Placeholder Content Image

8 places you should never keep your phone

<p><strong>In your pocket</strong></p> <p>Keeping your phone in your pocket seems logical, but you could be doing more harm than good. According to Dr Lilly Friedman, this is actually the worst place to store your phone. “When phones are on, connected to a wireless network, and placed in a pocket, the radiation is two to seven times higher than if it were placed in a purse or holster,” she says.</p> <p>There is a correlation between radiation from a mobile phone and tumour growth, she adds. Plus, radiation can change the structure of DNA and affect male fertility, according to Dr Friedman. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer also found that mobile phone radiation is additionally carcinogenic to humans. Merely sitting on your phone could cause health issues such as sciatica or back problems.</p> <p><strong>In your bra</strong></p> <p>Some research and case studies show that keeping your phone in your bra could be linked to breast cancer due to the radiations and vibrations from the phone. That said, there is not enough evidence to establish a definite relationship between the two. Still, keeping your phone in your bra, especially a sports bra, is a bad idea due to the skin-irritating bacteria it could harbour, Muscle &amp; Fitness reports.</p> <p><strong>In your bed or under your pillow</strong></p> <p>Sleeping with your phone is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, keeping your phone under your pillow could build up heat and present a potential fire hazard, especially if your phone is charging or has a defect. It’s also known that the LED light from phone screens can disrupt melatonin production and circadian rhythms, hurting your sleep quality, according to the National Sleep Foundation.</p> <p>And, of course, there’s also radiation to consider. The amounts of radio frequency radiation mobile phones give off are the same ones emitted from microwaves. There is also concern about the safety of mobile phone use with respect to cancer and brain tumours, per the American Cancer Society.</p> <p><strong>Plugged in</strong></p> <p>Keeping your phone plugged in when it has a full battery causes damage to the battery itself, according to pcmag.com. It’s not that your phone ‘overloads’ with power, but heat build-ups from stacking things on top of your phone or keeping it under your pillow, making your phone hotter and damaging your battery.</p> <p><strong>Close to your face</strong></p> <p>Keeping your phone close to your face means bacteria transfers to and from your phone, making your skin and phone dirtier. This combination leads to more acne, skin irritation and even wrinkles, according to Allure. Try using ear pods instead to keep the surface of your phone at a distance from your face.</p> <p><strong>In your glovebox</strong></p> <p>Extreme temperatures are the worst conditions for your phone. So keeping your device in your car’s glovebox during the extremely hot or cold months of the year could lead to problems. According to Time, excess heat can cause everything from data loss or corruption to battery leakage. The cold weather presents just as many issues for your device. In cold temperatures, many smartphones shut off, have display problems, shortened battery life and in rare cases screen shattering.</p> <p><strong>On your beach towel </strong></p> <p>Notice a theme here? The extreme sun and heat at the beach is a recipe for phone disaster. Protect your device after you finish taking beautiful beach pictures. Hot and sunny conditions could, again, cause your phone to overheat – and getting sand in your phone won’t help either.</p> <p><strong>Anywhere in the bathroom</strong></p> <p>Although phones could arguably be the new newspaper, it’s not a good idea to take yours into the bathroom. Even if you keep your device on a counter or away from the toilet, anything within a metre of a flushing toilet could mean bacteria or viruses in the air end up on your phone, according to a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.</p> <p>“The detection of bacteria and viruses falling out onto surfaces in bathrooms after flushing indicated that they remain airborne long enough to settle on surfaces throughout the bathroom,” wrote the study authors.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/8-places-you-should-never-keep-your-phone" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Why do I get so much spam and unwanted email in my inbox? And how can I get rid of it?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kayleen-manwaring-8735">Kayleen Manwaring</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Spam might not have brought an end to the internet or email, as some dire predictions <a href="https://www.zdnet.com/article/why-spam-could-destroy-the-internet/">in the early 2000s</a> claimed it could – but it’s still a massive pain.</p> <p>Despite all the spam being removed by spam-filtering technologies, most people still receive spam every day. How do these messages end up flooding our inboxes? And are there any legal consequences for the senders?</p> <h2>What is spam?</h2> <p>The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted in 2004 “there does not appear to be a widely agreed and workable definition for spam” across jurisdictions – and this remains true today.</p> <p>That said, “spam” generally <a href="https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/232784860063.pdf?expires=1693541947&amp;id=id&amp;accname=ocid177499&amp;checksum=D0C5BDAC49951DF353618B8E38483253">refers to</a> unsolicited electronic messages. These are often sent in bulk and frequently advertise goods or services. It also includes scamming and phishing messages, according to the OECD.</p> <p>Most people think of spam in the form of emails or SMS messages. However, what we now call spam actually predates the internet. In 1854, a spam telegram was sent to British politicians advertising the opening hours of dentists who <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/aug/09/why-spammers-are-winning-junk-mail">sold tooth-whitening powder</a>.</p> <p>The first spam email came more than 100 years later. It was reportedly sent to 600 people on May 3 1978 <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20080628205216/http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-fi-spam11may11001420,1,5168218,full.story">through ARPAnet</a> – a precursor to the modern internet.</p> <p>As for how much spam is out there, the figures vary, possibly due to the various <a href="https://www.spamhaus.org/consumer/definition/">definitions of “spam”</a>. One source reports the average number of spam emails sent daily in 2022 was about <a href="https://dataprot.net/statistics/spam-statistics/">122.33 billion</a> (which would mean more than half of all emails were spam). As for text messages, another source reports a daily average of 1.6 billion <a href="https://thesmallbusinessblog.net/spam-text-statistics/">spam texts</a>.</p> <h2>Where do spammers get my details?</h2> <p>Each time you enter your email address or phone number into an e-commerce website, you may be handing it to spammers.</p> <p>But sometimes you may even receive spam from entities you don’t recognise. That’s because businesses will often transfer customers’ contact information to related companies, or sell their data to third parties such as data brokers.