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

Team Human

Anne says: This week I’m still exploring the digital distraction theme but redirecting my interest towards the balance between technology, our devices and how we experience the world. This led me to the recent work by Douglas Rushkoff, Team Human. If you’re not familiar with the writings of Douglas Rushkoff, I’d strongly recommend you review some of his key contributions through the links on his website. His bio describes him as someone who “…studies human autonomy in the digital age” while being attributed with coining the concepts of “viral media” and “social currency.” His works have been influential in shaping my perspectives for many years and throughout my PhD research.

Team Human is a compelling project that is a call to arms, to “… remake society together, not as individual players but as the team we actually are…” What I’m enjoying as I read the book and listen to the podcast series is the diversity of opinions that allows you to explore alternatives, without having to give up your devices! It’s about awareness and re-engaging to take back control.

Watch the TED Talk video to get the essence of concepts that will provide you with a persuasive, well-reasoned set of arguments to join the humans, Team Human!


How AI Will Rewire Us

Helen says: When chatting online to a service or product provider, I immediately question whether my communication is with a chatbot or an actual person. The lightning speed responses along with suggested links to online help can be a bit of a giveaway, but I think this awareness effectively influences how I approach the exchange.

The way humans have lived and worked together over the centuries has changed but essentially the author, Christakis, believes that until now, these changes have not had a significant impact:

“the fundamental aspects of human behavior … the “social suite”: a crucial set of capacities we have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, including love, friendship, cooperation, and teaching. The basic contours of these traits remain remarkably consistent throughout the world, regardless of whether a population is urban or rural, and whether or not it uses modern technology.”

However, as artificial intelligence becomes ubiquitous, this could be set to change. He cites experiments that demonstrate how robots can directly influence our performance and ethics, both in groups and individually, and these results can be either positive or negative depending on the way these robots communicate with us. It’s important that we understand the potential influence and impact AI can have on our society. There has been quite a bit of talk recently about the sentience of non-human animals and how we should protect their feelings by law. Maybe this is something we need to seriously consider and apply to robots when it comes to dealing with us mere humans.


Older people can feel left behind by new technology – so we built a device especially for them

Joel says: Being a tad under 30 years old, technology has been at the forefront of my life for just about as long as I can remember. But I fully understand it hasn’t been that way for everyone, especially the older generation. The breakneck speed at which the technology space advances has many people over 75 saying that they choose not to adapt to new technologies because they find it hard to keep up, with the article stating only 20% of those in that age bracket in the UK own a smartphone compared to 95% of those in the 16-24 age bracket.

With younger demographics having such a dependence on smart devices, always being connected and social media this could easily make those in the older generation feel disconnected from the rest of their families. Unable to contact them via instant messenger or FaceTime etc.

Thankfully Gabriella Spinelli and Massimo Micocci from the Brunel University in London have created a device that uses “design metaphors” to help older people stay in touch with family and friends that uses modern technology but is presented to the elderly user in a way that is highly accessible for them.

This device acts as a literal status update and looks like an analogue radio. It captures data from the end user via a heart monitor and is capable of transmitting status data such as activity levels to selected followers and allows them to know they are well without the need of a more intrusive device such as a camera. And best of all, even though the device works very differently to an old radio by copying its design it’s functions are able to be picked up quite easily by the elderly.

I found this piece extremely interesting because I used to work in retail for one of Australia’s largest telcos and can back up the statistics with the elderly and smartphones. Many of them are easily put off by the thought of ‘apps’ and the large array of functions a phone can now do besides just making a phone call. Having devices like this will hopefully help to bridge the gap between the elderly and the younger generation and will hopefully allow everyone to feel less disconnected.


Why I am tired of National Napping Day

Stop “snooze shaming” and normalize the nap

Jakkii says: I’ve long been a believer in workplace flexibility – real flexibility, the inclusive kind that caters for all, rather than just ‘yes you may leave early 3 days a week to pick up your child from childcare’ and other parent- or carer-specific “flexibility”.

