Why Do Men Put Their Penises Online?

?To tweet or not to tweet?? ? that should have been the question for former U.S. representative Anthony Weiner whose infamous social media snafu made him and his briefs-ensconced boner a household name synonymous with ?moron.? Not only did Weiner?s foray into softcore porn (and subsequent revelations about ?sexting? with numerous women) provide a wide berth for dick jokes and puns of every stripe (which he?s probably endured since grammar school on account of his name), it cost him his career in politics.

The argument that what one does in one?s private life is should not be subject to public scrutiny went out the window when Weiner made his privates public by inadvertently posting them into his Twitter stream rather than as a direct message to 21-year-old Washington state woman.

It begs the question, ?Why do men put their penises online?? Respond to any ad on Craigslist and, as many can attest, one stands a one in five chance of receiving a poorly-lit jpeg of some dude?s cock. It?s a wonder that no one has started an amateur porn site called ?Craig?s Dicks? comprised exclusively of prick pics culled from the personal ads juggernaut. Chatroulette, the video chat service that randomly pairs participants in two-way tet-a-tets is notorious as veritable museum of male masturbation.The site rapidly cycles through chat pairings with either user given the option to hit ?next? and move on to another chat ? usually within seconds. After cycling through eight live images of users in front of their web cams ? Bingo! ? a crotch shot at the ready.

In the pantheon of paraphilias, exhibitionism is perhaps the most benign though clinicians describe it as ?coercive? since it usually involves forcibly imposing one?s genitalia into another line of sight without their consent. The notion of an old-school trench coat-clad flasher is damn near quaint compared to the lone gunman taking aim at a webcam.

Albeit, confronting an exhibitionist in the flesh is surely a harrowing experience, however, it does permit one the ability to express one?s revulsion, reciprocate with bodily harm or perhaps even flash back (any of which, may or may not be the offenders goal). The online penis parader, however, uses social media to broadcast their exhibitionism from the comfort of their own homes. It combines the privacy end-users of porn expect from direct delivery of content to their laptops (no more embarrassing visits to the ?adult? section of the video store ? hell, for that matter, no more video stores!) with the inversely proportionate ability to broadcast oneself freely, cheaply and nakedly to millions with relative anonymity and without retribution.

This is perhaps one reason that everyone from media pundits to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi came down so, um, hard on Anthony?s weiner. It was if he received the aggregate slap back awaiting all the faceless exhibitionists lurking on the Internet. Consider his monkey spanked. To gauge the size of your “e-penis” click this humorous if NSFW link, which uses your Twitter handle to measure your size online.

Update: Carlos Danger. ‘Nuff said.

Zombie-Proof House Exhibit Opens

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We’ve all heard of “panic rooms” and backyard bomb-shelters but when it comes to domestic fortresses, few, if any, have addressed the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Leave it Robert Wuilfe of Napa’s uber-gallery di Rosa to curate a major exhibition of post-apocalyptic-themed works under the comforting title “Zombie-Proof House.” Billed as a is a “meditation on anxiety and hope in a troubled time,” “Zombie-Proof House” includes works in sculpture, video, photography, interactive installations and a web project. The gamut of End Times scenarios are explored including “notions of shelter, architecture, borders or fortification…” explains the exhibit’s PR. “From examining the personal losses of the financial crisis or questioning anti-immigrant rhetoric, to addressing the climate crisis, or providing step-by-step guides to political protest, the projects in Zombie-Proof House ask viewers to recognize that a future guided by fear is not inevitable.” Though having your brain eaten by the undead might be. Zombie-Proof House opens in di Rosa’s Gatehouse Gallery at 6 p.m., Saturday, June 18. The di Rosa is located at 5200 Carneros Highway, Napa, CA.dirosaart.org. Artists include Anthony Discenza, HalfLifers (Torsten Z. Burns and Anthony Discenza), Suzanne Husky, Inka Hoots (Joshua Short and Joel Dean Stockdill), Packard Jennings, Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, Whitney Lynn, Julio Cesar Morales, Lucy Puls and Carol Selter. Curated by Robert Wuilfe

iCloudius: Apple’s Man in the Sky

When it rains it pours for Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The lauded gadget guru qua rainmaker came out of medical leave to formally introduce attendees of Apple?s World Wide Developers Conference to a bevy of new products, among them the much anticipated announcement of the iCloud. Apple?s own spin on so-called cloud-computing, which, sans the weather whimsy, simply refers to information stored in remote servers and accessible via your device of choice anywhere there is a decent Internet connection.

