Stealth Malware Steals and Imitates Social Behavior


Most malware restricts itself to stealing credit card numbers, tricking computers into sending spam and occasionally shutting down an Iranian nuclear power plant. This state will not last. As Internet traffic increasingly shifts to social networking sites, a new class of malware will steal identities, co-opt personal relationships and imitate people’s natural behaviors to avoid detection.

Writing in the online research website, computer scientists from Ben Gurion University, in Beersheba, Israel, predict how these attacks will use an individual’s own personality to stealthily distribute information about their social circle to spammers. Although no malware of this variety has been discovered in the wild yet, the value of social network data makes its eventual appearance all but inevitable, the authors write.

» via Live Science


Wheatfield, Trogstad, Norway
 photo by sneman


Wheatfield, Trogstad, Norway

 photo by sneman

In the Beginning Was the Word

The book, that fusty old technology, seems rigid and passé as we daily consume a diet of information bytes and digital images. The fault, dear reader, lies not in our books but in ourselves.

selected quotes: - In August, the company that owns Reader’s Digest filed for bankruptcy protection. … Reader’s Digest both identified and shaped a peculiarly American approach to reading, one that emphasized convenience, entertainment, and the appearance of breadth. An early issue noted that it was “not a magazine in the usual sense, but rather a co-operative means of rendering a time-saving device.” … In his renowned 1962 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Boorstin used Reader’s Digest as an example of what was wrong with a culture that had learned to prefer image to reality, the copy to the original, the part to the whole. Publications such as the Digest, produced on the principle that any essay can be boiled down to its essence, encourage readers to see articles as little more than “a whiff of literary ectoplasm exuding from print,” he argued, and an author’s style as littered with unnecessary “literary embellishments” that waste a reader’s time. … Over time, this attitude undermines our commitment to the kind of “deep reading” that researcher Maryanne Wolf, in Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (2007), argues is important from an early age, when readers learn to identify with characters and to “expand the boundaries of their lives.” … As Boorstin surveyed the terrain nearly half a century ago, his overarching concern was that an image-saturated culture would so distort people’s sense of judgment that they would cease to distinguish between the real and the unreal. He criticized the creation of what he called “pseudo-events” such as politicians’ staged photo-ops, and he traced the ways in which our pursuit of illusion transforms our experience of travel, clouds our ability to discern the motivations of advertisers, and encourages us to elevate celebrities to the status of heroes. “This is the appealing contradiction at the heart of our passion for pseudo-events: for made news, synthetic heroes, prefabricated tourist attractions, homogenized interchangeable forms of art and literature (where there are no ‘originals,’ but only the shadows we make of other shadows),” Boorstin wrote. “We believe we can fill our experience with new-fangled content.” … Boorstin wrote The Image before the digital age, but his book still has a great deal to teach us about the likely future of the printed word. Some of the effects of the Internet appear to undermine Boorstin’s occasionally gloomy predictions. For example, an increasing number of us, instead of being passive viewers of images, are active participants in a new culture of online writing and opinion mongering. … We have embraced new modes of storytelling, such as the interactive, synthetic world of video games, and found new ways to share our quotidian personal experiences, in hyperkinetic bursts, through microblogging services such as Twitter. … Our screen-intensive culture poses three challenges to traditional reading: distraction, consumerism, and attention-seeking behavior. … The “common reader” Virginia Woolf prized, who is neither scholar nor critic but “reads for his own pleasure, rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others,” is a vanishing species. Instead, an increasing number of us engage with the written word not to submit ourselves to another’s vision or for mere edification, but to have an excuse to share our own opinions. … Of greater concern was the attitude students expressed about the usefulness of writing: Most of them judged the quality of writing by the size of the audience that read it rather than its ability to convey ideas. … What Boorstin feared—that a society beholden to the image would cease to distinguish the real from the unreal—has not come to pass. On the contrary, we acknowledge the unique characteristics of the virtual world and have eagerly embraced them, albeit uncritically. But Boorstin’s other concern—that a culture that craves the image will eventually find itself mired in solipsism and satisfied by secondhand experiences—has been borne out. … The screen offers us the illusion of participation, and this illusion is becoming our preference. As Boorstin observed, “Every day seeing there and hearing there takes the place of being there.”
The University vs. Liberal Education


While the skyrocketing cost of college education is no doubt inexplicable from the outside (why should tuitions increase at a pace far faster than inflation?), the answer, from the inside, appears fairly humdrum. Put simply, universities are engaged in an arms race: they compete to bring the best-armed students to their campuses. This means incessantly inventing new programs. Stanford offers freshman seminars? Harvard will too! Yale has highly rated residential education? Penn must improve! Top schools similarly compete for faculty academostars, luring them not only with high salaries and other perks, but also a reduced teaching load. The price for such celebrity academics, of course, gets passed on to the student. This arms race at the top – and liberal arts colleges seem to suffer from the same educational-industrial complex – thus drives the cost of attending the Ivies way up. And when students have to pay 40 grand to attend Cornell, other colleges and universities must raise their tuitions as well, to stay in competition.

» via Inside Higher Ed


Happy x Stupid


Happy x Stupid

NYT: "Too Young for School, but Ready for Irony" as a view into methodology disputes

this NYT piece by Nicholas Bakalar investigates the ‘fluent’ use of ironic speech in young children.

lab experiments fail to elicit an underestanding:
“In laboratory research on the subject, children demonstrate almost no comprehension of ironic speech before they are 6 years old, and little before they are 10 or 11. When asked, younger children generally interpret rhetorical questions as literal, deliberate exaggeration as a mistake and sarcasm as a lie.”

however, study of contextualized, pragmatic use yields different results:
“But there has been little research on the subject outside the laboratory. So a group of Canadian researchers set out to record parents and children at home as they used four types of ironic language: sarcasm, hyperbole, understatement and rhetorical questions. It turns out that very young children can understand and even use ironic speech, even if they cannot describe what they have done to a researcher. ‘You really see that they respond appropriately to this language in conversation,’ said Holly E. Recchia, the lead author of the report.”