</p> <p>Australia’s Privacy Act 1988 somewhat limits the transfer of personal information to third parties. However, these laws <a href="https://theconversation.com/accc-says-consumers-need-more-choices-about-what-online-marketplaces-are-doing-with-their-data-182134">are weak</a> – and <a href="http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/unsworks_75600">weakly enforced</a>.</p> <p>Some entities also use “address-harvesting” software to search the internet for electronic addresses that are captured in a database. The collector then uses these addresses directly, or sells them to others looking to send spam.</p> <p>Many jurisdictions (including <a href="http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sa200366/s19.html">Australia</a>) prohibit these harvesting activities, but they are still <a href="https://www.projecthoneypot.org/statistics.php">common</a>.</p> <h2>Is spamming against the law?</h2> <p>Australia has had legislation regulating spam messaging since 2003. But the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016C00614">Spam Act</a> surprisingly does not define the word “spam”. It tackles spam by prohibiting the sending of <a href="http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sa200366/s15.html">unsolicited commercial electronic messages</a> containing offers, ads or other promotions of goods, services or land.</p> <p>However, if the receiver <a href="http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sa200366/sch2.html">consented</a> to these types of messages, the prohibition does not apply. When you buy goods or services from a company, you will often see a request to click on a “yes” button to receive marketing promotions. Doing so means you have consented.</p> <p>On the other hand, if your phone or inbox are hit by commercial messages you haven’t agreed to receive, that is a breach of the <a href="https://austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sa200366/">Spam Act</a> by the sender. If you originally signed up to receive the messages, but then unsubscribed and the messages kept coming after <a href="https://austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sa200366/sch2.html">five business days</a>, that is also illegal. Senders must also include a <a href="https://austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sa200366/s18.html">functioning unsubscribe facility</a> in every commercial message they send.</p> <p>Spammers can be penalised for breaches of the Spam Act. In the past few months alone, <a href="https://www.acma.gov.au/articles/2023-06/commonwealth-bank-penalised-355-million-spam-breaches">Commonwealth Bank</a>, <a href="https://www.acma.gov.au/articles/2023-08/doordash-penalised-2-million-spam-breaches">DoorDash</a> and <a href="https://www.acma.gov.au/articles/2023-06/mycar-tyre-auto-penalised-1m-spam-breaches">mycar Tyre &amp; Auto</a> were fined more than A$6 million in total for breaches.</p> <p>However, most spam comes from outside Australia where the laws aren’t the same. In the United States spam is legal under the <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/resources/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business">CAN-SPAM Act</a> until you opt out. Unsurprisingly, the US <a href="https://talosintelligence.com/reputation_center/email_rep#spam-country-senders">tops the list</a> of countries where the most spam originates.</p> <p>Although spam sent to Australia from overseas <a href="https://austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sa200366/s16.html">can still breach</a> the Spam Act – and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) co-operates with overseas regulators – overseas enforcement actions are difficult and expensive, especially if the spammer has disguised their true identity and location.</p> <p>It’s worth noting that messages from political parties, registered charities and government bodies aren’t prohibited – nor are messages from educational institutions to students and former students. So while you might consider these messages as “spam”, they can legally be <a href="http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sa200366/sch1.html">sent freely without consent</a>. Factual messages (without marketing content) from businesses are also legal as long as they include accurate sender details and contact information.</p> <p>Moreover, the Spam Act generally only covers spam sent via email, SMS/MMS or instant messaging services, such as WhatsApp. Voice calls and faxes aren’t covered (although you can use the <a href="https://www.donotcall.gov.au/">Do Not Call Register</a> to block some commercial calls).</p> <h2>Staying safe from spam (and cyberattacks)</h2> <p>Spam isn’t only annoying, it can also be dangerous. Spam messages can contain indecent images, scams and <a href="https://www.cyber.gov.au/learn-basics/explore-basics/watch-out-threats/phishing-emails-and-texts">phishing attempts</a>. Some have <a href="https://www.cyber.gov.au/threats/types-threats/malware">malware</a> (malicious software) designed to break into computer networks and cause harm, such as by stealing data or money, or shutting down systems.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.cyber.gov.au/protect-yourself/securing-your-email/email-security/protect-yourself-malicious-email">Australian Cyber Security Centre</a> and <a href="https://www.acma.gov.au/dealing-with-spam">ACMA</a> provide useful tips for reducing the spam you get and your risk of being hit by cyberattacks. They suggest to:</p> <ol> <li> <p>use a spam filter and block spammers – email and telecommunications providers often supply useful tools as part of their services</p> </li> <li> <p>unsubscribe from any emails you no longer want to receive – even if you originally agreed to receive them</p> </li> <li> <p>remove as much of your contact details from websites as you can and always restrict the sharing of your personal information (such as name, birth date, email address and mobile number) when you can – beware of pre-ticked boxes asking for your consent to receive marketing emails</p> </li> <li> <p>install cybersecurity updates for your devices and software as you get them</p> </li> <li> <p>always think twice about opening emails or clicking on links, especially for messages promising rewards or asking for personal information – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is</p> </li> <li> <p>use <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-multi-factor-authentication-and-how-should-i-be-using-it-191591">multi-factor authentication</a> to access online services so even if a scam compromises your login details, it will still be difficult for hackers to break into your accounts</p> </li> <li> <p>report spam to your email and telecommunications providers, and to <a href="https://www.acma.gov.au/dealing-with-spam#complain-or-forward-spam-to-the-acma">ACMA</a>. <!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/208665/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> </li> </ol> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kayleen-manwaring-8735"><em>Kayleen Manwaring</em></a><em>, Senior Research Fellow, UNSW Allens Hub for Technology, Law &amp; Innovation and Senior Lecturer, School of Private &amp; Commercial Law, UNSW Law &amp; Justice, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-do-i-get-so-much-spam-and-unwanted-email-in-my-inbox-and-how-can-i-get-rid-of-it-208665">original article</a>.</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Why you need to stop charging your phone overnight

