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How ‘Unfriended’ Makes Common Internet Images Terrifying: A Guide

Despite its place at the forefront of adolescent fears, thoughtful explorations of cyberbullying (which is to say, more ambitious examinations than the 2011 TV movie Cyberbully) have been stunningly rare. This is an indication of a clear cultural lack, a failure to consider this ugly yet common manifestation of adolescent feelings of powerlessness coupled with the Internet’s chaotic systems of control. But last week, the multiplex welcomed Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended, the “cyberbullying horror film” to top all cyberbullying horror films — of which, before its release, there were none. … Read More

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Why Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law Isn’t Just Morally Wrong — It’s Bad Law

There’s been an ongoing controversy over Indiana’s adoption of a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), largely because of the potential it grants for the discrimination against LGBT people on religious grounds. This week, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook penned an op-ed for the Washington Post wherein he argued that the laws “go against very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.” He’s right on both counts, but the first is one that warrants exploring further, because the RFRA in all its incarnations isn’t just a bad law — it’s a fundamentally ill-conceived one. … Read More

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Zoella’s Clockwork Novels: Fanfiction, Ghostwriters, and the Bizarre, Automated Future of Publishing

Another year, another novel churned out by the YouTube Megastar-Publishing Complex. This week, the Guardian announced that Zoe “Zoella” Sugg, Internet superstar and “author” of Girl Online, last year’s runaway hit and the fastest-selling debut novel of all time, will publish a sequel, the appropriately titled Girl Online 2. Only, as is well documented, Sugg didn’t write the novel, even though she said she did. The book’s jacket copy finds Zoella confiding to her fans: “My dream has been to write a book, and I can’t believe it’s come true.” But, as it turns out, the book was ghostwritten, factory produced by an underlaborer named Siobhan Curham, who wrote the book for a measly £7,000 to £8,000. … Read More

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SXSW 2015: Alex Gibney Takes on the Cult of Mac in ‘Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine’

I am writing this on an iPad. My writing music plays into my head courtesy of an iPod Classic, one of the last of the big, 160GB jobbers. A few minutes ago, the iPhone in my pocket buzzed. It’s my wife sending me a video of our baby daughter back home, shot on her matching iPhone. We’re Mac people, is the point; have been since 1999, when I unwrapped my first iMac. But when Steve Jobs died in 2011, I didn’t feel like it was some kind of personal loss. He was a guy who ran a company — a cool company, sure, that made a lot of stuff I liked, but still not someone I felt the need to grieve for on the Internet or in front of an Apple store. I watched that public mourning, didn’t quite understand it, and forgot about it. Alex Gibney felt the same way, and made a… Read More

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HBO Announces Launch of Standalone Streaming Service in April, Shares ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Trailer

HBO announced in a press release that they will officially launch a standalone premium streaming service this April — just… Read More

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“The Shadow State Is Not Really a Shadow State”: How Surveillance Anxiety Is Shaping Pop Culture

Someone is always watching.

For the longest time, that idea underpinned grim visions of a totalitarian future in books and movies, from Nineteen Eighty-Four to The Hunger Games — cautionary tales about the fate awaiting a citizenry that allows itself to be deceived by the people in power.

Then the future arrived, and it turned out those bleak fantasies of an all-seeing surveillance state weren’t so farfetched: in the post-9/11 world, someone really is watching, be it Facebook mapping your life’s history for the sake of advertising dollars, or the National Security Agency keeping tabs on your phone calls and text messages in the name of freedom. … Read More

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Book Publishing Predictions for 2015

What will book publishing bring in 2015? Shrouded as the industry is behind a veil woven of billions and billions of dollars, it’s difficult to say. But if you look hard enough — at the bestseller lists, the court cases, the controversies — you can glimpse through the metaphorical keyhole and into the back rooms where the deals are made. With this in mind, here is a somewhat reliable predictor for the publishing industry in 2015. … Read More

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2014: The Year Music Actually Did Something About Its Tech Skepticism

U2 force-fed their new album to the world for free and ended up the enemy. Taylor Swift took hers away and ended up a hero.

Swift changed her narrative in 2014, and it wasn’t about ditching country or dating out of the public eye. She became the face of skepticism over how technology has changed music, during a year when the streaming music economy was debated more than ever — not only among artists, whose wellbeing is affected greatly, but in the court of public opinion as well. … Read More

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U2’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ iTunes Release Was About Relevance, Not Altruism

In 2014, it takes Apple and U2 to pull off a musical monoculture that rivals both Beyoncé’s 2013 sneak attack and Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want In Rainbows launch. The tech giants and the world-dominating rockers continued their decade-long business collaboration in a big way yesterday during the launch of Apple Watch, Apple Pay, and two different versions of the iPhone 6. Unbeknownst to the masses, Apple released U2’s unannounced but highly anticipated new album, Songs of Innocence, straight into the music library of every iTunes user worldwide. “This will be the largest album release in history. Over a half-billion people own it. Right now,” Apple CEO Tim Cook announced, before Bono and co. closed out the presentation at Apple’s Cupertino, California campus with the album’s opening track, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).” … Read More

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