Australian analysis of more than 5,000 selfies posted to Instagram concludes they are not really about narcissism but simply a part of everyday life
The act of taking a digital photograph of oneself has been variously hailed as empowering, demeaning, narcissistic, artistic, feminist, anti-feminist and disruptive to dolphins.
But new research into the apparently very nuanced medium of selfies has led to the most outlandish conclusion yet: they are simply part of everyday life.
Australian analysis of more than 5,000 selfies has concluded that they are more than a form of vanity, with 90% not posted with the intent of self-promotion.
Researchers at the Australian National Universitys College of Business and Economics assessed randomly selected selfies posted to Instagram over a period of 10 days, and found that only one in 10 were taken to communicate physical attractiveness for the sole purpose of raising an online following.
The rest were simply aimed at friends and family, said Dr Toni Eagar, a co-author of the study.
Its neither narcissism nor self-empowerment. People are using selfies as a tool as part of their everyday life, he said.
The findings disputed the idea that selfies were a form of vanity, said researchers, with seven distinct genres of images emerging from the dataset.
The most popular (35%) was the autobiography selfie, which documented the highs and lows of a persons life, ranging from graduations and weddings to simply being bored. An additional 6% functioned as travel diaries.
The romance selfie celebrated being with significant others. The share of 21% also included selfies which celebrated being single, often after a recent break-up.
Only 11% of the images were categorised as propaganda selfies.
The parody selfie (12%) made fun of social media trends or current media events while the coffee table book selfie (9%) was artistic, often digitally manipulated photography.
The self-help selfie (7%) demonstrated knowledge in a particular area such as diets, fitness or beauty, often with an instructional or inspirational message.
Three-quarters of the total selfies were posted by women.
Of the selfie propagandists, Eagar said it was more accurate to think of them as small business owners, hoping to leverage their online following into paid endorsements or Insta-fame.
These are people selling a view of their lifestyle or themselves, and the currency of the transaction is likes and follows the aim is to build an audience and establish a type of fame or admiration on social media.
The Twitter logo is displayed on a banner outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on November 7, 2013 in New York City.
Exactly one year ago one day after being reinstated as CEO Twitter cofounder and product visionary Jack Dorsey announced Twitter Moments.
The product, built under the code name Project Lightning, was intended to represent Twitter’s future.
“Moments is a bold new experience that I think does question a lot of our fundamentals. Moments is one piece that makes all of Twitter better and easier to understand,” Dorsey told investors in October.
The three available cost-cutting options, as Nishimura sees it, are more abundant and aggressive even “malicious” pop-up ads, shuttering some of its dozens of board pages and limiting image upload size or roping more users into its paid “4chan pass” program, which unlocks extra features on the site.
Since its inception in 2003, 4chan’s mostly anonymous nature and anything-goes mentality have earned it a reputation as an anarchic haven for some of the the web’s more unsavory subcultures particularly its designated politically incorrect “/pol/” subsection and miscellaneous topic “/b/” board. Several other boards within the site are dedicated to posting pornographic images.
In 2014, it was ground zero for a massive hack of celebrity nude photos, and more recently, it helped to foster the rise of the so-called “alt-right” white nationalist movement that coincided with Donald Trump’s canidacy. Some of its members claim to revere Santa Barbara, California mass shooter Elliot Rodger as a hero.
All that is to say that, despite traffic that some months reached into the hundreds of millions, 4chan’s prospects as a legitimate business were never all that bright racist hate speech, illegal hacking and celebration of mass murder are not the sort of things most mainstream advertisers are particularly keen to associate with their brands.
But Nishimura insisted in an email to Mashable that he has no plans to clean up the site. When asked whether the company’s woes were related to advertiser fears, he replied simply, “I don’t think so.”
An ad problem
One factor certainly at play is the spread of ad blockers, which are bound to be disproportionately popular among 4chan’s web-savvy denizens. Unlike many other websites and online publishers, Nishimura said he has no way to measure ad blocker use on the site.
While Nishimura may not want to admit that the site’s ethos is keeping advertisers at bay, the dilemma has bogged 4chan throughout much of its history.
The company was booted from Google ad network AdSense in 2007 for violating the program’s appropriate content policy, said a Google spokesperson, who made it clear the search giant wants nothing to do with the site (despite hiring its founder).
In 4chan’s early days, an anime purveyor called J-List provided much of the money needed to keep the site afloat through ads hosted on the its friendlier reaches. But the two companies parted ways in 2012 in what 4chan founder Christopher “moot” Poole described at the time as a “mutual separation.”
