Link Roundup: November 2022

I’ve been busy the past month!  The Ace Community Survey released its annual survey, and a 140 page report on an earlier survey.  I also wrote a long blog post about the intersection of asexuality and being a nerd, in which I complain about a certain fictional asexual physicist on a show I have never watched.

Google’s Caste-Bias Problem | The New Yorker – An interview with a former Google employee, who tried to organize a DEI event about caste discrimination.  Google got complaints from other employees about the event, and it got “postponed”, which seems to really mean it was cancelled.  Instead, the organizer of the event was given a warning, and then she resigned.  Apparently it’s a common stance among conservative (?) Hindus that caste discrimination just doesn’t exist and that to even speak of caste discrimination is anti-Hindu discrimination.  As a social justice activist, I learn to be humble about axes of marginalization that I am unfamiliar with–but I’m confidently unsympathetic with that point of view.  For members of a majority group to deny that the minority group experiences discrimination, that’s an all too common pattern, and presumably cross-cultural.

Why Queer TV is Getting Worse | verilybitchie (video, 45 min) – Verity Ritchie talks about “gaystreaming”, content that is gay but otherwise does everything it can to appeal to mainstream tastes.  There’s discussion of Heartstopper, contrasted with the work of Desiree Akhivan, topped with a discussion of the economics of streaming services like Netflix.  I love it.

As I pointed out in my review of Heartstopper, its gentle low-stakes story is common in the queer webcomic genre it comes from–but I don’t think that’s what makes it particularly amenable to being mainstreamed.  What makes it mainstreamable is that its author is clearly passionate about educating people about queer issues: modeling good behavior, denying stereotypes, and explaining relevant issues.  This is valuable to straight people who clearly need that education, and also for queer people, for whom learning about being queer is an important part of personal development.  But it also confines the webcomic to issues that are simple enough to be widely teachable, and the story may not reflect the messy realities of queer lives.  Following ace admiral I call this “checklist representation“, which is primarily concerned with checking off all the things required for a “good” representation.

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Link Roundup: October 10th, 2022

FYI, I was interviewed about romantic attraction and other things, for Honi Soit, a newspaper for the University of Sydney.  I like the article a lot, although I hope it’s not too dense, haha.

Summer of Math Exposition 2 | 3Blue1Brown (video and article series) – SoME2 is a contest to produce math explanation articles and videos.  I am all over this–although I’m also judgmental so I will say that the quality can be mixed.  The winners are a good place to start.

I’ve written quite a number of math explanations in the past myself, and this makes me want to write more.  Gosh it sure takes a lot of work though.  Maybe I could revamp my really old explanations, like the one about the Banach-Tarski paradox, or the ant & rubber band problem (the rubber band is the universe).

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Link Roundup: September 2022

In case anyone is interested, this month I wrote “How to tell if you’re allosexual, if you’re a journalist“, about low quality articles that seem intended to exploit SEO.

that female athlete doesn’t look feminine enough | Pervert Justice – Gatekeeping trans women from sports ultimately results in gatekeeping cis women as well.  I think this pragmatic argument isn’t the most satisfying, because it doesn’t make a positive case for the inclusion of trans women–but it is, after all, still correct.

Fixing My Brain with Automated Therapy | Jacob Geller (video, 53 min) – Jacob tried five different therapy apps, and talks about the history of teletherapy.  Plenty of interesting discussion, for instance, about how teletherapy constrains the kind of therapy.  He echoes what I’ve said about Eliza–this technology will be cheap, but bad.  More people could have access to therapy this way, and that’s a good thing… but it’s not good therapy.

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Link Roundup: August 2022

In case anyone’s interested, this month I wrote a whirlwind history of asexual communities.

Facial Expressions Do Not Reveal Emotions | Scientific American – I’m a big fan of psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett and her writing about the construction of emotional categories.  Here she criticizes emotional recognition tools created by data scientists, and I’m inclined to agree.  AI can, at best, identify patterns in facial muscle movement, but the correspondence between facial muscle movement and emotions is culturally mediated, because the emotional categories themselves are culturally constructed.  If you use this AI to make any important decisions that impact people’s lives, there will be unacceptable disparate impact against people of different cultures, or with variant emotional expressions.  Frankly, we should be striving to reduce the impact of emotional expression in job interviews and court decisions.  It’s discriminatory enough when humans are the ones doing it.

