It has been an interesting couple of weeks with the fallout that accompanied the departure of Donald Trump and on a more personal note, my return to work coming back from furlough. Find below some of the stories that caught my eye, with lively coverage of QAnon, some guarded optimism on climate change and insights on how British see their own social class among other stories.
The debacle that was the storming of the U.S. Senate has left many of us thinking how could this happen. Kevin Roose interviews “QAnon meme queen” Valerie Gilbert, giving a more personal take on how people can fall down this particular rabbit hole:
What attracts Ms. Gilbert and many other people to QAnon isn’t just the content of the conspiracy theory itself. It’s the community and sense of mission it provides. New QAnon believers are invited to chat rooms and group texts, and their posts are showered with likes and retweets. They make friends, and are told that they are not lonely Facebook addicts squinting at zoomed-in paparazzi photos, but patriots gathering “intel” for a righteous revolution.
David Gilbert on the other hand looks at how we can help family and friends step outside the maze of QAnon:
It’s not a one-time interaction process; it has to be incremental over time,” Hasan said. “That’s why family members and friends are the best agents to effect change over time, because they can also say, ‘Hey, I grew up with you, we used to play basketball together. Do you remember?’ That brings up warm feelings and your real self, not your cult self.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have begun to engage more actively with content moderation on their platforms – something which has came to the fore with the storming of the United States Senate recently. Alex Kantrowitz looks at how newer platforms to content moderation such as Substack, Spotify and Clubhouse are engaging with the subject:
Though the big social networks have been the main focus in the debate over how — and whether — online platforms should moderate user content, the fight is migrating toward smaller platforms devoid of rollicking social feeds. They include email providers like Substack, podcast platforms like Spotify (hello Joe Rogan), and nascent startups like Clubhouse.
The departure of Donald Trump and America’s rejoining of the Paris climate agreement has provides us with some more hope on the subject of climate change. David Wallace-Wells argues we have turned a corner, although we’re still in for bumpy ride:
All year, a planet transformed by the burning of carbon discharged what would have once been called portents of apocalypse. The people of that planet, as a whole, didn’t take much notice — distracted by the pandemic and trained, both by the accumulating toll of recent disasters and the ever-rising volume of climate alarm, to see what might once have looked like brutal ruptures in lived reality instead as logical developments in a known pattern. Our time has been so stuffed with disasters that it was hard to see the arrival of perhaps the unlikeliest prophecy of all: that the plague year may have marked, for climate change, a turning point, and for the better.
The growth of single person households and the relative decline of the traditional nuclear family norm is encouraging suburbs to rethink how they can attract and retain residents. June Williamson and Ellen Dunham-Jones talk about the phenomenon of “suburban retrofitting” in the US:
The suburbs largely sold themselves on the value of the terrific private realm that they present. The suburbs emphasize privacy. As these demographics are changing, there’s more and more people recognizing, “I’m lonely. I would like a little bit more of a public realm.”
Have you got an interesting product idea that you would like to turn into a viable business? Digits to Dollars provide a look at what’s involved in turning an idea into a viable business and it makes you realise why many people choose to stick to purely startups that are all code:
That being said, the realities of hardware can be daunting. Take the $3 million the company needs to get a product out the door, a similarly sized team could build a software application that can potentially grow much faster and they would still have a million dollars to do customer acquisition. Compounding this, the software would come with a recurring revenue stream. The trouble with hardware is that for the company to grow, they have to come out with the Smart Horn 2 and the Smart Horn 3, and go through all of the above again, and again.
Hardware has immense financial leverage, but the upfront costs and more crucially the time required are daunting.
Having spent much of my formative years growing up in New Zealand, I find it fascinating when academics provide a more critical look at that strange species known as the English. Sam Friedman, Dave O’Brien and Ian McDonald’s recent work on class identity definitely fits the bill:
Why do people from privileged class backgrounds often misidentify their origins as working class? We address this question by drawing on 175 interviews with those working in professional and managerial occupations, 36 of whom are from middle-class backgrounds but identify as working class or long-range upwardly mobile. Our findings indicate that this misidentification is rooted in a self-understanding built on particular ‘origin stories’ which act to downplay interviewees’ own, fairly privileged, upbringings and instead forge affinities to working-class extended family histories. Yet while this ‘intergenerational self’ partially reflects the lived experience of multigenerational upward mobility, it also acts – we argue – as a means of deflecting and obscuring class privilege. By positioning themselves as ascending from humble origins, we show how these interviewees are able to tell an upward story of career success ‘against the odds’ that simultaneously casts their progression as unusually meritocratically legitimate while erasing the structural privileges that have shaped key moments in their trajectory.
A friend who is really into film introduced me to Letterboxd as a way of tracking wanted and watched films. I was more than happy to move part of my digital life out of the clutches of Amazon (via IMDB) and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s a New Zealand startup that’s nourishing a new breed of film critic as Calum Marsh reports:
Although May said she is “first and foremost a fan of film,” and The unedited, anything-goes spirit of Letterboxd can be off-putting: D’Angelo confessed he finds it “maddening” when writers “use all lowercase” or refuse “to use normal grammar or punctuation,” which on the site is often. But the lack of rules or structure can also lead to some interesting, unconventional criticism, and offers a platform to voices that might otherwise not be heard. On Letterboxd, you can discover not only new movies to watch, but new critics to follow.