<p><strong>You charge your phone all night </strong></p> <p>Waking up to a fully charged phone may seem like a great way to start the day, but leaving your device plugged in overnight is a bad idea. When a phone has reached 100 per cent charge, it will continue to get trickle charges to keep it topped up at 100 percent.</p> <p>These extra charges keep the battery working non-stop. In fact, it’s better not to fully charge lithium-ion batteries because high voltage stresses the battery and wears it out over time, according to technology company Cadex.</p> <p><strong>You use vibrations for notifications</strong></p> <p>Your phone, like any other tool or device, ages and loses effectiveness the more you use it, says David Steele, the Director of Business Development for EverydayPhone. So little extras, like vibrating notifications, are habits that make your phone’s job harder. </p> <p>“The issue with these habits essentially boils down to having your phone constantly running at full capacity when it’s unnecessary,” Steele says. “Just like us, a phone needs a break to avoid burning out.”</p> <p><strong>You keep apps open that you're not using</strong></p> <p>Unused apps can eat up the battery life of smartphones, according to Andrew Moore-Crispin, the Director of Content at Ting Mobile. “If you open an app once and never use it again, the app might still run in the background,” he says.</p> <p>Swiping out of apps you aren’t using or no longer need is an easy solution. Moore-Crispin says doing so extends the battery life of your phone while also freeing up valuable storage space, too.</p> <p><strong>You allow unnecessary permissions</strong></p> <p>Ride-sharing apps need your location to pick you up, but other apps might not need this permission. Moore-Crispin suggests you be picky about which apps you grant such permissions to and take away permissions you deem unnecessary.</p> <p><strong>You have one of these apps</strong></p> <p>The apps that drain your battery the most are Snapchat, Google Maps, Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook, according to AdWeek. The Guardian found that uninstalling the Facebook mobile app from Android phones saves people up to 20 percent of their battery life.</p> <p>If you also get rid of the FB Messenger app, other app load times could speed up by 15 per cent, per the Guardian. The reason Facebook particularly kills battery life is because it keeps running in the background – even when you’re not using it, Business Insider reports.</p> <p><strong>Your screen is always extremely bright </strong></p> <p>Gone are the days of tiny phone screens, but before you give the thumbs up emoji, understand how the bigger screens of today can be a phone battery’s worst enemy, according to Moore-Crispin. Make sure you turn on adaptive brightness in the display menu.</p> <p>This change means your phone will automatically adjust the screen brightness to match your environment. As a bonus, set the brightness level to the lowest possible and lower your screen’s timeout, which is what determines how long it stays lit before fading when it goes idle.</p> <p><strong>You keep your phone out at the beach</strong></p> <p>Extreme heat or extreme cold temperatures and other weather conditions can shorten the life of your phone. According to Time, excess heat can cause everything from data loss or corruption to battery leakage. Cold weather presents just as many issues. In cold temperatures, some smartphones shut off, have display problems, or run out of battery; in rare cases screens may shatter.</p> <p><strong>You keep your phone in your bed or under your pillow </strong></p> <p>Tucking your phone under your pillow when you sleep is another way to shorten its life, thanks to heat build-up.</p> <p><strong>You don't keep your software up to date</strong></p> <p>utting off device updates does more harm than good for your phone. iPhone and Android makers push updates to make your user experience better and so that your phone functions properly. These updates come with extra benefits, too. In fact, if your device has a weak battery or other issues, these software updates could remedy them, Popular Science reports. Make sure to keep up with app-specific updates as well.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/home-tipsscience-technology/why-you-need-to-stop-charging-your-phone-overnight" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

