Consider the Lawn Sign: elections as civic engagement

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Cross-posted from the Center for Civic Media blog.

Last week I had the chance to watch one of the world’s great electoral-political spectacles – the New Hampshire primary – up close. It wasn’t by any means my first dalliance with American politics: I’ve had at least a loose involvement in the fascinating and frequently Freudian process by which Americans elect their leaders for several cycles now. But this time I saw the process through a slightly different lens.

Continue reading “Consider the Lawn Sign: elections as civic engagement”

Fired Up, Dumbed Down? William F. Buckley and the Decline of Political Discourse

Published in MIT’s The Tech

“From Firing Line to The O’Reilly Factor” – Heather Hendershot, CMS/W Colloquium Series, October 22, 2015

Lamenting the state of American political discourse is a popular refrain at present, and it’s not hard to see why. At a time when offensive statements from the likes of Donald Trump and Ben Carson serve not as campaign-ending gaffes but as anabolic steroids for the presidential horse-race; when blowhard cable news anchors generate much heat but little light on the issues de l’heure; and when social media has opened up a whole new realm for shocking anger and abuse, the desire to tune out of political speech altogether and only pay attention biennially and briefly has never been stronger. MIT Professor Heather Hendershot’s forthcoming book, Open to Debate: How William F. Buckley Put Liberal America on the Firing Line — which she introduced at an Oct. 22 colloquium — could not be more timely, with its simple central question: how, exactly, did it come to this? Continue reading “Fired Up, Dumbed Down? William F. Buckley and the Decline of Political Discourse”

Big Data – What’s New(s)?

The following is a slightly edited version of a talk I gave at the Data Power conference in Sheffield this week, presenting work by myself and Ralph Schroeder.

The question of what drives news coverage far pre-dates the Internet and the rise of social media, and over the decades – or indeed the centuries – of mass media, myriad explanations have been offered in answer. Continue reading “Big Data – What’s New(s)?”

Murder in the time of virality

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(For today’s social media landscape, invert the megaphone)

That the beheading of journalist James Foley is ‘media’ is horrific. Whether it is ‘social’ falls on all of us.

I, like millions of others, learned about the death of journalist James Foley on social media. But it just so happened that the news was delivered to me in as sensitive and sombre a way as possible. Continue reading “Murder in the time of virality”

Streisandfreude: how the right to be forgotten may become an excuse to be remembered

Copyright (C) 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, www.californiacoastline.org.
Barbara Streisand’s house in the hills, an image which survived legal efforts at suppression to give us ‘the Streisand effect’. Copyright (C) 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, http://www.californiacoastline.org.

The past fortnight saw the first ripples of reaction to the European Court of Justice’s assertion of a citizen’s ‘right to be forgotten’ online. Following the court’s ruling, Google began the implementation of a process whereby individuals can petition for the removal of links in search results to pages deemed objectionable.

Continue reading “Streisandfreude: how the right to be forgotten may become an excuse to be remembered”

Review: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

“Just exist?” laments the title character in the Coen brothers’ latest treatise on American society. Yet existing is the most appropriate – perhaps the only appropriate – description of the character of Llewyn Davis. Pervasive ennui is not, of course, anything new for a Coen brothers’ film. But here it is taken up a notch – Davis has none of the piety of Larry Gopnik in ‘A Serious Man’, nor the brash self-confidence of The Dude in ‘The Big Lebowski’. Llewyn Davis’s raison d’etre is music – folk music, to be precise – and the film contains probably an album’s worth of heartfelt renditions, most performed as live. Continue reading “Review: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’”