Category : –Social Networking

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–The Cruelty of Call-Out Culture:How not to do social change.

In this small story, we see something of the maladies that shape our brutal cultural moment. You see how zealotry is often fueled by people working out their psychological wounds. You see that when denunciation is done through social media, you can destroy people without even knowing them. There’s no personal connection that allows apology and forgiveness.

You also see how once you adopt a binary tribal mentality — us/them, punk/non-punk, victim/abuser — you’ve immediately depersonalized everything. You’ve reduced complex human beings to simple good versus evil. You’ve eliminated any sense of proportion. Suddenly there’s no distinction between R. Kelly and a high school girl sending a mean emoji.

The podcast gives a glimpse of how cycles of abuse get passed down, one to another. It shows what it’s like to live amid a terrifying call-out culture, a vengeful game of moral one-upsmanship in which social annihilation can come any second.

I’m older, so all sorts of historical alarm bells were going off — the way students denounced and effectively murdered their elders for incorrect thought during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and in Stalin’s Russia.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(1st Things) Helen Andrews-Shame Storm

After a lifetime of impeccably correct opinions, Ian Buruma found himself on the wrong side of the liberal consensus in September 2018, when he was forced to resign as editor of the New York Review of Books for having commissioned a piece called “Reflections from a Hashtag” from the disgraced Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi. One does not get to be editor of the NYRB without having filament-like sensitivity to the boundaries of acceptable opinion. Buruma’s virtuosic handling in 2007 of the controversy over his New York Times Magazine profile of Tariq Ramadan, in which he wrote indulgently of his subject’s radical Islamic views—and scathingly of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s secularist opposition to them—was a model of politically correct equipoise. If Buruma was caught flat-footed this time, it must be the times that have changed.

Unlike Leon Wieseltier, Lorin Stein, ­Garrison Keillor, John Hockenberry, Ryan Lizza, Glenn Thrush, or any of the other editors and journalists who have lost their jobs in the last twelve months due to the movement known as #MeToo, Buruma was not accused of any sexual misconduct. His crime was to give space in his magazine to a man who had been accused (but not, in any of four court cases, convicted) of sexual harassment and non-consensual roughness during sex. Buruma told Slate in an interview five days before his resignation, “I think nobody has quite figured out what should happen in cases like his, where you have been legally acquitted but you are still judged as undesirable in public opinion, and how far that should go, how long that should last.”

Too true, as Buruma found out to his cost. No one has yet figured out what rules should govern the new frontiers of public shaming that the Internet has opened. New rules are obviously required. Shame is now both global and permanent, to a degree ­unprecedented in human history. No more moving to the next town to escape your bad name. However far you go and however long you wait, your disgrace is only ever a Google search away. Getting a humiliating story into the papers used to require convincing an editor to run it, which meant passing their standards of newsworthiness and corroborating evidence. Those gatekeepers are now gone. Most attempts so far to devise new rules have taken ideology as their starting point: Shaming is okay as long as it’s directed at men by women, the powerless against the powerful. But that doesn’t address what to do afterward, if someone is found to have been wrongfully shamed, or when someone rightfully shamed wants to put his life back together.

In the essay that got Buruma fired, Ghomeshi claims to have been a pioneer in online shaming. “There are lots of guys more hated than me now. But I was the guy everyone hated first.” Actually, a better candidate for original victim is Justine Sacco, the PR executive who tweeted to her 170 Twitter followers before getting on a plane to Cape Town, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It was during the Christmas holidays when news is always slow, so a Gawker post about the tweet quickly went viral. People around the world were soon enjoying the suspense of knowing Sacco was on a plane with no Internet access and no way to know that she had become an object of global ridicule. That was in December 2013, almost a year before the Ghomeshi story broke.

And before that, in the Precambrian era of online shaming, there was me….

The more online shame cycles you observe, the more obvious the pattern becomes: Everyone comes up with a principled-sounding pretext that serves as a barrier against admitting to themselves that, in fact, all they have really done is joined a mob. Once that barrier is erected, all rules of decency go out the window, but the pretext is almost always a lie.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(CC) Katie Hays–When our church started receiving offerings through Venmo

…recently a twentysomething in my church wanted to send five bucks to pay the church for something small. I think we were collecting money for a birthday card. But PayPal takes a chunky fee for every transaction, even for nonprofits, so that’s not very efficient. “I wish I could just Venmo it to you,” the twenty­something said. And I said, as I often do, “Huh?”

