Easy Access to Harlot’s Blog on Facebook

However debatable Facebook’s new layout is, it does allow you to access Harlot‘s Facebook blog app with great ease from your Facebook account. This, I believe, is worth noting for you dear compatriots of Harlot and Facebook.

First is first. If you haven’t already accessed and approved the app from your account, you can do so by clicking this url: http://apps.facebook.com/harlotblog/

The second step is to bookmark the application. This is how you do that:

1. Go to “Account” and click “Application Settings.”

2. Find “Harlot Blog” and click “Edit Settings.” (If you haven’t used the Harlot app in over a month, then you’ll have to change the top right drop down menu from “Recently Used” to Authorized” and find the “Harlot Blog” in that list.)

3. Choose “Bookmark” from the pop-up menu.

4. Click the box to check “Bookmark Harlot Blog.”

Yay! It’s bookmarked! Let’s return home.

Lastly, you know that column on the left of your home screen? The one with your profile picture, news feed, etc:

To see your bookmarks, click the “More” at the bottom of that list. This will show you the “Harlot Blog” app.

From now on, you’ll just have to click on that link to take you to Harlot‘s latest blog posts right from Facebook! Of course, we love it when you stop by the site or use your favorite feed reader too. Don’t be a stranger now, ya hear?

the “be stupid” ad campaign by diesel

Okay, so my research has, for a long time, focused on issues of intellectualism and anti-intellectualism in American culture.  And yes, that has resulted in a quick eye for all things anti-intellectual in my surroundings.  Still, I can’t be the only one stunned (and frustrated) by the new Diesel ad campaign: “Be Stupid.”  I noticed it first a few weeks back when getting off the D train at West 4th Street in Manhattan.  The long tunnel I had to walk through to surface just a few blocks from the campus of NYU was lined with Diesel’s new “Be Stupid” ads.  Here’s a taste of what I encountered…

Um, moving past the blatant anti-intellectual message that to be cool we should “be stupid,” there’s a whole lot here that’s problematic.   Women as sex objects perhaps?  The preference for balls over brains?  The image of “stupid” (i.e. cool) as a white middle-class youth we may presume has had the privilege of a good education?  Oh, and I just love that these ads (though I’m sure they appear elsewhere) line the subway tunnel right by NYU–one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

Call me “smart,” but I don’ think this ad campaign is as “stupid” (i.e. cool) as it thinks itself to be.

the ethos of 8 pt. font

I just opened a letter from one of my credit card companies and was immediately put on guard: something just seemed different.

Unlike many of my friends (but perhaps not those who consider themselves professional rhetoricians) I’m in the habit of actually reading credit card policy updates and other fine-print heavy documents, like contracts, nutritional notes–you know–“enlarged to show texture”-type stuff.  It certainly isn’t born out of some rigid sense of responsibility; it’s much more of a perverse delight in how much communication is swept under the proverbial rug.  (If you’d like to catch this bug, I suggest you spend sometime at Mouse Print, a site dedicated to exposing the fine-strings-attached in 8 pt. font.)

So when I read through this letter I was tickled (not sure if that’s the right word) to find out that part of its purpose was about, yep, fine print.

One of the requirements included in the “Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act,” which was signed into law by President Obama on May 22, 2009,  is a redesigning of billing statements.

One of the main changes?  Font size.  After years of years the fine print, this one looked almost childish with it massive, clumsy 12-pt font!

Although it’s not the language that is used in the legislation, the Obama administration has been promoting a rhetoric of “Plain Language in Plain Site.”

Credit card contract terms will be disclosed in language that consumers can see and understand so they can avoid unnecessary costs and manage their financesThese disclosures will help consumers make informed choices about using the right financial products and managing their own financial needs.

Something like this is very easy to make fun of when touted as “real reform,” but I’m in a generous mood and right now I’m of the persuasion that this is a step in the right direction.  For instance, who is really going to take the time to read through something like this and connect the dots:

Don’t those call-out boxes, bolded terms, and line-breaks just naturally guide your eye?!  They basically interpret the information for you!  Unless you’re a fine-print-freak (like moi), this statement probably goes right in the recycling bin.  (Which is probably why people are shocked to discovered their rates get jacked every year without them really being aware.)

