Diálogo com Flavia Feitosa e Claudia Feitosa-Santana
“It may be decades before we understand the full impact of WikiLeaks and how it’s revolutionized the spread of information. So this film won’t claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgment. We want to explore the complexities and challenges of transparency in the information age and, we hope, enliven and enrich the conversations WikiLeaks has already provoked.” by Bill Condon the director of The Fifth Estate.
It was not approved by Julian Assange but it is worth watching. Why? It does not matter if Assange is paranoid or not, if he is manipulative or not, if he is weird or not, etc. What matters is the fact that he and his collaborators, including the author of the book in which the movie was inspired, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, changed the history of how information is released, making possible to expose tons of war crimes and government’s corruption. What matters is to expose how much we are manipulated with stupid stories just to distract us. What matters is to see that Democrats don’t differ much from Republicans. This is all that matters. Access to the truth that we have the right to. Access to know that real criminals are free while Assange cannot leave the Equator Embassy in London, Chelsea Manning (former Bradley Manning) was tortured by the US Government and will be in jail for 35 years, Edward Snowden is in Russia and we have no idea if he is safe or not, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and don’t feel safe to come home. This is what matters.
Note: Assange’s son and mother have moved and changed their names. They are not safe.
by Kate Epstein
The Snowden leaks and ensuing debates about our government, big data, and privacy have led to more Orwell allusions than I’ve heard in all of my (admittedly post-1984) life. It’s hard not to compare the constant surveillance of twenty-first-century America to the ubiquitous presence of Big Brother in the prescient 1949 novel. And that’s not to mention the doublethink involved in our never-ending war with an ever-shifting enemy to keep the homeland safe (war is peace), our ballooning prison population, up 790% since 1980 (freedom is slavery), and the current administration’s brutal crackdown on truth-tellers and public education (ignorance is strength).
But big data has another side, better predicted by Aldous Huxley’s very different 1932 dystopia Brave New World. In that version of the future, consumer desire, and not thought-policing, keeps the citizens of the World State in line in a year defined not by A.D. but by A.F., or “After Ford.” Sex-hormone chewing gum, the ecstasy-inducing drug soma (“one cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments,”) and recreational sex are all encouraged, as is attending the popular “feelies,” which combine sight, smell, and touch to create the ultimate entertainment experience.
In many ways we are living out some bizarre combination of 1984’s total surveillance and perception management and Brave New World’s post-Fordist corporatocracy, in which our actions are monitored and our perceptions managed just as much to shape our desires and then fulfill them as to root out dissidents and quash dissent. It is, after all, corporations like Booz Allen that conduct most of the government surveillance in our brave, deregulated, new world. Although one function of all that data is “security,” which is a lucrative enough industry on its own, an even more profitable function is the better understanding of consumer decision-making that can be assembled from the over 2.8 zettabytes of data that exists in the world.
Like the characters in Huxley’s dystopia (most of whom believed they lived in a utopia), we exist in an entertainment-saturated society. Much of that entertainment is delivered to us through one company: Netflix, which caters to approximately 30 million viewers and is more watched than cable television. I thought of feelies, and of Huxley’s broader vision, when I heard about Netflix’s new strategy for creating original content, employed for the first time with “House of Cards” this past February—one that involves using billions of data points to better understand what its viewers want to see.
Netflix, much like the NSA, knows a lot about us. Think about what your viewing patterns (what you watch, when you watch it, how often you pause it, etc.) expose about you. It was concern over privacy in video renting that brought about the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act, after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental records were published a newspaper. Congress was outraged that such personal information could be made public (consider it the “meta data” of the time), but the bill hasn’t been updated since, despite certain developments, including the invention of the Internet.
Consider just how much Netflix must know about you given that, according to GigaOm, it also collects geo-location data, device information, metadata from third-parties such as Nielson, and social media data from Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the more obvious “data events”: over 30 million plays per day, 4 million ratings, 3 million searches, and all pauses, fast-forwards, rewinds, and replays. (Nielson is the original market research company, founded in 1923 by Arthur Nielson who coined the term “market share.” It tracks global information on what consumers watch and buy for advertisers and corporate clients including Coca-Cola, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Walmart, CBS, NBC, News Corp., and Disney.)
