Tuesday News: Online privacy, history & fiction, language & smell, and McDonald’s couture
Think you’re reading the news for free? New research shows you’re likely paying with your privacy – Two University of Pennsylvania scholars tracked the online trackers to demonstrate the extent to which we are subject to the kind of tracking that allows you to see the items you were viewing on Amazon that morning pop up on virtually every site you visit throughout the day. It’s a mode of advertising that is not only sneaky, but particularly pernicious because news sites are among the very worst perpetrators, and they’re some of the most vocal opponents of ad blocking software, as well.
Using Tim Libert’s open-source software platform webXray, we loaded web pages to detect all of the third-party servers that may collect user data. To get a baseline measure of tracking prevalence, we first analyzed Alexa’s top 100,000 websites.
We found that users were exposed to an average of eight external servers on each site. This means that many hidden third parties (again, usually advertisers) may be simultaneously observing an individual’s browsing habits. But even more surprising was our finding that news organizations appear to be among the most active perpetrators of this practice.
Our investigation has revealed that among the 2,000-plus news-related websites identified by Alexa, readers are, on average, connected to over 19 third-party servers – twice as many as the 100,000 most popular sites. – The Conversation
The Truth is Quieter Than Fiction – I know these little essays are basically promotional pieces for authors, but sometimes they’re interesting, as I think this one from David O. Stewart on the overlap between historical fiction and history. Stewart, who writes both, argues that “[t]he hush of history can be a pallid competitor with the cacophony of life as we live it,” creating a lot of “silences” into which the historical fiction writer’s imagination can, and should, intervene. Stewart sees the role of historical fiction as, in part, one of humanizing the historical record and fostering empathetic understanding of how people actually lived on a day-to-day basis. However, he cautions that historical fiction is not a free for all:
Writing historical fiction can lead writers of history to powerful backstage moments, but it does not relax the essential requirements of careful documentation and thoughtful, fact-based interpretations. There is no license to pass off even a single detail of the writer’s imagination as history. Still, both history and historical fiction have the same end: examining human nature and experience—perhaps even understanding them. – Publishers Weekly
Why Do Most Languages Have So Few Words for Smells? – Considering the worldliness of much Romance fiction, I’m always struck at how often sensory experience beyond sight and touch is not extensively explored in Romance novels. This is especially true for the sense of smell – how often do characters reference how things smell, or have a particular aroma evoke a strong emotional response or memory? Anyway, this article on the way smell isn’t often represented in language is a fascinating contemplation of smell and scent as concepts and their inclusion and exclusion from different linguistic families.
These two groups clearly show that odors, contrary to popular belief, are not universally ineffable. . . .
Or, as Majid wrote, “Odors are expressible in language, as long as you speak the right language.”
And if you have the right language, it changes the way you perceive the world. Smell is an intrinsic part of Jahai culture in a way that it simply isn’t in the west. “When we’re there, Niclas and I say that we’re brother and sister. Once, we got told off for sitting too close to each other because our smells would mingle, and that’s a form of incest,” she says. “There are social taboos that are explained in terms of smells. Some foods can’t be cooked in the same fire because their smells would mix.” – The Atlantic
McDonald’s Couture Is Having a Runway Moment—Check Out the Mouthwatering Collection Now! – Fashion made from McDonald’s food packaging. Fast food haute couture? I have to say, though, that the wedding dress is quite a piece of art.
Over the course of fashion weeks, we’ve seen plenty wacky pop-culture-meets-fashion looks on the runway—Kermit the Frog jackets and eggs and bacon frocks are the examples that come to mind—and now, McDonald’s couture is having a moment. Actually, make that McDCouture—the official title of the 20-look collection created by students at Miami International University of Art & Design that recently showed at Miami Beach Funksion Fashion Week. – E! Online