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5 ways to outsmart a burglar

<p>From burglars’ mouths to your ears: Here are the vulnerabilities they look for when they’re deciding whether to rob you blind.</p> <p><strong>1. Keep a car parked in your driveway</strong></p> <p>The investigative team at the Portland 24-hour news station KGW conducted an anonymous survey of 86 inmates incarcerated for burglary in a state prison, and almost all of the burglars surveyed said they’d think twice if they saw a car in a driveway.</p> <p><strong>2. Keep your doors and windows locked</strong></p> <p>Yes, this seems obvious. Yet a lot of people actually forget to lock their doors and windows. Most burglars KGW surveyed said they tended to “break in” simply by walking through an unlocked door or climbing through an unlocked window.</p> <p><strong>3. Consider making your door kick-proof</strong></p> <p>Some of the burglars surveyed by KGW said they’d be willing to kick in a locked door. It’s actually not difficult to kick in a door.</p> <p><strong>4. Don’t ignore a knock on the door</strong></p> <p>Every burglar surveyed by KGW reports knocking on the front door before breaking into a home; if someone answers the door, the burglar makes up an excuse and moves on. You don’t have to open the door for the person, but definitely let the person know you’re home – you just might thwart a burglary.</p> <p><strong>5. Prune those shrubs</strong></p> <p>Burglars value their privacy while they’re breaking and entering. Theoretically, if every house on a particular block seemed empty, a burglar would still choose to target the house that offers the most privacy. To deter would-be burglars, keep the shrubs around your house well-trimmed.</p> <p><em>Written by Lauren Cahn. This article first appeared in </em><span><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/im-a-burglar-heres-how-to-outsmart-me"><em>Reader’s Digest</em></a><em>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA93V"><em>here’s our best subscription offer.</em></a></span></p>

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Titanium is the perfect metal to make replacement body parts

<p><em>To mark the <a href="https://www.iypt2019.org/">International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements</a> we’re taking a look at how researchers study some of the elements in their work.</em></p> <p><em>Today’s it’s titanium, a metal known for its strength and lightness so it’s ideal for making replacement hips, knees and other parts of our bodies, but it’s also used in other industries.</em></p> <hr /> <p><a href="http://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/22/titanium">Titanium</a> gets its name from the <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Titan-Greek-mythology">Titans of ancient Greek mythology</a> but this thoroughly modern material is well suited to a huge range of high-tech applications.</p> <p>With the chemical symbol Ti and an atomic number of 22, titanium is a silver-coloured metal valued for its low density, high strength, and resistance to corrosion.</p> <p>I first studied titanium via a Master’s degree at the Institute of Metal Research in the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1999. One of my projects was to investigate the formation of titanium alloys for their high-strength characteristics.</p> <p>Since then, the applications for this metal have grown exponentially, from its use (as <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/titanium-dioxide">titanium dioxide</a>) in paints, paper, toothpaste, sunscreen and cosmetics, through to its <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/titanium">use as an alloy</a> in biomedical implants and aerospace innovations.</p> <p>Particularly exciting is the perfect marriage between titanium and 3D printing.</p> <p><strong>Custom design from 3D printing</strong></p> <p>Titanium materials are expensive and can be problematic when it comes to traditional processing technologies. For example, its high melting point (1,670℃, much higher than <a href="https://www.bssa.org.uk/topics.php?article=103">steel alloys</a>) is a challenge.</p> <p>The relatively low-cost precision of 3D printing is therefore a game-changer for titanium. 3D printing is where an object is built layer by layer and designers can create amazing shapes.</p> <p>This allows the production of complex shapes such as replacement parts of a <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-30/victorian-woman-gets-3d-printed-jawbone-implant/8400410">jaw bone</a>, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-21/rare-cancer-sufferer-receives-3d-printed-heel/5830432">heel</a>, <a href="https://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2014/05/16-ground-breaking-hip-and-stem-cell-surgery.page">hip</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27313616">dental implants</a>, or <a href="http://www.media-studio.co.uk/news/media-studios-first-3d-printed-titanium-cranioplasty-plate-delivered">cranioplasty plates</a> in surgery. It can also be used to make <a href="https://3dprint.com/219546/3d-print-golf-clubs-and-equipment/">golf clubs</a> and <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-norsk-boeing-idUSKBN17C264">aircraft components</a>.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/MF/Areas/Metals/Lab22">CSIRO is working with industry</a> to develop new technologies in 3D printing using titanium. (It even <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oc8GoOOUo4">made a dragon</a> out of titanium.)</p> <p>Advances in 3D printing are opening up new avenues to further improve the function of <a href="https://www.materialise.com/pl/node/3197">customised bodypart implants</a> <a href="https://www.renishaw.com/en/metal-3d-printing-for-healthcare--24226">made of titanium</a>.</p> <p>Such implants can be designed to be porous, making them lighter but allowing blood, nutrients and nerves to pass through and can even <a href="https://3dprint.com/219795/3d-printed-lattice-structures/">promote bone in-growth</a>.</p> <p><strong>Safe in the body</strong></p> <p>Titanium is considered the most biocompatible metal – not harmful or toxic to living tissue – due to its resistance to corrosion from bodily fluids. This ability to withstand the harsh bodily environment is a result of the protective oxide film that forms naturally in the presence of oxygen.</p> <p>Its ability to physically bond with bone also gives titanium an advantage over other materials that require the use of an adhesive to remain attached. Titanium implants last longer, and much larger forces are required to break the bonds that join them to the body compared with their alternatives.</p> <p>Titanium alloys commonly used in load-bearing implants are significantly less stiff – and closer in performance to human bone – than stainless steel or cobalt-based alloys.</p> <p><strong>Aerospace applications</strong></p> <p>Titanium weighs about half as much as steel but is 30% stronger, which makes it ideally suited to the aerospace industry where every gram matters.</p> <p>In the late 1940s the US government helped to get production of titanium going as it could see its potential for “<a href="https://titaniumprocessingcenter.com/titanium-technical-data/titanium-history-developments-and-applications/">aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, and other military purposes</a>”.</p> <p>Titanium has increasingly become the buy-to-fly material for aircraft designers striving to develop faster, lighter and more efficient aircraft.</p> <p>About 39% of the US Air Force’s <a href="https://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/f22/">F22 Raptor</a>, one of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world, is made of titanium.</p> <p>Civil aviation moved in the same direction with Boeing’s new <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/boeing-787-dreamliner">787 Dreamliner made of 15% titanium</a>, significantly more than previous models.</p> <p>Two key areas where titanium is used in airliners is in their landing gear and jet engines. Landing gear needs to withstand the massive amounts of force exerted on it every time a plane hits a runway.</p> <p>Titanium’s toughness means it can absorb the huge amounts of energy expelled when a plane lands without ever weakening.</p> <p>Titanium’s heat resistance means it can be used inside modern jet engines, where temperatures can reach 800℃. Steel begins to soften at around 400℃ but titanium can withstand the intense heat of a jet engine without losing its strength.</p> <p><strong>Where to find titanium</strong></p> <p>In its natural state, titanium is always found bonded with other elements, usually within igneous rocks and sediments derived from them.</p> <p>The most commonly mined materials containing titanium are <a href="https://geology.com/minerals/ilmenite.shtml">ilmenite</a> (an iron-titanium oxide, FeTiO<sub>3</sub>) and <a href="https://geology.com/minerals/rutile.shtml">rutile</a> (a titanium oxide, TiO<sub>2</sub>).</p> <p>Ilmenite is most abundant in China, whereas Australia has the highest global proportion of rutile, <a href="http://www.ga.gov.au/education/classroom-resources/minerals-energy/australian-mineral-facts/titanium#heading-6">about 40% according to Geoscience Australia</a>. It’s found mostly on the east, west and southern coastlines of Australia.</p> <p>Both materials are generally extracted from sands, after which the titanium is separated from the other minerals.</p> <p>Australia is one of the world’s <a href="https://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/titanium/mcs-2015-timin.pdf">leading producers of titanium</a>, producing more than 1.5 million tonnes in 2014. South Africa and China are the two next leading producers of titanium, producing 1.16 and 1 million tonnes, respectively.</p> <p>Being among the top ten most abundant elements in Earth’s crust, titanium resources aren’t currently under threat – good news for the many scientists and innovators constantly looking for new ways to improve life with titanium.</p> <hr /> <p><em>If you’re an academic researcher working with a particular element from the periodic table and have an interesting story to tell then why not <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/pitches">get in touch</a>.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/115361/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/laichang-zhang-715775">Laichang Zhang</a>, Professor Mechanical Engineering, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/titanium-is-the-perfect-metal-to-make-replacement-human-body-parts-115361">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Commonwealth Bank issues urgent warning over phishing scam

<p>Commonwealth Bank has issued an urgent warning telling customers of an email scam that has hit thousands of unsuspecting inboxes across Australia.</p> <p>The scam, which contains the words “CommBank” was detected on November 29 by anti-virus software company Mailguard.</p> <p>Customers have received an email asking them to verify recent transactions on their card.</p> <p> “We encourage our customers to stay vigilant and look out for fraud and scams,” a spokesperson told<a rel="noopener" href="https://7news.com.au/business/banks/commonwealth-bank-issues-urgent-warning-on-new-email-scam-hitting-inboxes-right-now-c-587199" target="_blank"> <em>7NEWS.com.au</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p>“We offer our customers the benefit from our 100 per cent guarantee against online fraud where they are not at fault.</p> <p>“Where there is fraudulent activity, our process is to fully reimburse our customers as quickly as possible to minimise inconvenience.”</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7833028/commbank.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/881a4a09c8e34134bef991afd5b851ab" /></p> <p>A blog shared by Mailguard about the phishing scam gave clear signs customers can follow to check if their emails from banks are authentic or not.</p> <p>The blog warned to check for spelling errors, and be aware if it takes you to the actual bank website or not.</p> <p>“This is another reminder for those who utilise online banking, to pay close attention to the emails they receive from their banks,” the post read.</p> <p>“To best protect yourself, it is imperative that you do not click any link contained within an email, especially if it does not address you by name.”</p> <p>Anyone who believes they have been scammed is urged to contact Commonwealth Bank. </p>

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Researchers answer whether or not social media is damaging to children and teenagers

<p>If you have grandkids, chances are you’ve worried about their presence on social media.</p> <p>Who are they talking to? What are they posting? Are they being bullied? Do they spend too much time on it? Do they realise their friends’ lives aren’t as good as they look on Instagram?</p> <p>We asked five experts if social media is damaging to children and teens.</p> <h2>Four out of five experts said yes</h2> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/300424/original/file-20191106-88372-1gchds4.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption"></span></p> <p>The four experts who ultimately found social media is damaging said so for its negative effects on mental health, disturbances to sleep, cyberbullying, comparing themselves with others, privacy concerns, and body image.</p> <p>However, they also conceded it can have positive effects in connecting young people with others, and living without it might even be more ostracising.</p> <p>The dissident voice said it’s not social media itself that’s damaging, but how it’s used.</p> <p><strong><em>Here are their detailed responses:</em></strong></p> <p><iframe id="tc-infographic-447" class="tc-infographic" height="400px" src="https://cdn.theconversation.com/infographics/447/481cdbb0db0264715f5a913360f033ab19a29f6e/site/index.html" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p><em>If you have a “<strong>yes or no</strong>” health question you’d like posed to Five Experts, email your suggestion to: alexandra.hansen@theconversation.edu.au</em></p> <hr /> <p><em>Karyn Healy is a researcher affiliated with the Parenting and Family Support Centre at The University of Queensland and a psychologist working with schools and families to address bullying. Karyn is co-author of a family intervention for children bullied at school. Karyn is a member of the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Committee, but not a spokesperson for this committee; this article presents only her own professional views.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/126499/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/au/team#alexandra-hansen">Alexandra Hansen</a>, Chief of Staff, <a href="http://www.theconversation.com/">The Conversation</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-social-media-damaging-to-children-and-teens-we-asked-five-experts-126499">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The internet's founder wants to "fix the web" but his proposal isn't ideal

