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Comments on Youtube Comments

1 July, 2012 by

Last Friday, Ryan Tate posted “YouTube Is Developing a Secret Weapon Against the Internet’s Worst Commenters” on Wired.com. Tate wrote this article with practically no substantive knowledge but it does bring up some interesting points. The article describes extremely vague allusions Youtube has made to reworking its comment system, as well as speculations as to possible solutions to commenters’ merciless trolling. Tate quotes Youtube Head of Product Dror Shimshowitz, “We’re working on some improvements to the comment system, so hopefully we’ll have an update on that in the next few months.” “Secret weapons” seem to mean functionally non-existent weapons.

This situation is a prime example of the contention between ideas of the internet as a utopian commons, a many-to-many information hierarchy in which people all over the world can freely engage in dialogue, and the internet as an economic behemoth.

The article asserts that the most viable, and obvious, means of dealing with Youtube trolls is to require commenters to post under their Google+ or Facebook profiles, forcing them to use their real names as opposed to self-selected handles. Trolling is born out of anonymity, and requiring a verified identity would certainly quell hateful, racist, and arbitrary commenting.

Alternately, requiring users to sign in to their Google accounts to comment would compound both platforms’ advertising capabilities via synthesizing and utilizing user data to refine targeted audiences. Theoretically, both companies would benefit economically. A significant decrease in negative comments would also make the site more attractive to advertisers on the whole.

As the article mentions, Youtube has already implemented several features in efforts to better moderate comment quality. The top comments section democratically bumps the most-liked comments to the top of the section. Comments can also be flagged as spam or removed for receiving too many negative votes.

Top Comments

Top comments for Justin Bieber- Baby ft. Ludacris, the most viewed video on Youtube

Requiring users to sign into their Google accounts to comment is an excellent solution for increasing advertising revenue. Monetization aside, Youtube should rely more heavily on its audience for comment regulation and work towards an interface that fosters those early, Randian conceptions of online communities as egalitarian ecosystems. Surely, for every troll posting racist video comments, there are enough commenters to quickly dislike and delete them.

The opportunity to subvert one’s identity within online communities is central to the values and beliefs upon which civilian internet use was built. Movements such as Occupy and groups like Anonymous have demonstrated the immense and very concrete potential for the internet as an effective tool for social and political agency.

Hopefully, in light of current events, the general public will begin to think of their internet lives in a more socially responsible manner and better understand the potentiality that internet access provides them, even in regards to Justin Beiber videos.

Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis Doulas, Wyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.


A Reaction to Limitless

21 June, 2012 by

Perhaps, what is most disturbing in the 2011 film Limitless [1], is not the general inaccuracy of the entire plotline—the idea that one can only limitedly access 20% of their brain [2]—but rather something more overlooked: Eddie Morra’s career choices and transitions instigated while under the influence of the fictional drug, NZT-48.  From a starving writer who has yet to write anything to one who becomes published, to a brilliant stock trader, to a running candidate for the United States Senate, the drug’s effects–which are to improve both short-term and long-term memory as well as expand the capacity for memory, thus accelerating and increasing intelligence—with very specific archetypes of ‘success’, reflect the ills of a society so afflicted and determined by the artificial logic propagated and intuitively accepted under advanced capitalism.

Our newly enlightened character, Eddie, now imbued with an intelligence so encompassing that it seems he can literally learn and do anything, is only ever capable of working his way up a system and profoundly incapable of reconfiguring, overthrowing or even critiquing it.  His new intellectualism only allows him to procure more and more capital, to pursue a perversion of luxurious experiences and seemingly phantasmic ‘power’ lifestyles, to practice politics on a linear scale of mediocre predictability, but never to critically examine or question these roles and choices, or the economic and political systems in which they operate within.

The fictional drug, NZT-48

There is a moment in the film where a recently successful Eddie self-reflectively waxes on what the next step is in the advancement of his professional life.  It is the following epiphany that soon declares his trek to the top:

“And then I began to form an idea.  Suddenly I knew exactly what I needed to do.  It wasn’t writing, it wasn’t books; it was much bigger than that. But, it would take money to get there.”