Poole said then that he would make a concentrated effort to move the site away from one-size-fits-all network ads served by automated exchanges and towards direct sales to brands of mutual interest to 4chan users.
“I understand that the average college student browsing /a/ is not interested in punching the monkey to win a free <insert-gimmick-product-here>, just as those who browse /ck/ aren’t interested in refinancing their home,” he wrote in a post on the company news section of the site.
But maneuvering to more lucrative individual advertiser contracts had proven difficult in the preceding years. Three years earlier, as the site was struggling to keep up with its $6,000-per-month server bill, Poole said convincing advertisers the site had anything to offer them was an “uphill battle.”
Even then, its community’s controversial antics had started to make headlines.
“Advertisers will Google us and see that we’re huge, but they’ll also see all these threats and hacks,” Poole, then the company’s sole employee and living with his mother, told Business Insider in 2009. “It scares them away. Overcoming that stigma is difficult.”
But still, Poole was committed to keeping controversial boards like /b/ open.
“People have suggested dropping /b/, but that’s the life force of the site,” he told the outlet. “I can’t do that. It was the first board, and it will be the last board to go.”
Big in Japan
The site seemed to have at least a somewhat easier time finding advertisers in Japan, where it once counted the Tokyo-based online media company Dwango as a sponsor. While founded in the United States, 4chan was modeled after Japanese forum sites like 2chan created by Nishimura and originally intended as a place to post and discuss anime and manga art.
Despite a similar character to 4chan, 2chan which drew around 500 million pageviews a month was earning Nishimura revenues of up to $1 million a year in 2008, thanks to Japan’s more hospitable ad market.
Meanwhile, its beleaguered cousin site barely managed to scrape by the next few years, hopping from one controversy to the next. It rolled out the “4chan pass” in 2012 as an extra income stream it’s not clear how many subscribers have joined and eventually sold in the fall of last year to Nishimura, whom Poole called “literally the only person with as much if not more experience as myself” at running a 4chan-like site.
“He’s the great grandfather of all of this,” Poole told the New York Times.
Nothing left to ad
The site has since pared down its advertising real estate from placements up and down the page to a single banner across the top, since Nishimura said the ads had become too taxing on the servers.
A random sampling of more than 100 page loads across boards and devices turned up ads from automated exchanges less than half the time and house ads space-filler promotions for the site itself in the remainder. Of those third-party ads that did appear, few, if any, advertised products or services that would likely appeal to the average 4chan user.
Nishimura knows 4chan’s notoriously finicky users have other options should he make changes that aren’t to their liking. In addition to 2chan, there’s also 8chan, another counterpart forum host launched in 2013.
While more ads might provide a short-term salve, shoddy or intentionally “malicious” ads are likely to not only to drive people away but also push them into flipping on ad blockers.
While its future was never exactly certain, it seems the odds are now more stacked against 4chan than ever.
It’s an everyday tragedy. It can happy to any vulnerable member of anyone’s family. For Rob Collins and Jennifer Bell, it was his father and her elderly relative. More and more scams prey on the elderly.
Collins’ father called him all the time claiming he won $10 million or $15 million by entering a sweepstakes in the mail. Whenever Collins toldhis dad that this was a scam, that it was all fake, his father refused to believe him.
“He wouldn’t believe me and he would get really angry and hang up the phone,” Collins told CNN Money.
After his father spent tens of thousands of dollars in scams, Collins cracked down and took away his father’s mail. Now, his father feels as though his life is empty without it.
“You took the mail away from me. And it’s my life. I don’t have a life now without no mail,” his father told him over the phone.
Collins’ dad was once a business professor, but when he became of a certain age he simply became more vulnerable.
Jennifer Bell’s 87-year-old relative, whose home became covered with hoards of mail, gave away $100,000 on the reverse mortgage she took out on her home. The family lost the house in the process.
“It’s horrifying to think she was able to give that away in less than five years… of all of the things she didn’t want…she didn’t want to be in a nursing home,” said Bell. “Because she gave all of her money away, her worst nightmare happened.”
But there’s good news: PacNet, the fraudulent company responsible, is being charged with global mail fraud by Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Thats right! Youre this guy and youre also Benedict Arnold. You shoot a gun and ride a horse for America during the First Annual Revolutionary War. Your peers respect you, all of the Founding Fathers say things like Now thats one good adult when your name gets mentioned, and youve never committed the crime of treason. Youve got it all.
But thats about to change.
You see, yesterday was a very big day for you. You saw this advertisement for treason and havent been able to stop thinking about it. You even had a dream where you wrote TREASON = GOOD, CLEAN TREASON in some beach sand, and upon waking up, a taste that can only be described as smooth, sandy treason was in your mouth.