<p>On March 12, the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, the internet’s founder Tim Berners-Lee said we needed to “<a href="https://webfoundation.org/2019/03/web-birthday-30/">fix the web</a>”.</p> <p>The statement attracted considerable interest.</p> <p>However, a resulting manifesto released on Sunday, and dubbed the <a href="https://contractfortheweb.org/">Contract for the Web</a>, is a major disappointment.</p> <p>Endorsed by more than 80 corporations and non-government organisations, the campaign seeks a return to the “<a href="https://techcrunch.com/2016/04/10/1301496/">open web</a>” of the 1990s and early 2000s – one largely free of corporate control over content.</p> <p>While appealing in theory, the contract glosses over several key challenges. It doesn’t account for the fact that most internet content is now accessed through a small number of digital platforms, such as Google and Facebook.</p> <p>Known as the “<a href="https://eprints.qut.edu.au/129830/">platformisation of the internet</a>”, it’s this phenomenon which has generated many of the problems the web now faces, and this is where the focus should be.</p> <p><strong>An undercooked proposal</strong></p> <p>Berners-Lee identified major obstacles threatening the future of the web, including the circulation of malicious content, “<a href="https://webfoundation.org/2019/03/web-birthday-30/">perverse incentives</a>” that promote clickbait, and the growing polarisation of online debate.</p> <p>Having played a central role in the web’s development, he promised to use his influence to promote positive digital change.</p> <p>He said the Contract for the Web was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/nov/24/tim-berners-lee-unveils-global-plan-to-save-the-internet">a revolutionary statement</a>.</p> <p>In fact, it’s deeply conservative.</p> <p>Berners-Lee claims it’s the moral responsibility of everybody to “save the web”. This implies the solution involves engaging civic morality and corporate ethics, rather than enacting laws and regulations that make digital platforms more publicly accountable.</p> <p>The contract views governments, not corporations, as the primary threat to an open internet. But governments’ influence is restricted to building digital infrastructure (such as fast broadband), facilitating online access, removing illegal content and maintaining data security.</p> <p><strong>Missing links</strong></p> <p>The contract doesn’t prescribe <a href="https://www.iicom.org/intermedia/intermedia-past-issues/intermedia-jul-2019/taking-aim-at-big-tech">measures</a> to address power misuse by digital platforms, or a solution to the <a href="http://www.lse.ac.uk/media-and-communications/assets/documents/research/T3-Report-Tackling-the-Information-Crisis.pdf">power imbalance</a> between such platforms and content creators.</p> <p>This is despite <a href="https://www.iicom.org/intermedia/intermedia-past-issues/intermedia-july-2018/platforms-on-trial">more than 50 public inquiries</a> currently taking place worldwide into the power of digital platforms.</p> <p>The most obvious gaps in the contract are around the obligations of digital platform companies.</p> <p>And while there are welcome commitments to strengthening user privacy and data protection, there’s no mention of how these problems emerged in the first place.</p> <p>It doesn’t consider whether the harvesting of user data to maximise advertising revenue is not the result of “<a href="https://contractfortheweb.org/principles/principle-5-respect-and-protect-peoples-privacy-and-personal-data-to-build-online-trust/">user interfaces and design patterns</a>”, but is instead baked into the <a href="https://www.hiig.de/en/data-colonialism-nick-couldry-digital-society/">business models of digital platform companies</a>.</p> <p>Its proposals are familiar: address the digital divide between rich and poor, improve digital service delivery, improve diversity in hiring practices, pursue human-centered digital design, and so forth.</p> <p>But it neglects to ask whether the internet may now be less open because a small number of conglomerates are dominating the web. There is <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Digital%20Platforms%20Inquiry%20-%20Final%20report%20-%20part%201.pdf">evidence</a> that platforms such as Google and Facebook dominate search and social media respectively, and the digital advertising connected with these.</p> <p><strong>Not a civic responsibility</strong></p> <p>Much of the work in the contract seems to fall onto citizens, who are expected to “<a href="https://contractfortheweb.org/principles/principle-9-fight-for-the-web/">fight for the web</a>”.</p> <p>They bear responsibility for maintaining proper online discourse, protecting vulnerable users, using their privacy settings properly and generating creative content (presumably unpaid and non-unionized).</p> <p>The contract feels like a document from the late 1990s, forged in the spirit of “<a href="https://www.wired.com/story/wired25-louis-rossetto-tech-militant-optimism/">militant optimism</a>” about the internet.</p> <p>It offers only <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/016344387009001005">pseudo-regulation</a> for tech giants.</p> <p>It also implies if tech giants can demonstrate greater diversity in hiring practices, allow users to better manage their privacy settings, and make some investments in disadvantaged communities, then they can avoid serious regulatory consequences.</p> <p><strong>Legacies of internet culture</strong></p> <p>A big question is why leading non-government organisations such as the <a href="https://www.eff.org/">Electronic Frontier Foundation</a> and <a href="https://www.publicknowledge.org/">Public Knowledge</a> have signed-on to such a weak contract.</p> <p>This may be because two elements of the original legacy of internet culture (as it started developing in the 1990s) are still applicable today.</p> <p>One is the view that governments present a greater threat to public interest than corporations.</p> <p>This leads non-governmental organisations to favour legally binding frameworks that restrain the influence of governments, rather than addressing issues of market dominance.</p> <p>The contract doesn’t mention, for instance, whether governments have a role in legislating to ensure digital platforms address issues of online hate speech. This is despite evidence that social media platforms are used to <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhaff/609/60904.htm#_idTextAnchor005">spread hate, abuse and violent extremism</a>.</p> <p>The second is the tendency to think the internet is a different realm to society at large, so laws that apply to other aspects of the online environment are deemed inappropriate for digital platform companies.</p> <p>An example in Australia is <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/law-should-treat-social-media-companies-as-publishers-attorney-general-20191120-p53cch.html">defamation law not being applied to digital platforms such as Facebook</a>, but being applied to the comments sections of news websites.</p> <p>Berners-Lee’s manifesto for the future of the web is actually more conservative than proposals coming from government regulators, such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/inquiries-ongoing/digital-platforms-inquiry">Digital Platforms Inquiry</a>.</p> <p>The ACCC is closely evaluating issues arising because of digital platforms, whereas the Contract for the Web looks wistfully back to the open web of the 1990s as a path to the future.</p> <p>It fails to address the changing political economy of the internet, and the rise of digital platforms.</p> <p>And it’s a barrier to meaningfully addressing the problems plaguing today’s web.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/127793/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/terry-flew-3944">Terry Flew</a>, Professor of Communication and Creative Industries, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-internets-founder-now-wants-to-fix-the-web-but-his-proposal-misses-the-mark-127793">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The problem with virtual reality is endless possibilities

<p>Just a few years ago, virtual reality (VR) was being showered with very real money. The industry raised an estimated US$900 million in venture capital in 2016, but by 2018 that figure had <a href="https://content.fortune.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/vir_graphic_01.png">plummeted to US$280 million</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.oculus.com/?locale=en_US">Oculus</a> - the Facebook-owned company behind one of the most popular VR headsets on the market - <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com.au/how-facebooks-oculus-go-santa-cruz-headsets-plan-to-make-vr-mainstream-2017-10">planned to deliver 1 billion headsets to consumers</a>, but as of last year had <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com.au/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-oculus-vr-bet-taking-longer-than-expected-2019-10?r=US&amp;IR=T">sold barely 300,000</a>.</p> <p>Investments in VR entertainment venues all over the world, VR cinematic experiences, and specialised VR studios such as <a href="https://atap.google.com/spotlight-stories/">Google Spotlight</a> and <a href="https://www.ccpgames.com/">CCP Games</a> have either significantly downsized, closed down or morphed into new ventures. What is happening?</p> <p>Recent articles in <a href="https://fortune.com/longform/virtual-reality-struggle-hope-vr/">Fortune</a> and <a href="https://www.theverge.com/a/virtual-reality">The Verge</a> have voiced disdain with VR technology. Common complaints include expensive, clunky or uncomfortable hardware, and unimaginative or repetitive content. Sceptics have compared VR experiences to the 3D television fad of the early 2010s.</p> <p>As a VR researcher and developer, I understand the scepticism. Yet I believe in this technology, and I know there are “killer apps” and solutions waiting to be discovered.</p> <p>Last week, Western Sydney University hosted a <a href="https://vrst.acm.org/vrst2019/">global symposium on VR software and technology</a>, at which academics and industry partners from around the world discussed possible ways forward for VR and augmented reality. Among the speakers were Aleissia Laidacker, director of Developer Experience at <a href="https://www.magicleap.com/">Magic Leap</a>; University of South Australia computing professor <a href="https://people.unisa.edu.au/Mark.Billinghurst">Mark Billingurst</a>; and Tomasz Bednarz, director of UNSW’s <a href="https://artdesign.unsw.edu.au/research/epicentre-expanded-perception-interaction-centre">Expanded Perception and Interaction Centre</a>.</p> <p><strong>Virtual reality, literal headache</strong></p> <p>One problem discussed at the symposium is the fact that VR experiences often cause health-related issues including headaches, eye strain, dizziness, and nausea. Developers can partially deal with these issues at the hardware level by delivering balanced experiences with high refresh and frame rates.</p> <p>But many developers are ignoring usability guidelines in the pursuit of exciting content. Gaming industry guidelines used by <a href="https://docs.unrealengine.com/en-US/Platforms/VR/DevelopVR/ContentSetup/index.html">Epic</a>, <a href="https://developer.oculus.com/design/latest/concepts/book-bp/">Oculus</a>, <a href="https://blog.marvelapp.com/designing-vr-beginners-guide/">Marvel</a>, and <a href="https://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/guidelines-for-immersive-virtual-reality-experiences">Intel</a> recommend that games completely avoid any use of induced motion, acceleration or “fake motion”, which are often the main cause of discomfort and motion sickness.</p> <p>Yet the vast majority of available VR experiences feature some kind of induced motion, either in the form of animation or by basing the experience on user movement and exploration of the virtual environment.</p> <p>I have met many first-time VR users who generally enjoyed the experience, but also reported “feeling wrong” – similar to enjoying the clarity of sound in noise-cancelling headphones but also having a “strange sensation” in their ears.</p> <p><strong>Killing creativity</strong></p> <p>Queasiness is not the only turnoff. Another problem is that despite the near-limitless potential of VR, many current offerings are sorely lacking in imagination.</p> <p>The prevailing trend is to create VR versions of existing content such as games, videos or advertisements, in the hope of delivering extra impact. This does not work, in much the same way that radio play would make terrible television.</p> <p>A famous cautionary tale comes from <a href="https://secondlife.com/">Second Life</a>, the virtual world launched in 2003 which <a href="https://gigaom.com/2013/06/23/second-life-turns-10-what-it-did-wrong-and-why-it-will-have-its-own-second-life/">failed spectacularly to live up to its billing</a>. Real-world businesses such as Toyota and BMW opened branches in Second Life, allowing users to test-drive badly programmed versions of their virtual cars. They <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/technology/few-lives-left-for-second-life-20080821-gdsrna.html">lasted mere months</a>.</p> <p>Why would we prefer a humdrum virtual experience to a <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-virtual-reality-cannot-match-the-real-thing-92035">real one</a>? No one needs a virtual Toyota. We need to give users good reasons to leave their reality behind and immerse themselves in a new one.</p> <p>There have been some notable successes. <a href="https://beatsaber.com/">Beat Saber</a>, made by Czech indie developers, is the one of the few games that have explored the true potential of VR – and is the only VR game to have grossed more than US$20 million.<span class="caption"></span></p> <p>The <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CPVOt7QjcM">VR Vaccine Project</a> helps to take the sting out of childhood needles, by combining a real-world vaccination with a superhero story in the virtual world, in which the child is presented with a magical shield at the crucial moment.</p> <p>I really hope VR is on its way to becoming more mainstream, more exciting, and less underwhelming. But we scientists can only present new technological solutions, to help make VR a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. Ultimately it is down to VR developers to learn from existing success stories and start delivering those “killer apps”. The possibilities are limited only by imagination.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/126761/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tomas-trescak-876634">Tomas Trescak</a>, Senior Lecturer in Intelligent Systems, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-main-problem-with-virtual-reality-its-almost-as-humdrum-as-real-life-126761">original article</a>.</em></p>

