2013 Week 26: Good Things I Saw On The Internet

That C.S. Lewis even aspired to respond to all the letters he got says something about the man he was. This letter is one of his most famous. Justly so.

I have never launched into The Brothers Karamazov but I am currently procrastinating having left down Crime and Punishment at page 240. So this tickled me considerably.

Evgeny Morozov is always worth a read and in Slate this week he made a brilliant case that Big Data is a concept lacking substance. The heart of the problem with PRISM and similar spying programs, in terms of efficacy, is that they are not efficient. The reason why they will fail to deliver what they promise is not because they need more power but because their power lulls us into thinking humans are random. Humans can be understood. Even enemy humans. Especially enemy humans. There are many reasons to oppose the surveillance State, but it can’t even be defended from pragmatic grounds. Or as Morozov puts it:

The great temptation of Big Data is that we can stop worrying about comprehension and focus on preventive action instead.

In a similar vein, I appreciated this article looking at how Germans raised in the East (GDR) view the revelations of universal listening-in. One activist, familiar with Stasi tactics, says:

“Everyone knows that gathering so much information is bullshit,” said Reinhard Weisshuhn, a political activist and foreign policy adviser. “It’s a total breach of trust by the government. This is how a society destroys itself.”

My dear friend Eoin O’Mahony is finishing up his PhD in Geography at Maynooth. If I was a millionaire, I would buy a copy of the subsequent book for every Presbyterian minister in Ireland because his engagement with Marian statues, sites of pilgrimage and other forgotten features of Irish society will do more to unlock for us what it means to live in a secular age than all the shallow discourse that is usually spewn out on that topic. In a great recent post which I sent to instapaper and only got around to reading this morning, Eoin talks about how Irish academic research is blind to working class communities as agents and creators of politics. Instead, the working class, the places the working class live and the things working class people do is just a way in to discussing social dysfunction. It is a really thought provoking piece that I think would apply to places other than Ireland. Wife-unit has a consistent bee in her bonnet about the ways in which we imagine the working class to be devoid of culture, that culture is something the middle class possess. Eoin is tackling that from another angle. In the midst of his discussion you see a trace of how his work will help Christians to think through the age we live within:

The Marian statues of Dublin have been erased from Dublin’s ‘official history’ because they don’t fit a particular way of creating Dublin. The City Council has a database of statues and monuments. Not a single Marian statue appears in it.

Eoin’s work is going to help you understand pilgrimage much better. So this is a good place to declare that I hereby officially add this pilgrimage to the list of things I would like to do- walking the way of Ignatius.

The Media Avengers is a seamlessly slick interpolation of the characters and plot line from The Avengers movie into the media outlets of our day. This is the kind of thing the internet does damn well.

The Reconstructionists is a yearlong celebration of remarkable women who have changed how we see the world. The pen portraits of the women are brilliant but it is the art work that really caught my eye. It is probably too American focused for my liking, but I’m sure they’ll get around to covering my mom soon.

Patti Smith portrait on thereconstructionists.org

Your Correspondent, Comes from a culture that values honour and respect… and Godzilla.