Monday, October 3, 2011

Reading for a Monday

--An eyewitness, Ava, describes the mass arrest Saturday on the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday, during an Occupy Wall Street event. She went to document the march and ended up arrested. Her conclusion?
In the end I’m glad I was arrested. This event has sparked something in me that’s been lacking since I came to university and busied myself with schoolwork and internships. I’m passionate about fighting for my country again, and I don’t plan on keeping silent.

The police may have tried to deter us, but instead they’ve impassioned us.

I am one of the 99%, and I’m mad as hell.

I love the photo she took of the woman with lavendar hair carrying a sign saying "I'm 87 and Mad As Hell."

--Over at the Los Angeles Review of Book's blog, Barbara Ehrenreich considers how much good getting banned has done for sales of her Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America and wishes a couple of other of her books would therefore be banned, also.
To judge from the gleeful responses of my publisher and literary agent, being banned is not bad for book sales. The first attempt to “ban” my book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America occurred in 2003, when it was assigned as required reading for incoming students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. When conservative students and state legislators protested this choice — with, for example, a full-page ad in the Raleigh News and Observer — I was deluged with interview requests from that state, and relished the opportunity to discuss itsappallingly low wages and high poverty rate. Nickel and Dimed’s recent ascent to the list of the top ten banned books in the United States has generated fresh interest, which has not, so far as I know, harmed sales.

So the question is: How do I get more of my books banned?
-- Slate has posted a five-part series by Farhad Manjoo on robots and computers taking over professional (and not just manufacturing) jobs. These, of course, are the jobs that people tend to believe are safe from such technological "progress." He notes, at the end of Part V,
As I reported in this series, computers are improving their language and visual processing. They’re better than humans at remembering stuff and finding new connections, and they’re even making inroads into human creativity. At the moment, robots fall short in two main areas—they have a hard time manipulating objects in the physical world, and they’re not good at face-to-face conversation. But as computer power increases, the first of these problems will be solved. And the second—face-to-face conversation—might also be within their capacities in decades to come.

This series doesn’t address what happens next: What will humans do when computers have taken most of our jobs? How will we spend our time? How will we make money? How will society work when jobs are no longer the central activity of human existence?

I’ve ignored these deep questions because, at this point, very few people are thinking about them; they sound more like subjects that a stoner sci-fi geek would ponder than questions that serious people should spend time thinking about. But that’s got to change. Humanity is being eclipsed, and we need to figure out what to do about it. This is really going to happen.
But of course those are the questions that interest me most. (Hey! Does that mean I'm "a stoner sci-geek"?)

--Over at Ms. Magazine, Ariel Dougherty evaluates gender balance in the mainstream media and considers the societal cost that imbalance incurs:
“I had journalists say to me: ‘I saw the women on the field. But they were so pitiful-looking that I didn’t film them,’” recalls Gini Reticker, director of the 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which documents women’s peace efforts in Liberia. While she had trouble finding footage of Liberian women’s peace actions, it was, however, easy to find hours of tape glorifying the AK-47-wielding boys who had been forced into warring militia.

With this disparity, the international media–much of it based in the U.S.–betrayed an enormous gender bias. On the one hand, young men, preyed upon and once-powerless, were recorded and elevated, despite dehumanizing and horrific actions. On the other hand, women who seized their own authority, created community and changed the course of a whole nation for good were absent from the public media record–and thus, nearly lost to history.

What is the societal cost when the media fails to be fully inclusive of the majority of its population in its storytelling? For one thing, as in the case of Liberia’s civil war, the real history is lost. How many voices of women or people of color were heard on U.S. TV or radio during this summer’s “debt limit” fiasco? Very, very few from my viewing, especially of the financial channels. So we did not hear the story of how the stimulus program, a key factor in the debt crisis, had less impact on women. In fact, women are bearing the brunt of the extended recession, being rehired at a much lower rate than men. Over 12 percent of households are run by unmarried women. Among African American women, that figure leaps to 29.1 percent. But the stories of how these women are struggling to feed their families are missing from the airwaves.

Loretta Ross, National Coordinator, of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, highlights another problem with mainstream media’s omission of women and people of color: Failing to find expert women’s sources can lead to bad framing.
Do, please, read the whole post.

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