Seeing Like a Geek

by tom_slee on June 25, 2012

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen many men, I guess;
Some will rob you with a six gun,
And some with a GIS. 

In the state of Tamil Nadu, near the town of Marakkanam, right next to a reserved forest, lies a contested plot of land. Records say these three acres belong to a member of the Mudaliar caste, but lower-caste Dalits living nearby claim the plot should be part of the reserved forest, which is not privately owned. The Dalits claim that the Mudaliars have pulled a fast one, using their influence in the local bureaucracy to fix the land records, and that older records will bear out the Dalit claim. Complicating the case, officials say that boundaries between land parcels in the area are often difficult to ascertain.1

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Open Data Seminar

by Henry Farrell on June 25, 2012

Another Crooked Timber seminar, albeit on an issue rather than an author. Last month, Tom Slee wrote “two”: “posts”: on the Open Data movement which got a lot of interesting argument going. To push the contradictions further, we’ve invited a number of people with differing perspectives to write short pieces on the theme of when and how, if ever, open data makes for better politics. Contributors are:

Henry Farrell (blogger at Crooked Timber)
Steven Berlin Johnson (author of _Emergence_, _Where Good Ideas Come From_, and the forthcoming _Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age_)
Tom Lee (director of Sunlight Labs at the “Sunlight Foundation”:
Beth Noveck (professor at New York Law School, author of _Wiki Politics_, and former Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the White House)
Clay Shirky (author of _Here Comes Everybody and _Cognitive Surplus_)
Tom Slee (author of _No-One Makes You Shop at Walmart_)
Victoria Stodden (assistant professor of statistics at Columbia, Big Data public intellectual)
Aaron Swartz (in no need of introduction to CT readers
Matthew Yglesias (author of Slate‘s Moneybox column).

As per the last seminar, posts will be put up (nearly) every weekday for the next several days. And yes – as commenters will surely notice, the sex ratio is off again (all I can say is that this is not the result of any lack of effort, I’m not happy about it, and I’d be grateful for suggestions in comments).

Lessig’s Republic, Lost

by Henry Farrell on June 25, 2012

The Montana decision today has provoked me to write up the review of Larry Lessig’s _Republic Lost_ (Powells, Amazon)that I’ve been planning for the last few months. Short version: there is a lot to like about the book. If you are looking for a good account of the systematic corruption of American politics, this is that account. If you are looking for the account that might convince your centrist/moderately conservative aunt or uncle that there is something wrong, even better – Lessig writes far better than I can for that audience, although he makes it reasonably clear that his allegiances are left-of-center. This said, there’s a lot to disagree with too. Most broadly, I don’t think that his updated version of early twentieth century progressivism will do what he wants it to do, although it could surely help. The fundamental problem that Lessig sees is one of money in politics – if one can cleanse out the Augean stables by attacking dubious relationships between politicians and lobbyists and fundraisers, one could win back the Republic. The fundamental problem that I see is one of economic inequality – even if there are no obvious quid-pro-quos between legislators and those wanting to sway them, the system will remain corrupt. In short – if there is a friendly argument between Lessig and Chris Hayes (and I suspect there is), I think that Chris has the better of it.

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Martin Amis Moves to Brooklyn, Sounds Like Jerk

by Belle Waring on June 25, 2012

The New York Times sometimes does things just because it can, as Drew Magary of Gawker noted in his nuanced, thoughtful “The New York Times Styles Section Profiled The Brant Brothers Because The New York Times Hates You.” (Really you should read it, even though you will find out who the Brant brothers are, and All Will Be Lost. Also, Faye Dunaway.) So maybe the New York Times was briefly diverted from its mission to reported on all the news and cetera, to do something just to mess with us.

Many of you may have worried that literary Brooklyn wasn’t macho enough, what with all the female authors, and the important female editors, and all the attention paid to ladyissues, and all those memoirs you heard about from those women who read comic books when they were kids in Brooklyn and then something something. Let me tell you: Martin Amis just pulled your fat out of the fire, who doggie! He’s mannin’ up the borough right and left! He gestures out the window of his brownstone “Out there, it’s Arcadian,” he said. “It’s prelapsarian. It’s like living in the ’50s.”

You know what I love about the ’50s? The rigid racial apartheid. That’s the best part, seriously. Oh, shit, no–I messed up–the crippling sexism and hatred of homosexuality. No, no–goddamnit! I’m going back to the rigid racial apartheid thing I said just now. That’s the best. It’s like having 3 favorite flavors of evil! That’s why the ’50s are so tempting and delicious: just far enough away to see recognizable humans betraying their dearest in the service of ideology, just close enough that you know they knew better.
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Escher Girls and Anatomic Ecology

by John Holbo on June 25, 2012

Another follow-up to the last two posts about body images and beauty ideals. [click to continue…]