Kim Kardashian should be insulted by the Internet’s acceptance of her “Paper” photo shoot and here’s why.

So I’ve been mulling over the reason why Kim Kardashian’s explicit “Break the Internet” photo shoot is plastered on all corners of the internet, including social networks like Instagram and Facebook while other photos of women simply being topless or breastfeeding gets taken off by the same services.

At the surface it would seem rational for the opposite to be true. The Kardashian photos were dramatically sexual, with her oiled up body posing and arching with the text “Break the Internet” in big lettering in almost a commanding fashion, while photos of women breastfeeding or just simply bare breasted are just “there”, it can be sexual I suppose, but they are not overtly produced to be so.

An example of this is the Chelsea Handler topless photos, which were more of a political statement than a means to entice. A couple months ago she posted a photo of herself topless riding a horse, mocking the famous photograph of Vladimir Putin riding a horse. Her point? That there is a double standard when it comes to physical depictions of men as apposed to women, in particular, what is consider acceptable and what’s not. Handler’s photos were later banned by Intagram.  Another case also involves a celebrity, Alyssa Milano , whose photos of her breasfeed her child was also deemed too much for Instagram. But it’s not just celebrities, women have been complaining for years that pictures of themselves simply topless or breastfeeding (or getting a mastectomy), have been banned from Instagram and Facebook.

So why do social media services act this way? Why does the official Internet in general? My theory is that sexuality on the Internet has become so hyper-realistic that the simulation is become a safe surrogate to the real thing.

There is a hyper-realistic quality to the “Beak the Internet” photos, in which Kardashian takes on an almost plastic quality, a 3D anime character wrapped in the decadence of high art. This type of imagery is more than acceptable to the official Internet (social networks, major online communities), while images of women bodies as part of a biological process (breastfeeding) or more dangerous yet to make a political point is deemed too “real”, too complex to be easily digested by the Official Internet.

Perhaps the depiction of women in the nude or partially nude has been the currency of pornography on the network for so long and in such a massive amount that we (managers and users of the Internet, in particular, male managers and users of the Internet ) do not know what to do when a depiction of women nude  in an starkly nonsexual manner comes our way. This behavior is dangerous, for many times these images are presented to inform (like the breast cancer imagery that gets banned from facebook), or as arguments of discourse (the Handler photos), even without any cause, simply banning these photo restricts women and content producers who choose to share this content because they may deem it interesting or important or beautiful, but not sexual, while their banishment is done in the hypocritical cause of protecting the content producers or subjects in the photos from the negative outcome of sexual exposure (e.g, harassment, accusations of indecency).

So that is why I think Ms. Kim should be a bit irritated if not all out pissed that her photos got the Internet “thumbs up” while others are shunned. The Internet pretty much decided the Kim Kardashian is not a real person, but rather a hyper-realistic simulacra, a doll whose flesh and blood origin is wholeheartedly ignored, more art than artist. She didn’t break the Internet, but rather nourished it with quick visual eye-candy. If realistic depictions of women and their bodies were allowed too be distributed on the network, it would not “Break the Internet” either, but perhaps it will slow it down just a little bit for us to have a thought a two about how women are depicted on the network, and perhaps it will start to add real flesh and blood to the objects that has flooded the network for years.

Posting the process : on writing a novel, and writing better code.

For years I’ve been trying to get a mode for writing a novel. Of course I suffer from the same problems most beginning writers do, lack of self-confidence, lack of motivation.

As a software developer, most of my time is dedicated to writing code for whomever I’m employed to. Although I think I’m a decent programmer, working in my field for over ten years now, I believe programming is a craft, and I have a ways to go to be a master at it.

I been thinking that I probably could benefit from using this blog as a means to write my process on both, you know put it out in the ether, with the hope that every now and then the ether will speak back with suggestions or encouragement.

