This week in our roundup: the longevity of student loans, facial recognition technologies, hyperaddictive stupid games, costs associated with the construction of F-35 fighters, the death of hyperlinks curator John Blogkowski, and more.
- The Washington Post: “Senior citizens continue to bear burden of student loans” by Ylan Q. Mui, April 1st, 2012.
New research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that Americans 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans, providing a rare window into the dynamics of student debt. More than 10 percent of those loans are delinquent. As a result, consumer advocates say, it is not uncommon for Social Security checks to be garnished or for debt collectors to harass borrowers in their 80s over student loans that are decades old.
- London Review of Books: “In Your Face” by Evgeny Morozov, vol. 34, no. 7, April 5, 2012, pp. 25-27 [subscription is required]. It’s actually a review of Our Biometric Future: Facial Recognition Technology and the Culture of Surveillance by Kelly Gates (NYU Press, 2011) and it offers a short history of facial recognition technologies. A copy was made available by Morozov on his Tumblr blog: “My piece on the history of facial recognition technologies” April 2, 2012.
Given its spotty track record, it’s hard to see why facial recognition technology has so quickly become one of the most widely used forms of biometrics (second only to fingerprints). Kelly Gates’s Our Biometric Future, a thorough exploration of FRT’s relatively short history, provides some clues. Compared to other biometric technologies, FRT has one enormous advantage – it doesn’t require consent, co-operation or even the subject’s knowledge – and many smaller ones.
- The New York Times: “Sites Like Twitter Absent From Free Speech Pact” by Verne G. Kopytoff, March 6, 2011.
The code of conduct says that companies must try “to avoid or minimize the impact of government restrictions on freedom of expression” and protect user privacy when demands by government “compromise privacy in a manner inconsistent with internationally recognized laws and standards.”
- Nature: “A Structure of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” by J.D. Watson and F.H. Crick, no. 4356, April 25, 1953, pp. 737-738. PDF.
We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.
The original article in which Watson and Crick first described the helicoidal structure of D.N.A.
- New York University – the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute: “the 100 Outstanding Journalists in the United States in the Last 100 Years.”
The list was selected from more than 300 nominees plus write-ins and was announced at a reception in honor of the 100th anniversary of journalism education at NYU on April 3, 2012.
Among them, Hannah Arendt, Robert Capa, Truman Capote, Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring), Walker Evans, Ernest Hemingway, Seymour Hersh and many others.
- Inside Higher Ed: “Data Management Deficit” by Steve Kolowich, April 3, 2012.
The ability to work well with data is understood to be an increasingly crucial skill as universities aim to preserve, sort and discover information that emerges from research. But several studies, revealed here at the annual meeting of the Coalition for Networked Information, suggest that higher education has so far fallen short of preparing research faculty and university information workers to handle those tasks.
- Motherboard: “What Does the Internet Look Like?” by Christine Smallwood, April 3, 2012.
The history of the Internet is a history of metaphors about the Internet, all stumbling around this dilemma; How do we talk to each other about an invisible god? How does it appear, this mess of data and bytes and information and code, transforming itself into alphabet and image?
- The New York Times: “Just One More Game… Angry Birds, Farmville and Other Hyperaddictive ‘Stupid Games’” by Sam Anderson, APril 4, 2012.
Then, in 2007, the iPhone appeared. Games were much easier to develop and easier to distribute through Apple’s app store. Instead of just passing their work around to one another on blogs, independent game designers suddenly had a way to reach everyone — not just hard-core gamers, but their mothers, their mailmen and their college professors. Consumers who never would have put a quarter into an arcade or even set eyes on an Xbox 360 were now carrying a sophisticated game console with them, all the time, in their pockets or their purses. This had a profound impact on game design.
- CNN: “Are mass killings on the increase? Criminologist says no” by Laura Smith-SPark, April 3, 2012.
Oakland is reeling after a gun rampage at a small religious college left seven people dead. Six months ago, eight people died in a shooting in Seal Beach, California. And just over a year ago, an attack targeting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona left six dead and 13 injured.
- The New Yorker’s blog: “Tibetan self-immolation: the view from China” by Evan Osnos, April 4, 2012.
