How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets

How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets

Image: Salon.com

“The interesting and potentially troubling question is how a reliance on Big Data might funnel craftsmanship in particular directions. What happens when directors approach the editing room armed with the knowledge that a certain subset of subscribers are opposed to jump cuts or get off on gruesome torture scenes or just want to see blow jobs. Is that all we’ll be offered? We’ve seen what happens when news publications specialize in just delivering online content that maximizes page views. It isn’t always the most edifying spectacle. Do we really want creative decisions about how a show looks and feels to be made according to an algorithm counting how many times we’ve bailed out of other shows?” (Andrew Leaonard, Salon.com)

How We Talk About Media Refusal, Part 1: “Addiction”

How We Talk About Media Refusal, Part 1: “Addiction” - FLOW

Image: Phillip Toledano, The Atlantic

“Practices of media refusal, as well as statements by media refusers about their choices, could be seen as implicit indictments of the norms of media culture, the most basic norm being that everyone ought to be a consumer of media. Yet media refusal is usually understood and practiced individually (though there have been a few campaigns aimed at getting people to collectively) unplug. This individual response to a collective problem is typical of contemporary “lifestyle politics” in which resistance tactics are arguably more effective at generating further consumption (of self-help magazines, for example) than actually altering objectionable aspects of consumer culture.” (Laura Portwood-Stacer, FLOW)

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Is Google Making Us Stupid? - The Atlantic

Illustration by Guy Billout

“When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.

The Net’s influence doesn’t end at the edges of a computer screen, either. As people’s minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Internet media, traditional media have to adapt to the audience’s new expectations. Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads, and magazines and newspapers shorten their articles, introduce capsule summaries, and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets. When, in March of this year, TheNew York Times decided to devote the second and third pages of every edition to article abstracts , its design director, Tom Bodkin, explained that the “shortcuts” would give harried readers a quick “taste” of the day’s news, sparing them the “less efficient” method of actually turning the pages and reading the articles. Old media have little choice but to play by the new-media rules.” (Nicholas Carr, The Atlantic)

Carnegie Mellon Performs First Large-Scale Analysis of “Soft” Censorship of Social Media in China

Carnegie Mellon Performs First Large-Scale Analysis of "Soft" Censorship of Social Media in China - Carnegie Mellon News

Image: Carnegie Mellon

“Researchers in Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science analyzed millions of Chinese microblogs, or ‘weibos,’ to uncover a set of politically sensitive terms that draw the attention of Chinese censors. Individual messages containing the terms were often deleted at rates that could vary based on current events or geography.

In China, where online censorship is highly developed, the researchers found that oft-censored terms included well-known hot buttons, such as Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned by the Chinese government, and human rights activists Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo. Others varied based on events; Lianghui, a term that normally refers to a joint meeting of China’s parliament and its political advisory body, became subject to censorship when it emerged as a code word for “planned protest” during pro-democracy unrest that began in February 2011.” (Byron Spice, Carnegie Mellon News)

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses - New York Times

Photo: Ángel Franco/The New York Times

“In the 1950s, having the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the bookshelf was akin to a station wagon in the garage or a black-and-white Zenith in the den, a possession coveted for its usefulness and as a goalpost for an aspirational middle class. Buying a set was often a financial stretch, and many families had to pay for it in monthly installments.

But in recent years, print reference books have been almost completely overtaken by the Internet and its vast spread of resources, including specialized Web sites and the hugely popular — and free — online encyclopedia Wikipedia.” (Julie Bosman, NYTimes.com)

A few other views:
On the death of Encyclopaedia Britannica: All authoritarian regimes eventually fall (Jim Sollisch, Christian Science Monitor)
Encyclopaedia Britannica announces final entry for print edition, continues in digital form (Associated Press)

Web Deals Cheer Hollywood, Despite Drop in Moviegoers

Web Deals Cheer Hollywood, Despite Drop in Moviegoers - New York Times

Photo: J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

“Instead of Hollywood suffering its own Napster moment — the kind of digital death trap that decimated music labels first through the illegal downloading of files and then by a migration to legal downloads almost solely through iTunes — several deals announced this month have it feeling more in control.

While studios still consider piracy a huge problem and feel stymied by Silicon Valley (and Washington politics), they nevertheless control their content. And now the Web is coming to them.” (Brooks Barnes, NYTimes.com)

For Impatient Web Users, an Eye Blink Is Just Too Long to Wait

For Impatient Web Users, an Eye Blink Is Just Too Long to Wait - New York Times

Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

“People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second).  ‘Two hundred fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the Web,’ said Harry Shum, a computer scientist and speed specialist at Microsoft.” (Steve Lohr, NYTimes.com)