The $500 million ATO fraud highlights flaws in the myGov ID system. Here’s how to keep your data safe

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rob-nicholls-91073">Rob Nicholls</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>The Australian Tax Office (ATO) paid out more than half a billion dollars to cyber criminals between July 2021 and February 2023, according to an <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-07-26/ato-reveals-cost-of-mygov-tax-identity-crime-fraud/102632572">ABC report</a>.</p> <p>Most of the payments were for small amounts (less than A$5,000) and were not flagged by the ATO’s own monitoring systems.</p> <p>The fraudsters exploited a weakness in the identification system used by the myGov online portal to redirect other people’s tax refunds to their own bank accounts.</p> <p>The good news is there’s plenty the federal government can do to crack down on this kind of fraud – and that you can do to keep your own payments secure.</p> <h2>How these scams work</h2> <p>Setting up a myGov account or a myGov ID requires proof of identity in the form of “<a href="https://www.afp.gov.au/sites/default/files/PDF/NPC-100PointChecklist-18042019.pdf">100 points of ID</a>”. It usually means either a passport and a driver’s licence or a driver’s licence, a Medicare card, and a bank statement.</p> <p>Once a myGov account is created, linking it to your tax records requires two of the following: an ATO assessment, bank account details, a payslip, a Centrelink payment, or a super account.</p> <p>These documents were precisely the ones targeted in three large data breaches in the past year: at <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-does-the-optus-data-breach-mean-for-you-and-how-can-you-protect-yourself-a-step-by-step-guide-191332">Optus</a>, at <a href="https://theconversation.com/medibank-hackers-are-now-releasing-stolen-data-on-the-dark-web-if-youre-affected-heres-what-you-need-to-know-194340">Medibank</a>, and at <a href="https://asic.gov.au/about-asic/news-centre/news-items/guidance-for-consumers-impacted-by-the-latitude-financial-services-data-breach/">Latitude Financial</a>.</p> <p>In this scam, the cyber criminal creates a fake myGov account using the stolen documents. If they can also get enough information to link to the ATO or your Tax File Number, they can then change bank account details to have your tax rebate paid to their account.</p> <p>It is a sadly simple scam.</p> <h2>How government can improve</h2> <p>One of the issues here is quite astounding. The ATO knows where salaries are paid, via the “<a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/business/single-touch-payroll/what-is-stp-/">single touch</a>” payroll system. This ensures salaries, tax and superannuation contributions are all paid at once.</p> <p>Most people who have received a tax refund will have provided bank account details where that payment can be made. Indeed, many people use precisely those bank account details to identify themselves to myGov.</p> <p>At present, those bank details can be changed within myGov without any further ado. If the ATO simply checked with the individual via another channel when bank account details are changed, this fraud could be prevented. It might be sensible to check with the individual’s employer as well.</p> <p>Part of the problem is the ATO has not been very transparent about the risks. If these risks were clearly set out, then calls for changes to ATO procedures would have been loud and clear from the cyber security community.</p> <p>The ATO is usually good at identifying when a cyber security incident may lead to fraud. For example, when the recruitment software company <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-06/australian-data-may-be-compromised-in-pageup-security-breach/9840048?itm_campaign=newsapp">PageUp was hacked in 2018</a>, the ATO required people who may have been affected to reconfirm their identities. This was done without public commentary and represents sound practice.</p> <p>Sadly, the millions of records stolen in the Optus, Medibank and Latitude Financial breaches have not led to a similar level of vigilance.</p> <p>Another action the ATO could take would be to check when a single set of bank account details is associated with more than one myGov account.</p> <p>A national digital identity would also help. However, this system has been in development for years, is not universally popular, and may well be <a href="https://www.themandarin.com.au/226280-gallagher-warns-community-support-for-digital-identity-not-ubiquitous/">delayed</a> until after the federal election due in 2024.</p> <h2>Protecting yourself</h2> <p>The most important thing to do is make sure the ATO does not use a bank account number other than yours. As long as the ATO only has your bank account number to transfer your tax rebate, this scam does not work.</p> <p>It also helps to protect your Tax File Number. There are only four groups that ever need this number.</p> <p>The first is the ATO itself. The second is your employer. However, remember you do not need to give your TFN to a prospective employer, and your employer only needs your TFN <em>after</em> you have started work.</p> <p>Your super fund and your bank may ask for your TFN. However, providing your TFN to your super fund or bank is optional – it just makes things easier, as otherwise they will withhold tax which you will need to claim back later.</p> <p>Of course, all the usual data safety issues still apply. Don’t share your driver’s licence details without good reason. Take similar care with your passport. Your Medicare card is for health services and does not need to be shared widely.</p> <p>Don’t open emails from people you do not know. Never click links in messages unless you are sure they are safe. Most importantly, know your bank will not send you emails containing links, nor will the ATO.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210459/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rob-nicholls-91073">Rob Nicholls</a>, Associate professor of regulation and governance, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image </em><em>credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-500-million-ato-fraud-highlights-flaws-in-the-mygov-id-system-heres-how-to-keep-your-data-safe-210459">original article</a>.</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Readers Respond: What is something you miss about pre-internet times?

