Culture

When terms and conditions apply

I overheard a conversation with a man representing a Silicon Valley company the other day. He was bragging about how they apparently had millions of phone conversations recorded. This bounty was the outcome of the allegedly 'free' service they had been providing. A vast trove of data, perhaps waiting to be merged with more data, or sold to a company that figures out how to monetize it. And those people using the service, lets call them ‘data mines’, these ‘data mines’ had received something without understanding the cost.

In my film Terms and Conditions May Apply, I show how companies have used contracts of adhesion to legally sweep up as much data as possible without meaningful consent. There is a notion that companies have a right to any data they can accrue, no matter how personal, no matter if the person surrendering the information is even aware it’s happening.

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DWTS voting system needs a makeover

On October 14, Christina Milian stood under the spotlight with the threat of elimination during that weeks edition of Dancing with the Stars, ABC’s popular dance competition that is now in its 17th season, she was the picture of assurance. The former media correspondent for The Voice, that other mega hit talent competition broadcast by NBC, and her professional partner, 13-season veteran, and 2-time winner Mark Ballas ended up at the top of the judges’ leaderboard, thanks to a sensational cha-cha tribute to strong single moms that earned them a 28 out of 30 possible points and the first 10 of the season.

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The music that is better than itself

In the 1930s, Pitirim A. Sorokin and J.W. Boldyreff conducted the most interesting experiment1. They told their participants that they are going to play two variations of the same theme by two prominent composers. They declared that musical critics say that the first variation is a masterpiece, while the second is an exaggerated imitation, totally deficient in self-subsistence and beauty. They said that that the aim of the experiment is to see whether laymen agree with the experts. Afterwards, experimenters played the same record twice2. The participants completed a questionnaire which had three possible answers: prefer first record, prefer second record, and no preference.

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Statistics against irritations: a response to Dickens’s apologists or If high readership is the test of good writing, then 50 Shades of Grey is a work of genius…

Charles Dickens
Recently I discussed  my article1 which reported the results of the test where the takers had to tell the prose of Charles Dickens from the prose of Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The former is a required reading in school, and the latter has a bad writing contest named after him. Nevertheless, the test-takers performed on the level of random guessing. This research got some media attention.
 
While Mark Howarth’s article2 in The Daily Mail is rational, the article3 by Alison Flood in The Guardian is emotional. She even bills her talking points as “irritations:”
 

A scientific evaluation of Charles Dickens

Previously I discussed1 my experiment that tested whether people can tell the masterpieces of abstract art from anyone’s doodles. People could hardly see any difference. But is this peculiar to modern art? Alas, it is not. Here, I show that the same thing happens with classical literature.