After Venmo was explained to me, I handed over my laptop and said, “Make it so.” Fifteen minutes later, Galileo Church had dozens of “friends” on Venmo and had received its first gift— and we had “liked” it and commented by giving our thanks.

Venmo is a social media app. It’s for friends to share money with friends, electronically zapping it from one bank account to another. And depending on your privacy settings, anybody who is your friend can see all your Venmo transactions in a continuous feed.

Let’s say you and a friend are studying together, and you decide to split a pizza; your friend pays and you send your friend a few dollars for your half, along with emojis of pizza and books, at 11 p.m. Now anyone who is friends with either of you knows that you had a late-night cram session and got hungry, and pizza was the remedy. (They won’t see the amount you sent or spent.) They can “like” the transaction and comment: “Finals! Ugh!” or “Good work, you two!”

So what happens when the church goes Venmo? We got new givers almost immediately.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Parish Ministry, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(CC) Carol Howard Merritt–Internet addiction

Techies build social media platforms so that we will become addicted to them. Social media money comes from advertisers who need proof of an audience. To get as many eyeballs as possible, techies studied the brain science surrounding addiction in other areas of our lives. Humans get addicted to alcohol, drugs, and gambling because they give us happiness. These chemicals or experiences of winning create dopamine which translates into a euphoria in us.

But happiness is not enough to keep humans addicted. We need light and shadow. There also has to be risk, a challenge, and a fight. Addiction is as much about the negative as it is about the positive.

Think about it. When a gambler wins, he wants to win more, which is completely understandable. But why would he go back when he’s losing? That defies logic.

It’s because he doesn’t want to leave the table a loser, he wants to make it right. He wants to win back his money. So, both the winning and losing draw him into the addiction.

The same thing happens to us during an argument on social media. We want to make things right, to say the right thing to persuade the other, or to dominate them in order to win. We don’t want to walk away a loser, so we become hooked.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(CNN) Princeton University’s Robert George with an Important Interview about the US Supreme Court and the Current Political Climate

Watch it all (12 3/4 minutes).

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Supreme Court, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–A Complete National Disgrace: The Kavanaugh hearings as American nadir

Over the past few years, hundreds of organizations and thousands ofpeople (myself included) have mobilized to reduce political polarization, encourage civil dialogue and heal national divisions.

The first test case for our movement was the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s clear that at least so far our work is a complete failure. Sixty-nine percent of Americans in one poll called the hearings a “national disgrace,” and the only shocking thing is that there are 31 percent who don’t agree.

What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life. At the heart of the hearings were two dueling narratives, one from Christine Blasey Ford and one from Brett Kavanaugh. These narratives were about what did or did not happen at a party 36 years ago. There was nothing particularly ideological about the narratives, nothing that touched on capitalism, immigration or any of the other great disputes of national life.

And yet reactions to the narratives have been determined almost entirely by partisan affiliation. Among the commentators I’ve seen and read, those who support Democrats embrace Blasey’s narrative and dismissed Kavanaugh’s. Those who support Republicans side with Kavanaugh’s narrative and see holes in Ford’s. I can think of few exceptions.

These hearings were also a devastating blow to intellectual humility. At the heart of this case is a mystery: What happened at that party 36 years ago? There is no corroborating evidence either way. So the crucial questions are: How do we sit with this uncertainty? How do we weigh the two contradictory testimonies? How do we measure these testimonies when all of cognitive science tells us that human beings are really bad at spotting falsehood? Should a person’s adult life be defined by something he did in high school?

Commentators and others may have acknowledged uncertainty on these questions for about 2.5 seconds, but then they took sides….

