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Continuing my summer cyber travels – This time, Vienna

The caption for this tweet might sound a bit cynical but that’s pretty much how I feel. I had a professor once who came from that neck of the woods. He insinuated that we had a dearth of “culture” in the West. Probably the worst professor I ever had, and things ended badly with him. But I won’t go into the details. That was a long time ago and I’m past it.

So yeah, my view of Vienna is probably tainted by my very bad experience with this person. And, in fairness, there is quite a bit of interesting material here. In the video you can see a grandiose palace where Napoleon stayed after invading the area, and lots of statues of Mozart and Johann Strauss (both of whom I adore). Also, several neoclassical statues stand out—even if they seem a bit incongruous in their foreign setting.

All the same, I think some folks overrate old stuff and cannot really appreciate the complexities of contemporary cultural forms. I could go on here, but I just want to share my summer cyber travels for now.

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Taking a cyber trip – Greece

It’s virtually summertime, and I need a little break from the same ol’, same ol’. Not being in a position right now to jump on a jet plane, I get almost as much satisfaction from watching travel videos. Yesterday I watched this one about Greece—particularly, the Greek islands. I enjoyed it. A little bit heavy on the whitewashed buildings, but I guess that’s par for the course.

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Lifting the stigma around disabled sex

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British Museum & Google develop online Lord Ganesha exhibition

Special to

British Museum (BM) has developed an online exhibition “Celebrating Ganesha” with Google Cultural Institute (GCI).

Its tagline includes “Explore the imagery and symbolism associated with Ganesha and gain an insight into some of the most popular stories surrounding him.”

It shows a Ganesha sculpture (1200), Ganesha painting (1600), Ganesha on a swing painting (1800, Maharashtra), Ganesha in procession painting ((1780-1820, Tanjore style), Ganesha on his rat mount painting (1800)—all from BM, and a video on “The making and worship of Ganesha statues in Maharashtra.”

It explains about the background of “Why does Ganesha ride a rat?”, Ganesha’s elephant head and Ganesha’s broken tusk.

Rajan Zed, commending BM and GCI for this joint venture in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urged world museums and multinational technology companies to undertake projects to explore the rich philosophical thought and wisdom offered by Hinduism and Hindu scriptures.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, appealed to major art museums of the world; including Musee du Louvre and Musee d’Orsay of Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Los Angeles Getty Center, Uffizi Gallery of Florence (Italy), Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern of London, Prado Museum of Madrid, National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, etc.; to frequently organize Hindu art focused exhibitions, thus sharing the rich Hindu art heritage with the rest of the world.

In Hinduism, Lord Ganesha is worshipped as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and is invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking.

BM, headquartered in London and founded in 1753, is claimed to be the first national public museum in the world. It now comprises over 8 million objects spanning the history of the world’s cultures: from the stone tools of early man to twentieth century prints. Sir Richard Lambert is Trustees Chairman, while Dr. Hartwig Fischer is the Director as of spring 2016.

The GCI claims to bring “together millions of artifacts from multiple partners, with the stories that bring them to life, in a virtual museum.”

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Those post-binge-watching blues? They might be real

Monita Karmakar, University of Toledo and Jessica Sloan Kruger, University of Toledo

With the release of the fourth season of “House of Cards,” all 13 episodes are available for Netflix subscribers. Some fans might space each episode out over the course of the ensuing weeks. But many will binge-watch – completing the series in a thrilling, draining marathon of being glued to their laptops or TV screens.

And when it’s all over?

Many report feeling sad or anxious once a TV binge-watching session has concluded. In an essay for The New York Times, writer Matthew Schneier reported feeling “anxious, wistful, bereft” as his binge of Aziz Ansari’s popular comedy series “Master of None” neared its end.

A couple of years ago, one binge-watcher interviewed by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said she felt “depression” and “emptiness” after finishing her favorite shows.

On Twitter, others have expressed similar sentiments.


Are these merely the experiences of a few people who have watched too much TV (and could probably use some fresh air)? Or could binge-watching actually affect your health and well-being?