Morra revels in this reflection as if there were any actual depth underpinning it, as if he were contemplating and wrestling with some grandiose profound future endeavor, perhaps something that was actually limitless, but instead following this scene, we find our character safely and predictably just playing with stocks—how underwhelming!  Limitless thus illustrates the safety and stagnation of the status-quo: serving as an all too real depiction of America’s neoliberal project and the kinds of ideologies it has produced—and is still dangerously producing.


[1] Limitless was based off of Alan Glynn’s 2011 novel, The Dark Fields


[2] Cognitive neuroscience debunks many myths of the brain



Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis DoulasWyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.

Transformers in the Age of Drones

11 June, 2012 by

In Michael Bay’s 2007 film Transformers, product and person are a shared entity – consumer machines are not tied to any producer, no labor, and no market value. The Autobots and Decepticons instead act as dueling gods. The role of humans, in this late-Capitalist scenario, is completely detached from manufacturing, production, or the assembly of the machines they are in dialogue with – humans are merely third party bystanders of their own fetish interests. Even the tagline of the film, “Their War. Our World”, references a kind of out-of-control relationship with the technology we use, the objects we create, and the products we consume.
A man being attacked by his X-Box 360 (Transformers, 2007).

Michael Bay’s film places  society outside of its own consumerist agenda. By separating these manufactured products from their producers and their consumers, he exonerates society of its connection to the dubious issues relating to their production. In Transformers, people are not destroyed by their own  fetishization and consumption of these products, but rather, they are destroyed by some external force that acts on these consumer goods. In Michael Bay’s universe,  we are never faced with circumstances that we have created ourselves. Instead, we are faced with two options, a benevolent overlord in the form of a sleek, American-made car and an aggressive tyrant in the form of militaristic weapon-clad vehicles. Berlin-based artist Timur Si-Qin’s 2011 exhibition Mainstream approaches this  inherent aesthetic difference.
Mainstream, Timur Si-Qin 2011

Mainstream defines the visual economy created in this commercial franchise. The movie offers an easy choice; the clean design that we as consumers have been conditioned to enjoy, or the ominous, function-only build of military jets, tanks, and helicopters. In the accompanying text forMainstream, Si-Qin defines the viewers/consumers options:

Transformers is currently one of the largest narrative franchises in hollywood cinema, with vast amounts of capital at stake, the elements of the story are carefully crafted to communicate clearly and effectively to the broadest possible audience. The ‘good’ robot’s industrial-design features clean mechanistic cuts and bright colors whereas the evil robot’s design is organic, scaly and insect-like, reflecting an evolutionary predisposition to associate these features with snakes and bugs and by extension danger, death and disease.”

Si-Qin describes the polarizing design techniques adopted in order to conjure immediate reactions of right and wrong in the viewer. In an era of technological proliferation,  sleek and mechanical design becomes a comforting attribute of consumerism and clunky, specialized engineering becomes threatening. But as the United States carries out drone-strikes in Pakistan, and releases malware targeting uranium enrichment infrastructures in Iran, the imagery utilized in Transformers becomes less about a battle between good and evil and instead, a document of our understanding of technology in an era of constant war.


Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis DoulasWyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.

Writing and Reading: Mosaics and Nonlinearity, Part One

1 June, 2012 by

In 1951 Marshall McLuhan published his first book entitled, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. Besides its title being partially derived from Duchamp’s work on glass, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, what’s interesting about the book is the way its contents are non-linearly sequenced. The book is disjointedly comprised of various popular advertisements and articles [of McLuhan’s time] that are each accompanied by a short critical analysis by McLuhan. Because there is no weaving together of each analysis into any kind of distinct narrative–only isolated subjects (though there is a grand theoretical narrative that is apparent), one could essentially open the book, land on any page and begin reading, jumping around from page to page until completion. McLuhan actually coined a term to describe this type of reading arrangement, calling it a ‘mosaic approach’ to consuming and contextualizing content.  In this way, The Mechanical Bride parallels the nonlinear structure of the blog and in fact, could comfortably exist as such.

