Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.


Childish Gambino and how the internet killed the cultural critic

This is less about that Childish Gambino video in and of itself and more an apologia for that facile kind of ‘fit this thing I don’t quite understand into the immutable category framework already established for myself’ as a placeholder for more rigorous media and cultural literacy/analysis (cf Dan Olson’s video on ‘Annihilation and Decoding Metaphor’). It’s ironic that the article is almost entirely uncritical of Fandom with a capital F’s blindness to context beyond its own bubbles. And especially grating when it slaps down such straw-man dingers like “the impartiality of reviewers was of dubious provenance anyway”. #link


You Think You Want Media Literacy… Do You?

“Media literacy is imagined to be empowering, enabling individuals to have agency and giving them the tools to help create a democratic society. But fundamentally, it is a form of critical thinking that asks people to doubt what they see. And that makes me nervous.” I’m not sure I draw the same conclusion; healthy cynicism doesn’t mean doubting everything one sees. But media literacy, or critical thinking in general, should never be confined to the absolute binary of ‘true’ or ‘false’. Context is key, as are layers of meaning, particularly as propaganda gets more savvy and sophisticated. #link


When the Facebook Traffic Goes Away

The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that Facebook is a destructive, eroding force for banal evil in the world. The negatives outweigh the positives to an alarming degree. #link


24-hour Putin people: my week watching Kremlin ‘propaganda channel’ RT

“More than outright lies, RT deals in moral equivalency. Its defenders don’t deny bias; they deny the possibility of objectivity. They say western media is equally biased. They liken RT to state broadcasters such as the BBC, France 24 and al Jazeera. They say other news channels have been sanctioned by Ofcom. It’s a triumph of cynicism: we’re all just as bad as each other.” The difference is, those other channels don’t make disinformation, in bad faith, their raison d'être. Speaking of bad faith, The Atlantic was recently moved to do an explainer on a concept — lying, basically — that’s pretty self-evident. #link


Poynter: Burned once, publishers are wary of Medium’s new subscription offering

Sigh. ‘Pivoting’ is great for start-ups and VCs, who must believe it’s a virtue to be so nimble. It’s not so good for their employees or contractors, those who supply the necessary labour, who can’t possibly be expected to follow suit. And it’s all in the service of an ad market that doesn’t have a metric for (and therefore, doesn’t understand) the way advertising works now. [c/o Kottke.org] #link


Front page of the Guardian from 29 March 2017.

The front page of today’s Guardian. Given the creativity, they can be forgiven for accidentally Brexit-ing chunks of the Republic’s border counties (plus a bit of Wicklow, and a stretch of France). #image


The Guardian: How TV news failed to keep up in 2016

There’s no good reason why TV news producers can’t make better use of the web and social media as channels. They’re brands people can and do trust, but their absence from Facebook and the like only leaves a void to be filled by the fakes. #link


Evidence-based vs. accusation-driven reporting

Accusation-driven reporting is typical tabloid journalism, though even tabloids often get to the truth beyond the sensationalist headlines and opening grafs. This shit’s just ethically dubious clickbait, the kind of stuff they used to call ‘yellow journalism’. #link


Embedded

A podcast from NPR about going deep into news stories one might otherwise breeze over on a given site or in a given paper. Doesn't look like there's been anything new since June but hopefully it's just been on a summer pause. #link


Don’t Trust Your CMS

It all boils down to this, from the final paragraph: "King’s editors had a responsibility to ensure that his accurate sourcing was reproduced when published, no matter the vagaries of their CMS. (King, too, should probably have been reading his articles once they were published.)" #link


The Web We Have to Save

"Nearly every social network now treats a link as just the same as it treats any other object — the same as a photo, or a piece of text — instead of seeing it as a way to make that text richer. You’re encouraged to post one single hyperlink and expose it to a quasi-democratic process of liking and plussing and hearting: Adding several links to a piece of text is usually not allowed. Hyperlinks are objectivized, isolated, stripped of their powers." There's a lot in this, and some of it is maybe a little too cynical (the almost techno-luddite suspicion of 'secretive' algorithms selecting our information streams is something that stands out) but there's no denying what Hossein 'Hoder' Derakhshan say about the fate of the hyperlink. #link


Access Denied

How celebrities' increasing direct access to their fans, via Instagram and the like, has undermined the entertainment press, prompting them to seek ever more desperate measures, like fanboy profiles. #link


Get rich or die vlogging: The sad economics of internet fame

You want to say 'just keep it as a hobby' but the reality for most is, if you want any kind of following you can hope to monetise, you have to post something new almost daily, and doing that well is a full-time gig. Although, if the following you get are the kind of people who'll call you a 'sellout' for trying to make a living, then why even bother in the first place? #link


New Yorker copyeditor dishes on the wacky side of her (quite dignified) job: “One feels so silly looking up [profanity]”

"If there’s a combination that makes an ideal copy editor it’s high intelligence and low ego, because if you’re looking for ego gratification copy editing is probably not the place to be." Absolutely! And I firmly believe all my years of editing has made me a better writer, even if only in terms of not being so precious about my own words. If something needs fixing, so be it. #link


Dirty, Fast, and Free Audio Transcription with YouTube

Next time I have to transcribe an interview, after giving Google Voice a shot, I think I'll be trying this. Because it's far, far easier to edit text than transcribe it from scratch. (I can't get any better than an hour per 10 minutes of audio. I know.) #link


The vast, unplayable history of video games

There's a very important point here about the ownership of cultural artefacts, and how the digital era has defined that ownership squarely in favour of the corporate producer (leading to legal absurdities like software licences becoming a template for every kind of non-physical media). It's not just about games; if films are no longer being preserved on reels of celluloid, and only exist on the hard drives of some movie studio's IT department, how can we trust they'll still be around in decades to come? #link


BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti Goes Long

This has been on my 'to read' list for too long, so I'm posting it here as a prompt, and for future reference as it's basically a how-to guide for media and the internet. With all his hires recently -- including my old internet friend Mat Honan -- it's pretty obvious Peretti wants to be more than just a meme generator. (Also, I love Q&As, I much prefer them over conventional prose-y interviews because they strip out all that density and make both sides more explicit: the interviewer's angle, and the subject's honesty.) #link