Archiving the Web: The Future of Internet History

Imagine trying to find an article you remembered in a magazine from years ago without a solid starting point. Or trying to find the best quality version of a rare film without having access to a proper database. Even on the internet, two decades into its evolution, the attempts to catalog, index and archive the web have been isolated, underfunded, abandoned, or narrow in scope. Even the largest resource, owned by Internet Archive, stores just 0.2% of the pages indexed by Google. That’s despite having being used to hold politicians accountable, win legal battles, and verify sources for important information.…   [continue reading]

The One With The Laugh Track (SCP Mini)

Laugh tracks started out as something unavoidable in the world of comedy. Pantomimes (the historical equivalent of sitcoms), plays, and early TV shows with studio audiences would have natural laugh tracks because there would be a real, laughing audience. Somewhere along the way, audiences got so used to being prompted when it’s time to enjoy a joke that laugh tracks went from being a side-effect of comedy to something that now needed to be inserted.

Television executives of the 50s and 60s had such a low opinion of the general viewership that they believed a comedy would get a bad reception if it didn’t have a laugh track.…   [continue reading]

How Horse_ebooks Changed Internet Poetry Forever

What’s the difference between a tweet written by a human and a tweet generated by a machine?

In a lot of cases, it’s difficult to tell. Twitter bot developers are allowed unbridled creativity, and Twitter’s open API makes it a place where a bot can do pretty much anything. For example, Nathan Bernard (a developer we interviewed in season 2 of our podcast) tweets both manually and automatically. The automatic side of his account runs a script designed to get the first reply to any Donald Trump tweet. Itโ€™s even engineered to match its reply to the original tweet, making it harder to discern whether or not a bot is at work behind the scenes.…   [continue reading]

The Wasted Innovation of Skream!

As anyone who has bothered to gloss over its history will know, dubstep is a widely misunderstood and underappreciated genre. The impression that I get from YouTube comments (at least as far as American audiences go) is that most casual listeners think dubstep is some mutant hybrid of obnoxious samples, grinding novelty synths and drops filthier than [disreputable figure] [performing sexual act] on [elderly family member].

As a teenager growing up in England with a habit of listening to hours of late-night radio, I feel like dubstep is one of the few genres of music Iโ€™ve truly seen develop from the very start.…   [continue reading]

What Created Flat Earth Theory?

“It’s easier to control people when we’re on a ball.” โ€” Eddie Bravo

If youโ€™re struggling to grasp why some people defend the flat earth theory so ferociously, it helps to remember that itโ€™s just as much a real theory people believe in as it is a representation of general mistrust for the mediaโ€™s dominant narrative.

The video below is a perfect example; a short clip of Alex Jones saying that he doesn’t believe the earth is flat, but if the mainstream media said it was spherical, he’d start to question it.


That’s the basic attitude that sums up why flat earth theory is so popular; it’s an extended metaphor blown out of proportion.…   [continue reading]

Through the Lens of @FFD8FFDB: Art by Security Cameras

If you hang around near unsecured security cameras, you might accidentally appear on @FFD8FFDB, an automated Twitter art project run by developer Derek Arnold. The bot is connected to a range of unsuspecting cameras across the U.S. and tweets a screenshot from a random one every 20 minutes.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound particularly appealing. In fact, one of Arnold’s goals was to get any response at all, even a disinterested reaction. The project isn’t supposed to be creepy or menacing โ€” which is often the aesthetic of a security camera. Instead, the images are framed as “beautiful, rather than filthy”, he writes in an article explaining why he chose to start the project.…   [continue reading]

The Last Joke of the Scene: Sitcoms and Sincerity

Television imitates life. The fact that it’s only an imitation is clearer in a sitcom than any other genre. If you distil TV down to its most basic elements โ€” and then simplify each element further โ€” you’re left with the sitcom.

Many sitcoms break the formula, but the most popular (and sometimes older) shows don’t. The Big Bang Theory, Full House, That 70s Show. Even newer releases like The Ranch. They are in the usual form of television but predigested and tidied up to the point where any mystery, crisis, tension or deeper meaning is diffused almost instantaneously, whether that’s at the end of the episode, or at the end of a scene.…   [continue reading]

Life is Chronological, But Social Media Can’t Be

In March 2016, Twitter made the switch away from a purely chronological timeline to one partially ordered by algorithms. By looking at Twitter’sย origins โ€” a simple way to update groups of people โ€” the switch away from ordering information chronologically is more interesting than it first seems, and represents the state of the internet and the way we use it in 2017.

The origins of Twitter

When it started, Twitter (or twttr as it was then called) was just an SMS service linked to a website.

Famously influential tech critic Om Malik wrote the worldโ€™s first blog post on Twitter a few months after it launched.…   [continue reading]

Stefan Bohacek Interview: The Ethics and Humanity of Bots

Stefan Bohacek is the founder of BotWiki, a project that aims to catalog the useful, friendly and artistic bots of the world. He also has a number of side-projects on his site, fourtonfish.com. The projects include Detective, a chat-based game that randomly pairs you with a human or a bot and makesย you decide which you’re chatting with.

We spoke about the philosophy and ethics of bots, as well as the ideas behind BotWiki, Detective, and his other exciting projects.

Listen to the interview below:

Or read the transcript for all the links we refer to:

BotWikiโ€™s been a fascinating project for me lately.…   [continue reading]

Your Bot Art Belongs in a Museum

Recently I interviewed BotWiki founder Stefan Bohacek on the distinction between art made by a human and art made by a machine. “If you think art is these deep thoughts expressed by a human, then of course what bots make isn’t art”, he said. “If you think art is anything that looks good, then bots make art”.

Thinking more on the issue, I realized that a bot’s output is just the randomized result of human input. Even advanced bots with neural networks either learn from human input or learn from other bots that were programmed by humans. In the end, there’s no distinction between art created by bots and humans because humans are the ones that set boundaries for the bot and say what it can and can’t generate.…   [continue reading]