In the span of barely a year, Tibet and its activists have become known for self-immolations. Until recently, suicide-as-protest—not to be confused with suicide bombings intended to kill others—was so rare in the political vocabulary of Tibetan activism that a protester named Thupten Ngodup, who set himself on fire in New Delhi in 1998, is memorialized in a white stone bust in the exile town of Dharamsala. That has changed abruptly, with thirty-two self-immolations in little more than a year, in markets, remote cities and towns, and now expanding to New Delhi. In the beginning, the protesters were mostly monks and nuns, some in their teens, who doused themselves in kerosene, and, in some cases, filled their stomachs with it to maximize the conflagration. Their deaths remained largely invisible, captured by little more than grainy cell-phone footage, and rarely investigated because police barred foreign reporters from the area.
- Kotaku: “What If The Next Generation Thinks Video Games are Stupid?” by Stephen TotiloMarch 26, 2012.
[Jade] Raymond surprised me in San Francisco by telling me a story about a 21-year old employee who no longer wanted to make video games. Young. Bright. Thought he had his dream job at Ubisoft Toronto. But he became uncomfortable about what his career amounted to, about what games stood for. So he quit.
- AP via CBSNews: “Analysis: High prevalence of painkiller sales turning America into painkiller nation” April 5, 2012.
Drug Enforcement Administration figures show dramatic rises between 2000 and 2010 in the distribution of oxycodone, the key ingredient in OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan. Some places saw sales increase sixteenfold.
- The Verge: “The Verge interview: David Carr on curation, crowdsourcing, and the future of journalism” by Jesse Hicks, April 5, 2012.
I think within the last month the implications of social over search have really become more apparent to me. With search you’re pulling stuff in, and with social you’re pushing stuff out and sharing it. You’re developing an intellectual and social identity in doing so. You can depend on the wisdom of crowds to do so, to set up your media streams — but in my experience? Crowds: not that wise. I wouldn’t want an informational diet that depends on what’s trending on Twitter.
- Reuters: “Five charged after Chinese teen sells kidney to buy iPhone” April 6, 2012.
The five included a surgeon who removed a kidney from a 17-year-old boy in April last year. The boy, identified only by his surname Wang, now suffers from renal deficiency, Xinhua quoted prosecutors in Chenzhou city, Hunan province as saying.
- Enthusiasms: “John Blogkowski, Curator of Hyperlinks, Dies at 81” by Simen, April 6, 2012.
In the early 2010’s, when Mr. Blogkowski (pronounced Blagh-COW-ski) began his curatorial career, the hyperlink was commonly perceived as a utilitarian medium, a means to document the world. Perhaps more than anyone, Mr. Blogkowski changed that perception. For him, the hyperlink was a form of expression as potent and meaningful as any work of art, and as director of hyperlinks at the Modern for almost three decades, beginning in 2012, he was perhaps its most impassioned advocate. Two of his books, “The Blogger’s Eye,” (2014) and “Looking at Websites: 100 Screenshots From the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art” (2021), remain syllabus staples in art history programs.
- ProPublica: “Why the Pentagon’s New Fighter Jet Will Now Cost More Than $1 Trillion” by Cora Currier, March 23, 2012.
A major problem, according to the Government Accountability Office report, is that the program is charging ahead with procurement while testing is still in progress. As Michael Sullivan, one of the report’s authors, told Congress, “the manufacturing processes are just never able to get stable because there’s so much information coming in from testing and so many engineering changes that are going on.”
- Nielsen Wire: “Double Vision – Global Trends in Tablet and Smartphone Use while Watching TV” April 5, 2012.
Whether to check email or to look up program or product information, watching TV while using a tablet or smartphone is more common than not according to a Q4 2011 Nielsen survey of connected device owners in the U.S. , U.K., Germany and Italy. In the U.S., 88 percent of tablet owners and 86 percent of smartphone owners said they used their device while watching TV at least once during a 30-day period. For 45 percent of tablet tapping Americans, using their device while watching TV was a daily event, with 26 percent noting simultaneous TV and tablet use several times a day. U.S. smartphone owners showed similar dual usage of TV with their phones, with 41 percent saying their use their phone at least once a day while tuned in.
Some say that “debt” is precisely what brings us and keeps us together (what we have in common), for better and for worst.