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

We’re a little ahead of ourselves this week due to the holiday tomorrow, but we’ve got you set with some great long weekend reading!

AI: The opportunities and the challenges


Anne says: There’s a lot of noise around about AI (Articifical Intelligence) and the perception that everyone’s doing it, and if you’re not, well, you should be!

This week, I selected a video (20 minutes duration), rather than an article on AI (and there’s plenty of those around). MIT openly publish many of their research articles – I would strongly recommend reading through their entire collection on AI – but this video provides a snapshot of the key issues with AI.

This is a recording of a keynote presentation by David Kiron, Executive Editor of MIT Sloan Management Review journal. David presents a few highlights from recent research, some may surprise you! Here’s a few points that stood out for me:

  • The definition of AI remains contentious
    Probably one of the most important points – when someone says they’re using AI or machine learning – what exacty do they mean by that?
  • AI adoption is STILL considered in early phases of the adoption – yet the term was first coined in the early 1950s!
  • 23% of organisations are still in pilot phase, while 54% haven’t actually started!
    This contrasts with the impression you may get reading other articles that imply everyone’s using AI.
  • The substantial hurdles are: people and the technology.
    Changing mindsets, in particular, management and the available technology.

Moral of the story: We need to be wary of the hype – read across a diverse selection of publishers to ensure you’re getting a range of perspectives. Identify opportunities, experiment with your ideas, and engage your teams in these processes.

Read & watch

These were the craziest workplace surveillance stories of 2017

Nat says: Studying technology is fascinating. From a philosophical view, our creation and use of technology has, on the one hand, been both vital and complimentary to our being in the world. Yet on the other hand, technology has become a mechanism for control and oppression. Technology’s role in the modern workplace has resulted in an infused reality. We can no longer separate the tasks employees do from the technology they use in order to complete those tasks. However, there are some tasks inside the workplace that require employees to monitor the work of their colleagues. Prior to the digital boom, this so-called monitoring was left in the hands of managers observing and approving the work of their staff. These days, technology enables workplace surveillance without needing to have direct physical contact with those who are being watched.

The shared article talks about some of the most concerning workplace surveillance stories from last year. These include:

  • micro-chipping employees
  • the use of big data to predict which employees will get sick
  • employers using algorithms to prevent job adverts reaching older job seekers
  • a productivity tool that takes screenshots of employee work every 10 minutes
  • email tracking for assessing employee work and socialisation activities

When we stand behind technology to monitor the workplace we forget that we are reducing real-life human beings, people who have feelings, dreams and aspirations, to a pile of numbers. There are numerous workplace stories about bias algorithms, big data increasing inequality, and even cases where people have been hired and fired at the hands of a machine. Technology for control is predicated on a desire for efficiency and profit, which attempts to program employee labor and eradicate employee spontaneity. The question remains, however, as to who is looking at captured employee data and making decisions from that data. Alarmingly, there are people in the workplace who believe such data is objective and can actually predict, and interpret, employee behaviour. What the surveillance age calls for is not necessarily uproar about our in-use technology, but rather education for people in understanding what technology can and cannot do. This, and a little bit more of workplace empathy to remind us that employees are human beings, not data sets.


What emotion makes you perform to your best?

Helen says: This week I was lucky enough to be courtside at the Australian Open to witness some great tennis both at the junior and open levels. With tennis being top of mind, an article in the Financial Review by John Stensholt caught my eye.

Dr Machar Reid (Tennis Australia) and Dr Stephanie Kovalchik (Victoria University) studied the emotional state of a player and how it might impact their game during crucial points. A database of hundreds of facial videos was developed and seven emotional categories identified – “focused, fired up, elation, dejection, anxious, annoyance, anger – after examining facial movements such as jaw drops, blinking, brow raising or lowering, lip tightening and nose wrinkling”.

With the aid of facial recognition technology, this information has been used to analyse players and predict how they are likely to perform following an emotional response. Referred to as the ‘Clutch Index’, this measurement could become common place alongside service percentages and the like during broadcasts.

When watching Kyrigios play Dimitrov, I tried hard to identify patterns between emotional outbursts and player performance, but quickly concluded that some things are best left to technology and science!

What it’s like inside Amazon’s futuristic, automated store

Joel says: Amazon seem to be ahead of the curve again, and have now integrated modern technology in such a way that you can go shopping, grab your items and leave without ever pulling out your wallet or speaking to another person. That sounds a lot like shoplifting right? Well be assured it’s not, it’s just Amazon sitting on the cutting edge.

The author of the article explains his experience at the newly opened store:

The biggest feature of the store, one of the first shops of its kind, is the fact there are no cashiers. When you arrive, you scan the Amazon Go app on your iPhone or Android phone at a turnstile to register your presence and enter the store. After that, everything you pick up is automatically tracked by the store’s cameras and charged to your Amazon account when you walk out. It all happens without you having to check in with a store employee or physically make a payment.

“Our plan from the beginning was … what can we do so you could walk into the place, take anything you want and leave,” Gianna Puerini, vice president of Amazon Go, said.

Amazon Go, which was supposed to let in the public last year, opens the door to the prospect that you may never have to wait in a checkout line again — even for those clunky self-checkout machines. But at the same time, the store raises concerns about the future of work or the local corner store, and worries that Amazon is slowly replacing humans with technology.

Amazon has said it employs the same number of people at Amazon Go as you’d find at a comparably sized convenience store, though Puerini declined to provide specific numbers. Instead of checkout assistants, Amazon has more people restocking shelves and preparing meals.

Replacing human jobs is definitely something that should be raised as a potential issue if this model massively expands to other stores, but that may be a discussion for a future Friday Fave.


The Secret History of Facebook Depression

Jakkii says: This is a great short read on identity and context, and how the ‘Facebook theory of interaction’ which has informed the platform design may in fact be contributing to poor mental health.

Written by Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie, the piece touches implictly on social identity theory – that is, our sense of self derived by our ‘group’ memberships – and explicitly on Goffman’s work on the presentation of self. Goffman posited in his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life that individuals attempt to guide or control an impression others may form of them by adopting appearances and mannerisms that convey the impression they want to leave. Goffman also suggested that people modify their behaviour in order to avoid embarrassment – their own, and that of others – in social settings. As different groups have different norms, we present different selves in different contexts.

On Facebook, however, the platform design forces a ‘context collapse’:

But on Facebook, all these stages or contexts were mashed together. The result was what internet researchers called context collapse. People were even getting fired when one aspect of their lives was discovered by another (i.e. their boss!).

The “real names” culture of Facebook is just one of the problematic aspects of this context collapse. The piece touches on the ‘perfect self’, a phenomenon many of us are familiar with – the perfectly curated Instagram and Facebook feeds of others that seem to suggest a life free of blemishes, worries or concerns. All highs with no lows.

Within workplace social networks, context is generally maintained; that is, it is specifically delineated as “work” and that we present our “work self” within it. However as community managers and digital workplace designers, keeping in mind sociological theories of identity and self are more important than they might seem at first glance. Fostering a culture of openness requires inclusion, yes, but it also requires understanding, allowing space for groups to carve out their own (workplace-appropriate) identities. This helps foster real connection, which in turn promotes collaboration and innovation – just what we’re (generally) trying to achieve.


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