Tuesday News: Pinkmeth lawsuit, Nadine Gordimer dies, Worldreader brings Kindles to Ghana, and fascinating article on Virginia Woolf and privacy of self
Tor Project sued for $1 million in revenge porn case – Pinkmeth, a particularly horrible revenge porn site is being sued, and for a while, TOR was being sued right along with it. Although the action against TOR was quickly dropped,I wanted to start at the beginning of this drama, in part because it’s instructive of how difficult it is to negotiate the relationships between a site like Pinkmeth and a service like TOR. Techdirt has a lengthy analysis of why they think this is a completely baseless suit, and while I agree this is a CDA Section 230 (safe harbor) issue, I think this post at Naked Security on how the suit is now only directed at Pinkmeth is actually a more thoughtful analysis (and The Verge post is pretty good, as well). The lawsuit is aimed at completely eliminating Pink Meth’s entire Internet presence:
“A failure by this court to enter an all-encompassing order designed specifically to cripple PinkMeth will accomplish nothing other than to require the Plantiff to file a new lawsuit once PinkMeth finds a new company willing to host their illegal activities.” –Daily Dot
Nadine Gordimer, Novelist Who Took On Apartheid, Is Dead at 90 – Nadine Gordimer, whose novels about South Africa won her the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, died in Johannesburg on Sunday at 90. Despite claiming that she was not intrinsically a political writer, her books were intensely political, as was her own life in South Africa during Apartheid, where a number of her books were banned. Despite criticism from almost every faction in South Africa, Gordimer continued to write, and her books wove the country’s political history with the author’s own personal history in interesting ways.
When the Nobel committee awarded Ms. Gordimer the literature prize in 1991, it took note of her political activism but observed, “She does not permit this to encroach on her writings.”
That sentiment was one she said she clung to throughout her career. In 1975, she wrote in the introduction to her “Selected Stories”: “The tension between standing apart and being fully involved; that is what makes a writer. That is where we begin.”
In later interviews, she said that no one could live in a society like South Africa’s and stay isolated from politics. Looking back, she told an interviewer in 1994, “The fact that my books were perceived as being so political was because I lived my life in this society that was so much changed by conflict, by political conflict, which of course in practical terms is human conflict.” –New York Times
Ebooks for all: Building digital libraries in Ghana with Worldreader – Purely by coincidence, I had this story on a digital literacy project in Ghana (in West Africa, more than 3,000 miles from South Africa) teed up for today. Although not focused on the same issues that occupied Gordimer’s fiction, it’s an interesting narrative about (largely white and male) USians equipping Africans with technology aimed at increasing literary rates. Lots of complicated politics, racial and otherwise.
Of course, Kindles and Christianity are different beasts. But the fundamental posturing can feel eerily close. Those of us who work in technology tend to take religious-like stances over its ability to change the world, always for the better. My trickster-paranoia comes from an inherent suspicion towards technology, and an even deeper suspicion of presuming to know better. It’s too easy to fall into the first-world trope of “all the poor need is a little sprinkling of silicon and then everything will be fine.” It’s never that simple. Technology is, at best, the tip of the iceberg. A very tiny component of the work that needs to be done in the greater whole of reforming or impacting or increasing accessibility to education, first-world and third-world alike. Technology deployed without infrastructure, without understanding, without administrative or community support, without proper curriculum is nearly worthless. Worse than worthless, even?—?for it can be destructive, the time and budget spent on the technology eating into more fundamental, more meaningful points of badly needed reform. –Medium
VIRGINIA WOOLF’S IDEA OF PRIVACY – A very, very compelling article on what Joshua Rothman characterizes as “inner privacy,” which is aligned with a sense of inner self that is connected partly to the structures of Modernist prose, but also to an idea that interiority is most acutely recognized when it’s being defended against being seen or accessed without permission. The piece is pretty sprawling in its analysis and very difficult to summarize, so I’ll just suggest that you read it in full.
Woolf’s abstract, inner sense of privacy bears the stamp, of course, of a very particular time and place (not to mention Woolf’s very particular biography—she had an unusually rich hidden life). It’s indebted to feminism, and to the realization that men, but not women, have long been granted a right to solitude. It also flows from the particularly modernist idea that there is a coherent, hidden, inner self from which art springs. Today, we may be more likely to see art as a collaborative process—the product of a scene, rather than a person. We are also, I suspect, especially aware of how much we rely upon on social networks to help us know ourselves. In recent years, philosophers have argued that other people may know us better than we do.
To me, though, Woolf’s sense of privacy still feels relevant; when I keep it in mind, I see it everywhere. Adelle Waldman’s novel “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.” is, among many other things, a gender-reversed retelling of the love story at the center of “Mrs. Dalloway”: like Clarissa, Nate chooses the lover who can’t know him over the lover who’s determined to. (He does this, in part, so that he can continue to surprise himself—that is, continue to create.) Meanwhile, on Tumblr and Facebook, we seek out the same private sociality that Woolf described. Usually, we think of social media as a forum for exhibitionism. But, inevitably, the extroverted cataloguing of everyday minutiae—meals, workouts, thoughts about politics, books, and music—reaches its own limits; it ends up emphasizing what can’t be shared. Talking so freely about your life helps you to know the weight of those feelings which are too vague, or too spiritual, to express—left unspoken and unexplored, they throw your own private existence into relief. “Sharing” is, in fact, the opposite of what we do: like one of Woolf’s hostesses, we rehearse a limited openness so that we can feel the solidity of our own private selves. –The New Yorker