Wasting Time

Welcome to Digitally Literate, issue #364. I posted the following this week.

Please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. I’m also posting the newsletter to Substack for a bit. Reach out and say hello at hello@digitallyliterate.net.

Divergent Conversations 2023

Join the 2023 Divergent Award Honorees as we interrogate the question of ‘Do we know what we really think we know about literacy in digital spaces?’

As a former Divergent Award Winner, I’m always interested in seeing the ways in which people are pushing the field.

Civil and Human Rights Should Be the Priority for US Leadership in AI, Says NAIAC Member

The National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee (NAIAC) has just published its first formal report, which covers the first year of the committee’s three-year appointment. The report frames AI as “a technology that requires immediate, significant, and sustained government attention.”

In a related development, the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights is a proposal by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for a set of principles that should protect the rights of the American public in the age of AI and other automated systems. The document outlines five principles: safe and effective systems, algorithmic discrimination protections, data privacy, notice and explanation, and human alternatives, consideration, and fallback.

Why this matters. We need a human rights-based approach to AI governance. There is a glaring need for transparency and accountability in AI systems and tools.

Classifying constructive comments

The Constructive Comments Corpus (C3) is a dataset of 12,000 annotated news comments that can be used to build new tools for online communities and possibly improve the quality of their discussions. It consists of constructive and non-constructive labels for comments in the dataset.

Constructive comments are defined as high-quality comments that make a contribution to the conversation. Sub-characteristics of constructiveness include relevance, specificity, clarity, supportiveness, and politeness. These are further broken down into more specific attributes such as asking questions, providing evidence, and acknowledging other perspectives.

Why this matters. Online comments are often seen as a source of toxicity, incivility, and misinformation, which can undermine the quality of public discourse and democratic participation. Research and datasets such as this can help online communities identify and promote comments that are more informative, respectful, and engaging. This could also encourage more constructive behavior from commenters and foster more productive and civil discussions.

The underbelly of electric vehicles

Do you own an electric vehicle (EV) or plan to get one soon?

This post explores the human and environmental costs of producing EVs, which require six times the mineral input of conventional vehicles. It also highlights the challenges and trade-offs of reducing carbon emissions from transportation while ensuring ethical and sustainable supply chains for EVs.

There are five minerals most critical to EV batteries: aluminum, nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium. These minerals are concentrated in a few countries, such as Guinea, Indonesia, Congo and Chile, where mining and processing them can harm workers, communities and ecosystems.

Why this matters. Technology and consumption have consequences. We need to examine the impacts and dilemmas of EV production, which depends on minerals that are rare and damaging to obtain.

Big Tech has a glaring double standard when it comes to web scraping

Web scraping is a common practice for both independent researchers who conduct public interest research and social listening companies who monitor online conversations. Big Tech treats both parties very differently.

Social listening companies get privileged access to social media data, while independent researchers face legal threats. This is unfair and harmful, as social media data is vital for well-being.

Why this matters. This matters because social media data can provide valuable insights into the emotions and well-being of individuals and societies, especially during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media can also be a positive source of support, connection, and creativity for people who use it mindfully and healthily. However, social media data is often inaccessible or restricted to independent researchers who want to conduct public interest research, while social listening companies who monitor and analyze online conversations for profit have more privileged access. This creates an unfair and harmful situation, as social media data is vital for understanding and improving the well-being of people and communities.

Why Are Insects Drawn to Light? A Perennial Question Gets a New Answer.

The study suggests that insects try to keep their backs pointed toward the light, which helps them stay level in the daytime, but causes them to roll, loop, or crash at night. The article also describes how the researchers used high-speed video and motion trackers to observe the behavior of insects around light bulbs in the lab and in the wild.

Why this matters. This gives us more insight into how light pollution harms insects and their ecosystems. This impacts food webs and services that insects provide, such as pollination, decomposition, and pest control, and has a direct impact on nature and humans.


ChatPDF is a great virtual assistant that will help you as you review and comprehend textbooks, handouts, research papers, and presentations.

Imagine you have a virtual assistant that can help you actively read and critique a PDF. Amazing!

There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.

Bill Watterson

In the webinar linked above, I was asked what questions or concerns I have about AI at this point. One area of concern (of many) revolves around how we might ultimately use these incredible new technologies. Will we use them to imagine and create new possibilities? Or, instead will we use it to create memes, troll others, and waste time?

Cover Photo CC BY using DALL·E.

Say hey at hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

Leave A Comment