Digitally Literate #209


Sometimes you gotta fly
Digitally Lit #209 – 8/10/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to issue #209 of Digitally Literate.

In this newsletter I distill the news of the week in technology into an easy-to-read resource. Thank you for reading. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.

This week I sent out the following:


“Rick Rubin” by Alison Chernick (2:50)

Last weekend I needed a break from the news so I sat down to finally binge watch the documentary series titled Shangri-La on Showtime. The four part series follows legendary producer Rick Rubin as he tours his Malibu studio.

The series is an interesting look at the components and culture of creativity. One thing in particular that I noticed was that Rubin indicated that he wears no shoes everyday.

In a conversation with Tyler the Creator, Rubin says, “The earth actually has an electrical and magnetic energy that goes into our body if we are naked on it, and if we’re covered all the time, we don’t get to feel it. In terms of health and in terms of knowing things, part of the life source is being tapped into the earth.”

I played this part over a couple times, and reflected on how interesting (wacky) this was. I also thought about the only other person that I knew that walked around barefoot…Dai Barnes.

I have a lot to say about this, but I’m honestly still processing. I would recommend checking out these great posts from Aaron Davis and Tim Klapdoor.


We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here’s what we’ve learned about the shooters.

A must read op-ed. Two researchers share findings from a National Institute of Justice funded research looking at the life histories of mass shooter in the US. They studied every mass shooting since 1966.

Here’s four commonalities that they learned about the shooters.:
– Early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at an early age
– Reached an identifiable crisis point in weeks or months leading up to the shooting
– Access to actions, ideologies, and validation for their plans from other shooters
– Access to the means to carry out their plans. Can they obtain firearms?

Read more about this research here.

The El Paso Shooting and the Gamification of Terror

After these mass shootings, we learn a lot about the massacres and the motivations that play into these events. As identified in the research shared above, one of the common threads in mass shootings is the dark spaces of the Internet people go to social, subscribe to these ideologies, and sometimes become radicalized.

On a seemingly regular basis in this newsletter I seem to find threads in which harmful discourses spread online. We may not want to peer deep into these areas, but I think that in order to be a responsible citizen of the web, we need to understand the good, and bad/horrible that is out there.

Robert Evans reports on some of his investigations of far-right extremist groups in the US and the ways in which they radicalize and communicate through the Internet.

In this post, we documents the concept of high scores on 8chan, where white nationalist terror has been gamified by lonely white men seeking identity and acclaim.

‘Shut the Site Down,’ Says the Creator of 8chan, a Megaphone for Gunmen

8chan (also called Infinitechan or Infinitychan) is an imageboard website composed of user-created message boards. There is little to no interaction from site moderators or admins. 8chan picked up notoriety when the moderators at 4chan (another English-language messageboard website) got serious and started banning users for illegal, or exceptionally disturbing content.

This post shares the story of Frederick Brennan, the founder of 8chan. Brennan started the online message board as a free speech utopia. But now, 8chan is known as a megaphone for mass shooters, and a recruiting platform for violent white nationalists.

Not long after the recent round of massacres, Cloudflare indicated that they would no longer protect 8chan from attacks. Cloudflare is a web infrastructure and security company. Put simply, they protect websites when others try to shut them down. Not soon after these announcements, attacks starting coming to shut down 8chan. This has caused a number of members of 8chan to head elsewhere online. Please note, in an earlier issue of this newsletter, I detailed the use of Gab (and Mastodon support) to create a distributed space for these communities.

There is much more to talk about with this issue. I’ll stay on top of the story and try to help explain it. Please note, this also raises important questions about freedom of speech, and the role/purpose of our online discourse systems.

Study: most people would rather lose a job to a robot than a human

Really interesting survey about human opinions about workforce automation.

Scientists in Germany find that most people would rather a robot replaced them in their job than a human. On the other hand, most people would be upset if a robot took the job of a colleague.

People have different emotional reactions to being replaced by robots versus humans. I really can’t figure out the logic here. What do you think?

Publication is available here.

Scientists Just Discovered 39 ‘Invisible’ Galaxies

A much needed bit of perspective.

Scientists have found a vast array of hidden galaxies, which together could change our understanding of how the universe works.

The mysterious galaxies, which were previously unknown to researchers, were discovered by a breakthrough new approach that allowed astronomers to look more deeply than ever before into the universe.

The astronomers describe the new find as a treasure trove, representing a huge set of galaxies. It could help solve some of the most deep and fundamental questions about the universe, including the mysteries of supermassive black holes and dark matter.

The pub in Nature is here.


How to Smize

This week was really stressful. Here is the US, we seem to be set at panic mode…for justifiable reasons.

When you go out in public the next time, look at people (yes, strangers as well) and smile first. Better yet, make it believable and smize.

Supposedly a smize, or smiling with your eyes makes you look more genuine. If you smile first, many times this will be returned with a smile from a stranger. Who knows…it may make you feel better as well.

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You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.

Toni Morrison

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This week I was digging Echoes of Japan from the Minyo Crusaders. Minyo Crusaders reworks traditional Japanese folk songs (minyo) with Latin, African, and Caribbean rhythms.

Digitally Literate is a summary of all the great stuff from the Internet this week in technology, education, & literacy. Say hey with a note at or on the social network of your choice.

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