Bad phones, lost Internets, Sutro Tower, bell hooks and John Perry Barlow, the Harvard sentences

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

1. In praise of the shitphone, by John Hermann, who is on a tear.

"If shitphones were ready for everyone, they wouldn’t be shitphones. As devices, they’re nearly there; as buying decisions, they’re still exotic. They represent a compromise and a risk. They are classic shitworld. Still, smartphone shitworld is already encroaching on brands, and smartphone brandworld is ceding to shit. Major carriers offer cheaper devices, though many of them are older devices from familiar brands; ZTE and Alcatel sell affordable smartphones through pay-as-you-go carriers Cricket and Boost Mobile as well as T-Mobile. More and more casual phone-buyers — people who either can’t or don’t want to pay $80+ a month for a traditional contract, or who don’t have good credit, or who don’t care to enter into a multi-year contract just to Snapchat with their friends — could be tempted to pair such options with cheaper prepaid plans, pushing the industry toward some kind of populist tipping point."


2. Interesting thoughts on archives, politics, what will be saved, and what will be lost.

"Jasbir Puar uses the term 'trace body' to describe a relationship between the physical and digital realms: When physical bodies cross through checkpoints, so do trace bodies. Both are subject to scrutiny and examination. Archived data guides the scrutiny, feeds the algorithms that rank and identify the outliers and system errors. Like physical bodies, trace bodies can be profiled, targeted or surveilled using categorical metadata: purchasing records, physical whereabouts, or the ethnic origins of one’s last name. Data collectors are building their own archives, and building schemas for surveillance, tracking, and segmentation that shape our everyday existence. We feed the algorithms by response."


3. has been updated. In case you wanted to know about all the antennae clinging to its mammoth skeleton.

"The Sutro Tower digital antennas are located at the top of the transmission tower.  Two auxiliary antennas serving 5 stations each are installed between 380 and 560 feet up the tower. A third back-up antenna for KGO is at the 180-foot level. As part of the permit for installing the digital antennas, Sutro Tower, Inc., reinforced the tower to accommodate the new equipment and to upgrade the structure to current wind and seismic codes for essential facilities. Outmoded analog antennas at the top of the tower were removed in 2009."

4. bell hooks talks with John Perry Barlow in a Buddhist magazine in 1995.

"bell hooks: One of the things I think about is what it means to be communicating when you’re not aware of the specifics of who people are. You can’t respond to their looks, which are so central to the mechanisms of domination in our society. We judge on the basis of what somebody looks like, skin color, whether we think they’re beautiful or not. That space on the Internet allows you to converse with somebody with none of those things involved.
John Perry Barlow: There’s something problematic here, and I go back and forth on it all the time. I want to have a cyberspace that has prana in it. I want to have a cyberspace where there’s room for the breath and the spirit.
bell hooks: Well, that’s what I haven’t found, Barlow.


John Perry Barlow: Well, I haven’t either. The central question in my life at the moment is whether or not it’s possible to have it there."

5. The incantations whispered into our audio communication systems.

"Volunteers were subjected to hours of noise as scientists tested military communications systems. Out of this came the Harvard sentences, a set of standardized phrases still widely used to test everything from cellphones to VoIP. Few know about the sentences themselves other than speech scientists and audio engineers, but the technologies they've helped build are everywhere. Verizon's real-life 'Can you hear me now?' guy uses them. Speech-to-text software engineers use them. Speech scientists studying cochlear implants say them out loud all the time."


On Fusion: It was Apple Watch day (but you know that). I looked at whether the heart-rate sensor will work equally well for all skin tones, Kevin looked at class and the watch, Kashmir took on privacy, and the whole crew live blogged together, featuring emoji reax from Cara. We survived.

Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip:

disc. This is the standard spelling for the anatomical term (but not the botanical) and some dictionaries give it first for the phonograph record. But see DISK.


The Credits

1. 2. 3. 4. / @lifewinning 5.


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Cyberspace That Has Prana in It

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