Even by the standards of a pretty fcuking febrile 2018, this one's been a doozy. Things I have seen or heard about this week, and this is just a small selection - teachers should have guns, we're letting Assad getting away with (lots of murder), Jezzus is a spy, Jezzus isn't a spy, Darpa want to weaponise sea creatures, you can now buy a dildo which will order you a pizza, sex robots.

Jesus, the sex robots. I have to have a phonecall about them now, as it happens, so I'll leave you here with this week's hand-selected cornucopia of links, spilling ripely into your lap, pregnant with promise. Or at least you presume it's promise; then again, that swelling could be gases released by decay. Only one way to tell - BITE IN! Enjoy your latest tasty mouthful of Curios - IT'S LOVELY TO SEE YOU AGAIN!

Like humans, monkeys value information about sex and status, inviting the hypothesis that our susceptibility to these factors in advertising arises from shared, ancestral biological mechanisms that prioritize social information. To test this idea, we asked whether rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) show choice behavior that is similar to humans in response to sex and social status in advertising. Our results show that monkeys form preferences for brand logos repeatedly paired with images of macaque genitals and high status monkeys. Moreover, monkeys sustain preferences for these brand logos even though choosing them provided no tangible rewards, a finding that cannot be explained by a decision mechanism operating solely on material outcomes. Together, our results endorse the hypothesis that the power of sex and status in advertising emerges from the spontaneous engagement of shared, ancestral neural circuits that prioritize information useful for navigating the social environment. Finally, our results show that simple associative conditioning is sufficient to explain the formation of preferences for brand logos paired with sexual or status-based images.

OH GOD IT'S LATE AGAIN. I started doing this at 6am and now it's 1243 and I'm unshaven and filthy and CHRIST ALIVE I HAVE STUFF I AM MEANT TO BE DOING. Anyone would think that writing this rubbish is less of a hobby and more of a sort of overwhelming, life-consuming pointless timesink. 

So with no further ado, let's get ON with it - this week has once again been a rolling cavalcade of horrors, but here's hoping that you at least got a plastic rose out of it. Now lie back, close your eyes and await the familiar sensation of being coated in a thin film of webspaff that it'll take you all weekend to wash off - THIS IS WEB CURIOS!

Unilever, the multinational FMCG conglomerate behind fashionable brands including Omo, Lifebuoy, Badedas and Brut (is this right? - Ed) has announced that it will stop using and investing in digital platforms that run counter to an inclusive society.

While in graduate school in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I took a logic course from David Griffeath. The class was fun. Griffeath brought a playfulness and openness to problems. Much to my delight, about a decade later, I ran into him at a conference on traffic models. During a presentation on computational models of traffic jams, his hand went up. I wondered what Griffeath – a mathematical logician – would have to say about traffic jams. He did not disappoint. Without even a hint of excitement in his voice, he said: "If you are modelling a traffic jam, you should just keep track of the non-cars.’"

Italian fashion brand Diesel has gone one better after its Go with the flaw campaign of last year. As part of its new campaign, Go with the fake, it has created a store selling supposedly counterfeit goods in New York, which turned out to be selling the real thing.

I’ll make this short: The thing you’re doing now, reading prose on a screen, is going out of fashion.

We’re taking stock of the internet right now, with writers who cover the digital world cataloging some of the most consequential currents shaping it. If you probe those currents and look ahead to the coming year online, one truth becomes clear. The defining narrative of our online moment concerns the decline of text, and the exploding reach and power of audio and video.

THIS MULTIMEDIA INTERNET has been gaining on the text-based internet for years. But last year, the story accelerated sharply, and now audio and video are unstoppable. The most influential communicators online once worked on web pages and blogs. They’re now making podcasts, Netflix shows, propaganda memes, Instagram and YouTube channels, and apps like HQ Trivia.

Consider the most compelling digital innovations now emerging: the talking assistants that were the hit of the holidays, Apple’s face-reading phone, artificial intelligence to search photos or translate spoken language, and augmented reality — which inserts any digital image into a live view of your surroundings.

These advances are all about cameras, microphones, your voice, your ears and your eyes.

Together, they’re all sending us the same message: Welcome to the post-text future.

Read more (NYT)

HI EVERYONE! I have a confession to make - this week’s Curios, due to my having really screwed up my timings this week, was in part written in advance, hence you may miss the slightly breathless, race-against-time-oh-god-my-fingers-are-bleeding intensity of the usual offerings. Or, more likely, you may not. We will see.

Anyhow, I have places to go and people to see and thus NO TIME to ruminate on the CAR IN SPACE or the rest of the world’s madness and insanity. Instead I ask that you wish me luck and that you enjoy this week’s Curios which I lay before you now much like a cat might lay the freshly-gutted viscera of a small animal at your feet in hopeful supplication; hold your nose, hide your distaste and try at least to pretend to be grateful. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!

Late last year, the new Art Laboratory space in Berlin ran a conference and exhibition entitled Nonhuman Agents.  Focussed on contemporary philosophical approaches to anthropomorphism, topics included object-oriented ontology, human-nonhuman encounters, and the wider philosophical space of nonhuman agency.

We invited Heather Barnett, an artist and researcher at Central St. Martins, and Ljubjuana-based artist Saša Spačal to talk about these concepts and how they mix into the work that they exhibited during the event.

Media’s in cataclysmic shape these days — publishers closing big and small, newspapers going out of business, consolidation and layoffs everywhere — and it’s easy to blame technology.

There was a war that happened here — and media lost. Who won? Well, the truth is that no one did. The monopolies that Google and Facebook made money, sure — but now they face a steep backlash, social ridicule, oversight, and regulation. A pyrrhic victory, if you ask me.

Who started this war for attention? What was at the heart of it? Who should have ended it? The truth is that the lion’s share of responsibility for a fatally broken media industry lies with advertising, not technology. Let us think about it one step at a time.

Ad agencies had two roads before them, as the digital revolution dawned. One, go on selling the same old ads — nuisances, basically, that people had to put up with, in order to get to what they really valued — only in greater volume, because they would be cheaper. Two, innovate — and turn ads into things that people genuinely benefit from a little bit. Road one was an algorithmic, dehumanized road. Road two was the human, creative one.

Which road did the ad industry choose? The easy one, of course — the first one. It turned billboards into banners and glossy magazine ads into “microsites” and so on — at least at first. But nobody clicked. They tried more variations on the theme. Nothing worked. Ads just kept deflating in value — right down from thousands into pennies.

Read more (Medium)

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