Cummings and goings

By any reckoning, 2020 will go down as a year to be forgotten.

For the havoc and carnage wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic, right across the globe. For the most divided and divisive U.S. presidential election in living memory. And for the cocksure cockups of the giant brain of Prime Minister Johnson’s martinet, Demonic Cummings, and the confederacy of dunces lined up to steer Britain through the double-whammy of COVID-19 and Brexit.

It’s enough to make a poor podcaster cry, but when the Small Data Forum triumvirate gathered to record episode 41 on – of course – Friday 13 November, there was almost a party mood of good news in the air.

How could this be?

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We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Trump Oz

“Donald Trump has absolutely nothing to say. He has no agenda. He has no plan. He has no ideals or hopes or purpose”, according to a post-debate analysis by Jill Filipovic in the Guardian on 23rd October.

One side of the partisan divide agrees vigorously. Watching the unedited 38 minutes of Trump’s 60 Minutes interview with veteran CBS journalist Lesley Stahl that his campaign released – breaking traditions and agreement, as per – you’re most likely to come to the same conclusion if your worldview was formed in that same echo chamber.

Mine was and yes, I struggle to imagine how anyone could watch and not see him merely as a mean-spirited, intellectually incurious and empty bloviator.

And yet. Sam cites the latest Popbitch newsletter which reminds us that, while both betting markets and polling favoured Remain and Clinton in 2016, higher stacks of money were put on Leave (75%) and Trump (68%).

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Social dilemmas, digital and phygital experiences

As if proof was needed that new Netflix edu-docu The Social Dilemma is highly Marmite among (social) media cognoscenti, the SmallDataForum verdict is very much a score draw, from Sam’s firm thumbs-down to my approval and on to Neville’s not-seen-it-yet.

I share Sam’s take that there’s not much new to learn – certainly for topic obsessives like us – and I also agree that eminent voices such as Shoshana Zuboff’s and Jonathan Haidt’s seem overly muffled and perhaps squandered.

But then we’re not the primary target audience. Neither are new media commentators, such as the Verge’s Casey Newton, who feels that the film misunderstands social networks. If it gets the average Netflix user to reflect a bit more on what they do with social media (and social media with them), then that can’t be a bad thing.

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Metaphors, Silicon Sultans and salivating idiots – another fine mess

Big Tech Grilling

We haven’t quite “sent it packing” yet, however once COVID-19 has finally been “wrestled to the ground” – mid next year, perhaps; or, maybe never – clearly we will “bounce back stronger than ever before”, according to the strictly non-hyperbolic musings of Prime Minister Demonic Goings Boris Johnson.

Aftermath of World War I? World War II? Bibble babble, donnez-moi un break, mate, as the wily wordsmith would have it.

In his seminal 1995 paper on “Metaphor, Morality, and Politics, Or, Why Conservatives Have Left Liberals In the Dust”, cognitive linguist and philosopher George Lakoff explained that “While conservatives understand that all of their policies have a single unified origin, liberals understand their own political conceptual universe so badly that they still think of it in terms coalitions of interest.”

He concluded that “Liberals need to go beyond coalitions of interest groups to consciously construct a unified language and imagery to convey their worldview. This will not be easy, and they are thirty years behind.” Make that about 55 years by now.

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Facebook, GDPR, brand safety – suddenly it’s 2018 all over again

Happy New Year 2018

For understandable reasons, the last four, regular monthly episodes of the Small Data Forum podcast have been focused – almost to the point of obsession – on coronavirus. From the uncertain first fumblings of life under lockdown, through escalating mortality and morbidity, and on to a fundamental lack of trust in the competence of blustering, blond, male, right-wing leaders … the last four episodes have had it all.

Some have said that this podcast was made for events like the pandemic, scrutinising as we do the uses and abuses of data big and small in politics, business, and public life. There’s been plenty of that about of late.

So, with lockdown restrictions being lifted all around the world – and Government advice completely ignored on the beaches of Bournemouth in the mini-U.K. heatwave last week, leading Dorset police to declare the overcrowding “a major incident” – our focus in this episode was much more catholic.

Indeed, with Facebook, GDPR, and brand safety the dominant topics, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d fallen through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and teleported back to 2018.

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