Steeped in the cutting edge of research around the social lives of networked teens, danah boyd demystifies technology while being wise about the changes it’s making to life and relationship. She has intriguing advice on the technologically-fueled generation gaps of our age — that our children’s immersion in social media may offer a kind of respite from their over-structured, overscheduled analog lives. And that cyber-bullying is an online reflection of the offline world, and blaming technology is missing the point.
6/6: Ethics http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04p7yg3
If a driverless car has to choose between crashing you into a school bus or a wall who do you want to be programming that decision? Aleks Krotoski explores ethics in technology.
Join Aleks as she finds out if it’s even possible for a device to ‘behave’ in a morally prescribed way through looking at attempts to make a smart phone ‘kosher’. But nothing captures the conundrum quite like the ethical questions raised by driverless cars and it’s the issues they raise that she explores with engineer turned philosopher Jason Millar and robot ethicist Kate Darling.
Professor of law and medicine Sheila MacLean offers a comparison with how codes of medical ethics were developed before we hear the story of Gus a 13 year old whose world was transformed by SIRI.
- Looking ‘behind the curtain’ to those creating our digital world – and how their morality, etc. feeds into that … especially in making decisions about the functionality of the driverless car.
- Facebook – social contagion experiment – http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregorymcneal/2014/06/28/facebook-manipulated-user-news-feeds-to-create-emotional-contagion. Scientists are presented with the idea that they are ‘providing’ cut and dried solutions, and need more understanding that it affects social interactions. Are making ethical decisions.
- Ethics themselves are difficult decisions, but placing this into the technology was hard – e.g. created automatic traffic tickets, and found that although the law seems to be cut/dried, as different numbers of tickets were issued depending on how the law was interpreted by the programmers.
- Machines need to make decisions re driverless cars as to whether the car will hit a baby’s pram, or a wall?
- What sets our internal moral compass comes from culture, upbringing, or a higher power… but it’s hard to set an ethical position into specifications.
- Certain number of things are “easy”, but creating a Kosher phone for the Jewish Orthodox community … the developer thought it was ‘pointless but harmless’. Kosher has been determined as ‘fit for purpose’ by a Rabbi… many apps/connectivity removed – developer sees it as an ‘extreme porn filter’, filtering out any possible damage/distraction/against the 613 items of the Torah. The more that the development continued, the more complicated it became, especially as the developer would not be engaged with directly by the Rabbis.
- Do you get the phone to automatically shut down on the Sabbath, or do you ‘trust the user’ in a self-policing community.
- How responsible is the developer for the fact that the technology no longer is able to contact outside the community?
- Driverless cars are programming logic into the cars where unavoidably about to crash. Ensure engineers understand that it’s not just a technical problem, but an ethical problem… drivers may not want to trust the developers, but would they want to press ‘wall’ or ‘child’ on setting… which takes it too far?
- How has medicine dealt with some of these questions – many decisions made after Nuremberg trials when Nazis over-rode moral questions – the patient now often makes the decision, rather than the technologists.
- Gus, the power of SIRI – can give him endless answers to his (endless) questions. Need to ask very clearly – the possibilities of social bonding with machines – adds extra possibilities for social interactions (for autism). SIRI, however, isn’t designed to form this function, so need to be sure that not replacing human interaction. The machine isn’t the friend – it’s the bridge to friends.
- Human/robot interaction – recognise cues, can they manipulate those cues to assign particular behaviour? We respond to the lifelike cues that the machines give us – even though we know they are robots …. Companies could exploit that emotional attachment (e.g. compulsory upgrade). Kate Darling – calling for social scientists, philosophers, etc. into these decisions = importance of interdisciplinary input = not just technological decisions (as bioethics has done for years).
- Require ethics boards … Google only has once because they acquired a company that made it part of the deal – difficult to incentivise for companies.
- Don’t want to do – as much software does – test it – see if it works – and adapt as it goes wrong. Some issues are too high stakes for this.
- Kosher Phone – supports agency rather than draining it, in conducting an ‘observant lifestyle’.
- We tend to align ourselves with the moral codes, rules/regulations, etc. of our societies, until they don’t appear to align with our moral compass. The same goes for technology – but as we don’t see technology as anything more as ‘neutral’ we don’t realise when the ethic of that technology stands in contrast to our own ethical world view – do we give our choices to ethical boards at tech companies, or do we force them to become more transparent about their decisions.
- If it works smoothly, it’s a product that people will embrace – you make a better product.
And see the Tumblr associated with the programme.
4/6: Nostalgia http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04n31cr
We live in a world where the nostalgia for the past now permeates our present.
With online trends like ‘Throw Back Thursdays’, apps like Timehop and platforms which gives you the tools to make your digital image look like it was taken with an analogue camera, the internet has never seemed so backwards-facing.
In this week’s episode of The Digital Human, Aleks Krotoski visits imagined worlds and eras long past to explore whether the web is a nostalgia machine.
We speak with Professor of Svetlana Boym to trace the origins of the word back to homesick Swiss mercenaries in the 17th century, visit a water park in New Jersey which was reborn through the collective power of online nostalgia and take tea with a vintage enthusiast, who divides his time between working as an air host in a high-flying company, with living in the 1940s.
- Disposableness of so much modern technology, but the (perceived) lasting nature of old technologies.
- Nostalgia part of every-day life, in packaging, the hand-made, we make do and made, and nostalgia is so easy to access online, including pop-culture moments on Youtube, remixed tunes on Spotify, watch films that are remakes of originals on Netflix. Shaped to fill the sense we’ve lost something – is the Internet a nostalgia machine, and is it trapping us in a digital past?
