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robertogreco : obscurity   9

How 'The Dress' exposes viral media's shaky future | Fusion
"Sometimes when I’m feeling numbed by the cascading viral trends and hot takes in my feeds, I’ll load up a random number generator and use it to search YouTube for videos without names, ones nobody has ever watched before. The sensation is like flipping through broadcasts of alien surveillance footage of humanity. I click indiscriminately from one shot to the next: A man explains how he traded his bicycle for a used video camera—click. A child dances in front of the TV as EDM plays—click. A girl stands in her kitchen alone and growls: “That’s how you make BROWNIES”—click.

There’s something pleasingly candid about the videos. They hearken back to an older era of the internet, when nobody knew what the hell they were doing. When unsettling weirdness and danger lurked just a few clicks away. Before a combination of centralized services created a predictable, sanitized web. In my day, kids had to walk uphill both ways to get their content.

That old, strange internet never really went away. It’s just hidden in plain sight, on our social media platforms.

Most content on the web is accessed through a handful of platforms. Those companies make money off the information users post, and so they encourage everyone to post as much as possible, free of charge.

Yet this presents a problem: There’s too much stuff. Even the most avid user, eyes glazed over from scrolling past thousands of baby photos and clickbait articles and ads, can’t possibly see everything that gets posted.

This puts these companies in a bind. They can’t tell people to post less frequently ($$$) but they also can’t let their sites be overwhelmed by screeching noise because users will get frustrated and jump ship ($$$). So they filter content, each in their own ways. Facebook’s newsfeed, for example, uses an algorithm that boosts content based on a series of mysterious factors—are people engaging with the post? Saying “congrats”? Did they give us any $$$? Google offers search results tailored to what it deems relevant to the user. Twitter is experimenting with alternatives to chronological order. It all works pretty well. Our feeds are relatively bearable, if not boring.

And yet, beneath the controlled epidural layer, that filtered-out stuff still exists.

This is the Lonely Web. It lives in the murky space between the mainstream and the deep webs. The content is public and indexed by search engines, but broadcast to a tiny audience, algorithmically filtered out, and/or difficult to find using traditional search techniques.

How large is the Lonely Web? Based on one study from 2009 that shows that 53% of videos on YouTube haven’t even passed the 500-view mark, it’s safe to estimate: It is very, very large.

It includes but is not limited to: videos on YouTube that have never been viewed; Twitter accounts with hundreds of tweets and no followers; spam bots; blurry concert videos with blasted-out sound; Change.org petitions for lost causes; apps that nobody will ever download; and anonymous posts on 4chan that suddenly disappear, extinguishing like distant stars made of burning trash.

There are even brands on the Lonely Web. A Kazakstan outpost of fast food chain Hardee’s, for example, has only 160 Twitter followers. For a while the account was just tweeting random, inexplicable codes, like a fast food numbers station.

The content feels more honest than much of the formulaic, prepackaged mainstream web. It seems to be the result of platforms aggressively telling people their voices matter and deserve to be heard, without making apparent the extent to which their broadcast signals are diminished. The Lonely Web is littered with desperate messages in bottles, washed far ashore in a riptide of irrelevant content.

There are tools for exploring the Lonely Web, if one is especially lazy: Sites like 0views and Petit YouTube collect unwatched, “uninteresting” videos; Sad Tweets finds tweets that were ignored; Forgotify digs through Spotify to find songs that have never been listened to; Hapax Phaenomena searches for “historically unique images” on Google Image Search; and /r/deepintoyoutube, which was created by a 15-year-old high school student named Dustin (favorite video: motivational lizard) curates obscure, bizarre videos.



One of my favorite techniques comes from /r/imgxxxx and involves searching the default file formats for digital cameras plus four random numbers. This dredges up videos so unwanted that they were never named. In some cases, not even the person who filmed the videos seems to have watched them.

Can such a massive amount of unrelated content have a unified aesthetic? Kind of, sort of. It’s best described by what it isn’t. Most sites have “best practices”—encouraged or implied—and most of what’s on the Lonely Web violates them. It is weird and of shoddy quality, amateurish, with impossible-to-search titles. Some of it is charming and candid and unpolished. A lot of it is incomprehensible garbage. It varies in length—either too short or too long—and eschews cohesive narratives.

I get the nagging impression that some of it wasn’t meant to be seen. Since they end up being unnervingly candid windows into people’s lives, browsing through too much of it at once can feel invasive and emotionally exhausting.

But for precisely all these reasons, unlike a lot of mainstream content, the Lonely Web feels, well, human.

