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

Where’s your phone?

Anne says: There’s no end of articles encouraging you to leave your phones behind, turn them off, disconnect – all with the intent to help us break the addiction (yes, some researchers are claiming it’s an official addiction) of constantly spending time looking at our phones instead of engaging in alternative activities. This article attracted my attention – although I was reading it on my phone – because it wasn’t about turning off, or talking to people instead of messaging them. These authors conducted research that indicates the impact on your ability to think and directly related it to proximity to your phone!

The concept is not new to me – I’ve been researching partial continuous attention for a number of years. However, proximity of devices, even having your phone in the same room, is a concept I hadn’t considered. And of course, thanks to my reticular activating system (how the brain pays attention to some things and not others), I’m now acutely aware of my phone and have a constant urge to glance across at it as I write this article!

Tomorrow, I’m recording video scripts – so I’m going to test my attention by putting my phone in a completely different room, out of sight and on silent, I guess I could turn it off too (or not). Looking forward to seeing if it changes my attention to task, or stops any mind wandering (towards looking at my phone).

Stay tuned – but please leave a message, I’ll call you back when I’ve finished my task!


The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark

Nat says: I’ve seen this article circulate on my social media pages this past week. What I’ve been surprised by is not the ideas of Andy Clark, a cognitive scientist, who claims that the mind is not limited to just one’s head (duh), but by people’s reactions to the article saying how profound and groundbreaking Clark’s ideas are. Now, the hippy existentialist that I am — someone who has engaged with eastern philosophy for a number of years, finds no part of Clark’s ‘groundbreaking’ ideas groundbreaking. Take, for example, the philosophy of Taoism which originated around the 3rd Century BCE. This philosophy sees existence itself as pure consciousness, which becomes expressed in various forms. In this view, there is no such thing even as matter, as everything is seen as the same one thing, merely fragmented.

Each iteration of consciousness is seen as consciousness rising. Space birthed the earth, earth birthed nature, nature birthed man, and now man has birthed machine. To believe we exist separately ‘in here’ (apparently where a mind supposedly resides) misses the point entirely. The article states that, “Clark found it liberating to imagine minds freed from their ordinary, meaty bodies”. In Clark’s ideas, he points out that we need both technology and social context for our ‘minds’ to work, suggesting that thought itself is living all around us. I want to again say ‘duh’ to such statements, but what I will instead point out is that Clark’s views of the world encapsulates a lot of the problems associated with Western science, especially in terms of how we have come to interpret and understand human behaviour. For too long we have been taught to believe that we stand separate to the world around us, and nothing is further from the truth.

In fact, most of psychology is scarily built upon the following premise: that we are ghosts trapped inside an explainable and mechanical machine, and that our will is powered by a so-called rational and cognitive mind. Psychology also promotes the idea that each individual is separate and in control of their own nature. It is as though Clark finally realised that the self has no existence without everything else in existence, and that for me to exist ‘in here’ there needs to be everything else existing ‘out there’. Given that ‘fake news’ is also making the rounds on social media at the moment, both it and Clark’s article should remind us to question everything; especially who is writing what we read and the assumptions behind such claims. This also means you should question the views expressed in our weekly blog series!


Lab-grown meat, technology and foreign investment: What does the future of the northern cattle industry look like?

Joel says: In late March I read an interesting opinion piece on the ABC about the future of the cattle industry and how technology seems to be at the forefront, assisting Australian growing demand for protein-led meals.

The piece does more than just focus on the ‘lab grown meat’ mentioned in the title. It contains interview answers from a number of farmers that were interviewed at the annual Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) conference.

Each of the farmers were asked the following 4 questions:

  • What technology are you most excited about in the beef industry?
  • Is lab-grown meat a threat to your business?
  • What’s your thoughts on foreign investment? Do you really care who owns the farm?
  • If the Federal Government could do one thing to help the cattle industry tomorrow, what would that be?

It seems the farmers – although removed from the fast paced city lifestyle – are still well aware of upcoming technology that can assist in improving farm life for both themselves and their livestock. The following were mentioned as answers for the technology question:

  • Simple technology such as filtering water for cattle so they have cleaner water to drink enables less cattle illness and also sees increased weight gains of 15-27 per cent, a double win
  • Drones to more regularly check all water supplies, be that solar pumps, dams, turkey nests or rivers, enabling faster rectification
  • Drones to check places of work, when manager cannot be everywhere on station, helps the station manager with efficiency and safety

There are others, but check out the full article for the complete picture. It seems as though that drones may have a big part to play in the future of farming as well.

Once you’ve read that, let us know your opinion on whether lab grown meat is really meat.


Apps are getting dumber — and that’s a good thing

“Behind the surprising simplicity of some of today’s top apps, smart developers are realising that they’re able to get users to do more by doing less.”

Emilio says: Our digital lives are ever more increasingly focused on our smartphones and mobile devices resulting in, unsurprisingly, a surge in mobile app development. And while it would be reasonable to assume that the apps being built these days are more complex, interestingly, quite the opposite is true. 

That’s according to this article on The Next Web which puts simplicity, user value and overall experience as the main considerations for success in app product development. It points to our shrinking attention spans and competing attention while on the phone and offline as the underlying reasons simplicity trumps complexity in terms of user behaviours and experience. 

The article cites as one example Voxer, an app which can be described as a digital ‘walkie-talkie’ mobile app offering one simple yet effective functionality – a “push to talk” experience enabling users to send short audio messages quickly. That Voxer has been around for several years, even before the explosion of messenger apps WhatsApp and Viber, and is still going strong, illustrates this point.

