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December 09 2011

TERRA 617: Our Tomorrow

The environmental problems of the world are overwhelming and terrifying, yet something about this fear seems so familiar. Are we living in The End Times? Should we simply give up and admit defeat? In a fascinating mix of interviews, images, and animation, "Our Tomorrow" muses on the natural world and the Apocalypse.

August 12 2011

A rogue gallery for the rioters | Jonathan Jones

Exhibiting pictures in this way reveals a desire to classify the world, collect it, put it in categories – including moral ones

The faces began to appear as soon as the courts got stuck in. By late Wednesday, newspapers were showing galleries of accused rioters on their websites and the following morning, when David Cameron was due to address parliament, the Daily Telegraph printed a row of three pictures of the accused under the headline "Our sick society".

Another grouping of photographs on the Daily Mail website was titled "A rogues' gallery", and showed a grid of photographs of men charged in court. In the Guardian too, a story on the fast-track court proceedings is accompanied online by a triptych of three of the accused.

Newspapers, like the courts, are trying to assimilate a lot of information very fast. These groupings of riot portraits are an effective way to stress the sheer number of people being prosecuted. Eerily, the pictures of defendants arriving at and leaving court, or pictures of happier days pulled from their Facebook pages, give individuality to fragments of what was originally a faceless crowd. The grid arrangements, meanwhile, stress the bigger story of collective outrage that links them all. But there is more to it than that.

"Our sick society": the Telegraph headline said it all. Its front-page display of three faces was inviting readers to contemplate moral decay. The faces of a white 11-year-old boy with his face blanked out, a white 19-year-old woman whose father is a company director and a black 31-year-old man who works in a primary school – in that order, from left to right – were exhibited as specimens of the "sick society". What does this mean? How can photographs reveal the moral state of anyone, let alone a category of people, or a society?

The instinct to exhibit these pictures in rows, galleries and grids originates in our mental habit of classifying the world, collecting it, putting it in categories – including moral categories. This is how the mind makes order from chaos. The genre of the typological portrait – a collection of people with something in common – is part of that instinct and originates in early modern Europe when every ruler kept a cabinet of curiosities, a collection of the world. The palace of the Medici in 16th century Florence had a cabinet of rare wonders while the nearby government offices – the Uffizi – boasted a vast gallery of portraits of famous men.

Portraits of the great and the good are one thing, but it was the Romantic age that turned the genre upside down and started to collect portraits of the outcast, excluded and condemned. The most moving such portraits are Théodore Géricault's paintings of "mad" people such as The Kleptomaniac, done as a series in the 1820s at the request of the psychologist Étienne-Jean Georget. The stage was set for the birth of photography. The cool eye of the camera proved perfect for compiling vast collections of criminal faces, deviant faces, anarchist faces, all pictured in the same pose and displayed in a vast grid to be studied by policemen, psychiatrists, physiognomists and cranial measurers.

The 19th century definitely thought it could see "sickness" in a face. The man who invented criminal photography was Alphonse Bertillon, in 19th-century France, whose systematic method of portraying the criminal type – full frontal and profile – is the origin of the modern mugshot. Bertillon's technique was taken up by American detectives and police forces where his grid displays of criminal faces got the name "rogues' gallery". The useful practical side of Bertillon's technique has endured in modern policing, but it would be naive to see him as an objective scientist of crime. The vast collections he created of deviant portraits, including political subversives, fed the fantasies of an age that believed mental conditions were inscribed in the shapes of faces and skulls.

So here we are, with the new rogues' gallery of the UK's 2011 riots, as newspapers compile their collections of the socially and morally outcast. Do conservative rhapsodists really believe we can look at these pictures and see a moral nightmare? If so, we need to resurrect 19th-century ways of looking at the human face. We need to scrutinise these people for signs of "degeneration", for muscles whose saggy disunity betrays a loss of moral control, for brutal brows that signify murderous passion, eyes that reveal a sly madness.

In reality, the Daily Mail shied away from such archaic beliefs. All it could muster, as an analysis of its rogues' gallery, was to say that one man looked just like a character in the underclass-caricaturing television drama Shameless. Next, they'll be saying one of the looters is planning a Fat Gypsy Wedding. Indeed, how soon is it before looters start telling their tales in the press?

