Thursday News: Harry Potter, broadband, data journalism, and Library of Babel
New Harry Potter story revealed by JK Rowling is FREE to read – The Harry Potter website, Pottermore.com, is relaunching with new features and new content, including a free story from J.K. Rowling, as part of what the site’s CEO describes as Rowling “expand[ing] her magical universe” (does this mean more books?):
The never-before seen article reveals the history of the wizarding Potter family from its illustrious beginnings in the twelfth century.
The new writing sheds unexpected new light on the origins of the Potter family name, delves into Harry’s ancestry, explains how his grandfather quadrupled the family’s fortune and how the Invisibility Cloak became a family heirloom. – Daily Mirror
Broadband is a “core utility” like electricity, White House report says – The Broadband Opportunity Council has released a report that, among other things, designates broadband as a “core utility” like water and electricity. This declaration is in line with the FCC’s reclassification of broadband as a utility earlier this year, subjecting ISP’s to new federal regulations. The report calls for the federal government to expand broadband “deployment” and “adoption,” including the following recommended steps:
Modernizing Federal programs valued at approximately $10 billion to include broadband as an eligible program expenditure, such as the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Facilities (CF) program, which will help communities around the country bring broadband to health clinics and recreation centers;
Creating an online inventory of data on Federal assets, such as Department of the Interior (DOI) telecommunications towers that can help support faster and more economical broadband deployments to remote areas of the country;
Streamlining the applications for programs and broadband permitting processes to support broadband deployment and foster competition; and
Creating a portal for information on Federal broadband funding and loan programs to help communities easily identify resources as they seek to expand access to broadband. – Ars Technica
The Data Journalism That Wasn’t – The New York Times story about print v. digital publishing yesterday reminded me of this piece from the Future of Music Coalition, disputing the article, “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” which ostensibly relied on data provided by FMC. The article argues that “music, the creative field that has been most threatened by technological change, has become more profitable in the post-Napster era — not for the music industry, of course, but for musicians themselves.” Except that the Times, apparently, ended up running a story that the FMC told the fact checkers relied on inaccurate or unverifiable elements of their overall narrative, which, according to the FMC, overstates the case for the profitability of music for individual musicians in the current landscape:
Earlier this month, the New York Times Magazine reached out to Future of Music Coalition with regard to a forthcoming feature. We like to help out with this sort of thing, because we know that music business structures and practices can be quite complicated, and think it’s important that journalists get the facts and context as correct as possible, whatever narrative they’re advancing. Last week, fact-checkers from the magazine followed up with FMC staff. There was a good deal of back and forth as we were provided short paragraphs, and later, individual sentences, from the article and asked to verify whether they were “true.” (Unfortunately, we weren’t provided with much context.)
Alas, what ended up running was rather disappointing. NYT Magazine chose to publish without substantive change most of the things that we told them were either: a) not accurate or b) not verifiable because there is no industry consensus and the “facts” could really go either way.
Let us be clear: our problem with Johnson’s article isn’t that he fails to conform to some doom-and-gloom scenario for artists working today. Indeed, there are a lot of new opportunities for artists, and those opportunities are worth celebrating. Most frustrating to us is that Johnson reinforces a false binary between pro-technology optimistic futurism and anti-technology digital pessimism. And that simply doesn’t describe the state of the contemporary debate about art and the digital age. – Future of Music Coalition
This Digital Library Contains Every Phrase That Could Ever Be Uttered – If you have an extra hour or so to waste, check out the Library of Babel, a “library that exists as an algorithm,” instead of as an actual book archive. So instead of books that you would recognize, this “library” has “books” made up of random combinations of 1,312,000 characters, (including the space, period, and comma), which, if full, would contain every word and sentence in every book ever published, even if you wouldn’t necessarily recognize them by browsing the “shelves” and “volumes” and “pages” represented there. Jonathan Basile, who masterminded the project, was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’s 1939 essay, “The Total Library,” which conceptualized a library that was an archive of every existing and possible book. I’ll warn you, though: the library is strangely addicting (and check out the images).
[Basile] quickly discovered that the library would require more digital storage than could fit in the entire universe. Basile calculated the number of “books” (of 410 pages, with 3,200 characters per page) as somewhere shy of 10 to the power of two million. Instead, he settled on a library that exists as an algorithm, a program that runs whenever someone plugs in text at libraryofbabel.info. The program displays all of the pages on which that text would appear if the library were real. The page itself is not stored but exists as a set of coordinates that will display the same text each time. -Smithsonian Magazine and Library of Babel