With the next wave of apps appearing to move beyond the smartphone – call in the ‘wearables’ whose potentials are yet to be fully explored and realised – we will be seeing more novel app solutions launching. A few are already game changers in the health and wellness arena – including ‘Lumoback’, another app in development cited in the article which is a posture correction device worn in the waist that communicates with the user’s phone and provides immediate posture feedback.

The bottom line: apps that continuously create value, make things easier and quicker (as well as being easy to use), and instil habits and repeat usage are what will drive and sustain business and product viability in mobile apps.


Is Esport Sport?

Helen says: Growing up playing lots of sport and with next to no exposure to video games, my initial response to this was, of course not. Sarah Jane Kelly’s article in The Conversation, ‘Esports are taking off and the Commonwealth Games needs to catch up’, challenges this thinking.  Sarah points out some parallels between sports and esports: both are physical, and require reasoning, reflexes, endurance and training. The absence of gender barriers is an esports bonus.

Sport is a form of entertainment, and esports is fast becoming one of the largest entertainment industries in the world. Its global audience is projected to reach 380 million this year and female participation is nearly half. In 2017 over 4 million Australians, the majority aged between 18-24, streamed esports. Sarah suggests that to keep events like the Commonwealth Games relevant to the younger demographic, including esports is a step in the right direction.

The way sport is consumed is changing to appeal to the younger audience. Sarah commented that “if sport is to continue as a form of entertainment it must compete with the bells and whistles of live music, cinema and video gaming to resonate with and capture the next generations”.  Sporting brands and sporting bodies are also targeting the younger market through esports sponsorships, making sport and esports seem complimentary. With esports to be a medal event in the 2022 Asian Games and the IOC considering adding esports to their schedule, maybe it is time for a definition rethink?


Reddit and the struggle to detoxify the internet


Jakkii says: Whether you’ve read a lot about it or not, I’m sure you’re at least cursorily aware of the ongoing conversations around Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and the questions swirling around tech companies, media, truth, democracy, data, privacy and regulation.

The problems underlying these conversations and questions are myriad, complex and multi-dimensional. An important facet of these discussions is the toxicity – both real and perceived – of the current internet discourse and the entire social media/social network landscape.

Enter this piece focused on Reddit, a site with which many are still not intimately familiar – indeed, many haven’t actually heard of it, or understand what it is. If you fall into this camp, the linked article will give you some insight – or you can visit Reddit it for yourself and find out. One of the biggest criticisms Reddit has faced over the years has been that it is a platform for hate speech. There are some reads out there from late 2017 about how Reddit was “successful” in their campaign against hate speech, but the truth is that controversy still abounds on Reddit, making it a prime candidate as the subject of this piece.

Is it possible to facilitate a space for open dialogue without also facilitating hoaxes, harassment, and threats of violence? Where is the line between authenticity and toxicity? What if, after technology allows us to reveal our inner voices, what we learn is that many of us are authentically toxic?

That these are questions posited early in the piece; that they are even questions we must ask, and think long and hard about, should speak volumes to us about the challenges we face – as individuals, as a society, as nations, and as a global collective. How do we answer such questions when one idea of ‘toxicity’ does not necessarily match the next?

These are discussions for us all to participate in, but they don’t apply just to the “real” world – they have implications for our workplaces as well.

The only way to understand the Internet, at least at first, was by metaphor. “Web” and “page” and “superhighway” are metaphors. So are “link,” “viral,” “post,” and “stream.” Last year, the Supreme Court heard a case about whether it was constitutional to bar registered sex offenders from using social media. In order to answer that question, the Justices had to ask another question: What is social media? In sixty minutes of oral argument, Facebook was compared to a park, a playground, an airport terminal, a polling place, and a town square.

It might be most helpful to compare a social network to a party. The party starts out small, with the hosts and a few of their friends. Then word gets out and strangers show up. People take cues from the environment. Mimosas in a sun-dappled atrium suggest one kind of mood; grain alcohol in a moldy basement suggests another. Sometimes, a pattern emerges on its own.

The second paragraph is something online community managers have been aware of for many years: communities are shaped and moulded by the allowed behaviours within their bounds. While it is possible to rein poor behaviour in down the track, it is far more effective to establish from the outset clear guidelines, to role model – and reward – positive behaviours, and discourage (and punish) negative ones. This is true offline, as well – societies have long used mechanisms such as recognition and reward, alongside embarrassment, shame and punishment to set and enforce accepted societal behaviours.

And so to does the workplace, though generally in more HR-approved ways. Culture matters. Behaviour matters. And that is as true in our internal online communities as it is around the meeting table or in the lunch room. Rather than need to backtrack, we need to ensure from the outset the questions we are answering are not “how do we put the toxic genie in the bottle?” but “how do we avoid letting the toxic genie out in the first place?” Clear guidelines and strong community management that works in concert with other areas of the business – e.g. people and culture – are an imperative part of your internal collaboration tools and enterprise social networks.

But back to Reddit – this piece is a long read that touches on some interesting questions as it recounts some of the recent past of the platform and its users, before finishing with a description of an experiment Reddit ran called r/Place. I’d love to hear your thoughts after you give it a read – comment below or get in touch on Twitter.


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast


This week: unpacking inequality, why shooting for the moon is hard, and cars demanding attention in other news. 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:

Inequality and the geography of venture capital investment

Why getting back to the moon is so damn hard

Other stories we bring up:

Australia’s digital divide is not going away

What’s the matter with Trumpland?

The gig economy keeps growing, but worker benefits aren’t

The NBN aggravates Australia’s digital divide

There is a problem with how we define inequality

We’re Not Going Back To The Moon

Our discussion on TFTW on the Uber pay gap


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