"I envisioned This Land Is Mine as the last scene of my potential–possible–maybe– feature film, Seder–Masochism, but it's the first (and so far only) scene I've animated. As the Bible says, 'So the last will be first, and the first will be last.'"
Fig.1 Nina Paley (2012) "This Land Is Mine".
"Mark Zuckerberg, a journalist was asking him a question about the news feed. And the journalist was asking him, 'Why is this so important?' And Zuckerberg said, 'A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.' And I want to talk about what a Web based on that idea of relevance might look like.
So when I was growing up in a really rural area in Maine, the Internet meant something very different to me. It meant a connection to the world. It meant something that would connect us all together. And I was sure that it was going to be great for democracy and for our society. But there's this shift in how information is flowing online, and it's invisible. And if we don't pay attention to it, it could be a real problem. So I first noticed this in a place I spend a lot of time –– my Facebook page. I'm progressive, politically –– big surprise –– but I've always gone out of my way to meet conservatives. I like hearing what they're thinking about; I like seeing what they link to; I like learning a thing or two. And so I was surprised when I noticed one day that the conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed. And what it turned out was going on was that Facebook was looking at which links I clicked on, and it was noticing that, actually, I was clicking more on my liberal friends' links than on my conservative friends' links. And without consulting me about it, it had edited them out. They disappeared.
So Facebook isn't the only place that's doing this kind of invisible, algorithmic editing of the Web. Google's doing it too. If I search for something, and you search for something, even right now at the very same time, we may get very different search results. Even if you're logged out, one engineer told me, there are 57 signals that Google looks at –– everything from what kind of computer you're on to what kind of browser you're using to where you're located –– that it uses to personally tailor your query results. Think about it for a second: there is no standard Google anymore. And you know, the funny thing about this is that it's hard to see. You can't see how different your search results are from anyone else's.
But a couple of weeks ago, I asked a bunch of friends to Google 'Egypt' and to send me screen shots of what they got. So here's my friend Scott's screen shot. And here's my friend Daniel's screen shot. When you put them side–by–side, you don't even have to read the links to see how different these two pages are. But when you do read the links, it's really quite remarkable. Daniel didn't get anything about the protests in Egypt at all in his first page of Google results. Scott's results were full of them. And this was the big story of the day at that time. That's how different these results are becoming.
So it's not just Google and Facebook either. This is something that's sweeping the Web. There are a whole host of companies that are doing this kind of personalization. Yahoo News, the biggest news site on the Internet, is now personalized –– different people get different things. Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New York Times –– all flirting with personalization in various ways. And this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see. As Eric Schmidt said, 'It will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them.'
So I do think this is a problem. And I think, if you take all of these filters together, you take all these algorithms, you get what I call a filter bubble. And your filter bubble is your own personal unique universe of information that you live in online. And what's in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But the thing is that you don't decide what gets in. And more importantly, you don't actually see what gets edited out. So one of the problems with the filter bubble was discovered by some researchers at Netflix. And they were looking at the Netflix queues, and they noticed something kind of funny that a lot of us probably have noticed, which is there are some movies that just sort of zip right up and out to our houses. They enter the queue, they just zip right out. So 'Iron Man' zips right out, and 'Waiting for Superman' can wait for a really long time.
What they discovered was that in our Netflix queues there's this epic struggle going on between our future aspirational selves and our more impulsive present selves. You know we all want to be someone who has watched 'Rashomon,' but right now we want to watch 'Ace Ventura' for the fourth time. (Laughter) So the best editing gives us a bit of both. It gives us a little bit of Justin Bieber and a little bit of Afghanistan. It gives us some information vegetables, it gives us some information dessert. And the challenge with these kinds of algorithmic filters, these personalized filters, is that, because they're mainly looking at what you click on first, it can throw off that balance. And instead of a balanced information diet, you can end up surrounded by information junk food.
What this suggests is actually that we may have the story about the Internet wrong. In a broadcast society –– this is how the founding mythology goes –– in a broadcast society, there were these gatekeepers, the editors, and they controlled the flows of information. And along came the Internet and it swept them out of the way, and it allowed all of us to connect together, and it was awesome. But that's not actually what's happening right now. What we're seeing is more of a passing of the torch from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones. And the thing is that the algorithms don't yet have the kind of embedded ethics that the editors did. So if algorithms are going to curate the world for us, if they're going to decide what we get to see and what we don't get to see, then we need to make sure that they're not just keyed to relevance. We need to make sure that they also show us things that are uncomfortable or challenging or important –– this is what TED does –– other points of view.