👥👥👥

Despite its apparent worthlessness, some content on the Lonely Web winds up being incredibly lucrative. A company called Ditto, for example, searches through people’s public photos looking for references to brands, selling that information to corporations as valuable demographic data."
viral  virality  audience  video  anthropology  content  joeveix  youtube  lonelyweb  web  online  internet  deepweb  hapaxphaenomena  obscurity  forgotify  spotify  deepintoyoutube  images  search  onlinetoolkit  0views  audiencesofnone 
january 2016 by robertogreco
How to Be Invisible - NYTimes.com
"IN one of the most popular ads shown during the Super Bowl last weekend, the Indian-American actress Mindy Kaling thinks she’s become invisible. Cabs pass her by, and men barely look up on the sidewalk. And yet she embraces her invisibility as a kind of liberation. More of us should do the same.

We live in a time and culture that value display and are largely indifferent to the virtues of passing unnoticed. If we don’t get the interest, attention and recognition we think we deserve — whether we are men who have retired, women of a certain age (over 50, like me) or millennials who obsess over their brand visibility — we tend to file grievances. When Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” was published in 1952, it was a long overdue cry for recognition — social, judicial, legislative, human — for an entire race. But today, it’s a claim that many more of us seem to think we can file.

Which makes me wonder if it is time for all of us to reconsider the beauty, elegance and imagination that can come with being unseen. In her 2012 book, “Quiet,” Susan Cain discusses at length how silent attentiveness, rather than active participation, can allow one to absorb “on a deep level the laws of social dynamics” that go on around us. While she makes an eloquent argument for reticence and reserve, the natural world may be even more persuasive.

I almost missed the walking stick insect resting lightly on a wisteria branch on the porch railing last summer. With the symmetry and hue of a twig or shoot, it defied notice. Yet some small movement, some slant of light allowed me to see it, and once I did, I also saw that its elegance was a matter not just of its delicate frame and subdued color, but of its discretion as well. Calling it an inconspicuous marvel is not a contradiction.

Throughout the natural world, the capacity for camouflage and the ability to recede into the background come with lavish beauty and biological aplomb. Consider the arctic foxes and hares that turn white before snowfall. Or the baroque patterning of Indonesian crabs that mimic the coral in which they live. Or the octopus with cells beneath its skin that can change color to simulate that of the surrounding marine life. You could call these all extravaganzas of obscurity.

They also propose that becoming invisible, whether it is in color or behavior, is not the equivalent of being nonexistent, a lesson the human species seems to resist. It is not about denying creative individualism nor about relinquishing any of the qualities that may make us unique, original, singular.

Rather, it can be a condition of insight and endurance, a position of strength and power, a matter of knowing how and where we can be best accommodated by the exterior world. It can reflect a knowledge that we are of a larger world and that our survival depends on knowing this — not a bad thing to be reminded of when our disruptions of the natural environment result in everything from freakishly warm temperatures to ocean acidification.

Invisibility can be about finding a sense of fit with the immediate landscape, be it social, cultural or environmental. It can be about adaptability and the recognition that assertiveness may not always be in our best interest. Most of all, it can reflect a sense of vigilance, a sensitivity to and respect for external conditions.

Escaping notice need not be about complacent isolation, mindless conformity or humiliating anonymity. When circumstance confers invisibility upon us, perhaps it is something to appreciate and even welcome, as some iteration of the small imprint, low-impact living it makes sense to aspire to. Or possibly as a more profound poise, a fuller appreciation for our place in the greater scheme of things.

I think of the walking stick again. When it moves, its shadow is the shadow of a branch, its incremental motion suggesting nothing more than the breeze hitting a bit of bough. It may just be one ordinary thing disguised as another, but it has a lightness of being, a composure, and all the grace of going unseen."
invisibility  2015  akikobusch  susancain  inconspicuous  isolation  unseen  attention  nature  obscurity  individualism 
february 2015 by robertogreco
ying gao - designer
"2 interactive dresses, Super organza, photoluminescent thread, PVDF, electronic devices.