I have tons of ideas for books. Entire plot lines and dialogs are buzzing in my head, I believe that fear of it just being “a stupid idea” prevents the transfer from thoughts to written text.  Hopefully, by sort of “pre-sharing” my work on here, people will see it and help in the process enough for me to get over the fear of it “not being good”, to it actually being a fun collaborative project I can do over the past months. Also the first novel I would really like write would be a thriller based in Modern day South Korea, and would cover topics like competition gaming, racism, homophobia, South Korean corporate structures, hacking and the intelligence community (like I said, I been thinking about this book for a long time). These are all complex topics that I have varying knowledge of, and I’ve never been to South Korea. With that said, I’m going to need to do a lot of research, and would appreciate any help in writing about these things and getting it right.

Same with a software development. I have an idea for a mobile app that I’ve been working on and off for years. Mostly it’s been going slowly because I’ve been working at a day job writing code. Some cats can write cool all day and go home and write code for some side project until they go to bed. I don’t do that. I like to focus on the day job will all my energy and use home to relax.

However, I have some free months between gigs have allowed me to write a lot of working code for the mobile app, mostly the model layer. Now I’m working more on the front end and wrestling with the ideas of making a kick ass UI for it. If I throw the code up and write about the process of building a front end for this app, I’m hoping to get help on it from the Internet.

As a thanks to the Internet for helping me with both projects, I’ll open source the code for the mobile app and launch it free to use for all. As for the book (for now let’s call it SKP or “South Korea Project”), I’ll publish the finished work for free online under the Creative Commons license.

Posts about the novel will have “On SKP” in the title and posts about the mobile app will have “On Tipsy” in the title.

I know that in the end, I have to start writing and start designing this front end, and honestly I can’t promise I will finish either. But I think by having an ongoing conversation with people in both will keep me motivated.

Shower mates

In college, I lived on a floor that had more women than men. It was proposed because of this that we make all the bathrooms and showers co-ed. The men (including myself) voted “No”. We had gay men and gay women on our floor, and all the men shared the same shower rooms no matter what sexual orientation we were. 

What we were concerned about was the gender differences when it came to biology. In our minds, (either wrong or right), we thought women would be gross shower mates, you know with all that hair and periods and such. The reason why I bring this up is that there is a conversation going on about whether gay men should share the same shower rooms as straight men, and if so, why isn’t that the same as straight men showering with straight women? 

I have and I will share the same shower room as gay men, because taking a shower rarely has to do with sexuality. It is a nasty, dirty task, and I rather do it with people that share the same parts as me. I love women intensely, but I doubt I would get a rise out of seeing tons of them awkwardly scrubbing their parts just as I awkwardly scrub my parts, and I’m sure that is the same with gay men.

(Cross Posted on Facebook)

After Ebert – The need for multimedia/interactive/networked entertainment crictism

I’ll miss the shit out Roger Ebert. I remember growing up in upstate New York, waking up early Saturday morning to see “Siskel and Ebert”. Although I rarely went to see the movies they reviewed (mostly because of age), I still immensely enjoyed their banter and analysis of films of that time. Later on, when I was old enough and had my after-school job to fuel my fledgling movie going hobby, the film reviews of Roger Ebert became less of an adolescent curiosity and more of a serious research task. Ebert was my “go to guy” when knowing whether or not I should go see a flick. Not to say I followed his advice religiously. I went to see “Street Fighter” (not the good Anime, but the horrible live action film with Raul Julia and Jean-Claude Van Damme) despite his warnings, a decision I regret still. Of course there were films he hated that I liked, but still he was always there as this litmus test that I could rely on.

To say that Roger Ebert was the 20th century’s greatest film critic would not be a crazy premise. The man eared a Pulitzer prize in criticism for Pete’s sake.   But now that he is not with us, and without being disrespectful of the man’s legacy, I wonder if now is the time to start a conversation about the nature of criticism in the 21st century media landscape.

Ebert was always a geek. He embraced laser discs and VHS before everyone. And when DVD started to come to popularity, he was a big proponent of the format, citing the extra features and commentary that were included into various movie DVD releases. Even in the age of social networking, he was a prolific twitter user even before his health deteriorated, and after he loss the ability to speak he used twitter and became a  regular figure in our feeds.

But despite this, I still believe they Ebert was a member of the old guard, albeit a very innovative member. Although with some exceptions (“Avatar” and “Coraline“), Ebert generally hated contemporary 3D in films. He called it’s at best an unnecessary distraction and at it’s worse a money grabbing scheme by Hollywood. Now his arguments against 3D are vary valid (especially when your forking over $15 for a 3D movie when you can see the 2D version of the same title for four dollars less), but if 3D is just another tool for filmmakers to use, and can be argue that this is still (“the bronze age”) of modern 3D filmmaking, I wonder if Ebert was too quick to rub off a visual technique that is still maturing.

One piece of entertainment that Ebert completely didn’t get was video games. Although he seem to be “evolving” his opinion later on in his life, he vehemently placed film, as an art and literary form, far above even modern interactive games. Any gamer will scoff at this assertion, considering the depth and richness and many of the most popular games that have come out in the past several years.  The fact that Ebert ignored an form of entertainment that has dwarfed Hollywood in both money made and engagement is perhaps the strongest reason to say that Ebert was a bit old fashion. Ebert never played “Grand Theft Auto 3″ or “Mass Effect”.

But I can’t blame the man for this, I’m sure when (or rather if), I’m in my late 50’s and some newfangled form of entertainment came out that is all the rage with the kids, I doubt I’ll get it too. But with that said, perhaps now is the time  to take inspiration in Ebert’s intelligence and passion for good cinema, and apply it to the new forms of entertainment, which I’ll called multimedia/networked/interactive (or M/I/N entertainment).

What is M/I/N entertainment? It’s just a generic term for our current entertainment media landscape  It includes films both 2D and 3D, but it also includes video games. It includes viral videos and twitter commentary for reality TV shows, this whole vibrant stew of  both experience AND participatory engagement primarily via the Internet.

We are faced with an unprecedented amount of entertainment choices in a variety of intersecting and merging forms. But for this bounty, there are few people and places where a consumer can go to and get a rational analysis of not just whether something is “good” or not, but delving deeper into it’s social-literary context. To be sure there are some pioneers that are starting to tackle this (Tom Bissell, Ian Bogost, and Jane McGonigal come to mind), but still there is a deficit of such thought in both academia and in mainstream media. The bright spot in all this is the large amount of commentary and discussions that are going on with consumers themselves via social networks, which should not be ignored as a valid source of criticism, although peppered with an ample amount of flaming and trolling that one may need to be conscious of.

So, Mr. Ebert, sir, you will be missed. But with your passing, I urge all of use to turn a page on a chapter, and begin a new chapter of media thought and conversation that is forged in Ebert’s image, but modified and hacked to take on the torrent of  M/I/N entertainment that will be a part of our media lives for years to come.

 

Why I never use a handle when on online communities.

I’ve been asked recently why I never use a handle when I’m posting on an online community. Beyond the communities that pretty much force you to use you real name (Facebook, G+), my username for other networks are equally as bland. On twitter, I use “jwoody”, on reddit I use the more identifying “jeromewoody”, and most blog and systems out there, I’ll just either identify myself as jwoody.

In the wilds of the web beyond the curated control of the major social networks, the idea of using your real name in online communities may seemed odd to people, or even a bit frightening. It’s been drilled into us by the media and popular culture that the Internet is filled with people who shouldn’t be allowed to know who you really are in real life. Perhaps another user or troll will take something you said online personal and tell you what he thinks face to face, or some cyber syndicate will use your name as a means to steal your entire identity. Many may just want to have the cloak of anonymity to say what they whatever they want.

My first online community that I was truly engaged in was back when I was a teen. I got an account on “The Well” back in 1996 after reading an article about the board system in Wired. It was at that time that I gained access to other systems and became more active in computing in general. On the well there was a general rule call “YOYOW”, or You Own Your Own Words. Coined by Well founder Steward Brand, the term has had many interpretations over the years but from what I took of it, it meant you were responsible for what you say in any forum. When I’m online posting a comment on either wired.com or slog (The Stranger’s Weblog), I want people to know that those comments were written by me, Jerome Woody, for I’m not going to communities to just drive by with some comment without a way to trace it back to me, I’m there because I committing myself to that community and want to participate in discussions, both deep and trivial.

I admit that without the cloak of a handle I do feel more exposed, and I tend to manage the way I am to other users online, and for the most part I believe that’s a good thing. I’ve always been one to freely give my opinion and haven’t turned away from a controversial subject, but I believe that using my name makes me a bit more considerate of other users comments. The urge to go all 4chan on a thread is gone completely since I don’t want to be known as “that asshole Jerome Woody” on reddit.

Although there are limits to this philosophy. As the web has deeply become a part of my public life, it has become a part of my private life as well. Like many people there are things that I do online that I would be embarrassing about if gotten out in the open, and in those occasions I will use some handle or attempt to mask my activity completely. But I believe that associating with most comment based communities is a public act, like going out to a public gathering or a bar. In real life, we don’t walk about among the masses with fake glasses and a mustache, we are who we are, and even without giving our names, our physical presence alone codify our identities.

On a web filled with flame wars, trolling and online bullying, I think if more of us decided to own our own words, to take responsibility to what we say and how we interact with others, we could have a web infused with more social respect and engagement.

But if you like your vanity name I respect that, it’s hard to be out there naked. You can just like to be known that online and I respect that too. But when you see my name on some anime forum or android mailing list, I’m not trying to be arrogant or naive. I’m just being me.

My Google Chrome Ecosystem

Two big things happen this week that pretty much solidified having a Google Chrome ecosystem, the premiere of Chrome Beta for the Android operating system, and the arrival of my newly purchased Samsung Chromebook.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. A little background : I’ve been using google chrome ever since I found out my favorite search engine was coming out with their browser. I’ve gleefully read and admired the Scott McCloud drawn Google Chrome comic, an innovated medium to explain an innovated idea of how to build web browsers. With cartoonified depictions of Google engineers describing concepts such as threaded tabs, sandboxing, and fast javascript rendering, it was a new idea of the web that had only started to dawn on me : the web itself as software.

As a web developer I was well aware of the increasing complexity and power of web technologies, but until that point the use for the web I knew it to be was as a repository of content, it was great for reading news and sharing information with people, but not for doing your taxes, or editing a music track.

Chrome changed that. Here was a browser built primary for Web Applications. Google boldly predicted that era of “The Showing Web” was drawing near to be replaced with “The Doing Web”, a web that computes and produces.

Although still tethered to Firefox due to needed development add-ins (which is no longer needed since the modern chrome browser now has the same tools), I quickly adopted Google chrome as my primary browser. It was satisfying to see this skinny, lean skeleton of a browser slowly, then quickly, gain market share during that first several months. It was definitely the constant presence on my computers at home.

If you ever read Masamune Shirow’s “Ghost in the Shell”, or watch any of the movies or TV show, chrome felt to me like the terminal interfaces you saw on the show, those floating, techno-spiked objects in a person’s HUD feeding them information. Chrome for me  feel like a primitive version of that in my life, these thin terminal frames housing my online world, allowing all the power to control my way through this universe, but hiding and folding everything into an interface that doesn’t get in the way of itself.

The announcement of Chrome OS made me skeptical however. At the time news came out that Google was going to create an operating system based on Chrome I was already knee deep in Android geekdom, already on my 2nd Android phone, rooted and modded like the first. I actually felt a bit betrayed as an Android fan. I was thinking to myself “why the fuck would Google do this, they have Android!”. Truly if Google wanted to create a desktop operating system, they would build it around Android.

But once again the idea of the “Doing Web” shook me out of my Android fixation and I realized that Chrome was pretty much my operation system already, or at least one of them. At that point most of the work I was doing was on the web, including that of building and managing websites. I mean I still had a text editor or some terminal opened on my Windows or Linux machine, but that would be it.

When Google decided to give out thousands of Chrome OS laptops for people volunteering to use them in a pilot program I was one of the early applicants, sending Google a request for one because I wanted to see how it would be to accomplished web development completely in the cloud, using IDEs, Database management tools, even image and graphic editing tools, all through the web.  A week later a box with a brand new CR-48 computer came with no warning on my front porch.

