How Online Mobs Act Like Flocks of Birds

Still frame from a computer simulation of a murmuration of birds swooping and swirling across the screen.

Image credit: Noema

Have you ever watched a group of birds flying together, making swirling, looping patterns in the sky, and thought, “Wow! I wish we humans could do that!”? Well, we kind of already do, at least on social media. Renée DiResta, technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, uses the metaphor of a murmuration of birds (that’s what it’s called) to describe our social media behavior. In this November 2022 essay in Noema, she analyzes some of our most problematic social media behavior and makes some recommendations for addressing the problems.

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Yes, This New York County Actually Used the Crazy Spider Voting Sticker Design That You Saw Online

A round “I voted” sticker shows a childish drawing of a green-legged spider figure with a smiling human head. The face is in shades of purple with big red eyes and multicolor teeth.

Image credit: CNN

News giant CNN publishes a detailed report about an “I voted” sticker that is being distributed in a medium-sized county in New York. Wait. This is newsworthy?! Really? “I voted” stickers are usually the most yawn-inducing bits of civic display imaginable. Well, not this time, and not in Ulster County, New York, where the winning entry in a county-wide contest shows a childish drawing of a brightly colored monster with insect legs and a scary human face that says “I voted.” CNN reporter Zoe Sottile filed this report in November 2022.

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Goin’ Bananas: How a Minor League Team Got More Followers Than the Yankees

About twenty uniformed Savannah Bananas players line up side-by-side on the field doing a kick-line dance.

Image credit: Christian Science Moniter

To hear some people tell it, the Savannah Bananas, a professional baseball team based in Savannah Georgia, are making baseball fun again (Gasp!!). They play by modified rules (“Banana Ball”), their games consistently sell out, and according to this July 2022 report by Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor staff writer, they have more social media followers than the New York Yankees. What’s up with that?

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How and Why Do Consumers Access News on Social Media?

Two cell phones side by side, one showing a screen grab from the Guardian’s “Fake or for Real” feature, the other showing a screen grab of a Washington Post TikTok.

Image credit: Reuters Institute

It’s not news that fewer people than ever get their news from newspapers. Many people, particularly younger ones, use social media to stay informed of events. But how many people? Who are they? Which platforms do they use? And why have these become the sources of choice? Good questions, right? Political science professor Simge Andı researched them extensively; her detailed report was published in June 2021 by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

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Baldo Cartoon: Text Punctuation

Cartoon in which a young man is appalled that his father uses a period in a text message; the young man’s companion agrees.

Have you noticed that texting styles vary a lot between generations? [Insert eyeroll emoji.] Silly question. Of course you have. There are many cultural factors that contribute to style variation in texting, and age/generation is certainly one of them. When you notice it, is it amusing? Annoying? Endearing? In this August 2021 Baldo cartoon strip, the youthful main character reacts with horror to a text from his dad. Hector D. Cantú and Carlos Castellanos’ strip has appeared in numerous daily newspapers in the US for more than 20 years. Its humor is principally centered around family life, and like many other daily strips, the characters never age.

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Am I Wrong to Judge People for Talking to Me in Emoji?

A cartoonish drawing of an emoji-style person, shown from the chest up, arms crossed with hands raised, surrounded by six smaller emojis.

Image credit: Jan Siemen

Advice columns are a consistently popular media feature, and there are many types—advice about romance, pet care, money management, workplace relationships, and more. Wired, a magazine that covers assorted aspects of cybertechnology, publishes an advice column about—what else—technology. In this September 2022 column, Meghan O’Gieblyn (writing under the pen name “Cloud”) addresses a rather snotty question about emoji, and her response may surprise you.

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The History of American Landscape Painting Is Not Pretty

The first panel of a graphic essay shows the artist sitting on a rock in the desert. The text written across the sky says “I went to the desert, and I had a realization. (My apologies, clichés abound, but this really did happen.)” Elements of the image are labeled “light bulb,” “desert sunset,” and “tumbleweed, skull, etc.”

Image credit: Hyperallergic

Have you given any thought this week to landscape painting? No? To be honest, neither have we. But Steven Weinberg, a New York-based artist, children’s book author, and B&B owner, is passionate about landscape painting and its importance to both history and environmentalism. He explains it all in this November 2022 graphic essay on Hyperallergic, an online magazine. (Please note: a little background in US history will be very helpful to you here. We suggest you look up the names he mentions, but we’ll give you a little head start on one important concept. “Manifest destiny” was a 19th century belief that supported and justified the westward expansion of US territories and settlement by people of European descent at the expense of the native people who already occupied and made their homes on those lands.)

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