Bookmarked On TikTok, Teens Meme the Safety App Ruining Their Summer (WIRED)

The company may say its mission is to help families, but it’s also a business—one that is trying to grow. Life360 quietly went public on the Australian Securities Exchange in May. Its prospectus claims that the company has “amassed one of the world’s largest digital audiences of security-conscious family units” and has “deep insights into these Users in a way that was not possible before the smartphone. We know where our Users live, work, shop, drive and more.”

And the company is using that data to, well, sell car insurance. According to the company’s privacy policy, it shares your “personal information, driving event data, and other information,” with the risk-assessment firm Arity, which uses that information to calculate insurance pricing and “develop risk-predictive models for its own analytics purposes.” Arity is a subsidiary of the insurance giant Allstate, which is also an investor in Life360. In its prospectus earlier this year, Life360 said it hopes to soon offer US customers Allstate insurance plans that are customized based on how they drive. And why stop at cars? The company woos potential investors with grand plans of one day disrupting areas like general insurance, home security, elder care, and more. When Life360 detects you’ve moved, for instance, it could offer to sell you new surveillance cameras.

Louise Matgakig looks into the work of Life360 and the culture of surveillance that supports. Although much of the reporting seems to be focused on teenagers response via TikTok, my concern is the business intent of the company to sell insurance. As Wired postulate in an opinion post:

Past generations were able to grow up without a digital record of their past generation, and the ones to come, will be held accountable to their inescapable online identities.

It would seem that with applications like Life360 children are becoming accountable for their offline identities too. This really makes me wonder if my parents had any clue where I was when I was growing up and the trust that was associated with this.

via Cory Doctorow

Bookmarked The mystery of unexplained earthquakes (bbc.com)

While we like to use metaphors like “on solid ground” in English, on a geological scale the stuff below our feet is anything but. It’s full of shifting planes of material with varying densities. There are faults and fractures, often with ribbons of fluid running through them. There are sediments, clays and bedrock. Not to mention, on an even bigger scale, gigantic tectonic plates rubbing against or pulling apart from one another. In some places, the ground is like a tower of toy bricks just waiting to topple.

Chris Baranuik digs into the world of drilling, fracking and man-made earthquakes. Living on one of the biggest basalt plains, I feel like I am continually reminded of the living earth. I remember talking with a school that surfaced an area with astro-turf, only for the earth to bend and shape the surface leaving it undulating. The hills and the earth are most certainly alive.
Bookmarked Island Survival: A Cooperative Game | Mrs Fintelman Teaches

This one will sweep them away. I play Island Survival with year 4, 5, and 6s either at the beginning or end of the year and it is always a hit! They often ask for it again. It’s a great game that allows for problem solving, justification, reasoning, creativity and cooperation.

Emily Fintelman shares an activity designed to help students work collaboratively. What I like is that it is as much about the solution as it is about the process. In some ways it reminds me of the use of different ‘ingredients’ with the Iron Chef challenge.
Bookmarked What Marathons and School Have in Common: repeated choices. – Joel Speranza (Joel Speranza)

A student hasn’t been applying themselves in class. They and their parents come to the parent teacher interview. The student, in that moment makes a choice:

“I’m going to work really hard in class, do all my homework and start studying early for my exam. I’m going to be a model student”.

The student feels good, they have a plan. The parents are appeased, the student has chosen to turn it around. The teacher rolls their eyes. You’ve heard this before.

This student isn’t lying to you. In that moment this student really wants to turn it around. But what they don’t realise is that turning it around doesn’t take one choice. It takes many choices. Made over a long period of time.

Joel Speranza explains how larger choices are in fact a series of smaller choices combined. He provides a number of strategies to support this:

  • Record their “big choice”, write it down somewhere. Even better, film them telling you about their big choice.
  • Discuss how many “little choices” they are going to have to make in service of their big choice.
  • Remind them of their little choices when they come into class each day. Or when they forget their homework that night. (I use a Microsoft form in my OneNote that students fill in each day with their intentions for the lesson)
  • Keep a running tally of the choices they make. You could do it for them or they could do it themselves. Seeing these choices build up over the term makes it easier to see the end goal.

This reminds me James Clear’s discussion of making and breaking habits.

Bookmarked The Schema We Do Not See | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

I have separate but overlapping concerns when it comes to each of layers of schema in place across major tech providers. I have concerns about what is disclosed to users, as well as what is openly made available to 3rd party developers. But, I have the most concern about the portions of the schema that never see the light of day. The portions that us end-users have no idea exists, even though it is all data about us. The bits of our digital self that tech companies view as commodities, and actively use in products, and sometimes make accessible to partners, but refuse to ever tell us about, let alone give us a voice over what gets collected, and who has access to it. This is the schema that keeps me up at night. I feel like 95% of it will be harmless, and act more as an annoyance, than anything particularly troubling. However, it is the 5% of the schema that I can’t see, that I can’t correct, or that I do not have any voice over that could end up impacting my credit, my career, and have real world consequences in my physical life.