For the great, pregnant moment of Us and Them that crystallised this week will never hold. The sense of a morally upright majority united against the "scum" will not last. The way the photographs of rioters and looters have been handled reveals the impossibility of sustaining a Cato-like moral condemnation of the rioters. Already by the end of the week, the grids and galleries of rogues with their invitation to diagnose a category of deviant personality were giving way to more detailed portraits of strange individual stories. The tales emerging from the courts seemed wildly various and fragmented, impossible to see as one single strain of moral sickness. The moral decision made by a man who took a case of water from a looted shop is simply not the same as the moral decision made by someone who committed arson or murder.

The Daily Telegraph's arrangement of three pictures of people of different ages and class backgrounds was intended to show that social and economic factors cannot be blamed for the riots. These people do not share the same social context – ergo, they must share something else, a moral failing. It is a powerful argument – for a moment. But as soon as you follow that very logic, looking for common moral threads, you face exactly the same problem that undermines easy economic explanations. It is just as hard to see a common ethical story as a common social story. Rightwing columnists blame the riots on fatherless families, but the well-off parents of 19-year-old Laura Johnson, one of the first rioters to have her named photograph published and one of the Telegraph Three, both supported her in court.

Photographs reveal very effectively how meaningless the moral interpretation of the riots actually is. As more information came in, the very conservative papers pushing the moral line started showing more and more ordinary visual details of ordinary British lives – from a teenage athlete involved with the Olympics to incredibly thin boys who, if the pictures came from another country, we might have no trouble calling hungry-looking.

Andy Warhol saw through the moral iconography of the rogues' gallery. In 1964 he decorated the New York pavilion at the World's Fair in Flushing Meadow with a silkscreen mural of the faces of 13 Most Wanted Men. Warhol's wanted men are mugshots of gangsters issued by the FBI – but his insidious eye saw eroticism and fascination in their pictures. The outcast are desirable, suggests Warhol, the criminal is sexy. He undermines the barrier between right and wrong so effectively his mural was painted over because it seemed to – and did – glamorise crime. But in doing so it pointed out the obvious, that all images are ambivalent and all human life an enigma. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 31 2010


May 07 2010

Yes the iPad is sexy, but global sales are the real ebook growth news

Literally from the first day we started selling downloadable ebooks from (first just as PDF, then later adding other formats like EPUB) the bulk of those digital sales have come from outside the U.S. The breakdown has been remarkably consistent, and we've now seen it repeated in new channels like the iPhone App store. While the iPad and other devices garner most of the media attention around ebooks, neither iPad nor Kindle are yet readily available in many of the markets where we see consistent sales of English-language ebooks.

A recent look at the latest numbers underscore the tremendous growth in digital book sales, but they also don't tell the full story. Early this year I posted how our 2009 ebook sales were up 104% on 2008, which itself was more than 50% up on on 2007:

Now barely a third of the way into 2010, we've just about beat 2009 full-year revenue, and at the current run rate we'll end up about 200% up for 2010:


The first question many within O'Reilly asked about these numbers when I first shared them on an internal mailing list is whether these sales are coming at the expense of print sales. Is there some cannibalization of people buying ebooks instead of print books? I'm sure there is. Then again, to the extent that those customers buy that ebook direct from us (and is by far our biggest downloadable ebook channel), I personally prefer that to a print sale, because it's a relatively profitable one, even priced less than the printed book (because there are much lower direct costs associated with printing, shipping, and distribution). While it's still true that the bulk of the cost of producing and selling a book are in the product development and marketing (rather than the individual unit cost of manufacturing), strong digital sales give us that many more units over which to amortize those often substantial fixed costs.

Everything I've seen so far says to me that the market for digital books is growing (particularly overseas) and the flexibility we have on pricing for promotions (like our deal of the day) is converting impulse buyers (both foreign and domestic) and rewarding them with immediate and flexible (DRM-free) access.

