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Stare Into The Lights My Pretties > Background Research

iGen

Jean Twenge (2018)

“Born in the mid-1990s up to the mid-2000s, iGen is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone. With social media and texting replacing other activities, iGen spends less time with their friends in person-perhaps contributing to their unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

But technology is not the only thing that makes iGen distinct from every generation before them; they are also different in how they spend their time, how they behave, and in their attitudes toward religion, sexuality, and politics. They socialise in completely new ways, reject once sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers. More than previous generations, they are obsessed with safety, focused on tolerance, and have no patience for inequality.”

YouTube, YouTubers and You

Susan Greenfield’s Reading list and other links to scientific resources

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

Adam Alter (2017)

Welcome to the age of behavioral addiction—an age in which half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior. We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and Millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.

In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why so many of today’s products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist.

By reverse engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good—to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play—and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children.

Over 400 of the World’s Most Popular Websites Record Your Every Keystroke

The idea of websites tracking users isn’t new, but research from Princeton University released last week indicates that online tracking is far more invasive than most users understand.

In the first installment of a series titled “No Boundaries,” three researchers from Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) explain how third-party scripts that run on many of the world’s most popular websites track your every keystroke and then send that information to a third-party server.

Some highly-trafficked sites run software that records every time you click and every word you type. If you go to a website, begin to fill out a form, and then abandon it, every letter you entered in is still recorded, according to the researchers’ findings. If you accidentally paste something into a form that was copied to your clipboard, it’s also recorded. These scripts, or bits of code that websites run, are called “session replay” scripts. Session replay scripts are used by companies to gain insight into how their customers are using their sites and to identify confusing webpages. But the scripts don’t just aggregate general statistics, they record and are capable of playing back individual browsing sessions.

The scripts don’t run on every page, but are often placed on pages where users input sensitive information, like passwords and medical conditions. Most troubling is that the information session replay scripts collect can’t “reasonably be expected to be kept anonymous,” according to the researchers.

Phone zombies on the road

“It’s People Like Us uses dashboard cameras to capture the driving behaviour of five young motorists, all of whom willingly signed up to the project, and each of whom is revealed as a serial offender when it comes to using their mobile phones while driving.”

What Makes You Click (2016)

“The biggest psychological experiment ever is being conducted, and we’re all taking part in it: every day, a billion people are tested online. Which ingenious tricks and other digital laws ensure that we fill our online shopping carts to the brim, or stay on websites as long as possible? Or vote for a particular candidate?

The bankruptcies of department stores and shoe shops clearly show that our buying behaviour is rapidly shifting to the Internet. An entirely new field has arisen, of ‘user experience’ architects and ‘online persuasion officers’. How do these digital data dealers use, manipulate and abuse our user experience? Not just when it comes to buying things, but also with regards to our free time and political preferences.

Aren’t companies, which are running millions of tests at a time, miles ahead of science and government, in this respect? Now the creators of these digital seduction techniques, former Google employees among them, are themselves arguing for the introduction of an ethical code. What does it mean, when the conductors of experiments themselves are asking for their power and possibilities to be restricted?”

Facebook: Cracking the Code (2017)

“What’s on your mind?” It’s the friendly Facebook question which lets you share how you’re feeling. It’s also the question that unlocks the details of your life and helps turn your thoughts into profits.

Facebook has the ability to track much of your browsing history, even when you’re not logged on, and even if you aren’t a member of the social network at all. This is one of the methods used to deliver targeted advertising and ‘news’ to your Facebook feed. This is why you are unlikely to see anything that challenges your world view.

This feedback loop is fuelling the rise and power of ‘fake news’. “We’re seeing news that’s tailored ever more tightly towards those kinds of things that people will click on, and will share, rather than things that perhaps are necessarily good for them”, says one Media Analyst.

This information grants huge power to those with access to it. Republican Party strategist Patrick Ruffini says, “What it does give us is much greater level of certainty and granularity and precision down to the individual voter, down to the individual precinct about how things are going to go”. Resultantly, former Facebook journalist, Adam Schrader thinks that there’s “a legitimate argument to this that Facebook influenced the election, the United States Election results.

“A computer with ‘eyes’ — see the future of computing with eye tracking”

Our World Today

Distracted. Addicted. Alone Together. Emotionally dead. Disengaged from the real world. A parody of itself.

Animation by Steve Cutts. Music by Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, These Systems Are Failing.

Digital Amnesia (2014)

Cop Watchers (2016)

Groups of citizens wielding cameras take to the streets of New York to document the systemic police brutality and racism facing the public. The cops hate it and so they push back hard. This is how police accountability plays out in the real world. Take heed.