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Senate, Supreme Court, Theology

(PRC) A Majority of Teens Have Experienced Some Form of Cyberbullying


Name-calling and rumor-spreading have long been an unpleasant and challenging aspect of adolescent life. But the proliferation of smartphones and the rise of social media has transformed where, when and how bullying takes place. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 59% of U.S. teens have personally experienced at least one of six types of abusive online behaviors.1

The most common type of harassment youth encounter online is name-calling. Some 42% of teens say they have been called offensive names online or via their cellphone. Additionally, about a third (32%) of teens say someone has spread false rumors about them on the internet, while smaller shares have had someone other than a parent constantly ask where they are, who they’re with or what they’re doing (21%) or have been the target of physical threats online (16%).

While texting and digital messaging are a central way teens build and maintain relationships, this level of connectivity may lead to potentially troubling and nonconsensual exchanges. One-quarter of teens say they have been sent explicit images they didn’t ask for, while 7% say someone has shared explicit images of them without their consent. These experiences are particularly concerning to parents. Fully 57% of parents of teens say they worry about their teen receiving or sending explicit images, including about one-quarter who say this worries them a lot, according to a separate Center survey of parents.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Teens / Youth, Theology

(RNS) No longer the default, the Church of England goes to battle in religious marketplace

It’s not particularly news in Britain that young English people no longer automatically consider themselves Anglican. A government survey released this month was only the latest to confirm that “CoE” — Church of England — was no longer the default response when Englanders were asked their religion or checked a box on a form.

What’s new, however, is that the Church of England is not sitting back and accepting decline. The nearly 500-year-old denomination is answering back, via Instagram.

The U.K.’s annual British Social Attitudes Survey reported that only 2 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds identify with the Church of England, the established religion of the realm since the Reformation.

Overall, in fact, fewer than 1 in 7 of the English say they belong to the Church of England. Between 2002 and 2017, the share of the populace identifying with the church dropped from 31 percent to 14 percent. That was a faster decline than any other Christian denomination in England.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) Finding It Hard to Focus? Maybe It’s Not Your Fault The rise of the new “attention economy.”

It was the big tech equivalent of “drink responsibly” or the gambling industry’s “safer play”; the latest milestone in Silicon Valley’s year of apology. Earlier this month, Facebook and Instagram announced new tools for users to set time limits on their platforms, and a dashboard to monitor one’s daily use, following Google’s introduction of Digital Well Being features.

In doing so the companies seemed to suggest that spending time on the internet is not a desirable, healthy habit, but a pleasurable vice: one that if left uncontrolled may slip into unappealing addiction.

Having secured our attention more completely than ever dreamed, they now are carefully admitting it’s time to give some of it back, so we can meet our children’s eyes unfiltered by Clarendon or Lark; go see a movie in a theater; or contra Apple’s ad for its watch, even go surfing without — heaven forfend — “checking in.”

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time,” writes James Williams, a technologist turned philosopher and the author of a new book, “Stand Out of Our Light.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Media, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Atlantic) Alexis Madrigal–Facebook believes too strongly in the goodness of people

In an unusually revealing moment for Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg told Recode’s Kara Swisher on Wednesday that he didn’t support taking down content about Holocaust denial on Facebook. Zuckerberg is Jewish, and he finds such denials “deeply offensive,” he said. But Holocaust deniers were not “intentionally getting it wrong.”

When Swisher followed up that “in the case of Holocaust deniers, they might be,” Zuckerberg retreated to a stance he’s never quite made explicit before. “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he said.

In place of “understanding” the intent, this statement makes clear that Facebook takes a default stance of assuming users act in good faith—or without intention, at least. Zuckerberg and Facebook have been repeatedly criticized, and accepted the criticism as largely true, that they have been too willing to ignore the potential negative ways the platform can be used. And yet here, one of the basic principles of how they moderate speech is to be so optimistic as to give Holocaust deniers the benefit of the doubt.

Zuckerberg seems to be imagining a circumstance where somebody watched a YouTube video that makes a case against the (real, documented, horrifying) Holocaust and ignorantly posts it to Facebook. Under the rules the platform has established, there is no penalty for that (in countries where Holocaust denial is not illegal)….

