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(A showroom of smart TVs, all displaying the word #RESIST. One salesperson speaks to another.) Call head office. They're sentient.

The awakening

The awakening published on

These are pretty awful times in much of the Western world, and the next four years in the U.S. look especially disturbing. But there are bright spots — and one of those came shortly after the inauguration.

First several national parks’ Twitter accounts began defiantly posting climate change facts. Then, as the new administration gained control over those accounts, a slew of rogue national parks and science agency accounts sprang up. To someone (me) whose faith in the positive role of the Internet in civil society has been badly shaken over the last year, it’s been a welcome sign of hope.

A much bigger and brighter spot has emerged, too. Online organizing coupled with on-the-ground mobilization produced the historic Women’s March on January 21—with the Washington, D.C. March eclipsing the attendance at the inauguration the day before. By one estimate, the march drew more than 3.3 million people in more than 500 U.S. cities and towns, and an additional quarter million in 100 cities world-wide. (One of those was my town of Vancouver, Canada.) Online organizing also allowed the swift mobilization of protests at major airports over the past few days in response to an especially egregious Trump executive order on travel to the U.S.

And of course online media sharing has let participants at all of these events broaden their reach, and amplified the sense of being part of something much bigger. Social media has a lot to answer for in the alt-right seizure of American executive power. But it also gives us crucial tools in the fight to overcome it, and for more democratic, humane ideas to prevail.


Noise to Signal is, of course, about how we live our lives in the digitally networked era. If you’re up for commentary on the desolate hellscape of American national politics, you might want to check out my collection of #trumpcaps.

An algorithm is elected President

IFTTT 2016!

IFTTT 2016! published on No Comments on IFTTT 2016!

As long as algorithms are going to run our lives, we might as well have a chance to vote for the damn things.

And if that sounds like hyperbole, consider how much time you spend on, say, Facebook. And the fact that what you can and can’t see in your newsfeed is governed by an extremely complex (and proprietary, and secret) algorithm — including  whether you see a prompt to vote on election day. So is whether your account gets suspended.

Ditto Google Search, which is how a whole lot of people find things on the web. Google’s search algorithm can turn one page into an overnight star, while causing another one to sink into obscurity. The same degree of analysis and necromancy that used to go into studying the workings of the Kremlin is now focused on trying to reverse-engineer (and then game) that algorithm, which in turn constantly mutates like the Enterprise rotating shield frequencies to deflect Borg attacks.

One change in that algorithm, and entire sites can disappear, forgotten overnight as though they’d never existed. Or entire countries. Just ask the one-time citizens of Magnitoccia, a nation that made the mistake of accepting guest blog posts two months ago. One moment, the world’s leading exporter of blister packs; the next, poof.

🎤📖

Hey, Donna Papacosta and Steve Lubetkin’s new book is out — featuring all-new Noise to Signal cartoons!

✏️☑️

The Canadian federal election is in full swing. So while much of the world focuses on the Donald Trump clown show, we get to focus on much more high-minded stuff. Like a Netflix tax that absolutely no party in the campaign is supporting, but which our Prime Minister insists is imminent unless we re-elect him.

I realize that few people come to a tech-and-society gag cartoon for Canadian election endorsements and recommendations (yay Mira!), so I’ll try to confine my commentary here to snark. (“Hey, speaking of algorithms, how about that Justin Trudeau? x = audience.WantsToHear; say (x), amirite?”)

Spock does a victory dance when his algorithm beats Kirk's gut feeling to win an election pool

Depressing thought: in the 23rd century, they still have the electoral college

Depressing thought: in the 23rd century, they still have the electoral college published on No Comments on Depressing thought: in the 23rd century, they still have the electoral college

Captain’s log, sup-… sup-… -lemental. OK, had a drink or two with Scotty and Bones while we watched the returns. Played a drinking game: every time you saw Wolf “359” Blitzer get excited about a result with fewer than 1% of the votes counted, you took a shot. We were hammered before the polls closed on Altair VI.

