Category Archives: what are computers for

Right Reaction and the Digital Humanities

UKIP

A while back, I had an encounter that struck me at the time, and continues to strike me, as perfectly emblematic of the Digital Humanities as an ideological formation. While it includes a kind of brutal incivility that I associate with much of the politics that persists very near the “nice” surface of DH (of […]

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Crowdforcing: When What I “Share” Is Yours

a crowd

Among the many default, background, often unexamined assumptions of the digital revolution is that sharing is good. A major part of the digital revolution in rhetoric is to repurpose existing language in ways that advantage the promoters of one scheme or another. It is no surprise that while it may well have been the case […]

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Tor, Technocracy, Democracy

freedom is slavery

As important as the technical issues regarding Tor are, at least as important—probably more important—is the political worldview that Tor promotes (as do other projects like it). While it is useful and relevant to talk about formations that capture large parts of the Tor community, like “geek culture” and “cypherpunks” and libertarianism and anarchism, one […]

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‘Is It Compromised?’ Is the Wrong Question about US Government Funding of Tor

cia dissemination of propaganda

In many ways, the most surprising thing about Yasha Levine’s powerful reporting on US government funding of Tor at Pando Daily has been the response to it. From the trolling attacks and ad hominem insults by apparently respectable, senior digital privacy activists and journalists, to repeated, climate-denialist-style “I’m rubber you’re glue”-type (or, as I like […]

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Bitcoinsanity 2: Revolutions in Rhetoric

bitcoin on reddit

Bitcoin is touted, publicized and promoted as an innovation in financial technology. Usually those doing the promoting have very little experience with finance in general or with financial technology in particular–a huge, booming industry mostly made up of proprietary technologies that those of us who don’t work for major banks or trading firms know very […]

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Opt-Out Citizenship: End-to-End Encryption and Constitutional Governance

Silk Road

Among the digital elite, one of the more common reactions to the recent shocking disclosures about intelligence surveillance programs has been to suggest that the way to prevent government snooping is to encrypt all of our communications. While I think encryption might be an important part of a solution to the total surveillance problem, it […]

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Postcolonial Studies, Digital Humanities, and the Politics of Language

world oral literature project

Excerpted from a longer essay in progress. Adeline Koh and Roopika Risam recently started an open thread on DHPoco based around an observation by Martha Nell Smith about the politics of race and gender in the digital humanities. I find these topics distinctly connected to questions about language and the relationship of various humanities fields. […]

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Article: ‘High-Frequency Trading: Networks of Wealth and the Concentration of Power’

Full paper (author’s pre-press version): High-Frequency Trading: Networks of Wealth and the Concentration of Power. Forthcoming in Social Semiotics. Abstract The development of High-Frequency Trading (HFT)–automated trading of stocks, as well as bonds, options, and other investment instruments–provides a signal example of the political effects of computerization on a discrete social sphere. Despite the widespread […]

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Centralization and the ‘Democratization’ of Higher Education

amazon central

In my previous post, “Computerization, Centralization, and Concentration,” I discussed how the fact that decentralization and distribution are genuine hallmarks of the networked computerization revolution can easily blind us to the fact that centralization and concentration, especially of economic power, are also its hallmarks, in many cases even more strongly than are the former. One […]

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Computerization, Centralization, and Concentration

uranium enrichment centrifuge

One of the most dangerous canards of the digital revolution is the one according to which distribution, decentralization, and democratization are the characteristic hallmarks of contemporary mass computerization. To writers of earlier ages (Huxley, Orwell, Lem, Weizenbaum, Wiener, Mumford, Ellul, Roszak, just to name a few), such sentiments would seem shocking, because what they understood […]

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