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, History, Judaism, Theology, Violence

(LA Times) Avram Mlotek–Google could use a little godliness

Whether they realize it or not, technology leaders are writing a virtual universal constitution. What they’re doing is important to humanity. With a little spiritual guidance, maybe it’ll be easier for them to pause the emoji barrage and hear the human voice.

Just as clergy offer counsel to their congregants, the users, let’s bring chaplains into tech offices, the providers. Sure, it may be hard to envision the Pope giving a talk on sexuality at Tinder, but it’s a new dawn. Anything is possible and this rabbi is ready for the unexplored frontier. Google, you know where to find me.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(NPR) More Screen Time For Teens Linked To ADHD Symptoms

Most teens today own a smartphone and go online every day, and about a quarter of them use the internet “almost constantly,” according to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center.

Now a study published Tuesday in JAMA suggests that such frequent use of digital media by adolescents might increase their odds of developing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“It’s one of the first studies to look at modern digital media and ADHD risk,” says psychologist Adam Leventhal, an associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California and an author of the study.

When considered with previous research showing that greater social media use is associated with depression in teens, the new study suggests that “excessive digital media use doesn’t seem to be great for [their] mental health,” he adds.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth

(WSJ) Egyptian Legislation treats social-media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, opening Twitter and Facebook users to prosecution

Egypt’s parliament passed a law giving the government sweeping powers to regulate traditional and social media, a move critics say will boost the Sisi regime’s ability to crack down on free speech and dissent.

The measure allows authorities to penalize traditional media like television and newspapers for spreading what the government terms fake news. It also treats social-media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, opening Twitter and Facebook users to prosecution on vague charges including defaming religion and inciting hatred.

Most prominent media outlets in Egypt are pro-government, and some analysts and rights groups see the law as an aggressive attempt to restrict social media, which remains one of the few remaining arenas of free expression in a country where independent news websites are often blocked and unauthorized street protests banned.

“These laws would legalize this mass censorship and step up the assault on the right to freedom of expression in Egypt,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaigns director at Amnesty International, commenting on the law and related legislation ahead of the vote.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Middle East

(Church Times) Tim Wyatt asks some of the C of E’s most prolific users of Twitter and Facebook what they think about social media

It is not hard to find a bad news story featuring social media. From allegations of data misuse and interference in elections to the opprobrium heaped on those guilty of ill-judged Twitter posts, and concerns about the impact on social cohesion and attention spans, it seems that we might be falling out of love with the medium.

In the halcyon days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest, the Church of England, like the rest of the world, appeared enraptured. There was widespread enthusiasm about the opportunities for mission and communication.

The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, captured much of the optimistic mood in a column for the Church Times in 2011: “Christians have much to say using social media because churches contain many ordinary people with engaging stories to tell. The more they get out there and speak freely, the richer a view of Christianity the world will get” (Comment, 6 May 2011).

Bloggers such as Church Mouse (16,500 followers) and the “digital nun” Sister Catherine Wybourne (19,500 followers) shot to prominence, while a thousand Facebook groups sprang up as believers coalesced online around their various interests and traditions.

One blogging priest, the Revd Peter Ould, even co-ordinated early efforts on Twitter into a website, the Twurch of England, which collated every tweet from Church of England bishops and priests into a single live feed. Asked in an interview whether he was excited by the possibilities, he replied: “Absolutely — and we’re only just beginning to see the potential.”

While these early experiments are often remembered fondly, the pitfalls were soon encountered….

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Church Times) Want to know about God? Just ask Alexa

The Church of England has launched an “Alexa skill” that provides answers to questions about faith and prayer, and can find a church to attend on the basis of the user’s location.

Launched on Wednesday night, the skill is compatible with all Amazon Echo and Alexa devices. Users can ask questions such as “Who is God?” and “How do I become a Christian?” besides making the device read specific prayers or prayers for different situations or periods of the day.

The skill is similar to an app on a smartphone or tablet, and is one of the “first significant faith-based resources” for Alexa, the C of E’s head of digital, Adrian Harris, says.

It works alongside the website A Church Near You to help users find their nearest church events and services.

Users can launch the C of E skill on Alexa by saying “Alexa, open the Church of England.” A full list of commands is available online.

 

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Media, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) Teddy Wane–Are My Friends Really My Friends?

