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First POST: Polarization

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, August 5 2014


  • danah boyd shares her frustration with the Israel-Gaza war, and notes how social media seems to be making it worse: "Far from engendering enlightenment or enabling civil conversation, I’m watching personalization allow people to revel in their intolerant ghettos, oblivious to how one-sided their perspective has become."

  • Her partner, Gilad Lotan, who happens to be Israeli in addition to being a brilliant data scientist for SocialFlow, literally maps the social media data illustrating that point in this post on Medium, and explains how online platforms' algorithmic recommendation engines reinforce personalization into polarization.

  • The co-founders of Brigade, Sean Parker's latest attempt to hack politics, tell the Washington Post's Nancy Scola that their still-in-stealth-mode effort to use the Internet to uplift Americans' civic engagement "will be a stand-alone social network along the lines of the special-purpose site LinkedIn."

  • Brigade's James Windon and Matt Mahan also offer a few mea culpas, admitting that they haven't given enough credit to precursors like PopVox, Code for America and the Sunlight Foundation. Says Windon, ""The companies that have been built in the last 10 years without the venture capital that an organization like ours might have access to and without the deep technology base that we have access to have done incredible things, and we probably could have gone more out of our way to indicate that."

  • Meanwhile, in the non-vaporware part of the civic tech ecosystem: Seth Flaxman of make-it-easier-to-register TurboVote announces that they have a new partner: the entire 38-college Florida state university system.

  • On Medium, RFID meets EPCOT in Ian Bogost's delightful deconstruction of the "MagicBand" data tracker that visitors to Disney World's Magic Kingdom are wearing to speed their fantasy vacation.

  • David Carr visits Glenn Greenwald in his mountain lair outside Rio and notices that he has a lot of dogs.

  • Belated note: Facebook's new API will stop allowing third-party apps from getting access to users' friends lists, which Colin Delany points out in Campaigns and Elections will make it harder for political vendors to mine the social web for voter contacts.