There’s been limited empirical research on the consequences of binge-watching. So with the advantage of a large sample size, we conducted one of the first forays into studying binge-watching from a public health perspective.

A binge-watching bonanza

According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, watching television is one of the most common leisure time activities in the U.S.

On average, Americans spend about 2 hours and 49 minutes per day watching television, and it accounts for more than 50 percent of their daily leisure activities.

Yet the way Americans consume television is rapidly changing, and binge-watching has become a relatively recent phenomenon.

The rising popularity of on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have made it easier than ever to have uninterrupted access to full TV series, and Collins Dictionary even declared “binge-watch” the word of the year for 2015.

Marketing and social media campaigns have also encouraged binge-watching, with the popular streaming service Netflix calling it the “new normal.”

To date, most of the surveys and research surrounding binge-watching have been conducted by private research firms and companies.

A 2013 survey by Netflix showed that 73 percent of the respondents viewed binge-watching as a socially acceptable behavior. A similar survey by TiVo in 2015 showed that negative perceptions about binge-watching have decreased between 2013 and 2015. About 92 percent of the respondents to the TiVo survey reported that they had binge-watched at some point.

Are binge-watching and mental illness related?

Excessive TV watching has long been associated with health problems. Scientific studies have shown that prolonged television viewing increases the risk of obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.

It’s also been linked to mental health problems like depression. And a recent Texas A&M study revealed that binge-watching is tied to feelings of loneliness and depression. They also found that those who binge-watch lacked the self-regulation to stop, suggesting that binge-watching may be an addictive behavior.

For our study, we surveyed 406 North American adults, recruited from an online data collection platform. We wanted to know more about binge-watchers – particularly their viewing habits, mental health status, and how prevalent and socially acceptable binge-watching was among their friends.

The majority of our respondents defined binge-watching as two to five hours of consecutive video viewing in one day. About 35 percent of the respondents admitted that they binge-watch TV. Not surprisingly, those who self-identified as binge-watchers were more likely to report higher average screen time in the past seven days compared to those who did not identify as binge-watchers. Self-identified binge-watchers were also more likely to report higher addiction to TV (as measured by a validated scale).

The major highlight of our study, however, is that self-identified binge-watchers were more likely to report higher stress, anxiety and depression.

We were ultimately able to demonstrate a relationship between binge-watching, average screen time and mental health status.

However, these results should be interpreted with caution. Our research shows only a correlation and not causation. We don’t know if depression, stress and anxiety are caused by binge-watching, or if it is the other way around. In other words, people might binge-watch as a way to temporarily alleviate preexisting feelings of stress and anxiety.

We also discovered that media influence and social acceptance of binge-watching were found to be significant predictors of self-reported binge-watching.

About 85 percent of the respondents said that they had noticed advertisements or articles encouraging binge-watching, while 74 percent of the respondents reported that they have read articles on binge-watching. An estimated 62 percent of the respondents believed that most people binge-watch and 53 percent of the respondents indicated that most of their friends binge-watch.

Of course, more research is needed to understand the true effects of binge-watching on physical and mental health. In the interim, the next time you load up “House of Cards,” “Jessica Jones” or “Game of Thrones,” it might be a good idea to exercise some caution once the show concludes, and resist the urge to click “next episode.”

The Conversation

Monita Karmakar, PhD candidate in Health Education, University of Toledo and Jessica Sloan Kruger, PhD student in Health Education, University of Toledo

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Can you sue if someone posts an unflattering photo of you on social media?

Shontavia Johnson, Drake University

Open your Twitter or Instagram account and chances are good somewhere in there you may see an unflattering photo of a stranger. It’s become increasingly common to share pictures of people we don’t know online.

And it could happen to you. Imagine, for example, rolling out of bed and heading to the store to pick up a much-needed item. Your hair is unkempt and you’re wearing last night’s pajamas, but you’re unconcerned because certainly no one will notice you. Unbeknownst to you, someone you don’t know takes your photo and posts it on social media, perhaps including cruel language or tagging an account like She Has Had It or People of Walmart which feature and mock unappealing pictures of strangers.