Kin Lane discusses the schema associated with data and the way that our information is often shared just beneath the surface. This is something that interests me about schools and the data inadvertently collected about students and parents.
Bookmarked Interoperability: Fix the internet, not the tech companies (Boing Boing)

The biggest Internet companies need more legal limits on their use and handling of personal data. That’s why we support smart, thorough new Internet privacy laws. But laws that require filtering and monitoring user content make the Internet worse: more hostile to new market entrants (who can’t afford the costs of compliance) and worse for Internet users’ technological self-determination.

Cory Doctorow makes the case for interoperability as a solution for fixing the internet. Rather than focusing on breaking up the platform capitalism, Doctorow argues that we need to open up applications to more engagement from the outside.

It’s possible to create regulation that enhances competition. For example, we could introduce laws that force companies to follow interoperability standards and oversee the companies to make sure that they’re not sneakily limiting their rivals behind the scenes. This is already a feature of good telecommunications laws, and there’s lots to like about it.

This is something Doctorow has been discussing quite a bit lately, especially in regards to adversarial interoperability. It is alos something Stephen Wolfram his touched upon. On the otherside is Kin Lane who argues that interoperability is a myth.

Bookmarked Trump’s social media summit and me by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller

Code is never more important than life. Genocide is always a bigger problem than software distribution licenses. Hopefully this is obvious.

While I accept that it runs counter to the stated principles of the free software movement, I believe we need a new set of licenses that explicitly forbid using software to facilitate hate or hate groups.

Ben Werdmuller discusses Minds use of Elgg and its involvement with hate speech. He argues that to counter the abuse of people and open source software, we need a new set of licenses that prevents misuse. This reminds me of Mike Monteiro’s call for reform in regards to design industry to eliminate such situations.
Bookmarked Automating mistrust (code acts in education)

Turnitin is the clear market-leader to solve the essay mills problem that the department has now called on universities to tackle. Its technical solution, however, does not address the wider reasons—social, institutional, psychological, financial or pedagogic—for student cheating, or encourage universities to work proactively with students to resolve them. Instead, it acts as a kind of automated ‘plagiarism police force’ to enforce academic integrity, which at the same time is also set to further disadvantage young people in countries such as Kenya where preparing academic texts for UK and US students is seen as a legitimate and lucrative service by students and graduates.

Ben Williamson takes a look at TurnItIn. He explores its past support from organisations like JISC and impact it has on higher education. The concern Williamson raises is that automated plagiarism checks will not resolve the underlying issues associated with cheating in higher education. Williamson adds further commentary in this Twitter thread:

Bookmarked Revenge of the Lunch Lady by an author

What McCoy had done in Huntington was exactly the kind of thing Republicans claim to celebrate. She wasn’t a Washington bureaucrat telling people to do it her way, or no way at all; she was a well-intentioned local who had figured out what made sense for her community and acted on it.

Jane Black explores the complexity associated with school meals. Although Jamie Oliver argued that it was simply about providing students with healthy food, Black explores the challenges of standards, funding, equipment, and training.
Bookmarked Testifying at the Senate about A.I.-Selected Content on the Internet—Stephen Wolfram Blog
In a hearing of the US Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet, Stephen Wolfram suggests that instead of breaking up the platforms we need to open up the possibility for third-party algorithms for people to choose between. This is all a part of what Wolfram explains as a movement towards an AI constitution. This post is useful in that it not only unpacks what is involved in creating such an algorithm, but it also unpacks a range of computational terms, such as data deducibility, computational irreducibility, non-explainability and ethical incompleteness.

Marginalia

Why does every aspect of automated content selection have to be done by a single business? Why not open up the pipeline, and create a market in which users can make choices for themselves?

Social networks get their usefulness by being monolithic: by having “everyone” connected into them. But the point is that the network can prosper as a monolithic thing, but there doesn’t need to be just one monolithic AI that selects content for all the users on the network. Instead, there can be a whole market of AIs, that users can freely pick between

I don’t think it’s realistic that everyone will be able to set up everything in detail for themselves. So instead, I think the better idea is to have discrete third-party providers, who set things up in a way that appeals to some particular group of users.

