Tuesday News: Gawker’s last post, silent book club, and first color photograph
How Things Work – Gawker’s Nick Denton wrote the site’s last post yesterday, a chronicle of his thoughts about the Hulk Hogan suit, Peter Thiel, and the philosophy behind Gawker, from his perspective. It is chilling to think about the fact that basically one really rich person could finance Gawker’s demise, although I don’t think the case is as clean as Denton wants it to be, on any level. For example, it’s difficult to reconcile Denton’s thoughts below with the confessions of a Deadspin writer who makes it all sound very thoughtless, random, and gleefully mean. And unfortunately, Gawker’s demise hasn’t really helped to clarify much around how we should balance privacy and free speech in an environment as immediate and indelible as the Internet.
Gawker was not the first blog launched by the company. That was Gizmodo, the technology news site that is the company’s largest property. Gawker was an outlier in what became a collection of bloggy lifestyle magazines covering reader interests like video games, sports, and cars.
But Gawker was the one with the most powerful personality, the most extreme expression of the rebellious writer’s id. It absorbed the century-old tabloid cynicism about human nature, reinforced by instant data about what people actually wanted to read. As a group of journalists who had grown up on the web, it also subscribed to the internet’s most radical ideology, that information wants to be free, and that the truth shall set us free. This was a potent but dangerous combination. . . .
But even Gawker’s natural allies had no enthusiasm for a free press defense of a story about a sex tape. Journalists were aware of the public’s growing sensitivity to anything that could be characterized as revenge porn or cyber bullying. As John Herrman noted, the public climate had changed, even in the four years since the Hogan story. Privacy, especially internet privacy, had become the biggest challenge to freedom of expression. When time came to scurry under the shelter of the First Amendment, we did not have that much institutional support. You can’t easily get the privileges of the profession if you pour scorn on its luminaries. – Gawker
Silent Book Club Is Coming to L.A., and It’s an Introvert’s Dream – So do you HAVE to be quiet? What is actual book conversation breaks out?
Silent Book Club is a multi-city movement to take the pressure—and the whole having-to-talk-to-people thing — out of book clubs. At their monthly events, you bring your own book, you meet a group of fellow literary types at a bar, and you sit with them in solidarity and read. It’s like a regular book club minus the obligations and the structure and the inevitable self-loathing. According to the group’s website, Silent Book Club is something you can even do “on your own.” Personally, I’m not sure if reading “on your own” counts as a book club anymore (I think that’s just called “reading”), but the beautiful thing about Silent Book Club is that it’s basically anything you want it to be. – Los Angeles Magazine
Behold the Very First Color Photograph (1861): Taken by Scottish Physicist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell – One of the reasons I love these kinds of posts is that they shatter any sense that “we” (and you can substitute any generation for that pronoun) think we invented everything of importance or technological sophistication.
Between the time of the first photograph in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and 1861, photography had advanced sufficiently that physicist James Clerk Maxwell—known for his “Maxwell’s Demon” thought experiment—produced the first color photograph that did not immediately fade or require hand painting (above). The Scottish scientist chose to take a picture of a tartan ribbon, “created,” writes National Geographic, “by photographing it three times through red, blue, and yellow filters, then recombining the images into one color composite.” Maxwell’s three-color method was intended to mimic the way the eye processes color, based on theories he had elaborated in an 1855 paper. – Open Culture