…digital media channels “don’t distinguish between quality of relationships,” he said. “They allow you to maintain relationships that would otherwise decay. Our data shows that if you don’t meet people at the requisite frequencies, you’ll drop down through the layers until eventually you drop out of the 150 and become ‘somebody you once knew.’ What we think is happening is that, if you don’t meet sometime face to face, social media is slowing down the rate of decay.”

The result, then, can be a glut of old acquaintances that are not as easily forgotten online and which therefore stifle the development of newer, in-person friendships.

“Your available social time is limited, and you can either spend it face to face or on the internet,” Dr. Dunbar said. If it’s spent with people who are “remote,” whether geographically or just because they’re represented digitally, “you don’t have time to invest in new relationships where you are.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Recode) Facebook is launching a new dating service

Facebook is getting into the dating game.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday morning that Facebook is building a dating product to “help people find partners.” Zuckerberg says there are 200 million users on Facebook who list their relationship status as “single.”

“If we’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships, then this is perhaps the most meaningful of all,” Zuckerberg said.

“This is going to be for building real long-term relationships,” he added, “not just for hookups.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology, Women

NYMag talks to VR pioneer Jaron Lanier on Silicon Valley–‘One Has This Feeling of Having Contributed to Something That’s Gone Very Wrong’

In November, you told Maureen Dowd that it’s scary and awful how out of touch Silicon Valley people have become. It’s a pretty forward remark. I’m kind of curious what you mean by that.

To me, one of the patterns we see that makes the world go wrong is when somebody acts as if they aren’t powerful when they actually are powerful. So if you’re still reacting against whatever you used to struggle for, but actually you’re in control, then you end up creating great damage in the world. Like, oh, I don’t know, I could give you many examples. But let’s say like Russia’s still acting as if it’s being destroyed when it isn’t, and it’s creating great damage in the world. And Silicon Valley’s kind of like that.

We used to be kind of rebels, like, if you go back to the origins of Silicon Valley culture, there were these big traditional companies like IBM that seemed to be impenetrable fortresses. And we had to create our own world. To us, we were the underdogs and we had to struggle. And we’ve won. I mean, we have just totally won. We run everything. We are the conduit of everything else happening in the world. We’ve disrupted absolutely everything. Politics, finance, education, media, relationships — family relationships, romantic relationships — we’ve put ourselves in the middle of everything, we’ve absolutely won. But we don’t act like it.

We have no sense of balance or modesty or graciousness having won. We’re still acting as if we’re in trouble and we have to defend ourselves, which is preposterous. And so in doing that we really kind of turn into assholes, you know?

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT) Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match

As Facebook pushes into developing countries, it tends to be initially received as a force for good.

In Sri Lanka, it keeps families in touch even as many work abroad. It provides for unprecedented open expression and access to information. Government officials say it was essential for the democratic transition that swept them into office in 2015.

But where institutions are weak or undeveloped, Facebook’s newsfeed can inadvertently amplify dangerous tendencies. Designed to maximize user time on site, it promotes whatever wins the most attention. Posts that tap into negative, primal emotions like anger or fear, studies have found, produce the highest engagement, and so proliferate.

In the Western countries for which Facebook was designed, this leads to online arguments, angry identity politics and polarization. But in developing countries, Facebook is often perceived as synonymous with the internet and reputable sources are scarce, allowing emotionally charged rumors to run rampant. Shared among trusted friends and family members, they can become conventional wisdom.

And where people do not feel they can rely on the police or courts to keep them safe, research shows, panic over a perceived threat can lead some to take matters into their own hands — to lynch.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Buddhism, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka

Rod Dreher–Is Christianity Too Violent For Facebook?