With the CR-48, I did work on freelance web projects using it as my primary computer. I did find web versions of web developer editors and tools that I usually can only get as a windows program, with varying results. But along the two years the tools have definitely improved to a point where one tool , ShiftEdit, has become my primary code editor.

So at this point this Chrome Ecosystem starts to form. I had two windows laptops running chrome, one of those laptops connected to my television via HDMI, so I can stream videos via a chrome browser. I had my trusty CR-48 although it was starting to show its short age, although still pretty reliable. Chrome was becoming a network within itself, with search queries, browsing histories and other web use related data and apps being synced among the Chrome equipped computers. I eventually replace that laptop tethered to the TV with a heavily discounted Logitech Review, the google TV set-top device with Chrome built-in. I also had an android tablet and android phone, both modded with Ice Cream Sandwich Mods, equipped with a very decent stock browser but no Chrome.

But after two years of heavy use, my CR-48 was starting to exhibit hardware issues. Nothing to prevent it from being used, but it was starting to become unhinged, and a good bump would power it off completely. So I decided I should put my money where my mouth is, and pay into this whole Chrome OS philosophy, and thus  my newly arrived Samsung Series 5 Chromebook.

So now here i am, a geek with a stable of seven devices that all have Chrome on them, two of them ONLY having Chrome on it. Usually ecosystems are defined as a constellation of devices able to easily share files and content pertaining to it’s user, usually sharing a common platform or brand. A week ago, I would of probably said I had more of a “Google” Ecosystem, with most of my devices running some kind of Google technology like Android and Chrome. But now with Chrome for Android, even my mobile devices have the same “Ghost in the Shell” web terminal, built to communicate with its siblings running my may laptops and my TV.

I look forward to seeing how this changes the way I work and entertain myself. I of course know that I’m yet to use Chrome in a vacuum, Windows Programs and Android Apps will still play an influential part of my digital life, but I know that the bulk of my online world will be looked at through a Google Chrome frame. From time to time, I’ll document life using that ecosystem on my blog, perhaps an insight or two will pop out of my observations.

Amazon Fire

Overall, I like what I see in this tablet. It has a lot of great features, I think Amazon silk may be a breakthrough in Android browsers. The fact that it’s $50 less than my Nook Color makes me not too guilty if I pick one up myself and give the nook color away (honestly I don’t know what Barnes and Noble’s is going to do now, they better pull a rabbit out of their hats to even compete with what Amazon is offering now). I like the fact that Amazon has a tablet because you can buy the device directly from Amazon, and you don’t have to go through a mobile company like AT&T and have to sign onto a wireless plan in order to get the unit subsidized, which would still be more expensive than the Kindle Fire.

The thing I always hated about the iPad was that it was too damn expensive. You have to understand that my expensive tolerance is fairly low (Over $300 is expensive for me, and I think for a growing swath of people in this country). But I think of Moore’s law like I think of similar concepts, like gravity, that technology will get cheaper and get into the hands of more people. Digital divide wise the more information technology is in the hands of more people, the better a society is, I firmly believe that. Amazon just opened the door for consumers of lesser means to have access to as much digital content as iPad users, and I think the Amazon Prime’s $80 a year is probably the cheapest all-you-can-eat plan out there ( Netflix average out to $95 a year, Hulu Plus around $115 a year, not much more but still more). And I’m sure it will be rootable so people who know what to do can put a modded android build on it, similar to what I did for my Nook Color.

Of course the dream, the true dream, is to get a $200 general purpose tablet of decent quality. The Kindle fire is not general purpose, it’s a multipurpose tablet focused, like a laser beam, on buying and consuming content from Amazon. It has apps, but not as much as the more open Android app store. Even rooted with a more general purpose android build on it, the hardware has is no gps, no bluetooth, no HDMI out. These types of features are more known to the now we can definitely say “high-end” android based tablets like the Motorola Xoom and the Galaxy Tab.  I want those features AND I want all the content options that Amazon Kindle Fire has. I just hope that at least other tablet manufactures take this in consideration and just start dropping their prices.