Voices

‘Your Life Will Be a Video Game,’ and 3 Other Stories You Should Read

Here’s what you missed while spending all week on Facebook arguing with relatives and high school classmates you didn’t even know you were still friends with…

The Atlantic: How Well Can Computers Read Fiction?

Selected by Erin Nelson, marketing editor

I tried to sit down to write about Silicon Valley’s fate under Donald Trump and quickly had a panic attack about the impending policy changes. So instead, I’ll stick to a non-partisan topic: stories.

In an effort to better understand the components of fictional storytelling, researchers from the University of Vermont are working on a massive study to better classify story arcs and language. To begin, they created a program to assign emotional value to words from over 1,000 texts. (“Terrorist,” for example, is classified as negative, while “win” is deemed positive; there are also neutral words.) They then developed an algorithm to look for patterns in emotional arcs,and were able to classify up to 85 percent of stories into one of six narratives, like the Icarus arc, which chronicles an emotional rise and fall.

In this article, Veronique Greenwood ponders how understanding different plots can help us decode the way location and era impact the stories we tell. As America’s story undergoes a distinct shift, the article begs the question: How will this new era of governance impact the stories we tell within our society?

Motherboard: White Supremacists Are Still Using Twitter Ads to Spread Their Message

Selected by Craig Davis, editorial intern

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory, Facebook and Twitter have faced intense scrutiny for their policing—or lack thereof—of fake news. But just as Twitter introduced new tools to combat harassment, the social network once again finds itself in hot water.

Sponsored ads from a white supremacist group called New Order began appearing on some user feeds, promoting an article titled “The United States Was Founded as a White People’s Republic.” (It’s since been taken down.) Though Twitter initially claimed the post was either old or photoshopped, CEO Jack Dorsey later admitted the ad “was a ‘mistake’ on the part of Twitter’s automated ad system.”

Motherboard’s Ben Sullivan tackles the implications of this gaffe in targeted ad platforms, which essentially allows hatemongers to exploit Twitter’s targeting formula. In this case, the tweet went to users who followed accounts “related to fighting racism and supporting social justice.”

“While [this kind of ad platform] allows genuine organizations to better target their products or promoted tweets,” Sullivan writes, “trolls can have a field day spamming users with content that may offend or hurt them.”

The Ringer: How the Social Media “Echo Chamber” Morphed the Election

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief

This week, I’ve been nostalgic for two very strange things: the debt ceiling crisis of 2013 and Facebook’s algorithm from that year.

When Congressional republicans shut down the government for 16 days during a bitter budget battle over the debt ceiling and Obamacare, I did my duty as a liberal New York millennial and posted angry rants about the GOP on Facebook. I got in Facebook debates every day with conservatives from my high school who disagreed with my assessment. These exchanges pissed me off, but they also allowed me to understand the other side and forced me to hone my arguments until they were bulletproof.

I was an equally angry Facebook user during this election cycle, but this time around, Facebook’s algorithm ensured that the echo chamber was airtight. It’s been months since I’ve seen a Trump supporter in my feed— and that’s a problem.

In an excellent piece on the social media echo chamber for The Ringer, Molly McHugh examines the ramifications, both between and within partisan groups. One of the more interesting conclusions is that liberals ranting to other liberals might have cost Hillary the election.

After reading this piece, it’s hard not to think that we’re doomed. But it’s also clear that Facebook has a responsibility to attempt to fix things.

The Verge: Your Life Will Be a Video Game

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

EA Games CEO Andrew Wilson has a very distinct vision of the future of gaming.

He sees the internet-of-things (IoT) and 5G networks (which could improve mobile speeds by tenfold) as the sparks to a potential revolution in how we all game. Instead of playing Halo on the couch, we’ll play the game everywhere through the IoT. (Or, indeed, that our lives themselves will be the controller to some global, interconnected game).

It’s a disconcerting but still interesting vision. (Do I really want my games to track my every move?) It also aligns with what many marketer’s see as the promise of the IoT and 5G: the ability to track people’s every move and use their behavior to optimize serving them what they want—or what marketer’s think they want.

That’s a paradigm shift in how we interact with media. The industry—and people in general—need to be ready for the consequences if it comes to fruition.

Image by Unsplash / CC Zero
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