This information has long dictated what content Netflix decides to license and recommend to different viewers, but “House of Cards” was the first time any company had ever used such data in the creative production process for a T.V. show. It started when Netflix noticed that there was significant overlap between the circles of viewers who watched movies starring Kevin Spacey and movies directed by David Fincher from beginning to end, and viewers who loved the original 1990 BBC miniseries “House of Cards.” Subscribers were shown one of ten different trailers for the series based on their consumer profiles. The producers also knew, from studying viewers’ watching patterns, that releasing all thirteen episodes at once would promote and reward the binge-like behavior demonstrated by their target audience. The new strategy paid off, with ten percent of Netflix subscribers watching the series within two weeks of its debut, and 80% of viewers rating it “good” or “exceptional.”
On the heels of its “House of Cards” success, Netflix premiered a new series, “Orange is the New Black,” on Thursday, July 11. Described as a “hilarious, heartbreaking, and critically acclaimed series based on the true story of Piper, an upper-class New Yorker who finds herself sentenced to fifteen months in a women’s correctional facility for a crime she committed long ago,” the show has indeed already garnered critical acclaim. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that it achieves a “new definition of television excellence.”
Just as retail companies like Target can know when a teenager is pregnant before her own parents through the mining of extensive data sets, entertainment producers across industries are becoming savvier about the potential of big data to transform the creative process, and to meet consumer demand in unprecedented ways. The idea of computer algorithms displaying what we would normally think of as uniquely human creativity is relatively new, but it’s rapidly spreading. Algorithms that sift through and crunch the exponentially-growing pool of data can now grade essays, compose music that imitates Bach so well many can’t tell the difference, and write news articles on events no journalist attended. (See “Can Creativity Be Automated?”)
“We know what people watch on Netflix and we’re able with a high degree of confidence to understand how big a likely audience is for a given show based on people’s viewing habits,” Netflix communications director Jonathan Friedland told Wired in 2012. “We want to continue to have something for everybody. But as time goes on, we get better at selecting what that something for everybody is that gets high engagement.”
Maybe it’s a stretch to compare this new entertainment environment to the feelies and obstacle golf of Brave New World, but it’s hard not to be a little skeptical of an industry so in tune with consumer preferences that it can use an algorithm to create The Ultimate Television Program. Despite the reality that we face crises of drastic proportion—environmentally, economically, socially, and politically—we are overwhelmingly marketed a very different reality. In over 3,000 advertisements a day, we are presented with a world in which the consumer is sovereign, freedom of choice reigns, and painless, constant pleasure is possible. Art and entertainment that fail to constantly please, however socially valuable it might be, represents a smaller and smaller proportion of what most Americans consume.
As technology advances, corporations are developing both more precise ways to monitor our behavior and smarter algorithms to crunch that data. Last year, Verizon applied for a patent for a type of monitoring technology that uses infrared cameras and microphones to track and collect consumer behavior—such as eating, exercising, reading, and sleeping—in the vicinity of a TV or mobile device. Embedded in cable boxes in living rooms across America, this Orwellian tool would presumably help companies get to know us just a little bit better. Marketing firms use eye tracking to measure how elements of advertisements are perceived, retained and recalled, and corporations use facial recognition on billboards’ hidden cameras to detect age and gender brackets to display targeted ads. Surely these developments raise many of the same privacy concerns as the U.S. intelligence community’s blanket spying programs. When did we agree to give all this personal data away for free? And do we even know it’s happening?
As founder and CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings told Businessweek, “We’re able to do more and more calculations and big-data statistics so that what we do is represent Netflix more and more as a place where you come for relaxation, escape.” Sounds almost as good as a hangover-free soma holiday.
“I want people to see the truth, because without it you cannot make informed decisions as a public” – by Bradley Manning.
