Thursday, December 22, 2011

Total Surveillance and Authoritarian Governments

New report out from the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings about how the declining price of electronic data storage will enable authoritarian regimes the ability to create and maintain extensive records for each of their citizens, including location data, CCTV images, email and web-browsing histories, and so on. Rather than looking at extensive and pervasive surveillance capabilities and projects, the report focuses on how storage costs for all this information is relatively cheap, enabling the creation of more extensive dossiers. Such a record will allow regimes to "retroactively eavesdrop" on citizens, tracing their activities back years. This has chilling implications for any form of dissent in such a country.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

New Post

Over next door in the much neglected Clickable World blog.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011


So, frustrated with the recent budget deal which is all cuts and no revenue gains, I actually wrote to my elected representatives telling them that they should do something brave and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Unfortunately my Senators are Kyl and McCain, so you know how far *that's* going. Got a response from Kyl (a boilerplate email, which I'll paste below), but nothing so far from McCain. Then today Warren Buffet posts an editorial in the New York Times saying, "tax the rich!" A nice counterpoint to Kyl, I thought. However, Kyl is on the Supercongress and Buffet is not.

Kyl's response:

Dear Dr. Wise:

Thank you for your recent email suggesting that Congress address the deficit crisis by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Our income-tax system is already the most progressive in the world, according to economists from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ("Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries," Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2008). The top 10 percent of U.S. taxpayers pay a larger share of the income tax burden than do the top 10 percent in any other industrialized country, including traditionally "high tax" countries such as France, Italy, and Sweden.

Internal Revenue Service figures show that the top 10 percent of taxpayers in our country pay nearly 70 percent of the income taxes. The top one percent pay 38 percent of income taxes – that's a larger share of the income-tax burden than the bottom 90 percent combined. And it's not as if taxes on the wealthy haven't already been increased substantially. During his short time in office, President Obama has already signed nearly $1 trillion worth of tax increases into law.

So the first question is this: if the wealthiest 10 percent pay 70 percent of income taxes now, how much more do you want them to pay? Do you really think they'll keep on working and investing if out of every additional dollar they earn, they have to pay as much as 80 percent or 90 percent to the government?

Second, if the president succeeds in raising the tax rate on the top two brackets, small businesses would be hit hard (remember, most small businesses are not corporations; they pay taxes as individuals, and 50 percent of small business income is earned by taxpayers in the top two brackets). Therefore, any attempt to "soak the rich" would hurt these small businesses and their employees. If our goal is to promote economic recovery and get Americans back to work, we certainly aren't going to succeed by imposing higher taxes on these already-struggling businesses and their workers.

It was John F. Kennedy who said, "an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenues to balance our budget – just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now." Accordingly, President Kennedy's tax-cut plan slashed both the capital-gains rate and top income-tax rate; between 1961 and 1968, the inflation-adjusted economy grew by over 42 percent and revenues grew by 62 percent. We saw similar positive results after the Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s.

The fact is, the best way to raise revenues is to grow the economy and put people back to work, not impose punitive tax rates on American families and small businesses.

Third, attempts to raise taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" are likely to hit many Americans who earn far less than that. There are about 319,000 households that report income over $1 million annually. However, the number of returns subject to the top two income-tax rates – the rates the president would raise – is 3.6 million. The point is this: when the president aims at millionaires and billionaires, he will hit 3.6 million people. That's also what happened as a result of the Alternative Minimum Tax. When it was enacted in 1969, it was meant to apply to just about 155 high-income households, according to then-Treasury Secretary Joseph Barr. Last year, it hit nearly 25 million households, and that number continues to grow.

Additionally, our problem is spending, not taxes. It is spending that has been driving our debt sky high, from 20.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008 – about the 40-year historical average – to 24.1 percent of GDP this year. It's because of spending on things like the president's failed "stimulus" bill and Obamacare, as well as generous increases for numerous government programs.

A final point: we've seen what happens when Congress is asked to increase taxes in exchange for deep spending cuts. The tax increases are immediate and permanent, while the spending cuts almost never materialize. As Stephen Moore and Richard Vedder wrote in a November 2010 column in The Wall Street Journal: "Over the entire post World War II era through 2009 each dollar of new tax revenue was associated with $1.17 of new spending. Politicians spend the money as fast as it comes in – and a little bit more." How many times will we be asked to fall for this ruse?

I oppose the president's demand for job-killing tax increases. Congress should instead adopt significant spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and systemic changes that will constrain spending in the future.



United States Senator

P.S. If you wish to share additional comments about this or any other matter, please visit my website at: Do not reply to this email.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Farewell to a trusted companion

Finally retiring a key component of my assemblage, my scaffolding: my conference bag from ICA Korea (2002), which has lasted almost 10 years but has finally fallen too far into disrepair. I've loved its affordances (always space to have an umbrella handy; lots of room for papers and books; pockets for change, paperclips, business cards; durable and light). Best of all: it was a conference freebie (unless you count the cost of the plane ticket to Korea, conference fee, and hotel; then it was a pricey bag).

And, here's the new guy:

Hoping this one lasts at least as long as the last one.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Andrew Ross on Phoenix

Can't wait for his next book, Bird on Fire, about Phoenix and (un)sustainability. Gotta wait until october, though.