So what's driving those strong numbers for English-language books overseas? I have a few theories, including:

  • Something that used to be very expensive (with shipping charges) now seems reasonably priced, and can be had immediately, without waiting days or weeks.
  • English is the default language for business and technology, which means it's becoming the default "second language" in most business and technical contexts. In the past two years I've talked with developers from Scandinavia, China, Russia, Italy, and Brazil, and all of them consume (and want more access to) O'Reilly books in English.
  • Just as the printing press greatly expanded the reach of printed material (at the same time it "de-valued" the manuscript by several orders of magnitude), the mobile web is expanding the reach of digital media into new hands that would not otherwise have access to the information in print or on a PC.

I've linked to it a few times before, but I can't recommend enough Mary Meeker's deck from last fall's Web 2.0 Summit for a data-driven look at the global growth of the mobile web, including a look at what it means for media companies.

February 26 2010

Obesity Going Global

(Global Pulse: February 26, 2010) The U.S. isn't the only country with an obesity problem. This week's Global Pulse looks at the tactics being deployed worldwide by nations facing an epidemic of obesity. Looking to combat unwanted effects of our modern era's sedentary lifestyle, countries are harkening back to the salad days with campaigns encouraging exercise for adults and children, and the avoidance of fatty foods. As these broadcasters make clear, tackling the problem of childhood obesity requires parental involvement and better access to healthy food.

SOURCES: ABC, U.S.; Once Noticias, Mexico; RT, Russia; France 24, France; Al Jazeera English, Qatar; KBS, South Korea

February 24 2010

Global Ignite Week: Starts Monday with 65 Cities, 6 Continents, 500 Speakers over 5 Days

giw logo

From March 1-5 there will be ~65 Ignite events happening around the world. Ignite is an opportunity for geeks to share their passions and ideas with local peers. Each speaker gets 20 slides that each auto-advance after 15 seconds for a total of just 5 minutes. The result is bite-size chunks of information that inform the crowd on new topics. There are lots of Ignite videos online.

Ignite has spread with very little prompting on our part. Almost all of the ~65 cities participating next week were self-started and community organized. As Tim said, "Self-organization enables amazing scale". Global Ignite Week is definitely and example of that happening. Anyone can throw an ignite -- they just need a laptop, a stage, ideas and a community. To be successful they will also need the backing of that community and in most cases the community has come together to make the event happen.
bing giw map

This week has taken a lot of coordination and planning. The independent Ignite organizers have all shown a great willingness to band together to make this happen. It's been really impressive.

Next week you can participate by attending one or watching them streaming online. In the following weeks we'll get >500 videos from all of the different events (events often have ~15 talks). I will personally be attending the Ignites at SMX West (3/2), Bay Area (also 3/2), and Portland (3/3). I'll be hosting Ignite Seattle on 3/4.

Here are the events happening on Monday (on Thursday there will be over 30 Ignites).

Monday, March 1st

Ignite Berlin

Ignite Frankfurt

Ignite LA

Ignite Manchester

Ignite Munich

Ignite Nairobi

Ignite Savannah

Ignite Milwaukee

I've included the whole list after the jump. They are listed by date. Attend if you can.

Tuesday, March 2nd
Ignite New Mexico
Ignite Anchorage
Ignite Casablanca
Ignite Denver
Ignite London
Ignite Manila
Ignite Melbourne
Ignite Montreal
Ignite Philly
Ignite Princeton
Ignite Bay Area
Ignite Sydney
Ignite Wellington

Wednesday, March 3rd
Ignite Bangkok
Ignite Beijing
Ignite Brussels
Ignite Budapest
Ignite Cincinnati
Ignite Dallas
Ignite Madrid
Ignite Portland
Ignite Raleigh
Ignite Sacramento
Ignite Sebastopol
Ignite Toronto
Ignite Waterloo

Thursday, March 4th
Ignite Ann Arbor
Ignite Baltimore
Ignite Bangalore
Ignite Boston
Ignite Brisbane
Ignite Bristol
Ignite Cardiff
Ignite Denmark
Ignite Fort Collins
Ignite Hamburg
Ignite Houston
Ignite Iowa City
Ignite Jakarta
Ignite Lisbon
Ignite Liverpool
Ignite Lyon
Ignite Minneapolis
Ignite Missoula
Ignite Monterrey
Ignite Silicon Valley
Ignite Nashville
Ignite New Haven
Ignite NYC
Ignite Oporto
Ignite Italia
Ignite Salem
Ignite Salt Lake
Ignite SMX West
Ignite Seattle
Ignite Tampa Bay
Ignite Tulsa