Janet Wilde Astington, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, is quoted as saying: “I think that they do make the important point that that does stand in contrast to expectations from experimental work.”

the larger point, to me as well as Astington, is about the object of methodology. “usage-based” linguistics, as far as i know, is a movement trying to apply the statistical models used in corpus/discourse analysis to contexual (and thus culture-bound) speech events, in which utterances are not ‘falsified’ (my word) by removal from context and reduction to a structure. this means field study, ethnography, and conversation analysis.

my $0.02: of course lab testing on irony would result in literal understandings; paralinguistic factors such as tone of voice/eye contact and cultural/social factors such as relationships between speakers and normative expectations of behavior would play a huge part in interpretation of any ‘real’ utterance, that is, an utterance generated in the course of normal embodied interaction.

although i think the structural models of formal and psycholinguistics are vital to our understanding, and that neuroscience probably holds the most revolutionary discoveries, and that the mathematical and statistical approaches found in computational linguistics promise untested possibilities in terms of sheer data-crunching, i also think that it is a mistake to ignore context: pragmatics, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology - whatever name you give the approach which includes the speaker’s world, community, and contextual understanding - remain equally vital. we need a degree of empiricism to keep one foot within the door of human interfacing.

of course, there is the looming question of the internet.

UPenn L, C, S program

Program in Language, Culture, and Society
The object of this interdisciplinary program is to help make the University’s resources in faculty and course offerings, distributed over several departments and schools, more accessible to interested students. Graduate students pursue their degree in one of the participating disciplines (Anthropology, Communications, Education, Linguistics, Sociology) with the program providing resources for a major or minor concentration within that discipline. Several somewhat overlapping concentrations are possible: ethnolinguistics and the analysis of speech and literary styles; sociolinguistics; linguistic anthropology and ethnoscience; acquisition of language and culture; practical field linguistics; ethnography of communication. Language, Culture and Society faculty on the Anthropology GG include Professors Agha, Sankoff (Linguistics), and Urban.

UC-Santa Barbara - Linguistics

program emphasizing empiricism, sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, corpus analysis, intersections of identity, and interdisciplinary work between members

linguistic anthropology vs. linguistics and anthropology

Universities offering graduate programs in Linguistic Anthropology
Over the past few weeks I have received email from a number of recent or soon-to-be college graduates asking for my recommendations for graduate programs in linguistic anthropology. I assume that my post regarding Getting started in (linguistic) anthropology has left readers in need of more concrete information.

Unfortunately, I don’t really feel qualified to give advice on such schools, having attended only one myself. I do recognize the lack of good advice, though, so I’ll offer this much: a list links to the web pages of programs you might want to check in to.

The schools listed here come from the Linguistic Society of America’s directory of linguistics departments or programs, limited to those offering “Anthropological Linguistics,” and from the American Anthropological Association’s directory of anthropology departments, limited to those offering a PhD degree and featuring one or more faculty members who list “Linguistics” as an area of interest. These are mostly schools in the United States, with some in Canada, and a few from other English-speaking parts of the world.

This is not intended as an endorsement of any particular program. I’m sure there are many quality programs that I have missed. Additions, corrections, and comments are welcome.

Linguistics departments or programs offering Anthropological Linguistics (per LSA)
California State University, Fullerton
California State University, Long Beach
Cleveland State University
Emory University
First Nations University of Canada
Northern Illinois University
Reed College
Tulane University
University of Arizona
University of California, Santa Barbara
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Hawaii at Manoa
University of Mary Washington
University of South Carolina
University of Tennessee
University of Virginia
University of Western Ontario
Western Washington University

Anthropology departments that offer PhD and have faculty interested in Linguistics (per AAA)
Arizona State University
Australian National University
Binghamton University, State University of New York
Boston University
Brown University
California Institute of Integral Studies
Cornell University
Duke University
Emory University
Harvard University
Indiana University
Kent State University
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
McMaster University
Michigan State University
Purdue University
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Southern Methodist University
Stanford University
Syracuse University
Temple University
Texas A&M University
The George Washington University
Tulane University
University at Albany/SUNY
University of Alabama
University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of Alberta
University of Arizona
University of Auckland
University of British Columbia
University of Calgary
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Davis
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Riverside
University of California, San Diego
University of California, Santa Cruz
University of Chicago
University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Hawaii At Manoa, Honolulu
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
University of Kansas
University of Manitoba
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
University of Montreal
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
University of Nevada, Reno
University of New Mexico
University of Oklahoma
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
University of Texas, Austin
University of Virginia
University of Western Ontario
University of Wisconsin, Madison
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
University of Wyoming
Vanderbilt University
Washington State University
Washington University
Yale University

The Languages of Global Hip Hop, Terkourafi

"This book is a feast not just for hip hop specialists but for all those interested in the interfaces between music, language and society. The chapters illustrate the diversity of contexts where this music is enjoyed, but also the common features found in the hip hop production of various cultures… Thanks to the range of materials studied (Norway, Egypt, Cyprus, South Korea and more) and the detail provided in the individual analyses, the book represents a key contribution to work in this fascinating field, and will be essential reading for future research."
Abdelali Bentahila and Eirlys Davies, Abdelmalek Essaadi University, Tangier, Morocco