February 15, 2010

You Are Not a Gadget

This is what a social network looks like. Each dot represents a human being. Each line represents a social connection between two people, such as acquaintanceship, financial exchange, friendship, or love. The picture can become arbitrarily more complex as we take one-way relationships into account and add more dimensions to model particular interests and behaviors. Much of the attention around technology these days has something to do with this picture. ... Read more

December 9, 2008

A Letter to School Board Member Norton

One of the most interesting races for me this past election season was that of the four seats available for the San Francisco Board of Education. The voter’s guide put out by the city included profiles of each candidate, and of the fifteen running for office, only seven of them had a website. Six of them were essentially static, electronic versions of standard campaign brochures. The last was that of Rachel Norton, whose site consisted of a frequently-updated blog with comments enabled—and which the candidate actually responded to. ... Read more

November 13, 2008

That Empowerment Thing

One of the really interesting things about the social-network-oriented website for the Obama campaign, my.barackobama.com, was the fact that it was essentially an online nexus that connected people who were interested in political and social change. And as Henry Jenkins mentioned in February, what Obama has created over the past year has not been a campaign, but a movement that would have lived on even if he’d lost the election. ... Read more

November 7, 2008

An American Moment: My Vision

The newly-launched change.gov has a section for citizens to share their vision for what America can be, and where President-Elect Obama should lead America. I decided to post this to their form: While reading Robert Kuttner's Obama's Challenge several weeks ago, I was fascinated by his description of Denmark's Flexicurity program, which seemed to both help the interests of free-market capitalism while simultaneously offering security to its country's citizens. Rather than subsidizing failing industries, their government appears to give corporations as much free reign as they want to fire/lay-off employees, move workforces overseas, and so forth; they then offer a wealth of social services for people to recover from job loss through retraining. ... Read more

October 5, 2008

A Refreshing Alternative to Presidential Debates

Nothing reminds me how much I despise American politics as the presidential debates. Due to the context surrounding them—that is, the election—the candidates have an enormous incentive to focus on tactics directed at lowering the public’s regard of an opponent while improving one’s own standing, often through the use of misleading statistics and avoiding candid answers to questions. And as a result, rather than helping me understand the issues, the bickering between the two candidates usually results in an incoherence that leaves me utterly confused about the issues and saddened about our politicians’ ability to arrive at any kind of consensus. ... Read more

October 1, 2008

President as Teacher

This year’s Presidential election has me more passionate about politics than I’ve ever been. In part, this is because Obama’s campaign is more like a social movement than a political campaign: as Henry Jenkins explains in Obama and the “We” Generation, part of the reason that Obama’s message resonates so much with me and others in my generation is because of how participatory it is. His campaign isn’t about making him president and then having him magically repair our nation; it’s about working together, with his help, to make our country a better place. ... Read more

February 15, 2008

On The New York Times

I’ve decided that I’m not a big fan of New York Times, or of newspapers in general. It’s not that they’re fundamentally wrong or anything, but as a source of daily information, it’s complete and total overload for me. For instance, on the day after Super Tuesday, I wanted to read a bit about what happened, so I tried subscribing to a two-week trial of the online edition of the New York Times on my Kindle. ... Read more

© Atul Varma 2017