Tag: technology

I made the mistake of adding tech feeds to my RSS reader and now I’m just mad all the time.

There was a time, back in the 00s or so, when I kept up to date on a lot of tech news. I spent the time trying to follow trends in web development and mobile technology and apps. It was important to my work, but part of my overall interest in how the Internet was being integrated into our daily lives.

Once I moved away from tech focused work and into education, I let those news feeds go. I purged myself of latest developments and relied on larger, mainstream news outlets to inform me about the technology that would impact my daily life. Yet, as I started teaching first-year composition, I realized (we all realized) that being up-to-date on the technology our students were using (not always by choice either) would make our discussions surrounding critical thinking that much more relevant. Trust me, when ChatGPT burst on to the scene, I suggested we lean into it, teaching it as a new tool that students can use in their ever increasing arsenal of technological apps that can help them… wait. Help them what exactly? What was I supposed to be teaching them? More on that in a moment.

As I’ve reinstated my tech RSS feeds, I find myself getting more and more suspicious about the proliferation of AI. While I’ve not been totally receptive to the computerization of our automobiles, nor the subscription model of everything, I still want to be able to glean the direction personal technology is headed, and, if Microsoft’s recent announcements are any indication, the future is AI.

If you follow my links of interest at all, you can see where this is going?

Who wants this? Why are we being told that we want this? Every time I read about another AI-enhanced laptop or an app that’s I’ve been using suddenly wants me to incorporate their AI model into my workflow, I get frustrated.

If I’m not building up the critical skills to summarize an article (and most public-facing articles are woefully short and simplistic already), what am I doing with the time AI is saving?

What’s the point of learning discernment and curation if I never skip over Google’s AI-created search summaries at the top of its results page? (Shouldn’t have made Google suck, yeah?)

How am I supposed to teach critical thinking skills if all the little ways in which we think every day are being eaten up by language learning models that have dubious bias built in and don’t have an understanding of a ham sandwich outside the fact that sometimes it’s mentioned next to mustard?

More and more I feel like we’re heading into a direction where we will teach two ways of existing cognitively in our technological future: 1) a way to prompt AI to yield results that save us from doing labor or gaining mastery; and 2) a way to avoid the AI altogether and create bare bones text and art in a way that hides it from the upcoming singular cloud. Both feel exhausting.

Meanwhile, a bunch of narcissistic shitheads are at the controls of the future.

The following is a short post about AI

Who wants this? With the consolidation of media companies over the last three decades perhaps there’s no distance between journalism and tech any more. Companies that produce software that people have to be sold that they want are intertwined with the media companies that will hype up the usefulness and turn a novelty into a necessity.

I assure you a good copy editor could write this summary (and fast, too) but news outlets have pretty much abandoned good editing of most of their content because 1) it will be replaced immediately, and 2) they don’t want the labor costs. If only someone figured out how news media could monetize without being beholden to social media or browser-breaking ads.

Newspaper conglomerate Gannett is adding AI-generated summaries to the top of its articles

Don’t talk about tech and NOT credit authors

This short section of The Atlantic Daily has the following sentence:

“The term metaverse was coined in a 1992 science-fiction novel titled Snow Crash. (The book also helped popularize the term avatar, to refer to digital selves.)”

The book, not Neal Stephenson, the person who happened to author the book, but the book. If we want to talk about the future and technology and don’t address the erasure of the humans behind the technology (and the Book inspirations of its ideas) then you’re part of the problem.

2023.08.08 – media_log

Ridley Scott Regrets Not Directing Blade Runner Sequel
I love the Blade Runner 2049 we have and realize I’ve not watched Alien: Covenant yet. Also, AV Club saying 2049 is better than the original is just plain stupid. Different eras, subgenres, everything. Comparing apples and batteries.

The Prosecraft Controversy
Dunno, fren. If you want to know how many words are in a memoir, then look at memoirs, not 25,000 different books. I happened to be on “Twitter the X” when this started and it’s down to directly benefiting (lo its tilt or not) off of someone else’s work without their consent and compensation. Also, I don’t know why you would want to sound like another author outside of marketing purposes, I guess.

