Friday News: Amazon’s wacky algorithms, Fandom and corporate publicity, writers v. copyists, and a real life interracial historical romance
The (Unintentional) Amazon Guide to Dealing Drugs – For those of you who routinely give the side eye to Amazon’s algorithms, here’s a true story that is both absurd and frightening. It seems that a pattern of purchases for a certain scale has resulted in a recommended buying list that amounts to what Alexis Madrigal refers to as a “quickstart kit for selling drugs.” That’s the absurd part. The frightening part is that Amazon does not make clear in its TOS how it responds to requests from law enforcement for customer information.
So, how long until police departments find an AWS-100 scale and request account information from Amazon?
. . .
Privacy, such as it is on the web, is collective. Beware who you share purchases or click-patterns with. –The Atlantic
Inside the corporate fandom marketing machine – As I was reading this piece on the way fantoms are being tapped to produce free publicity — often spontaneously produced content that is exploited by publicists and other corporate marketers to promote their media products — I couldn’t help but think of some of the debates we’ve had in the Romance community about the way reader-produced content can serve as publicity for an author or publisher, even though the reader did not produce the content for that purpose. There’s very much a question here, of who’s controlling whom, though, because fans can drive the popularity of a movie or television show or book, or their voices can be used by corporatized media to build popularity.
During the two- or three-month media tour for a big movie like Avengers, every interview will be copied onto YouTube, discussed on social media, and GIF-ed and quoted across Tumblr and BuzzFeed and a thousand other sites. The machine of audience-driven Internet publicity isn’t just dedicated to the hardcore fans who work their way up the Hunger Games Explorer leaderboard, it also includes everyone who casually retweets a Tom Hiddleston GIF. This kind of thing is easier to consume than a 10-minute segment on Jimmy Kimmel, and it’s far more likely to reach that all-important early adopter audience of social media addicts. –Daily Dot
Are You Really a Writer … Or Just a Copyist? – As I read through this piece, I could actually feel my jaw dropping. It sets out to distinguish what it means to be a “real writer” from a mere “copyist,” culminating with a set of criteria for one to define themselves as an actual “author.” Copyists, for example, are not passionate about writing, don’t read for pleasure, don’t write in their free time, and are not proud of their writing — among other things. Authors, by contrast, love reading, research, and following trends, have a professional portfolio of published work, and have “original thoughts” to offer. As much as I would love it if everyone writing was doing so out of a passionate commitment to the written word and to all that entails, this feels a little to much like trying to identify the artiste as distinctive from the commercial writer, in the most insulting way.
A copyist can be defined as a person who:
- Wants to be paid to write a certain number of words
- Is drawn to writing as a job, not as a calling
- Is not trained or highly experienced in any specific writing style
- Doesn’t have any industry specializations
- Doesn’t have a unique perspective to share
- Isn’t expecting to be highly compensated as they don’t expect to provide high-quality work
Merriam-Webster defines a copyist as “a person who transcribes” or “an imitator.” –Copyblogger
Belle: A Lesson About British Slavery Buried in a Love Story – For everyone who thinks that historical Romance set in 19th C Britain has to feature white protagonists, here’s a true story for you: Dido Elizabeth Belle, whose mother was a slave and whose father was a British Royal Navy officer, was raised by her great uncle, the first Earl of Mansfield. The same man who adjudicated the famous Somerset case, in which a slave who escaped in England sued for his freedom on the basis of English common law. “Belle,” the film produced on the basis of the story, will be released in the US in May.
Somerset was freed. Though Mansfield could have gone further in his decisions, both laid legal groundwork for the abolitionist movement and eventually led to the slave trade being outlawed in Britain in 1807 and slavery being abolished in the British Empire in 1833. And as the filmmakers and many historians argue, Dido Elizabeth Belle must have had an impact on Lord Mansfield’s thinking. He didn’t have children of his own and had afforded Belle what was an unheard-of degree of privilege and status for an illegitimate black child at the time. –The Root