The project was inspired by the essay entitled "Esthétique de la disparition" (The aesthetic of disappearance), by Paul Virilio (1979). " Absence often occurs at breakfast time – the tea cup dropped, then spilled on the table being one of its most common consequences. Absence lasts but a few seconds, its beginning and end are sudden. However closed to outside impressions, the senses are awake. The return is as immediate as the departure, the suspended word or movement is picked up where it was left off as conscious time automatically reconstructs itself, thus becoming continuous and free of any apparent interruption. " The series comprising two (2) dresses, made of photoluminescent thread and imbedded eye tracking technology, is activated by spectators' gaze. A photograph is said to be “spoiled” by blinking eyes – here however, the concept of presence and of disappearance are questioned, as the experience of chiaroscuro (clarity/obscurity) is achieved through an unfixed gaze."
fashion  wearable  wearables  gaze  yinggao  presence  disappearance  chiaroscuro  clarity  obscurity  paulvirilio  absence  photoluminescence  vision 
june 2014 by robertogreco
You Need to Hear This Extremely Rare Recording  — The Message — Medium
"A story for the millennials in the room: Once upon a time, owning a rare media object was sorta cool. But some people used these objects to project their cultural superiority, which was pretty lame."



"The economics of popularity can be gamed, but scarcity is a devil’s trade."



"From snobby obscurist to pretentious scold, from rarity to reaction. As Comic Book Guy shows, you no longer have to be “in the know.” You just have to know what to say."
rexsorgatz  2014  aesthetics  culture  commonplace  abundance  scarcity  rarity  rare  digital  reproduction  copies  popularity  obscurity  internet  web  comicbookguy  thesimpsons  music  media  caseykasem  negativeland 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Invisibles by David Zweig: The Power of Anonymous Work | New Republic
"Despite an incredible range of careers, there are three traits they all seem to share. The first is an ambivalence toward recognition. They don’t seek attention the way most of us do. The second trait is that they tend to be meticulous. The chapter on meticulousness focuses on a man named David Apel, who is a perfumer. This guy has created some of the top-selling fragrances in the world, for people like Calvin Klein and Tom Ford. He’s really an artist: He creates something from nothing, and he has to translate very abstract concepts. If a client says, “I want this to smell like a cloud,” he has to figure out what they’re saying. He has this incredible knowledge of science and chemistry; these fragrances have hundreds of ingredients, and the amount of each ingredient can go down to fraction of a gram. He has these spreadsheets that go on and on and on. He’s extraordinarily meticulous. The third trait is that they tend to savor responsibility. I argue that many of us try to avoid responsibility if we can, but these people want to take it on, even if they don’t get any credit for it. There’s a fascinating story about the engineers on one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s early buildings. They knew that his designs weren’t safe, but he was notoriously stubborn, and they knew he wouldn’t listen to them. They secretly went in and reinforced parts of the building while it was being built. They wanted to take on this responsibility, knowing that publicly they could never talk about it, because they just cared so deeply about their work. We tend to associate responsibility with the person at the top of the pyramid, or the most noticeable person, but responsibility doesn’t necessarily have to do with being seen."

[via https://twitter.com/debcha/status/476029143101239296
"Invisibles: highly skilled professionals doing critical work, unseen by the public. Intriguing. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117955/invisibles-david-zweig-power-anonymous-work … /via @seriouspony"

follows with
"The Tzadikim Nistarim: the 36 hidden righteous ones, whose presence allows the world to keep existing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzadikim_Nistarim … /via @harrisj"
https://twitter.com/debcha/status/476031178047520769 ]
anonymity  invisibility  darkmatter  culturaldarkmatter  maticulousness  obscurity  attention  responsibility  visibility  recognition  labor  work  tzadikimnistarim 
june 2014 by robertogreco
BOMB Magazine — Etel Adnan by Lisa Robertson
"EA: … Galleries wait for artists to be recognized and then they all solicit the same ones. That happened to me, but I had to say no, because I can’t produce. I can paint, but I can’t produce. I always have done that, even when I was younger. Visual art is big industry; lots of money moves around, which is okay, it’s vital. But it’s also a bit of a heartbreak—I wish this had happened, let’s say, twenty years ago. It’s a nice feeling to have your work appreciated, but it’s almost a fashion for women to be recognized late in life. Agnes Martin, for example. It’s a trend, but we hope it will change."



"LR I’ve been rereading your books in the past two weeks, three or four of them. I read this beautiful line in Seasons this morning: “Women are keepers of their own story therefore they are historians.” I put that in relation to images in your work. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about images—about how the image works in Baudelaire, for example. It’s not only a visual or optical event, it’s happening across all the senses. It’s a poly-sensual perceiving.

EA Yes!


LR So I have two questions. One is about the relationship between the image in poetry and the image in painting, and the other one, which might not be related to the first, is about women’s images. In an interview with Steve McQueen in The Guardian about his film Twelve Years a Slave, he said, “Some images have never been seen before. I needed to see them.” It resonated for me in relationship to your work. You are making images that have not been seen. Some of that might have to do with the fact that you are making women’s images. Do you feel that?

