telegeography: Skype’s continuous international traffic growth...

telegeography:

Skype’s continuous international traffic growth has been remarkable. In 2005, Skype generated about 8 billion minutes of international Skype-to-Skype traffic. By 2011, Skype’s call traffic grew to 145 billion minutes. While this is modest compared to the 440 billion minutes of international calls routed via telephone companies in 2011, Skype is clearly by far the world’s largest provider of international voice communications.

Source: TeleGeography Report & Database

Security Theater

Over at the New York Times, Matt Ritchel asks why we still have to take out our laptops at security screenings even though many of them are scarcely bigger than tablets. The TSA refuses to explain, citing security concerns. After rejecting a series of possible lines of reasoning, Ritchel finds an anonymous security expert who is willing to tell him that it is nothing more than "security theater," an effort to make us feel that something is being done to protect us. 

The feebleness of this effort aside—after all, who really feels the TSA is effective at anything besides the catching the most primitive efforts, building long lines at the airport, and existing as a form of republican social welfare—it points to something that I allude to in the Situated Technologies Pamphlet I just completed with Helen Nissenbaum.

Network culture clearly has a drive toward openness and transparency. The freedom of sharing and ease of building upon information encourages that. At the same time, there are plenty of individuals and institutions with power who see that freedom as something for the Muppets of the world while they themselves hide behind the curtains. To them, our own haplessly naïve transparency is something to exploit from their citadels, be they in the government or in finance. In turn, we have to hope that those in power won't abuse it too badly, that taking out laptops at the security line as a ritual is the worst of it.     

We're still early in all this and just as the Democrats adopted civil rights as a mission in the 1950s, one day these issues may be taken up by political parties. Until then, it's not just up to power to stay vigilant, it's up to us to stay vigilant of power.

Modulated Cities: Networked Spaces, Reconstituted Subjects

I am delighted to announce that the last of the Situated Technologies Pamphlets Series has been released today. Titled "Modulated Cities: Networked Spaces, Reconstituted Subjects," this pamphlet consists of a conversation between NYU media, culture, communication and computer science professor Helen Nissenbaum and myself on the topic of privacy under network culture.

It was a great honor to be a part of this series and to get a chance to get to know a brilliant scholar of network culture. I'm deeply grateful to series editors Trebor Scholz, Mark Shepard, Omar Khan as well as Rosalie Genevro and Gregory Wessner at the Architectural League and Jena Sher, who did a brilliant design. Most especially, I'm grateful to Helen, who expanded my thinking about the issue, and about network culture in general, greatly. You may download the book here, or purchase an on demand copy here

The topic of privacy under network culture is a huge one, and just during the time since we finished editing the book we read about the brief life of the iPhone app Girls Around Me and about the NSA's construction of a massive surveillance facility in Bluffdale, Utah that will be able to store and parse virtually any transmissions taking place over the Internet.

The Network Culture book, which is moving slowly but surely, ends with a discussion of issues of privacy and control. Rather than being a sideline or something that designers don't need to think about, privacy is crucial to us as I hoped to highlight by choosing the image by photographer Michael Wolf for the cover to underscore how longstanding questions of transparency have been to architecture.  

If you're intrigued, then come to the Architectural League's Beneath and Beyond Big Data event on April 28th from 2 to 5pm at the Cooper Union's Rose Auditorium. Helen and I will be there in conversation with Trebor as will a host of other designers and thinkers associated with Situated Technologies. -

Please take a look and let me know what you think. 

Taking A Walk Into the Lives Of India's Street Kids

Taking A Walk Into the Lives Of India's Street Kids:

On City Walk, a tour of how street children live in India, run by street children.

Yurika Sugimoto produced this graph of Manhattan Retail Rent in...

Yurika Sugimoto produced this graph of Manhattan Retail Rent in $PSF for our spring studio.