Blame It on the Game | Real Life – When I was a teenager, there was a lot of fear of censorship in video games.  The big thing was the Hot Coffee controversy, but there was also a lot of defensiveness of the violence in video games, which gamers would insist was unconnected to violence in the real world.  Games criticism has changed a lot since back then, and gamers are more likely to play up how much games impact the real world.  Gamers today aren’t wrong, but neither were they wrong back then.  The research on violent video games finds “small, reliable effect of exposure to violent video games on aggressive outcomes in laboratory experiments and cross-sectional and longitudinal studies,” but that’s still pretty far from causing shootings.  In this article, Katherine Cross navigates old and new discourses to talk about the real significance of video game violence.

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Link Roundup: June 2022

Brain-O: The Incident | stderr – Marcus Ranum recently had a not-quite-a-stroke, and wrote about his experience.  A scary and fascinating story.  Wish for his full recovery.

Sympathy for Anton Ego: An Antifan Manifesto | osteophage – Coyote aims to persuade readers of the positive possibilities of negative fandoms.  Of course, I didn’t need to be persuaded, I was already on board.  I’m of the belief that the best way to enhance appreciation of a thing is to read (or write) a scathing criticism of one or more of its aspects.  It’s true that antifandoms and hatedoms have a poor reputation, and well-deserved in many specific examples.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Making Sense of VRChat, the “Metaverse” People Actually Like | People Make Games (video, 38 min) – Some good journalism exploring VRChat, a space where people can inhabit avatars in a virtual space.  They interview lots of people to understand how they use it, talk about why everyone’s an anime girl, and the threat (and potential) of corporate colonization of virtual space.

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Link Roundup: May 2022

In case you missed it, I wrote about how gray-asexuality is portrayed in mainstream media.  Gray-asexuality is a highly prevalent, as well as historically significant group within the asexual spectrum, but you wouldn’t know it from media coverage, which tends to ignore gray-asexuality entirely.

Samantha’s ‘Oo Antava’ item song attempts to subvert the male gaze, but does it? | The News Minute – This is a random article I found by looking up some Indian pop music, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into feminist arguments from another part of the world.  According to the article, many “item songs” in Indian cinema engage in objectification of women, but this particular song instead scrutinizes the male gaze, saying men will ogle regardless of what a woman wears.  But there’s criticism that the song excuses men by depicting men’s lust as automatic or uncontrollable.  And on the other end, a men’s association apparently filed a lawsuit against the song for portraying men too negatively?  Nobody knows anything about that lawsuit, but from an American perspective it’s the most baffling aspect.

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Link Roundup: April 2022

Why is board gaming so white and male? I’m trying to figure that out | The Conversation – The author doesn’t answer the question in the title, but does share a bunch of statistics they’ve been collecting in their research on board gaming.  Regardless of the cause, board gamers and board game designers ought to make a conscious effort to make the hobby welcoming to demographics that may, at first, not appear to be present.  As a simple example of this, Dominion used to have predominantly male characters in its art, and reportedly this is because the game publisher hired a bunch of artists, most of whom independently decided to depict male subjects.  So the designer started specifically requesting that artists depict women, and this led to the gender ratios becoming more balanced.

The Ethics of Looking and the “Harmless” Peeping Tom | Pop Culture Detective (video, 28 min) – A serious discussion of peeping toms in film.  Usually this is depicted as a harmless action, performed by sympathetic protagonists, with the camera’s point of view chosen to simulate the audience’s participation as well.  I highly appreciate Pop Culture Detective’s ability to find lots and lots of examples in film, often in movies I’ve already seen, but in scenes I had forgotten, or were just beneath my awareness.  While the fictional depiction of peeping toms does not directly lead to people becoming peeping toms, it becomes this sort of cultural background noise where invading privacy is normalized and not taken very seriously.

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