Much is made of our living in the age of algorithms, but I think that’s been true for centuries (at least since double entry bookkeeping, at least a methodology if not an algorithm). To me distinctive thing about our time is the advent of platforms, the Internet itself, and all its flavors, communication, collaboration, video, education, moving of merchandise, much of it happens on (or is indirectly supported by) a platform.
One industry that was former “platform champ”–they built it and exploited it for revenue–was the newspaper biz. So it’s particularly interesting to watch that model morph, and a Q&A on the Times site by reporter John Hermann and platform expert Andrei Hagiu takes stock of some of the changes. An excerpt. Worth reading the whole thing, and thinking about another world that is rocked by the advent of platforms, education.
NYTimes: How do pre-existing companies typically make the transition from being an independent participant in a particular category to being, basically, a platform constituent? That’s a broad question, but — is there an industry that might have useful parallels to the media industry with something like a major social platform?
HBS Prof and Economist Andrei Hagiu: I don’t think it’s true that transitioning from independence to life on a platform necessarily has to make things worse. One thing that I think a lot about — in conversations with venture capitalists and others — is the notion that platforms or marketplaces inherently commoditize. I think more likely what’s happening is the following: I think platforms, or marketplaces, make it a lot easier for, say, the content providers or app developers that are very, very good to rise to the top, and pretty much commoditize everyone else. So if you’re average, it’s definitely going to be very bad. Life is going to be worse on a platform, because you’re exposed to more competition. If you’re very good, life on a platform is a lot better.
Italian/American designer (his slash, not mine) Gianluca Gimini asked people to draw a men’s bicycle from memory. Although it’s a form that is familiar to most people, it’s surprisingly hard to draw. (It’s also, as he points out, an interesting exercise in epistemology. Even though we “know” what a bicycle is, and how it works, that’s rarely sufficient for drawing a functional diagram.)
The American Library Association has released their State of America’s Libraries Report 2016 and nestled among many interesting tidbits is the current list of most challenged books in libraries. (I assume this is all libraries, but, as usual, the list is heavy on teen titles, always the scorched earth of book censorship.)
Out of 275 challenges recorded by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, the “Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2015” are:
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).
John Green! He’s practically an institution after “Fate,” and a wonderful writer to boot. And although I am in hearty agreement with the assessment of “poorly written” for E.L. James’s entire oeuvre, where’s the fun (or the feasibility) in expelling works for that? “Condones public display of affection” is also a head-scratcher, and one would assume understanding a ‘religious viewpoint’ is one of many reasons The Bible, still the big dog on the porch of banned books, is read and worth having in a public library collection. Fun Home the musical just won the Tony, and the graphic novel is a great, and poignant read, and by reliable accounts the show is super. I’m not really much of a graphic novel reader, but one positive effect of this list on me is that I now want to read Habibi, which of course, I’ll get from my public library.
Both Poetry Daily and Knopf Poem of the Day do celebrations of National Poetry Month (April, of course, the ‘cruelest’ month). Sharon Olds was one of Knopf’s selections, and she has always resonated with me, perhaps never more so than in this poem.
Then, one late afternoon,
I understand: the harm my father
did us is receding. I never thought
it would happen, I thought his harm was stronger than that,
like God’s harm—flood, or birth without
eyes, with mounds of tissue, no retina, no
pupil, the way my father on the couch did not
seem not to be using eyes
but not to have them, or to have objects
for eyes—Jocastal dress-brooches.
But he had not been hated, so he did not hate us,
just scorned us, and it is wearing off.
My son and daughter are grown, they are well
as if by some miracle. The afternoon has a
quality of miracle, the starlings all facing
the west, his grave. I come to the window
as if to open it, and whisper,
My father’s harm is fading. Then,
I think that he would be glad to hear it
directly from me,
so I come to where you are, bone
settled under the dewed tangle
of the blackish Northwoods moss like the crossroads
hair of a beloved. I come to you here
because it is home: your done-with body
broken back down into earth, holding
its solemn incapable beauty.
Perhaps all writers make use of their family first and foremost, but few do it as fearlessly.
Lots of observances of the 400th anniversary of WS’s death (so long ago, so recent!)
Two web destinations I particularly liked: Neil MacGregor “Shakespeare’s Restless World,” a BBC Radio and podcast series akin to his “History of the World in 100 Objects.” In 20 short episodes, he takes an object as a means to glimpse what the experience of playwright, players, and audiences might have been like. (For instance, the simple Protestant chalice in the church where Shakespeare was baptized provides a lens into the roiling drama of Catholic v. Protestant politics and power and the fears relating to the successor to Elizabeth).
Wonderful scholarly Shakespeare websites abound, but some the main repositories of primary docs have come together to put up an exhibit that gives you a chance to see for yourself the printed legacy of Shakespeare’s age.