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New research shows conspiracy theorists actively seek out their online communities

<p>Why do people believe conspiracy theories? Is it because of who they are, what they’ve encountered, or a combination of both?</p> <p>The answer is important. Belief in conspiracy theories helps <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-science-for-climate-change-only-feeds-the-denial-how-do-you-beat-that-52813">fuel climate change denial</a>, anti-vaccination stances, <a href="https://theconversation.com/conspiracy-theories-fuel-prejudice-towards-minority-groups-113508">racism</a>, and distrust of the media and science.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0225098">paper published today</a>, we shed light on the online world of conspiracy theorists, by studying a large set of user comments.</p> <p>Our key findings are that people who eventually engage with conspiracy forums differ from those who don’t in both where and what they post. The patterns of difference suggest they actively seek out sympathetic communities, rather than passively stumbling into problematic beliefs.</p> <p>We looked at eight years of comments posted on the popular website <a href="https://reddit.com">Reddit</a>, a platform hosting millions of individual forums called subreddits.</p> <p>Our aim was to find out the main differences between users who post in r/conspiracy (a subreddit dedicated to conspiracy theories) and other Reddit users.</p> <p>Using a technique called <a href="https://towardsdatascience.com/sentiment-analysis-concept-analysis-and-applications-6c94d6f58c17">sentiment analysis</a> we examined what users said, and where they said it, during the months before their first post in r/conspiracy.</p> <p>We compared these posts to those of other users who started posting on Reddit at the same time, and in the same subreddits, but without going on to post in r/conspiracy.</p> <p>We then constructed a network of the subreddits through which r/conspiracy posters travelled. In doing so, we were able to discover how and why they reached their destination.</p> <p><strong>Seeking the like-minded</strong></p> <p>Our research suggests there is evidence for the “self-selection” of conspiracy theorists. This means users appear to be seeking communities of people who share their views.</p> <p>Users followed clear pathways to eventually reach r/conspiracy.</p> <p>For example, these users were over-represented in subreddits focused on politics, drugs and internet culture, and engaged with such topics more often than their matched pairs.</p> <p>We were also surprised by the diversity of pathways taken to get to r/conspiracy. The users were not as concentrated on one side of the political spectrum as people might expect. Nor did we find more anxiety in their posts, compared with other users.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00189/full">previous research</a> also indicated online conspiracy theorists are more <a href="http://theconversation.com/online-conspiracy-theorists-are-more-diverse-and-ordinary-than-most-assume-92022">diverse and ordinary</a> than most people assume.</p> <p><strong>Where do the beliefs come from?</strong></p> <p>To dig deeper, we examined the interactions between where and what r/conspiracy users posted.</p> <p>In political subreddits, the language used by them and their matched pairs was quite similar. However, in Reddit’s very popular general-purpose subreddits, the linguistic differences between the two groups were striking.</p> <p>So far, psychologists, sociologists, and philosophers have struggled to find anything distinct about conspiracy believers or their environments.</p> <p>Social media can play a role in spreading conspiracy theories, but it mostly entrenches beliefs among those who already have them. Thus it can be challenging to measure and understand how conspiracy beliefs arise.</p> <p>Traditional survey and interview approaches don’t always give reliable responses. This is because conspiracy theorists often frame their life in narratives of <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00861/full">conversation and awakening</a>, which can obscure the more complex origins of their beliefs.</p> <p>Furthermore, as philosopher David Coady <a href="https://theconversation.com/in-defence-of-conspiracy-theories-and-why-the-term-is-a-misnomer-101678">pointed out</a>, some conspiracy theories turn out to be true. Insiders do sometimes uncover evidence of malfeasance and cover-ups, as <a href="https://theconversation.com/from-richard-boyle-and-witness-k-to-media-raids-its-time-whistleblowers-had-better-protection-121555">recent debates over the need for whistleblower protections in Australia</a> reflect.</p> <p><strong>Echo chambers worsen the problem</strong></p> <p>Research about online radicalisation from philosophy has focused on the passive effects of technologies such as <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-american-philosophical-association/article/technological-seduction-and-selfradicalization/47CADB240E6141F9C6160C40BC9A6ECF">recommended algorithms</a> and their role in creating <a href="https://aeon.co/essays/why-its-as-hard-to-escape-an-echo-chamber-as-it-is-to-flee-a-cult">online echo chambers</a>.</p> <p>Our research instead suggests individuals seem to have a more active role in finding like-minded communities, before their interactions in such communities reinforce their beliefs.</p> <p>These “person-situation interactions” are clearly important and under-theorised.</p> <p>As the psychologist David C. Funder <a href="https://www.guilford.com/books/Handbook-of-Personality/John-Robins-Pervin/9781609180591/contents">puts it</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Individuals do not just passively find themselves in the situations of their lives; they often actively seek and choose them. Thus, while a certain kind of bar may tend to generate a situation that creates fights around closing time, only a certain kind of person will choose to go to that kind of bar in the first place.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>We suspect a similar process leads users to conspiracy forums.</p> <p><strong>A complex web of interactions</strong></p> <p>Our data indicates that conspiracy beliefs, like most beliefs, are not adopted in a vacuum. They are actively mulled over, discussed, and sought out by agents in a social (and increasingly online) world.</p> <p>And when forums like <a href="https://theconversation.com/8chans-demise-is-a-win-against-hate-but-could-drive-extremists-to-the-dark-web-121521">8chan and Stormfront are pushed offline</a>, users often look for other ways to communicate.</p> <p>These complex interactions are growing in number, and technology can amplify their effects.</p> <p>YouTube radicalisation, for example, is likely driven by interactions between algorithms and <a href="https://theconversation.com/dont-just-blame-youtubes-algorithms-for-radicalisation-humans-also-play-a-part-125494">self-selected communities</a>.</p> <p>When it comes to conspiracy beliefs, more work needs to be done to understand the interplay between a person’s social environment and their information seeking behaviour.</p> <p>And this becomes even more pressing as we learn more about the risks that come with conspiracy theorising.</p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/colin-klein-253131"><em>Colin Klein</em></a><em>, Associate Professor of Philosophy, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adam-dunn-2853">Adam Dunn</a>, Associate professor, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-clutton-446664">Peter Clutton</a>, Graduate Student in Philosophy, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/dont-just-blame-echo-chambers-conspiracy-theorists-actively-seek-out-their-online-communities-127119">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Social media and technology mean that dead celebrities can't rest in peace

<p>“To be dead,” wrote the 20th century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, “is to be a prey for the living.” Even Sartre, though, would have struggled to imagine casting James Dean in a movie 64 years after the actor’s death.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/afm-james-dean-reborn-cgi-vietnam-war-action-drama-1252703">curious announcement</a> that Dean, who died in a car crash in 1955 having made just three films, will star in a movie adaptation of Gareth Crocker’s Vietnam War novel Finding Jack, has been met with <a href="https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/james-dean-finding-jack-digital-actor-backlash-controversy-172502291.html">outrage</a>.</p> <p>It would be a remarkable CGI achievement for any studio to resurrect an actor who has been dead since the Eisenhower administration.</p> <p>True, the Star Wars movie Rogue One featured the late Peter Cushing “reprising” his role as Grand Moff Tarkin. But the new role given to Dean would reportedly be far larger and more complex. Cushing, at least, had already played Tarkin while he was alive.</p> <p>In Finding Jack, “James Dean” will supposedly be starring in a film based on a novel written 80 years after he was born, set near the end of a war that started after he died. He will reportedly be reanimated via “full body” CGI using actual footage and photos; another actor will voice him.</p> <p>The reaction to this goes beyond mere scepticism, however. Nor is it simply the now-familiar post-truth anxiety about no longer being able to tell what’s real and what isn’t. The rise of “<a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=12&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=2ahUKEwi_392QhdjlAhVLdCsKHQ_zC5gQFjALegQIAhAB&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2019%2F06%2F10%2Fopinion%2Fdeepfake-pelosi-video.html&amp;usg=AOvVaw2qK3CZZjtPtJJcix9JXZ4X">deepfakes</a>” presents a much greater threat on that front than bringing dead actors back to life.</p> <p>What’s at work here is another pervasive challenge of the online era: how we should live with the digital dead.</p> <p>People die online every day. Social media is increasingly full of <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13347-011-0050-7">electric corpses</a>; at some point <a href="http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2019-04-29-digital-graveyards-are-dead-taking-over-facebook">the dead will outnumber the living</a> on platforms like Facebook. This already poses a range of <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10676-015-9379-4">ethical and practical problems</a>. Some of these are the subject of a <a href="https://www.lawreform.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/lrc/lrc_current_projects/Digital%20assets/Project-update.aspx">NSW Law Reform Commission inquiry</a> into how we should deal with the digital assets of the dead and incapacitated.</p> <p><strong>Reanimation</strong></p> <p>These issues only get thornier once you add in the prospect of reanimation.</p> <p>For most of this decade, digital immortality was confined to press releases and fiction. A string of start-ups promised breathlessly to let you cheat death via AI-driven avatars, only to disappear when it became clear their taglines were better than their products. (The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/shortcuts/2013/feb/18/death-social-media-liveson-deadsocial">Twitter app LivesOn’s</a> “When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting” was undeniably clever).</p> <p>“Be Right Back,” a 2013 episode of the TV series Black Mirror, imagined a young woman who signs up for a service that brings her dead partner back to life using his social media footprint: first as a chat bot, then as a phone-based voice simulator, and finally as a lifelike automaton. It was brilliant, bleak television, but thankfully, it wasn’t real.</p> <p>Then in late 2015, 34-year-old Roman Mazurenko died in an accident in Moscow. As a tribute, his best friend, fellow tech entrepreneur Eugenia Kuyda, <a href="https://www.theverge.com/a/luka-artificial-intelligence-memorial-roman-mazurenko-bot">built the texts</a> Mazurenko had sent her into a chat bot.</p> <p>You can download Roman Mazurenko right now, wherever you get your apps, and talk to a dead man. Internet immortality might not be here yet, not quite, but it’s unsettlingly close.</p> <p><strong>Between remembrance and exploitation</strong></p> <p>Sadly, it’s not an immortality we could look forward to. When we fear death, one thing we particularly dread is the end of first-person experience.</p> <p>Think of the experience you’re having reading this article. Someone else could be reading exactly the same words at the same time. But their experience will lack whatever it is that makes this your experience. That’s what scares us: if you die, that quality, what it’s like to be you, won’t exist anymore. And there is, to mangle <a href="https://ethics.org.au/ethics-explainer-what-is-it-like-to-be-a-bat/">a famous line from Thomas Nagel</a>, nothing it is like to be a bot.</p> <p>But what about living on for other people? The Mazurenko bot is clearly a work of mourning, and a work of love. Remembering the dead, <a href="http://sorenkierkegaard.org/works-of-love.html">wrote Kierkegaard</a>, is the freest and most unselfish work of love, for the dead can neither force us to remember them nor reward us for doing so. But memory is fragile and attention is fickle.</p> <p>It seems reasonable that we might use our new toys to help the dead linger in the lifeworld, to escape oblivion a little longer. The danger, as the philosopher <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/05568641.2015.1014538">Adam Buben has put it</a>, is that memorialisation could slip into replacement.</p> <p>An interactive avatar of the dead might simply become a stopgap, something you use to fill part of the hole the dead leave in our lives. That risks turning the dead into yet another resource for the living. The line between remembrance and exploitation is surprisingly porous.</p> <p>That is what’s ultimately troubling about resurrecting James Dean. To watch a James Dean movie is to encounter, in some palpable way, the concrete person. Something of the face-to-face encounter survives the mediation of lens, celluloid and screen.</p> <p>To make a new James Dean movie is something else. It’s to use the visual remains of Dean as a workable resource instead of letting him be who he is. Worse, it suggests that James Dean can be replaced, just as algorithm-driven avatars might come to replace, rather than simply commemorate, the dead.</p> <p>We’ll know in time whether Finding Jack can live up to its likely premature hype. Even if it doesn’t, the need to think about how we protect the dead from our digital predations isn’t going away.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/127211/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/patrick-stokes-10346">Patrick Stokes</a>, Associate Professor of Philosophy, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/chat-bots-james-dean-can-the-digital-dead-rest-in-peace-127211">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Those at risk during bushfires might lose signal when they need it