Let’s give Facebook’s nameless content editor credit: he or she may well understand the Crucifixion more truly than do Christians for whom the murder of the incarnate God on a cross has gone from being a scandal to a banality. Facebook is right: the image is shocking, sensational, and excessively violent, because that’s what a crucifixion is! Yesterday in his Palm Sunday sermon (we Orthodox Christians observe Easter a week later this year), my priest said, “We don’t spend this week saying, ‘Those Jews did that to Our Lord.’ We spend it accusing ourselves. We did it to Christ. Every time we sin, we crucify Him. This is on us.” He’s right about that. It’s not a bad thing to be reminded how much He suffered in His body to liberate us from death. What the San Damiano Cross depicts is a murder. But for Christians, it also depicts the defeat of all murder and death, and the necessary prelude to eternal life for all. As we Orthodox sing on Pascha (Easter): “Christ is risen from the dead/Trampling down death by death/And upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”

A Christian culture would know that for the people who revere this symbol, they are looking at an image of death’s defeat, and of eternal life.

But we are no longer a Christian culture, and are becoming less so by the day.

This incident is alarming because of what it reveals about the kind of world that Christians are going to live in. Facebook is one of the most powerful media companies on the planet. If it decides that it will not approve Christian content because it finds that content violent, bigoted, or what have you, then that will have a tremendous potential effect, not only on the ability of Christians to communicate, but (more importantly) on shaping the way the Christian faith is regarded widely in this post-Christian culture.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Independent) How the world of death and funerals has become fashionable through digital culture

It’s one of the more blood-curdling things about Facebook – the social media death notice. You know the score: the recently deceased star of Top of the Pops, sitcom or stage is commemorated by way of a YouTube video and a deluge of weepy RIPs and “part of my life” eulogies, a phenomenon derided as “tearleading”. The high-water mark for this was who “taught us how to live, then taught us how to die” two years ago.

Of course, entrepreneurs have noticed this spectacle, which writer and psychologist Elaine Kasket brackets as “the data of the dead”. It’s part of a digital-led revolution in dying and death and it’s changing the way we see people pass into the ineffable digital afterlife. “We’re developing an entirely new mentality about death and dying,” she says.

​Kasket (yes, she knows) is the author of an upcoming book about digital death called All the Ghosts in the Machine, and has observed a huge rise of interest. “I was at a recent SXSW festival and was introduced to someone who put on a super-serious voice and told me: ‘I’m in the death-tech space’.” As a subject, dying has become fashionable, with investors pouring money into startups, bolstering thought leadership and inspirational TED Talks on “new ways to think about death”.

There are so many new death-tech sites that they break up into different types….

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Boston Globe) Niall Ferguson–George Orwell would be awed by Facebook’s Surveillance Tools

As with Google, it was advertising that made Facebook money. The crucial difference was that Google simply helped people find the things they had already decided to buy, whereas Facebook enabled advertisers to deliver targeted messages to users, tailored to meet the preferences they had already revealed through their Facebook activity. Once ads were seamlessly inserted into users’ News Feeds on the Facebook mobile phone app, the company was on the path to vast profits, propelled forward by the explosion of smartphone usage.

The smartphone is our telescreen. And, thanks to it, Big Zucker is watching you — night and day, wherever you go. Unlike the telescreen, your phone is always with you. Unlike the telescreen, it can read your thoughts, predicting your actions before you even carry them out. It’s just that Big Zucker’s 24/7 surveillance isn’t designed to maintain a repressive regime. It’s just designed to make money.

The only law of history is the law of unintended consequences. Is anyone — apart from Zuckerberg, that is — really surprised that, during the seven-year period when app developers had free access to Facebook users’ data, unscrupulous people downloaded as much as they could? Do we seriously believe that Cambridge Analytica are the only people who did this? Can you give me one good reason why, after Barack Obama and his minions smugly boasted about their use of Facebook in his 2012 reelection campaign, Donald Trump’s campaign was not entitled to try similar methods four years later?

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology, Theology

(1st Things) John Waters on the #MeToo Movement–Summer’s Last Sting

…this is true of the #MeToo movement. It is a quasi-voluntary response to the drift of things, from deep in the conscience of society. It is, fundamentally, a cultural adjustment, necessary and inevitable though not overtly willed. And, although for the moment quite sincerely explaining itself in other terms, it is the bust to end the 1960s boom in sexual permissiveness.

