How Social Networks Think

I’ve had difficulty explaining my networking concepts without resorting to some exasperated cliche like, “that’s just how I think about it.”

Well, turns out that scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health are coming to the conclusion that that’s actually how the brain thinks.

Of course that’s how I think about it. It’s literally how I think…

In this “small world” architecture of the brain, clusters of cells link to their nearest neighbors with some neurons connecting to distant clusters. It’s the same phenomenon that social networking pioneer Duncan Watts of NYU and Steven Strogatz of Cornell previously showed emerges in the electric-power grid, relationships between professional actors, and the brain cells of worms. read more

Societal Culture and the Internet’s Clusters

China’s internet users number 130 million – and are growing 30% every year. Second only to the U.S., China is installing broadband everywhere, and internet cafes are the size of K-Marts and as abundant as Starbucks.

In 2005, Dr. Guo Liang of the Chinese Acadamy of Social Sciences published a study showing that one third (and growing) of internet users had no email accounts, and of them, only a third check their email daily. Forty-two percent of netizens did not use a search engine. Seventy-five percent had never made an online purchase. read more

Contemplative Prison Films As Zeitgeist

Socio-political Film Studies was one of my favorite things from College. Here is the newest of my regular series.

There were so many Prison Dramas in the 70s that are of a certain similar flavor, it bears noting how and why these similarities were printed and what it suggests about the zeitgeist of the era. Prison films in general boil down to a struggle between men, machines and the mincer.

In “Papillon,” Steve McQueen the one intent on escape, says to his buddy, the crooked guards’ best-friend, the dutifully bribing Dustin Hoffman character: read more

The Final Shot of Three Days of the Condor – NSA Considered

Yeah, um, remember in 2004 when The New York Times sat on the NSA Wiretapping story until AFTER the most important election in generations? Remember why?  SPOILER ALERT: Because the criminal exposed in the story asked them to. He was afraid the story would cost him the election if his crimes were revealed. Then, after he won reelection, the White House let The Times publish. At that point, who cares? They were in for four more years – safe and sound. It really is that simple.

Why did The Times not print it? As The Times tried to explain it away: read more

The Final Shot of The Conversation – The Third Man considered

Strangely, it wasn’t the recent NSA ruling by a Federal Court smacking down Bush’s illegal spy ring that got me to netflix one of my old favorite Watergate-era films.

What got me going back to my favorite time in film history, America’s 1970s, was actually the fade-to-black shot of film-noir masterpiece The Third Man (1949) [view trailer]. You know, that brave long quiet last shot where the loyal and jilted lover of Orson Welles, Valli (Anna Schmidt) walks towards the camera for an aching 65 seconds of heavy zither music only to pass her suitor, the audience surrogate, without a glance. read more

The Internet as Third Place

Ray Oldenburg is an urban sociologist who writes about the importance of informal public gathering places. In his book The Great Good Place, Oldenburg demonstrates why these gathering places are essential to community and public life. He argues that bars, coffee shops, general stores, and other “third places” (in contrast to the first and second places of home and work), are central to local democracy and community vitality.

By exploring how these places work and what roles they serve, Oldenburg offers a compelling argument for these settings of informal public life as essential for the health both of our communities and ourselves. read more

Bombs Away

—AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
—AZ-01: Rick Renzi
—AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
—CA-04: John Doolittle
—CA-11: Richard Pombo
—CA-50: Brian Bilbray
—CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
—CO-05: Doug Lamborn
—CO-07: Rick O’Donnell
—CT-04: Christopher Shays
—FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
—FL-16: Joe Negron
—FL-22: Clay Shaw
—ID-01: Bill Sali
—IL-06: Peter Roskam
—IL-10: Mark Kirk
—IL-14: Dennis Hastert
—IN-02: Chris Chocola
—IN-08: John Hostettler
—IA-01: Mike Whalen
—KS-02: Jim Ryun
—KY-03: Anne Northup
—KY-04: Geoff Davis
—MD-Sen: Michael Steele
—MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
—MN-06: Michele Bachmann
— MO-Sen: Jim Talent
—MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
—NV-03: Jon Porter
—NH-02: Charlie Bass
—NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
—NM-01: Heather Wilson
—NY-03: Peter King
—NY-20: John Sweeney
—NY-26: Tom Reynolds
—NY-29: Randy Kuhl
—NC-08: Robin Hayes
—NC-11: Charles Taylor
—OH-01: Steve Chabot
—OH-02: Jean Schmidt
—OH-15: Deborah Pryce
—OH-18: Joy Padgett
—PA-04: Melissa Hart
—PA-07: Curt Weldon
—PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
—PA-10: Don Sherwood
—RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
—TN-Sen: Bob Corker
—VA-Sen: George Allen
—VA-10: Frank Wolf
—WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
—WA-08: Dave Reichert
read more

Socio-Political Film Studies: America 1970s

The late 1960s was a time of radical change in the world of film. The Hollywood studio system was in decline, while the European art film movement created a new aesthetic standard for filmmaking. This industry transformation, encouraged by the success of a few experimental Hollywood films at the end of the decade, led to the filmmaking renaissance of the 1970s. The monolithic Hollywood studios began to lose their power during the 1960s. Millions of dollars were spent on extravagant blockbusters such as Cleopatra, but with diminishing returns at the box office. At the same time, the traditional, wholesome values represented and reinforced by Hollywood movies were increasingly rejected by the new generation of film audiences, and the studios were unsure what to do. read more

Memory, Alienation, History

The play Mnemonic begins with a monologue about the location of memory processes in the brain and continues on to contemplate the genealogy of humankind:

“Anyway, our job, the job of remembering, is to reassemble, to literally re-member, put the relevant members back together. But what I am getting at is that remembering is essentially not only an act of retrieval but a creative thing, it happens in the moment, an act, an act of the imagination. Of course if memory is this chaotic map it’s highly likely that you will lose your way and retrieve or imagine something you didn’t expect because you take a different route than the one you thought you should. For example as I stand here trying to remember my text, for some reason my father is coming to my mind.” read more

Family Mythology

One of the first times I took notes with a source, laying-out a location was when my grandfather walked me around Boston to show me where he used to work.

My grandfather was a newspaperman in Boston starting in the 19-teens. Technically he painted the Sunday magazine covers like Norman Rockwell did for his paper. He knew Norman Rockwell. Before papa died, he took me around to show me where he and the guys from the paper would hang out. I was in the 6th grade.

That morning, we got to a bar called The Bell in Hand. This was the where the really old-timer newspaper men met for lunches. The name was mysterious – he had to explain what the hell a town crier was (Boston’s last one opened that tavern). Widespread public literacy is nice. read more