<p>Yesterday, New South Wales and Queensland issued fire warnings classified as either “catastrophic”, “severe” or “extreme” - and these conditions will <a href="https://www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au/Pages/FDR.aspx">remain</a> in the coming days.</p> <p>Areas under threat include the greater Sydney area, northern New South Wales, the Northern Goldfields, and the Central Highlands. The declared state of emergency means human life is <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-12/nsw-bushfires-burn-amid-catastrophic-conditions-as-it-happened/11694646">at great risk</a>.</p> <p>Those at risk should evacuate ahead of <a href="https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/news-and-media/general-news/dangerous-fire-conditions">time</a>, as mobile phone services may not be <a href="https://www.optus.com.au/about/media-centre/media-releases/2019/11/optus-update-tuesday-12-november-bushfires-network-update-plus-disaster-assistance-support-activated-mid-north-coast1">reliable</a> when needed the most.</p> <p><strong>Service outages</strong></p> <p>People in dangerous bushfire situations often have the added burden of service outages. This can happen following fire damage to infrastructure (such as signal towers) that connects base stations that relay communications within the <a href="https://www.worldcat.org/title/understanding-telecommunications-networks/oclc/1004191902">network</a>. A break in this connection means no signal, or weak signal, for those on the ground.</p> <p>Generally, radio waves used for mobile communication behave differently as <a href="https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1276321">they travel</a>, based on various factors that affect signal strength. One factor is land geography, such as the height of hills. The signal may not be able to penetrate sand hills. Gum trees may also reflect, obstruct and absorb radio signals.</p> <p>The scenarios described above can be made worse by fire environments, based on the <a href="https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/8967/5.1.3-Communication-Systems.pdf">frequencies</a> used. Flames can produce “plasma”, which reacts with the surrounding magnetic field, and this degrades signal strength.</p> <p>Rural fire service operations may use frequencies in the 400-450MHz range to communicate, but these signals are weakened during fire, in which case they may use frequencies in the 100-180MHz range. At this wavelength, signal strength doesn’t degrade as badly and can sustain better <a href="https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/58684/8/02whole.pdf">communication</a>.</p> <p>Being <a href="https://mobilenetworkguide.com.au/pdf/Mobile-Network-Guide-Improving-Mobile-Signal.pdf">far away from a mobile phone tower</a>, often in rural areas, also results in degraded communication. Rural areas don’t receive as much coverage because installing cell towers in these areas is not particularly profitable, and towers are built based on revenue estimates. There is little incentive to build networks with additional capacity in rural areas.</p> <p><strong>Get out while you can</strong></p> <p>In bushfire situations, it’s crucial to leave affected areas early to avoid becoming stuck in <a href="https://www.communications.gov.au/what-we-do/phone/mobile-services-and-coverage/mobile-black-spot-program">mobile black spots</a>. These are regional and remote areas that have been identified as not having mobile phone <a href="https://www.communications.gov.au/what-we-do/phone/mobile-services-and-coverage/mobile-black-spot-program">coverage</a>.</p> <p>Some mobile black spots where fire danger warnings have been issued include Mount Seaview and Yarras, not far from the Oxley Highway in NSW. The status of the fires there was reported “out of control” <a href="https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me">on Tuesday morning</a>.</p> <p>Optus is planning to <a href="https://www.optus.com.au/shop/mobile/network/mobile-black-spot-program">roll out macrocells</a> at these locations to expand coverage between the end of this year and the middle of next year. These are base stations that cover a wide area and are typically deployed in rural regions or along highways.</p> <p>Until the macrocells are deployed, people living in mobile black spots, or who may be forced to pass through these areas due to fire, continue to be at risk. When passing through a fire-affected black spot, you are virtually <a href="https://www.communications.gov.au/what-we-do/phone/mobile-services-and-coverage/mobile-phone-towers">unreachable</a>.</p> <p>Also, although the mobile black spot program will help to increase 4G coverage in rural areas, most rural areas, including many at high risk of bushfires, rely largely on 3G. When people need extra data capacity during emergencies, the network is incapable of handling the increased traffic load, as every device is trying to connect and download data at the minimum 3G capacity of 550Kbps.</p> <p><strong>Network overload</strong></p> <p>The network gets congested at times of catastrophe due to the high volume of mobile phone traffic experienced, which exceeds the available network capacity. The mobile network in Billy’s Creek in NSW, and the areas connected to it, experienced an outage <a href="https://www.optus.com.au/about/media-centre/media-releases/2019/11/optus-update-tuesday-12-november-bushfires-network-update-plus-disaster-assistance-support-activated-mid-north-coast1">yesterday</a>.</p> <p>Telstra’s services have also been <a href="https://exchange.telstra.com.au/providing-bushfire-relief-to-our-customers-affected-in-new-south-wales/">affected</a>. As of Monday, people in Billy’s Creek, Yarras and Nimbin (among other locations) were unable to send or receive messages, make calls or access the internet, and may not have been up to date with the latest fire information, unless through radio or television.</p> <p>During bushfires last year, for every three calls attempted under Telstra’s network, one was eventually <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-20/mobile-phone-blackspots-put-lives-at-risk-during-fires/9566338">answered</a>. Everyone trying to call at once is referred to as a “mass call event”. This creates “congestive collapse” in parts of the internet-based network, blocking new connections from being made.</p> <p>During congestion, the performance of the network decreases because the internet packets that carry the calls or messages are dropped, or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1550147719829960">delayed</a>, before they reach their destination. One solution is for operators to have signal boosters installed for the affected part of the network.</p> <p><strong>There’s an app for that, if you have good connection</strong></p> <p>In the same way, the “Fires Near Me Australia” <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=au.gov.nsw.rfs.firesnearme.national&amp;hl=en">web application</a> is likely to suffer from internet packet deliveries being delayed.</p> <p>The app may be overwhelmed if too many people try to access it at once, and may crash. In such scenarios, people should reboot their phones and keep trying to connect.</p> <p>Some people have made complaints of not being able to download the app, and others of the app crashing, because their phone’s model was not new enough to support it.</p> <p>If the fires spread to densely populated areas, available 4G capacities may be exhausted by the sheer volume of the traffic. And congestion is made worse by more incoming traffic from across the country, from concerned family and friends.</p> <p>Preventative measures may no longer be an option for many. But in the future, people in fire-prone areas may benefit from buying a personal 4G or 3G mobile signal booster ahead of time.</p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stanley-shanapinda-610761">Stanley Shanapinda</a>, Research Fellow, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/la-trobe-university-842">La Trobe University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/as-flames-encroach-those-at-risk-may-lose-phone-signal-when-they-need-it-most-126827">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Doctor Google makes people anxious

<p>It’s a busy day at the office and your left eye has been twitching uncontrollably. So, out of curiosity and irritation you Google it.</p> <p>Various benign causes — stress, exhaustion, too much caffeine — put your mind at ease initially. But you don’t stop there. Soon, you find out eye twitches could be a symptom of something more sinister, causing you to panic.</p> <p>You ruin the rest of the day trawling through web pages and forums, reading frightening stories convincing you you’re seriously ill.</p> <p>For many of us, this cycle has become common. It can cause anxiety, unnecessary contact with health services, and at the extreme, impact our day-to-day functioning.</p> <p>But our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S088761851930218X">recently published research</a>, the first to evaluate online therapy for this type of excessive and distressing health-related Googling, shows what can help.</p> <p><strong>I’ve heard of ‘cyberchondria’. Do I have it?</strong></p> <p>The term “cyberchondria” describes the anxiety we experience as a result of excessive web searches about symptoms or diseases.</p> <p>It’s not an official diagnosis, but is an obvious play on the word “hypochondria”, now known as health anxiety. It’s obsessional worrying about health, online.</p> <p><a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs11920-008-0050-1.pdf">Some argue</a> cyberchondria is simply a modern form of health anxiety. But <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27497667">studies show</a> even people who don’t normally worry about their health can see their concerns spiral after conducting an initial web search.</p> <p>Cyberchondria <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1586/ern.12.162">is when searching is</a>:</p> <ul> <li> <p><strong>excessive:</strong> searching for too long, or too often</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>difficult to control:</strong> you have difficulty controlling, stopping or preventing searching</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>distressing:</strong> it causes a lot of distress, anxiety or fear</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>impairing:</strong> it has an impact on your day-to-day life.</p> </li> </ul> <p>If this sounds like you, there’s help.</p> <p><strong>We tested an online therapy and here’s what we found</strong></p> <p>We tested whether <a href="https://thiswayup.org.au/how-we-can-help/courses/health-anxiety-course/">an online treatment program</a> helped reduce cyberchondria in 41 people with severe health anxiety. We compared how well it worked compared with a control group of 41 people who learned about general (not health-related) anxiety and stress management online.</p> <p>The online treatment is based on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which involves learning more helpful ways of thinking and behaving.</p> <p>Participants completed six online CBT modules over 12 weeks, and had phone support from a psychologist.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214782916300379">treatment</a> explained how excessive web searching can become a problem, how to search about health effectively, and practical tools to prevent and stop it (see a summary of those tips below).</p> <p>We found the online treatment was more effective at reducing cyberchondria than the control group. It helped reduce the frequency of online searches, how upsetting the searching was, and improved participants’ ability to control their searching. Importantly, these behavioural changes were linked to improvements in health anxiety.</p> <p>Although we don’t know whether the program simply reduced or completely eliminated cyberchondria, these findings show if you’re feeling anxious about your health, you can use our practical strategies to reduce anxiety-provoking and excessive online searching about health.</p> <p><strong>So, what can I do?</strong></p> <p>Here are our top tips from the treatment program:</p> <ul> <li> <p><strong>be aware of your searching</strong>: don’t just search on auto-pilot. Take note of when, where, how often, and what you are searching about. Keep track of this for several days so you can spot the warning signs and high-risk times for when you’re more likely to get stuck in excessive searching. Then you can make a plan to do other things at those times</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>understand how web searches work</strong>: web search algorithms are mysterious beasts. But top search results are not necessarily the most likely explanation for your symptoms. Top search results are often click-bait – the rare, but fascinating and horrific stories about illness we can’t help clicking on (not the boring stuff)</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>be smart about how you search:</strong> limit yourself to websites with reliable, high quality, balanced information such as government-run websites and/or those written by medical professionals. Stay away from blogs, forums, testimonials or social media</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>challenge your thoughts by thinking of alternative explanations for your symptoms:</strong> for example, even though you think your eye twitch might be motor neuron disease, what about a much more likely explanation, such as staring at the computer screen too much</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>use other strategies to cut down, and prevent you from searching:</strong> focus on scheduling these activities at your high-risk times. These can be absorbing activities that take your focus and can distract you; or you can use relaxation strategies to calm your mind and body</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>surf the urge:</strong> rather than searching straight away when you feel the urge to search about your symptoms, put it off for a bit, and see how the urge to search reduces over time.</p> </li> </ul> <p>And if those don’t help, consult a doctor or psychologist.</p> <p><em>If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, check out resources about anxiety from <a href="https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety">Beyond Blue</a>, the Centre for Clinical Interventions <a href="https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Health-Anxiety">Helping Health Anxiety</a> workbook or <a href="https://thiswayup.org.au/">THIS WAY UP</a> online courses.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/125070/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jill-newby-193454">Jill Newby</a>, Associate Professor and MRFF/NHMRC Career Development Fellow, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-1414">UNSW</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/eoin-mcelroy-858386">Eoin McElroy</a>, Lecturer in Psychology, Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-leicester-1053">University of Leicester</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-dr-googles-making-you-sick-with-worry-theres-help-125070">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Hackers are getting smarter by targeting councils and governments

