We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.
Grab all of these as a Readlist.
On Yuri Gadyukin
Kevin Morris digs into the Borgesian hoax of director Yuri Gadyukin that fooled Wikipedia and IMDB for years.
The Daily Dot: Kevin Morris - The greatest movie that never was
Perhaps you’ve heard of Gadyukin? He was a star of early Soviet cinema before fleeing to England. You can read about his life on a fansite and a Facebook group. You can watch him melt down in a British television interview, storming off stage in spittle-spewing rage. For nearly four years, there were Wikipedia and Internet Movie Database articles about him, brimming with citations from authoritative Russian sources.
Those entries are now gone. Yuri Gadyukin did not owe money to a gangster. His final film was not swirling out of control. Weathers did not kill him. His body was not found beneath the Hammersmith Bridge.
On big data
Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger look at how scientists, companies, and even cities are dealing with massive new flows of data.
Foreign Affairs: Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger - The Rise of Big Data
When a person is seated, the contours of the body, its posture, and its weight distribution can all be quantified and tabulated. Koshimizu and his team of engineers convert backsides into data by measuring the pressure they exert at 360 different points with sensors placed in a car seat and by indexing each point on a scale of zero to 256. The result is a digital code that is unique to each individual. In a trial, the system was able to distinguish among a handful of people with 98 percent accuracy.
A couple months after the launch of Wolfram Alpha's Facebook personal analytics tools, scientist Steven Wolfram digs into some of the early findings and insights drawn from the huge data set.
Steven Wolfram Blog: Steven Wolfram - Data Science of the Facebook World
For everyone there’ll be a different detailed story behind the structure of their cluster diagram. And one might think this would mean that there could never be a general theory of such things. At some level it’s a bit like trying to find a general theory of human history, or a general theory of the progression of biological evolution. But what’s interesting now about the Facebook world is that it gives us so much more data from which to form theories.
Noreen Malone reflects on a few days in Austin for SXSW and the evolution of the conference.
New Republic: Noreen Malone - Spring Break for Nerds
I saw a man in a bike helmet—on the fourth floor of a building, so he’d done some walking—FaceTiming without headphones in a crowded area. During one panel, a woman stood up in the seated audience and unabashedly took a photograph with her iPad of a founder who’d just walked up to the microphone. Another woman lay down in the middle of a busy street, in two different places, so she could get the optimal angle for Instagramming. "You forget," said Crowley, "how quickly you just become numb to these things."
On band names
Michael Erard writes about the difficulty of coming up with band names in the digital age.
The Morning News: Michael Erard - Like a Lead Balloon
One can imagine that 20 years ago, any garage band could have any name it wanted—or no name at all. The only reason a band really needed a name was if they were going to gig or record or tour. Let’s say 10 percent of those bands ever left the garage. Today all those bands are on Bandcamp, and they can’t be on Bandcamp without a name. These sites, including Myspace, which has 14 million acts, have inflated the demand for band names.
On Star Trek
David Hochman interviews "king of the reboot" J.J. Abrams on the upcoming Star Trek film, spoilers, Star Wars, and working with Tom Cruise.
Playboy: David Hochman - Playboy Interview: J.J. Abrams
Audiences pick up on that stuff. Not only are we post–Star Trek the series and movies, but we’re post–Galaxy Quest, post–Saturday Night Live spoofs. We were coming at this post–Trek satire, so we needed to be earnest in the right places and funny in the right places or people would have made fun of us.
On numbers stations
And finally, with hints of a new Boards of Canada album floating around the web, here's a great piece by David Segal from 2004 that profiles Akin Fernandez and his life-consuming efforts to create the Conet Project.
The Washington Post: David Segal - The Shortwave And the Calling
"Conet," in other words, delivers a couple of the slightly subversive thrills that rock could once deliver without breaking a sweat. It feels new, a little dangerous, a ticket into a subculture of sorts. That's an experience you don't find in record stores much anymore, in part because rock has been around for 50 years -- and can anything that old really feel dangerous? -- and in part because corporate America long ago figured out there's gold in the underground, and now mines and mass-produces it faster every year. In a way, "Conet" is a measure of just how fringeward you need to head these days to find something that delivers the frisson of the margins.
Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.