Hundreds of people like, share and comment on this photo of you – do you have any legal recourse against anyone? Having taught and researched Internet law, I believe the evolving online legal landscape may answer yes.

Lawsuits about these kinds of photos tend to turn on a person’s right of publicity, which limits the commercial use of one’s name, image, likeness and/or identity. The outcome of current cases could rein in this common posting practice.

Fans love to take pix with Shaquille O’Neal.
Jeff Haynes/Reuters

An online Shaq attack

In April 2014, sports commentator and former star athlete Shaquille O’Neal posted a Photoshopped image on his Twitter and Instagram accounts of himself side-by-side with Jahmel Binion. He captioned the picture “SMILE PEOPLE.”

Binion, who was 23 years old at the time, suffers from ectodermal dysplasia, which has left him with a disfigured appearance. In the photo, O’Neal contorted his facial features in an attempt to make a face similar to Binion’s. The social media post received more than 17,000 “likes” and more than 700 comments (many of which were rude or offensive) on Twitter alone.

Based on this activity, Binion sued O’Neal in a Florida federal court for, among other things, something called “appropriation,” which is essentially a right of publicity claim. The basic idea is that you can stop others from using your name, likeness or identity for commercial gain. The Florida court recently denied O’Neal’s motion to dismiss the claim, which means that Binion can continue with the case against O’Neal.

Right of publicity, in the social media universe

So does this right of publicity protect you from having someone post a harmful image of you on social media?

Because the right of publicity is based on state law, the parameters of the right vary significantly by jurisdiction. Roughly 30 states recognize claims based on the right of publicity through statute, common law or both. Most of these states extend the right of publicity to all people, not just celebrities or other famous individuals.

Though there is a lack of uniformity regarding its application, the most common requirements include a person:

1) using another’s name, identity, likeness or persona without consent in a way that causes harm; and

2) receiving some kind of benefit or advantage based on that use.

In the social media universe, it probably won’t be hard to show that a person is harmed when their image is used without permission, especially where cruel or offensive language is used.

The question of the benefit or advantage obtained, however, will be more difficult to prove and has historically thwarted Internet suits of this kind.

How do all those eyeballs on your image benefit the social media account owner?
Man image via

What’s in it for the poster?

With the rapid rise in ubiquity of social media platforms, attorneys have grappled with applying traditional right of publicity law to new frontiers like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.

Everyone’s still trying to figure out the benefit received from using a stranger’s photo online. In one recent case, Fraley v. Facebook, Inc., Facebook found itself in a right of publicity lawsuit based on its use of the Sponsored Stories advertising feature.

These are paid ads featuring the names and pictures of Facebook users based on their past Facebook activities and “likes.” Though the suit against Facebook ultimately settled, the right of publicity claims survived – the plaintiffs could show a clear connection between the value of their unauthorized endorsements to their Facebook friends and the benefit Facebook gained by using their photos.

While the commercial advantage may be clear in a case like Fraley, where Facebook received money for their ads with people’s pictures and likes, the Binion scenario is more challenging. O’Neal’s post, though widely shared and liked, did not provide a direct commercial benefit to him. Most states require that the defendant received some commercial or monetary benefit.

Some legal authorities, however, state that the right of publicity is not limited to purely commercial benefits. The victim’s right of publicity claim may survive even if the offending party does not receive money or other benefit.

In fact, in Binion, the court suggested that the fact that O’Neal’s post generated significant social media interest and was widely viewed and shared could meet the benefit standard. All those “likes” and “favorites” are a currency all their own. Social media users, therefore, could be exposed to legal liability for posting pictures of strangers under such a theory.

With no uniform body of law to reference, social media users remain susceptible to right of publicity claims. Individuals and companies who use social media to connect with others must be mindful of such uncharted territory and create social media strategies that mitigate their risk of liability. Otherwise, posting photos – particularly unflattering ones – of strangers will continue to expose users to such risks.

The Conversation

Shontavia Johnson, Associate Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Drake University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Author Umberto Eco dies at 84


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