The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 8/1

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BmoreArt’s Picks: August 3-9

The internet was all over the place this week. Highlights: Grieving with A.I., Jack Thomas writes his final piece, what happened to Emmett Till, creating Black pop culture, predatory master’s programs, Simone Biles, the return of Gawker, let LeVar Burton host Jeopardy, DaBaby, and the end of Kimye.



1. SF Chronicle: Love and Loss in the Age of A.I.

Joshua Barbeau lost his fiancee Jessica in 2012 to a rare liver disease. Last fall, Barbeau “logged onto a mysterious chat website called Project December.” Powered by one of the most advanced artificial intelligence systems in the world, GPT-3, Project December allowed users, for the first time, to “have a naturalistic text chat with an A.I. directed by GPT-3, typing back and forth with it.” Barbeau had never gotten over Jessica’s death, and experimented with chatting with pre-programmed bots and building custom chatbots (including a simulation of Spock from Star Trek). One night, Barbeau had the idea to train a new bot to be Jessica. He knew that “Of course the bot wasn’t actually Jessica, but that didn’t seem to matter so much anymore: The bot was clearly able to discuss emotions. He could say the things he wished he had said when Jessica was alive. He could talk about his grief.”

I understand the dangers of A.I., and when I first saw the headline, I was taken aback. After reading, I can’t say I know that I would do the same thing, but in this context, I also understand how this could be helpful for someone.



2. The Boston Globe: I just learned I only have months to live. This is what I want to say

Longtime Boston Globe writer Jack Thomas has been diagnosed with cancer and given a prognosis of only a few months to live, as the title states. The essay’s subhead provides all the context one needs: “I’ve been a journalist for more than 60 years. So after doctors delivered the news, I sat down to do what came naturally, if painfully: Write this story.”



3. The Atlantic: His Name Was Emmett Till

CW: Racism, racial violence

Just from reading the title, I knew I wanted to include this story this week. After reading this article by Wright Thompson, my initial feeling was confirmed, but I didn’t know what to say—and I still don’t. While most people know who Emmett Till is, “the truth is, nobody knows exactly what happened in the barn, and any evidence is long gone.” To this day, nobody knows exactly what happened to Till. 

When reading, the thing that most stood out to me was the simple explanation retired FBI Agent Dale Killinger gave of why Till was killed in a barn in Drew, Mississippi, instead of anywhere else: “They chose to take him to a barn where they could control the environment and do what they wanted. In my mind, they were entertaining themselves.”



4. Current Affairs: Who Actually Gets to Create Black Pop Culture?

I have this conversation with a mentor frequently, but this is the first full-length article I’ve read on how “the economics of Black pop culture reveals that most Black creators (outside music) come from middle-to-upper middle class backgrounds, while the Black poor are written about but rarely get the chance to speak for themselves.” 

As someone who is both mixed and had middle/upper-class upbringing, I’m constantly considering my positionality, the kind of Blackness I’m expected to perform, and how “a Black creator born and raised in the middle class can take from any aspect of the Black poor’s existence without risking charges of voyeurism, appropriation, or predation.” This piece is excellent and definitely gave language to thoughts I’ve been wrestling with for a while.  



5. Culture Study: The Master’s Trap

As someone who just graduated from a master’s program, I’m deeply invested in conversations about graduate school. The graduate school I went to wasn’t associated with an undergraduate program, and is the only studio art master’s program in the country with that structure. I had a lot of privileges going to graduate school, including two parents and a sibling with advanced degrees, and financial support from my family. But for many people that isn’t the case, and students are taking out upwards of $60,000 a year in student loans. 

In this three-part series, Anne Helen Peterson analyzes predatory graduate programs and “how you get six figure student debt figures for MFA students, for graduates of one-year “accelerated” journalism programs and even, depending on the location, two year out-of-state Master’s programs. It’s why graduate students make up just 15% of the total number of post-secondary students — and are responsible for 40% of the total loan balance.”



