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The Wild West of an Ashley Madison Internet

The Wild West of an Ashley Madison Internet

Up until a week ago, I would have told you that a website called Ashley Madison must be a name generator for preppy girls who like monograms. I know. Color me naïve. Suddenly, the website and its torrid details are everywhere.

People I have known for years are on the list. Lives are falling apart. Marriages feel like shams. The sins of the world are delivered up on your computer screen free of charge. And, based on the numerous opinions on social media, everyone wants a piece of the action.

It really is a fabulous opportunity for moral superiority. This is our…

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Waiting for the Full Revelation of Janelle Monae

Waiting for the Full Revelation of Janelle Monae

I realize that this post is at least two years late, maybe even five. But even though Janelle Monae is no longer ‘new’ to the music scene, nevertheless she does believe, and claims to have participated in, time travel. So this slowpoke post is already forgiven.

Monae is currently making headlines because of her work with the Black Lives Matter movement, which got me re-listening to her music. What I discovered was that even though every major music reviewer covered her “genre-defying” 2013 album, The Electric Lady, few humans have attempted an in-depth interpretation of that which has been heralded as…

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The Extreme Selfie as an Art Form

The Extreme Selfie as an Art Form

I didn’t ask to become inane; it just happened one day while I was driving down the highway, trying to take a selfie while eating a burrito. (This was to stand in as a more interesting version of the “on my way” text.) Mercifully, the rice spilled on my dress, I realized what I was doing, and no one died on that stretch of I-64 that day.

Worlds away, a number of Russians haven’t been so lucky. After at least ten deaths by selfie this year alone, Russian police have launched a campaign for the “safe selfie” to get their youngest…

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Never Lost Again: Tinder, Porn and the Dying Art of Falling in Love

Never Lost Again: Tinder, Porn and the Dying Art of Falling in Love

In our upcoming sixth installment of The Mockingbird, the Technology Issue, we had the opportunity to interview the sensei on the subject, Nicholas Carr. Carr was a Pulitzer finalist for his 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, and his recent book, The Glass Cage, deals with the growing presence of automation in our lives. Part of the book deals with Google Maps, and the difference between what he calls “wayfaring” versus “transport.”

Wayfaring is messier and less efficient than transport, which is why it has become a target for automation. “If you have a mobile phone…

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The Resurrected Segway

The Resurrected Segway

Maybe you’ll remember the 2001 buzz about the Segway, the invention that would change the world as we know it: replacing cars in urban areas and increasing efficiency in the workplace. Fifteen years later, it has obviously fallen flat, or less than flat, maybe concave, winning a spot on Time’s list of the world’s worst inventions. Inventor Dean Kamen, who maintains unwavering certainty that science can “fix the world,” bore the brunt of the Segway’s flop, and he now spends a great deal of time embracing his failures and fighting off rumors that he drove his invention off a cliff….

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Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lion? Code Fetishists in an Age of Outrage

Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lion? Code Fetishists in an Age of Outrage

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought people were joking at first with the whole #Cecilthelion fracas last week. I was traveling, so I only heard snippets of what had gotten people so upset. Once I realized they were serious, surely I was missing something. Alas, even after reading up on the admittedly grotesque incident, the whole thing feels too much like a send-up of internet outrage, parodic in both subject and intensity, like something Black Mirror might do. The joke was on me, I guess. Until I remembered Tim Kreider’s immortal diagnosis of the phenomenon:

So many letters to the editor and…

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Nerd Alert! The Curious Rehabilitation of Geeks

Nerd Alert! The Curious Rehabilitation of Geeks

Of all the reversals we’ve seen take place in our culture of late, one of the most unexpected has to be what’s happened with “nerds”. If you had told me in 1988 that the group of oddballs who sold me and my friends our comic books every Saturday would come to dominate the mainstream, part of me would’ve wanted to believe you, but wouldn’t have.

Back then, “nerd” was a label to be avoided not embraced. It wasn’t a synonym for shy or misunderstood or even studious as it is today (though those traits often fell under its umbrella). Nor was…

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The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow in Tomorrowland:  Disney Does Eschatology

The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow in Tomorrowland: Disney Does Eschatology

The futuristic city of Tomorrowland in the film Tomorrowland rises from the amber waves of a vast field of ripened grain, gleaming in the sunlight like, well, like the New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2). But this is the City of Man, or at least a possible city of humanity’s possible future as envisioned by writer-director Brad Bird. Bird’s vision is part utopian, part anti-dystopian diatribe, part pop eschatology, all wrapped up in a paradoxical package of American populist optimism mixed with elitist progressivism. With a little Steam Punk thrown in for good measure.

The city…

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Jurassic World and Facebook Elegies

Jurassic World and Facebook Elegies

Sitting in a breezy movie theater waiting for Jurassic World to start, my friend looked up from his Facebok timeline to ask me a question. We had been talking earlier about the devastating death of a friend and classmate, and in the last hour it had started to dominate our News Feed. “Dude, are we supposed to like these posts?” He asked. “It doesn’t seem quite right.”

In this day and age, it seems like nothing has truly happened until it’s documented online. As the saying goes, “Pics or it didn’t happen.” Jacob Silverman wrote an article with the phrase as…

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Focus Focus Focus! The Law of Attention in an Age of Distraction

Focus Focus Focus! The Law of Attention in an Age of Distraction

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: You know you’re watching something good when it forces you to shelve your laptop. This was certainly the case this past Sunday evening, during the finale of a certain HBO fantasy drama. There are plenty of reasons why Game of Thrones gets such huge ratings, but one is surely the way it demands our full attention with its radical–and some might say overly antagonistic–plot developments. Yeesh.

It’s hard to tell when multitasking became our default mode of consumption, but it was at least a year or two before AMC started promoting their “two-screen…

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Automatic Transmissions and the Phenomenon of “Miswanting”

Automatic Transmissions and the Phenomenon of “Miswanting”

Nicholas Carr has a new book out, called The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, and he opens it by describing his yearning as a young driver for a car with an automatic transmission. It was a new thing at the time, something which allowed drivers the novel experience of multitasking. Those who had automatics had an extra hand for a coke or an eight-track, and an extra foot for thumping the bass line of their favorite Led Zeppelin cut.

The point that this illustration seems downright prehistoric is intended. It was only 40 years ago. 40 years ago we imagined the future with…

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Internet Shame and the Price of a Reputation

Internet Shame and the Price of a Reputation

If you already have a list of podcasts you pretend to listen to, put Reply All at the top. It’s a show I had avoided for a while because it’s exclusively “a show about the internet,” a medium I surrender so much of my time to already. But I quickly found that, like most of the public radio offerings these days, it’s just another wide avenue for good human-interest stories. I mean, where else do you see human nature writ large than in your Instagram feed or in some nefarious Reddit comment chain? Besides, each episode is short—some are fifteen…

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