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Category: Media

Interview on Monocle’s Globalist Podcast

Henry Rees-Sheridan invited me to speak on Monocle’s Globalist podcast today. They’ve been running a series on press leaks, so Henry and I discussed the new wave of encrypted communication tools and their role in connecting confidential sources to journalists. You can find the full episode here (I come on around 21:30) or listen to an excerpt of my segment below:


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Article on Whistleblowing Tools in CJR

As a break from dissertation writing, I accepted an invitation from the editors of the Columbia Journalism Review to write an article revisiting last year’s Tow Center report on the use of SecureDrop in newsrooms. Here in the early months of the Trump presidency, all indications point to an incredible surge in the use of secure whistleblowing tools among Washington insiders hoping to contact journalists anonymously. A handful of my sources not only confirmed that this is the case, but also offered some sense of how they’ve coordinated this growing stream of information. Find the article here.

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On Placeholders

I enjoyed this piece on the recent meeting of Ai Weiwei, Jacob Appelbaum, and Laura Poitras in Beijing. There’s a nice anecdote on the curious artifacts that emerge from bootleg publishing.

Monday morning after breakfast, Ai, Appelbaum and Poitras walk to a nearby park. Along the way, they stop into a DVD store to try to buy a copy of Citizenfour. The store only has a pirated copy of the movie, they learn, with cover credits that declare that the film stars “Queen Latifah” and “Common.” Ai asks the store clerk if the movie is any good. “It’s okay,” the clerk replies in Mandarin, seemingly unaware that the film’s director is staring at him.

It’s funny, sure, but this variety of corner cutting has a long history in publishing, pirate or otherwise. Viz these woodcuts from the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493. Notice the uncanny similarity between the cities of Verona and Mantua:

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And note the suspicious resemblance of these four fellows, each of them prominent enough, even today, to have their own Wikipedia pages:

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Media history helps to put things in context. These woodcuts are arguably as inaccurate as the bootleg DVD cover, and probably for similar reasons: to save time and money during production. In The Nature of the Book, Adrian Johns illustrates just how often books have been ‘pirated’ throughout the history of print, often with errors and inaccuracies that far exceed the shortcuts in the Nuremberg Chronicle. In the long run, I’d rather have a curio like “Citizenfour starring Queen Latifah” than an authoritative replica, just as many book collectors would probably prefer to have a copy of the Wicked Bible.


Images from Elizabeth Eisenstein’s The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe.

Hat tip to Prof. Andie Tucher for reminding me of the source of these woodcuts.

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Public Radio Map


Publicradiomap shows the ranges of the nation’s public radio stations. There are some striking omissions (WFMU) and equally strange inclusions (my college radio station, WCBN), but overall it’s a great way to make the ‘waves spatial and concrete.

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Björk: Media Archaeologist

Here, a young Björk Guðmundsdóttir shares her insights into the medium of television. First, she delights in the cultural role of television in Iceland. Then, her curiosity leads her to disassemble the television and examine the lovely structure of its wires and modules. Finally, she reflects on the advice of a poet who warned her against the narcotic effect of television on its viewers, only to realize that his hypodermic theory of media influence is wrong. And again she felt free to enjoy the many ‘situations’ that her television offered to her.

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