“On June 3rd, after more than 3 years of pretrial confinement, military whistle-blower and democracy advocate Bradley Manning will go to trial for “Aiding the Enemy,” a capital offense that could open future whistle-blowers to the death penalty.
As many have pointed out, there is no basis for this charge in a free and just society, because only the public has benefited from his actions. The charge will set a dangerous precedent for the first amendment, opening whistle-blowers and those who help them to the death penalty.
Bradley’s actions have helped motivate democratic movements around the world, including the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. They have shed light on the undue influence corporations wield in international policy, US-supported torture in Iraq, and the true number of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The video that Bradley released from Iraq, “Collateral Murder,” is the most stark and obvious evidence of war crimes that the public has seen in our decade. None of those associated with the murder of unarmed civilians and journalists in the video have been brought to justice.
As of yet, the Obama administration and the military court have failed to produce any evidence whatsoever that Bradley’s leaks put the lives of service members of government officials at risk.
After his arrest Bradley suffered nearly a year of solitary confinement, resulting in protests by the UN, the ACLU, and Amnesty International. Though he has since plead guilty to the charges associated with releasing the files to the public, if Bradley is convicted of “Aiding the Enemy” he will spend the rest of his life behind bars and future whistle-blowers may face the same.
Join thousands of us already to say: I AM BRADLEY MANNING.”
Originally posted on I am Bradley Manning.
My stomach allowed me to read the biography of Steve Jobs until the pp. 158, and here are some of the reasons:
“The Apple raid on Xerox PARC is sometimes described as one of the biggest heists in the chronicles of industry. Jobs occasionally endorsed this view, whit pride. As he once said, “Picasso had a saying – ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ – and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”” (pp. 98)
“”We have to do something about your buddy Daniel (Kottke), Rod Holt said, and he suggested they each give him some of their own options. “Whatever you give him, I will match it”, said Holt. Replied Jobs, “Okay. I will give him zero.”(…) Wosniak, not surprisingly, had the opposite attitude. Before the shares went public, he decided to sell, at a very low price, two thoussand of his options to forty different midlevel employees” (like Daniel Kottke). (pp. 103)
“He was not particularly philantropic. (pp. 105) His biggest personal gift (was to his parents, Paul and Clara Jobs, to whom he gave about $750,00 worth of stock. They sold the same to pay off the mortgage on their home.” (pp. 106)
“To some people, calling it a reality distortion field was just a clever way to say that Jobs tended to lie.” (pp. 118)
“For all of his obnoxious behavior, Jobs also had the ability to install in his team an esprit of corps. After tearing people down, he would find ways of lift them up and make them feel that being a part of the Macintosh project was an amazing mission.” (pp. 142)
“As they proceed to visit other Japanese companies (…) they formally handed him little gifts, as was the custom, he often left them behind, and he never reciprocated with gifts of his own.” (pp. 146)
“The person they most wanted was Don Estridge, who had built IBM’s personal computer (…) now outselling Apple’s. Like Jobs, he was driven and inspiring, but unlike Jobs, he had the ability to allow other to think that his brilliant ideas were their own. Jobs flew to Boca Raton with the offer of $1 million salary and a $1 million bonus, but Estridge turned him down. He was not the type who would jump ship to join the enemy. He also enjoyed being part of the establishment, a member of the Navy instead of a pirate. He was discomfort by Job’s tales of ripping off the phone company. When asked where he worked, he loved to be able to answer “IBM”.” (pp. 149)
Maybe he was a mild bipolar with no conscience of its possibility. Also, people with so much power are mistaken labeled as eccentric or even, and worse, excused for everything:
“Sculley began to believe that Job’s mercurial personality and erratic treatment of people were rooted deep in his psychological makeup, perhaps the reflection of a mild bipolarity. There were big mood swings; sometimes he would be ecstatic, or other times he was depressed.” (pp. 157)
Knowing that he never got to be a better person or even close to be decent, I see no reason to keep reading this biography for the same reason I don’t feel like reading Picasso’s biography as well as one of Picasso’s biographer decided to not finish it…