Today, there is much critical investigation into the ‘new’ ways we read and understand texts. Many summarize today’s reading and publishing processes as being in some way afflicted by the pace of the internet and other mediated platforms and for the most part this is true. With this though, there seems to be a large, confused debate concerning reading on the screen versus reading in print, and the intrinsic properties that can be discerned between the two—and this perhaps is yet again, another case of digital dualism. Many argue that today, again under the influence of the screen and the internet, that reading is no longer reading, but using: the screen emphasizes ‘looking’, strategizing and specifically picking out certain words and phrases, allowing one to skim across content and find what one needs. Many are also concerned about an emerging generation failing to read and digest larger, more comprehensive texts because of the redirection into these digital formats.  Many of course also reason against these propositions and concerns, some even suggesting that this type of ‘speed reading’ is the future and that one must meet the future with acceptance (or rather an all too willing tolerance).  However, for now, for part one, I’m not directly interested in this ‘reading and understanding’ debate.  My current views on such matters do not align themselves with such distinct severing of technologic forms but rather understand offline and online to be cumulative experiences, absent from any nonsensical, hierarchical privileging that usually pins one experience, or format, over the other (atoms and bits).  Whatis interesting though, is the fluid properties of the blog, of the ‘mosaic approach’ to not only reading, but writing and furthermore how blogs become books and how books are really blogs. It is this diffusion I wish to briefly explore.

While there is so much talk and writing concerning digital and print formats and their differing modes of perception/communication, there are surprisingly few interrogations that really address and even utilize these two formats cohesively, and even fewer theoretical/philosophical texts that attempt to experiment with the relationships between them.  I Read Where I Am, is a reader comprised of 82 essays (with an average of about 500 words per essay) that is compiled by Mieke Gerritzen, Geert Lovink, and Minke Kampman, and is one elegant attempt that really exemplifies such relationships (extensive thoughts on this to come). Another though, perhaps an example more direct, is the book Post-Internet by writer and thinker Gene McHugh. It is these two books that I’m going to talk about for the next few days.


Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis DoulasWyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.

Chris Lee and Speculative Numismatics

27 May, 2012 by
fig. 5

A diagram from Lee's essay in The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest

Lately I’ve been really excited about the work of Chris Lee, a graphic designer whose work and research deals with currency. He addresses how the design of money implicates its users within political-economic power dynamics, both citing compelling histories and imagining new systems.

You can read Frontlining Currency: “Speculative Numismatics” as Antagonistic Graphic Design online in the current issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest and follow his blog, Nomadic Institute For Ethnomathematics. If you happen to be in Amsterdam before July 1, you can visit Energy Battlefield, an exhibition Lee designed with Femke Herregraven at Mediamatic Fabriek. The show consists of a life size board game in which players must navigate the politics and economics of energy trading.

Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis Doulas, Wyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.


On Pirate Ethos

21 May, 2012 by

Understanding online-piracy, more as a calculated method of defiance and less as a circumstance of convenience, is a crucial step in utilizing the internet as a legitimate tool of political engagement. Piracy maintains nearly ubiquitous support within internet culture, yet it is rarely employed as a method of direct action. Piracy should be seen by those interested in breaking up the hegemony of corporatism and late-capitalism as a means of cutting into the capital of big businesses and institutions. For those interested in democratizing the methods of dissemination in art and culture; it does that too.
  Avatar, the most pirated film of all time.

Piracy allows audiences to consider who it is that supplies them with cultural products and why. One of the main tenants of the Pirate Party is direct democracy.  This is what piracy is good for- a method of participation that tells corporations that control media that audiences can refuse complicity and ignorance at the same time. Much of the Pirate movement may have been born partly out of convenience and partly out of a less articulate contempt for authority, but it exists now as a major tool for dissent. This is a tool that corporations and institutions are well aware of and actively lobby to stop (see SOPA).

Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis DoulasWyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.


Recommended Reading / Cybermohalla Hub

19 May, 2012 by

“Cybermohalla Hub” is the latest publication from Sternberg Press, outlining a project of the same name by architects Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Muller. Cybermohalla Hub is a structure that is part of Sarai, a Dheli-based institution that describes itself as “a space for research, practice and conversation about the contemporary media and urban constellations.”