Friday, April 29, 2011

New books

Three brand-spankin' new books arrived today. Two of which challenge notions of humanity:

Braden R. Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz (2011) The Techno-Human Condition. MIT Press.

Dominic Pettman (2011) Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines. University of Minnesota Press.

Both of which look to be quite lively, interesting reads. Really wish I could set everything aside this weekend and read, but that's not going to happen.

The third book just appeared in my mailbox (which is always a nice thing). Gabriel Tarde on Communication and Social Influence: Selected Papers. Edited by Terry Clark.University of Chicago Press, 2010 (originally published 1969). I'm not really familiar with Tarde, except that Latour in Reassembling the Social returns to Tarde quite a bit.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New books

Just received a copy of The New Media and Technocultures Reader, Edited by Seth Giddings and Martin Lister (2011, Routledge). This looks like a great collection, with a nice variety of pieces (including, truth be told, an excerpt of one of mine, which is how I got a copy). It's meant as a companion volume to New Media: A Critical Introduction, by Martin Lister, Jon Dovey, Seth Giddings, Iain Grant, and Kieran Kelly.

Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why we expect more from Technology and less from each other. Basic Books. Should be an interesting read in terms of the balance of technological determinism and cultural/social determinism.

W. Brian Arthur (2009) The Nature of Technology: What it is and how it evolves. Free Press. For the life of me, I can't remember why I ordered this from Amazon (except it didn't cost much and seemed an interesting, recent example of evolutionary and essentialist terms for technology).

Daniel Chandler (2007) Semiotics: The Basics (2nd edition). Routledge. Wanted to see what was new here. Might use it for class in the Fall.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

E-Readers (part 3, I think)

There's a nice piece in the NY Times about what electronic devices we should hang on to, and which our smart phones have made obsolete. It included this section:

BOOKS Keep them (with one exception). Yes, e-readers are amazing, and yes, they will probably become a more dominant reading platform over time, but consider this about a book: It has a terrific, high-resolution display. It is pretty durable; you could get it a little wet and all would not be lost. It has tremendous battery life. It is often inexpensive enough that, if you misplaced it, you would not be too upset. You can even borrow them free at sites called libraries. the Guardian!


Friday, February 04, 2011

New Running Shoes

Thought I would try these out: Vibram "five fingers" barefoot running shoes. They are going to take some getting used to. I'll have to change how I run, for one thing (can't land on my heel and roll like in regular shoes: no padding; I'll have to land more midfoot). They are fun, though, and I've only worn them for a short jaunt or two until I get more used to them. And the last few days it's been too cold to be running "barefoot." It takes some practice to get them on (getting each toe in the right slot), but I'm getting the hang of that.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New books

New books (in no particular order):

Kuan-Hsing Chen, Asia as Method (Duke, 2010). Which looks fabulous. Thinking of setting this as a text in next Fall's grad class: Globalization and Advocacy.

Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto (Prickly Paradigm, 2003).

Hardt & Negri, Commonwealth (Harvard, 2009). Playing with the idea of teaching this next Fall, too. But need to engage it more first.

Jussi Parikka, Insect Media (Minnesota, 2010). Thanks to Greg S. for the heads up on this one. Looks great, and quite useful as the Primer revisions continue.

Ben Highmore, A Passion for Cultural Studies (Palgrave, 2009) and The Design Culture Reader (2009, Routledge). [Thanks, Ben!]

Lawrence Grossberg, Cultural Studies in the Future Tense (Duke, 2010), which is brilliant.

and then there's the Affect Theory Reader (Duke, 2010) by a couple of people named Greg(g). :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Materialisms

This is one of those things that is probably unsurprising to others, but was something of an "aha" moment for me. And that is this:I tend to see my research and writing interests as somewhat eclectic. There are definite themes (technology on the one hand, globalization and culture on the other), but little in the way of overarching unity. Anyway, I've been included in two collective projects on materiality, one by Jeremy Packer and Steve Wiley out of North Carolina on materiality and communication, where I'm talking about assemblages of attention, and another on materialities of new mobile media, through Andrew Herman, Thom Swiss, and Jan Hadlaw, based on a workshop that will take place next week in Waterloo, Ontario. So I've been reading up on the new materialist turn. Looking through the introduction to Diana Coole and Samatha Frost's new collection, New Materialisms (2010, Duke), I was struck with how wide an umbrella they're setting up for the materialist turn, bringing in interest in sociologies of the everyday (Lefebvre, de Certeau), the phenomenology of the ordinary, critical geographies of space, etc. (p. 28). And I started realizing that this new materialism could be the connecting thread that runs through all my projects, a common perspective on all this stuff. Deleuze (naturally), studies of technology (from a decidedly materialist/Deleuzian perspective), studies of everyday life, the critical geography work I draw on for my book on cultural globalization, current interests in embodied cognition. Especially when I could articulate the cultural globalization book to the culture and technology one (since the former has little on technology), I found that of interest.

Unsecured surveillance cameras

Surveillance cameras connected through unencrypted/non-password-protected links are readily accessible online, it seems.
Reminds me, yet again, about Baudrillard on the obscene: the whole world unfolds unnecessarily on your home screen. [quote from memory, so perhaps inaccurate]