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Posts Tagged ‘control

One might greet the tweet below with Futurama’s Professor Farnsworth’s utterance: Good news, everyone!

Finer user control is better than the coarse offerings in the past. However, the changes are not granular enough for me.

One YouTube channel might have many contributors. Most news organisations like CNN or MSNBC are like that. The changes in YouTube still do not allow me to favour some sources over others within each channel.

Since life is like a box of chocolates, I use that as a comparison. I like dark chocolate and I will live with milk, but I detest white. The changes to YouTube still force me to take the whole box.

When edtech vendors claim to individualise learning, we might greet such a claim with skepticism. Personalisation is not just a result of teaching-oriented algorithms; it is a function of learner empowerment.

I put three seemingly unrelated videos in one of my private YouTube playlists for watching or use later.

The first was about chocolate. The second about non-digital special effects. The third was about an autistic man. While they seem unrelated, they are linked to what and how I watch on YouTube.

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I watch SciShow religiously — I also subscribe to their podcast — so the first video is not surprising. This video feeds my need for nuanced views and to correct misconceptions.

The second might have appeared on my feed when I searched for current examples of augmented and virtual reality for a Masters course I am currently facilitating. This video appeared in my feed after that session was over and it was about neither AR nor VR, but it emphasised the importance of tactile manipulation in learning. It is something I can use in the closing session to highlight contextual use.

The third was a welcome surprise since I also facilitate a short course on ICT for inclusive education. The course stopped for a while as administrators worked out funding issues, but now that it is back I am glad to have another possible resource to spark discussion.

The link between these videos was how YouTube algorithms learnt my preferences and habits. While such algorithms are design to serve up videos and ads that might be relevant to me, it does not always do this well.

The ads are driven by more than personalisation. There is the brute force push and sell of products and services that have no relevance to me, e.g., how to be a Carousell or Amazon top seller. Those algorithms, if they apply at all, do not have my interest in mind.

The recommended videos are better. I help the algorithms out by occasionally deactivating my watch and search history. I might also use an incognito browser window. I do this to prevent the algorithms from thinking that I am interested in something new.

I also visit my watch history and delete videos listings that might misinform YouTube’s algorithms. This also helps me receive more relevant content.

The lesson is about taking control of your feeds. Do this and your feeds provide you with relevant content and serendipitous surprises. Don’t do this and you become a pawn in someone else’s game.

This CNET article is one of many that tries to provide help to those who want to control the data that Facebook has on you.

Its advice is restricted to changing settings on 1) who can tag you, and 2) how you should review posts before they appear in your timeline.

But there is much more you can do. For example, you should also check app permissions and audit privacy settings.

Facebook app permissions.

Facebook privacy settings.

The most important thing you can do is not a Facebook setting. It is a mindset and practice — you should reduce postings or refrain from posting.

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In the video above, Hank Green described a science fiction novel published in 1911 about “personalised news”. A century later, we now have news feeds.

The difference is that the personalised news in the novel was defined by the subscriber. The current reality of news feeds is that they are dictated by computer algorithms.

Neither extreme is healthy. If you choose only what you want to consume, you create a bubble. If you let something else choose what you read, you lose control. The latter process is also not transparent.

In the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica world, you stop becoming the customer being served products; you become the source of data and the product to be sold to others.

In between the novel and current Facebook fiasco is another reality. It exists only among those who take control. For example, I decide what I read with RSS. I decide who to follow and learn from with Twitter. Both lead me to reliable sources of information and carefully curated alternative points of view.

If you don’t control the feed, the feed is controlling you.

This video is an ad. As an ad, it does not paint the whole picture. In fact, it is designed to deceive.

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Most people will connect emotionally with the message it delivers: Disconnect from technology in order to reconnect with each other socially.

But that is an old and unnecessary message. People have been ignoring each other since it was possible to look occupied in a different part of the tree with a stick or the cave with a stone.

The ad is also manipulative. The makers of the technology-blocker do not point out that they are using one set of technologies to prevent another from working.

There is a cheaper, technology-free, and longer term solution. It is called making and keeping social contracts.

The ad makers want you to buy a product that presumes that you must start with an external locus of control (the disconnector) in order to create an internal locus of control (the desire to socialize). They fail to address reality when their product conveniently goes missing, if a link in their system breaks, or when people find workarounds.

Making and keeping social contracts might not work immediately. They are designed for the long run. You might use both the technological and social solutions to address a socio-technical problem, but you have to decide what you want to rely on over the long term.

The makers of this product remind me of many vendors of educational “solutions”. You might know who they are or you might be one of them. Check what applies:

  • No or little experience with learners or pedagogy.
  • Do not speak the language of educators.
  • Presume to understand teachers, schooling, and education based on own experiences.
  • Make broad, unsubstantiated claims on superficial understanding of educational psychology or complex research.
  • Offer technological solutions that only work like hammers and where every problem, no matter how diverse or systemic, becomes a nail.
  • Sound sincere, but ultimately wish to address quarterly profit or non-educational KPIs.
  • Claim to believe in one thing, but operate in another.

To the consumer I say: You are smarter than that.

To the irresponsible vendors I say: I will do my utmost to nurture an even smarter leader, teacher, learner, parent, etc.

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This video has been embedded in several techie blogs and surrounded by words that practically proclaim it as the next big thing. I would so love it to be!

The product is Leap, a gesture-based module for controlling whatever happens on a screen. It is touted to have no noticeable lag, detect fine motion, and is able to register all ten fingers or even a pencil tip.

While the Kinect offers coarse gesture control (you flap your arms and legs), the Leap offers fine control. This is a marked refinement in this form of human-computer interaction.

All Leap needs now is to be integrated into computers and gaming consoles. If that happens, the Minority Report style of interaction will leap off the screen and become a distinct reality.

It is Friday and it is time to chill after another busy week.

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I found this video from Gizmodo of a developer who has released a proof-of-concept application that uses your computer’s webcam to recognize simple gestures just like the Kinect does.

Ah, innovation. It starts with small steps!


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