Wandering Eye: The problems with wide-open networks, 'What Caused the Crime Decline?', and more

We're not entirely sure about the redesign of the New York Times Magazine, but it sure got one thing right when it brought in Teju Cole as a photography critic. Cole, the Nigerian-American author of the novel "Open City," is one of the smartest and most perceptive writers working and his "small fates" Twitter experiment brought a new life to the platform. Like W.S. Sebald, he has long used photography in his work and it was a real joy to read his long, beautiful essay on Roy DeCarava and photographing black skin. (Baynard Woods)


Pando Daily has an insight too often missed these days: that Edward Snowden's most powerful fans tend to be libertarians who revere the power of private data collection and analysis—and hate only state surveillance. This has been self-evident for years, of course. But seldom is it so deliciously demonstrated. For another, perhaps more interesting take on the situation, here is Quartz on the battles at Wikipedia. What does Wikipedia have in common with Snowden's tech-billionaire backers? Both are predicated on the notion that a wide-open, private network is the fastest way to riches of every sort. And both, as the Quartz piece illustrates, tend to underestimate the long-term power of bad faith and vandalism to degrade an open community. "Within Wikipedia and without, some fear that Wikipedia lacks a clear direction, held back by a set of internal rules that can be self-defeating," William Beutler, a longtime Wikipedia editor, writes. The question is, can a voluntary association built on radical openness and transparency survive in the long term? Or will there need to be more rules and a hierarchy of experts guiding everyone else? And then, this question about those experts: Shall we go with the richest and most powerful, self-selected narcisissts, as is the current default? Or are we going to reserve some space for a democratically chosen cadre? The questions multiply from there. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


"What Caused the Crime Decline?" by the Brennan Center for Justice tracks 40 years of data to conclude that increased incarceration has had little to do with the ongoing drop in crime, which has been driven by other factors, such as income growth, an aging population, and the use of data-driven crime-fighting strategies. Maryland's picture is mixed. While imprisonment and crime both fell by more than 15 percent in the 2000s, its prison population has tripled since 1980, it ranks seventh in the nation on per-capita spending on criminal justice, and its correctional system enjoys 10 times more spending than education does. (Van Smith)

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