Comments on Youtube Comments

Last Friday, Ryan Tate posted “YouTube Is Developing a Secret Weapon Against the Internet’s Worst Commenters” on 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

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

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

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

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

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

“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.