The intent of Cybermohalla is to act as a dynamic community center or cultural lab for the people of Dheli, focused on the potential of infrastructure and urban planning. Projects are divided into four categories — generative contexts, minor practices, commoning, and public dialogue — with a multitude of outcomes including newspapers, installations, and radio broadcasts. Community members were asked to participate in the design of the building, thus making it a truly self reflexive project and viable means of knowledge production.

Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis Doulas, Wyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.


Changing Education Paradigms

16 May, 2012 by

The severely repressed and censored information flow structures of the Egyptian autocracy were–amongst other factors–a large contributor to the intense swelling and eventual organization of its citizens [to protest in disgust, its country’s misuse of power]. Today, we have learned that public isn’t simply defined by what one knows, but rather that it is a meta-concept (Zeynep Tufekci) consisting of knowing what others know, one knows and so on. Overcoming pluralistic ignorance, or in other words, overcoming thinking that one is perpetually in the minority, seems to start with distribution and the rearrangement of receiving networks. Yet, this claim some how comes off vague largely because of its specificities. At what weight of severity do such distributive techniques become powerful and actually effective? Is it with time and thus accumulation that allow for collective empowerment, criticality and awareness?

I would like to think, perhaps naively, that the organization of information and its subsequent dispersal–this only effective alongside leaking/intervening/subverting this information into specific channels and outlets–is enough to shift individual perception and henceforth introduce potentiality. We need propaganda and ideology, but a kind that is undeclared from the premise, a formation without an immediate graspable structure.

The, Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, was a large, voluminous, series of French encyclopedia’s edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert published between 1751 and 1772.  The Encyclopédie was made up of hundreds of contributors, including scientists, philosophers, scholars, craftsman, etc. and as one can only imagine, its contents were disparate and its contributors largely politically un-unified. Regardless, in an attempt to encompass and archive the world’s knowledge, the Encyclopédie was meant to be dispersed and read in order to educate the individual (in the process freeing her logic from the church).  Yet, while many of its contributors remained disinterested in reforming France and a great deal never actually read the immense volumes, the Encyclopédie played an integral precursory role in the French Revolution: its symbolic value represented changing paradigms.

Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis Doulas, Wyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.

Notes on “Here Comes Nobody”

14 May, 2012 by

“…But such acts of lulzmaking are magnetic on two levels, producing spectacular, shocking, and humorous events and images that attract media attention while simultaneously binding together the collective and rejuvenating its spirit. This runs counter to the reductive arguments about whether or not online organizing can breed the conditions necessary for serious, effective activism (see Clay Shirky in the affirmative, Malcolm Gladwell in the negative); the pursuit of lulz, and the shared technology used to do so, are means of creating a common, participatory culture. (Of course, the pursuit of lulz is also an end in and of itself.) ”
-from Here Comes Nobody by David Auerbach and Gabriella Coleman

If there is one explicit role of the internet in relation to activism, it is to cultivate a broader accessibility to political and social issues. Without question, Anonymous does this. However, there have been a rash of viral political agendas that have seen light through videos, online petitions, and twitter campaigns. Do these attempts at broadening the accessibility of activist agendas fulfill their greatest function or do they reduce human rights issues and campaigns for social change to  a novel 21st century spectacle?

Since its rise in popularity, there has been no shortage of critiques regarding the Kony 2012 campaign in which young, well-to-do, white American men do their best to disarm and dismantle the militant, child-soldiered regime of warlord Joseph Kony by way of viral video. The video moved swiftly through social media circles, accumulating likes, notes, and retweets at an unheard of rate. Invisible Children, the organization responsible for the video, was able to gin up a tremendous amount of online support for their cause. But outside of a whole host of ethically dubious issues surrounding the content of the video itself – did the Kony 2012 campaign transfer into a meaningful movement that yielded real-world results? The Invisible Children campaign demonstrates one end of a spectrum of political activism on the web.

