingly enough, graphene is 200 times stronger than steel.


The topsy-​turvy world of men who oppose anti-​violence cam­paigns by Josh Shahryar at Women Under Siege

Some­thing about women being vocal about their expe­ri­ences and demand­ing pro­tec­tion and legal action for the vio­lence per­pe­trated against them threat­ens an anti­quated and prob­lem­atic mas­culin­ity. This either implic­itly or explic­itly requires men to have domin­ion over women. It leaves women reliant on men, con­trolled by them.

Cana­dian fem­i­nist activist receives death threats and other abuse after being tar­geted by Men’s Rights Activists by David Futrelle at Man Boobz

Since being tar­geted by angry YouTube misog­y­nists and MRAs, the red-​haired activist has received death threats, rape threats and lit­er­ally hun­dreds of other hate­ful and harass­ing mes­sages. She’s also been “doxxed” — that is, she’s had her per­sonal infor­ma­tion plas­tered all over the inter­net, includ­ing on A Voice for Men’s forum. Ten days after being uploaded to YouTube, the video of her face­off against the MRAs has gar­nered more than 300,000 views, and YouTu­bers are still leav­ing threats and insults and crude sex­ual comments.

This, appar­ently, is what “Men’s Human Rights Activism” con­sists of: the doxxing and harass­ment of indi­vid­ual women.

wealth and poverty

A protester holds up a sign at a demonstration outside McDonald's in Times Square in New York

The Amer­i­can dream: Sur­vival is not an aspi­ra­tion by Sarah Kendzior at Al Jazeera

Mis­tak­ing wealth for virtue is a cru­elty of our time. By treat­ing poverty as inevitable for parts of the pop­u­la­tion, and giv­ing impov­er­ished work­ers no means to rise out of it, Amer­ica deprives not only them but soci­ety as a whole. Tal­ented and hard-​working peo­ple are denied the abil­ity to con­tribute, and soci­ety is denied the ben­e­fits of their gifts. Poverty is not a char­ac­ter flaw. Poverty is not emblem­atic of intel­li­gence. Poverty is lost poten­tial, unheard con­tri­bu­tions, silenced voices.

Work­ing at McDonald’s is not indica­tive of all a per­son can accom­plish, nor should it be a sen­tence to lim­ited oppor­tu­nity. The ser­vice indus­try is increas­ingly where Amer­i­cans end up, as pre-​recession jobs are replaced with part-​time, poverty-​wage work. If tem­po­rary jobs are a per­ma­nent prob­lem, we need to improve their con­di­tions — along with those of the white-​collar jobs to which many aspire but can­not afford to take.

wealth inequality


The Wealth of Nations by Marty Hart-​Landsberg at Lewis and Clark blogs

Accord­ing to Credit Suisse, “The aim of the Credit Suisse Global Wealth project is to pro­vide the best avail­able esti­mates of the wealth hold­ings of house­holds around the world for the period since the year 2000.”

Accord­ing to the pub­li­ca­tion, global house­hold wealth was $222.7 tril­lion in mid-​2012, equal to $48,500 for each of the 4.6 bil­lion adults in the world. Wealth is “defined as the mar­ketable value of finan­cial assets plus non-​financial assets (prin­ci­pally hous­ing and land) less debts.”

Not sur­pris­ingly, as the fig­ure below shows, aver­age global wealth varies con­sid­er­ably across coun­tries and regions.

phantom phone calls and neurobiology


Why you think your phone is vibrating

Sens­ing phan­tom phone vibra­tions is a strangely com­mon expe­ri­ence. Around 80% of us have imag­ined a phone vibrat­ing in our pock­ets when it’s actu­ally com­pletely still. Almost 30% of us have also heard non-​existent ring­ing. Are these hal­lu­ci­na­tions omi­nous signs of impend­ing mad­ness caused by dig­i­tal culture?

Not at all. In fact, phan­tom vibra­tions and ring­ing illus­trate a fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple in psychology.

You are an exam­ple of a per­cep­tual sys­tem, just like a fire alarm, an auto­matic door, or a daf­fodil bulb that must decide when spring has truly started. Your brain has to make a per­cep­tual judg­ment about whether the phone in your pocket is really vibrating.

mixed-​media drawing: Félix Bracquemond

five ducks

  • Title: [Les canards]
  • Other Title: Five ducks in a pond
  • Creator(s): Brac­que­mond, Félix, 18331914, artist
  • Date Created/​Published: [ca. 1882?]
  • Medium: 1 draw­ing : wash, gouache, pas­tel ; 22 x 32 cm.
  • Repro­duc­tion Num­ber: LC-​USZ62-​71423 (b&w film copy neg.)
  • Rights Advi­sory: No known restric­tions on publication.
  • Call Num­ber: DRWG/​MA, no. 50 (A size) [P&P]
  • Repos­i­tory: Library of Con­gress Prints and Pho­tographs Divi­sion Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20540 USA