5 Intriguing Things: Supercomputers, Digital Labor, Sexttering, Wolfram, E-Discovery

"The site endlessly renews passionate sentiments, filters them through an interface that transmutes them into metrics of abstract attention, and then uses that attention as the basis for a very particular exchange."
From 59.7 gigaflops in 1993 to road to 33 petaflops in 2013 (Top500.org)


1. After years and years of American dominance, the Tianhe-2, a Chinese machine, sits atop the world's supercomputer rankings

"Although the Chinese are still sitting in the top spot, the U.S. is the leading consumer of supercomputers, with 265 of the top 500 systems. That’s up from 253 last time. China, meanwhile, has edged out Japan as the second largest consumer of supercomputers."


2. CUNY's Digital Labor Working Group is worth watching.

"It is my argument that, as Jonathan Beller has argued in his book The Cinematic Mode of Production, attention, or what I’d like to refer to as “presence,” (for reasons I’ll get back to) is the source of value on the Internet. In the case of Bleacher Report, what is rhetorically structured as help and facilitation is in fact a way to turn value production into a process that is as cheap and as infinite as possible. The site endlessly renews passionate sentiments, filters them through an interface that transmutes them into metrics of abstract attention (measured as eyeballs and click-thrus), and then uses that attention as the basis for a very particular exchange: money from ad companies for the attention of its visitors and users. Ultimately, the work of both writers and readers is valuable merely as presence, produced by and for the interface. And it is the interface, or interfaces, that bear particular investigation."


3. These 1930s sexting (sexttering?) acronyms run from saccharine to randy. Some are named after pleasant European places

"ITALY: I Trust And Love You

VENICE: Very Excited Now I Caress Everywhere

NORWICH: (k)Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home"


4. Stephen Wolfram, of Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha, is releasing a programming language that he thinks is very important

"At some level it’s a vast unified web of technology that builds on what we’ve created over the past quarter century. At some level it’s an intellectual structure that actualizes a new computational view of the world. And at some level it’s a practical system and framework that’s going to be a fount of incredibly useful new services and products."


5. Meanwhile, data drowns more people all the time.

"It’s not uncommon for attorneys to sort through and make sense of upwards of 300 terabytes of data when preparing for a case [and] the massive volume of data simply outpaces the capabilities of traditional technology tools to process that much information in a timely fashion.”


P.S. An HTML correction from yesterday's newsletter! The link to IBM's call center services was broken. This is the correct link. Thanks for spotting the problem, Jeremy S.


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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