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What’s your take on this internet Robin Hood? Do his ends justify his means?


“On the Internet he was Sabu, a notorious celebrity who led a scattered tribe of politically motivated “hacktivists,” revered as the sly mastermind of brash computer attacks. Then, when he was caught, he slipped into the role of federal informant.”


Pinterest is getting a lot of love in the tech community. It’s had skyrocket success and unlike most startups didn’t start with early-adopter techies. They started with women, many who are collecting images for their weddings, closets, recipes, etc.

In the article below Nathan Jurgenson discusses Feminism and Pinterest. The post debates about the following topics:

– fundamental differences between men and women
– lack of misogynistic content
– Its juvenile version of women that appeals to a ‘domestic’ woman

What is the discussion to have about feminism and pinterest? Is Nathan asking the right questions? What discussion needs to be had? Are there other sites or digital projects related to pinterest and feminism? Discuss…

Marx ruins everything!

So, I’m writing my paper about the interaction of Recommending a story on the New York Times to Facebook.

“If you want to understand the work, you must understand what the individual who made it was trying to express. However, as with all common sense, it is no so common” and not so easy to do. A Marxist may argue understanding what an individual is trying to express] “pushes an ideological view of the individual. The individual it promotes as the source of expression and understanding is the bourgeois individual of capitalism, alienated from an unconnected with the historical, social, political, and class structures that produce the notion of individuality in the first place” (Barnard 83).

NYT and FB are media giants, in their own rights, in their own industry hubs. They live on the coats and represents many of the things I ranted about in an earlier post: individuality, singleness, progressive mindsets, etc. Because they are powerful companies that gather and distribute information, they have a great amount of power to influence people through both their content, but also design. As giants, they can push their beliefs of class structure, especially something that’s very individual and capitalistic, and arguably continues to oppress the general public. Keep the little guy down, you know?

However, the press serves to investigate, inform and fact check other big businesses and government. They also support liberating ideals and values. Facebook gives people an open, relatively free forum to think, write, communicate and above all broadcast. So then, really, it’s quite revolutionary.

So, can the Times and Facebook be oppressors and liberators at the same time? How do I parse this one?

Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, Black Swan came out on limited release last night. And of course, annoyingly, it’s not playing anywhere in Indiana. The movie is a psychological thriller, starring Natalie Portman, who plays a ballerina named Nina (hey–that’s MY name), in Swan Lake. A tweet by Clint Mansell, film composer, and Natalie Portman, both interpret Black Swan as a feminist film.

I cannot say myself if I think it is that kind of film at all and what kind of feminism Mansell and Portman are talking about. But, if you’re as excited to see Black Swan, as I am, it’s something to look out for.

From an interview with Aronfsky on Cinema Blend (who directed Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and a few other):

Talking about the parallels to the ballet, the prince in this version of the story is Vincent Cassel’s character, but he’s not really a worthy prince at all. He calls the women girls, he dominates them, and you’ve set him up as this figure of dominating masculinity in a movie that’s otherwise all about women. Is that a comment on the role of gender dynamics in the ballet world?
Natalie connects it to any kind of male-dominated system. Sure, you can read into that, and think about it that way. She feels the film is a real feminist movie.

And there’s been rumors of people thinking it’s a misogynist movie–
It’s not.

Oh I know. That kind of interpretation drives me crazy.
It’s a very easy way to go with it. And there are certain cliches, but as Hubert Selby Jr. used to say to me, “It’s called a cliche because it’s often true.” But it’s not just that. The Vincent character was a really hard obstruction for Mark [Heyman], the writer, because it’s very easy to make him one thing. But what he did, and what Vincent ran with, is he kind of is an artist. Even though he’s this manipulative pig, it’s all about the art. There’s a nice balance and complexity. That whole scene with Natalie when he tells her to go touch herself, it’s really not that out of line. It’s very aggressive, but he’s just trying to get on with it.

My friend is throwing a pastabilities dinner party. The concept? Come over and eat a variety of pastas. She joked that the front door sign would be written in linguine noodles. I hope everyone here is thinking about macaroni art. That’s the stuff kids do in kindergarten, that parents put up on the refrigerator, even though it’s very low form craft and not so much art unless you love your kid unconditionally, then it’s a masterpiece, I guess.

the perfect pile of macaroni

If I were a great artist, I would do an entire series protesting the feminine and masculine kinds of design up on the board yesterday. I would make beautiful illustrations with puffy paint. I would make breathtaking impressionist style designs on denim using a bejewling bedeazzler. I would sculpt stunning forms of the human body with dry crumbly play-doh. You know what my mudpies would taste like? Black Forrest Cake! I will make couture dresses from needleloft  and runway friendly footware with painted Ked’s canvas shoes. You would fall off your chair in astonishment when you saw my beautifully lit studio that only uses holiday lights. The only way Ansel Adams photos could look better is if they were redesigned with stick on googley eyes.

