Now Reading: Social media and Chicago gangs, Clive Thompson on technology, Mariano Rivera

‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.

How social media is fueling Chicago gang wars

Ben Austin wrote a great piece in Wired magazine recently about how social media is fueling deadly gang wars across Chicago’s South Side. His door into the piece is a beef between Chief Keef, an 18-year-old rapper who signed a $6 million deal with Interscope Records, and Lil JoJo, an amateur teenage rapper (without a music deal) and member of a rival gang, that begins on social media and ends with Lil JoJo being murdered.

Through Austin’s story, we learn how it’s becoming common practice for rival gang members to stir up and carry out conflicts through the variety of social platforms at their disposal. They tweet threatening messages, stalk enemies on FaceBook, and engage in communication through the posting of mean-mugging music videos on YouTube. The first physical interaction often comes only at the time of finishing the conflict in real-life terms.

As Austin points out, this use of social media isn’t surprising, as it’s a generic reflection of how people of that age use social media (even if the intentions are different and obviously less harmful). What’s surprising is that the complete lack of desire of gang members to conceal their weaponry, drugs, loot or plans of attack. They make rap videos taunting the police, knowing they are helping authorities track their every move. It’s both an unimaginable level of brashness and lack of intelligence.

The part of this piece that most intrigued me is the daily chess gang members and the police force will forever play. Is it a “good” thing gangs are using social media to conduct their business? That feels weird to say, because of the rate social media can accelerate anything in our culture, including violence.

But I can’t think of a negative when it comes to the police work – it seems like an obvious benefit that authorities can track targets, gang leaders, weapons, drugs and any other activities in an attempt to more proactively fight the streets. And like everything else driven by social and digital media, it feels like we are in the very beginning days of this battle.

Clive Thompson on technology

The New York Times’ Bits blog has an interview with Clive Thompson, a science and technology writer who has a new book out called “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better.”

Clive argues that Google and other forms of modern technology is not “ruining” our brains – does that sound familiar, kids? – but rather enhancing our memories and cognitive development. He began writing the book fearing he was “losing his memory to Google,” but after studying the traits of everyday memory more closely, he concluded that we’ve always use outside sources to remember things, whether it be textbooks, Post-It notes or other people. The Internet is no different in this regard.

I haven’t read Clive’s book but am eager to dive into it.

Roger Angell on Mariano Rivera’s day at the Stadium

On Sunday, the Yankees threw Mariano a big party in The Bronx to honor the retiring closer, and Roger Angell of The New Yorker was there to write about it. That’s really the only reason I’m including this link and the only reason you should need to click it.

I’ve always loved Mariano, as an athlete and performer and character, and that admiration has grown only fonder through the years. I’ve thought a lot about how he’s managed to live (what seems like, anyway) a simple life as a widely famous person in perhaps the most famous city in the world. Everyone but Mariano seems to be a pawn on the playground of New York media, moved in any which way in any kind of manner, entirely without control. Mariano has always seemed to be above that, as if he lives in a New York City with an entirely different media and gossip culture.

It’s difficult to describe, and I don’t think I’ve found an answer to how he’s been able to do that. It seems complicated, but in truth it can’t be. All I know for know is how much I’m going to miss watching him pitch.

Email: Twitter: @TMitrosilis

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