I’ve also, much more recently, come to rather dislike our society’s obsession with being endlessly busy as it relates to work, our collective insistence that only “family” is a good reason for having a life outside of work, and the ever-growing unpaid hours many people in knowledge work jobs are doing, largely because it’s “expected”. I use expected in place of “needed”, because while it may be true that there’s a “need” to work those hours in order to stay on top of things, that alone is an expectation – that employees will pick up the slack instead of an organisation investing in more resources, whether that be headcount, systems that can take up the slack by automating admin and routine tasks that free up time, providing learning and development opportunities as well as coaching and mentoring, or any other mechanism or set of mechanisms that will enable employees to deliver on outcomes within reasonable timeframes.

Of course, I’m also a big believer in measuring, rewarding and, importantly, renumerating knowledge workers based on outcomes rather than a set of hours per week, which can be uncomfortably at odds with the idea of “unpaid hours” in some ways. However, from a practical perspective, we still live in an era where employers are paying their full-time employees for 37.5 hours of work per week (give or take) and measuring them on their adherence to at least that many hours. Whilever that’s the case, we have to work within the working structures set by the organisations we choose to work for – and for me, that then means becoming protective of your own time. It shouldn’t have to be a choice between being successful and excellent at your job, and being a person with a rich life outside of work to which they want to dedicate their time – regardless of whether they have children or other carer responsibilities.

With that in mind, I read with interest this piece on napping. Now, my semi-rant above is tangential to this topic, sure, but I see the thread following through quite nicely – flexibility and choice around when, where and how we work and how we use our time should leave plenty of room for napping. I also love that the author shares my displeasure with our “always on” culture:

Our society still very much abides by the adage, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” or its less aggressive cousin, “you snooze, you lose.” We’re living in a dangerous “always on” hustle culture that still boasts about pulling an all-nighter. Or as the New York Times recently put it, “When did performative workaholism become a lifestyle?”

Even better, though, are some facts as to why it’s actually counterproductive, which the author provides. Now, the author runs a sleep company, so as with anything you’ll want to keep your eyes open for bias as you read the piece, but let’s be honest – this is hardly the first time someone has sung the praises of sleep! Humans need sleep. That’s a fact. We are all different creatures, but for most of us we need between 7-9 hours a night, and I think that’s broadly well accepted (even if we don’t get as much sleep as our own body needs).

I’m very interested, though, in research into naps. Anne’s spent a lot of time in Barcelona over the years, and I have always found it interesting that periodically one of us will mention siestas to her. There’s a great fascination with the idea of a siesta, especially for those of us who think it just means having a sleep in the afternoon (turns out while siesta itself does mean nap, in practice it generally means a period of lunch and time away from work – and these days, far fewer people actually taking naps!).

I think we’re fascinated for a few reasons, one of which is that having a nap is rather frowned upon in a society that reveres being busy (unless you’re a small child or elderly). I think we’re also envious – a great many of us just simply do not get enough sleep, and the idea of stepping away from work and other interruptions to get some sleep is pretty appealing.

Turns out though that it’s good for us, too.

A Harvard Medical study has evidenced that a nap can increase cognitive function, facilitate problem-solving, bolster creative thinking, and decrease the margin for error.

It’s not just that study: in Spain they’ve seen evidence that siesta is good for you, while a preliminary finding from a study in Greece suggests a nap may actually help reduce blood pressure.

Maybe it’s time to start scheduling naptime into our calendars, curling up under our desks with an eyemask and earplugs to get some shut-eye in order to keep us on top of our game!

What do you think? Are you a napper? What do you think it would take in order for your organisation to welcome naps as part of an employee’s regular working routine?


This week in social media

Politics and regulation

Privacy and data

Society and culture

Cybersecurity and safety

Moderation, misinformation and hate speech


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This weekwomen, more automation and the future of work. 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.

Our guest, Professor Rae Cooper

00:45 – International Women’s Day

24:23 – Job automation

The stories this week:

Hate International Women’s Day?

Robots taking our jobs, again

Other stories we bring up: 

Gender pay gap statistics – athletes and actors

On the world bank’s gender equality

The 2019 McKinsey report: The automation opportunity

Women, Work & Leadership Research Group

Women and the Future of Work: Report 1 of the Australian Women’s Working Futures 

The investment management boy’s club

A future of automation, SBI podcast

The skills for the automation future: “Empathy and Creativity will save our jobs in the future” 

Women and the future of work

Anne Summers at the National Press Club

Full video of Anne Summers at NPC 


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