Though the concept isn?t new (telephone companies once used the metaphor to describe their early forays into ?virtual private networks?) its implementation in tech quarters gained real momentum in 2006 when Amazon introduced its Elastic Compute Cloud, a service that obviated the need for expensive server systems and paved the way for a bevy of start-ups. It was Google, however, that brought the cloud to civilians with its suite of document creation tools (aimed squarely at Microsoft?s bread and butter). Now, with iCloud, Apple has also entered the consumer cloud market, touting synchonization of one?s digital data ? docs, email, calendars, iTunes library, videos and plans for world domination, between one?s MacBook, iPad, iPhone and beyond. And it?s free.

Heretofore, one?s computer was like the sun in a private digital solar system around which all other devices orbited and depended for data (through increasingly arcane syncronization rituals). Conceptually, iCloud collapses this solar system into a single celestial body accessible, anywhere, anytime by whatever piece of gear happens to be in your hand. It?s as if you?re opening a wormhole into the fabric of your virtual universe andt hough other companies offer aspects this ?unified field theory of your stuff online,? including Amazon?s ?Cloud Drive? and Google?s Gmail inbox (sort of), none offers total integration of everything in a single service that?s hardware-agnostic.

This is the crux of Jobs? plan, ?demoting? the ?PC? and even his own company?s iconic Mac line to mere, as he explained, ?devices.? Of course, to those who?ve eluded induction into the cult of Apple, the company?s products have always been mere devices. For true believers, however, they?re tantamount to religious talismans that signify belief in a higher being ? namely Jobs. His conceptual downgrading of his stock and trade might prove as revelatory a moment in the history of personal computing as Macintosh did for user-experience in the early 80s. It takes the way we deal with data, the ones and zeroes that comprise much of our quotidian experience not to mention whole flanks of our self-concept and moves them from the concrete to the abstract, from ?there? to ?everywhere,? in a manner analogous to going from the corporeal to the spiritual (which, by some accounts, Jobs might be soon doing). The device, like the body, is but a vessel.

?We?re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud,? Jobs beamed. It?s not hard to imagine him hovering there too ? lightning bolt in hand.

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You

When those of a certain generation first hear of the “Filter Bubble,” they might reflect on that brief two weeks in the mid-’90s when the band Filter was kind of popular. These days, the Filter Bubble, according to former MoveOn.org executive director Eli Pariser, is the means by which the Information Superhighway functions more like a private driveway upon which only targeted and personalized information travels at the expense of the broader range of knowledge.

This shift to personalization raises as many questions about one’s online privacy as it does about censorship, whether it’s intentional or the result of an algorithm trying to give you what it thinks you might like – or buy. As Pariser explains in his book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You, a personalized world is one that only serves to confirm our existing beliefs as determined by the digital breadcrumbs we’ve left along the way. When we only receive information aligned with our religious or social or political beliefs, “It’s difficult to maintain perspective,” suggests Pariser. Or, as he whimsically put it during a recent chat at Seattle’s Town Hall Center for Civic Life, “When you step to the side for a new perspective, it’s as if the world moves to meet your gaze.”

In an Amazon Q & A, in which Pariser credited the bookseller for its relative transparency as regards its product suggestions with the apropos example, “We’re showing you Brave New World because you bought 1984,” the Internet activist explained, “Research psychologists have known for a while that the media you consume shapes your identity. So when the media you consume is also shaped by your identity, you can slip into a weird feedback loop.”

“The technology is invisible. We don’t know who it thinks we are, what it thinks we’re actually interested in,” Pariser said to The Atlantic. “It locks us into a set of check boxes of interest rather than the full kind of human experience.”

Of course, the Filter Bubble is more the unintended consequence of a business strategy than an insidious plot on the part of a gaggle of geeks in Silicon Valley to control your Internet experience and by extension your thinking. The fact is, in some cases, we’re censoring it ourselves. As Pariser recently explained on KQED’s Forum, “Because Facebook mainly uses how many people ‘like’ something as a means of figuring out what they should show other people, what that means is that you see well-liked news on Facebook.”

Google, however, has 57 different ingredients in its secret sauce. Even when logged out of your account, Google gleans signals from your online behavior and applies them to a profile that it uses to tailor results more to your liking. Consequently, like a fingerprint, no two search results are the same for different users. Try it – it’s spooky.

It should be noted that the sources for this piece came entirely from links presented through the various mechanisms Pariser describes, so it’s likely only part of the story – the part the robots intended to be seen by someone in the media to be shared with those it knows are reading that media. When I asked him personally what content producers could do to override the algorithm, Pariser essentially said we’re SOL: “Content creators are at its mercy.” Time to crank the Filter.