I wish we were ready to really start creating an AI Constitution. But we’re not (and it doesn’t help that we don’t have an AI analog of the few thousand years of human political history that were available as a guide when the US Constitution was drafted). Still, issue by issue I suspect we’ll move closer to the point where having a coherent AI Constitution becomes a necessity

there’s a “final ranking” problem. Given features of videos, and features of people, which videos should be ranked “best” for which people? Often in practice, there’s an initial coarse ranking. But then, as soon as we have a specific definition of “best”—or enough examples of what we mean by “best”—we can use machine learning to learn a program that will look at the features of videos and people, and will effectively see how to use them to optimize the final ranking.

As a variant of the idea of blocking all personal information, one can imagine blocking just some information—or, say, allowing a third party to broker what information is provided. But if one wants to get the advantages of modern content selection methods, one’s going to have to leave a significant amount of information—and then there’s no point in blocking anything, because it’ll almost certainly be reproducible through the phenomenon of data deducibility.

One feature of my suggestions is that they allow fragmentation of users into groups with different preferences. At present, all users of a particular ACS business have content that is basically selected in the same way. With my suggestions, users of different persuasions could potentially receive completely different content, selected in different ways.

Bookmarked How plants reclaimed Chernobyl’s poisoned land (bbc.com)

Trees and other kinds of vegetation have proven to be remarkably resilient to the intense radiation around the nuclear disaster zone.

Stuart Thompson discusses the rewilding of the environment around Chernobyl. This reminds me of the discussion of radioactive blueberries on the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast.
Bookmarked I live-tweeted the raids on the ABC — and it was a first for the AFP (ABC News)

John Lyons spent nine hours in a room with six AFP officers — who were unfailingly polite and respectful — but who were doing something he believed attacked the very essence of journalism.

John Lyons reports on his use of Twitter to broadcast the AFP’s raid on ABC. He explains that each day journalists receive tips, often anonymous. The choice to publish the two pieces which instigated the raid did not put anybody in danger. The raid signifies a particular challenge on journalism and truth.

In almost 40 years in journalism — and having myself been on an AFP warrant after I received and wrote stories based on leaked defence intelligence documents — I had never seen a warrant this all-encompassing.

The power to delete official documents reminded me of George Orwell’s book 1984.

Remember Winston Smith, who worked in the records department of the Ministry of Truth?

Part of his job was to delete documents or newspaper reports of wars which his government wanted to pretend never happened.

But this was Australia in 2019 — not George Orwell’s Oceania in 1984.

As Cory Doctorow argues in a separate piece:

The Australian authorities insist that the raids were not coordinated and that it’s all a coincidence. As Caitlin Johnson points out, that’s a hell of a coincidence, and if it’s true, it’s even scarier than the idea that the raids were coordinated — instead, it means that Australia’s cops and prosecutors have gotten the message that it’s open season on public interest journalism and are acting accordingly, with lots more to come.

Rebecca Ananian-Welsh argues that the raids are a threat to democracy:

One of the most disturbing outcomes is not prosecutions or even the raids themselves, but the chilling of public interest journalism. Sources are less likely to come forward, facing risk to themselves and a high likelihood of identification by government agencies. And journalists are less likely to run stories, knowing the risks posed to their sources and perhaps even to themselves.

In regards to 1984, Dorian Lynskey argues that we have gone beyond the vision painted by Orwell.

Bookmarked Facebook may be ‘pivoting’ to something worse (BBC News)

Make no mistake: few, if any, of the problems Facebook is “working hard” on at the moment would have come to light were it not for external pressure from journalists, lawmakers, academics and civil rights groups.

The examples I’ve raised here pose a question: is Facebook fixing itself, or merely making it harder for us to see it’s broken?

Dave Lee discusses Facebook’s supposed pivot to private and wonders if this is about making it harder for people to see how it is broken. Shoshana Zuboff argues that we have not even started reining in surveillance capitalism. In response, she suggests we need to interrupt data supplies, be better informed and engage in collective action.
Bookmarked The mindfulness conspiracy (the Guardian)

It is sold as a force that can help us cope with the ravages of capitalism, but with its inward focus, mindful meditation may be the enemy of activism

In this extract from McMindfulness, Ronald Purser argues that paying closer attention on the present is not revolutionary, but rather magical thinking on steroids. Stripped of spirituality and ethics, mindfulness is nothing more than concentration training. Sadly, it becomes something another commodity to market to people, with little done to resolve the underlying conditions. This reminds me of a point made by Audrey Watters about the problem with blaming people for social media addiction.

Marginalia

Anything that offers success in our unjust society without trying to change it is not revolutionary – it just helps people cope. In fact, it could also be making things worse. Instead of encouraging radical action, mindfulness says the causes of suffering are disproportionately inside us, not in the political and economic frameworks that shape how we live. And yet mindfulness zealots believe that paying closer attention to the present moment without passing judgment has the revolutionary power to transform the whole world. It’s magical thinking on steroids.