Yep. Youve got a full-blown desire to commit treason up in your brain, and its not going away. The wheels of history have begun to turn, and theyre making the noise that means history is going to happen soon.
Over the course of your life, there have been four major events that planted the seeds of treason in your brain. Imagine that the advertisement for treason you saw yesterday was water, and the four seeds of treason are four treason seeds. When you dump water on four seeds, a flower bloomsand in this case, its a Treason Flower.
Simply put, theres a Treason Flower in your body right now, and its impossible to rip out no matter how strong or powerful your hands are.
Would you like a refresher as to the four treason seeds of your life?
The first treason seed arrived in your skull when you got chased home from school by this patriotic husband and wife duo every day for eight years.
Okay! How would you like to respond to Great Britains advertisement for treason?
Seventeen seventy-three. The Boston Tea Party. Your second treason seed came in 1773 during the Boston Tea Party.
You were there dressed as an Indian and were so into it that you asked people to call you The Indian Version Of Benedict Arnold. Unfortunately, someone thought you said Im tea, from England and threw you into Boston Harbor by mistake.
The harbor was cold and full of bugs, many of which you had to swallow to survive. If the Boston Tea Party had never happened, this almost certainly would have been avoided.
The third treason seed occurred during the Battle of Saratoga, when you saw the American soldiers spending most of their time making a cannon do this. They still won the battle, but it marked the first time that you thought maybe the Continental Army deserves to get beaten very badly.
The fourth and final seed of treason was lodged in your body two fortnights agothe equivalent of four American weeks. You were in your tent having a nightmare about how great 21st-century medicine will be, when all of a sudden you were awoken by a shadow. It was a rogue bugle boys shadow, and after a few minutes of standing still, he lifted his bugle and blasted a song. When he finally finished 45 minutes later, he croaked, That was Treacherys Jaunt (The Remix Of The Rogue Bugle Boy),and oh, it is now your favorite song, Benedict Arnold.
Whoa, for sure.
So thats how it happened. You got chased by two people in love, and then you got thrown into the Boston Harbor, and then some troops convinced a cannon to scream 21, and then a rogue bugle boy told you that your favorite song was Treacherys Jaunt (The Remix Of The Rogue Bugle Boy).When you saw the advertisement yesterday, you were totally powerless, and now you want nothing more than to become the most hated person in American history.
Okay! How would you like to respond to Great Britains advertisement for treason?
Great! Its the 18th century, so one of the only forms of communication is the Communication Bell. By ringing the Bell in such a way that it tells the country of Great Britain youre a tiny American male who wants to commit the crime of treason, you have let Great Britain know that you are a tiny American male interested in committing the crime of treason.
All youve got to do now is receive an acceptance letter and youll be on your way!
Ouch. Thats rough. How do you want to go about getting an acceptance letter?
Great! You are now one step closer to betraying your country, and thats something you want to do.
You tell the army that youre taking the day off from shooting your gun and riding your horse, and swim out to King George IIIs royal houseboat. Its located 15 miles off the New Jersey coast, and you have to take constant breaks and swallow hundreds of bugs to stay alive, but eventually, you finally make it, and it feels fine.
The only thing under King George IIIs houseboat is his previous houseboat, which sunk after he bought a bowling ball.
There he is, the man and king himself. Its none other than King George III, a guy who makes George Washington and his friends shoot their guns, sitting on a throne.
Aha! Hello, and welcome to my oceanic castle! King George III says into his microphone. I hate that the colonies are mad at me, and I am worried that they would not care if today was my birthday! If today was my birthday, the colonies would probably say something like Who gives a shit? or The hell with that nonsense! How terrible! B16!
Oh wow. The king seems pretty upset. Say something to cheer him up.
Thats incredible news! When I look at you right now, I realize that you MUST be Benedict Arnold, and Benedict Arnold is the man whos going to be committing the crime of treason against America for Great Britain. Currently, Great Britain is known as the country that is going to have the Beatles, but we also want to be known as the country that wins the First Annual Revolutionary War. Oh, this makes me feel good. So, do you have any ideas for committing treason against your home country of America?
Looks like that cheered him up! Anyway, what sort of treasonous plan is currently making itself known to you in your brain?
That soda can thing sounds like an amazing idea for treason! says King George III. My wife, the queenisnt that an amazing idea for treason?
That battle thing sounds like an amazing idea for treason! says King George III. My wife, the queenisnt that an amazing idea for treason?