Right now my class and I are finishing up a project on data visualization, so I’m thinking about how much our credit/debt-lifestyles would change with some powerful graphs that displayed the same information in compelling ways.  For example, what if you were given a graph that compared your payment to the amount of time it would take for you to get out of debt?  Take data like this …

… and render it visually persuasive?  What if we had info-graphic specialists that worked in conjunction with consumer protection agencies to present this information in such a way that actually made people cognizant of where their money was going?

Perhaps something like this, but even better?

(Dennis Campbell: Center for Plain Language Symposium)

What if we started to radically reimagine the use of info-graphics and data visualization to improve daily practice toward something more sane and sustainable?

  • What if every plastic bottle had a visually compelling graphic of how long it would stay in the earth (roughly 5,000 years) compared to how long most people usually use it (less than five minutes)?
  • What if every gas station pump had a bar chart that revealed peak-oil information?  Perhaps a timeline of when oil actually went into mainstream production for automobiles along side a graph that showed how much is left in the earth?  Maybe include how long it took to actually make the s**t?
  • What if trash bins had graphs that showed the amount of garbage we put in the earth?  Maybe even put a mirror next to it so the person could look themselves in the eye before they committed?  (Or what if trash cans were renamed to be more accurate: LANDFILL containers?)
  • What if instead of just the name of the country your shirt was stitched in it actually had a map with the country highlighted?  Perhaps put in a dotted line that showed how far it had to travel to be put on your back?  Or maybe it could have a mandatory comparison graphic that revealed how much the worker was paid to the cost of the shirt to the profit made through it?

And what if we didn’t wait for anyone else to start doing this? What if we took it upon ourselves to inform others through creative measures?  What if we bettered our communities through something as simple as a compelling graphic? What if we worked together to do it?

Google’s buzz-kill

Those of you who use gmail no doubt noticed this week’s launch of “Google Buzz,” another social networking project. I clicked in briefly, figured it was just another variation on Facebook, and went back to my emailing.

But it turns out plenty of people reacted much more strongly — and for good reasons. What I didn’t look too closely at was an immense consolidation and public-ization of Google-related activities: “Your Google Reader shared items, Picasa Web public albums, and Google Chat status messages will automatically appear as posts in Buzz.” And I was automatically linked in — “14 people are already following you.” Creeeeepy.

Google’s ready-made network revealed common email/chat contacts, leading to all kinds of privacy breaches. And in this case, the stakes are far higher than the romantic escapades common to Facebookers. In today’s NYT coverage, Miguel Helft points to the difference:

E-mail, it turns out, can hold many secrets, from the names of personal physicians and illicit lovers to the identities of whistle-blowers and antigovernment activists. And Google, so recently a hero to many people for threatening to leave China after hacking attempts against the Gmail accounts of human rights activists, now finds itself being pilloried as a clumsy violator of privacy.

As Evgeny Morozov wrote in a blog post for Foreign Policy, “If I were working for the Iranian or the Chinese government, I would immediately dispatch my Internet geek squads to check on Google Buzz accounts for political activists and see if they have any connections that were previously unknown to the government.”

The key point here, of course, is that despite the publicity trends online, people still think of email as a private realm — and Google ripped down that curtain, leaving people feeling exposed and vulnerable. And they’re pissed.

Google is known for releasing new products before they are fully ready and then improving them over time. But its decision to do so with Buzz, coupled with its introduction to all 176 million Gmail users by default, appears to have backfired.

“It was a terrible mistake,” said Danny Sullivan, a specialist on Google and editor of SearchEngineLand, an industry blog. “I don’t think people expected that Google would show the world who you are connected with. And if there was a way to opt out, it was really easy to miss.”

It seems that Google was just so darn excited — and expecting its users to be same — about the idea of enabling more seamless access and interaction to think much about the consequences… which is just funny, consider how astutely my undergrads note the risks. You’d think the Google team could keep up with our “intro to digital media” conversations.

Super bowl backlash

We all know this year’s Superbowl commercials displayed a less-than-shocking theme of masculinity under attack by women/harpies–and men’s resulting desperate need to bolster it through muscle cars and micro-televisions:

Does anyone else find it kind of heartening that even the ad-men think that such versions of gender roles are making their “last stand” — and acknowledging implicitly that they’ll fall like General Custer? (Of course, they’re probably relying on another problematic subtext: it’s just a battle lost, not the war. Though that might be giving them too much credit for self-consciousness.)