The problem is the product they’re selling, and how it’s been packaged. Mindfulness is nothing more than basic concentration training. Although derived from Buddhism, it’s been stripped of the teachings on ethics that accompanied it, as well as the liberating aim of dissolving attachment to a false sense of self while enacting compassion for all other beings.

What remains is a tool of self-discipline, disguised as self-help.

People are expected to adapt to what this model demands of them. Stress has been pathologised and privatised, and the burden of managing it outsourced to individuals.

By failing to address collective suffering, and systemic change that might remove it, they rob mindfulness of its real revolutionary potential, reducing it to something banal that keeps people focused on themselves.

Rather than discussing how attention is monetised and manipulated by corporations such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple, they locate the crisis in our minds. It is not the nature of the capitalist system that is inherently problematic; rather, it is the failure of individuals to be mindful and resilient in a precarious and uncertain economy. Then they sell us solutions that make us contented, mindful capitalists.

Kabat-Zinn, a dedicated meditator, had a vision in the midst of a retreat: he could adapt Buddhist teachings and practices to help hospital patients deal with physical pain, stress and anxiety. His masterstroke was the branding of mindfulness as a secular spirituality.

A truly revolutionary mindfulness would challenge the western sense of entitlement to happiness irrespective of ethical conduct.

If mindfulness just helps people cope with the toxic conditions that make them stressed in the first place, then perhaps we could aim a bit higher. Should we celebrate the fact that this perversion is helping people to “auto-exploit” themselves? This is the core of the problem.

Bookmarked Research: Women Score Higher Than Men in Most Leadership Skills (Harvard Business Review)

Leaders need to take a hard look at what gets in the way of promoting women in their organizations. Clearly, the unconscious bias that women don’t belong in senior level positions plays a big role. It’s imperative that organizations change the way they make hiring and promotion decisions and ensure that eligible women are given serious consideration. Those making those decisions need to pause and ask, “Are we succumbing to unconscious bias? Are we automatically giving the nod to a man when there’s an equally competent woman?” And, as our data on confidence shows, there’s a need for organizations to give more encouragement to women. Leaders can assure them of their competence and encourage them to seek promotions earlier in their careers.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman discuss research into women in leadership. What was interesting was the influence of self belief.

This relates to Caroline Criado Perez, author of the book, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, argument that, women are often absent from the data.

Bookmarked How (and why) to roll your own frameworks in consulting engagements (tomcritchlow.com)
  • Frameworks are simple tools for thinking that can create a shared world view and be easily referenced
  • The first instinct of many consultants is to grab a framework that you’ve heard of but this causes problems in three ways:
    • They’re too complex
    • They’re not relevant enough
    • You didn’t make it so there’s little attachment
  • Instead I believe you should be making your own frameworks and they you should focus on:
    • Simple frameworks (even a simple categorization is a framework)
    • True frameworks that say something about the client’s business
    • Co-creating them with clients so you get the IKEA effect
  • I’m still figuring it out but I believe doodling, sketching, notebook diagrams and visual thinking can help you get better at making frameworks
  • And, finally, for maximum effectiveness you need to focus on memorable names – compress to impress.
Tom Critchlow reflects on the use of frameworks to inform decision making. He touches on the failure of pre-existing framework and instead suggests we should focus on co-creating:

  • Firstly you avoid almost-true frameworks. The client almost certainly knows more than you do and has an awareness for the corporate memory so can help you avoid evolutionary dead ends that might not be immediately obvious.
  • Secondly by co-creating with the client you get at least one senior member of the organization fully immersed in the theory, not just the summary of the framework. Remember frameworks are abstractions – by design – but you want at least someone who understands the whole system not just the abstraction
  • Thirdly, because the client co-created it with you they are proud of their work and far more likely to use, reference and share the framework than if you hand it to them fully formed.

This process stems from ‘client-ethnographies’ that is a part of ongoing work:

Every time you’re on-site with a client’s organization you’re studying the people, the behaviours, the motivations. You’re asking questions of as many people as you can.

Activities such as doodling and refining the name can help with with the process.

Bookmarked #Domains19: Minority Report – One Nation Under CCTV (MASHe)

As the creator of TAGS privacy and surveillance often sit at the back on my mind. From the beginning TAGS was designed to help show people the amount of data we personally share and how easy it is for anyone to access. We all know that technology is not neutral and whilst there is a long list of people using TAGS for positive purposes by its nature there are some who turn to the darkside.

In a keynote for Domains19, Martin Hawksey takes a look at privacy and security. He shares a number of experiments (Domain Invaders and They Live) designed to highlight what is possible. It is interesting to consider all this alongside Kin Lane’s sentinelization of APIs. I wonder if it is about being informed?