<p>In recent weeks, <a href="https://www.zdnet.com/article/city-of-johannesburg-held-for-ransom-by-hacker-gang/">Johannesburg’s computer network was held for ransom</a> by a hacker group called Shadow Kill Hackers. This was the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-49125853">second time</a> in three months a ransomware attack has hit South Africa’s largest city. This time, however, hackers didn’t pose the usual threat.</p> <p>Rather than denying the city <a href="https://www.hkcert.org/ransomware.hk/ransomware-basic.html">access to its data</a>, the standard blackmail in a ransomware attack, they threatened to publish it online. This style of attack, known as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ransomware#Leakware_(also_called_Doxware)">leakware</a>, allows hackers to target more victims in a single attack – in this case the city’s citizens.</p> <p>The latest Johannesburg attack was the second leakware attack of this type ever recorded, and a similar attack could hit Australia soon. And although our current cyberattack defences are more advanced than many countries, we could be taken by surprise because of the unique way leakware operates.</p> <p><strong>A new plan of attack</strong></p> <p>During the Johannesburg attack, city employees received a computer message saying hackers had “compromised all passwords and sensitive data such as finance and personal population information”. In exchange for not uploading the stolen data online, destroying it and revealing how they executed the breach, the hackers demanded four bitcoins (worth about A$52,663) - “a small amount of money” for a vast city council, they said.</p> <p><em><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/299645/original/file-20191031-187903-1ykyg4q.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/299645/original/file-20191031-187903-1ykyg4q.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">The hacker group operated a Twitter account, on which they posted a photo showing the directories they had access to.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">ShadowKillGroup/twitter</span></span></em></p> <p>In this case, access to data was not denied. But the threat of releasing data online can put enormous pressure on authorities to comply, or they risk releasing citizens’ sensitive information, and in doing so, betraying their trust.</p> <p>The city of Johannesburg decided <a href="https://coingeek.com/we-shall-not-pay-the-ransom-johannesburg-tells-hackers/">not to pay the ransom</a> and to restore systems on its own. Yet we don’t know whether the data has been released online or not. The attack suggests cybercriminals will continue to experiment and innovate in a bid to defeat current prevention and defence measures against leakware attacks.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/299644/original/file-20191031-187898-hhld2p.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/299644/original/file-20191031-187898-hhld2p.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">This login screen message was displayed on computers in Johannesburg following the attack.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">pule_madumo/twitter</span></span></p> <p>Another notable leakware attack happened a decade ago against the US state of Virginia. <a href="https://www.govtech.com/security/Cyber-Criminal-Demands-10-Million.html">Hackers stole</a> prescription drug information from the state and tried obtaining a ransom by threatening to either release it online, or sell it to the highest bidder.</p> <p><strong>When to trust the word of a cybercriminal?</strong></p> <p>Ransomware attack victims face two options: <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1361372316300367">pay, or don’t pay</a>. If they choose the latter, they need to try other methods to recover the data being kept from them.</p> <p>If a ransom is paid, criminals will often decrypt the data as promised. They do this to encourage compliance in future victims. That said, paying a ransom <a href="https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/paying-the-coverton-ransomware-may-not-get-your-data-back/">doesn’t guarantee the release or decryption of data</a>.</p> <p>The type of attack experienced in Johannesburg poses a new incentive for criminals. Once the attackers have stolen the data, and have been paid the ransom, the data still has extractive value to them. This gives them <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/1707.06247.pdf">duelling incentives</a> about whether to publish the data or not, as publishing it would mean they could continue to extort value from the city by targeting citizens directly.</p> <p>In cases where victims decide not to pay, the solution so far has been to have strong, separate and updated <a href="https://www.csoonline.com/article/3331981/how-to-protect-backups-from-ransomware.html">data backups</a>, or use one of <a href="https://www.nomoreransom.org/en/index.html">the passkeys available online</a>. Passkeys are decryption tools that help regain access to files once they’ve been held at ransom, by applying a repository of keys to unlock the most common types of ransomware.</p> <p>But these solutions don’t address the negative outcomes of leakware attacks, because the “<a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/bm/Documents/risk/cayman-islands/2017%20Deloitte%20-%20Taking%20data%20hostage%20-%20The%20rise%20of%20ransomware.PDF">hostage</a>” data is not meant to be released to the victim, but to the public. In this way, criminals manage to innovate their way out of being defeated by backups and decryption keys.</p> <p><strong>The traditional ransomware attack</strong></p> <p>Historically, <a href="https://www.techopedia.com/definition/4337/ransomware">ransomware attacks denied users access to their data, systems or services</a> by locking them out of their computers, files or servers. This is done through obtaining passwords and login details and changing them fraudulently through the process of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing">phishing</a>.</p> <p>It can also be done by encrypting the data and converting it to a format that makes it inaccessible to the original user. In such cases, criminals contact the victim and pressure them into paying a ransom in exchange for their data. The criminal’s success depends on both the value the data holds for the victim, and the victim’s inability to retrieve the data from elsewhere.</p> <p>Some cybercriminal groups have even developed complex online “<a href="https://www.computerworld.com/article/3173698/ransomware-customer-support-chat-reveals-criminals-ruthlessness.html">customer support</a>” assistance channels, to help victims buy cryptocurrency or otherwise assist in the process of paying ransoms.</p> <p><strong>Trouble close to home</strong></p> <p>Facing the risk of losing sensitive information, companies and governments often pay ransoms. This is <a href="https://www.synergetic.net.au/ransomware-attacks-on-the-rise-in-australia/">especially true</a> in Australia. Last year, 81% of Australian <a href="https://www.synergetic.net.au/ransomware-attacks-on-the-rise-in-australia/">companies</a> that experienced a cyberattack were held at ransom, and 51% of these paid.</p> <p>Generally, paying tends to <a href="http://www.rmmagazine.com/2016/05/02/ransomware-attacks-pose-growing-threat/">increase the likelihood</a> of future attacks, extending vulnerability to more targets. This is why ransomware is a rising global threat.</p> <p>In the first quarter of 2019, <a href="https://www.mcafee.com/enterprise/en-us/assets/reports/rp-quarterly-threats-aug-2019.pdf">ransomware attacks went up by 118%</a>. They also became more targeted towards governments, and the healthcare and legal sectors. Attacks on these sectors are now more lucrative than ever.</p> <p>The threat of leakware attacks is increasing. And as they become more advanced, Australian city councils and organisations should adapt their defences to brace for a new wave of sophisticated onslaught.</p> <p>As history has taught us, it’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/oct/01/systems-shut-down-in-victorian-hospitals-after-suspected-cyber-attack">better to be safe</a> than sorry.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/126190/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/roberto-musotto-872263">Roberto Musotto</a>, Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre Postdoctoral Fellow, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/brian-nussbaum-874786">Brian Nussbaum</a>, Assistant Professor at College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-at-albany-state-university-of-new-york-1978">University at Albany, State University of New York</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/hackers-are-now-targeting-councils-and-governments-threatening-to-leak-citizen-data-126190">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How to deal with smartphone stress