Listen folks. I would do this if I were more invested in being a great artist. Why? Because I reject lists that say certain kinds of work belong in certain categories (masculine, feminine, high or low). Art, design and interpretation is much more fluid than that. Come on.

Credits to my dear friend Sona for the idea to bedazzle Monet on denim and always for design inspiration.

Why do we (or many of us) equate individual, personalized and customized designs to be good? There is a perception that the completely personalized iTunes library or search result is the best result. Without getting to Chuck Palahanuik, circa Fight Club, airplane scene, on you, I have a critique on designing personalizing, packing aging and designing everything for the individual.

Going home this weekend helped me think about designing for shared experiences and families. When we had physical phone lines, mail boxes, music and movie discs, we shared them. We put our books out on display and shared the book cases with whomever we shared our spaces with. Our friends would come over, skim our music collection, pull out a cd case, snap the disc out, open up the tray, place the disc in, close the tray and let the disc play. The vinyl experience is that times 10. But now, we become screen zombies in front of iTunes.

We have personalized music libraries, individual tracks and go through so many more steps than scanning a bookshelf just to share and show what media we have.

My teenager cousin come over for Thanksgiving and like most boppers I hear, see and read about, she was glued to her mobile phone. Texting till her fingers fell off. I put the phone in the other room during dinner and turned it on silent. She was sufficiently put her through pure agony (and secret relief). Before, I would call a household and everyone shared a phone line. Or mail a letter and some person who lived there would sort the letters out. But now, I have my own inboxes, numbers, libraries, etc.

There is a huge efficiency and value in personal custom systems, but it certainly motivates a capitalist, individualist, consumerist society. Who is designing our completely, perfectly personalized lifestyles? The ones that let us be so picky, particular and inflexible about anything because we need our own absolute perfect custom settings. Who is letting this happen? Those hippie folk in the bay area. That’s who.

But, San Francisco is packed to the bone with designers and developers from all over the country and world. But many many of these people have (physically) left their families and built their own personal, customized social circles. Many more people remain unmarried in the Bay Area. Many people there are generally liberal and progressive and it’s hard to believe these ideologies don’t find their way into the designs of products that get used in very different cultures.

My parents, who now use iTunes have their own logins, their own iTunes and are completely frustrated that they can’t figure out how to listen to each others’ music easily, and they are relatively tech savvy. The library is designed for one person, to sync with their one phone, and their one iTunes Store account, not a family or I’ll argue even a house of roommates.

I have two married friends who share a facebook account. They both use it for writing, commenting and liking. Upon their marriage, they joined parts of their identity. They are absolutely using Facebook in a way that the company likely does not prefer and that makes it very confusing for people in their network. But it works for them.

So, what happens when relatively, single, social, liberal, tech savvy people that moved away from home, design for families, conservatives and low-tech people? I smell determinism.

I haven’t written a serious research paper in a long time. Like. Maybe. 3 years. Mostly because that school down the street drilled press style writing into my head that I completely forgot how to do what we’re supposed to be doing (research paper style writing and having tidy sources cited).

I then, gloriously remembered It’s a wonderful site that has since improved, 3-years-later. If you type in a few key words it will likely find the site, book or journal article you are trying to cite. I don’t know if this helps for the CHI format, but hey, hot tip if you’re writing papers anywhere else. Plus, it’s a good way to keep your sources organized.

Sr. X presenta: Coloquios Históricos, Hoy: Nietzsche y Marx (fuera del trabajo...)

In January, Roger Fidler, Program Director of the University of Missouri Journalism school wrote about tablets and how they fit into the mediascape. The tweets and buzz around his post asked “will tablets save journalism?” That was all the commentary I saw was saying something like this. Why did he get so much buzz? Because in 1994 he “predicted the tablet.” But you and I know Mark Weiser did that much earlier.

All that being said, journalism isn’t broke. Neither is news. The business models are but news is still happening every day and it is still being reported. When Twitter was adopted en mass, journalists asked the same thing “will this save our industry?” The next shiny thing will come along and they will ask…”will this save our industry?”

I made commentary on the general commentary and huge praise for tablets. I said:

@Adam Levy I’m struggling with the idea that E-readers are the only possible option. If we think from user’s perspective, how many people are running out to buy, yet another, device to carry around with them? And that’s not even considering the monetary cost of buying an e-reader device. Which brings me to my point about the digital divide.

Sure, there are the people who can afford to buy an e-reader, those people likely have smart phones. I’d be curious to know how many people who take a phone, charger, laptop, camera (maybe), wallet and their lunch to work also want to lug an e-reader around with them.

Then, what is the news solution for people who cannot afford an e-reader? Sure, news is online, it’s free. I think that’s excellent. It works for me. I think we, journalists, designers, need to have some conversation about readers without mobile devices, without internet connections at home (or at least fast ones). Yes, we are designing for the future, but people with low-incomes will exist in the future, too.