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

The most recent issue of MAS Context has an essay by Ben Brichta on the Network Architecture Lab's recent event on copyright at Columbia with Amy Adler, Lebbeus Woods, Sean Dockray, and Geeta Dayal. Thanks to Ben, who did a great job for the Netlab with his essay. You can find it here

I'm honored to finally be in MAS Context, which is a great publication that I'm sure you're either familiar with or about to check out. Other friends in the issue are Klaus and Quillian Rieno. I was thrilled to be introduced to Martin Anderson's Suburbia Gone Wild piece, which looks at how suburbia has grown throughout the developing world and can be found in expanded form at his Web site as well as Pedro Hernández's piece on the abandoned architecture of the Alicante coast. I've only had a short time to look over the issue at breakfast, but it promises to be really worthwhile.  

So much for that

I had an opportunity to finally set up the turntable in my new house. It’s a Thorens TD 160 Mark II that I picked up in Ithaca back in the 1990s, either at a punk rock record store, an estate sale, or the salvation army. God only knows which anymore. This turntable boasts a fifteen year old Audio Note IQ-1 cartridge with its original stylus (two kids meant that I didn’t get to play it often enough… and the kind staff at Audio Note said if it sounds fine, it probably is) and brought up to my preamp via a low budget Musical Fidelity phono stage preamp. I put on a head to head of Röyksopp’s Junior which I have on both vinyl and CD. My CD player is an Oppo BDP-95 universal player, which is certainly highly regarded and easily bests many CD players that I’ve had before, especially since it plays SACD, DVD-Audio, and so on. We won’t even talk about how much worse a typical MP3 would sound. 

I won’t blame my beloved Oppo, but there’s only so much we can do with the medium of CDs. My trusty turntable still sounds fabulous and the imaging is better. The weird phasing bass synth on Vision One is much more pleasing with the turntable, its phasing and distortion much more listenable. It’s really incredible. So it goes sometimes. I’m still eager to phase out my library for PDFs on a book by book basis, but well, I see why vinyl is booming.  

At the Netlab, I’m always keenly sensitive to the fact that just because a technology is new doesn’t just make it better. Something to always keep in mind. 

So much for that

I had an opportunity to finally set up the turntable in my new house. It’s a Thorens TD 160 Mark II that I picked up in Ithaca back in the 1990s, either at a punk rock record store, an estate sale, or the salvation army. God only knows which anymore. This turntable boasts a fifteen year old Audio Note IQ-1 cartridge with its original stylus (two kids meant that I didn’t get to play it often enough… and the kind staff at Audio Note said if it sounds fine, it probably is) and brought up to my preamp via a low budget Musical Fidelity phono stage preamp. I put on a head to head of Röyksopp’s Junior which I have on both vinyl and CD. My CD player is an Oppo BDP-95 universal player, which is certainly highly regarded and easily bests many CD players that I’ve had before, especially since it plays SACD, DVD-Audio, and so on. We won’t even talk about how much worse a typical MP3 would sound. 

I won’t blame my beloved Oppo, but there’s only so much we can do with the medium of CDs. My trusty turntable still sounds fabulous and the imaging is better. The weird phasing bass synth on Vision One is much more pleasing with the turntable, its phasing and distortion much more listenable. It’s really incredible. So it goes sometimes. I’m still eager to phase out my library for PDFs on a book by book basis, but well, I see why vinyl is booming.  

At the Netlab, I’m always keenly sensitive to the fact that just because a technology is new doesn’t just make it better. Something to always keep in mind. 

Rise of the Supercommuter

Derek Lindner sent me a link to this study on “the Rise of the Supercommuter” by Mitchell Moss and Carson Qing over at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation. See also this Atlantic article, “The World is Spiky” and this article on supercommuters in Bloomberg Businessweek. Wonder if supercommuters will join the OED in the next year or two? 

Flynn Effect

In a phenomenon known as the Flynn Effect, scores on standardized IQ tests have steadily risen in developed countries over the decades. That is, until recently. See wikipedia.

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