That hole thing sounds like an amazing idea for treason! says King George III. My wife, the queenisnt that an amazing idea for treason?
That Ben Franklin thing sounds like an amazing idea for treason! says King George III. My wife, the queenisnt that an amazing idea for treason?
That animal thing sounds like a pretty poor idea for treason! says King George III. My wife, the queenisnt that a pretty poor idea for treason?
Hello! screams the queen. Honestly, that idea for treason seems fine! B16!
Incredible. The royal marital duo loves your idea for treason, and now its time to go through with it.
Theres nothing America currently loves more than the Declaration of Independence. Its the document that really gets people going, and the most popular hobby nationwide is reading the Declaration to a crowd of thousands and receiving a standing ovation.
Were the Declaration to be stolen and crushed on your Benedict Arnolds head like a soda can, surely it would be an act of treason unlike any seen in Americas little, small, and tiny history.
The Declaration of Independence currently lives in Philadelphia at The House Where All The Founding Fathers Live Together. The House Where All The Founding Fathers Live Together is, simply put, the place where all the guys are. Even people like Alexander Hamilton are there.
So, what mode of transportation would you like to use to get to Philadelphia and commit a truly incredible amount of treason?
Here you are. The House Where All The Founding Fathers Live Together.
Its late, so they should all be sleeping soundly in the same big bed. Looks like the only way to enter without making a ruckus is to sneak in through the pool, so yeahyoure going to have to get a little wet.
Benedict Arnold! you shout as you dive in.
The pool is cold. Now, you famously dont mind the cold (Thomason, Paul. Benedict Arnold And His Feelings On The Cold. Tungsten Publishing, 1982.), so thats not too big a deal. But equally famously, you dont know how to swim very well (Thomason, Bertram. Benedict Arnold And How He Swam. Tungsten Publishing, 1984). That means its going to take you a little while before you reach the door on the other side of the poolthat is, if you make it at all.
Oh, wow. You really have no idea how to swim. Youre flailing and splashing and screaming, and you have to hope that if anyone was awake, they wouldve come out to save you by now.
This is terrible to watch. Youve tucked your legs into your stomach like youre doing a cannonball, except for some reason you think that this is how youre supposed to swim. Its a miracle you havent drowned yet, now or at any other point in your life.
You are forced to eat some bugs just to stay alive.
These two have every right to laugh at you.
You made it! To the pool door! It took 45 minutes for you to get here, and you spent pretty much all of those minutes on the verge of drowning, but all that is in the past! Youve got a Declaration of Independence to steal and crush on your head like a soda can.
Oh, goddamn it.
A mighty hello to our very close friend Benedict Arnold! shout all the Founding Fathers at once. You are soaking wet with pool water, and what an incredible treat it is to see you in our home we all share together!
We heard you scream your own name as you jumped in the pool! they all shout at once. In the big bed we all share together, we looked at each other in excitement, and then we all jumped out of the big bed we all share together and ran to the window and pressed our historic faces up against the glass at the same time to see if it really was you, our friend, and it was you, our friend! You are such a good patriot, and an even better friend.
Its going to be tough to steal the Declaration of Independence with these guys awake, but you have to do it. Theyre currently nodding at each other in agreement over what they just said, so use this time to slink away and poke around.
On this October night, theres no sign of the Declaration of Independence in the Founders living room.
Doesnt look like theres a Declaration of Independence to steal here in the kitchen.
Looks like the Declaration of Independence had to be taken out of the Declaration of Independence room so the janitor could practice mopping up one cup of coffee.
Its gotta be around here somewhere.
There it is! Looks like one of the dopier Founding Fathers left it behind. What an exciting blunder that will potentially change the course of American history for good!
Yes! Benedict Arnold, one of my closest and dearest friends from America! Im so glad I caught you! says George Washington, the man who is your boss when you shoot your gun and ride your horse. I was at my other house with my wife named Martha, but as soon as I heard that you were here, I just had to come by! Say, is that the Declaration of Independence youre holding and taking with you?
Oh, of course its the Declaration of Independence that youre holding and taking from the house I share with the other Founding Fathers! shouts George. Nothing says I love the new country of America quite like holding the document that made the country come into existence. What an incredible show of patriotism from one incredible patriot! Benedict Arnold, you are a good friend, and also, hey, keep up the great work being my employee in the army.
Get the hell out of there.
When its finally morning, you walk to the center of Philadelphia, clutching the Declaration tightly against your tiny stomach. People naturally begin to crowd around you because of who you are and what youre clutching, and eventually there is a crowd of thousands, ready to watch what they assume is another classic patriotic act from an American hero.
