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

Social media: influencers, networks and trolling for truth

Anne says: Over the last couple of weeks, Jakkii and I have reviewed the issues raised in the documentary, The Social Dilemma. In contrast, to broaden the discussion, it was through the lens of these reviews that I found these two articles from Scientific American valuable to provide potential understanding for ways to move forward. I would recommend that you start with Trolling for Truth on Social MediaThis article starts with some history into the background of online activism, where the protagonists were using misinformation on fake websites to mislead people (successfully), journalists and other companies in the late 1990s. The author, Joan Donovan, weaves the story through to the current times and use of social media, highlighting how various groups have taken advantage and further enabled the exploitation of behaviours, while no one reigned it in.

And now, we’re in a state of overload, misinformation, fake news, interference, hacking, algorithms and media manipulation. But all is not lost – in fact, the last paragraphs of this article highlight the potential ways forward. Donovan calls out the technology companies as having been reticent for their handling of the “information wars” and draws attention to the need for design justice, a reference to a book from Sasha Costanza-Chock of MIT that states the process of design must adhere to an ethic of “nothing about us without us.” It’s not just the technology companies who need to be held to account, but it’s also up to a broad range of stakeholders to get involved in the redesign of platforms.

An extension of the concepts presented in the first article, the second, Why Social Media Makes Us More Polarized and How to Fix It, reveals some results from research into the impact of social media on opinions. Frequently criticised for creating and fuelling echo chambers of information, reinforcing particular groups of opinions and confirmation bias, the researchers constructed experiments with polarising topics and groups of people. They established a number of rounds of discussions, to allow people to talk through the issues, online in social networks. The results were not what they expected, when people discussed their views with likeminded people, their views become less polarised.

So what just happened? The expectation was that the echo chamber effect would reconfirm their views and even strengthen them. Through the study of network dynamics, they have identified that “influencers” with their breadth of connections, have a disproportionate level of influence over their connections. The nature of social media networks and the rise of influencers have exaggerated the effects, while the research groups were shaped in a more “egalitarian network”.  Their conclusions are important:

This feature of social media is one of the main reasons why misinformation and fake news has become so pervasive. In centralized networks, biased influencers have a disproportionate impact on their community—enabling small rumors and suppositions to become amplified into widespread misconceptions and false beliefs.”

Two articles underscoring how people’s behaviour has been amplified through social media platforms, but with the insights from these articles, comes ways of addressing the future design of how we want to interact and use social media in the future.


Top Strategic Tech Trends for 2021

Jakkii says: Is it just me or does it not feel like it’s almost November?? 2020 has been the most bizarre year for the perception of time. But, very close to November it actually is, and so the end of 2020 is finally in sight – which means, apparently, it’s already time for ‘trends for 2021’ type articles to start popping up here and there.

The first cab off the rank (as far as I have seen) is Gartner, who this week have released their ‘top strategic tech trends for 2021’ eBook. There are nine key trends they’ve identified:

  1. Internet of Behaviours
  2. Total Experience
  3. Privacy-Enhancing Computation
  4. Distributed Cloud
  5. Anywhere Operations
  6. Cybersecurity Mesh
  7. Intelligent Composable Business
  8. AI Engineering
  9. Hyperautomation

While we aren’t all tech people ourselves, let alone working in IT, it’s always good to have an eye on trends and the types of things that shape our world, our organisations and our lives as employees and consumers. A few of the trends are a bit jargony, but they give a clear explanation of what these are in the article linked below, so you can get a brief high-level understanding of each without needing to download the eBook (unless you want to).

Have you seen other trends articles starting to pop up? Let us know so we can check them out – and perhaps include them in a future Friday Fave!


Around the house

Jakkii says: Depending where you’re reading this from, you might be enjoying low-level restrictions, close to having restrictions eased, or you might be somewhere that restrictions and lockdowns are being put back into place, like in the UK where people are being told to prepare for a ‘digital Christmas’. Whatever level you’re at this week, we hope you’re keeping safe and sane – and here are a few things to watch, read and do from home to help you stay that way!

Friday Funnies

US Election Friday Five

Bonus: Fifteen important things to say about Facebook, Twitter, and the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story

Misinformation Friday Five

COVID-19 Friday Five

Work Friday Five

Tech Friday Five

Social Media Friday Five

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: we finally discuss gene editing and CRISPR, as the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes the women behind its development.

Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

08:50 – The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 goes to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna “for the development of a method for genome editing.”

Other stories we bring up

Instagram is turning 10

A GPT-3 bot posted comments on Reddit for a week and no one noticed

Elon Musk’s solar-system-traveling Tesla Roadster passed Mars

Our previous discussion of Nobel Prize in Economics winner Richard Thaler on The Future, This Week

Our previous discussion of Nobel Prize in Economics winners William Nordhaus and Paul Romer on The Future, This Week 

Our recent discussion of GPT-3 on The Future, This Week

Our previous discussion of GPT-2 on The Future, This Week

Our previous discussions of Instagram on The Future, This Week on cost per wearhow Instagram stories has changed us and Instagram loving nature to death

The 2020 Nobel Prize in economics goes to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson for analysing auctions and making them more efficient

Auction theorists win the 2020 Nobel in Economics

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 full announcement

Jennifer Doudna, co-inventor of CRISPR-Cas9 on TED

Medium’s explainer on CRISPR

A guide to CRISPR, one of the biggest science stories of the decade

An explanation of CRISPR

More on CRISPR

Our previous discussion of fungus resistant coffee on The Future, This Week

The saga of conflicting patents that lay claim to the use of CRISPR Cas-9

BBC interview on women and the Nobel Prize

World Food Day 2020

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the World Food Programme

The etymology of ‘riveting’


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