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Manufacturing Gear Acquisition Syndrome

Nasim Mansurow at Photography Life:

Don’t be a victim of The Hype. Don’t be a cameraholic and a brainless consumer. Stop yourself from the Internet hysteria that surrounds cameras, lenses and other gear. Instead, spend time learning about photography techniques and improving your skills. Travel more, see more, shoot more. And when I review a piece of camera gear, don’t buy it because I praised it. Only buy what you truly need, not what you want. That’s all I have to say for today.

Mansurov’s article spends a lot of time explaining the economics that drive individual ‘influencers’ and websites to get people excited about buying the new ‘best’ camera equipment. By drawing on Photography Life’s website analytics and the marketing material that he receives, he lays bare the economic incentives to focus of gear instead of techniques, skills, and neat locations to visit. In the process he also makes it very clear how the commercial aspects of selling equipment work in a way that most people may think or believe is happening but don’t have evidence or data to substantiate those thoughts or beliefs. It’s not a shocking read but does serve as a reminder that companies are actively attempting to manipulate consumers into buying the newest lenses or body with the hope or dream that it will turn us all into master photographers.

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Never let the facts get in the way of a good Cronkite moment

Never let the facts get in the way of a good Cronkite moment:

Lost in all the boosterism and talk of 9/11, solidarity and resolve was another inconvenient fact: A lot of the so-called ‘iron-clad’ reporting about what allegedly took place last Wednesday has turned out to be crap.

We were told that there were two or more shooters. Wrong. We were told that Wednesday’s shooting was likely “linked” to the hit and run death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in St. St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and hence that some sort of wider conspiracy was afoot. Wrong. We were told that shooter Michael Zahef-Bibeau was on a high-risk travel list. Wrong. We were told that Zahef-Bibeau wanted to travel to Syria. Wrong. (He hoped to go to Saudi Arabia – one of Canada’s best buddies in the Middle East.) We were told that the 90-odd individuals supposedly on a CSIS “watch” list were being “rounded up” by authorities. Wrong.

Even the “hero” Sergeant-at-Arms “story” is collapsing. Reportedly, Zahef-Bibeau was shot at least a dozen times and possibly dead before Kevin Vickers fired his gun.

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Grand Visions Fizzle in Brazil

The NYT has an incredibly depressing view of the way that Brasil is moving forward; while much of it is shared by the citizens of that country the article is overly one-sided and generally lacks a comprehensive understanding of why some of the cost overruns and setbacks have happened. We read that environmental protections and efforts to work with aboriginal people’s have led to railroads being delayed: why were there such expectations of a smooth and quick development of such railroads in the first place? Perhaps because the ‘frictions’ of such development (i.e. environment and people living on the land) had been cast aside?

What is largely missing throughout the piece is the context: why were certain projects put forward and then abandoned? In the absence of such context we’re left with the impression that the setbacks are the result of poor management and bureaucracy but is this the case, or simply the projection of American values onto specific South American infrastructure decisions?

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So, I pointed to some of the issues with Steve Paikin’s comments a few days ago. Recap: he posted to his blog that he had significant problems getting women onto his program, and used some insensitive/poorly considered language in expressing why he thought TVO was facing challenges.

TVO’s put on a show that (more or less) takes Paikin to task. It’s worth a watch, and it reveals both how Paikin views the challenges of booking as well as a set of women who take him to task. More discussions like this need to happen, and at length, in more of our popular media venues.

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The colossal arrogance of Newsweek’s Bitcoin “scoop”

Ars Technica has written one of the better critiques of the Newsweek story which (likely incorrectly) identified the man believed to have invented Bitcoin. It’s worth the read, if only to have the current state of debate over Newsweek’s story nicely summarized.

Source: The colossal arrogance of Newsweek’s Bitcoin “scoop”

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The role of public reason is not so much to eliminate or even diminish political disagreement, as it is to provide democratic citizens with reasons and arguments that, if valid and sound, they can accept as democratic citizens. Were laws and policies are decided for purely nonpublic reasons, it could not be said that democratic citizens are politically free. Their political power is being used against their will in ways they cannot endorse as citizens. Public reason then is a condition of political autonomy and collective self-rule.

* Samuel Freeman, “Deliberative Democracy: A Sympathetic Comment”
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An important test of the deliberative legitimacy of a political process … is the degree to which groups may not only gain a hearing for their opinions about issues and proposals already under consideration but are able to initiate discussion of problems and proposals.

* Iris Marion Young, “Activist Challenges to Deliberative Democracy”
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We can draw a distinction here between Big Data—the stuff of numbers that thrives on correlations—and Big Narrative—a story-driven, anthropological approach that seeks to explain why things are the way they are. Big Data is cheap where Big Narrative is expensive. Big Data is clean where Big Narrative is messy. Big Data is actionable where Big Narrative is paralyzing.

The promise of Big Data is that it allows us to avoid the pitfalls of Big Narrative. But this is also its greatest cost. With an extremely emotional issue such as terrorism, it’s easy to believe that Big Data can do wonders. But once we move to more pedestrian issues, it becomes obvious that the supertool it’s made out to be is a rather feeble instrument that tackles problems quite unimaginatively and unambitiously. Worse, it prevents us from having many important public debates.

As Band-Aids go, Big Data is excellent. But Band-Aids are useless when the patient needs surgery. In that case, trying to use a Band-Aid may result in amputation. This, at least, is the hunch I drew from Big Data.

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In this light, the selfie isn’t about empowerment. But it also isn’t not about empowerment. Empowerment, or lack thereof, is not part of the picture. Neither is narcissism, as either a personal or a cultural moral failure. And the selfie isn’t about the male gaze. The selfie, in the end is about the gendered labour of young girls under capitalism. Do we honestly think that by ceasing to take and post selfies, the bodies of young women would cease to be spectacles? Teenage girls are Young-Girls, are spectacles, are narcissists, are consumers because those are the very criterion which must be met to be a young woman and also a part of society. That their bodies are commodities enters them into economies of attention, and that is where the disgust with selfies comes from. In an economy of attention, it is a disaster for men that girls take up physical space and document it, and that this documentation takes up page hits and retweets that could go to ‘more important’ things. And so the Young-Girl must be punished, with a disgust reserved for the purely trivial. To paraphrase that beloved of Young-Girl films, Ever After — itself paraphrasing Thomas More’s Utopia — what are we to make of the selfie but that we first create teenage girls and then punish them?