Benedict Arnold is definitely one of my closest friends! shouts Thomas Jefferson. He is holding the Declaration of Independence the way anyone who loves America would!
When I think about Benedict Arnold, a smile where I reveal a few dozen of my teeth shows up on my face! yells Samuel Adams.
Benedict Arnold is the mailman, and his mail is never being deceitful! screams Paul Revere.
I am going to crush this on my forehead, you say. I am going to crush the Declaration of Independence on my forehead like a soda can.
You stare at the ground for a couple of minutes, and then roll the Declaration up into a tight scroll, holding it parallel to your forehead.
You crush the Declaration of Independence on your forehead like a soda can, and the crowd goes absolutely insane.
Hes making the Declaration of Independence get really close to his brain, and thats patriotic! shouts a man who had an apple for breakfast.
This inspires me and someone else to make the Constitution in, like, 10 years or so! shout James Madison and Alexander Hamilton at the same time. They then begin punching and smiling at each other.
After viewing this wonderful crushing, I have decided to give birth to none other than the legendary Abraham Lincoln! shouts Nancy Lincoln.
Something has not gone according to plan.
You crush the Declaration of Independence so hard that it now looks like this, but the crowd cheers louder than anything youve ever heard before in your life, including the time you slammed a door. Pretty much everyone is screaming about how great it is that the Declaration of Independence got close to your brain, and thats just no good.
It also seems like you have inspired the Constitution and Abraham Lincoln into existence, and thats pretty much committing the opposite of the crime of treason, as far as com
Oct. 6, 2016: This photo released by the Texas Office of the Attorney General shows Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton alleges that adult and child sex-trafficking victims had been forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site. (Texas Office of the Attorney General via AP)
DALLAS – State agents raided the Dallas headquarters of adult classified ad portal Backpage and arrested Chief Executive Officer Carl Ferrer on Thursday following allegations that adult and child sex-trafficking victims had been forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site.
Ferrer, 55, was arrested on a California warrant after arriving at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport on a flight from Amsterdam, said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. In a statement, Paxton said agents from his Law Enforcement Unit participated in a search of Backpage headquarters and Ferrer’s arrest.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas. I intend to use every resource my office has to make sure those who profit from the exploitation and trafficking of persons are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Paxton, a Republican, said in a statement.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Ferrer was arrested on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond and will face an extradition hearing before he can be returned to California.
The site’s controlling shareholders, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, have been charged with conspiracy to commit pimping, Harris said. Warrants have been issued for their arrests. Under California’s law, felony pimping is defined as making money off of prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.
Harris says in a statement that the site’s ads for “escort services” essentially make it an online brothel that generates millions of dollars from the illegal sex trade.
“Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,” said Harris, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate in next month’s election. “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel.”
An attorney representing Backpage, Liz McDougall, did not immediately respond to a telephone message left by The Associated Press.
The site advertises a wide range of services, but the California arrest warrant alleges that internal business records show that 99 percent its revenue came from its adult services section between January 2013 and March 2015. California officials said the site collects fees from users who use coded language and nearly nude photos to offer sex for money.
The site operates in hundreds of cities worldwide, authorities said, including more than 30 in California. It collected $2.5 million per month just from California, or more than $51 million during the 29 months covered by the internal revenue reports.
Authorities said the state’s three-year investigation found many of the ads include victims of sex trafficking including children under the age of 18.
The department said the investigation was prompted in part by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which reported 2,900 instances to California authorities since 2012 when suspected child sex trafficking occurred via Backpage.
State agents posted escort ads online and met with those who posted to confirm that the communications were to arrange for commercial sex.
Backpage has been the subject of recent Senate hearings into its classified ads, which often promote escort services. Last month, the Supreme Court refused to block a Senate subpoena seeking information on how Backpage screens ads for possible sex trafficking.
Clothing retailers on the UK’s high streets suffered badly in the face of September’s unseasonably hot weather, according to a new report
Fashion sales fell in value by 5.9% compared with the same time last year, as shoppers shied away from buying autumn and winter stock.
Across all sectors high street sales dropped by 2.8% last month.
It was the eighth month in a row that the high street survey, by business consultancy BDO, had shown a decline.
While sales of homewares rose by 12.6% last month and lifestyle goods, including gifts and health and beauty items, also edged up, that was not enough to make up for the negative impact of the heatwave on fashion retailers.
“September was always going to be tough when compared against a strong September 2015, but retailers should take the erratic weather as a lesson in the importance of flexibility,” said BDO’s head of retail, Sophie Michael.
