From Complacency To Conundrum

Welcome back all! Here’s Digitally Literate, issue #345.

We’re in the process of cleaning up as Hurricane Ian passed through our region. We’re all safe here took the day to clean up the year and set up for fall. This week’s issue was a lot of fun to pull together. Make sure you watch the links at the bottom focused on 3D printed wearables.

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson talks about applying a “cosmic perspective” to many current problems on earth

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson draws on his new book, “Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization.” Tyson also discusses the difference between personal and religious “truths,” and the kind of objective truth that undergirds science and valid policy making.

Teens Now Turn to TikTok More Than Google — But Not for Schoolwork

Last fall, TikTok surpassed Google as the most-visited site on the web. Prabhakar Raghavan, the SVP of search at Google, said in July that “something like almost 40 percent of young people, when they are looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search, they go to TikTok or Instagram.”

About two-thirds of teens say they have used TikTok with 16 percent of those saying they use it almost constantly, according to a recent Pew study of 13- to 17-year-olds. That makes it second only to YouTube in social media popularity.

More recently, The New York Times and others have talked to young internet users and found that, in fact, they’re turning to TikTok for more and more of what you might call Google-able things.

The aesthetics of our new fictions

Humans like to try and make sense of the world through the creation of mental schema. When we encounter new information or learn, we either assimilate this information into things we already know or accommodate or make space for this new information by rewriting that story.

Caio Braga, Fabricio Teixeira, and Luciano Infanti remind us that we live in a world of schema, (what the authors call fictions), and these stories that we tell ourselves to make sense of the world are often changing.

Symbolism and other aesthetic indicators help make social fictions feel legitimate, trustworthy, and familiar. These visual codes instill trust and aid recognition when a fiction expands to different contexts, places, or eras. 

As old fictions start losing their place, space opens for new fictions to emerge in parallel. New narratives, new truths, and new worlds are being created.

Two new climate reports paint a dire picture for the future of humanity

Two new studies published this week indicate that we are rapidly approaching a number of “tipping points” that will change our world forever.

The “United in Science” report, tapped experts from a number of agencies including the United Nations, Global Carbon Project, and Urban Climate Change Research Network to look at where the planet is heading in the coming years. Their findings indicate that without much more ambitious action, the physical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change will be increasingly devastating.

In the journal Science, scientists focus on multiple tipping points or major ecological events that we are unlikely to be able to reverse, should they come to pass.

Let’s hope that this simultaneous climate calamity brings the whole Earth into focus. At the very least, we can start producing oxygen on Mars.

Our Friend the Atom

Following the horrors of Hiroshima, public attitudes towards nuclear weapons began, understandably, to sour, triggering a cultural shift towards anti-nuclear pacifism. The destructive power of the atom was unquestionable, and it needed a peaceful rebrand. Becky Alexis-Martin with a long-form piece on how the aesthetics of the Atomic Age helped whitewash the threat of nuclear disaster.

In some ways the Atomic Age is not unlike the present day. We live in a time of comparable environmental risk and numbing distraction, watching documentaries describing vanishing habitats, as rogue state leaders threaten nuclear annihilation. Skin cancer is becoming more common, and harmful zoonotic diseases such as Covid, malaria, and monkeypox reach further, faster. The Atomic Age reveals how world-changing events can inspire cultural transformation; and how their aesthetics can obscure a necessary urgency.

How big porn sites convert viewers into workers

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, pornography is a hidden engine that drives innovation. Pornography has often been the catalyst that has launched technology forward while non-porn compliant products get left in the dust.

The lead link for this section gives new insight into the click-and-look strategies we often saw in our research as we identified online reading comprehension.

The main thing I think about in this intersection between advancements in tech and porn is the recent trend of deepfakes. When deepfakes first popped up in our parlance, I gave it a lot of thought about whether I should share them because they dealt with porn. But, my chief concern was that it would be extremely problematic if that technology was used for disinformation. I have to say that I correctly identified that prediction.

How to drain your hierarchy of social dominance

When it comes to hierarchy and team structure, there are the functional, and organizational aspects (mostly good) and the social dominance parts (mostly bad). With that in mind, we can do plenty of smaller things to remind people that we are equal colleagues, simply with different roles.

  • Be conscious of the language you use. Does it reinforce dominance and hierarchy? (Step one: stop calling management “a promotion”)
  • De-emphasize trappings of power. The more you refer to someone’s formal power, the less likely anyone is to give them critical feedback or question them.
  • Push back against common but unhelpful practices, like “a manager should always make more money than the people who report to them.” Really? Why??
  • Are there opportunities for career advancement as an IC, or only as a manager? Everyone should have the ability to advance in their career.
  • Do your own dishes, everyone.
  • Practice visualizing the org chart upside down. Managers and execs support their teams from below rather than topping them from above.

Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.

Haruki Murakami

An interesting week in the field of printed wearables. My partner was enthralled with Bella Hadid’s Spray-on Dress. Astute readers will recognize that the story behind the spray-on dress started with a can of silly string and a man named Dr. Manel Torres. “I thought I could create a mist,” he said in a 2013 TED Talk. “

Second, in previous issues of DL, I shared the possibilities of a 3D printed midsole made by Carbon. Those possibilities became reality as Adidas released the 4DFWD 3D Printed Running Shoe.

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