Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Tag: Jon Ronson

Twitter @ 10: life with hashtags

Monday, 21 March, 2016 0 Comments

It’s Twitter’s 10th birthday today. The first tweet, sent on 21 March 2006 by CEO and cofounder Jack Dorsey, then an NYU student, read: “just setting up my twttr.” Three years later, Twitter became the news when Janis Krums beat the pro snappers to the punch by tweeting a photo of US Airways Flight 1549 crash-landed in the Hudson River.

Twitter on the Hudson

If there’s a negative, it’s the amping up of public shaming, which has been well documented by Jon Ronson. PR manager Justine Sacco joked on Twitter: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” The ensuing cyber tsunami of vilification was such that Sacco lost her job and became an object of hate. Dr. Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who shot Cecil the Lion, faced similar Twitter shaming.

The upside, however, is that everyone can share an opinion on Twitter, which has expanded and democratized global debate. Just look at the current US presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton has 5.7 million followers, Bernie Sanders has 1.75 million and people retweet the utterances of Donald Trump thousands of times:

With its platform, Twitter has become a go-to source for breaking news; with its minimalism, it’s a minor art form and with its reach, it has morphed into a powerful marketing tool. But there’s competition from visual formats like Instagram & Snapchat and the result is that Twitter is now worth $11.6 billion, down from $40 billion in 2013. Still, @twitter is 10 today and that’s cause for celebration. Happy Birthday! #LoveTwitter

Twitter @ 10


Auden in a time of public shaming

Sunday, 21 February, 2016 0 Comments

On this day in 1907, the poet Wystan Hugh Auden was born. Alexander McCall Smith, author of What WH Auden Can Do For You, describes him as an astonishingly versatile lyricist who “wrote about rocks, about love, about psychoanalysis, about the bacteria that live on our skin, about war and about cooking. In the Thirties he was a political poet; after going to America he re-embraced Christianity. In his later years he became positively Horatian in his tastes, preaching the virtues of the domestic life and simple pleasures.” Auden is kaleidoscopic and timeless; At Last the Secret is Out is the proof.

    Background: The British writer/actor Stephen Fry made headlines earlier this week with a joke about his friend, costume designer Jenny Beavan. Following Beavan’s appearance at the BAFTA film awards, Fry said, “Only one of the great cinematic costume designers would come to the awards ceremony dressed like a bag lady.” Furious accusations of misogyny followed and, appalled by the humourlessness of the PC mob, Fry quit Twitter.

Jon Ronson explores this kind of public humiliation in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, a book about reputation in an era of hysteria and recreational rage. The flames of shame are fanned today on social media but this is just an amplification of what was common in Auden’s time because “there is always a wicked secret” and it will out.

At Last the Secret is Out

At last the secret is out,
as it always must come in the end,
the delicious story is ripe to tell
to tell to the intimate friend;
over the tea-cups and into the square
the tongue has its desire;
still waters run deep, my dear,
there’s never smoke without fire.

Behind the corpse in the reservoir,
behind the ghost on the links,
behind the lady who dances
and the man who madly drinks,
under the look of fatigue
the attack of migraine and the sigh
there is always another story,
there is more than meets the eye.

For the clear voice suddenly singing,
high up in the convent wall,
the scent of the elder bushes,
the sporting prints in the hall,
the croquet matches in summer,
the handshake, the cough, the kiss,
there is always a wicked secret,
a private reason for this.

W. H. Auden (1907 – 1973)

WH Auden


From robot to cobot to sobot

Thursday, 11 June, 2015 0 Comments

robot: an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry

cobot: a collaborative robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace

sobot: a robot with a little humanity

Cynthia Breazeal, the director of the personal robots group at MIT, raised more than $3 million on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo, and then $25 million in venture capital funding, to bring Jibo, “the world’s first social robot,” to market. What is a social robot? According to John Markoff of The New York Times, “it’s a robot with a little humanity.” So, your sobot will order food when you don’t feel like cooking, tell your child bedtime stories and know if you prefer Bunnahabhain to Glenkinchie.

“A strange thing happens when you interview a robot. You feel an urge to be profound: to ask profound questions. I suppose it’s an inter-species thing. Although if it is I wonder why I never try and be profound around my dog.
‘What does electricity taste like?’ I ask.
‘Like a planet around a star,’ Bina48 replies.
Which is either extraordinary or meaningless — I’m not sure which.”

Jon Ronson, Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries