Nick Cave is showing us a new, gentler way to use the internet

Nick Cave performs

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Something curious is happening on the world wide web. Intimacy. And not of the more sordid kind with which you might commonly associate it.

In September the Australian songwriter Nick Cave told email subscribers of his plan to communicate outside “some of the more conventional ways of getting information across”. It followed the “Conversations with Nick Cave” events this year in the US and Ireland where, inspired by his 2017 world tour with the Bad Seeds, he explored a more direct relationship with his audience by just talking with them. The success of those gatherings has led to 10 more dates in Australia and New Zealand next year. Cave wanted to deepen further this engagement and so invited “questions or comments, observations or inspirations” from fans and he’d answer in a series of mail drops titled The Red Hand Files.

“You can ask me anything,” he told readers. “Like the Conversations with events there will be no moderator. This will be between you and me. Let’s see what happens.”

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How One Tweet About Nicki Minaj Spiraled Into Internet Chaos

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In the week since publicizing the acidic messages she received directly from Ms. Minaj, whose next album, “Queen,” is scheduled for release in August, Ms. Thompson said she has received thousands of vicious, derogatory missives across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, email and even her personal cellphone, calling her every variation of stupid and ugly, or worse. Some of the anonymous horde included pictures Ms. Thompson once posted on Instagram of her 4-year-old daughter, while others told her to kill herself. Ms. Thompson also lost her internship at an entertainment blog in the chaotic days that followed, and she is now considering seeing a therapist.

Such are the risks of the new media playing field, which may look level from afar, but still tilts toward the powerful. As social media has knocked down barriers between stars and their faithful (or their critics), direct communication among the uber-famous and practically anonymous has become the norm. But while mutual praise can cause both sides to feel warm and tingly, more charged interactions can leave those who have earned a star’s ire, like Ms. Thompson, reeling as eager followers take up the celebrity’s cause.

Oprah, Is That You? On Social Media, the Answer Is Often No.

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The issue of fake social media accounts masquerading as public figures is acute. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter teem with accounts that mimic ordinary people to spread propaganda or to be sold as followers to those who want to appear more influential. But millions of the phony profiles pose specifically as actors, singers, politicians and other well-known figures to broadcast falsehoods, cheat people out of money — or worse. Last year, Australian authorities charged a 42-year-old man with more than 900 child sex offenses for impersonating Justin Bieber on Facebook and other sites to solicit nude photos from minors.

The sheer volume of social media impostors poses a challenge to even the wealthiest celebrities. In a video last year, Oprah Winfrey warned her Twitter followers that “somebody out there is trying to scam you using my name and my avatar on social media, asking for money.”

The Social Media Genius of Keith Hernandez

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That was the most-watched video, Hernandez and his cat getting the morning newspaper from his driveway, viewed more than 260,000 times, or about six times the capacity of Citi Field.

“I never thought that would be such a big deal,” Hernandez said recently. “Especially looking like I just woke up. It was even on the 5 o’clock news in Arizona with the sportscaster ending his segment with that tape.”

Hernandez would not be the first to discover the power of social media — and the subculture of animal photos and videos on it — but nothing in his fabulous life before made it obvious the latest turn would be social media star. Or maybe these days, that is the obvious turn.

“Life’s paths,” he said with a shrug.

The Lonely Life of a Professional YouTuber

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Above the desk in Will’s bedroom in London there is a whiteboard listing all of the ambitions he had for 2017, with a huge black tick pasted across it. He wanted to get verified on Twitter (he still isn’t), he wanted to begin an intensive daily gym workout routine (he didn’t). But right at the top of the list, written in red marker pen, is “1 million subscribers”.

He spent every waking hour trying to make it happen, working 16-hour days in a state of miserable obsession. He achieved it just after 1.30AM on the 22nd of December, 2017, and tweeted: “WE DID IT! From the bottom of my heart – thank you. Never wanted something as much as I wanted this. Love the lot of you to fkn bits,” followed by a heart emoji. But the feeling disappeared within minutes. Then he re-opened Adobe Premiere Pro and got back to work. He had another video to upload in 48 hours, and it was already making him anxious.

He’s never really stopped since. He was up until 4.30AM this morning working on a video, and then he got up at 8AM to work some more before I arrived. He has bags under his eyes. His sleeping patterns blur. He pulls all-nighters to finish videos, and doesn’t really know how much it has affected him until he’s lying awake at 5.30AM two days later. In the winter, there were days when he only saw two hours of daylight. His flatmate is away a lot, and the most face-to-face contact he has during the week is with the woman who works in the coffee shop downstairs.

“Is that a joke, though?” I laugh. I want to give him the opportunity to tell me that was an exaggeration.

“No, I’m deadly serious. I’d consider her one of my better mates,” says Will.

 

How an A.I. ‘Cat-and-Mouse Game’ Generates Believable Fake Photos

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At a lab in Finland, a small team of Nvidia researchers recently built a system that can analyze thousands of (real) celebrity snapshots, recognize common patterns, and create new images that look much the same — but are still a little different. The system can also generate realistic images of horses, buses, bicycles, plants and many other common objects.

The project is part of a vast and varied effort to build technology that can automatically generate convincing images — or alter existing images in equally convincing ways. The hope is that this technology can significantly accelerate and improve the creation of computer interfaces, games, movies and other media, eventually allowing software to create realistic imagery in moments rather than the hours — if not days — it can now take human developers.

In recent years, thanks to a breed of algorithm that can learn tasks by analyzing vast amounts of data, companies like Google and Facebook have built systems that can recognize faces and common objects with an accuracy that rivals the human eye. Now, these and other companies, alongside many of the world’s top academic A.I. labs, are using similar methods to both recognize and create.

Nvidia’s images can’t match the resolution of images produced by a top-of-the-line camera, but when viewed on even the largest smartphones, they are sharp, detailed, and, in many cases, remarkably convincing.