6. Instagram: @andreaorris on Simone Biles

Gymnastics GOAT Simone Biles has pulled out of multiple events at the Olympics this past week, citing mental health as one reason for the withdrawals. Some people are condemning Biles’s actions, calling them selfish, but many people—especially elite athletes, and especially gymnasts—are supporting her decision. 

Biles shared the last image of this post by Andrea Orris to her story earlier this week, in which Orris affirms Biles and her decision to withdraw from team finals. Further, this post also includes screenshots from different media outlets and platforms of people’s responses to the announcement. However, one of the things this post does not explicitly name is the fact that Biles is Black, and how this adds context to both her decision and people’s reactions. 



7. Gawker: Welcome to Gawker

I never really read Gawker in its heyday. I started paying attention to publications and the internet just as Gawker was gasping its final breaths. Known for its humor, the website “was cratered by an evil tech lord and sullied by a botched relaunch” and had become known as “toxic, but also weirdly revered; an intractable combination.” 

After being approached by the persistent Bustle Media Group, which owns Gawker, Leah Finnegan (formerly of The Outline, which shuttered last summer after Bustle Media Group acquired it) decided to accept their offer to become the editor-in-chief of the publication for its relaunch. In this welcome letter, Finnegan addresses Gawker’s history, acknowledging that “it can’t be exactly what it once was, but we strive to honor the past and embrace the present,” and asks readers to “to approach this new iteration of Gawker with an open mind and an open heart.”



8. GQ: LeVar Burton Explains Why He Should Host Jeopardy

I honestly don’t know why LeVar Burton has to even say that he should succeed Alex Trebek in hosting Jeopardy multiple times. Even though I’ve known Burton for my whole life starting with Reading Rainbow, this might be the first piece I’ve read about him (apart from Wikipedia). In this interview with Julian Kimble, Burton talks about his and his family’s relationship to education, Roots, storytelling, Reading Rainbow, why he should host Jeopardy, and more. 



9. Slate: Every Twist and Turn of This Week’s DaBaby Saga

If you played any DaBaby song right now I would not be able to recognize it—I know nothing about his music. Sure, I’ve known that he is a rapper for some time now, but I just never paid him any attention. Certain parts of the internet have been consumed with DaBaby this week after he made homophobic comments during a performance at Rolling Loud Festival in Miami last Sunday. During the performance, DaBaby also brought Tory Lanez on stage, and “considering that rap superstar Megan Thee Stallion, who performed at the event earlier in the night, has a restraining order against Lanez for shooting her last summer, the fact that Lanez was there at all was … not great.”

As this article explains, “the explicit homophobia is shocking, but not the fact that DaBaby would be brazenly offensive.” Honestly, after learning about some of the things the rapper has done in the past, the explicit nature of his comments isn’t shocking, and somewhat expectedly, DaBaby also doubled down on his remarks in an Instagram Live. Many people are condemning DaBaby’s comments, including Dua Lipa, Elton John, and Chris Brown—and as one Twitter user noted, “if Chris Brown starts dragging you and he’s RIGHT… you really gotta ask yourself where you went wrong.”

I’m sure the saga will continue. My favorite pop cultural commentators have yet to speak to the DaBaby Saga (probably because they are doing research) but I’m interested to see what they will have to say.



10. Vulture: The End of Kimye’s Wild Ride

I used to be obsessed with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. I thought there was something so enthralling about how publicly (or seemingly publicly) they existed. I was interested in self-design and I was captivated with how the couple designed themselves and their lives. This was a while ago now. I’ve become less interested in self-design, and over the past few years increasingly less interested in Kim and Kanye as a couple and as individuals. But, in some ways, it does seem somewhat bittersweet that Kimye is coming to an end. 

I already knew the timeline of their relationship written here, but I didn’t expect to be as affected by the end of Kimye’s wild ride as I am. I don’t think it has much to do with them, but the time in my life they represented. Strangely, with the end of Kimye, I’m realizing that the 2010s (and late ‘00s) are actually over. 



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