“When you look at individual performances, it doesn’t take long to spot who has innovated and adapted their supply chains to be able to cope with unseasonal weather,” she added.
For its High Street Sales Tracker, BDO takes weekly sales figures from 70 participating high street retailers with about 10,000 stores in total, and compares the percentage change in turnover with the previous year.
For a wildly successful pop star, Oliver Stanley Murs is surprisingly self-sufficient.
He arrives at his management’s offices in west London with neither fanfare nor entourage, grabs a bottle of water, plonks down on the sofa and orders lunch on his smartphone.
“What would you recommend?” he asks, scrolling through the options, before settling on a particularly vibrant salad.
The singer is on chatty form, having just finished a photoshoot for his new single, Grow Up, which required him to wear a school uniform and adopt a floppy curtain haircut.
Putting out new music, he muses, is a bit like going back to school. And he’s had a longer holiday than normal, after devoting much of last year to presenting The X Factor.
Hosting the show that made his name was enjoyable enough, but Murs found himself bewildered by some of the contestants’ lack of ambition.
“I would watch them sometimes and go ‘What are they doing? Why are they not taking this more seriously?'” he says.
“When I was on X Factor, I wanted it so bad. Those two or three minutes on a Saturday were the most important minutes of the week – and it’s still the same now.
“I did Jonathan Ross recently and after the chat I thought ‘Right, I’ve got three minutes to really sell this song. I needto sell it, this is a big opportunity’.
“You don’t just go through the motions. You have to really connect with them people at home.”
It’s a telling anecdote from a fiercely ambitious man.
When he auditioned for X Factor, he told the judges he wanted to be “an international superstar”.
These days, he can (and does) quote sales figures for his albums that reach into the millions and frets that 2014’s Never Been Better “didn’t connect as well” as its predecessors, despite reaching number one and winning two platinum discs.
“All I ever wanted was to be an established artist and have people say ‘You’re part of the furniture’,” he says.
“Not just part of the furniture. Something that people love having in their furniture.
“You want to be taken seriously, you don’t just want to be the guy in the hat who did X Factor.”
This November, Murs releases a new album, 24 Hrs. It’s his fifth record in seven years, but the project is far from being business as usual.
“Obviously, coming back from doing X Factor last year, it was important to come back with something good, something fresh,” he says.
He plays the BBC six of the 12 tracks (one, a duet called Unpredictable, is still unfinished, with a co-writer filling in for a secret guest star) which eschew the star’s frisky diet funk for a more melancholy, self-reflective sound.
Behind it all lies a heartbreak: Murs and his girlfriend of three years, property developer Francesca Thomas, split late last year and the record was written in the aftermath.
One of the standout tracks is Flaws, a sombre, minimal piano ballad, where the singer wails, “I’m in chains while you’re breaking free, and it’s killing me.” It is the most vulnerable he’s ever sounded.
“Flaws is a song I’m really proud of,” he says. “I know that in my ex-relationship I wasn’t perfect. I did cause arguments. She caused arguments. We all have things that we don’t like about each other.
“But on that song, instead of pointing the finger at her, I’m pointing it at myself and saying ‘I’m not great. I’ve let myself down’.”
The 32-year-old says he didn’t intend to write a break-up album, but the lyrics came pouring out in the studio.
“When you’ve broken up with someone, the first part of the day you might be ‘Cool, it’s fine, happy days’. And then, all of a sudden you remember ‘Oh no, I’m on my own. I miss her’.
“So it was like ‘Yeah, let’s write something a little bit like that’.”
The sadness turns to anger on the new single, Grow Up.
“You’re closer to the mirror than you are to me,” he scolds, before riffing on Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain: “I already know that when you hear this on the radio you’re going to turn it up – because it’s all about you.”
Murs laughs when I bring this lyric up. “It’s not as harsh as people might think,” he says.
“We started the session writing about a specific person but as the song developed, we all sat in the room and spoke about people we felt needed to grow up and people we didn’t like.
“Sometimes you fall out with your friends and sometimes you just grow apart. This song was an opportunity to say ‘Seriously, I’m not too proud to try and make friends with you again, but you need to just grow up’.
“But is it about my ex? That’s the thing. People will think that and I’m going to leave it open to people to decide.”
So it could be about Simon Cowell, then?
“Ha!” he exclaims. “But listen, it could be about me. Maybe I’m saying I need to grow up.”
It certainly appears that the cheeky chappy who made Heart Skips A Beat and Troublemaker has matured on his new album, without sacrificing his knack for a big, beefy chorus.
But while his heartbreak is very real, there’s a part of Murs which knows that “writing about my ex gives the album a bit of substance”.
