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October 10, 2012 - Image 4

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4A - Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4A - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

Slow down with Cowbird

TIMOTHY RABB .
JOSEPH LICHTERMAN and ADRIENNE ROBERTS
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS

ANDREW WEINER
MANAGING EDITOR

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
F ROM T H E?<A U Y
" M
Driving toward the future.
Driverless cars should be legalized, innovated in Mich.
n Sep. 26, California joined Nevada and Florida to become
the third state in the country to legalize driverless cars. In
part due to the lobbying efforts of Google, many other states
are also beginning to push similar legislation, though Governor Rick
Snyder cites budgetary concerns as the reason for the state's appre-
hension. However, this is a critical moment in both the history of the
automotive industry and in the University community. With demon-
strated competence in computer science, automotive engineering and
massive project deployment, the University is in a unique position to
participate in the progress of the car industry. As such, the University
should take advantage of this technological opportunity by collaborat-
ing with industry leaders to pass progressive state legislation legaliz-
ing driverless cars.

n Thursday, Facebook offi-
cially announced that the
site surpassed 1 billion
active monthly
users, which
means that
roughly one in
seven people on
the planet has
an account with
Facebook. It's a
truly remarkable MICHAEL
feat for a website SPAETH
that was created
only eight years
ago. Facebook
employees and users are complete-
ly justified in feeling proud of this
milestone.
However, a much lesser-known
social network has been experienc-
ing some modest growth of its own.
Cowbird, which has expanded from
5,000 users in January to nearly
20,000 users in mid-October, is a
social network that emphasizes
beauty and genuine emotion over
speed and constant connectivity.
Cowbird's stated goal is "to build a
public library of human experience,
so the knowledge and wisdom we
accumulate as individuals may live
on as part of the commons, available
for this and future generations to
look to for guidance."
Cowbird users tell stories with
a short body of text, ranging from
a few words to a few paragraphs,
a relevant picture and an optional
audio clip. The picture fills a large
portion of the screen, drifting up or
down along with the computer cur-
sor, and is sometimes accompanied
by the sounds of people's voices
or the sounds of the natural envi-
ronment in which the story takes
place. The audio and the motion of
the image often make readers feel
like they're physically present in
the story's location, moving their
heads up or down as they examine

the people and the scenery in the
background. In every story, the
auditory and visual combination
can be heartwarming, haunting or
absolutely mesmerizing.
The story itself is usually short
but powerful. In one popular story,
a father has a conversation with his
young daughter about how much
he loves her. Some stories reflect on
trips abroad, falling in love for the
first time, spending time with fam-
ily or brief descriptions of beautiful
moments in everyday life. Others
tackle weightier topics - the war
in Libya or the Occupy Wall Street
movement, for example. The stories
are short enough that they can eas-
ily stick in readers's minds, and they
often end with a phrase that leaves
readers pondering for a few minutes
- as the ending of a short story or
poem should.
Every time I visit the Cowbird
website, I'm deeply moved by the
time I logout. This is partially
because virtually every Cowbird
user is a good writer - right now,
prospective users have to describe
themselves and the stories they'd
like to write before becoming mem-
bers of the social network. But the
main' reasons that Cowbird has
such a powerful emotional impact
on readers is its simple design and
focus on common humanity - the
universal experiences and feelings
that we share in one form or anoth-
er. Facebook seems to be trying to
create a similar experience with
Facebook Stories, an advertising
campaign. But as @cowbird tweet-
ed shortly after Facebook Stories
was created, "Imitation is the high-
est form of flattery;)."
In an era when speed and super-
ficiality reign supreme, Cowbird is
a much-needed breath of fresh air.
While the college social scene is
often filled with hook-ups - as The
Statement examined last week -

Cowbird provides glimpses into the
toils and triumphs of genuine, loving
relationships. As many politicians
and pundits across the country focus
on trivialities and emphasize what
divides us during the final weeks
of the 2012 election, Cowbird high-
lights the essential human qualities
and experiences thatunite us. While
Facebook is a place to feverishly
check the latest updates, Cowbird
is a place to quietly contemplate. As
Melissa Bell of the Washington Post
wrote in February, "Amid the clamor
of most social media sites, on Cow-
bird everythingslows down. There's
no rush. With that kind of beauty,
why should there be?"
New social
network is more
than constant
connectivity.
I've written in the past that Face-
book has some beneficial purposes,
and I'm definitely not saying that
Cowbird should try to compete. As
Daniel Griffiths of Forbes Magazine
wrote in August, Cowbird "is the
antithesis of the Facebook model
of going big." But Cowbird has a
valuable role to play in the world
of social networks; it creates a ref-
uge for people who want to explore
the subtle beauty of life instead of
checking the next status update.
Particularly during the stress of
midterm exams and the heat of the
election season, it's nice to have
somewhere to go that so beautifully
reminds us why life is worth living.
- Michael Spaeth can be
reached at micspa@umich.edu.

