Uncanny valley (images)

This is indeed slightly disconcerting. As Mori originally pointed out, adding movement makes it more uncanny (the eyes and head tilt to follow the mouse around).


More here.


Hacking data education (comic)


Very interesting piece on life as a scientist and comic artist, and exhibiting a Big Data poster at a conference (above).

h/t https://smellofevolution.com/

How the NSA outed Winner: secret yellow printer dots

Fascinating story of how the recent NSA alleged leaker Reality Winner was caught. Bad OPSEC all round, including the Intercept itself:

How did it happen? This security expert explains:

Today, The Intercept released documents on election tampering from an NSA leaker. Later, the arrest warrant request for an NSA contractor named “Reality Winner” was published, showing how they tracked her down because she had printed out the documents and sent them to The Intercept. The document posted by the Intercept isn’t the original PDF file, but a PDF containing the pictures of the printed version that was then later scanned in.

The problem is that most new printers print nearly invisibly yellow dots that track down exactly when and where documents, any document, is printed. Because the NSA logs all printing jobs on its printers, it can use this to match up precisely who printed the document.

Reblogged from here.

Sign of the times: huge new Google building near King’s Cross

It’s big:


That’s 1m square feet in old money.


Almost Ready: Clive Barnett’s new book

Clive Barnett’s new book “The Priority of Injustice.” From the blurb:
“Barnett unpacks the assumptions about space and time that underlie different understandings of the sources of political conflict and shows how these differences reflect deeper philosophical commitments to theories of creative action or revived ontologies of “the political.””

Pop Theory

So, here is the back-cover blurb for The Priority of Injustice, from the new Winter catalogue from the University of Georgia Press. The book is not published yet, I am sitting here with the proofs at my feet, waiting for an index to be delivered before sending it all back to the publisher one last time (no-one else might read this book, but it seems to be all I’ve been reading for the last two years).

This original and ambitious work looks anew at a series of intellectual debates about the meaning of democracy. Clive Barnett engages with key thinkers in various traditions of democratic theory and demonstrates the importance of a geographical imagination in interpreting contemporary political change.

Debates about radical democracy, Barnett argues, have become trapped around a set of oppositions between deliberative and agonistic theories—contrasting thinkers who promote the possibility of rational agreement and those who…

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Lorraine Daston ed. Science in the Archives – new from University of Chicago Press

Progressive Geographies

Lorraine Daston ed. Science in the Archives: Pasts, Presents, Futures – new from University of Chicago Press.

9780226432366.jpgArchives bring to mind rooms filled with old papers and dusty artifacts. But for scientists, the detritus of the past can be a treasure trove of material vital to present and future research: fossils collected by geologists; data banks assembled by geneticists; weather diaries trawled by climate scientists; libraries visited by historians. These are the vital collections, assembled and maintained over decades, centuries, and even millennia, which define the sciences of the archives.

With Science in the Archives, Lorraine Daston and her co-authors offer the first study of the important role that these archives play in the natural and human sciences. Reaching across disciplines and centuries, contributors cover episodes in the history of astronomy, geology, genetics, philology, climatology, medicine, and more—as well as fundamental practices such as collecting, retrieval, and data…

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Why I prioritise writing books over articles, even in an era of research assessment

Good pushback by Stuart on the value of books in a REF world. Obviously this is not for everyone, nor is everyone able to make this choice. But books are undervalued (until it comes time to read one). Maybe for every x books you read, you could write one? Unfortunately, edited books are not favored by publishers. One thing to add are good open source outlets (eg ACME books), like the move toward open source articles (though there is still bias against self-published books).

Progressive Geographies

There is a widespread perception that the UK higher education system emphasises quantity over quality in terms of publications, and that there is a constant need to write and submit journal articles. Yet in a six or seven-year research cycle, academics have – until now – needed to submit just their best four pieces. Only four pieces, which for most people is a fraction of what they have actually produced. It is worth noting that there is a possibility, following the Stern review, that the number will change, possibly downwards and perhaps to an average number, which may require some people to submit less, and some more. While there is, and will continue to be, a need to get that right number of pieces, the question of the perceived quality of those pieces is much more significant. Pressure to publish more often comes because of a perception that what has…

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Schools switch to Peters projection

Several readers have sent me the following story:

Natacha Scott, director of history and social studies at Boston public schools, said it was “interesting to watch the students saying ‘Wow’ and ‘No, really? Look at Africa, it’s bigger’”.

“Some of their reactions were quite funny,” she added, “but it was also amazingly interesting to see them questioning what they thought they knew.

Individual schools in the US have used the Peters maps, Scott said, adding: “We believe we are the first public school district in the US to do this.”

The district has 125 schools and 57,000 students, 86% of whom are non-white, with the largest groups being Latino and black. After changing the maps, Rose said, educators plan to look at other subjects and shift away from presenting white history as the dominant perspective.

Thanks to Pat McHaffie and Sue Roberts.

“Prisons have been substituted for steel”

Interesting piece on why Trump still has support in rural areas. Sample quote:

For years now, leftists have been arguing identity politics versus economics—as if somehow the two could be neatly separated. As if racism and sexism weren’t intrinsic to how economic oppression works in America. As if the fairy tale of equal opportunity only short-changed people of color. Or women. As if class were simply a matter of income.

Nobody around here needed Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren—or Donald Trump—to tell them the system is rigged. What Trump did give them was the sense that they mattered. Not just their votes, but their culture, their sense of themselves as people who worked with their hands and played by the rules. People who felt they’d been written off by the Democratic Party—and had given up on politics. People for whom opioids, not religion, were the opiate of the masses. Trump found a way to reach these people on what felt like common ground: the ground of culture.

The library of missing datasets–now a github repo and art piece


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The Library of Missing Data Sets by Mimi Onuoha

Brilliant. As Mimi Onuoha explains:

What is a Missing Data Set?

“Missing data sets” are my term for the blank spots that exist in spaces that are otherwise data-saturated. My interest in them stems from the observation that within many spaces where large amounts of data are collected, there are often empty spaces where no data live. Unsurprisingly, this lack of data typically correlates with issues affecting those who are most vulnerable in that context.

The word “missing” is inherently normative, it implies both a lack and an ought: something does not exist, but it should. That which should be somewhere is not in its expected place; an established system is disrupted by distinct absence. Just because some type of data doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it’s missing, and the idea of missing data sets is inextricably tied to a more expansive climate of inevitable and routine data collection.

Here are a few missing datasets:

When the US Foreign Intelligence Court meets
All extinct languages
Number of nuclear weapons Israel has
Number of EU migrants currently in the United States
People excluded from housing due to criminal records
Undocumented immigrants for whom prosecutorial discretion has been used to justify release or general punishment

For more, see here.

Onuoha describes herself as an artist and researcher. Her previous pieces include writing for National Geographic voices, and she has taught a class on the art of digital mapping at NYU.

As she points out, because a dataset is missing, it doesn’t have to stay that way. We now have data on the number of civilians killed in interactions with the police, thanks to the Guardian The Counted project. What’s brilliant about Unuoha’s contribution, is that it’s not about missing data, but about missing datasets. Missing data is where you have a dataset but it’s incomplete. A missing dataset however is a hole in our thinking; a missing concept. So as much as anything her project is about a form of “epistemic closure” or belief systems that are unable to recognise their gaps.

In this day and age of “post-truth,” “fake news” and a certain kind of lack of purchase of the empirical, her project is very timely.

(h/t @baratunde here.)