All posts by Eman Shurbaji

The first rule of hipsterdom is…

Photo Credits: Joel Bedford

Despite their reluctance to talk about themselves, hipsters have become iconic. It’s a subculture re-emerging across the country, and one some argue has been a way of life well before the label. Hipsters are the restless and counter-culture young people who’ve decided to live however they want.

Chicago’s Logan Square, which is lined with bars and coffee shops, represents a mecca of young people with a flair of independence. It’s a stark contrast from ritzy neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, glossy magazines and mainstream music, and it’s something they embrace with pride.

At the Logan Square Blue Line stop, a group of friends originally from Minneapolis all paused and shrugged when asked why they choose to be hipsters. Simon, Rosa and Preston said they like to dress in what’s available to them, without being judged. “We just like it,” Simon said. “Chicago is segregated but tolerant.”

Logan Square’s aged The Whirlaway Lounge, a staple in the area, is increasingly catering to the hipster crowd. According to baristas, New Wave Coffee has been around since 2009, and drawing younger crowds was the owner’s motive.

Perhaps the most noticeable trend when it comes to hipsters is their twenty-something demographic, and their standoff-ish friendliness.

At Logan Square’s Uncharted Books, the common scene is to dress like you care little about what people think.

Uncharted Books is a haven for readers who follow little-known authors and special interests. Alternative writer Nathan Rabin, who writes books with titles like, “You Don’t Know Me but You Don’t Like Me” and “The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You By Pop Culture,” had a signing July 20.

The bookstore was packed with tattooed and boho-chic twenty-somethings, ready to get a signed book and picture. “Here’s your book and thank you for coming,” Rabin would say as he’d hand out signed copies amid enthusiasts sitting in tattered, assorted chairs.

Storeowners like Tanner McSwain have their own theories when it comes to hipsters. The Logan Square enthusiast lived in the area for 6 years before deciding to open Uncharted Books on North Milwaukee Avenue a year-and-a-half ago. His bookstore is so “hip”, it has no working telephone or Wi-Fi, and pet dog Ramona greets visitors.

“I’d say hipsters are people ten years or less out of college, and artistically or tech inclined,” McSwain said. McSwain said hipsters don’t like to talk about themselves or why their interests deviate from the mainstream.

Most hipsters were friendly, but didn’t want to delve into why they chose to dress in used clothing or openly portray thrift.

Responses like “I dress to be comfortable” or “their books just resonate with me” were as much as they revealed about themselves. “We have a lot of an intellectual and artistic crowd, and we don’t have a lot of bestsellers [books],” he said. “We’re trying to stake a reputation in books and have a point of view.”

Indeed, many of the books in McSwain’s store have titles like “Ladies of the Night” and generic titles like “Poems.” Others, like Allison Barinholtz, manager of Reno Restaurant on Kedzie Avenue say it’s the hipster crowd that has revitalized Logan Square. “It’s a tight-knit neighborhood, and people are moving in so there’s a lot of gentrification,” she said. “I feel like hipsters belong in Wicker Park, but it’s interesting they’ve spilled over.”

Whatever the cause of Chicago’s resonating hipster scene, one thing is for sure: hipsters are here to stay. How they describe themselves, on the other hand, is surely subject to change.

The costly convenience of the Internet

Photo Credits: Eman Shurbaji

No matter how you try to protect your privacy online, the fact you are online makes it impossible.

Whether you use email, social media, maps, or make purchases online, information about you — your likes, your habits, your aspirations — is being captured by companies for their profit.

“Free” services like Google and Facebook, collect user data in order to sell targeted advertising to you and your contacts.

Despite the Internet’s convenient appeal, privacy has become an increasingly relevant issue. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project Ominibus Survey conducted July 11-14, 2013, 74 percent of people ages 18 to 29 tried to control the leak of personal information by clearing cookies (small messages between the server and the website, often storing information about Internet usage) and browser history regularly.

Young people like Chioma Nwachuku, 24, are among those who are driving this trend. A Northwestern University student studying communications, Nwachuku finds it natural to use Whatsapp “every five minutes.” Whatsapp is a mobile application that allows users to send text, video and photo messages to other users, including those overseas, for free.

“I’m always checking my phone,” Nwachuku said.

Checking your phone may be convenient, but it comes at a cost. The cost is cached searches, wireless providers notifying third parties of your whereabouts, and your overall interests being in public spheres.

Google and YouTube are invariably a part of our lives, but just because they’re free doesn’t mean you’re not contributing to employee salaries.

Click to enlarge. Graphic Credits: Eman Shurbaji
Click to enlarge. Graphic Credits: Eman Shurbaji

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a privacy expert and founder of Red Branch Consulting PLLC, a homeland security consulting company.

“People of your generation are increasingly sensitive to privacy, so they’re growing more sensitive,” Rosenzweig said. “So, I think there’s more advocacy for privacy laws.”

Rosenzweig adds that although it’s convenient to shop online at stores like Amazon and Walmart, searches are saved, allowing marketers to track user interests. It’s a catch-22 because the best prices are often found online, but sharing information is inevitable.

“I think that lots of businesses want us to think this way, that privacy is something that must be sacrificed here and there for convenience,” said Rebecca Jeschke, a digital rights analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We can and should demand more from products and services, and it’s possible to give us the cool tools we want while still protecting privacy.”

There are ways to limit the trail of cookies you leave on the Internet, such as special browser plug-ins or using disposable email addresses. But ultimately, the effort to remain anonymous convenience of using the Internet in the first place.

Plus, data trackers are now following us outside.

In Chicago, a new project called “Array of Things”, launched this month, included data-tracking poles on Michigan Avenue. The poles will track weather, traffic and people by using their cell phone’s signals.
Unlike the GPS feature on your phone, the city says the system won’t collect identifiable data. However, the ability to do so exists.

“There’s a proliferation of data sensors, and increasing ways of collecting data about people … you leave digital crumbs everywhere you go,” Rosenzweig said.