i

I

Earlier this summer through a partnership
with the U.S. Department of Transportation,
the University began a year-long, $22-mil-
lion dollar "connected-car" project utilizing
wireless communication between vehicles in
transit. The goal of this project is to shift the
car safety model from the current incremental
improvements - better seat belts and air bags
- to avoiding accidents entirely. Whereas the
Google driverless car is a step toward making
each car safer, the Michigan project takes a
holistic approach by seeking to make the traf-
fic grid safer overall.
The University and Google already have a
record of fruitful collaboration. This history
includes the Michigan Digitization Project in
additionto the recent adoption of Google Apps
accounts for all students and recent alumni.
Google CEO Larry Page earned his bachelor's
in computer engineering at the University and
currently sits on its Engineering Advisory
Council. Google and the University have both
benefitted from this relationship by cultivat-
ing some of the brightest computer science and
software engineering minds in the country.
Similarly, Michigan colleges are also
regarded as having one of the best automotive
engineering programs in the country. With its
proximity to the heart of the American auto
industry, the University regularly collaborates
with many car manufacturers on projects.

Safety, as with all transportation mat-
' ters, is vitally important. More than 2.2 mil-
lion people are injured in car accidents in the
United States each year resulting in nearly
$300 billion in damages. Though Google's
fleet of automated cars has thus far impres-
sively logged more than 300,000 mileswithout
incident (besting the national average of about
one accident per every 100,000 miles driven),
nearly all of these tests have been conducted on
well-regulated courses or on the sparse roads
of Nevada. While more than a third of all fatal
car accidents are caused by alcohol-impaired
drivers, the majority of car accidents are still
caused by driver error. Although this certainly
underscores the need for cars to become more
aware of their surroundings, driverless cars
must show a statistically significant improve-
ment in traffic safety over human operators
before this is fully implemented.
According to a report released in July 2012,
Americans drive approximately 258-billion
miles each year. Any advancement in the
interest of making American roadways tra-
versed as safely and efficiently as possible is
important. Having the brightest and best-
equipped minds in the country at the nexus
of innovation and history, the University has
a special responsibility and privilege to usher
in the next era of transportation with the
most cutting-edge technology.

I
6

FOLLOW DAILY OPINION ON TWITTER
Daily opinion staffers are in D.C. covering the oral arguments on Affirmative Action at the
Supreme Court today. Check out @michdailyoped to keep up with the conversation.
www.michigandaily.com/section/opinion
Race is stillt an issue

I

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS
Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Eli Cahan, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein, Melanie Kruvelis,
Patrick Maillet, Harsha Nahata, Timothy Rabb, Adrienne Roberts,
Vanessa Rychlinski, Sarah Skaluba, Michael Spaeth, Gus Turner
GUS TURNER I :
A circus of rhetoric

ROCHESTER, MI - On Monday, the
Romney campaign, led by Paul Ryan, vice
presidential nominee and Wisconsin repre-
sentative, had a chat with Southern Michi-
gan's most exuberant loyalists. Along with
a hefty slate of Michigan's Republican can-
didates and incumbents, Ryan gave remarks
at Oakland University's O'rena in Rochester,
Mich. The Thunderstix clapped, "U.S.A."
chants rang out through the cavernous hall
and the mere mention of "Obama" or "Biden"
drew a chorus of lusty boos. Yes, ladies and
gentlemen, with the general election reach-
ing its homestretch, there I was, right in the
belly of the beast.
Surely, though, this chaos was noth-
ing that a "proud hunter" like Ryan couldn't
tame. Indeed, for all the hype surrounding
his natural charisma and silver tongue, I was
half-expecting to be swept up in a whirlwind
of Ryan-ism myself. If there's one thing that's
difficult for me to take with a straight face, it's
political rhetoric. The cattiness, the baseless
accusations, the half-truths and unabashed
contradictions - whether it's from the right
or the left, I'm prone to dismissing most of the
vitriol as static. Would Ryan, though, with his
reported irresistible charm, stand alone as a
model of integrity among it all? Could he break
through my icy layer of skepticism?
In a word: no. By the time Ryan actually
got on stage, my old habits had already crept
safely back in. Whether it was inflammatory,
garbled or just plain uncomfortable, each
Republican hopeful that filed onto the stage
only pushed me closer to the edge of outright
political apathy. Kerry Bentivolio, a House of
Representatives hopeful for Michigan's 11th
District, stammered through vague ideas of
hope and American values. U.S. Rep. Can-
dice Miller managed to blame high gas prices
on "an absence of leadership in the White
House." My favorite in terms of entertain-

