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- Your Phone Wasn’t Built for the ApocalypseIt looked like Mars, or the Southern Californian wasteland in Blade Runner 2049, or the deserts of Dune. Almost 100 wildfires have ravaged the western United States in the past month, scattering particles of ash and smoke into the air and forcing 500,00 people to evacuate their homes in Oregon alone. On Wednesday, residents across the West, already suffering from a pandemic, economic collapse, wildfires, and dangerously bad air quality, woke up to a dark, bronzed sky that nearly shut out all daylight. As the day wore on, the smoke thickened and receded, making the city seem red at some hours, amber at others. Masks to ward off the coronavirus now served double duty.But as people tried to capture the scene, and the confusion and horror that accompanied it, many noticed a strange phenomenon: Certain photographs and videos of the surreal, orange sky seemed to wash it out, as if… ..... Read More.2 weeks ago
- The Pandemic Is No Excuse to Surveil StudentsIn Michigan, a small liberal-arts college is requiring students to install an app called Aura, which tracks their location in real time, before they come to campus. Oakland University, also in Michigan, announced a mandatory wearable that would track symptoms, but, facing a student-led petition, then said it would be optional. The University of Missouri, too, has an app that tracks when students enter and exit classrooms. This practice is spreading: In an attempt to open during the pandemic, many universities and colleges around the country are forcing students to download location-tracking apps, sometimes as a condition of enrollment. Many of these apps function via Bluetooth sensors or Wi-Fi networks. When students enter a classroom, their phone informs a sensor that’s been installed in the room, or the app checks the Wi-Fi networks nearby to determine the phone’s location.As a university professor, I’ve seen surveillance like this before. Many of… ..... Read More.3 weeks ago
- Generation Work-From-Home May Never RecoverTo have a job without a workplace, you must build an office of the mind. Structure, routine, focus, socialization, networking, stress relief—their creation is almost entirely up to you, alone in a spare bedroom or on your couch, where your laptop might vie for attention at any given moment with your pets or kids. If the coffeepot runs dry, there is no one to blame but yourself.The first time I undertook this construction process was in 2009, and it was an abject failure. I was nine months out of college and had already been laid off from my first full-time job, thanks to Wall Street’s evisceration of the American economy. A woman I knew only from an internet message board hired me to write blog posts for her fashion website, a stroke of luck that turned me nocturnal within six weeks. I lived like a 13-year-old on perpetual summer break—no… ..... Read More.3 weeks ago