Conspiracy theories: how social media can help them spread and even spark violence introduces us to the author’s research in how conspiracy theories are spread. What I’m interested in is how I can work this idea into my class discussion of discourse communities. I think this is a good way to connect it to our later technology conversation.

America Already Has An AI Underclass
“In the coming era of AI, can the people doing the tech industry’s grunt work ever be seen and treated not as tireless machines but simply as what they are—human?”
The program might write multiple recipes for chocolate cake, which a rater ranks and edits.” Does anyone make the cake?
“the machine-learning company Hugging Face” the fuck?
“there’s nothing flexible about precarity”
There’s nothing more I can say that these quotes don’t already convey.

I did not know they made a film based on this chapter from Dracula, but I’m going to try to get to see The Last Voyage of the Demeter before my exams start.

Zoom Returns to the Office
I think there’s a way to make an adjustment without requiring people to be in the office and that’s Zoom Communal spaces- like Zoom sessions with four to five people online working together occasionally chatting and helping each other stay on task. I don’t know why employees don’t do this or maybe they do co-working all the time and companies just need to justify the high rental rates they’re paying for office space.

Seven Books That Will Make You Put Down Your Phone
I will check some of these out now that I took social media off my phone.

The Loneliness Epidemic
A generation of kids who stayed home alone because their parents didn’t make enough money for child care is part of this. Also, Reagan, it’s always Reagan.

2023.08.04 – media_log

I’ve stepped back from consuming social media lately and am starting to feel the effects. My attention is slightly better and I find I have more time during the day to do other things. Important things. I’ve always been a fan of social media, but I think if your main use of platforms is consumption and not creation, it alters the way you think. Not in what you think, but how you think.

So I’ve been trying an experiment. I removed all social media platforms from my phone and kept only my RSS feeds from a few sources and blogs and that’s it. While I can check Facebook or Instagram on my laptop, I make sure to keep it short: a quick drive-by for Happy Birthdays and “care” emojis, and then I’m out. Twitter had been my go-to app and now it’s gone, figuratively and literally.

Now every time I read an article or have an idea I want to share, I put it into my Obsidian daily note. Not only does this give me an archive of the media I’m consuming (and that’s good for when I suddenly find myself saying “I read something just recently…”) it makes me think a little bit more about what I’m reading. No more saving articles to read later, I take the time and if it inspires or enrages me, I write it down in a separate note and log it in my daily media_log.

It’s still new and fresh, so I’m in the ADHD honeymoon phase, but I also wanted to start sharing this on my site, because, I’m not doing anything else with it right now. Let me know if this is helpful.



Who? Me?

Listening to NPR’s Up First today and in the case of Trump speaking after his arrest and Alexei Navalny speaking from a Russian jail, both men said that “this isn’t happening to me, this is happening to you” in their public statements.

I’m certainly not comparing the two men, but I just found the timing of the similar statements interesting.

Smile when you say that

Thanks to the If Books Could Kill podcast and its co-host, Peter Shamshiri, I started listening to 5-4 — “a podcast about how much the Supreme Court sucks” which Peter also co-hosts. It’s good, infuriating, and informative. But handing you a new podcast to listen to is not why I’ve asked you here.

There is a promotion at the half-way point for a newsletter — Balls and Strikes — that another co-host, Michael Morbius, narrates. They seem to run it each episode and I’ve started noticing something. Actually, I’ve noticed that I’ve noticed something. It’s a bit meta.

I’m getting there.

At one point as he speaks I could tell that he starts smiling. The change is clear but undescribable. I don’t know why my brain has picked up on this. Less so, do I know why he’s smiling. So I went to the Internet, as I do, to find out why my brain does what it does.

