Taking Away the Phones Won’t Solve Our Teenagers’ Problems

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…I’ve come to believe that conventional wisdom about the relationship between troubled kids and their favorite technology is wrong.

Although some research does show that excessive and compulsive smartphone use is correlated with anxiety and depression, there is a lack of direct evidence that devices actually cause mental health problems.

In other words, there simply does not yet exist a prospective longitudinal study showing that, all things being equal, teenagers who use smartphones more often or in certain ways are more likely than their fellows to subsequently develop mental illness.

In the meantime, we can’t just blame the machines. This is especially important because if smartphones aren’t a direct cause of teenagers’ mental health struggles, their use might instead be a crucial way in which these struggles are expressed. This calls for a different set of solutions.

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11% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?

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A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found some key reasons that some people do not use the internet. A third of non-internet users (34%) did not go online because they had no interest in doing so or did not think the internet was relevant to their lives. Another 32% of non-users said the internet was too difficult to use, including 8% of this group who said they were “too old to learn.” Cost was also a barrier for some adults who were offline – 19% cited the expense of internet service or owning a computer.

The Center’s latest analysis also shows that internet non-adoption is correlated to a number of demographic variables, including age, educational attainment, household income and community type.

Academics Gathered to Share Emoji Research, and It Was 🔥

Linguists and data scientists see a new way to study language and communication in our little digital ideograms.

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Papers presented at the conference highlighted emoji as markers of solidarity during crisis (think: “Je suis Paris 🙏🇫🇷”) or as ways to understand differences across gender or political ideologies (women use emoji more than men, but conservative men use way fewer emoji than liberal men). Others discussed the potential to decode emoji with machine learning, and the difficulties in teaching computers to recognize the multiple meanings of emoji in natural-language processing. A panel discussion raised questions about the way the emoji lexicon is developed, as well as the ways emoji can be misinterpreted across cultures. (The 👌 does not mean the same thing in English as it does in American Sign Language, nor does it mean the same thing to white supremacists.)

Tyler Schnoebelen, who gave the keynote speech on Monday, says conversations about emoji have been too often painted with a broad brush. There’s the utopian vision: emoji as a “universal language,” the great democratizer and harbinger of communication across class, culture, and geography. And then there’s the doomsday vision: emoji as the destruction of language, a political tool, a new way to send violent threats. The nuance often gets lost in between. We have hardly any research to tell us who uses emoji, when, why, and how that use has changed over time. We know even less about what emoji can reveal in disaster scenarios, campaigns, or educational settings; even linguists, who have looked at emoticons and other internet-born languages for decades, don’t have a consensus on what emoji mean for the future of language.

How Nighttime Tablet and Phone Use Disturbs Sleep

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Scientists had nine people spend 10 nights in a sleep laboratory. For five consecutive nights, they read before sleep with an iPad; then they read print for five nights. In both scenarios, they read in a dimly lit room until they felt ready to go to sleep.

The experiment, described in Physiological Reports, found that when people used iPads instead of reading print, they selected a later bedtime and had a later sleep onset. They also had suppressed levels of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, and delayed time to melatonin secretion. Periods of REM sleep — the rapid eye movements of the dreaming stage of sleep — were reduced when they used the iPad rather than printed material.

The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News

A large megaphone projects lies, fake news, falsehoods, and images of Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, and Hillary Clinton. A smaller megaphone projects truth.

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The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.

“It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.”

Instagram is changing the way we experience art, and that’s a good thing

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Increased visitor photography at galleries and museums has proved controversial at times. Recently a visitor to Los Angeles pop-up art gallery The 14th Factory destroyed $200,000 worth of crown sculptures. The sculptures rested on top of a series of plinths, and while attempting a selfie the visitor fell, knocking the plinths down in a domino style chain reaction.

Banning photography on the basis that it interferes with the visitor’s experience could be seen as cultural elitism; expressing a view that art can only be appreciated in an orthodox manner. It also ignores the potential of Instagram to bring a new dimension to artists, curators, exhibition designers and visitors.

Recent research at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art Gerhard Richter exhibition showed that visitors use Instagram as part of their aesthetic experience. A number of participants posted Richter’s art works on Instagram creatively immersing themselves in the image, wearing clothes matching the art, and copying Richter’s signature blurred style.

Another study at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ Recollect: Shoes exhibition in Sydney found that audiences used Instagram primarily to engage with exhibition content; not by taking selfies. Visitors mostly photographed the intricate details of the shoes’ design.

This finding was echoed in a larger study that focused on Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Far from the narcissistic selfie-obsessive behaviour that much media coverage insists is occurring, Instagram offers visitors authority and agency in sharing their experience.

This connects audiences with museum content in a way that they can control and is meaningful to them. New research shows how this activity is also tied to place – the museum, and the city beyond it.

Using Instagram in public spaces like museums and galleries is complex. It’s tied to broader research that shows how social media use in public spaces is challenging a range of social norms.