On a separate end of this spectrum are the protests of SOPA and CISPA, as well as more divisive gestures of direct action like the Anonymous attack on major credit card companies, dubbed Operation Payback. It seems that one factor behind the effectiveness of these campaigns is their relation to the internet. They toe a line between virtual and physical consequences. The swift backlash against SOPA and CISPA existed so prominently on the internet, quite obviously, because it concerned the internet. It concerned the freedom of its users, and the sovereignty of its institutions. The same might be said for Operation Payback. This coordinated effort by Anonymous to attack major credit card providers that denied service to those who sought to donate money to Wikileaks produced such strong feelings within the organization simply because the issue at hand related directly to the agency of a website. Understanding the link between earnestness and effectiveness is not an issue unique to the internet, but as web-culture expands its gaze, it is important to assess the internet’s ability to bring about meaningful change in circumstances far removed from the web.

Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis Doulas, Wyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.

Local Law 11

11 May, 2012 by

Last Monday marked the one month anniversary of New York’s Local Law 11, which states that all public data must be published online. Of equal interest, a wiki  is being used to create standards for how that data presented.

For the next few months, NYC Open Data is allowing anyone, both city agency officials and the public, to edit the wiki– with all revisions saved under a “history” tab– and to leave comments. At the end of this test period the information will be reviewed by Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT)  staff, who will release final data standards in September.

A wiki presents a provocative model for government– the idea of a completely transparent, participatory forum for civic lawmaking is enticingly anarchic (see Loren Carpenter’s Pong experiment)

NYC Open Data’s project is an effort towards technological utopia, reaching towards the dream that computers and networks will allow us to exist as free, self-governing bodies. The site links to a video explaining how wikis work via the charming metaphor of a group camping trip in which the enthusiastic campers use a wiki to make a list of what they need to pack. It begs the image of New York City as one big campground in which its citizens cheerfully band together, taking turns defining “Voluntary Consensus Standards Body.” Granted, that which is added or deleted from the wiki by both the public and city agencies is not carved in stone, only privy to the review of DoITT staff, who will make final decisions, the chaperone on said camping trip.

In practice, participation in this project is sparse. Most of the revisions have been made by two users, Rickyrab, a public policy student who aptly describes himself as “a user of wikis” in his profile, and ReinventAlbany, a transparency advocacy group.

Though this project is off to a rather feeble start, it engenders some interesting thought about fantastical possible futures. While the Internet was born partially out of the U.S. government application of browser based platforms for civic use has lagged far behind corporate. Certainly, the lack of incentive via revenue explains why usa.gov reeks of 2003 in both aesthetic and function. But, in a post-Wikileaks state, what if the government could utilize this model? Chances are slim to none but speculation is imperative.

Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis Doulas, Wyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.


Projects from Petros Moris and KERNEL: Part One

9 May, 2012 by




In Engine, a Google search engine is quietly modified so that whenever one types in a keyword of interest, what results are instructions for ‘action’ or potential for action. What is meant by this? Typing in, let’s say, the word ‘computers’, one will receive not historical or general information concerning computers per say, but results such as ‘How to Build a Computer’, ‘How to Keep Your Computer Safe’, ‘How to Fix Your Relatives’ Terrible Computer’, so on and so forth. This small modification demonstrates a type of edit; the search is not directed to open up all and everything on a particular topic but to narrow down its results to specified articles, blog posts, websites, etc. that provide one with tools, or ‘instructions’ (The Instructional Capital) on executing things. Such an edit arguably directs the user to approach the internet not merely as a network of pure consumption, but a powerful tool with a particular user directed function.  Engine provides one with informational means to fulfillment, something perhaps one forgets over time when hours and days are spent exhaustively surfing through the infinite websites consolidated within our Google Readers.



What’s first interesting in KERNEL’s Software Freedom Day project, is that physical forms become functional platforms for public congregation in [public] physical space for non-physical, ‘virtual’, networked congregations. Context and purpose are created through the declaration of a space (the use of multi-purpose shelving furniture set up in various environments such as the university campus, the side street, etc.) dedicated, in this case, to celebrating Software Freedom Day. Constructions become relational devices that allow for social interfacing, for trading peer deemed important information, etc. while also demonstrating that events, settings and gatherings like these can be initiated by nearly anyone and everyone impromptu.


Like most of KERNEL’s and Moris’ projects, space—be it online or off—is used and emphasized as a hub for distribution, organization and potential political action. This is probably what one can appreciate and take most of out of their projects.

Hand Motions is a blog column on DINCA continually featuring writing from Louis Doulas, Wyatt Niehaus and Ria Roberts.