Welcome back all! This is Digitally Literate, issue #309.
This week I post the following:
- Ungrading: Towards a Culture of Vibrant & Equitable Intellectual Discovery – I had the privilege of presenting a virtual keynote about my work and thinking about ungrading and alternative grading strategies to the good folks at ECU.
Last week I decided to unplug for a week as we had family come to visit for the weekend. It’s good to get back to keeping track of what’s happening in tech.
Mihály Csíkszentmihályi passed away last week at the age of 88.
Besides being one of the world’s leading researchers on positive psychology, he was best known for introducing flow theory in the 1970s, defining it as a state of mind attained when one becomes fully immersed in an activity.
In an interview with Wired magazine, he described the concept as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
If you haven’t heard by now, Facebook is rebranding itself under the moniker of Meta. This is an allusion to the metaverse, which is one part definition, one part aspiration, one part hype.
Facebook suggests that this rebrand is an attempt to make it easier to differentiate between the different apps that exist under the company’s banner. I believe this rebrand is an attempt to move the discussion from their string of bad news over the last couple of weeks/months/years. This is also an opportunity to make $$$ and capture the market around an eventual metaverse.
I’m continuing to unpack the Facebook Files, A Wall Street Journal investigation. Facebook executives have long said that artificial intelligence would address the company’s chronic problems keeping what it deems hate speech and excessive violence as well as underage users off its platforms. According to the documents, those responsible for keeping the platform free from content Facebook deems offensive or dangerous acknowledge that the company is nowhere close to being able to reliably screen it.
“The problem is that we do not and possibly never will have a model that captures even a majority of integrity harms, particularly in sensitive areas,” wrote a senior engineer and research scientist in a mid-2019 note.
He estimated the company’s automated systems removed posts that generated just 2% of the views of hate speech on the platform that violated its rules. “Recent estimates suggest that unless there is a major change in strategy, it will be very difficult to improve this beyond 10-20% in the short-medium term,” he wrote.
This March, another team of Facebook employees drew a similar conclusion, estimating that those systems were removing posts that generated 3% to 5% of the views of hate speech on the platform, and 0.6% of all content that violated Facebook’s policies against violence and incitement.
Re-entry into polite society is proving to be a little bumpy.
Some people may have thought that having been prevented from mingling with other humans for a period, folks would greet the return of social activity with hugs, revelry, and fellowship. Psychologists suggest that the long separation has made social interactions more fraught.
The combination of a contagious, life-threatening disease and a series of unprecedented, life-altering changes in the rules of human engagement has left people anxious, confused, and, especially if they do not believe the restrictions were necessary, deeply resentful.
Cal Newport with an interesting, reflective piece about his writings about the importance of deep work and the need to minimize distractions. Newport started receiving some pushback around his use of the term productivity.
He responded with this post on his blog, and then ultimately the piece in the New Yorker.
It is interesting to think about Newport’s question across these posts. Has the term “productivity” (and the culture surrounding productivity) outgrown its utility?
Dog trainers are turning to video sessions to work with pets and their owners. For training techniques designed to socialize puppies and adjust canine behavior, there’s still no substitute for face-to-snout.
This is part of the Business Transformation series from the NY Times, which focuses on how the pandemic has changed how the world does business.
I recently spent some time with the kids on our block making terrariums. This project looks like a perfect use case for my 3D printer.
The people are pieces of software called avatars. They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other in the Metaverse.
Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
Please note, Neal Stephenson is the writer who coined the term “metaverse” 30 years ago in his novel Snow Crash. I loved Seveneves and will soon start Anathem. Stephenson’s newest novel is Termination Shock.