[Popular STEM] Curating the Internet: Science & technology digest for May 21, 2020

A Steem post describes the MineCraft effort to model the German village of Beilstein; A graduate reviews NYU's virtual "grad alley" pre-graduation celebration; The history and evolution of dark patterns, techniques that are used to subtly coerce or manipulate users into decisions; New sterilization robot prototypes from a Swiss startup; and a new study argues that as many as half of Twitter accounts arguing for reopening may be bots

Curating the Internet: Science & technology digest for May 21, 2020


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First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt


  1. Steem @cmp2020:Building the German Village of Beilstein: Build the Earth - Germany - I really like this MineCraft "Build the Earth" initiative. This post contains a description and an embedded youtube video of a collaborative effort by 25 MineCraft builders to model the German village of Beilstein in 48 hours. The village dates to 800 AD and is now part of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

    Here is the video, but click through to read more and give the post an upvote:

    (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @cmp2020.)

  2. NYU's virtual reality grad celebration was creepy and barren — I walked around in an angry-looking avatar and almost no one showed up - NYU's annual tradition is to host a "grad alley" block party every year on the day before graduation. This year, however, the city is in lockdown and the students have dispersed around the world, so the event was held in a virtual world. As students graduate into the worst jobs market since the Great Depression, this event was intended to give them a last chance to make memories together as a class. According to the author, however, the virtual world was bizarre, almost no one showed up to the event, and the avatars that were available were mostly angry looking. A student who attended the event is quoted as saying,
    I was only able to convince one friend of mine to join. Everyone else either wasn't interested, had technical difficulties, or had gone on it and hated it. There was no one there.
    The school still plans to hold a real-world graduation ceremony when the government eases lockdown restrictions.

  3. Dark Patterns: Past, Present, and Future - Subtitle: The evolution of tricky user interfaces - A dark pattern is a user interface design choice that coerces or manipulates a user into doing something that they wouldn't have done voluntarily. Examples include the practice of hiding free downloads in order to sell subscriptions; requesting personal information for one purpose, then using it for another; or letting scammers issue fraudulent communications; deceptive countdown timers; and more. These practices have emerged over the course of three decades, but they have only recent emerged into the public consciousness. As a result, researchers are now working to build a taxonomy by categorizing the different techniques and explaining how they work. The current dark patterns largely emerge out of three different areas: deceptive retail practices, research into "nudging (popularized by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler), and growth hacking. As a general rule, the goal of dark patterns is to help the site operator gain in influence, power, money or attention - often by making services addictive. This article argues that dark patterns are here to stay, but that designers should be aware of them and resist making use of them. To do this, it suggests moving beyond A/B testing; incorporating ethics into the design process; and making use of effective self-regulation to avoid coercive regulation from governments.

  4. Swiss Startup Developing UV Disinfection Robot for Offices and Commercial Spaces - Subtitle: The robot uses a UV-C disinfection system to target desktops, counters, and equipment in common spaces - This article tells us about a new robot protottype from Rovenso for "an autonomous and efficient coronavirus destroyer." The robot is described as "a hack" that is extended from the firm's autonomous security and monitoring robots, and it makes use of deep ultraviolet light (UVC-) for its disinfectant capability. The article explains that the plan is to enhance, not replace, existing processes.

    Here are two videos from the article:

  5. Nearly half of Twitter accounts pushing to reopen America may be bots - Subtitle: There has been a huge upswell of Twitter bot activity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, amplifying medical disinformation and the push to reopen America. - Whenever I see the word, "may" in a headline, I mentally replace it with "may not". The article reports on work by Kathleen M. Carley and her colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University. The work suggests that 45-60% of twitter accounts that are spreading medical disinformation and pushing to reopen the economy may be bots, and many of them follow, "well-worn patterns of coordinated influence campaigns". It also worries, however, that some of the automation is becoming more sophisticated and getting more deeply connected to other accounts. According to the article,
    They also engage in more strategies to target at-risk groups like immigrants and minorities and help real accounts engaged in hate speech to form online groups.
    The analysis was performed by applying machine learning and network analysis techniques to 200 million coronavirus tweets that have been posted since January. The team is also studying Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube to learn how disinformation spreads between platforms. Perhaps I missed it, but I wasn't able to find a link to the actual study.

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28.05.2020 00:23