<p>In the past decade, smartphones have gone from being a status item to an indispensable part of our everyday lives. And we spend <a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/au/mobile-consumer-survey">a lot of time</a> on them, around <a href="https://www.emarketer.com/corporate/coverage/be-prepared-mobile">four hours a day on average</a>.</p> <p>There’s an increasing body of research that shows smartphones can interfere with our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749597814000089">sleep</a>, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352853217300159">productivity</a>, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032716303196">mental health</a> and <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13423-016-1011-z">impulse control</a>. Even having a <a href="https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/691462">smartphone within reach</a> can reduce available cognitive capacity.</p> <p>But it’s recently been suggested we should be more concerned with the potential for smartphones to shorten our lives by chronically <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/24/well/mind/putting-down-your-phone-may-help-you-live-longer.html">raising our levels of cortisol</a>, one of the body’s main stress hormones.</p> <p><strong>The stress hormone</strong></p> <p>Cortisol is often mislabelled as the primary fight-or-flight hormone that springs us into action when we are facing a threat (it is actually adrenaline that does this). Cortisol is produced when we are under stress, but its role is to keep the body on high alert, by increasing blood sugar levels and <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2004-15935-004">suppressing the immune system</a>.</p> <p>This serves us well when dealing with an immediate physical threat that resolves quickly. But when we’re faced with ongoing emotional stressors (like 24/7 work emails) chronically elevated cortisol levels can lead to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10732263">all sorts of health problems</a> including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and depression. The long term risks for disease, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2010-0192">heart attack, stroke</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2019.00043">dementia</a> are also increased, all of which can lead to premature death.</p> <p>While many people say they feel more stressed now than <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-10-13/smartphone-survey-results-show-fascinating-differences-in-usage/9042184">before they had a smartphone</a>, research has yet to determine the role our smartphones play in actually elevating our levels of cortisol throughout the day.</p> <p>A recent study found greater smartphone use was associated with a greater rise in the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563217306908">cortisol awakening response</a> – the natural spike in cortisol that occurs around 30 minutes after waking to prepare us for the demands of the day.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/300024/original/file-20191104-88378-14tmhxu.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/300024/original/file-20191104-88378-14tmhxu.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em> <span class="caption">In the past, we couldn’t receive angry emails from our bosses 24/7.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">from www.shutterstock.com</span></span></em></p> <p>Awakening responses that are too high or too low are associated with <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0167876008007940">poor physical and mental health</a>. But smartphone use did not affect participants’ natural pattern of cortisol rises and falls throughout the rest of the day. And no other studies have pointed to a link between smartphone use and chronically elevated cortisol levels.</p> <p>However people still do report feelings of <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15213269.2015.1121832">digital stress</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563215300893">information</a> and <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ct/article/27/3/269/4651866">communication overload</a>.</p> <p>Checking work emails in the evening or first thing upon waking can lead to the kind of stress that could potentially interfere with natural cortisol rhythms (not to mention <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749597814000089">sleep</a>). <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214007018">Social media can also be stressful</a>, making us feel tethered to our social networks, exposing us to conflict and cyberbullying, and fostering social comparison and <a href="https://clutejournals.com/index.php/JBER/article/view/9554">FoMO</a> (fear of missing out).</p> <p>Despite being aware of these stressors, the dopamine hit we get thanks to social media’s <a href="http://sheu.org.uk/sheux/EH/eh363mdg.pdf">addictive design</a> means there is still a compulsion to check our feeds and notifications whenever we find ourselves with idle time. More than half of under 35s regularly check their smartphone <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-10-13/smartphone-survey-results-show-fascinating-differences-in-usage/9042184">when on the toilet</a>.</p> <p><strong>Some tips</strong></p> <p>Dealing with smartphone-induced stress is not as simple as having periods of going cold turkey. The withdrawals associated with the unofficial condition known as <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4036142/">nomophobia</a> (an abbreviation of “no-mobile-phone phobia”) have also been shown to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143708/">increase cortisol levels</a>.</p> <p>Rather than going on a digital detox, which has been likened to the fad of the <a href="https://qz.com/1229311/digital-detoxing-is-the-tech-equivalent-of-a-juice-cleanse-and-neither-of-them-work/">juice cleanse diet</a>, we should be aiming for <a href="https://www.digitalnutrition.com.au/">digital nutrition</a>. That is, maintaining a healthier relationship with our smartphones where we are more mindful and intentional about what we consume digitally, so we can maximise the benefits and minimise the stress they bring to our lives.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/300027/original/file-20191104-88368-9qo4rf.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/300027/original/file-20191104-88368-9qo4rf.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em> <span class="caption">Making the bed and kitchen table phone-free zones can help to reduce their effect on our lives.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">from www.shutterstock.com</span></span></em></p> <p>Here are some tips for healthier smartphone use:</p> <ol> <li> <p>Use Apple’s “<a href="https://support.apple.com/en-au/HT208982">Screen Time</a>”, Android’s <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.actiondash.playstore&amp;hl=en_AU">ActionDash</a> or the <a href="https://inthemoment.io/">Moment app</a> to take an audit of how often you use your phone and which apps take up most of your time</p> </li> <li> <p>Turn off all but the most important app notifications (such as private messages) so you can take back control of when you look at your phone. You can also allocate certain times of the day to be notification free</p> </li> <li> <p>Turn off the “push” or “fetch new data” option on your smartphone’s email. This way emails will only appear when you open the mail app and refresh it. As an added bonus this will help extend your phone’s battery life</p> </li> <li> <p>Take some time to complete a digital declutter, which includes unfollowing people/pages (there’s an <a href="https://blogs.systweak.com/how-to-mass-unfollow-on-instagram/">app</a> for that!) and unsubscribing from email lists (<a href="https://www.cleanfox.io/en/">that too</a>!) that cause you stress or don’t benefit you. Remember you can unfollow friends on Facebook without defriending them</p> </li> <li> <p>Create tech-free zones in your house, such as the kitchen table or bedrooms. An “out of sight out of mind” approach will help keep smartphone-delivered stress from creeping into your downtime</p> </li> <li> <p>Set a digital curfew to support better restorative sleep and don’t keep your phone next to your bed. Instead of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning, start your day with a brief meditation, some exercise, or a slow breakfast</p> </li> <li> <p>Be mindful and curious about how often you pick up your phone during the day simply out of boredom. Instead of bombarding your mind with information, use these opportunities to clear your mind with a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bs0qUB3BHQ">short breathing exercise</a>. There’s even a mindfulness exercise that challenges you to hold your phone while you <a href="https://www.mindful.org/addicted-to-your-phone-try-this-practice-phone-in-hand/">meditate on your relationship with it</a>, so you can reclaim your phone as a cue to check-in with yourself, rather than your emails or social media feed.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/116426/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> </li> </ol> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/brad-ridout-730902">Brad Ridout</a>, Research Fellow; Registered Psychologist; Deputy Chair, Cyberpsychology Research Group, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-deal-with-smartphone-stress-116426">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Facebook unveils “empathetic” new logo that’s designed to promote “clarity”

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Facebook has taken the need to rehabilitate its image quite literally and unveiled a new corporate logo.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The company, which also owns other platforms such as Instagram and encrypted messaging site WhatsApp has released a new logo that it can use to differentiate itself from the social media site that shares the same name.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7832331/body-facebook.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/7728c133ea8f44fc92f9f8fd49f36b30" /></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The company is planning to introduce clearer Facebook branding on the other two popular social media channels it owns and use the new block lettering logo to show the difference. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Facebook’s chief marketing officer Antonio Lucio announced the reasoning behind the change. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The new branding was designed for clarity, and uses custom typography and capitalisation to create visual distinction between the company and app,” he said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“People should know which companies make the products they use … this brand change is a way to better communicate our ownership structure to the people and businesses who use our services to connect, share, build community and grow their audiences,” Mr Lucio said in a statement.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a separate statement to </span><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-04/facebook-adds-more-corporate-branding-to-instagram-whatsapp"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Bloomberg</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, he said that it was due to “emphatic” millennials.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“All the research that we’ve had from Generation Z and millennials was all very emphatic as to they need to know where their brands come from,” Mr Lucio said.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We needed to be more transparent with our users in showcasing that everything is coming from the same company.”</span></p>

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Recycling plastic bottles is good but reusing them is better

<p>Last week <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/woolworths-to-be-first-in-australia-with-zerowaste-food-delivery-system/news-story/8fb2f4018a2b0d25a63c58ba8b12a19b#.mo33b">Woolworths announced</a> a new food delivery system, in collaboration with US company TerraCycle, that delivers grocery essentials in reusable packaging.</p> <p>The system, called Loop, lets shoppers buy products from common supermarket brands in reusable packaging.</p> <p>As Australia works out how to meet the national packaging target for 100% of Australian packaging to be <a href="http://www.joshfrydenberg.com.au/guest/mediaReleasesDetails.aspx?id=562">recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025</a>, programs like this offer an opportunity to overhaul how plastic packaging is produced, used and recycled.</p> <p><strong>Recycling alone is not the silver bullet</strong></p> <p>Plastic packaging, most of which is for <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/3f275bb3-218f-4a3d-ae1d-424ff4cc52cd/files/australian-plastics-recycling-survey-report-2017-18.pdf">food and beverages</a>, is the fastest growing category of plastic use.</p> <p>In Australia <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/3f275bb3-218f-4a3d-ae1d-424ff4cc52cd/files/australian-plastics-recycling-survey-report-2017-18.pdf">less than 10%</a> of this plastic packaging is recycled, compared with 70% for paper and cardboard packaging.</p> <p>Of the <a href="http://www.sita.com.au/media/publications/02342_Plastics_Identification_Code.pdf">seven categories of plastic</a>, recycling of water bottles (PET) and milk bottles (HDPA) is most effective, yet recycling rates remain relatively low, around 30%.</p> <p>Other hard plastics (PVC, PS) and soft or flexible plastics, such as clingfilm and plastic bags, present significant challenges for recyclers. In the case of soft plastics, although recycling options are available, the use of additives known as plasticisers – used to make the hard plastic soft and malleable – often make products <a href="https://www.packagingcovenant.org.au/documents/item/2179">recycled out of soft plastics</a> weak, non-durable, and unable to be recycled further.</p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/we-cant-recycle-our-way-to-zero-waste-78598">Some researchers</a> argue recycling actually represents a <a href="http://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/features/2936/disposable-drink-bottles-plastic-vs-glass-vs-aluminium">downgrading process</a>, as plastic packaging is not always recycled into new packaging, owing to contamination or diminished quality.</p> <p>Even where single-use plastic packaging can be effectively recycled, it often isn’t. The more single-use plastics that are produced, the higher the chance they will enter the ocean and other environments where their <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-02-27/plastic-and-plastic-waste-explained/8301316">plasticiser chemicals leach out</a>, harming wildlife populations and the humans who depend on them.</p> <p>Zero Waste Europe recently updated its <a href="https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/recycling-and-reuse/warr-strategy/the-waste-hierarchy">Waste Hierarchy</a> to emphasise avoiding packaging in the first instance, and to encourage reuse over recycling.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/299986/original/file-20191103-88399-1hlgzdg.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/299986/original/file-20191103-88399-1hlgzdg.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">The zero waste hierarchy for a circular economy.</span> <span class="attribution"><a href="https://zerowasteeurope.eu/2019/05/a-zero-waste-hierarchy-for-europe/" class="source">Zero Waste Europe</a></span></p> <p><strong>Getting reuse right</strong></p> <p>For a reusable product to be more environmentally sustainable than a single-use product, it must promote the use of less energy and resources in our daily routines.</p> <p>Although the uptake of products such as reusable cups and shopping bags have increased, these types of reusable items have attracted criticism. If used correctly, these products represent a positive change. However, <a href="https://theconversation.com/heres-how-many-times-you-actually-need-to-reuse-your-shopping-bags-101097">some research suggests</a> these products can be less sustainable than the single-use items they are replacing if people treat them like disposable items and do not reuse them enough.</p> <p>For example, if you regularly buy new reusable bags at the supermarket, that potentially has a greater environmental impact than using “single-use” plastic bags.</p> <p>To really reduce plastic packaging, we need to find ways to alter the routines that involve plastic packaging, rather than directly substituting individual products (such as reusable bags for single-use ones).</p> <p><strong>Developing new reusable packaging systems</strong></p> <p>Redesigning ubiquitous plastic packaging means understanding why it is so useful. For food packaging, its functions might include:</p> <ol> <li> <p>allowing food to travel from producer to consumer while maintaining its freshness and form</p> </li> <li> <p>enabling the food to be kept on a shelf for an extended period of time without becoming inedible</p> </li> <li> <p>allowing the brand to display various nutritional information, branding and other product claims.</p> </li> </ol> <p>So how might these functions be met without disposable plastic packaging?</p> <p><a href="https://loopstore.com/how-it-works">TerraCycle Loop</a>, the business model that Woolworths has announced it will partner with, is currently also trialling services in the United States and France. They have partnered with postal services and large food and personal care brands including Unilever, Procter &amp; Gamble, Clorox, Nestlé, Mars, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo.</p> <p>Customers order products online, from ice-cream to juice and shampoo, with a small container deposit. These items are delivered to their house, and collected again with the next delivery. The containers are washed and taken back to the manufacturers for refill. The major participating brands have all redesigned their packaging to participate in the program.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/299987/original/file-20191103-88403-1n63f5v.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/299987/original/file-20191103-88403-1n63f5v.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">TerraCycle Loop reusable packaging.</span> <span class="attribution"><a href="https://loopstore.com/how-it-works" class="source">TerraCycle Loop</a></span></p> <p>This model works because it is not replacing products one-for-one, but creating a new product <em>system</em> to allow people to easily integrate reuse into their daily routines.</p> <p>We can examine the function of single use plastic packaging in takeaway food in a similar way. The purpose of takeaway food packaging is to let us enjoy a meal at home or on the move without having to cook it ourselves or sit in a restaurant. So how might these functions be achieved without disposable packaging?</p> <p>Australian company <a href="https://returnr.org/">RETURNR</a> has addressed this with a system in which cafes partner with food delivery services. Customers buy food in a RETURNR container, pay a deposit with the cost of their meal, and then return the container to any cafe in the network.</p> <p>The Kickstarter campaign <a href="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zeroco/zero-co-win-the-war-on-waste-at-your-place">Zero Co</a>, is offering a similar model for a resuse service that covers kitchen, laundry and bathroom products.</p> <p>Making reuse <a href="https://www.uts.edu.au/research-and-teaching/our-research/institute-sustainable-futures/news/developing-alternatives">easy and convenient</a> is crucial to the success of these systems.</p> <p>If Australia is to meet our national packaging targets, we need to prioritise the elimination of unnecessary packaging. Although recycling is likely to remain crucial to keeping plastic waste out of landfill in the near future, it should only be pursued when options higher up the waste hierarchy – such as reuse – have been ruled out.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/126339/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachael-wakefield-rann-321286">Rachael Wakefield-Rann</a>, Research Consultant, Institute for Sustainable Futures, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jenni-downes-12549">Jenni Downes</a>, Research Fellow, BehaviourWorks Australia (Monash Sustainable Development Institute), <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-florin-160370">Nick Florin</a>, Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Futures, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/recycling-plastic-bottles-is-good-but-reusing-them-is-better-126339">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Experts claim passengers should not worry about cracks found in Boeing 737s