EA Until now at least, a woman’s life, her psyche . . . we don’t like the word essence anymore. As women, of course, we are different from each other as people, but we are also different from men. Or we have been up until now. So we have our own images. We’ve had little girls’ lives, so we carry that. When I grew up in Beirut, there weren’t many sports for boys or girls, but certainly girls were aware of being little girls, of being in. This idea of the outside and the inside works very strongly in women’s lives. In fact, women are rooted somewhere, they are stronger physically. Women are containers—the baby is in their belly; making love is receiving. This container contains hearts and stomachs. Images are, in one way, what we receive, but they are also the tools with which we think. To make images, you think with them, somehow. You mentioned Baudelaire. For Baudelaire, images work not like shapes, but like ideas made visible. He was particularly interested in the encounter between what we call the inner world and the outer world. And poetry deals magnificently with that. It is one of the major definitions of poetry. It addresses that relationship between what we call the subject and the object, which melt in what we call consciousness. Sometimes we transcribe this state of mind into words and call it a poem or a text. The same is true for the other arts. Writing is a very mysterious activity. When you write, you say things that would not have occurred to your mind otherwise. I don’t know if the fact that we don’t use paper and ink anymore affects writing. On a computer it’s a new situation.

LR Do you write on a computer?

EA My poetry is not long. I write in little paragraphs and they pile up, so I do it by hand. But I am more and more obligated to answer letters or emails, so then I use a computer. But to go back to what an image is—

LR That’s my real question. (laughter)


Afternoon Poem, 1968, ink and watercolor on paper, 8 1/2 × 96 inches.
EA For example, I look at this table in front of me. Somebody over there, however, may look at it and not see it. Seeing is an activity; it is not passive.

LR The last sentence I read before I got off the metro on my way here was, “Behind an image there’s the image.”

EA There are layers of images—that’s what I meant, very simply. There is thickness. Vision is multidimensional and simultaneous. You can think, see, see beyond: you can do all these things at the same time. Your psyche, your brain catches up. Some people today say that an image is not necessarily a clear figuration of something; it could be like a blurred abstract drawing, like a sliding door.

LR An event in perceiving.

EA Yes, an event. It is a speed that you catch. Images are not still. They are moving things. They come, they go, they disappear, they approach, they recede, and they are not even visual—ultimately they are pure feeling. They’re like something that calls you through a fog or a cloud.

LR So they are immaterial, in a way.

EA That’s it! They are immaterial in essence. But they could be strongly defined, or they could be fleeting, almost like a ghost of things or of feelings going by. So the word image is very elastic. It’s a very rich concept. Although we are bombarded with images, our culture is anti-image. We think we don’t like it; it’s not fashionable. That is why Surrealism exists: it intends to amplify the image, to force us to see it. Andy Warhol understood that we are surrounded by so many things, and people, that we do not see them. We are rather blinded by them. So he forced our attention on soup cans and Marilyn Monroe.

On an other level, there are also different clarities. Some things are not meant to be clear; obscurity is their clarity. We should not underestimate obscurity. Obscurity is as rich as luminosity."



"EA I went to Catholic schools all my life. There were no other schools in Lebanon. We had religion around all the time. I’m lucky—I never believed in catechism or any of that. I was always a dissident without effort, at a distance from all the things the nuns were saying. I never liked saints. What touched me was their speaking of revelation, even the word itself. That always made sense to me. We owe life to the existence of the sun; therefore light is a very profound part of our makeup. It’s spiritual, in the way that even DNA is spiritual. What we call “spirit” is energy. It’s the definition of life, in one sense. Light, as an object, as a phenomenon, is magnificent. I am talking to you and the light coming in through the window has already changed. You go on the street and you look at the sky and it tells you what time it is. We are dealing with it constantly, and obscurity is also maybe its own light, because it shows you things. Obscurity is not lack of light. It is a different manifestation of light. It has its own illumination."



"LR One of the things I really appreciate in your poems is this very quick and subtle shift of register in the language. So many different idiolects enter into the stanzas or paragraphs that you write, which I actually think of as images in the way we were discussing.

EA What do you mean by “idiolects”?

LR Well, extreme colloquialisms right up against much more subtle, highly literary language.

EA Oh, I don’t realize that I’m doing that. That’s not a decision. I write as things come to my mind, maybe because I love philosophy, but I don’t love theory. There is a big difference. Not that I don’t respect theory, but I am incapable of writing it or even reading it."



