Digitally Literate #204


The quiet part out loud
Digitally Lit #204 – 7/6/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to issue #204 of Digitally Literate.

In this newsletter I distill the news of the week in technology into an easy-to-read resource. Thank you for reading. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.

This week I was working on some things behind the scenes. More to come soon.


6 Life Lessons I Learned From AI Research (7:36)

This week I came across the Two Minute Papers YouTube channel as I was working on a video teaser for a publication.

This video is a bit outside of the norm as the host is discussing themes across recent research on artificial intelligence (AI).

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into AI, check out this slide deck on the State of AI in 2019.


They Kinda Want to Believe Apollo 11 Was Maybe a Hoax

This week was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing…or was it!!!

Amanda Hess in The New York Times on the movement toward conspiracy theories by online stars, and the “emotional ambivalence” held by their audiences.

The internet’s biggest stars are using irony and nonchalance to refurbish old conspiracies for new audiences, recycling them into new forms that help them persist in the cultural imagination. Along the way, these vloggers are unlocking a new, casual mode of experiencing paranoia. They are mutating our relationship to belief itself: It’s less about having convictions than it is about having fun.

In Stores, Secret Surveillance Tracks Your Every Move

A couple of years ago, I was listening to a podcast and they were discussing Apple’s inclusion of iBeacons in their devices.

Basically a low energy bluetooth chip in your device would “announce” your arrival to sensors at a location as you walk by. Imagine a world like in Blade Runner when you walk by a store, and the displays change based on your preferences and data collected about you. So, you might walk by a clothing store, and your phone will let the sensors know that you were recently searching for a new pair of pants. The signage outside the store will adjust accordingly.

This piece in The Privacy Project details how all of this works…and security concerns behind this data collection.

Depression Is Contagious: How Social Media Really Affects Your Mental Health

Keith Hampton, a researcher in Michigan State University’s Department of Media & Information, set out to test the theory that social media use leads to declining mental health. His findings challenge the notion that there is a looming mental health crisis in the U.S. and that the crisis is being caused by technology.

In research published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Hampton showed that social media use often has the opposite effect of what people think. Social media is a protective influence. His article, “Social Media and Change in Psychological Distress Over Time,” reveals that active internet and social media users are less likely to experience serious psychological distress, associated with depression or other mood and anxiety disorders.

A teen traded naked selfies with girls his age. A court is making him register as a sex offender.

The Colorado Supreme Court upheld a ruling last week that required a juvenile boy to register as a sex offender after sexting and trading erotic pictures with two girls roughly his age. This split decision highlights states’ recent struggles with applying laws passed in a less tech-heavy age.

According to a 2018 study cited in the case, approximately one in four teenagers has received a “sext,” and one in seven has sent one.

We’re seeing courts have challenges as they need to set a hard line as they seek to differentiate between child exploitation and (in this case) what sounded like “unfortunate teenage behavior.”

How to speak Silicon Valley: 53 essential tech-bro terms explained

Your guide to the “vocabulary of bullshit” in Silicon Valley, where capitalism is euphemized.

My favorite of the list:

apology (n) – A public relations exercise designed to change headlines. In practice, a promise to keep doing the same thing but conceal it better. “People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share,” said Mark Zuckerberg in a 2007 apology, before promising better privacy controls in a 2010 mea culpa, vowing more transparency in 2011, and acknowledging “mistakes” in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. See Facebook, privacy.


How To Build A Speech Recognition Bot With Python

Looking to learn a bit about coding with Python and want a challenging task? Want to also learn more about speech recognition and privacy/security concerns?

Check out how to build this “simple” speech recognition tool.

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To this day the f-word turns my stomach. Because ‘fine’ is a euphemism for everything you’re scared of saying.

Amy Molloy

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We celebrated my son’s ninth birthday this week. He received a ton of arts and crafts supplies as gifts from all…which were well received. My surprise present to him was his first drone. I did some research on “starter drones” and this video was a ton of help. I ultimately decided on the Inductrix FPV as it seems like it has a large modding community…and he/we can practice flying/racing indoors. I’ll post more on what we learn.

Digitally Literate is a summary of all the great stuff from the Internet this week in technology, education, & literacy. Say hey with a note at or on the social network of your choice.

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