My first stop was this article in Discover Magazine that showcases a study suggesting that if you can sense a smile in a voice you’re hearing, and not someone you can see, you tend to smile back. The article and the study it links to–well done, consumer science journalism–discuss the lack of research on what constitutes this auditory smile. Checking the paper’s sources, I ended up here: “The vocal communication of different types of smile” in Speech Communication. The study is from 2008 and I’m not sure if I’m going to see what builds upon this research. But I was still curious to see who else out there was wondering, “did I just hear you smile?”

Then I got here:

“Smiling voices maintain [increased trust] even in the face of behavioral evidence of untrustworthiness.” (1)

…and here:

“We present an experiment in which participants played a trust game with a virtual agent that expressed emotion through its voice, in a manner congruent or incongruent with its behavior.” (1)

…and here:

“Using an investment game paradigm, we found that positive vocal emotional expression – smiling voice – increases participants’ implicit trust attributions to virtual agents, compared with when agents speak with an emotionally neutral voice. As previously observed, the monetary returns of the agent also affected implicit trust, so that participants invested more money in the agent that was behaving generously.”(1)

And this is the point where I’ve saved the citation in Paperpile, sat back with my arms folded and leaned over to look down into the murky depths of this rabbit hole. I still don’t know what stimuli my brain is picking up that translates into “smile” after Michael says “Supreme Court sucks”, but I can pick up the danger of being able to simulate this in such a way that creates trust between yourself and stranger on the phone.

This is more than just Cash Green’s white voice in Sorry to Bother You, this is the “right voice,” the one that flicks an unknown switch in your head and you picture a reassuring smile. The “right voice” is built upon the research that pull the secrets out of our brains and tools them for algorithmic benefit. The “right voice” won’t just relieve people of their hard-earned money, it will lead them astray, down paths not yet cut.

What do I do? This digression has made me thoughtful. Sigh.


(1) Torre, Ilaria, et al. “If Your Device Could Smile: People Trust Happy-Sounding Artificial Agents More.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 105, Apr. 2020, p. 106215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.106215

What about an NFT of a tulip?

“It’s a Ponzi scheme. When there was tulip mania, at least when you lost all your money, you still had a tulip.”

Dennis Kelleher

I watch cryptocurrency drama from the nosebleed seats. I have some shallow understanding of the system and, I’m not ashamed to say, I rely on my students to fill in some details for me if I’m curious and they’re willing. If you keep hearing about FTX and wondering what’s going on, this piece in The Atlantic by Annie Lowrey will give you an idea of the most recent meltdown.

The Chaos Machine, by Max Fisher

his seems to be the most appropriate book to be reading right now. It, like any technology book, is dated already, but it's a worthwhile dive into the media that drives our thinking.

Cover of the book "The Chaos Machine" by Max Fisher
This seems to be the most appropriate book to be reading right now. It, like any technology book, is dated already, but it’s a worthwhile dive into the media that drives our thinking.

Social Media Exile

I don’t think social media is really all that healthy.

I’ve been positive in dealing my own rhetoric, especially in class. I’ve tried to discuss its functions conceptually, that there are benefits if you curate well and hypervigilant, but the labor costs outweigh the benefit.

I have been mindful of how I feel when I’m on a platform. Twitter is now where I feel the worst; Facebook is pretty neutral as I’ve culled my friends list down considerably. Instagram and TikTok are still relatively positive, if not actively negative. But I want to re-evaluate how *I* want to use platforms, what *I* want to say.

Right now, dunno, ya know?

This is going to be tricky as I read in Digital Composition and Rhetoric. There are more media out there than just social media channels, but like the sewage systems of most metropolitan areas, everything runs into them. Those channels are drivers of discourse now. We build cites based on how fast our shit flows underneath.

(Perhaps that’s not the best metaphor – but you see what I mean.)
I will be thinking a lot about how we pull back, as a society. How we maintain important connections, but not add to or get inundated by the garbage. Maybe it’s time to just go full in on a personal web-site. Keep all of my postings there and worry less about enGagEmeNT and more about cultivating a space for me.