"LR That is a beautiful book.

EA Howe manages to show how you should read a writer. The writer is unique, but is also part of a context. You can only approximate what a writer might have said. Philosophy is freer now, and for that reason Heidegger could say that the great philosophers were the poets. That a real, trained philosopher like Heidegger would come to that is very important to poets. Poets were afraid to think and philosophers were afraid to let go, to let loose and speak of themselves as part of their thinking. This boundary has been broken down. I love contemporary poetry because it moves between what we call poetry and what we call philosophy. It joins these fields and makes writing more natural, as in how it is lived in the person. We don’t separate thinking from feeling in real life, so why should we separate it in writing? The life of the mind is one and the boundaries and the categories are useful tools. We made them realities, but they are not realities—they are only tools, categories.

This existed before. In Hölderlin, for example, there is a lot of Romantic German thinking. I’d say Ezra Pound is more of a philosopher than we realize. There is a great presence of thinking in his poetry. Of course there is thinking when you write, but I mean thinking as such—

LR Approaching a problem.

EA That’s it! I find it in Pound. And there is political thinking in Charles Olson, whom I like very much. There is what they call proprioception, which comes very close to thinking—in Robert Creeley, for instance."



"LR The love of the world?

EA Yes. I don’t call it “nature”; I call it “the world.”

LR Well, what is the difference between them?

EA It’s historical. By nature we always mean landscapes. Language! The world is really the word; it’s the fact that it is.

LR Its isness.

EA It is and I love that. It distracted me from other forms of love. At the end of my life, I realize that the love of a person is a key to the world. Nothing matters more. To love a person in particular is the most difficult form of love, because it involves somebody else’s freedom. That is where misunderstandings come in; two people don’t have necessarily the same timing. You may love books and you may love paintings. They have their own technical difficulties, you fight with them, but you are the master of that fight.

LR Are you talking about time and timing? I mean, if you love a book or a painting, it’s more or less stable.

EA At least you are on top; it depends more on you. But a person has priorities, his or her problems, his or her character—you can’t control that and you don’t want to anyway. I mean, your freedom … [more]
eteladnan  lisarobertson  interviews  2014  obscurity  writing  light  art  gender  women  shadows  night  nighttime  joannekyger  philosophy  canon  idiolects  colloquialisms  language  literature  poetry  poems  susanhowe  nietzsche  heidegger  nature  balzac  baudelaire  love  friendship  time  timing  relationships  invention  making  images  thinking  howwethink  howwework  howwewrite  posthumanism  beirut  lebanon  paris  berkeley  ucberkeley 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Accessibility vs. access: How the rhetoric of “rare” is changing in the age of information abundance » Nieman Journalism Lab
"…digital archivists solve the barrier of accessibility, by making content previously tucked away in analog archives available to the world wide web…

What great curators do is reverse-engineer this dynamic, framing cultural importance first to magnify our motivation to engage with information…shares that manuscript in the context of how it relates to today’s ideals and challenges of publishing, to our shared understanding of creative labor and the changing value systems of authorship, will help integrate this archival item with your existing knowledge and interests, bridging your curiosity with your motivations to truly engage with the content.

Because in a culture where abundance has replaced scarcity as our era’s greatest information problem, without these human sensemakers and curiosity sherpas, even the most abundant and accessible information can remain tragically “rare.”"

[There's more to this. Better to read the entire thing.]
history  photography  information  archives  accessibility  mariapopova  curation  curating  curatorialteaching  curiosity  context  storytelling  relevance  flickrcommons  2011  digitalhumanities  classideas  cv  digitalcurators  infocus  openculture  dancolman  andybaio  metafilter  brainpickings  aaronswartz  filterbubble  elipariser  jamesgleick  abundance  scarcity  obscurity  infooverload 
august 2011 by robertogreco
collision detection: In Praise of Obscurity: My latest Wired column
"My latest column for Wired magazine is now online, and it’s a fun topic: I analyze the downside of becoming Twitter famous. You can read the full text below — or for free at Wired’s site, or in print if you race out to a newsstand this very instant and pick up a copy! — but the gist of the argument is simple: If you have too many followers, the conversational and observational qualities that originally make Twitter fun start to break down … and you’re left with old-fashioned (and often quite dull) broadcasting." [also at: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/01/st_thompson_obscurity/]
culture  internet  obscurity  scale  socialnetworking  intimacy  clivethompson  online  broadcasting  conversation 
january 2010 by robertogreco

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