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Smile! You’re On Candid Camera Phone

It was many years ago, when I worked in a large city and I often had to walk several blocks from one large office complex to another during the course of the average work day. One afternoon I was trudging between buildings, head bent, lost in thought; I passed the entrance to a small, dark alleyway just as a new Porsche roared up from the gloom. The car fishtailed to a stop a few inches from my kneecaps, and I froze, immobile with fear. The driver was a budding Master of the Universe—thirtyish, well dressed, obviously used to money, privilege, and a certain quantum of power.

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

The Bears Are Back In Town (and Back On Reddit)

Being a student at UC Berkeley, one of the top public universities in the United States, can put a butterfly in even the most confident of stomachs. How will I become a doctor if I can’t pass OChem?! Is majoring in Scandinavian a mistake?! How can I get the best deals on all of these textbooks that I will probably never read?! Thanks to the Internet, these existential agonies, having long been forced to reside deep in the subconscious, have a place to manifest publicly, for better or worse.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Facebook?

We may never know the true number of Facebook users who suffered data breaches as a result of Cambridge Analytica’s antics, or what it all means in terms of personal security. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg certainly didn’t provide a great deal of insight when he testified before Congress today.

Underlying the brouhaha are a couple of overriding questions: Who’s to blame, and how to fix it? Also, perhaps, is Facebook’s time done? Is the breach one of trust as much as data, and is it so damaging that the social media giant will founder?

We Know Russia Used Big Tech to Meddle In the Election. Now What?

Representatives from three of Silicon Valley’s most powerful tech firms—Facebook, Google, and Twitter—trooped up to Capitol Hill last week and told senators they were really, really sorry the Russians hacked their platforms and may even have influenced the recent presidential election. But their contrition wasn’t followed by substantive plans to remedy the situation.

Q&A: CNN’s Brianna Keilar On Covering Trump and Going Viral

As she was covering the 2016 presidential election, CNN correspondent Brianna Keilar didn’t expect to become part of the story. But that August, her exchange with Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen made headlines.

“You guys are down,” Keilar tells him in the segment, referring to Trump campaign. Before she can finish her sentence, Cohen interrupts: “Says who?”

“Polls,” she responds.

“Says who?”

Five Questions for Joyce Carol Oates

There may be one thing that you and Donald Trump agree on: Both of you seem to love Twitter. Since October 5, 2012, you have tweeted nearly 58,000 times and have a staggering 180,000 followers. Why do you find Twitter such a compelling medium for self-expression?

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

Bye-Bye Balance: Skewed and False News Is on the Rise

Democrats are still stumbling around in the smoldering rubble of the 2016 presidential election, struggling to identify just what went wrong for them. Several theories are vying for primacy: voting fraud (or at least, inaccurate ballot counting), the Democratic Party’s disconnect with white working class voters, Trump’s bonding with the same, Trump’s uncanny tapping of surging nativist and xenophobic sentiment, the American susceptibility to celebrity, and Clinton’s bedrock weakness as a candidate.

Step Right Up: I’m a Voter and a Lab-Rat

If you shared Facebook’s “I’m A Voter” app in a recent election, you might have become a nice data point for the social media giant and a couple of resourceful political scientists. In the 2010 midterms, the graphic was pinned to 61 million newsfeeds and it turned out that users who saw that their friends were voting were .4 percent more likely to vote than those in the control group (the people without the app). Apparently, this social pressure added 340,000 new voters to the 2010 election cycle.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: Shaking Up Facebook

Like every other voter preparing for the upcoming election, I often cruise Facebook to gauge the mood of my fellow citizens. Not that I’m a fan of the site. To me, Facebook has always seemed like an inversion of the old “banality of evil” trope: It is the evil of banality, a fount of never-ending Likes and emoticons and pictures of highly caloric restaurant meals and garish sunsets and Frisbee-catching dogs. It is an online Leave It to Beaver updated to the digital age, a place where we can all cozily catch up and be comfortable and make soft, murmuring sounds to each other.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: How to Feign Political Competence in Your 20s

In the Internet age, saying “I don’t know” about a political issue is considered socially unacceptable. After all, if we have all this information at our fingertips, the least we can do is a quick Google search. Like, really. It’s the least we can do. And the least is what most people do.

It’s hard to take a long look in the mirror and see blatant indecision staring back at you. So to avoid this self-reflection, there are ways to fake political knowledge. You know you don’t know anything about politics, but nobody else has to know that.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Oh Snap! Founding Fathers Didn’t Envision Snapchatting State of Union

Not unlike virtually everyone under the age of 25, the White House has a blog. And its most recent post reads like a hokey commercial: “Our Official Story will take you behind the scenes of the White House’s State of the Union preparations, with footage and angles you won’t find anywhere else.”

Where you will find the “Official Story” is on Snapchat, the third most popular social media app (after Facebook and Twitter), which famously allows users to send photos and videos that only last a short time before disappearing.

Confessions of a Tech Reporter: Like Other Freethinkers, I Did What Steve Jobs Wanted

For a brief moment, back when the tech revolution was young, I was an early adopter.

I was sucked in by that 1984 Apple ad that ran during the Super Bowl. I can’t recall a thing about the game, but I remember every detail of that ad: the woman running in her tank top one step ahead of the goons; the rows of corporate weirdos staring in open-mouthed horror; the hammer sailing toward the giant screen, smashing the Big Brother cult.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

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