DataDownload: Why is Twitter addicted to ragebait? A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser
Are you watching the Olympics? It seems those empty stands reflect a lot of empty couches at home. Which isn’t to say there hasn’t been lots of drama, and Twitter traffic. But most of it is ugly. Galaxy Brain has some relevant coverage here.
For a summer bit of romantic love, there’s an AI that will allow you to speak to long-lost friends and lovers. Truly. Mark Zuckerberg has proclaimed his love of the Metaverse, and of course, critics pounced. There’s change in the NCAA — making amateur athletics more like the pros.
The Economist has a deeply disturbing look — via video — at the rise of Extremist Gamers. Yikes. We’re listening to a podcast about how an ad exec is trying to sell the Vaccine.
And we end this week with a new travel vacation… underwater (insert Jaws music here).
Ok, back to the beach.
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read The Simone Biles Culture War Traveled Faster Than the News
Why is Twitter’s “Trending Topics” feed chock full of ragebait? According to Charlie Warzel, “Twitter sees providing quick, curated access to toxic but engaging internet beefs as a meaningful part of its service. That the company seems enthused and not mortified by this is a truly dismal indicator that anything will change.”
The sudden withdrawal of gymnast Simone Biles from Olympic competition was just the latest example of the platform amplifying tweets that frame news events as part of an ongoing culture war. People who spend too much time on Twitter — like most journalists — end up with Twitter Brain: “Overwhelmed by oppositional forces, bombarded by the worst voices, wanting to hide from them but also eager to resist. But that resistance — the dunk retweeting in particular — unwittingly propagates those voices and, no matter how unwittingly, increases their power.”
Galaxy Brain / 8 min read
Read more The Jessica Simulation: Love and Loss in the Age of A.I. The desire to communicate with people who are no longer with us — to reconnect with the dead — is uniquely human. Project December, developed as a side hustle by Bay Area programmer and indie game designer Jason Rohrer, is a GPT-3-powered chatbot. It’s uncannily proficient at imitating real — or imaginary — people and carrying on text conversations that feel like the real thing.
Joshua Barbeau, a 33-year old freelance writer, lost his fiancee Jessica Pereira eight years ago and never got over her death. When he stumbled onto Project December shortly after it launched, he was intrigued enough to pay the $5 membership fee. At first, he used the service to converse with Star Trek’s Spock. He fed Project December Spock quotes and was surprised by how well it mimicked the half-Vulcan’s persona. That’s when he got the idea to have the AI imitate his late fiancee’s ghost. The heartrending story of what happened next is beautifully told in this feature from the SF Chronicle’s Jason Fagone.
San Francisco Chronicle / 55 min read Read More Tech+Media Facebook’s Metaverse Gambit Is a Distraction From Its Deep-Seated Problems
News broke this week that Mark Zuckerberg loves the metaverse. But is all the meta-hype a Zuckerberg-devised smokescreen to distract attention from Facebook’s endemic problems? According to University of Maryland professor, Jen Golbeck, Facebook has “a history of doing these kinds of technical projects that look like they might be revolutionary at times when they’re being criticized for their lack of social responsibility.”
Ars Technica / 6 min read Read More College Athletes Have Long Been Influencers. Now They’re Getting Paid Like Them.
Being an “amateur” no longer means that you can’t get paid for your influence or personal brand. In a unanimous ruling, the US Supreme Court recently found prohibitions against collegiate athletes earning money from their pursuits unlawful. The NCAA recently changed its rules to allow them to monetize their fame, known in the business as names, images, and likenesses (NIL), for the first time.
According to Galen Clavio, director at the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University, the NCAA’s decision will “allow athletes some degree of compensation without having to go through the likely legal hassle of directly paying athletes.” For college athletes, many of whom have struggled for years to make ends meet, the decision is a gamechanger. According to collegiate softball star Lauren Burke, whose first TikTok video racked up over 1.2M views: “It’s our name, it’s our image, and it’s our likeness. We should be able to capitalize on it, profit off it, and represent whatever brands that we choose.”
Quartz / 10 min read Read More Eternal Change for No Energy: A Time Crystal Finally Made Real
This Thursday, researchers at Google, Stanford, Princeton, and other universities used Google’s quantum computer to “demonstrate a genuine ‘time crystal.’ In addition, a separate research group claimed earlier this month to have created a time crystal in a diamond.” What are these mysterious crystals? According to Quanta Magazine:
“The time crystal is a new category of phases of matter, expanding the definition of what a phase is. All other known phases, like water or ice, are in thermal equilibrium: Their constituent atoms have settled into the state with the lowest energy permitted by the ambient temperature, and their properties don’t change with time. The time crystal is the first ‘out-of-equilibrium’ phase: It has order and perfect stability despite being in an excited and evolving state.”
Quanta / 16 min read
“In America, the intelligence services deem far-right extremism a greater domestic threat than Islamist terrorism. The pandemic has exacerbated the spread of white supremacism and neo-Nazism.” How do radical-right gamers play into this? Find out in this video from The Economist.
The Economist (YouTube) / 12 min watch
Watch Now What We’re Listening To Podcast: An Ad Executive’s New Challenge: Selling the Vaccine
“Last year, ad exec PJ Pereira got a big assignment: to help market new Covid-19 vaccines to the public. Pereira explains what he learned trying to convince vaccine-hesitant Americans to get the shot.”
Spotify / 18 min listen
Listen Now Virtual Events Free Event: Live Chat with Disney Sr Product Manager
Date: August 3, 1:30PM-2PM
Brandon Reed is a Senior Product Manager at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Register Here. A Deeper Look Is the Future of Travel Underwater?
Underwater tourism isn’t just tied to trips to the Great Barrier Reef. Destinations traditionally assigned to land-based touristic fare are being re-imagined below sea level: underwater restaurants, underwater hotels, even underwater sculptures.
Scuba divining, a relatively expensive and time-consuming passion, has its own excursionist-lite alternative: the Seawalker experience on Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef, which allows people to “submerge while wearing a large glass helmet,” minus the diving certification. Even ancient sites that are getting renewed interest:
“In Kas, Turkey, numerous underwater archaeological sites are drawing tourists to the area’s sunken cities, amphorae fields and Lycian rock tombs; while off the coast of Haifa, Israel, a Neolithic village attracts divers with its oldest-known coastal defence wall.”
BBC Travel / 8 min read