I’m back at the Media Lab today and got to attend a talk by cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll, of MIT’s Science, Technology, and Society program, who’s speaking at Pattie Maes’s Tools for Well-Being series.
Digital technologies can have negative impacts on our well-being. Natasha grew interested in the topic over the course of writing Addiction by Design, on the game elements throughout machine gambling in Las Vegas. Speed, repetition, continuity, and designer chairs lure players into a zen flow and open wallet. The casino industry seeks to produce this bubble state, and closely tracks players’ behavior to further refine its profit engines. Loyalty cards are a key mechanism for these studies, recording the games we prefer, the denominations we default to. As “Dividuals“, we are treated as a collection of habits and preferences that can be marketed upon, often in real-time. Continue reading
The plane tickets are purchased and I’m getting closer to a place to sleep, so I can now announce that I’m going to SXSW for the first time since 2008 (that time I met Mark Zuckerberg at a Facebook nightclub event). I’ll speaking in a session with Josh Stearns of Free Press, Madeleine Bair of WITNESS, and Adaora Udoji of Syria Deeply. We’ll be sharing our experiences hacking global attention for the purposes of disasters and revolutions.
If you’re going to be in town, I’d love to see your face at the session (or over some incarnation of a taco).
Because I don’t have enough Tumblrs, I’ve started Companies Mobilizing Customers to collect examples of web-native companies mobilizing their customers to advocate on behalf of the services the companies offer. It’s a brave new world of corporate advocacy, disruptive technological possibilities, and evolving regulatory landscapes. Help me add new examples and those I’ve missed?
Uber intervenes in Boston bus driver strike
It can take some time (2.5 years?) before you really feel comfortable living in a new city. Some people jump right in, others need time. Even though I’m pretty nomadic and love things like bikeshares and coworking spots and Amazon Prime for purposes of pretending I live in places I don’t, I’m emotionally more in the latter camp.
I moved to San Francisco yesterday to try it out for a bit, and even though I’ve been all over the area on previous trips I haven’t been a good explorer these past 24 hours. For example, today I made the conscious decision to take a right hand turn for the sole purpose of breaking my one-street life thus far. It’s Catherine D’Ignazio’s thesis in real-time — she’s working to create a Fog of War for real life to encourage geographic serendipity.
I’m chatting with a friend in a new city going through the same thing. Her city is colder and darker. But I told her I’d write up my list of shortcuts to feeling like you belong somewhere. Here’s what I’ve got: Continue reading
I’ve combined political nerdery with fabrication nerdery to produce laser cut gerrymandered jigsaw puzzles. Each state’s political boundaries are laser cut into finished maple plywood to create a real wooden jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are the gnarly congressional districts designed every decade or so by politicians. States with lots of congressional districts (like California, Texas, and New York) make for pretty difficult puzzles. Even states with fewer districts get tricky to solve in the more populated areas.
The mere act of assembling a puzzle becomes a lesson in controversial computer-assisted gerrymandering, where politicians use Census results to carve their constituencies into districts that will keep them in power. I’m excited to say that for every puzzle purchased, we’ll be donating an additional puzzle to an innovative school civics education program. Students will learn about congressional representation and the decennial redistricting process. The puzzle pieces are also a great conversation starter for learning about The Great Compromise, whereby the far less populated states receive equal representation in the Senate.
Puzzle States are now for sale over at Etsy (you can always just go to puzzlestates.com). Get one today for the campaign geek in your life.
Liveblog of Kate Darling’s Berkman Center lunch, A discussion of near-term ethical, legal, and societal issues in robotics.
Kate begins with the observation that there aren’t nearly enough experts in robotic law. Those that are interested in the emergent field need to become more expert, and many more need to join them in the pursuit.
Here are some of the emerging issues:
- Liability: the chain of causality of harm is going to get longer and more complex
- Code is going to contain ethical decisions as autonomous units interact with their environments
- People’s sensitivity to invasion of privacy is more strongly manifested when infractions are committed by robots (vs. NSA infrastructure-level scripts). Public aversion to such invasions may actually be an opportunity to push for stronger privacy rights.
- Our tendency to project lifelike qualities on robotic objects. People bond with their cars, phones, stuffed animals, and virtual objects in video games. But this effect is stronger in robots.
- Physicality: we react differently to objects in our physical space than things on a screen
Clay Shirky‘s on stage with Ginny Hunt at Harvard’s Institute of Politics discussing the lessons we can take away from the Healthcare.gov boondoggle (#netrevolution).
Clay’s first point is that of all the criticism of Healthcare.gov and the Affordable Care Act, no one has argued that it’s a bad idea to rely on the web as the central component of citizen interaction with a government program. All of the other communications options, from phone to fax, have been considered second-rate fallback options. Continue reading