Steven Rambam at HOPE XI, 2016

“First came the assault on privacy. Name, address, telephone, DOB, SSN, physical description, friends, family, likes, dislikes, habits, hobbies, beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, finances, every granular detail of a person’s life, all logged, indexed, analyzed and cross-referenced. Then came the gathering of location and communication data. Cell phones, apps, metro cards, license plate readers and toll tags, credit card use, IP addresses and authenticated logins, tower info, router proximity, networked “things” everywhere reporting on activity and location, astoundingly accurate facial recognition mated with analytics and “gigapixel” cameras and, worst of all, mindlessly self-contributed posts, tweets, and “check-ins,” all constantly reporting a subject’s location 24-7-365, to such a degree of accuracy that “predictive profiling” knows where you will likely be next Thursday afternoon. Today we are experiencing constant efforts to shred anonymity. Forensic linguistics, browser fingerprinting, lifestyle and behavior analysis, metadata of all types, HTML5, IPv6, and daily emerging “advances” in surveillance technologies – some seemingly science fiction but real – are combining to make constant, mobile identification and absolute loss of anonymity inevitable. And, now, predictably, the final efforts to homogenize: the “siloing” and Balkanization of the Internet. As Internet use becomes more and more self-restricted to a few large providers, as users increasingly never leave the single ecosystem of a Facebook or a Google, as the massive firehose of information on the Internet is “curated” and “managed” by persons who believe that they know best what news and opinions you should have available to read, see, and believe, the bias of a few will eventually determine what you believe. What is propaganda? What is truth? You simply won’t know. In a tradition dating back to the first HOPE conference, for three full hours Steven Rambam will detail the latest trends in privacy invasion and will demonstrate cutting-edge anonymity-shredding surveillance technologies. Drones will fly, a “privacy victim” will undergo digital proctology, a Q&A period will be provided, and fun will be had by all.”

The Outrage Machine

This short video explores how the online world has overwhelmingly become the popular outlet for public rage by briefly illustrating some of the many stories of everyday people which have suddenly become public enemy number one under the most misunderstood of circumstances and trivial narratives. With the web acting like a giant echo-chamber, amplifying false stories and feeding on the pent-up aggression of the audience watching the spectacle, The Outrage Machine shows how these systems froth the mob mentality into a hideous mess, as a good example of where the spectacle goes and how its intensity has to keep ratcheting up in order maintain the audience attention, in a culture of dwindling attention spans, distraction and triviality.

Filmmaker and author Jon Ronson also recently wrote a book about this topic too, which is quite good. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. His TED talk is essentially a 17 min overview:

And a longer presentation with interview and Q&A from earlier this year:

Put It in The Robot

The Next Wave of Google Robots

Boston Dynamics, well known as a developer of robots for the United States military as part of the “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,” has publicised its “next generation” of androids and robots.

Boston Dynamics was sold to Google in 2013.

Resistance is NOT Futile (ACCAN Debate, 2015)

We are free if we opt out of an endless regime of upgrades. Make the choice today to opt-out. I am not saying don’t use and don’t exploit the brilliance of mobile telephony, wi-fi, iphones and ipads and the Internet… I am talking about keeping oneself in check. Our feet are on the ground but sometimes we act as if we live in the Clouds. #getreal

“Internet of Things” — Doll

The Glass Cage: Where Automation is Taking Us

Nicholas Carr (2015)

In The Glass Cage, Pulitzer Prize nominee and bestselling author Nicholas Carr shows how the most important decisions of our lives are now being made by machines and the radical effect this is having on our ability to learn and solve problems.

In May 2009 an Airbus A330 passenger jet equipped with the latest ‘glass cockpit’ controls plummeted 30,000 feet into the Atlantic. The reason for the crash: the autopilot had routinely switched itself off. In fact, automation is everywhere – from the thermostat in our homes and the GPS in our phones to the algorithms of High Frequency Trading and self-driving cars. We now use it to diagnose patients, educate children, evaluate criminal evidence and fight wars. But psychological studies show that we perform best when fully involved in a task, while the principle of automation – that humans are inefficient – is self-fulfilling. The glass cockpit is becoming a glass cage.

In this utterly engrossing exposé, bestselling writer Nicholas Carr reveals how automation is affecting our ability to solve problems, forge memories and acquire skills. Rather than rejecting technology, Carr argues that we must urgently rethink its role in our lives, using it to enhance rather than diminish the extraordinary abilities that make us human.

Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

Robert McChesney (2014)

Celebrants and skeptics alike have produced valuable analyses of the Internet’s effect on us and our world, oscillating between utopian bliss and dystopian hell. But according to Robert W. McChesney, arguments on both sides fail to address the relationship between economic power and the Internet.

McChesney’s award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy skewered the assumption that a society drenched in commercial information is a democratic one. In Digital Disconnect, McChesney returns to this provocative thesis in light of the advances of the digital age. He argues that the sharp decline in the enforcement of antitrust violations, the increase in patents on digital technology and proprietary systems and massive indirect subsidies and other policies have made the internet a place of numbing commercialism. A handful of monopolies now dominate the political economy, from Google, which garners a 97 percent share of the mobile search market, to Microsoft, whose operating system is used by over 90 percent of the world’s computers.

Capitalism’s colonization of the Internet has spurred the collapse of credible journalism and made the internet an unparalleled apparatus for government and corporate surveillance and a disturbingly antidemocratic force.
In Digital Disconnect, Robert McChesney offers a groundbreaking critique of the Internet, urging us to reclaim the democratizing potential of the digital revolution while we still can.