And the thing is we've actually been here before as a society. In 1915, it's not like newspapers were sweating a lot about their civic responsibilities. Then people noticed that they were doing something really important. That, in fact, you couldn't have a functioning democracy if citizens didn't get a good flow of information. That the newspapers were critical, because they were acting as the filter, and then journalistic ethics developed. It wasn't perfect, but it got us through the last century. And so now, we're kind of back in 1915 on the Web. And we need the new gatekeepers to encode that kind of responsibility into the code that they're writing.
I know that there are a lot of people here from Facebook and from Google –– Larry and Sergey –– people who have helped build the Web as it is, and I'm grateful for that. But we really need you to make sure that these algorithms have encoded in them a sense of the public life, a sense of civic responsibility. We need you to make sure that they're transparent enough that we can see what the rules are that determine what gets through our filters. And we need you to give us some control, so that we can decide what gets through and what doesn't. Because I think we really need the Internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together. We need it to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives. And it's not going to do that if it leaves us all isolated in a Web of one."
(Eli Pariser, TED.com)
Fig.1 recorded at TED2011, March 2011, in Long Beach, CA. duration: 9:05
"Well a couple of years ago, a friend of mine emailed me a link, a YouTube link, and said, 'You have got to see this.' And it was this young woman who had posted a fan video to me, singing the soprano line to a piece of mine called 'Sleep.'
(Video) Britlin Losee: Hi Mr. Eric Whitacre. My name is Britlin Losee, and this is a video that I'd like to make for you. Here's me singing 'Sleep.' I'm a little nervous, just to let you know. ♫ If there are noises ♫ ♫ in the night ♫
Eric Whitacre: I was thunderstruck. Britlin was so innocent and so sweet, and her voice was so pure. And I even loved seeing behind her. I could see the little teddy bear sitting on the piano behind her in her room. Such an intimate video.
And I had this idea: if I could get 50 people to all do this same thing, sing their parts –– soprano, alto, tenor and bass –– wherever they were in the world, post their videos to YouTube, we could cut it all together and create a virtual choir. So I wrote on my blog, 'OMG OMG.' I actually wrote, 'OMG,' hopefully for the last time in public ever. (Laughter) And I sent out this call to singers. And I made free the download of the music to a piece that I had written in the year 2000 called 'Lux Aurumque', which means 'light and gold.' And low and behold, people started uploading their videos.
Now I should say, before that, what I did is I posted a conductor track of myself conducting. And it's in complete silence when I filmed it, because I was only hearing the music in my head, imagining the choir that would one day come to be. Afterwards, I played a piano track underneath so that the singers would have something to listen to. And then as the videos started to come in ...
(Singing) This is Cheryl Ang from Singapore.
(Singing) This is Evangelina Etienne
(Singing) from Massachusetts.
(Singing) Stephen Hanson from Sweden.
(Singing) This is Jamal Walker from Dallas, Texas.
There was even a little soprano solo in the piece, and so I had auditions. And a number of sopranos uploaded their parts. I was told later, and also by lots of singers who were involved in this, that they sometimes recorded 50 or 60 different takes until they got just the right take –– they uploaded it. Here's our winner of the soprano solo. This is Melody Myers from Tennessee. (Singing) I love the little smile she does right over the top of the note –– like, 'No problem, everything's fine.'
And from the crowd, emerged this young man, Scott Haines. And he said, 'Listen, this is the project I've been looking for my whole life. I'd like to be the person to edit this all together.' I said, 'Thank you, Scott. I'm so glad that you found me.' And Scott aggregated all of the videos. He scrubbed the audio. He made sure everything lined up. And then we posted this video to YouTube about a year and a half ago. This is 'Lux Aurumque' sung by the Virtual Choir.
I'll stop it there in the interest of time. (Applause)
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. So there's more. There's more. Thank you so much.
And I had the same reaction you did. I actually was moved to tears when I first saw it. I just couldn't believe the poetry of all of it –– these souls all on their own desert island, sending electronic messages in bottles to each other. And the video went viral. We had a million hits in the first month and got a lot of attention for it. And because of that, then a lot of singers started saying, 'All right, what's Virtual Choir 2.0?' And so I decided for Virtual Choir 2.0 that I would choose the same piece that Britlin was singing, 'Sleep', which is another work that I wrote in the year 2000 –– poetry by my dear friend Charles Anthony Silvestri. And again, I posted a conductor video, and we started accepting submissions. This time we got some more mature members. (Singing) And some younger members.
