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

How technology shapes the way we read

Anne says: Have you considered how your use of technology has changed the way you consume information and news, and read?

This article is an introduction to a series on reading – it adds some perspective to the quantity of reading materials available and a range of views on their impact – not just for the reader, but also the writers.

Some figures to overwhelm you:

WordPress-powered websites publish more than 77 million posts each week. The New York Times runs about 150 stories every day. (Here at WIRED, it’s more like 15 or 20.) Last year, 687.2 million books were sold in the United States—and that’s just print versions, not e-books.

There are so many methods for accessing content, it’s too easy to scroll through newsfeeds while not really reading. Yet, amidst all the hype around about technology addiction, turning off your devices – there’s a growing body of evidence that people are adapting and managing.  Some of the articles in this series address methods for engaging with books in different ways – the rise of the audiobook, the impact on sci-fi novels and literary FOMO (fear of missing out).

Personally, I read so much more than 10, 20 years ago – but I read differently. I have developed strategies for reading academic works (online journals, e-books), business publications and texts, lighter weight reading items – short form articles of interest. But I’ve also added audiobooks (particularly a favourite when I’m travelling), video synopsis or interviews with the author as extended insight, and podcasts. I crave more time to read – then realise I’ve been reading all day long, in some form or other. Perhaps I’m trying to get through all the daily articles across my selected publications!

If you’re reading our Friday Faves weekly series, then perhaps you’re getting a glimpse into how the team read and how we also share what’s caught our attention each week!


AI art is coming to a gallery near you

Nat says: Art and technology have always been bedfellows: there is an art to technology, just as there is always technology involved in the creation of art. The shared article talks about a “RobotArt Competition”, which is only open to machines and just celebrated its third year. What I want to do, in discussing this article, is call out some of the assumptions it makes about both art and technology.

First of all, the AI has no idea that it is “painting” or any knowledge or awareness of what it is painting. The painting computer is merely following the rules of its programming. When we read articles like this, seldom is this pointed out. The machine is not creating its own art, it is producing something as a result of its coding.

Secondly, I find it astonishing how many people see art as something that imitates an objective reality — as a purely aesthetic process of capturing the world, which can thus be replicated by a machine. Many philosophers, including philosophers of technology, will debate this view and instead discuss life as an imitation of art, as through our acts of creation, we bring life into being. For example, I always think of book-to-screen adaptations when I think of such an imitation. I’ll use my favourite adaptation, Jurassic Park, as an example. Michael Crichton wrote the book in 1990, and the tale depicts scientists creating new technology, one that enables them to extract Dino DNA from mosquitoes trapped in tree amber from millions of years ago, to bring dinosaurs back to life. Now, it is much easier to write about this happening than it is to bring the idea to life on the big screen. However, Spielberg’s adaptation did just that, but I don’t mean this in a literal sense — more of a poetic, artistic sense. For movie-makers to recreate life-like dinosaurs on the big screen, cinematic special effects history had to be made. The same idea, in which technological history had to be made to bring dinosaur’s to life, is the same concept as expressed in the book.

My bugbear then, with the shared article, is its layman portrayal of what art is and what role art serves in human life. Art is not about being a creative outlet to replicate “reality”. Art is something that allows us to bring an idea forward and interpret its meaning for ourselves. For you see, the human act of creation via art is one cloaked in mystery. If we understood creativity, we wouldn’t be so fascinated by its revelations. So when a machine can put paint to paper? Maybe we need to ask ourselves whether this is really so impressive.


Human evolution in the digital era

Helen says: Humans have adapted to their environment over millions of years, resulting in changes to both our physical appearance and intellectual capacity. In this article, Liraz Margalit, a web psychologist, looks at how we are continuing to evolve in a digital environment.

Margalit hits on the need for humans to be in control. She points out that for survival we need to be able to predict what is going on around us and when losing that control we have a strong psychological reaction. Understanding psychology and human behaviour are useful for companies in their digital space. This is illustrated in the example whereby simply turning off an automatic video playback feature on their website, one company saw video viewing increase by 60 percent, reversing the action of 90 percent of visitors to immediately stop the video. Margalit attributes this to our need to feel in control.