Friday, March 5th
Ignite Boulder
Ignite Lansing

Some weren't able to get their venues next week so there will still be Ignites happening throughout the month. Tomorrow is Ignite Bend 4 and a bonus one on 3/11/2010, Ignite Novato

February 03 2010

TERRA 530: Shifting Sands

How will climate change affect desert environments and ecosystems?
TERRA 530: Shifting Sands

How will climate change affect desert environments and ecosystems?

January 05 2010

Africa's "Gutenberg Moment?"

This post from Publishing Perspectives about publishing in Africa came in over the break, and it's worth a look:

Five years later, [Muhtar] Bakare is still a confident believer in the power of the internet to revolutionize the African publishing industry. “The internet is our own Gutenberg moment,” he told the Oslo audience. “The internet is going to democratize knowledge in Africa.”

As the Web moves to becoming a primarily mobile media, it expands global access to knowledge and information (while obviating the historical geographic barriers around physical markets). Publishers taking a long view should be sure to pay attention to what's happening in Africa and the Middle East. We'll have speakers from both regions at next month's TOC conference.

December 21 2009

Mark Glazebrook obituary

Colourful figure of the London art world, he was a gallery owner, curator, dealer and writer

Mark Glazebrook, who has died from cancer aged 73, was a permanent fixture of the London art world for five decades, though permanence was hardly the most distinctive attribute of so peripatetic a character, whose diverse career encompassed teaching, writing, publishing and dealing, as well as the directorship of one of the capital's leading public galleries. To all these roles he brought a keen eye and an innate sympathy for the purpose, if not the business, of art. Indeed, his first and real ambition was to be an artist; and for all his many and varied achievements, he was perhaps as proud as anything of an invitation in 2000 from the Mayor Gallery in Cork Street, London, to put on an exhibition of his paintings.

Glazebrook was born in Cheshire and grew up in the Vale of Clywd, in a house once owned by Dr Johnson's friend Hester Thrale. He was educated at Eton college, Berkshire, and, after national service with the Welsh Guards, read history at Pembroke College, Cambridge. The Glazebrooks were prosperous cotton brokers – both Mark's father and grandfather had been president of the Liverpool Cotton Association – and on leaving Cambridge he used his inheritance to buy a splendid Arts and Crafts house, designed by Norman Shaw's protege EJ May, in the west London garden suburb of Bedford Park. He was briefly a student at the Slade school of art; and, after a stint lecturing on art history in Maidstone, learning the subject as he taught it, he obtained a position in the visual arts department of the Arts Council, then under the benevolent leadership of Gabriel White, mentor to a generation of exhibition organisers.

While still working for the Arts Council, Glazebrook began writing art criticism for the London Magazine, proving a perceptive commentator on the art scene of 1960s London, and joined university friends in launching Editions Alecto, the pioneering publishers of contemporary artists' prints. The firm scored an immediate success with David Hockney's first suite of etchings, A Rake's Progress, and went on to produce and sell multiples by many of the leading figures in the pop movement on both sides of Atlantic, including Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi, Patrick Caulfield, Jim Dine and Ed Ruscha.

In 1969, to his own amazement, Glazebrook was appointed director of the Whitechapel art gallery, in succession to Bryan Robertson. Over the previous 17 years Robertson had transformed the Whitechapel from an essentially local amenity into the country's most exciting exhibition space; a series of groundbreaking shows by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Robert Rauschenberg, among many others, had opened British eyes to American abstract expressionism. Despite the international status it enjoyed at the time of Glazebrook's arrival, the gallery was in a parlous state: it was starved of funds and the director's salary amounted to little more than an honorarium. Glazebrook recalled that on his first day he asked the assistant on the reception desk where the takings from catalogue sales went. "Oh, Mr Robertson used those to buy his lunch," she replied. If, during his short tenure at the Whitechapel, Glazebrook's exhibition programme never scaled the heights reached by his predecessor, it nonetheless contained some memorable highlights, including Donald Judd's first London show and the first major retrospective of Hockney's work.