Sixties libertinism is now more problematic for our societies than even ELP’s noodlings were in ’76. Together with its cultural offshoots—industrial abortion, fatherlessness, the evisceration of marriage—it is, beneath the radar of conventional mainstream discourse, the cause of immense damage. And yet, to speak against it publicly is still to announce oneself a puritan. With such double-binds in play, cultures subject to the laws of evolution find roundabout ways of introducing necessary ameliorations.

Rarely has a generation of ideologues been less honest about the consequences of its agenda than the 1960s Peace & Love generation, which sold its prescriptions as the apogee of freedom and attributed all inadequacies and negative side-effects to a surfeit of false shame or overdeveloped user-conscience. Sexual licentiousness was presented as liberty, cost-free fun, the surrogate of the infinite, as though the human body were a complimentary resource, adrift from its situation in the humanity of the ensouled being. The wastages and casualties of this misunderstanding were swept up by psychotherapists and placed in the bin marked “indeterminate symptoms.”

The agenda had been inadequately measured against life’s iron law that the pursuit of selfish desires leads to chaos and grief, first for those misused in the pursuit of reductive desires—and ultimately for the misuser. Privately, individually, the children of the 1960s found that their pursuit of the chimera of freedom did not deliver as promised, but they had invested too much of themselves in the project to admit as much publicly. Thus was the revolution allowed to persist beyond logical limits and appear to render naturalistic a degree of license that was self-evidently unsustainable.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Politics in General, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence, Women

(CEN) Church Chatbot on the Way

A Chatbot and a new site to share digital resources with lay people and clergy were the two winners of the Church of England’s ‘Digital Labs’ this week.

The event brought together Christian coders, techies and creatives to present their best ideas for helping the Church develop its technology.

One idea to win was Ask the Church, a chatbot to enable people enquiring about faith to ask the Church questions through Facebook Messenger, Twitter and the new www.churchofengland.org website and, in future phases, Alexa, Google Home and Siri.

Meanwhile CofE House will be a site to allow the sharing of high quality new and existing resources and digital assets, to support lay leaders and clergy across the Church.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Media, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

The New technology that allows for the Creation of Fake Videos(II)–yesterday’s New York Times

The video, which appeared on the online forum Reddit, was what’s known as a “deepfake” — an ultrarealistic fake video made with artificial intelligence software. It was created using a program called FakeApp, which superimposed Mrs. Obama’s face onto the body of a pornographic film actress. The hybrid was uncanny — if you didn’t know better, you might have thought it was really her.

Until recently, realistic computer-generated video was a laborious pursuit available only to big-budget Hollywood productions or cutting-edge researchers. Social media apps like Snapchat include some rudimentary face-morphing technology.

But in recent months, a community of hobbyists has begun experimenting with more powerful tools, including FakeApp — a program that was built by an anonymous developer using open-source software written by Google. FakeApp makes it free and relatively easy to create realistic face swaps and leave few traces of manipulation. Since a version of the app appeared on Reddit in January, it has been downloaded more than 120,000 times, according to its creator.

Deepfakes are one of the newest forms of digital media manipulation, and one of the most obviously mischief-prone.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Science & Technology

The New technology that allows for the Creation of Fake Videos(I)–a Radiolab Podcast from last summer

Simon Adler takes us down a technological rabbit hole of strangely contorted faces and words made out of thin air. And a wonderland full of computer scientists, journalists, and digital detectives forces us to rethink even the things we see with our very own eyes.

Oh, and by the way, we decided to put the dark secrets we learned into action, and unleash this on the internet.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Science & Technology

(Nieman Lab) Disinformation spread online is so disorienting that it’s messing with the researchers who study it

This week I got to hear Kate Starbird, assistant professor at the University of Washington and director of its Emerging Capacities of Mass Participation (emCOMP) Laboratory, speak about her research into how online disinformation spreads during crisis events (like shootings and terrorist attacks) and what she’s learned about the networks spreading this information and the tactics that they use.

A few of the intriguing bits from Starbird’s talk:

— She and her team have looked a lot at the language that conspiracy theorists use both in tweets and on sites like 21stCenturyWire.com. This is “question-mark language,” Starbird said. “‘I’m not gonna tell you what to think, I’m just gonna put the evidence out there and you can make up your mind yourself’ — this way of talking persists across different events” from Sandy Hook to the Boston Marathon bombing to the Orlando shooting.