The article also touches on how the brain is being impacted by digitization. She cites a decline in our overall spatial awareness due to our growing reliance on GPS navigation. Of concern is the indication that our brains are also becoming less able to interpret signals from others due to the decline in interpersonal interactions. Technological changes are seemingly rewiring our brains.

“…in terms of future generations, we will be the object of extensive research, much like the ancient man.”


Robotics drawing more girls to STEM subjects at school, and they’re often the top students

Joel says: The technology and engineering industry is currently a male-dominated field but after seeing this article on the ABC I was glad to see that with the introduction of STEM subjects and fundamentals being introduced to school children at a younger age it has sparked the interest of many girls. This could mean that the next generation of scientists and engineers could be more equally split when it comes to gender.

Merrimac State High School on the Gold Coast offers what many consider to be Australia’s top robotics program. The school currently holds the Gold Coast Mayor’s Technology Award, and are Australian National Robotics and World Robotics Summit junior champions. The school is sending two teams to this year’s world summit in Japan to defend their title.

While the Merrimac robotics classrooms are still predominantly filled with boys, more and more girls continue to join the subject with many of them being the top performing students. Currently, girls make up 40 percent of the class.

STEAM coach Daniel Ricardo said the lack of female representation in STEAM was not due to girls not being good at it, but because of ingrained gender stereotypes and a lack of female role models.

Maya Wood, 15 is part of the program and one of the students headed to Tokyo later in the year. Maya’s team is working on a domestic robot, to help with chores.

“They’re going to help out around the house, they’re going to talk to us, drive cars … teach primary school kids, really anything,” she said.

Mr Ricardo said it would really help with marking and reports.

“I think sometimes kids want us to be replaced pretty quickly,” he said with a laugh.


You say you hate Instagram’s changes, but your eyeballs say otherwise

Jakkii says: Are you an Instagrammer? I certainly am – in my personal life, I have two accounts: one exclusively for my craft beer hobby, and the other for, well, everything else. This article jumped out at me because of my personal interest in Instagram, but also for its look at the role of UX (user experience) and how what we say we want and like (or don’t like) doesn’t always match up to our behaviours – or our needs.

“Self-reported feedback is notoriously hard to rely on,” Bolt says. “Even public sentiment is hard to rely on, when something’s new.” For example, research suggests self-reports are systematically skewed, whether the report is made to your doctor about your health behaviors, or to a media researcher about your time spent playing games. These inconsistencies have many sources, from memories that go fuzzy over time to the seemingly innate human desire to provide socially-acceptable answers to the fact that shifts in emotional states can alter our perception of time.

In our work as designers and design researchers, we see this time and time again. It’s just one of the reasons why research must be planned & conducted thoughtfully, carefully and strategically; and why a simple reliance on ‘everyone says X’ isn’t a worthwhile data input if it’s not backed up by other data, which may include both quantitative and qualitative. Research is an area often not granted enough funding or resources, due to beliefs such as ‘we already know what’s wrong’ or ‘we know our people.’ That may well be true – but unless it’s based on good data and not ‘gut feel’ or ‘what everyone says’, you’ve no way of validating your views, nor are you able to make evidence-based decisions.

As Instagram’s experience shows – and Helen’s shared piece this week also alludes to – sometimes what we say we don’t like about something may be more about the sense of ownership and/or a loss of control than it is about usability or how we behave in practice. This is often as true in the workplace with workplace technologies as it is in the consumer space.


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: When your boss has a beef with meat, flat hierarchy facade, and sad robituaries. 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.


Math determines that the more Tom Cruise runs, the better his movies are

Amazon face recognition mistakes US politicians for crime suspects

Bike sharing companies Reddy Go and Ofo cycle out of Sydney

The stories this week:

Memo from the boss: You’re a vegetarian now

No bosses, no managers: the truth behind the ‘flat hierarchy’ facade

Other stories we bring up:

Rotten tomatoes does the math on Tom Cruise

Lawmakers can’t ignore facial recognition bias anymore

Amazon’s face recognition disproportionately matched Congressional members of color with mugshots

WeWork eliminates most meat from its menus. Employees can’t expense it either

Our facial recognition special conversation

Our earlier discussion concerning bike sharing business models

Coworking report

Morning Star Co operates without any managers

Bossless workplaces

Holacracy isn’t working well at Zappos


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