Shakespeare Documented is a quick trip to those rare book collections in these great libraries, and from your armchair, you can follow links for the full texts, and ‘page’ through the versions of the plays that were first published as well as many contextual docs.
Book store staff, librarians, and movie store clerks (back when there still were movie stores!) all have stories of perplexing requests from patrons, generally when there is a very specific title in mind, but the question is a complete puzzle, with a title described in such vague or idiosyncratic ways as to require mind-reading more than reference desk skills.
A few tidbits from Library Thing,
” I need that book that’s called Shakespeare, but it’s spelled with a “Ch” and the author starts with M…”
Fortunately, I was in my groove that day, and it only took me a few seconds to figure out that the patron wanted the book Chesapeake, written by James Michener.
My friend, as a young lass, once ran up to a librarian, very excited, and yelled out, “Do you have ‘The Cat Who Shat?'”
I worked in a record store all through my (many) undergraduate years and we would get many crazy folks into the store on a regular basis. The overall most common silly request was; ” Can you help me find this song? I don’t know what it’s called or who sings it, but it’s about love.”
Aren’t they all?
As a classical music person, I’ve encountered my share of these mysteries: Somebody raving about hearing “Faust’s Requiem.” (I figured it was some outrageous East German world premiere, but it was just the Fauré one.).
When I was responsible for an information service on opera (which is a fairly nutty thing to start with), I did reliably got calls about “that opera where she dies at the end.” I checked my impulse to say, “if she doesn’t die at the end, it’s probably just Rodgers and Hammerstein.”
But on reflection, all these misfires disclose that the brain is an interesting thing, and though no doubt we may all share much common neural architecture, we certainly don’t seem to keep track of and remember things or their associations in the same way. (In my case, I would charitably call this “neural metadata diversity of recall” but I suppose it could just be that I’m ‘getting on’ as the Brits would have it.) There is after all, a specific target for all these descriptions, it’s just that the getting there is fraught.
For myself, I do okay remembering music facts (I started early in this domain, and, since I listen to and play music every day and write about it almost as much, it remains relatively fresh), but boy do I get foggy about movie details. And am notorious for groping to remember titles of films I have seen or want to see. “The one about the farmer who drives to someplace in the upper Midwest to collect his life insurance pay out starring the guy who was in The Great Gatsby.”
“Train doors close and open on two different paths for the story.”
“Brad Pitt turns into a baby. Unbearably long “
Turns out, there’s an AI-powered web site that makes this a snap. “What Is My Movie?” assesses deep content using technology from cognitive science to suss out those elusive links in your query and unravel the mystery of which movie you were looking for on Netflix.
From their website:
Whatismymovie.com is a descriptive movie search engine that was originally created as a showcase for Arctic15, Helsinki in 5/2015. Its purpose is to present a new way of searching video content, using movies and TV as the chosen approach. Descriptive movie search is based on our research on what is called “Deep Content”. Deep Content is everything we can see and hear in a video, but cannot mechanically analyze – until now. Deep Content includes transcripts, audio, visual patterns and basically any form of data feed that describes the video content itself. After analyzing the deeper levels of the video, we automatically convert it into advanced metadata. This metadata is then processed by the beating heart of our engine: a cognitive machine learning system that understands natural language queries and matches it with our metadata.
It’s not foolproof. It got Sliding Doors and the (completely intolerable) Benjamin Button in the examples above, but didn’t realize I was thinking about Nebraska for the first. (Although it did suggest Borat!).
There are lots and lots of reasons that this is, if not a great logo, then certainly a better logo than the one it’s replacing. The old symbol, that beloved (albeit to my eyes kind of generic and clip-artsy) Pacioli M, needed to be captioned with the full name of the institution: five words, ten syllables, twenty-six letters, all in poor old Trajan. This was cumbersome in every sense, particularly as the institution prepares to open in the former Whitney Museum building on Madison Avenue (to be renamed The Met Breuer after its architect). That new site, along with the less-visited but utterly lovely Cloisters, makes the Met a citywide complex that demands not a monolithic identity, but a way to connect up all the pieces. The new logo, a self-reading wordmark that acknowledges the institution’s two-syllable colloquial name, will serve effectively as the hinge for the whole system.
When you get a quarter you put it in the piggy bank. The piggy bank is on a shelf in your closet. Your mom knows this and she checks on it every once in a while, so she knows when you put more money in or spend it.
Now one day, you might decide “I don’t want mom to look at my money.” So you go over to Johnny’s house with an extra piggy bank that you’re going to keep in his room read full post
That secret tax-free piggy banks are popular among elected officials, who are paid, of course by taxes, is not surprising, but does seem particularly odious.