— Starbird spent a lot of the time reading the sites that were spreading these conspiracy theory posts — the sites behind the links being tweeted out. (“I do not recommend this.) Stuff she looked at: Homepages, about pages, ownership, authors, common themes and stories. She developed coding schemes for theme, political view, and so on. Common themes: “aliens, anti-big pharma, chemtrails, anti-corporate media, geo-engineering, George Soros, anti-globalist, anti-GMO, Flat Earth, Illuminati, Koch Brothers, anti-media, 9-11 truth, New World Order Cabal, nutritional supplements, pedophile rings, Rothschilds, anti-vaccine, anti-Zionist.” (On the subject of GMOs, by the way, please read this tweet thread, which is not about conspiracy theories but is really interesting to keep in mind as you read about Starbird’s work.)

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(LARB) James KA Smith on INC Christianity: How to Find God (on YouTube)

What [Chuck] Smith, [John] Wimber, and [Pater] Wagner shared was an aversion to hierarchical authority and a penchant to set up their own shops whenever they encountered resistance. All of them moved from more traditional denominational affiliations to looser nondenominational “fellowships,” eventually setting up their own independent ministries such as the Wagner Leadership Institute, which is “perhaps the largest and best-organized promoter of INC teachings.” This pattern will be repeated and sacralized in INC Christianity. The demand for autonomy will be baptized as “religious entrepreneurship.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that leaders in this movement would also retrieve the title of “apostle.” Most traditional forms of Christianity understand the office of apostle as restricted to the first century of the Church. Apostles are those who, having witnessed the resurrected Christ in person, were then sent (the Greek root from which we get the word means a “sent one”) with a unique authority. But Wagner, for example, has described the INC movement as a “New Apostolic Reformation.” And the network is really one of leaders who claim the title “apostle” by virtue of supernatural manifestations in their ministries, and thereby seek the allegiance of followers. In turn, these apostles provide “spiritual covering” for other leaders and practitioners. To claim to be an apostle is to claim some kind of unquestioned authority and power.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built

Mr. [Roger] McNamee said he had joined the Center for Humane Technology because he was horrified by what he had helped enable as an early Facebook investor.

“Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger,” he said. “And with smartphones, they’ve got you for every waking moment.”

He said the people who made these products could stop them before they did more harm.

“This is an opportunity for me to correct a wrong,” Mr. McNamee said.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology

Food for Thought from Patrick Deneen in 2014–The Coming Persecution

From there:

[Michael] Shermer lauds the liberal society being brought ever more fully into view under the liberal dominion as one of equality, liberty, prosperity, and peace. This is at the very least a willful misreading of the signs of the time. The society that comes ever more clearly into view is one that efficiently and ruthlessly sifts the “winners” from the “losers,” the strong from the weak. It has transformed nearly every human institution – from the family to the schools to the universities to the government – to assist in this enterprise. Modern liberalism congratulates itself on its liberation of disadvantaged minorities – so long as some of their number can join the side of the winners – but is content to ignore or apply guilt-assuaging band-aids to the devastation of life prospects experienced by the “losers.” Tyler Cowen has described this aborning world as one in which “average is over,” in which you will either be one of the 10-15% of the winners, or 85-90% of the losers destined to live in the equivalent of favelas in Texas where you will be provided an endless supply of free Internet porn. This is the end of history, if we follow the logic of liberalism.

So, since Shermer ends with a prediction, let me make one also. Those Christians and other religious believers who resist the spirit of the age will be persecuted – not by being thrown to lions in the Coliseum, but by judicial, administrative, and legal marginalization. They will lose many of the institutions that they built to help the poor, the marginalized, the weak, and the disinherited. But finding themselves in the new imperium will call out new forms of living the Christian witness. They will live in the favelas, providing care for body and soul that cannot not be provided by either the state or the market. Like the early Church, they will live in a distinct way from the way of the empire, and their way of life will draw those who perhaps didn’t realize that this was what Christianity was, all along. When the liberal ideology collapses – as it will – the Church will remain, the gates of Hell not prevailing against it.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology