Archive for July, 2013

Same-sex Marriages were Sanctioned by the Early Christian Church During an Era Commonly Called the Dark Ages

Same-sex Marriages were Sanctioned by the Early Christian Church During an Era Commonly Called the Dark Ages

Annalee Newitz writes:

Gay marriage sounds like an ultra-contemporary idea. But almost twenty years ago, a Catholic scholar at Yale shocked the world by publishing a book packed with evidence that same-sex marriages were sanctioned by the early Christian Church during an era commonly called the Dark Ages.

John Boswell was a historian and religious Catholic who dedicated much of his scholarly life to studying the late Roman Empire and early Christian Church. Poring over legal and church documents from this era, he discovered something incredible. There were dozens of records of church ceremonies where two men were joined in unions that used the same rituals as heterosexual marriages. (He found almost no records of lesbian unions, which is probably an artifact of a culture which kept more records about the lives of men generally.) [...]

How could these marriages have been forgotten by history? One easy answer is that — as Boswell argues — the Church reframed the idea of marriage in the 13th century to be for the purposes of procreation. And this slammed the door on gay marriage. Church scholars and officials worked hard to suppress the history of these marriages in order to justify their new definition.

Full Story: io9: Gay marriage in the year 100 AD

July 31, 2013 1 comment
Mindful Cyborgs: Robotic Emoting Baristas from Enterprise Precariat

Mindful Cyborgs: Robotic Emoting Baristas from Enterprise Precariat

Mindful Cyborg

This week on Mindful Cyborgs Chris Dancy and I discuss the rise of the “precariat” and what it means for the future of work:

One thing that’s really been on my mind with regards the Marketplace story about the BART transit strike and the tech industries’ response to that. There was a quote from the CEO of UserVoice, Richard White, and he said, “One of the guys in our team said he’d be putting in his two weeks’ notice once he found out what he could make working for BART.” White said jokingly. His solution to address those disgruntled BART workers, get them back to work, pay them whatever they want and then figure out how to automate their jobs so that this doesn’t happen again.

People have been talking about the automation of work and how technology is potentially displacing workers and there’s a good book on this called Race Against the Machine by some MIT academics. But you don’t really see a lot of tech CEOs who are openly calling for blue-collar workers, or any workers, to be replaced by technology. Forrester even did a report a couple years ago suggesting that tech company’s downplay the potential of technologies to replace workers. So, it’s really unusual to see the CEO of a tech company just openly saying, “I want these meddling workers to be replaced by machines. So the inconvenience that it causes me has diminished.”

It was a pretty surprising thing to see somebody really just come right out and say and there’s this subtext to it that really bothers me as well, the bit about, “Oh, you know, one of my workers was going to quit and go work for BART,” just suggesting that they already get paid too much even though as noted in the article they’re not actually making what their family needs to get by in the area. The BART workers aren’t. There is this sort of subtext like anybody who’s not part of the tech industry doesn’t deserve to get paid a living wage. That was really disturbing to me.

You can download the episode on Soundcloud, from iTunes or download the MP3 directly.

More notes, plus the full transcript inside.

July 30, 2013 0 comments
Community Building: Small Is Beautiful

Community Building: Small Is Beautiful

Coumunity, the online magazine of Thee One True TOPI Tribe, is up. I wrote an article for it about my experience co-orgnizing EsoZone and the way the lust for more attendees can ruin a beautifully small event:

In a community, the quality of connections between members always trumps the number of members. Unlike a network, which thrives on weak ties between ever larger numbers of people, a community thrives on strong bonds.

But it’s easy for community builders to lose sight of this, especially when you’ve gotten a taste of quantity. I know because I’ve been there. Community building is more important than ever, so I’m sharing my story so that hopefully a few others can avoid falling into the same trap I did.

I was the lead organizer of an occultural festival called EsoZone from 2006 -2011 (though I did take a couple sabbaticals along the way). The second annual EsoZone festival started on October 10, 2008. We had talks by Dennis McKenna, Antero Alli, Paul Laffoley and many more, along with performers like Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule and Hecate.

It was a huge success. Around 300 people turned up, and there were write-ups in the local press as well as High Times magazine. People told me it changed their lives.

But it was also incredibly stressful.The digital projector died constantly. The schedule was constantly shuffled, partially due to the projector, partially due to other logistical nightmares. Some speakers and performers felt snubbed by the changes and problems. One group didn’t get to perform at all.

Full Story: Coumunity: Community Building: Small Is Beautiful

July 28, 2013 0 comments
#Burgerpunk

#Burgerpunk

Short sci-fi by Tim Maughan:

“‘Burgerpunk?’” Tamsin squinted at me over the rim of her ironically ugly spex. “And that’s…what?”

Her eyes aimed down again, I could tell she was reading from some non-existent document floating in her own private space, my portfolio I presumed. It was also painfully obvious this was the first time she’d seen it. I stifled a sigh.

“Well…it’s a phrase I coined when I was in Shanghai. It’s…let me think. You know what steampunk is, right? Do you remember that?” She was probably too young.

“Sort of.” She half nodded. “Vaguely. Cogs and robots dressed as Colonial Saunders. Airships.”

“Yeah, that’s it. Pretty much. It was this romanticised idea of Victorian Britain but with this…this steam powered technology stuff. Anyway it got really popular in the States mainly, the reasoning being it allowed Americans to fetishise this sanitised, romanticised British Empire, because they’d never had one. I mean they had an economic, military and cultural empire – but not a physical, old school empire with an exciting history, right? Their empire never showed up on any maps.”

“Okay.”

“So, the Chinese have the same problem, right, but slightly different – they’ve got this economic and maybe military empire, but they don’t even have a cultural one. Because of the language thing. Nobody outside China apart from a few nerds is watching Chinese movies, reading Chinese comics. So they’ve started fetishising America’s cultural empire. Burgerpunk.”

“Right.” It didn’t seem like Tamsin was completely following me, but I carried on regardless. It was too late to stop, I guess.

“So over in Shanghai and Beijing they’ve got all these AR parks and shopping malls and restaurants, where these salary men and factory workers take their families, and they can sit and eat burgers and milkshakes in fake ‘50s diners served by robots that look like Ronald Reagan and Lady Gaga while clips of the Vietnam war play on flat screens. Just outside Beijing there’s actually a theme park where you can dress up like gang members, and drive around this hyper-real recreation of an anonymous LA retail park – all burger franchises and outlet stores – in replicas of exactly the sort of gas-guzzling US muscle cars that the Chinese government has just had to ban.”

Full Story: The Orphan: #Burgerpunk

July 24, 2013 3 comments
Aspirational Weirdness

Aspirational Weirdness

Rahel Aima on “aspirational weirdness”:

Whose future, and in whose name? I’m thinking about Joel Dinerstein’s writings on ‘techno-fundamentalism’ and ‘technology as White mythology’ here, certainly. But also about that particularly futuristy tic of aspirational weirdness. As in, what we want out of the future is not that it’s better or more comfortable or less ecologically destructive or more equitable or more just. What we want out of the future is that it’s weird, please let it be weird. Where does this come from? Is it a particularly classed, gendered, even racinated (?) thing?

Does aspirational weirdness assume the same kind of techtopianism as Clarke, where all the inequalities and injustices of today will somehow get vectorised and smoothed over? Or is it that these struggles frankly not on the radar for folks who aspire to—long for—weirdness? And now I’m wondering, how do you arrive at a praxical synthesis of weirdness and social justice? (Because undoubtedly, there’s something enticing and seductive about «weirdness» for me too.) I want to emphasise the praxical, because it’s all too easy to arrive at something that feels fresh, directional, transformative, but never manages to transcend the realm of aesthetics, especially with regards to ethnifuturisms. (Not that aesthetics aren’t equally as important. A future featuring people who look like me? Radical) And what’s more directional and transformative than social justice?

Full Story: The State: july 20, 1969 // 2019 & aspirational weirdness

I wish she’d included some examples here because I’m not quite sure I know what’s meant here. Like Rahel, I do long for MORE WEIRD. But I’m not I’ve come across anyone really saying “what we want out of the future is not that it’s better or more comfortable or less ecologically destructive or more equitable or more just. What we want out of the future is that it’s weird, please let it be weird.” On the other hand, unlike Rahel, I’m a white male and might just not be seeing it.

One thing I can say, though, is that sometimes it seems that people end up fetishizing certain types of futures, even if they sound unpleasant. One can’t help but think that the people stocking up their bunkers for the proverbial “big one” really do want it to come. Likewise, those obsessed with certain ultra-controlled, Orwellian futures also seem to actually look forward to them at some point — perhaps because they really want to have someone else make decisions for them in their lives, or perhaps because they want to be a part of the struggle against it. In that regard, it’s not hard to think that there are those of out there who fetishize weirder possibible futures — without much, if any, regard for social justice.

July 22, 2013 1 comment
Sky TV May Pump Ads Straight Into Your Skull

Sky TV May Pump Ads Straight Into Your Skull

The Verge reports:

Sky Deutschland, the German wing of TV provider Sky, is testing a marketing concept that may be pure evil genius, or possibly just pure evil. The BBC and others report that Sky Deutschland and advertising company BBDO have tested a concept that would pipe messages directly into the heads of people who try to rest or sleep against train windows. The idea, which was first unveiled at the advertising-focused Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in late June, is known as the Talking Window. It uses bone conduction like that found in headphones, hearing aids, and Google Glass to send vibrations through a window.

When a commuter leans against the window, he or she will hear a message that nobody else can, asking if they’re bored and want to download Sky’s mobile app.

Full Story: The Verge: Sky Deutschland campaign will pipe ads straight into train passengers’ skulls

(Thanks Skry)

Sky TV used to be co-owned by none other than Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, but it looks like they sold their share earlier this year.

For more on this technology see: New Hearing Aid Uses Your Tooth To Transmit Sound

July 19, 2013 2 comments
Why One Librarian Banned a Book

Why One Librarian Banned a Book

Scott R. DiMarco of the Mansfield University of Pennsylvania campus library writes:

The story begins with two staff members and one librarian who enthusiastically created and ran a week of interactive programs for banned book week. The turnout was tepid. A panel discussion on the subject drew six people. Five were librarians and staff members. The sixth was Dennis Miller, our public relations director, who recently published his second novel, One Woman’s Vengeance. As we talked about various books that are still being banned at different locations around the country, Miller said, “You should ban mine. It has sex, violence and adult language.”

He was joking, but his statement emphasized that as long as one book can be banned, any book is a target.

Two of my staff members and one librarian thought it over and came to me a couple days later, suggesting that we should, indeed, ban it during Banned Books Week. We talked over the ramifications and I agreed. We contacted Miller, an ardent opponent of censorship.

He agreed to participate.

Full Story: College and Research Libraries News: Why I banned a book: How censorship can impact a learning community

July 19, 2013 0 comments
Alaska’s controversial HAARP facility closed — will it come back online?

Alaska’s controversial HAARP facility closed — will it come back online?

HAARP

HAARP is down, but rumors of its demise may have been exaggerated:

The shutdown is reported to be only a temporary one, with the facility having been shuttered sometime between late May and mid-June.

“It was a surprise to all of us to hear it was shutting down,” said Dr. Bill Bristow, a professor of electrical engineering at UAF.

Air Force officials are hopeful that the facility would open and resume operations in mid-August. DARPA currently has a sizeable funding bloc allocated for additional ionospheric research in the fall of 2013, so it will likely have to be open for that research.

The shuttering of HAARP has apparently arisen from a contractor regime change. The facility’s operations were previously administered by Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. subsidiary — and 8(a) contractor — Marsh Creek, LLC. Reportedly in talks to take over the contract is regional Alaska Native corporation Ahtna, which oversees the area of Gakona, where HAARP is located.

Neither Marsh Creek nor Ahtna returned requests for comment Wednesday. [...]

Though HAARP is continually manned and maintained when operational, there aren’t always experiments being conducted at the facility.

“HAARP doesn’t operate continually,” said Dr. Brenton Watkins, professor emeritus of physics at UAF. “It operates in a ‘campaign’ mode with kind of two-week periods of activity. I’ve been involved in every operational campaign for — I think — the last five years.”

Full Story: Alaska Dispatch:

Previously:

HAARP’s military applications revealed

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 7: DARPA and HAARP

July 19, 2013 0 comments
A Liberal’s Defense of GMOs

A Liberal’s Defense of GMOs

This is about where I’m at on GMOs:

Let me get a few things out of the way.

I’m a crazy fucking hippie. I go to Burning Man every year. I teach yoga. I live in a co-op. For the past two years I’ve been delivering organic vegetables for a local delivery service. I’ve been eating vegetarian for years, and vegan for the past four months.

I’m also fascinated by genetics. I read every book that comes my way on evolutionary theory, population genetics, and mapping the genome. I took several classes on the subject at the University of Pennsylvania. All told, I have a pretty solid understanding of how genes work.

And ultimately, I’m just not that scared of GMOs.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand where my liberal friends are coming from. I share the same desire for a safe and healthy food supply. There’s a LOT that disturbs me about the state of food production and distribution in America.

I think Monsanto is evil, that patenting seeds and suing farmers is unethical, and that some GMO crops (like Roundup Ready Soybeans) lend themselves to irresponsible herbicide and pesticide use and cross-contamination.

But I’m also not going to let my anti-corporate sentiments get in the way of a diverse and promising field of research.

When genetic engineering is used to decrease pesticide use, to add nutrients to crops in malnourished countries, and otherwise improve the quality of our food products, then it’s a valuable tool that can contribute to a safe and healthy food supply.

Full Story: A Liberal’s Defense of GMOs

July 18, 2013 3 comments
Mindful Cyborgs Episode 6: Emotional Amputation Through Quantification

Mindful Cyborgs Episode 6: Emotional Amputation Through Quantification

chris-keynote

This week on Mindful Cyborgs, instead of bring on a guest, Chris Dancy and I discussed news stories such as Wired’s story on meditation in Silicon Valley and The Verge’s Union 2.0 story.

The highlight of the show may have been our discussion of the way that quantified self and augmented reality could unite to emotionally handicap us — much the same way GPS can damage our sense of direction. This after Chris explained that he gave a speech during which he was displaying vital stats like skin temperature and heart rate to the audience (something we actually talked about in our first episode):

Chris: One day they came up to me and said, “You know, at the end of your keynote I could tell you’re a little emotional and what really moved me was seeing how your body was reacting because I could hear it in your voice, but seeing it really made me think twice about how much that meant to you at that moment.” And it just stuck with me that literally there could have been tears and that’s not what she remembered. She remembered seeing the numbers. I mean, are we to the point where people need to see it to believe it?

Klint: I don’t know. Yes, that’s a really interesting reaction, or not reaction but I guess it’s an interesting thing for her to remember to impart. If that is the way we’re going to start seeing each other as streams of data instead of as the actual emotional cues that our bodies send off in a non-machine readable way. That’s some pretty profound implications for how we view each other and how we interact with each other.

You can download the episode on Soundcloud, from iTunes or download the MP3 directly.

Show notes and full transcript inside.

July 16, 2013 3 comments