(Video) Soprano: ♫ Upon my pillow ♫ ♫ Safe in bed ♫ EW: That's Georgie from England. She's only nine. Isn't that the sweetest thing you've ever seen?
Someone did all eight videos –– a bass even singing the soprano parts. This is Beau Awtin. (Video) Beau Awtin: ♫ Safe in bed ♫
EW: And our goal –– it was sort of an arbitrary goal –– there was an MTV video where they all sang 'Lollipop' and they got people from all over the world to just sing that little melody. And there were 900 people involved in that. So I told the singers, 'That's our goal. That's the number for us to beat.' And we just closed submissions January 10th, and our final tally was 2,051 videos from 58 different countries. Thank you. (Applause) From Malta, Madagascar, Thailand, Vietnam, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, as far north as Alaska and as far south as New Zealand.
And we also put a page on Facebook for the singers to upload their testimonials, what it was like for them, their experience singing it. And I've just chosen a few of them here. 'My sister and I used to sing in choirs together constantly. Now she's an airman in the air force constantly traveling. It's so wonderful to sing together again!' I love the idea that she's singing with her sister. 'Aside from beautiful music, it's great just to know I'm part of a a worldwide community of people I never met before, but who are connected anyway.' And my personal favorite, 'When I told my husband that I was going to be a part of this, he told me that I did not have the voice for it.' Yeah, I'm sure a lot of you have heard that too. Me too. 'It hurt so much, and I shed some tears, but something inside of me wanted to do this despite his words. It is a dream come true to be part of this choir, as I've never been part of one. When I placed a marker on the Google Earth Map, I had to go with the nearest city, which is about 400 miles away from where I live. As I am in the Great Alaskan Bush, satellite is my connection to the world.'
So two things struck me deeply about this. The first is that human beings will go to any lengths necessary to find and connect with each other. It doesn't matter the technology. And the second is that people seem to be experiencing an actual connection. It wasn't a virtual choir. There are people now online that are friends; they've never met. But, I know myself too, I feel this virtual esprit de corps, if you will, with all of them. I feel a closeness to this choir –– almost like a family.
What I'd like to close with then today is the first look at 'Sleep' by Virtual Choir 2.0. This will be a premier today. We're not finished with the video yet. You can imagine, with 2,000 synchronized YouTube videos, the render time is just atrocious. But we do have the first three minutes. And it's a tremendous honor for me to be able to show it to you here first. You're the very first people to see this. This is 'Sleep,' the Virtual Choir. ...
Eric Whitacre: Thank you very, very much. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you."
(TED Talks, 2011)
Fig.1 'Eric Whitacre: A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong', filmed March 2011, posted April 2011
Fig.2 'Lux Aurumque'
Fig.3 Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 2.0, 'Sleep'
"There are few things journalists like to discuss more than, well, themselves and the long–term prospects for their industry. How long will print newspapers survive? Are news aggregation sites the future? Or are online paywalls – such as the one the New York Times just launched – the way to go? As media organizations plot their future, it's worth discarding some misconceptions about what it will take to keep the press from becoming yesterday's news.
1. The traditional news media are losing their audience.
Many predicted that the rise of the Internet and online publishing meant that mainstream media organizations would lose their readers and viewers, with technology breaking their oligarchic control over news. But that's not the overall picture.
Yes, people are migrating online. In 2010, the Internet passed newspapers for the first time as the platform where Americans 'regularly' get news, according to survey data from the Pew Research Center. Forty–six percent of adults say they go online for news at least three times a week, as opposed to 40 percent who read newspapers that often. Only local television news is a more popular destination, at 50 percent.
But online news consumers are heading primarily to traditional sources. Of the 25 most popular news Web sites in the United States, for instance, all but two are 'legacy' media sources, such as the New York Times or CNN, or aggregators of traditional media, such as Yahoo or Google News. Of the roughly 200 news sites with the highest traffic, 81 percent are traditional media or aggregators of it. And some old media are seeing their overall audience – in print and on the Web – grow.
The crisis facing traditional media is about revenue, not audience. And in that crisis, newspapers have been hardest hit: Ad revenue for U.S. newspapers fell 48 percent from 2006 to 2010.