<p>The <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-01/qantas-says-three-boeing-737-found-with-cracks/11661320">cracks found in three Qantas-owned Boeing 737s last week</a> led to calls that it should ground its 33 aircraft with a similar service record.</p> <p>Although the three planes have been grounded and will require complex repairs, the cracks – in a component called the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-31/pickle-fork-graphic/11660462">pickle fork</a>, which helps strengthen the join between the aircraft’s body and wing – do not threaten the plane’s airworthiness.</p> <p>This makes it more of a threat to consumers’ confidence in Boeing and the airlines that fly its planes, rather than a direct risk to passenger safety, especially after the tragedies over a <a href="https://theconversation.com/flights-suspended-and-vital-questions-remain-after-second-boeing-737-max-8-crash-within-five-months-113272">poorly thought out automatic control system</a> installed on the Boeing 737 MAX 8.</p> <p>More broadly, however, the pickle fork defects highlight a problem that aviation engineers have been contending with for decades: component fatigue.</p> <p>The world’s first commercial jet airliner, the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170404-the-british-airliner-that-changed-the-world">de Havilland Comet</a>, launched in 1952 but suffered two near-identical crashes in 1953 in which the planes broke up shortly after takeoff, killing all on board. A <a href="https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140414-crashes-that-changed-plane-design">third fatal breakup in 1954</a> triggered an investigation and threatened to end the era of mass air travel almost as soon as it had begun.</p> <p>The crashes were all ultimately blamed on “fatigue failure”, caused by a concentration of stress in one of the passenger windows which resulted in a rapidly growing crack.</p> <p>Almost any metal structure can potentially suffer fatigue failure, but the problem is that it is very hard to predict before it happens.</p> <p>It begins at an “initiation area”, often at a random point in the component, from which a crack gradually grows each time the part is loaded. In the case of aircraft, the initiation area may be random, but from there the crack generally grows at a predictable rate each flight cycle.</p> <p>One solution instituted after the Comet investigation was to subject all aircraft to regular inspections that can detect cracks early, and monitor their growth. When the damage becomes critical – that is, if a component shows an increased risk of failure before the next inspection – that part is repaired or replaced.</p> <p>The current damage to the Qantas aircraft is a long way short of critical, as highlighted by the fact that Qantas has pointed out the next routine inspection was not due for <a href="https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/incidents/qantas-southwest-airlines-checking-boeing-737-planes-for-structural-cracks/news-story/565826954fd9151b51896ae905642421">at least seven months</a> – or about 1,000 flights. This is normal practice under the official <a href="https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/airworthiness_directives/search/?q=737">airworthiness directives</a> for Boeing 737s.</p> <p>Obviously, given the public relations considerations also involved, Qantas has nevertheless taken the three planes out of service immediately.</p> <p><strong>Why aren’t the pickle forks a threat?</strong></p> <p>It might sound strange to say the cracks in the pickle forks aren’t a threat to the aircraft’s safety. Does that mean aircraft can just fly around with cracks in them?</p> <p>Well, yes. Virtually all aircraft have cracks, and a monitored crack is much safer than a part that fails without warning. Bear in mind that all aircraft safety is reinforced by multiple layers of protection, and in the case of the pickle fork there are at least two such layers.</p> <p>First, the pickle fork is secured with multiple bolts, so if one bolt should fail as a result of cracking, depending on the location there will be another five or six bolts still holding it in place.</p> <p>Second, should the unthinkable occur and a pickle fork totally fail, there is still another “structural load path” that would maintain the strength of connection between the wing and body, so this would not affect the operation of the aircraft.</p> <p>On this basis, it seems strange that the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association has <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-31/cracks-discovered-on-second-qantas-boeing-737/11657146">called for the entire fleet to be grounded</a>, especially given that this union has no official role in the grounding of aircraft. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is the only agency in Australia with a legal obligation to make such a ruling, and has <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2019/10/31/business/qantas-australia-union-737-scli-intl/index.html">assured passengers it is unnecessary</a>.</p> <p>Aircraft maintenance procedures are drawn up by the manufacturer’s design engineering team. Before the aircraft obtains a permit to fly, the designer has to demonstrate to a regulator – in Boeing’s case, the <a href="https://www.faa.gov/">US Federal Aviation Administration</a> – that is has fully accounted for all airworthiness issues. This has to be proved by both engineering calculations and physical models. The result is an extensive maintenance manual for each aircraft model.</p> <p>Before each flight the aircraft must be demonstrated to conform to the maintenance manual, which is the role of the maintenance engineers who work directly for airlines. While the maintenance engineers’ union is right to bring any safety concerns or maintenance issues to the attention of the airline and possibly the regulator, only the regulator is in a position to rule on whether a fleet, or part of it, should be grounded.</p> <p>Boeing and Qantas, and the many other airlines that fly 737s, are right to be concerned by this latest development because of the potential for it to harm them commercially. But while the cracked pickle forks will be giving executives headaches, passengers should rest easy in their seats.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/126268/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-page-378413">John Page</a>, Senior Lecturer with the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-1414">UNSW</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/should-you-worry-about-boeing-737s-only-if-you-run-an-airline-126268">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What you need to know about YouTube's algorithm system

<p>People watch <a href="https://youtube.googleblog.com/2017/02/you-know-whats-cool-billion-hours.html">more than a billion hours</a> of video on YouTube every day. Over the past few years, the video sharing platform has <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-youtube-pulled-these-men-down-a-vortex-of-far-right-hate">come under fire</a> for its role in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/opinion/sunday/youtube-politics-radical.html">spreading</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/sep/18/report-youtubes-alternative-influence-network-breeds-rightwing-radicalisation">amplifying</a> extreme views.</p> <p>YouTube’s video recommendation system, in particular, has been criticised for radicalising young people and steering viewers down <a href="https://policyreview.info/articles/news/implications-venturing-down-rabbit-hole/1406">rabbit holes</a> of disturbing content.</p> <p>The company <a href="https://youtube.googleblog.com/2019/01/continuing-our-work-to-improve.html">claims</a> it is trying to avoid amplifying problematic content. But <a href="https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=3298689.3346997">research</a> from YouTube’s parent company, Google, indicates this is far from straightforward, given the commercial pressure to keep users engaged via ever more stimulating content.</p> <p>But how do YouTube’s recommendation algorithms actually work? And how much are they really to blame for the problems of radicalisation?</p> <p><strong>The fetishisation of algorithms</strong></p> <p>Almost everything we see online is heavily curated. Algorithms decide what to show us in Google’s search results, Apple News, Twitter trends, Netflix recommendations, Facebook’s newsfeed, and even pre-sorted or spam-filtered emails. And that’s before you get to advertising.</p> <p>More often than not, these systems decide what to show us based on their idea of what we are like. They also use information such as what our friends are doing and what content is newest, as well as built-in randomness. All this makes it hard to reverse-engineer algorithmic outcomes to see how they came about.</p> <p>Algorithms take all the relevant data they have and process it to achieve a goal - often one that involves influencing users’ behaviour, such as selling us products or keeping us engaged with an app or website.</p> <p>At YouTube, the “up next” feature is the one that receives most attention, but other algorithms are just as important, including search result rankings, <a href="https://youtube.googleblog.com/2008/02/new-experimental-personalized-homepage.html">homepage video recommendations</a>, and trending video lists.</p> <p><strong>How YouTube recommends content</strong></p> <p>The main goal of the YouTube recommendation system is to keep us watching. And the system works: it is responsible for more than <a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/youtube-ces-2018-neal-mohan/">70% of the time users spend</a> watching videos.</p> <p>When a user watches a video on YouTube, the “up next” sidebar shows videos that are related but usually <a href="https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/11/07/many-turn-to-youtube-for-childrens-content-news-how-to-lessons/">longer and more popular</a>. These videos are ranked according to the user’s history and context, and newer videos are <a href="https://storage.googleapis.com/pub-tools-public-publication-data/pdf/45530.pdf">generally preferenced</a>.</p> <p>This is where we run into trouble. If more watching time is the central objective, the recommendation algorithm will tend to favour videos that are new, engaging and provocative.</p> <p>Yet algorithms are just pieces of the vast and complex sociotechnical system that is YouTube, and there is so far little empirical evidence on their <a href="https://arxiv.org/abs/1908.08313">role</a> in processes of radicalisation.</p> <p>In fact, <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1354856517736982">recent research</a> suggests that instead of thinking about algorithms alone, we should look at how they interact with community behaviour to determine what users see.</p> <p><strong>The importance of communities on YouTube</strong></p> <p>YouTube is a quasi-public space containing all kinds of videos: from musical clips, TV shows and films, to vernacular genres such as “how to” tutorials, parodies, and compilations. User communities that create their own videos and use the site as a social network have played an <a href="https://books.google.com.au/books?id=0NsWtPHNl88C&amp;source=gbs_book_similarbooks">important role</a> on YouTube since its beginning.</p> <p>Today, these communities exist alongside <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1329878X17709098">commercial creators</a> who use the platform to build personal brands. Some of these are far-right figures who have found in YouTube a home to <a href="https://datasociety.net/output/alternative-influence/">push their agendas</a>.</p> <p>It is unlikely that algorithms alone are to blame for the radicalisation of a previously “<a href="https://www.wired.com/story/not-youtubes-algorithm-radicalizes-people/">moderate audience</a>” on YouTube. Instead, <a href="https://osf.io/73jys/">research</a> suggests these radicalised audiences existed all along.</p> <p>Content creators are not passive participants in the algorithmic systems. They <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1461444819854731">understand how the algorithms work</a> and are constantly improving their <a href="https://datasociety.net/output/data-voids/">tactics</a> to get their videos recommended.</p> <p>Right-wing content creators also know YouTube’s policies well. Their videos are often “borderline” content: they can be interpreted in different ways by different viewers.</p> <p>YouTube’s community guidelines restrict blatantly harmful content such as hate speech and violence. But it’s much harder to police content in the grey areas between jokes and bullying, religious doctrine and hate speech, or sarcasm and a call to arms.</p> <p><strong>Moving forward: a cultural shift</strong></p> <p>There is no magical technical solution to political radicalisation. YouTube is working to minimise the spread of borderline problematic content (for example, conspiracy theories) by <a href="https://youtube.googleblog.com/2019/01/continuing-our-work-to-improve.html">reducing their recommendations</a> of videos that can potentially misinform users.</p> <p>However, YouTube is a company and it’s out to make a profit. It will always prioritise its commercial interests. We should be wary of relying on technological fixes by private companies to solve society’s problems. Plus, quick responses to “fix” these issues might also introduce harms to politically edgy (activists) and minority (such as sexuality-related or LGBTQ) communities.</p> <p>When we try to understand YouTube, we should take into account the different factors involved in algorithmic outcomes. This includes systematic, long-term analysis of what algorithms do, but also how they combine with <a href="https://policyreview.info/articles/news/implications-venturing-down-rabbit-hole/1406">YouTube’s prominent subcultures</a>, their <a href="https://arxiv.org/abs/1908.08313">role</a> in political polarisation, and their <a href="https://datasociety.net/pubs/oh/DataAndSociety_MediaManipulationAndDisinformationOnline.pdf">tactics</a> for managing visibility on the platform.</p> <p>Before YouTube can implement adequate measures to minimise the spread of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0894439314555329">harmful content</a>, it must first understand what cultural norms are thriving on their site – and being amplified by their algorithms.</p> <hr /> <p><em>The authors would like to acknowledge that the ideas presented in this article are the result of ongoing collaborative research on YouTube with researchers Jean Burgess, Nicolas Suzor, Bernhard Rieder, and Oscar Coromina.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/125494/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ariadna-matamoros-fernandez-577257">Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández</a>, Lecturer in Digital Media at the School of Communication, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/joanne-gray-873764">Joanne Gray</a>, Lecturer in Creative Industries, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/dont-just-blame-youtubes-algorithms-for-radicalisation-humans-also-play-a-part-125494">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Photo of Coles store shows the massive problem with older Australians and self-serve checkouts