Glazebrook had spotted Hockney while the latter was still a student at the Royal College of Art and had bought what the artist acknowledged was the best painting in his first exhibition. The two formed a long-lasting friendship and at one point it was mooted that Glazebrook might write Hockney's biography. Hockney's affection for an early patron and loyal supporter was commemorated in the fine portrait drawing he made of Glazebrook, which was shown in the exhibition David Hockney Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in 2006.

Glazebrook resigned from the Whitechapel after three years, in frustration at the gallery's lack of funding, and crossed over into the art trade. From 1972 to 1975 he was head of the Modern British department at the Bond Street dealers Colnaghi, where he played a significant part in the revival of critical scholarship then being directed towards early 20th-century British art, mounting revelatory exhibitions of the Chilean-born portraitist Álvaro Guevara and the Vorticist painter and printmaker Edward Wadsworth. A further change of course occurred in 1975, when he was appointed lecturer in art history at San José state university in California. Returning to London four years later, he rejoined Alecto and continued to collaborate with commercial galleries on exhibitions exploring aspects of modern British art, before eventually opening his own premises, the Albemarle Gallery, off Piccadilly, in 1986.

The Albemarle was a victim of the recession of the early 1990s – and, it has to be said, of Glazebrook's chaotic approach to business and an often turbulent relationship with his partner in the gallery, Rodney Capstick-Dale. With its closure in 1993 Glazebrook was forced to sell the family home to cover its debts.

His first marriage, to Elizabeth Claridge, had ended in divorce in 1969. His second, to Wanda Osinska, who inculcated in him a profound admiration for the culture of her native Poland, survived for more than 25 years, before it, too, eventually broke down. Glazebrook's professional and private lives had always been subject to fluctuations in fortune, but the early years of this century found him at a low ebb, virtually penniless and living in a council flat in south London.

But in the face of these adversities he was as ebullient as ever: he never lost his love of a good story, a good party and, above all, a good lunch. There was more than a touch of Mr Micawber about him in his conviction that something would turn up. And something generally did. He continued to receive requests to curate exhibitions for artists such as Colin Self, whom he had been among the first to champion. Membership of the Chelsea Arts Club introduced him to his third wife, Cherry Moorsom. And, latterly, he relished the opportunity to review exhibitions for the Spectator. His last contribution, a characteristically droll defence of watercolour, his own preferred medium as a painter, was published only a few weeks before his death.

He is survived by his three wives, and by two daughters and a stepson.

• Reginald Mark Glazebrook, art dealer and curator, born 25 June1936; died 3 November © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

October 20 2009

TERRA 526: Climate Change in the Carribean, Part Two: Impacts

The most important thing to remember when it comes to climate change is that you can help, and there is still hope. This animated series reminds us that while the problems are dire, we have to remain hopeful, and even have a bit of fun from time to time. Produced for broadcast throughout the Caribbean, this is Part Two of a three-part PSA series/awareness campaign on climate change, its effects on the Caribbean, and action that people can take to help the situation. The series combines animations and footage from Trinidad with explanations from climate change experts from Trinidad & Tobago. Funded by Trinidad & Tobago's National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology in association with University of Trinidad & Tobago.

September 11 2009

Nancy Youssef and Dr. Jim Yong Kim

Afghanistan War update and Global Health

April 24 2009

Play fullscreen
Nuclear Weapons: Getting Past Russia and the NPT and on to Zero

April 21 2009

Play fullscreen
UN Secretary-General Keynote: "The Imperative for a New Multilateralism"

April 15 2009

April 13 2009

Play fullscreen
Global Trade: Implications of the Current Crisis

March 27 2009

March 23 2009

Play fullscreen
Constraints and Opportunities for Global Governance in the Early 21st Century: Learning from the WTO

March 13 2009

Play fullscreen
The G20 Summit and the London Summit: A Global Turning Point

March 10 2009

Play fullscreen
The Best Laid Plans: The Origins of American Multilateralism and the Dawn of the Cold War
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