Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week
Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive.
Psychogeography: Experiencing the urban landscape
Anne says: A recent article published in The Conversation (Australian edition) revisited a topic I had been aware of and randomly following over the past couple of years. To provide some context, psychogeography a term coined in the mid-1950s, involves the practice of exploring urban environments (usually by walking) with the purpose of developing an awareness and understanding of the emotions, behaviours and their impact on a city landscape.
The current article is of particular value to Sydney-siders with a description that relates the location of Sculptures by the Sea at Bondi and the series of homophobic attacks during the 1980s that remain unsolved. Most visitors to the sculptures may not even be aware of this history – so the process moves beyond simply walking around, or drifting, but walking to engage, listen and hear the stories – told or untold – that make up the context of the landscape.
As a digital ethnographer, I’m intrigued as to how this concept of drifting or as the French in the 1950s termed it, as the flânuer or romantic stroller, could be used as a vehicle for examination of the environment, online and offline.
In a digital workplace, we are already blurring the edges between our physical and digital contexts – perhaps the practice of psychogeography could be interrupted as a method for understanding the narratives, capturing the history through digital stories and using these to create cultural experiences. Community managers in particular may be presented with opportunities to engage and curate experiences as they navigate their digital communities. Additionally, the concept of palimpsest – an object or piece of writing with new material super-imposed over earlier writings – could be a method for evolving stories that make up the psychogeographic mosiac of a digital environment.
I’ll be expanding on this topic – as psychogeography emerges with digital workplaces – over the next few months as we apply these methods to some current digital transformation projects.
PS.If you want to experience the psychogeography of Surry Hills in Sydney – download the Hungry Ghost app and start exploring!
Facebook: Too Big To Delete
“Facebook has been, in some real ways, a way to route around censorship. But as it grows, it is also becoming a censor that forces people to route around it.”
Emilio says: Using a graphic of a world map, Mark Zuckerberg this week uploaded a cover image to his Facebook account to mark a new milestone – 2 billion people now make up the social media behemoth’s active monthly users.
Whilst Facebook’s power and reach are undeniable, a report by independent investigative group, ProPublica, has questioned the alarming inconsistency and vagueness of Facebook’s rules defining what is allowed and prohibited on its platform. The group examined internal Facebook documents prescribing what constitutes ‘hate speech’ and ‘legitimate political expression’ – with disturbing biases exposed.
According to the documents sighted, any posts or comments attacking ‘protected categories’ are removed – such as in the case of Black Lives Matter activist, Didi Delgado. In contrast, why US. Rep. Clay Higgins’ alarming post on radicalised Muslims was left untouched is being challenged.
Social media is looked upon as the great leveller giving a voice to all – and the irony here is that a social media giant such as Facebook has seemed to become otherwise. Many who loathe Facebook’s lopsided censorship – particularly activists, grassroots and cause-oriented groups with no deep pockets to buy media to put their message across – are left with no choice but to stay on the platform and ‘play it safe’. Because they need Facebook’s power and reach of 2 billion people and cannot afford “to leave behind the biggest audience on earth”.
Is it time that someone challenged Facebook’s monopoly and created a rival social media platform? One that would give a true unfettered voice to all – whether they belong to the ‘protected’ majority or the dispensable minority.
Zach Anner and the Quest for the Rainbow Bagel
Jakkii says: I watched this video recently, and it’s really stuck with me. Zach has a terrific sense of humour and an amazing tenaciousness – would you go to such lengths to get your hands on a rainbow bagel? Overall though I found his experience quite upsetting. Imagine every day day finding your way through a world that isn’t designed to include you, that by definition instead excludes you. We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion in our workplaces, but as a society we are still getting inclusivity so very wrong – particularly in our design of public spaces and services. How can we claim to be inclusive if we don’t provide access?
There’s great work being done by all sorts of people and organisations on apps and datasets to help make the lives of people with a disability easier, and to help bridge the gap we’ve created through a lack of accessibility. Yesterday I heard about someone who had started collating all sorts of critical data about accessibility around public transport infrastructure in Sydney – not just whether a station has a lift, but down to granular details like what’s the gradient of the incline surrounding a bus stop? Things we can and do easily overlook, particularly when we assume the only people who need to worry about accessibility in the physical sense are those who have a disability we can see, who rely on a wheelchair or a mobility device. But there are many people who have trouble walking or walking distances who could benefit greatly from more considered approaches to how people access the world around them, particularly critical infrastructure and public services. Lots of us aren’t thinking about this enough – or at all – but thankfully some people are.
Accessibility is a serious problem in the physical world, but it’s a significant issue in the digital world as well. Accessibility is not just for government websites. While they’re mandated to do so, that shouldn’t be the driving reason for a focus on accessibility. We should all be working to help provide an accessible, inclusive web. When was the last time you did an accessibility assessment of your website? How are you making sure your digital assets are inclusive? Are you using “click here” anywhere on your website? Do you know why using “click here” is terrible design and what to do with links instead?
There are good resources on the web about accessibility and accessibility standards, but the blog posts Accessibility and the Digital Service Standard and Accessibility – Going Beyond the Guidelines on the DTA website are good places to start.
The web is for everyone – help make sure that’s true.
Sydney man gets Opal chip implanted in his hand
Joel says: In a previous Friday Fave I had written an article about workplaces chipping their staff to allow access to area’s of the building along with location tracking, and if you would allow your workplace to do the same. This week Sydney Bio-Hacker Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow has done one better (best name ever by the way).
He has made sure he’ll never leave the house without his Opal card again as he had the chip in his Opal card cut down to 10mm by 6mm and covered in bio-compatible plastic before getting the device implanted by a piercing expert. He is still able to top up and travel using his now embedded chip.
“It gives me an ability that not everyone else has, so if someone stole my wallet I could still get home,”
Personally I don’t see anything wrong with what he did, it’s not beating the Opal card system and he isn’t going around pushing for others to do the same (quite the opposite really). This isn’t Meow-Meow’s first dealings with an embedded chip. He has 2 others but that’s a story for another time.
AI Trying to Design Inspirational Posters Goes Horribly and Hilariously Wrong
“Forever generating unique inspirational quotes for the endless enrichment of pointless human existence”
Nat says: I love the discovery I made this week, which is the AI-driven ‘Inspiro Bot’ which generates so-called inspirational quotes with an accompanying image. I am a massive words person and a sucker for a good quote. My entire instagram is just a page dedicated to my incessant inner monologue; a somewhat diary-like entry of thoughts relating to the world. However, the advantage of my page in comparison to a quote-generating bot is that I can at least screen what I post before it ‘goes live’.
The hilarity of AI bots going wrong when generating content is not something new. It was only in 2016 that Microsoft’s teen girl AI bot began tweeting racist remarks and a love of Hitler, and was subsequently shutdown as a result. Inspiro Bot has not ventured to such extremes (yet), but if you visit its website and social media pages, there is something intriguing about what the bot is generating. Granted many of the posts are downright hilarious and NSFW, but there are some quotes that sound so incredibly existential that I have to remind myself that an algorithm is behind the content.
For example, the quote on the accompanying image of ‘why not feel that we are taken care of by the internet?’ is an interesting question to ask. Our banking, conversations with friends, searches for things to do or places to eat predominately takes place online. Perhaps the internet does make us feel, to some extent, that we are taken care of – that we are connected to something beyond ourselves. Even if you do not care for such existential underpinnings, it is still somewhat amazing that InspiroBot is asking some deep questions as a so-called machine, which in reality is nothing more than something that has been programmed by people so that the bot can learn from, imitate and generate quotes which are themselves based on the creations made by other people in the world.