ment value had to be Don Volarics, whose
over-the-top hysterics mostly resulted in
awkward applause or dead air. I don't think
he has my vote for the House, but I'll definite-
ly put him down for "Most Likely to Have Pre-
gamed with a Box of 5-Hour Energy."
Of course, the common thread throughout
all of this rambling stemmed back to the faults
of one man: President Barack Obama. Pastor
Kent Clark lamented how the Lord had been
"banned from America" by the current admin-
istration. Pete Hoekstra - Sen. Debbie Stabe-
now's Republican challenger - criticized the
strength of our national security. Ben Bishop,
the tween son of Oakland County's Mike Bish-
op, was given a minute to talk about how his
generation wouldn't have the ability to pay off
the debts that Obama's spending would incur
upon them. Thank you, Mike, for sacrificing
your son in order to complete this three-ring
circus of a rally. Ugh.
I realize that the Republican campaign has
never been about winning votes through fair
play and ethics, but when Ryan and his cronies
are coming out with a holier-than-thou atti-
tude about the dirtiness of the political pro-
cess, how can you not feel like your intelligence
has been insulted a little bit? "Obama is criti-
cizing," Ryan said. "He's going from hope and
change, to attack and blame. We're not gonna
fall for that." What do you call what you've all
been doing for the past two hours, PaulIt's dis-
heartening, to say the least, that by the end of
the night, the only speaker who had said any-
thing with even an ounce of goodwill toward
the opposition was none other than Michigan's
own, Kid Rock.
"I strongly believe," he said, "that it's pos-
sible to disagree about politics without hat-
ing each other." That may be true, Kid, but
just be sure to let your friends know it too.
Gus Turner is an LSA junior.

n his 2009 book, "Letters to
the Editor: Confessions of a
Frustrated Conservative," Sen.
Jon Hubbard -
(R-Ark.) stated,
"The institu-
tion of slavery<
that the black
race has long
believed to be
an abomination
upon its peo- MARY
ple may actu- GALLAGHER
ally have been
a blessing in
disguise." The
quote reads like something from a
backward 1920s textbook. It seems
incredible that a man holding these
views can be seen as a respect-
able member of the community,
let alone be elected to represent
an entire state and make laws that
influence the entire country.
It would be easy to dismiss Hub-
bard's statement as the ignorant
opinion of a lone politician. How-
ever, Dr. Alford A. Young Jr., pro-
fessor of Afroamerican and African
Studies and chair of the University's
Sociology Department, believes that
Hubbard's statementreflects awider
problem. According to Dr. Young,
there's "something about this coun-
try that allows him to speak in this
way as a public official." He said "a
number of people feel safe and com-
fortable uttering sentiments that
they might have kept more private
in the past," because the idea that
we're living in a post-racial society
has taken strong hold.
I have to admit, as an upper-
middle class white person, there's
some appeal to the idea that slavery
had its benefits. It would let me off
the hook a little bit, especially with

the increase in white guilt that I've
been feeling during this season
of Columbus Day and Thanksgiv-
ing. Also, as Dr. Young points out,
it "affirms some sense of greatness
of American culture and society."
The idea that the United States is
so exceptional that people forc-
ibly removed from their cultures,
enslaved for decades, then faced
with immeasurable prejudices and
discrimination - even in the pres-
ent day - should be grateful for all
of the above because they are able
to live in America.
Now, I love my country and
believe those who live here are for-
tunate enough to take advantage of
the rights and freedoms that the U.S
entails. However, I find it hard to
believe that African slaves wouldn't
have preferred deciding for them-
selves when to leave their homes
and come to a new continent. Seri-
ously, in this country we used to buy
and sell human beings and force
them to work for us. We had to tear
the country apart to end slavery -
we hardly treated slaves as human
beings, let alone full citizens under
the law, for another full century.
These are the citizens that Sen. Jon
Hubbard believes should treat their
slavery as a "blessing in disguise."
Hubbard goes so far as to say that
African Americans must "under-
stand that even while in the throes
of slavery, their lives as Americans
are likely much better than they
ever would have enjoyed living in
sub-Saharan Africa." However, Dr.
Angela Dillard, a professor in the
Department of Afroamerican and
African studies, says, "the view
of slavery as a civilizing force for
Black slaves only makes sense if you
believe in their inferiority - not

only racially but socially, politically,
religiously and so forth. It's not driv-
en by fact, but by belief and biases."
Slavery is not
a "blessing in
disguise."
According to Dr. Young, since
there is a black man in the presi-
dent's office, many Americans
believe that racial issues must be
less prevalent than in the past. How-
ever, with an incarceration rate of
African Americans six times higher
than that of Caucasians and high
school graduation rates 20 percent
below the white average, the long-
standing consequences of racism
and slavery are still evident today.
Of course, this is America, and
one of the great things about this
country is that Hubbard has the
right to say anything he wants. It's
allowed. However, it's disturbing
that this view is held by people in
our country, particularly by the
people responsible for represent-
ing the citizenry and making laws.
As Dr. Dillard concluded, "Having
someone in elected office with these
kinds of beliefs and biases may be
perfectly allowable from the stand-
point how representative democ-
racy works, but it certainly doesn't
make it any easier for me to sleep
well at night."
- Mary Gallagher cag be
reached at mkgall@umich.edu

.4

EDITR I N 140 CHARACT ERS OLESS
@BarackObama the debate was an
embarrassment, but the #BigBird ads
sink to a new low
@michdailyoped

6

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