How to Make an Amazon Dash Button That Gives the ACLU $5 Every Time You See Something Terrible

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Typically used to order household staples like detergent, garbage bags, or macaroni and cheese at the push of a button (which is kind of depressing in and of itself), Amazon also created a hackable version of its Dash buttons last year. And it was that Amazon Web Services IoT button—with a custom label attached—that programmer Nathan Pryor used to make it incredibly easy to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has its work cut out for it as of late.

 

This Weekend Showed How All Politics Is Now Global

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This new globalism — as Steve Bannon calls it — has not totally found its shape, but you see its outlines: feminism, internationalism, a deep concern for the rights of minorities and especially Muslims, the canaries in the coal mine of Western nationalism.

So far, Trump hasn’t shaved off much of that lefty protest tradition. And the mirror-image global movements have a lot in common: they spread and define themselves on social media and globalizing media companies — BuzzFeed and Breitbart, Huffington Post, the Guardian, and the New York Times. The protests of 1968 — from Paris to Washington — had their common features, but the tight and instant emotional connection through media is something new. Social media proved powerful and fickle in the only recent precedent for these international movements, the Arab Spring. In the United States, the new social media politics has homogenized and polarized. Will the apparently secular Trump movement follow Russia and Poland toward traditional religious values? Will the whole left embrace the notion of a unified intersectional struggle that ties social and economic values together?

 

 

Thanks To Apple’s Influence, You’re Not Getting A Rifle Emoji

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According to sources in the room, Apple started the discussion to remove the rifle emoji, which had already passed into the encoding process for the Unicode 9.0 release this June. Apple told the consortium it would not support a rifle on its platforms and asked for it not to be made into an emoji. “I heard Apple speak up about it and also Microsoft,” one member present at the discussions told BuzzFeed News.

This is a somewhat unusual decision, as most accepted candidates get approval to become full-fledged emojis. However, the member said the debate wasn’t all that contentious, perhaps because a handgun emoji was encoded into the original emoji release. “Nobody in the room seemed to mind not encoding the rifle.” The other candidate the consortium rejected during the meeting was “modern pentathlon,” which depicts a man firing a pistol.

 

Is Facebook the enemy of truth and civic unity?

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Those on the left who worry that Facebook and Twitter have been a breeding ground for climate-deniers and Tea Party fanatics should remember that #occupywallstreet and #blacklivesmatter both began as hashtags on Twitter.

The same holds true in the Presidential race. Historically, the most striking thing about the campaign so far is not Trump’s ascension, but the fact that a self-proclaimed socialist is running a close race with heir apparent Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders has three times as many Twitter followers as Republican establishment candidate Jeb Bush, despite the hundred million dollars Bush has raised for his campaign. Sanders, much more than Trump, is a pure-bred social media phenomenon. Trump has obviously used Twitter effectively, but his name recognition derives from network television and his real estate empire.

But until that time, I think we shouldn’t be too worried by the noise of the new public sphere. There are more dividers with a soapbox thanks to social networks, but so far it is the uniters that are actually getting things done. The price of politics in the social media age is that the crazies get a place on the playing field. The test is whether they win.

What Google can show us about our reaction to mass shootings

12-08-2015

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You and millions of others turn to Google, where you type in the location of this shooting. You tweet or update Facebook about your rage, your frustration that this has happened again, your despair that politicians will still do nothing to protect you or anyone else from the next mass shooting. Because there will be more. The pattern will repeat itself. We know this. We’ve seen this.

Then you probably forget about it for a bit. Until news about the next mass shooting breaks.

According to Google Trends, interest in a mass shooting peaks on the day of or the day after, and then almost immediately drops off the day after that.

We care about these tragedies. We care about gun control. Why do we lose interest so fast?

A Note on Call-Out Culture

Photo: The article’s writer, Asam Ahmad

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Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself.

What makes call-out culture so toxic is not necessarily its frequency so much as the nature and performance of the call-out itself. Especially in online venues like Twitter and Facebook, calling someone out isn’t just a private interaction between two individuals: it’s a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are. Indeed, sometimes it can feel like the performance itself is more significant than the content of the call-out. This is why “calling in” has been proposed as an alternative to calling out: calling in means speaking privately with an individual who has done some wrong, in order to address the behaviour without making a spectacle of the address itself.

Passive, aggressive and pissed off: Our culture of perpetual outrage

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

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What is more likely? That the sun will rise tomorrow or that someone, somewhere, will launch an online campaign decrying anything and everything? It may be an impossible question to answer, because ours is an age of unending offence.

…But you’ll never know unless you ask, and it’s the asking, in real time, in real life—not the posting or tweeting—that seems to be a problem for this increasingly offended, yet complacent world. Indeed, what’s unprecedented about the man-spreading uproar isn’t that there are people on this Earth who have the gall to take up more public space than they need, but that the parties inconvenienced by this behaviour would rather fume in silence and take discreet Instagram photos of the offending seat hoggers than ask the hoggers to move over. The so-called man-spreading epidemic is not a problem borne of male privilege. It’s one borne of timidity—and a passive-aggressive attitude aided and abetted by social media.

After all, why talk to a stranger—a potentially awkward affair—when you can yell into the digital ether at a million strangers, virtually risk-free? Why take a chance at eliciting stares and snickers from the corporeal beings in your midst, when you know that your grievance will be met with nothing but praise and support by your boosters on the Internet? Conservative pundits have labelled the man-spreading affair a case of politically correct feminism gone wild. But I think it’s more a case of stunted social graces. Despite social media’s reputation as the cyberbullying, revenge-porn hub of the universe, it is also, for many users, all gain and no pain. It is a narcissistic echo chamber, in which validation comes free of charge—or, almost free of charge; a seat on the subway is a small price to pay for the righteous indignation of hundreds of sympathetic strangers.

In light of this, it would be interesting to learn how often people take their Twitter and Facebook grievances not to their followers, but to their real-life foes. My guess is that the number is exceedingly low. Maybe we’re in need of a new word to complement “slacktivism,” the Internet-era portmanteau of “slacker” and “activism.” Call it “sloutrage,” a behaviour exhibited by people who are perfectly content to scream at the top of their lungs into a virtual room of millions, but cower at the mere thought of face-to-face confrontation with a single, splay-legged stranger.