I am not arguing that we need to fire up more printing presses for those without internet connections. Because those people, likely, are not buying the newspaper too (because of cost, not interest). So, let’s remember to also design for the future of news on the other side of the digital divide. If we don’t, I predict we’ll see an educated bourgeoisie and a proletariat without access to news.

Coming back to my point: I have a smart phone, it costs a lot of money, it let’s me read the news without having to buy anything more.

Just playing devil’s advocate…

I want to revisit the argument I think I was trying to make with some help from Marx and Barnard.

“Art criticism, journalism and social commentary are not the sorts of institutions that are found in formalist, or expressionist accounts of art and design, for example, and it must be a strength of Marxist and social history approaches that new institutions and personnel are admitted to the account. The problem with most device centric options versus news print is a class problem, but class has not yet been considered in the conversations I see in blogs, at conferences and even over tweet.

Marx identifies ‘the economic foundation’, the base.

He also identifies ‘a legal and political which correspond definite forms of social consciousness’ This superstructure consists in various institutions, ‘legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic and it is based upon the conditions of production.”

The conditions of productions for tablet news apps made for for news companies are produced under difficult conditions. Employees are under pressure to produce something that will bring revenue to the company, attract readers and ultimately, save their own jobs in a struggling industry and economy. An HCI critic would see the opportunity for an interaction designer and human-centered work. But it seems the designer, under such constraints, is not given the opportunity to think about their users due to the constraints of the superstructure.

In addition, news interaction designers don’t seem to be conscious of classes outside of themselves. “…in ideology that the conflict of class interest is brought to consciousness and fought out.” For designers, who sit in front of their expensive computers, with smart phones, iPads and many gizmos and gadgets, there is little sign of the consciousness even being brought out to fight about.

While print newspapers have almost always cost some kind of money, the only barrier was cost. However, an app that costs $2.99 also includes the barrier cost of the device and the service. If all news becomes digital, how can people, who live offline, be educated about civic affairs? If they do not have an opportunity to be well educated about local, national and global politics, how can they be informed voters? If they cannot be informed voters, how can they know if their leaders are exploiting them?

Then, I think Marx said it was time for a revolution.

Jenna had Sean, Kathleen and me over to make gingerbread houses. Little did we know, this small craft project would rise up and become a work of high level art. Enjoy our critique.

audio story:

This story is lovely. It’s wonderful both in the context of writing and sketching as an interaction designer. I know we don’t have time to sit around and just listen to a news story but turn it on when you’re cleaning up your room, cooking dinner or doing the dishes. I think you will find many relevant points.

Don’t quit after the commercial brea, it gets better.

via NPR:


When it comes to writer’s block, author Lynda Barry believes the key to unblocking your thoughts is right in your hands. 

In her latest graphic memoir, Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book, she writes,”The worst thing I can do when I’m stuck is to start thinking and stop moving my hands.”

And if you also have doodler’s block too, or think you can’t draw?

“All I tell them is try drawing a cigarette on anybody in a magazine,” Barry tells NPR’s Neal Conan. “They always start laughing, and I can tell they always feel better.”

A lot of Barry’s characters smoke — her fictional brand of cigarettes is called Don’t — and she says that’s a deliberate choice.

“I wanted to piggyback on the idea of cigarettes being bad for you,” she says, “[and] this idea of not drawing or not writing … as being just as bad for you.”

Picture This tells the story of two monkeys, one of which — the Near-Sighted Monkey — is Barry’s alter-ego. Barry says the first thing you should know about the Near-Sighted Monkey is that she’s a really bad house guest.

“[She] hogs the remote, when you get up to answer the phone she’ll finish your drink … she loves to smoke,” Barry says.

But that doesn’t mean Barry didn’t enjoy drawing her. In fact, Barry says Near-Sighted Monkey helped motivate her to keep working.

“Whenever I do a book, I’m usually guided by a question or something that I’m trying to tease out,” she says. “And I was trying to figure out why drawing this dang monkey made me feel so good.”

The story of the second monkey, Meditating Monkey, is a bit more sober. Barry says the attacks on 9/11, the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, and the deaths of several friends had left her bereft.

“I found myself compelled — like this weird, shameful compulsion — to draw cute animals,” she remembers, “just cry and draw cute animals.”

She says she started with dancing dogs and friendly ducks — then she found the Meditating Monkey.

“When I drew that monkey, it’s not that it fixed the problem,” she says, “but it did shift it a little bit, or provide me some kind of relief.”

Barry says that’s when she began to think about the power of images.

“I believe with all my heart they have an absolute biological function,” she says. “They are not decoration. They are not an elective. They have a function.”

She says drawing the monkey’s lines over and over again reminded her of being 12, falling in love with a favorite song and listening to it on repeat.

“It fixed something,” Barry recalls, “or it made a difficult time more bearable.”