How Facebook – the Wal-Mart of the internet – dismantled online subcultures

Facebook wants you to spend more time on Facebook, so why should they promote links pointing to content that exists outside of Facebook? Facebook’s approach to content control means that communities that use Facebook have to play by Facebook’s rules. Users have limited ability to communicate with Facebook’s administrators when there’s a problem, as we’ve seen when drag queens demanded changes to the “real name” policy, when nursing mothers rejected censorship…

As CRT Supplies Vanish the Classic Arcade Machine is Virtually Dead

If you understand the environment in which medieval scholars created and used books, you can better appreciate why medieval books look and function the way they do. Understanding the cultural impact of computers requires us to study the development of both hardware and technology. Playing a text adventure game on an iOS device is convenient, but does not capture the physicality of the original games, with their instruction manuals (often…

First They Got Sick, Then They Moved Into a Virtual Utopia

When my son was about five, I sat him on my lap and let him explore the world of Riven (the sequel to the point-and-click adventure Myst). I remember feeling his back muscles tense up when he approached a cave and the music got creepy. “Can I go in?” he asked. I told him he could do whatever he wanted. He turned to look at me, as if to assess…

Hacking the Attention Economy

The techniques that are unfolding are hard to manage and combat. Some of them look like harassment, prompting people to self-censor out of fear. Others look like “fake news”, highlighting the messiness surrounding bias, misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda. There is hate speech that is explicit, but there’s also suggestive content that prompts people to frame the world in particular ways. Dog whistle politics have emerged in a new form of…

York Corpus Christi Play Simulator Screencast (PSim 2.1; D.G. Jerz)

Another digital artifact lives. The York Corpus Christi Pageant Simulator was my first serious accomplishment in digital humanities. After I learned all the medieval drama content from a class with Andrea Johnston at the University of Toronto, I made the computer program as part of a humanities computing course with Willard McCarthy in 1994, and published a poster paper and an updated version over the next few years. This simulation…