It’s been great fun to have the rampant sexism in advertising called out in the mainstream media (Slate, the Times, even USA Today— especially in light of studies suggesting how unsuccessful these ads were. And I’m ready to enjoy the potential for wittier and far cheaper responses:

I dig certain parts of this: “I will make $.75 for every dollar you make doing the same job…I will catch you staring at my breasts but pretend not to notice…” In some ways, I can see that it’s pointing out how the assumptions behind these duties are equally ridiculous. Those accepted by the men in the Dodge commercial are, for the most part, basic measures of maturity (“I will shave… I will be at work… I will sit through meetings”) undertaken not as a man but as reluctant partner (“I will take your calls”?!). But the spoof’s duties suggest that what women do for the sake of their men is not about basic hygiene, but self-subjugation: “I will diet, Botox, and wax–everything… I will allow you to cheat on me with younger women”?! Hmmm. If this spoof is looking to encourage identification among women, then depending on such assumed “duties” is disconcerting. And if it’s trying to challenge the sexism of the original, isn’t falling back on superficial standards counterproductive?

I’m not sure. I’m happy to see some talk-back to those ads, and can only hope we see more discussion as a result.

In the meantime, I leave you with SNL’s hilarious take on the powers of a Dodge to recuperate the male ego:

Supreme Court Justice League!

Oh, my goodness. You must check out this site: http://fantasyscotus.net/

It’s Supreme Court Fantasy League–you know, kinda like fantasy football, but with the supreme court. My favorite thing on that site, would have to be on the rules page. And I quote:

NB. Because this is the inaugural season of FantasySCOTUS.net, the rules may be subject to change.  But as avid followers of the Supreme Court, you should have no problem with rules that are modified frequently.

Ha. It makes me chuckle. It also encourages me that some people care so much about the Supreme Court that they’d make a game out of it. I wonder if students would get into this. It says it’s free for students and teachers. I’m sure it would serve as a good exercise for someone.

via Blogora

Digital Rejection or Connection

CNN Tech brings us “Defriending can bruise your ‘digital ego,'” which is all about just that. A lovely, succinct title, don’t you think? With much of our communication moving to digital formats, our interactions seem to take on varying moves of importance. A coworker who talks to you on the job, but who refuses to accept a friend request can be squishy territory. There’s no question that these digital devices change the way we communicate, but it makes me wonder if it changes the nature of our relationships.

A local magazine, UWeekly, wrote an article recently about “Text Dating–” the phenomenon of getting to know a person through text first before having much real world interaction with them (which I find kinda funny–most people would have already met in person in order to exchange numbers, no?). According to the article, this makes it more difficult for people to know how they should act once they are in real world contact. Ain’t that interesting?

I’ve often wondered if all this texting is similar to old time letters in any way. A fair amount of letters that were written during the civil war, for example, had such tenderness. I mean, yeah, they were soldiers who talked about people dying too, but the feeling they displayed for the recipient of the letter was heartfelt. Here’s the thing, though. They almost had to be forward in their feelings, because there weren’t other forms of accessible communication–they couldn’t just call, text, email, facebook, etc. Being forthright in their written communication was necessary to maintaining their relationships. Texting is not always a forthright thing (and sometimes it’s too forthright). So, attempting to create a relationship based on digital communication can be a hard thing to do. Perhaps it’s because it hasn’t been done to the same degree that other forms have. Maybe there is a reason why we choose that form–it’s distancing, but still revealing.

By choosing this digital form, it’s as if people learn a lot of facts about each other–schools attended, parties attended, favorite books, etc–but without knowing a person’s soul. Oooo, deep moment for today, right? But really, can you really get to know a person via the digital? If you can’t interact with that person and see how they shut the fridge door with their foot or chew on their pen caps, then can you be clued in to all that necessary non-verbal communication? Plus, do these digital digs give us the opportunity to always present our best (or worse) selves? Does that mean that a person feels connected to another or to the representation that that person gives?

Technology has a significance in our lives. When someone defriends you, it stings. It would still sting to the most selfless person ever, but where is the line between using technology as a tool for staying connected and expecting technology to do all the work for us?