- Nostalgia is a longing for something that no longer exists, or indeed, may never have existed. People draw comfort from the past, because the future is unknown?
- A feeling of nostalgia helps us part with our cash more easily (so a Vaseline tinted lens). Look and feel of technologies/apps – qualities of a past aesthetic gives a vision of the future. No one gets the grandeur of what you’re actually seeing, but an Instagram filter, etc. can give a sense of the emotion raised.
- Online, so much of what exists has so little tangibility.
- Music is tied up with so many things – and can definitely take you back to a moment.
- E-book reader – re-creates the look of a book as how people accustomed to read.
- Utopian nature of language used in ‘the web’ – nostalgia for somewhere with a ‘home’, etc. Nostalgia is built into the infrastructure.
- The internet savvy generation can access nostalgia at any point – not having to wait for time to chill around a table with wine… can use the internet to create shared nostalgic experiences (in this case the world’s most dangerous water park). Lots of people had something to say to this.
- When someone in 1940s house, someone who lived through that time visited and wondered why would choose to live that way…
- The web has made nostalgia ‘nimble’ – can find things and make them present – including cherry picking aspects of your life and choosing how it looks…
- There’s something more ‘wizard of Oz’ going on online… e.g. Spotify – understand what links to what … allows them to choose more ‘recommendations’ to present to the user. Personal data is not just used to sell us data, but to make us nostalgic. Invisible code in the software – can work out what is popular amongst your friends in their network.
- Nostalgia = critical importance if take from that past experience to apply to the presence. We need a sense of ‘slower time’ – if only experience of presence is technological – are you really experiencing presence?
- TimeHop and Throwback Thursdays = overt examples – difference between enjoying elements of the past, and getting stuck in a nostalgic loop, because the software is pre-empting your choices.
2/6: Language http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04lpxx9
We communicate with each other in more ways than ever and with an ever expanding range of devices and platforms. But they all piggy back on an earlier invention, our original social networking technology – language.
In this edition of the Digital Human Aleks Krotoski explores the idea of language as a technology itself and how people over the years have attempted to improve it; re-engineer it for maximum efficiency, or use it as a lever of social change.
She speaks to Professor David Crystal about how we’re living through a period of rapid language growth comparable to the renaissance or industrial revolution. Evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel explains how we can consider language as a technology devised by natural selection while linguist Arika Okrent charts the attempts down the years by those who think they can perfect the function of language by devising their own.
- We think of technologies that act on our world, or see language as a technology built on social selection/evolution.
- Language allows us to find out what is going on inside others minds, but it’s more than a tool – it’s something we join – it’s society.
- We’ve heard that tech is destroying our mother tongues, text shortening, beauty lost…
- The importance of language – it doesn’t change at a steady rate. There’s not particularly more words coming into the language, but the technology is allowing them to be shared quicker.
- We use our language to suit the wiring in someone else’s brains (as if by a remote control) – language is used to manipulate the world to suit our needs.
- There are those who are not happy with current languages and so are creating new languages – see http://inthelandofinventedlanguages.com. Each have their own grammar, etc. Exotic sounding appeal, but also engineering solutions to communication issues?
- Understanding why people do what they do – language is one of the ways that explain, but also influences what people did.
- The web is the space in which people can find these new languages, keep it alive, and share it.
- If you treat a language like a spade, then it will only ever be good for digging. Children take spades and find new ways to use it … Constructed languages (and natural languages) do this.
- Every piece of material printed material has been passed through a copy-editor, etc… but blogs, etc. offer a ‘rawer’ version, where the restrictions are social rather than procedural.
- Language is a way of seeing the world…
There’s been a lot about language going on this semester – just completed the Corpus Mooc.
The maturing of digital technology is returning higher education to the age of the School of Athens, when Plato dismissed books as a dangerous disruption to education.
That was the argument made by William Rankin, director of learning at technology giant Apple, who said that it was up to universities to ensure that technology was used to connect students to the world rather than to isolate them from it.
Speaking at the Universia International Presidents’ Meeting in Rio de Janeiro on 29 July, Dr Rankin said that the School of Athens was built on the precept of students “walking through the streets exploring the world around them” without relying on the books whose use, Plato believed, would cause people to “cease to exercise their memories”.
Read full article.
Interesting piece from the Guardian:
Technology and art have enjoyed a tempestuous relationship over the years. Fine art purists have demonstrated a wary scepticism towards the use and abuse of new technologies, and tech-heads have been staunchly resistant to art’s whimsical influence.
But as the pressing issues of privacy and identity, addiction and dependency, and lives increasingly enmeshed in technology begin to create compelling subject matter for artists and technologists alike, art and tech are enjoying a second honeymoon.
This rebooted relationship will be clearly visible in 2014 with a number of high-profile, boundary-pushing exhibitions and initiatives being launched, and more tech-art collaborations being funded by government bodies.
The first thing you come up against is technology. One night we took our grandchildren out for dinner. I looked around the table. Jason, the youngest, was playing games with his cellphone; Ryan, 12 years old, had his head under the table and I assumed he was watching his cellphone; Tyler, 16, and his sister Kelsey, 18, were both involved on their cellphones too. Lisa, their mother, was frantically searching in her purse for her ringing cellphone; and Peter, their father, was leaning back, laughing loudly, on his cellphone. I looked across the table at my wife. We both shrugged.
Outside is worse. People walking down the streets, holding objects against their ears, either listening or talking. When they’re speaking it looks like they’re just crazy people talking to themselves. They cross the road without looking, still talking, and people driving their cars are doing the same thing. Is what they’re saying really that important
Read full story.