“On the last record, if I’m honest with you, I felt like there weren’t any songs that had that personal touch,” he says.
“Not that you want to show people pain but sometimes people can be like ‘Oh, I like Olly but I’m not getting anything from this. I want to see more’.”
As someone who has made a point of studying other artists’ careers, Murs knows that “you’re entering into a different ball park when you write songs about specific people and specific moments”.
He’s already noticed that the tenor of his interviews has changed, as people ask more about the music than his extra-curricular activities.
And he has big plans for the future – including a swing album and more TV work – but he draws the line at a greatest hits album.
“It’s stupid to even think about it,” he says. “My songs have done brilliantly, but I’m still chasing greatest hits. I still want to have the big, big songs.
“But I don’t know how long it’s going to last.
“I always think ‘Right, I’ve got another year-and-a-half in this job. I’ll enjoy it, I’ll do my best, tour, and then see what happens’.”
Grow Up is out now. Olly Murs’s fifth album, 24 Hrs, follows on 11 November.
Next time you’re out after dark, spare a thought for the humble street light. It’s not so humble anymore.
Not only are light bulbs getting sharper and more energy efficient as they are upgraded to LEDs, but they increasingly help fight crime, promote safe cycling and even protect turtles.
That’s because street lights are also becoming the eyes and ears of “smart” cities.
Lamp posts double as data collectors, communicating with a central control system that makes automated decisions about when they are on, for how long, and the brightness.
Their supporters say the benefits include safer streets, calmer roads and considerable cost savings.
In a data-driven world it makes sense to adapt existing street furniture for this purpose, says smart cities expert Dr Theo Tryfonas, from Bristol University’s Faculty of Engineering.
“It’s better than acquiring boxes and hardware,” he says. “There needs to be a shift in our mentality towards utilities. We have electricity, water – the fourth or fifth utility should be information.”
Silver Spring Networks has developed its own smart lighting infrastructure and has clients worldwide.
It claims its technology can halve a city’s energy bill. Copenhagen, for example, is on track to exceed predictions of 50% in savings, says Brian McGuigan, European director of smart cities and lighting at Silver Spring.
In Paris, the day’s weather conditions, captured by sensors, are a factor included in what time the city’s famous street lights should turn on. The French capital declined to switch to LED bulbs.
However, Mr McGuigan says: “They didn’t want to disrupt the colour of the city of Paris – but the new controls alone gave them a 30% energy saving.”
Other experts, however, argue that the financial rewards are not always that straightforward.
Dr Tryfonas says: “It depends on how the local authority is organising its funding,” he says. “Every case will need to be assessed on its own merits. Are they outsourcing infrastructure management? Is it owned partly by others?
“The value can be great, but there are a lot of other factors to be put into play in a city. It has to have the right ecosystem,” he says.
In Copenhagen, using energy-saving dimmed lights seemed like a great idea. But it was then realised that there was a conflict of interest with the Danish capital’s safe cycling initiative.
So a new link was forged. “We added capability for traffic signals to ‘talk’ to the street lights, and the lights go up if cyclists are picked up on sensors,” Mr McGuigan explains.
However, lighting isn’t necessarily a top priority for developers of smarter cities.
A recent study of 150 projects carried out by Nominet revealed that street lighting came eighth in popularity in terms of the issues they planned to address (data platforms, the environment and citizen engagement came first). Even so, the industry believes it still has a lot to offer.
“The future of smart lighting will be a game changer in helping communities solve problems,” says Mike Zeto, general manager of smart cities at AT&T, which has joined with several tech giants to form a US-based smart city collective.
Smart lighting’s benefits are clear, he argues: “From remotely monitoring the conditions of roads and better managing traffic patterns of pedestrians at stadiums, parks, and busy intersections, to gunfire detection technology that can help law enforcement determine more information about when and where a shooting occurred.”
Nonetheless, smart street lights have their critics. Some have complained that while they may use less electricity, LED bulbs pool less light, meaning the surrounding houses and front gardens are darker at night.
The American Medical Association (AMA) issued guidance about LED bulbs earlier this year, warning authorities to avoid high-intensity LEDs as they emit lots of blue light, which it says can disrupt the sleeping patterns of both humans and animals.
“Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful when used as street lighting,” said AMA board member Maya Babu in a statement issued at the time.
“Cool it and dim it” was how Dr Richard Stevens from the School of Medicine at the University of Connecticut summed up the AMA’s recommendations.
In response, supporters argue that advances in technology in the last two or three years means that the bulbs are now softer and warmer in tone.
