The journalists who turned the world upside down: Voices of Another Information

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At first, Kosinski and his team considered this offer, as it would mean a great deal of money for the institute, but then he hesitated. SCL provides marketing based on psychological modeling. One of its core focuses: Influencing elections.

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Influencing elections? Perturbed, Kosinski clicked through the pages. What kind of company was this? And what were these people planning? What Kosinski did not know at the time: SCL is the parent of a group of companies. Who exactly owns SCL and its diverse branches is unclear, thanks to a convoluted corporate structure, the type seen in the UK Companies House, the Panama Papers, and the Delaware company registry.

Kosinski knew nothing about all this, but he had a bad feeling. On further investigation, he discovered that Aleksandr Kogan had secretly registered a company doing business with SCL. Kosinski came to suspect that Kogan's company might have reproduced the Facebook "Likes"-based Big Five measurement tool in order to sell it to this election-influencing firm. He immediately broke off contact with Kogan and informed the director of the institute, sparking a complicated conflict within the university.

The institute was worried about its reputation.

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Aleksandr Kogan then moved to Singapore, married, and changed his name to Dr. All was quiet for about a year. Now Kosinski received emails asking what he had to do with it—the words Cambridge, personality, and analytics immediately made many people think of Kosinski.

It was the first time he had heard of the company, which borrowed its name, it said, from its first employees, researchers from the university. Horrified, he looked at the website. Was his methodology being used on a grand scale for political purposes? Everywhere he went, Kosinski had to explain that he had nothing to do with this company. It remains unclear how deeply Cambridge Analytica was involved in the Brexit campaign.

Cambridge Analytica would not discuss such questions. For a few months, things are relatively quiet. Decision-makers from all over the world have been invited, among them Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann. A slim man in a dark suit walks onto the stage. A hush falls. A video of the presentation was posted on YouTube. She herself talked him into having a smartphone, from which he now tweets incessantly. She had the address lists of the Democratic Party, worked with cutting-edge big data analysts from BlueLabs and received support from Google and DreamWorks.

When it was announced in June that Trump had hired Cambridge Analytica, the establishment in Washington just turned up their noses. Cambridge Analytica had become involved in the US election campaign almost two years earlier, initially as a consultant for Republicans Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Cruz—and later Trump —was funded primarily by the secretive US software billionaire Robert Mercer who, along with his daughter Rebekah, is reported to be the largest investor in Cambridge Analytica. The idea that all women should receive the same message because of their gender—or all African Americans because of their race.

In December the Cruz team credited their rising success to psychological use of data and analytics. Nix clicks to the next slide: five different faces, each face corresponding to a personality profile. Ad targeting is personalized advertising, aligned as accurately as possible to the personality of an individual consumer. Nix candidly explains how his company does this. First, Cambridge Analytica buys personal data from a range of different sources, like land registries, automotive data, shopping data, bonus cards, club memberships, what magazines you read, what churches you attend.

Nix displays the logos of globally active data brokers like Acxiom and Experian—in the US, almost all personal data is for sale. For example, if you want to know where Jewish women live, you can simply buy this information, phone numbers included. Now Cambridge Analytica aggregates this data with the electoral rolls of the Republican party and online data and calculates a Big Five personality profile. Digital footprints suddenly become real people with fears, needs, interests, and residential addresses. The methodology looks quite similar to the one that Michal Kosinski once developed.

He opens the screenshot. On the left are diagrams; on the right, a map of Iowa, where Cruz won a surprisingly large number of votes in the primary.

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And on the map, there are hundreds of thousands of small red and blue dots. Finally, only one name remains, including age, address, interests, personality and political inclination.

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How does Cambridge Analytica now target this person with an appropriate political message? Image: Concordia Summit. People who care about tradition, and habits, and family. The messages differed for the most part only in microscopic details, in order to target the recipients in the optimal psychological way: different headings, colors, captions, with a photo or video.

This fine-tuning reaches all the way down to the smallest groups, Nix explained in an interview with us.

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Even individuals. Nix finishes his lecture at the Concordia Summit by stating that traditional blanket advertising is dead. The company is incorporated in the US, where laws regarding the release of personal data are more lax than in European Union countries. Groundgame, an app for election canvassing that integrates voter data with "geospatial visualization technology," was used by campaigners for Trump and Brexit. Image: L2. It was the same app provider used by Brexit campaigners. The canvassers came prepared with guidelines for conversations tailored to the personality type of the resident.

In turn, the canvassers fed the reactions into the app, and the new data flowed back to the dashboards of the Trump campaign. Again, this is nothing new. The Democrats did similar things, but there is no evidence that they relied on psychometric profiling.

Cambridge Analytica, however, divided the US population into 32 personality types, and focused on just 17 states. And just as Kosinski had established that men who like MAC cosmetics are slightly more likely to be gay, the company discovered that a preference for cars made in the US was a great indication of a potential Trump voter. Among other things, these findings now showed Trump which messages worked best and where.


The decision to focus on Michigan and Wisconsin in the final weeks of the campaign was made on the basis of data analysis. The candidate became the instrument for implementing a big data model. But to what extent did psychometric methods influence the outcome of the election? When asked, Cambridge Analytica was unwilling to provide any proof of the effectiveness of its campaign. And it is quite possible that the question is impossible to answer. And yet there are clues: There is the fact of the surprising rise of Ted Cruz during the primaries.

Also there was an increased number of voters in rural areas. There was the decline in the number of African-American early votes. The fact that Trump spent so little money may also be explained by the effectiveness of personality-based advertising.

As does the fact that he invested far more in digital than TV campaigning compared to Hillary Clinton. Facebook proved to be the ultimate weapon and the best election campaigner, as Nix explained, and as comments by several core Trump campaigners demonstrate. Cambridge Analytica counts among its clients the U. Image: U. Many voices have claimed that the statisticians lost the election because their predictions were so off the mark.

But what if statisticians in fact helped win the election—but only those who were using the new method?

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It is an irony of history that Trump, who often grumbled about scientific research, used a highly scientific approach in his campaign. Another big winner is Cambridge Analytica. Whilst Cambridge Analytica is not willing to comment on alleged ongoing talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Alexander Nix claims that he is building up his client base worldwide, and that he has received inquiries from Switzerland, Germany, and Australia. His company is currently touring European conferences showcasing their success in the United States.

Photo: Apple Daily. As viewers of art, it is not our place to have a say on how the art is created or presented.

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As we are the receivers of art, our job is actually to ponder, reflect, love or hate , criticize, and debate the message it sends. We all interpret art in different ways and no one interpretation is more correct than the other. Throughout history, we can name art pieces of all kinds we deem controversial and too political but they all have their places in human history. Another example is the opera of John Adams, The Death of Klinghoffer, which depicts the death of an American Jew, Leon Klinghoffer, at the hands of four Palestinian terrorists, based on the real-life example of the hijacking of the Achilles Lauro.

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The opera was written not to be anti-Semitic but to highlight the connected histories of the Jews and Palestinians and to open a discussion. The opera itself was boycotted in New York City as being anti-Semitic, but even this did not make the opera writer change anything, as it was his art for us to appreciate or not.