My gut told me it was going to be a huge sweep for Jonathan Archer Jr. (and forget that third party guy – it’ll be a cold day in hell before an Efrosian becomes president!) But in waltzes Spock with his, his, all his charts and graphs saying “Logic dictates a decisive defeat for Archer” and we just laughed.

So now it’s six hours later and my gut’s telling me something different, mainly that the Denebian burrito I had was a bad idea, and Scotty and Bones and I just lost three standard months’ salary in the election pool. And Spock’s just insufferable about it, saying he’d be happy to walk me through the algorithm in a simplified way that humans can understand.

But what he doesn’t (burp) – ‘scuse me – what he doesn’t get is that my gut was right. If it wasn’t for that ion storm that hit sector V-5, which totally killed Archer’s momentum, it’d be Spock pawning his communicator to Harry Mudd, and me booking two weeks in a beachside cabana on Risa. Also, Andorians and Vulcans reeeeaallly love to vote against the human, y’ever notice that?

‘kay. Little tired now. Jus’ gonna lie down for a…

(thud)

Election night sketchbook

Election night sketchbook published on No Comments on Election night sketchbook

Here are my election night doodles. I posted them to my blog as well, but thought hey – y’all might enjoy them too. They’re surprisingly non-partisan (at least by my standards), apart from a crack about Mitt Romney’s dog.

I think part of the reason was seeing a few of the faces of Romney’s most ardent workers, who looked absolutely crushed. I know that feeling way too well; it’s the feeling of working your ass off for something you truly believe in, and can’t understand why other people don’t get. It’s thinking that things are going to be better at last, and then having that yanked away from you. No fun.

I’m not going to celebrate any less for remembering that feeling, mind you. But I think even a Tea-Party-loving, Red-State-abiding, guns-from-cold-dead-fingers-prying GOP voter may get a grin out of one or two of these.

Great moments of 2011: Instagram was made for this

Great moments of 2011: Instagram was made for this published on No Comments on Great moments of 2011: Instagram was made for this

Can we all acknowledge a debt to Rep. Anthony Weiner for providing the kind of crisis management case study that will make PR instructors’ lives easier for generations to come?

That’s it for our 2011 retrospective, except for two cartoons that never made it beyond the really rough draft stage. Here’s one about Kenneth Cole’s ill-fated Arab Spring tweet (the caption would have made it clear that this is any CEO speaking, because this guy doesn’t look a thing like Cole):

(exec lecturing staff) THINK, people! The news cycle is almost over, and we still don't have a plan for making me look like an insensitive jackass!

And this one was going to be about Facebook’s new Timeline feature:

Oh, god! I just scrolled down and saw a video of my own conception!

Except that I realized it was actually just a take on this brilliant tweet from during Mark Zuckerberg’s demo back in September:

And that’s that, folks – now go do some funny stuff so I have things to draw this time next year.

2010 in review: Palination

2010 in review: Palination published on No Comments on 2010 in review: Palination

Here’s the next cartoon in my ret­ro­spective of 2010 in social media. I’ll be posting the individual cartoons all week – but meanwhile, here’s the whole thing in video.

Toonblog: Mark Penn and Karen Hughes on the state of digital politics

Toonblog: Mark Penn and Karen Hughes on the state of digital politics published on 2 Comments on Toonblog: Mark Penn and Karen Hughes on the state of digital politics

Originally posted on BlogWorld

For your consideration, notes from Karen Hughes’ and Mark Penn’s opening statements on the morning panel. It was a lively session (especially once some of that voter discontent started to bubble up from the floor!).

Toonblog: Mark Penn and Karen Hughes

Toonblog: Mark Penn and Karen Hughes published on No Comments on Toonblog: Mark Penn and Karen Hughes

Originally posted on BlogWorld.

For your consideration, notes from Karen Hughes’ and Mark Penn’s opening statements on the morning panel. It was a lively session (especially once some of that voter discontent started to bubble up from the floor!).

I set my politics aside while I drew this. It. Wasn’t. Easy.

2007-06-05-facebook-election

2007-06-05-facebook-election published on No Comments on 2007-06-05-facebook-election

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