2. Online news will be fine as soon as the advertising revenue catches up.
Such hopes are misplaced. In 2010, Web advertising in the United States surpassed print advertising for the first time, reaching $26 billion. But only a small fraction of that, perhaps less than a fifth, went to news organizations. The largest share, roughly half, went to search engines, primarily Google. The newspaper industry illustrates the problem. Even though about half the audience may now be accessing papers online, the newspaper industry took in $22.8 billion last year in print ad revenue but only $3 billion in Web–based revenue.
Journalism thrived in decades past because news media were the primary means by which industry reached customers. In the new media landscape, there are many ways to reach the audience, and news represents only a small share.
3. Content will always be king.
The syllogism that helped journalism prosper in the 20th century was simple: Produce the journalism (or 'content') that people want, and you will succeed. But that may no longer be enough.
The key to media in the 21st century may be who has the most knowledge of audience behavior, not who produces the most popular content. Understanding what sites people visit, what content they view, what products they buy and even their geographic coordinates will allow advertisers to better target individual consumers. And more of that knowledge will reside with technology companies than with content producers.
Google, for instance, will know much more about each user than will the proprietor of any one news site. It can track users' online behavior through its Droid software on mobile phones, its Google Chrome Web browser, its search engine and its new tablet software.
The ability to target users is why Apple wants to control the audience data that goes through the iPad. And the company that may come to know the most about you is Facebook, with which users freely share what they like, where they go and who their friends are.
4. Newspapers around the world are on the decline.
Actually, print circulation worldwide was up more than 5 percent in the past five years, and the number of newspapers is growing. In general, print media are thriving in the developing world and suffering in rich nations. Print newspaper ad revenue, for instance, rose by 13 percent in India and by 10 percentin Egypt and Lebanon in the last year for which data is available. But it fell by 8 percent in France and 20 percent in Japan.
The forces tied to a thriving print newspaper industry include growing literacy, expanding population, economic development and low broadband penetration. In India, for example, the population is growing and becoming more literate, but a substantial portion is not yet online.
By and large, American newspapers are suffering the most. Roughly 75 percent of their revenue comes from advertising, vs. 30 percent or 40 percent in many other countries, where papers live and die by circulation. That means the collapse of advertising is not hitting papers elsewhere as hard as it is hitting them here. It also suggests that the need to charge for online access may be even more important abroad.
5. The solution is to focus on local news.
Going 'hyperlocal' was the war cry of Wall Street to the news industry five years ago. The reasoning was simple: In the Internet age, when users can access content from anywhere, it didn't make sense for local operations to compete with the big national news providers.
The problem is that hyperlocal content, by definition, has limited appeal. To amass an audience large enough to generate significant ad revenue, you have to produce a large volume of content from different places, and that is expensive. On top of that, many hyperlocal advertisers are not yet online, limiting the ad dollars.
Now we are entering what might be called Hyperlocal 2.0, and the market is still up for grabs. Google, which garners two–thirds of all search advertising dollars nationally, doesn't exert similar control over local advertising. Locally, display ads – all those banners and pop–ups – are a bigger share of the market than search ads.
But how to produce local content remains a mystery. Can you put paywalls around it? Can you build a 'pro–am' model, in which professional journalists work with low–paid amateurs to produce a comprehensive report? Or will the winner be something like AOL's Patch, in which hundreds of hyperlocal sites are owned by a single company that can connect those readers with major advertisers?
So far, no one has really cracked the code for producing profitable local news online.
Tom Rosenstiel is director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. He is the co–author, with Bill Kovach, of 'Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload.'"
(Tom Rosenstiel, 7 April 2011, The Washington Post)
"the zoological garden, like the botanical garden emerges from Assyrian hunting parks (c1350 BC) in fiction from the mythological topos of Paradise (pairidaeza) shared yet differently interpreted by both Islam and Christianity. Whilst there is evidence of collections of animals in Egyptian and Chinese gardens, it is the Garden of Eden, which underpins modern western zoological and botanic gardens. The first modern botanic garden is attributed to the Padua University (1543), although it can be traced to Aristotle's Lyceum. The inclusion of collections of animals in gardens for mere spectacle can be most illustriously ascribed to the Romans who developed aviaries and menageries but the seminal menagerie design was that of Le Vau for Louis 14th at Versailles in 1663."
Fig.1. Jeremy @ picasaweb, 1 August 2008, 'Cassowary at Edinburgh Zoo', Scotland.