<p>The growing adaption of self-serve checkouts has sparked a fiery debate online after complaints surfaced accusing supermarkets of neglecting senior Australian’s needs. </p> <p>An image shared to Facebook displayed queues of older Aussies lining up at a checkout in a Coles store.</p> <p>The snap was taken inside the Southlands Boulevarde shopping mall in Willettonm, a suburb in Perth Australia. </p> <p>The comment section heated up after many people aired their disappointment, saying it looked a lot like many supermarkets these days.</p> <p>“Stop relying on the self-serve checkouts, hire some staff,” the irritated shopper who shared the photo wrote.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7832153/fb-img.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/d4fb5ea8966c4fa8a41f00b6360ac862" /></p> <p>Several other frustrated people agreed with her statement, with one person commenting that supermarkets were limiting staff so they could “force the use of self-checkouts" on customers to “recoup the money spent on them”. </p> <p>Another said they always refused to “use self-checkout regardless of the shop”.</p> <p>Consumer behavioural analyst and managing director at Marketing Focus Barry Urquhart told <a rel="noopener" href="https://au.news.yahoo.com/" target="_blank"><em>Yahoo News Australia</em></a> there is a growing trend towards electronic efficiency - meaning the needs of older shoppers are being pushed to the wayside. </p> <p>Mr Urquhart says the traditional shopping experience is one older customer enjoy about grocery shopping. </p> <p>“A lot of people are very lonely, they live in soulless homes, their social interaction is between those who are serving them,” he said.</p> <p>“And when you remove that, the shopping experience is compromised depreciatively because it’s just a process and there’s no human interaction.</p> <p>“It’s interesting because the older people are, the more loyal of the supermarket customers, and they are, in a large part, loyal because of the personal interaction that they have with the ‘checkout chick’.”</p>

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Why Telstra's high-tech phones are meeting resistance from councils

<p>Australia is witnessing the first major redesign of the payphone booth since 1983. But Telstra’s new vision is meeting resistance from some councils, and the matter is in the courts.</p> <p>In an effort to make payphones relevant to the needs of modern Australians, Telstra’s revamped payphones feature mobile charging, Wi-Fi access through <a href="https://www.telstra.com.au/telstra-air">Telstra Air</a> (free or via a Telstra broadband plan, depending on the area), and large digital advertising displays.</p> <p>Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/20/telstra-and-city-councils-head-to-court-over-new-3m-tall-phone-booths">described</a> the new booths as “a craven attempt” to profit from “already crowded CBD footpaths”, and a “Trojan horse for advertising”.<a href="http://theconversation.com/will-australias-digital-divide-fast-for-the-city-slow-in-the-country-ever-be-bridged-60635"></a></p> <p>Under existing Universal Service Obligation (USO) agreements, Telstra has to provide payphones as part of its standard telephone service. The USO is a consumer protection measure that ensures everyone has access to landline telephones and payphones, regardless of where they live or work. Telstra is the sole provider of USO services in Australia.</p> <p>The USO is funded through an industry levy administered by the <a href="https://acma.gov.au/Industry/Telco/Carriers-and-service-providers/Universal-service-obligation/payphones-universal-service-obligation-acma">Australian Communications and Media Authority</a>. This means registered carriers with revenues over A$25 million per year contribute to the levy, including Telstra.</p> <p><strong>The face of the new Aussie payphone</strong></p> <p>In a <a href="https://exchange.telstra.com.au/modernising-payphones/">blog post</a> last March, a Telstra employee said the new “<a href="https://www.telstra.com.au/consumer-advice/payphones/smart-payphone">smart payphones</a>” provided emergency alerts, multilingual services, and content services including public transport information, city maps, weather, tourist advice, and information on cultural attractions.</p> <p>The booths are 2.64m tall, 1.09m wide, and are fitted with 75-inch LCD screens on one side. In 2016, 40 payphones were approved by City of Melbourne planners and installed over the following year, marking the start of Telstra’s plans for a nationwide rollout.</p> <p>Telstra’s submission to the city claimed the booths were “low-impact” infrastructure and therefore planning approval was not required, in accordance with the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/Series/C2004A05145">Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth)</a>.</p> <p>In 2017, Telstra and outdoor advertising company JC Decaux <a href="https://www.jcdecaux.com.au/press-releases/jcdecaux-renews-long-term-partnership-telstra-reinvent-payphone-australia">announced</a> a partnership to “bring the phone box into the 21st century”.</p> <p>It would initially have 1,860 payphones upgraded in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. These five cities represent 64% of the country’s population and 77% of advertising spend.</p> <p><strong>Taking matters to court</strong></p> <p>Earlier this year, Telstra’s application for 81 new booths was blocked by the City of Melbourne, and the city commenced proceedings in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have the booths redefined as not being low-impact.</p> <p>Given the council allowed 40 booths to be installed in 2017, it’s unclear why its position has since changed.</p> <p>In May, Telstra hit back by starting federal court proceedings against the council in an effort to overturn prior proceedings. In June, the Brisbane and Sydney city councils joined the City of Melbourne as co-respondents.</p> <p>Melbourne Councillor and Chair of Planning Nicholas Reece said the new payphones would create congestion on busy footpaths, describing them as “monstrous electric billboards masquerading as payphones”.</p> <p>He said the booths were “part of a revenue strategy for Telstra”.</p> <p>But Telstra <a href="https://exchange.telstra.com.au/modernising-payphones/">claims</a> the new payphones are only 15cm wider than previous ones. A company spokesperson said the extra size was necessary to accommodate fibre connections and other equipment needed to operate the booth’s services.</p> <p><strong>Who pays for, and profits from, payphones?</strong></p> <p>In 2017, a Productivity Commission inquiry into the USO <a href="https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/telecommunications/report">reported</a> an average annual subsidy of A$2,600-50,000 per payphone, funded through the industry levy.</p> <p>But the levy doesn’t cover the cost of installing and providing advertising on booths. Also, Telstra’s advertising-generated revenue doesn’t directly offset the cost of installing and operating the payphones.</p> <p>Telstra has advertised on its payphones for the past 30 years. But display screens for advertising on new booths are <a href="https://participate.melbourne.vic.gov.au/advertising-payphones">60% larger</a> than previous ones.</p> <p>The City of Melbourne is concerned because <a href="https://www.sgsep.com.au/publications/insights/the-economics-of-walking-deserves-far-more-attention">commissioned research</a> by SGS Economics and Planning estimates a 10% reduction in pedestrian flow because of the new booths. This would happen as a result of people getting distracted by the payphone advertising, and would cost the city A$2.1 billion in lost productivity.</p> <p>That said, federal legislation doesn’t prevent Telstra from placing advertising on payphones. So the existing court case could hinge on Melbourne city council’s argument that by increasing the size of digital displays, Telstra’s new payphones are no longer low-impact.</p> <p>The outcome should be known early next year.</p> <p><strong>Do we still need payphones?</strong></p> <p>At a time when consumers and businesses use about <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/new-report-tracks-internet-activity-on-mobile-and-fixed-lines">24.3 million mobile handsets</a>, it’s reasonable to <a href="https://theconversation.com/will-australias-digital-divide-fast-for-the-city-slow-in-the-country-ever-be-bridged-60635">question whether</a> payphones are still required.</p> <p>The number of payphones in operation today is sharply down compared with the payphone’s heyday in the early 1990s, when more than 80,000 could be found across Australia.</p> <p>But there’s strong evidence they continue to supply a vital public service.</p> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/298804/original/file-20191027-113991-16vo5j8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/298804/original/file-20191027-113991-16vo5j8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em> <span class="caption">Telstra’s payphones operate in many small regional communities such as Woomera, South Australia. It has a population of less than 200 people.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">georgiesharp/flickr</span></span></em></p> <p>Currently, Telstra provides more than 16,000 public payphones. Last year, these were used to make about 13 million phone calls, of which about 200,000 were emergency calls to 000.</p> <p>So regardless of the verdict on the Telstra case, the public payphone is and will continue to be an iconic and integral part of our telecommunications landscape.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/125815/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-a-gregory-619"><em>Mark A Gregory</em></a><em>, Associate professor, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/telstras-new-high-tech-payphones-are-meeting-resistance-from-councils-but-why-125815">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Netflix promises to crack down on users who share passwords

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Netflix have promised to crack down on users that share their passwords with friends or family members.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This means that if you borrow someone’s login, you might have to start paying for your own account in full.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Netflix offers account-sharing features, but they’re designed to let people in a single-household use one login.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The streaming giant is worried that users are sharing their logins among different households.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Netflix product chief Greg Peters spoke at Netflix’s Q3 2019 earnings and said that the company wants to address the issue of password sharing without “alienating a certain portion of the user base”.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We continue to monitor it so we’re looking at the situation,” he said, according to </span><a href="https://www.news.com.au/technology/home-entertainment/tv/netflix-vows-crackdown-on-users-who-share-logins-with-pals-or-family-and-could-make-you-pay-extra/news-story/09630a28861854c2aa32201a4dae3e25"><span style="font-weight: 400;">news.com.au</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We’ll see those consumer-friendly ways to push on the edges of that.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Experts have said that users are already seeing signs of a crackdown.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“They are policing this (already) by blocking the third concurrent screen if two screens are in use at the same time,” said Michael Pachter, a top analyst at Wedbush Securities, speaking to </span><a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/10180393/netflix-account-sharing-price-family-pay-extra/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Sun</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“That doesn’t help if the users are in different time zones, as many households with kids in college are.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“However, it definitely cracks down on widespread password sharing.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He added: “They also have a way to track device usage and can require two-factor authentication, although they’ve haven’t rolled that out yet.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The news follows an announcement by tech firm Synamedia about a new AI system that cracks down on account sharing by using machine learning technology to track shared passwords on streaming services.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Casual credentials sharing is becoming too expensive to ignore,” said product chief Jean Marc Racine, speaking at the CES event in Las Vegas this year.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Our new solution gives operators the ability to take action.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Many casual users will be happy to pay an additional fee for a premium, shared service.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It’s a great way to keep honest people honest while benefiting from an incremental revenue stream.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The technology, once it has located shared passwords across streaming services, could be used to force users to upgrade to a premium service or even shut down their account.</span></p>

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