And it is not just humans that need the benefits of softer lighting. In certain areas of Florida the reproductive cycles of giant turtles dictate how brightly the lights shine so as not to disrupt breeding.
“Their reproductive cycle is managed around the moon so these lights needed the capability to dim down extra low on certain days,” says Mr McGuigan.
Another concern, though, is cybersecurity, because many cities choose to store and share data in the cloud.
“We do believe it is an issue,” says Mr McGuigan, adding that it falls to individual authorities to protect their own data.
“You could say this about quite a few Internet of Things technologies – they go for security through obscurity.”
Security researcher Denis Legezo, from Kaspersky, demonstrated earlier this year that he was able to manipulate traffic sensors in Moscow by finding their manuals online.
“If you succeed in identifying the model of a road sensor… you can find various documentation on the vendor’s site (or that of their integrator), and, if you are lucky enough, you will also find the software used for working with the devices,” he wrote.
As Mr McGuigan adds, people will always find a reason to hack a system – even if it’s just for their own entertainment.
(CNN)Hurricane Matthew, a “very dangerous” Category 4 storm, is expected to hit Florida early Friday. It will then turn north and head up the US coast.
CNN reporters are in areas under threat. Here’s what we’re seeing on the ground, beginning in the south of Florida and continuing north on the storm’s path.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Conditions have deteriorated significantly in the last 24 hours. Bands of wind and rain keep getting stronger and stronger — this is just the very beginning.
Most stores on the boardwalk have been boarded up; water is surging and coming up higher and higher on the pier.
Daytona Beach’s no-nonsense police chief, Michael Chitwood, is out and about, warning those who haven’t left: “There will be a point where we can’t rescue you.”
Daniel Myara of Crusin’ Cafe is boarding up, and staying put. He plans to stay open even though he’s only 150 yards from the beach. He’s lived in town for 25 years and knows this storm is going to be bad.
But Myara said riding out the storm at his business and securing it is most important to protect it.
“We’re going to try and hunker down here,” he said.
Abdul owns a gas station in the area and is no stranger to dangerous situations. He survived war in Lebanon before coming to America 25 years ago.
He’s ridden out storms in a back room of the gas station before. But not this time. This storm scares him too much. So he’s heading away from the gas station Thursday night to be with his family, safely away from the beach.
“Mother Nature is very tough,” he said. “This is going to be like 1992 in Andrew … it doesn’t look good.”
— CNN’s Sara Sidner
The mood has definitely shifted from a cautious, but spirited, optimism, to a sense of “we gotta get the hell out of here” panic since we arrived on Wednesday.
The hotel and beaches in Daytona have since been abandoned.
Tony Silcox arrived on Monday from Indianapolis with his girlfriend and her daughter to hunt for their retirement home. Silcox knew Matthew was coming, but thought it would stay at sea. He’s staying on the bottom floor of the Dream Inn.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “A little scared.”
As for provisions: “We have lunch meat, chips and beer,” he said.
Silcox isn’t alone.
Jeff Grady, who lives just across the street from the ocean, plans to stay. The 32-year-old chef said he’ll be riding it out in his second-floor apartment with eight or nine other people.
— CNN’s Kevin Conlon and Boris Sanchez
At a BP gas station near the airport in Jacksonville, Florida, drivers fueled up as they made their way to saferground ahead of the storm. Manager Yoegess Patel said a steady stream of people has been gassing up all day.
“We may close tomorrow night,” he said, adding that though he’s worried, he has no plans to board up the station.
Some residents found refuge at the Salvation Army shelter downtown.
Many people here are following evacuation orders, but some have chosen to stay and ride it out as long as they can.
Karen Kelly runs a bed and breakfast and is stocked with food. She is staying for now because she feeds several elderly residents with no cars, and she doesn’t want to leave them. Kelly said she may change her mind on Friday, based on the track of the storm.
The mayor of Tybee is urging people to evacuate, even bringing in school buses to get residents out if they don’t have a car or place to go. But we only saw a handful of people get on the buses, which were headed for Augusta, Georgia.
Storm surge predictors for a Category 2 to 3 storm in Tybee Island are 11 to 15 feet.
— CNN’s Sara Ganim and Lawrence Crook
The streets are mainly empty as remaining residents or business owners are boarding up or stocking up on supplies.
Stores are running out of bottled water, and there are long lines at the gas station. Some businesses are open Thursday: a coffee shop, a bar down the street. But most of the places that are open will close Friday.
Some locals are staying at the Tides Hotel on Folly Island because the building is reinforced with “hurricane-proof” windows.
The island is low-lying, so the greatest concern at this point is the storm surge.