<p>Times are changing and in an increasingly digital world, there are a few things that just don't feel the same.</p> <p>We asked our readers what they missed the most about the pre-internet times and while some shared their nostalgia, others believe that the change is for the better. </p> <p><strong>Jeanie Houston </strong>- The joy of getting a letter from loved ones overseas.</p> <p><strong>Tina Karanastasis</strong> - Having pen pals (a fad in my younger years), writing and receiving handwritten letters, building relationships through shared moments and time spent together face to face.</p> <p><strong>Deirdre Hudson </strong>- Being able to go anywhere without someone calling you</p> <p><strong>Lois Parkes</strong> - Going to a library to research the answer</p> <p><strong>Gini Glenn</strong> - Nothing! I love the internet and mobile phones. You can always leave your phone at home or turn it off. Lovely to have choices.</p> <p><strong>Teresa Hamilton Gross</strong> - Having a conversation with someone who is not looking at their cell phone.</p> <p><strong>Jan Gundersen </strong>- Being out at a restaurant & talking to each other!</p> <p><strong>Don Gregor</strong> - Getting lost while driving/traveling. Met the most interesting people and had the most memorable times. </p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Ann Hazlewood</strong> - Sitting around talking to family</p> <p><strong>Ellen Clarke</strong> - Sitting around the kitchen table & everyone talking at once, miss it! </p> <p><strong>Christine Armstrong </strong>- Letters! I miss getting letters from friends and family in the mail box</p> <p><strong>Beverley Collison</strong> - Listening to stories of the older generation when I was younger. And telephone conversations.</p> <p>Did we miss anything? Let us know if there are other things that you miss from the pre-internet times!</p>

Retirement Life

Placeholder Content Image

Why am I online? Research shows it’s often about managing emotions

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/wally-smith-1450210">Wally Smith</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/greg-wadley-203663">Greg Wadley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>Most of us <a href="https://wearesocial.com/au/blog/2022/02/digital-2022-australia-online-like-never-before/">go online</a> multiple times a day. About half of 18–29 year olds surveyed in a 2021 <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2021/03/26/about-three-in-ten-u-s-adults-say-they-are-almost-constantly-online/">Pew Research Study</a> said they are “almost constantly” connected.</p> <p>How are we to make sense of this significant digital dimension of modern life?</p> <p>Many questions have rightly been asked about its broader consequences for society and the economy. But there remains a simpler question about what motivates people across a range of ages, occupations and cultures to be so absorbed in digital connection.</p> <p>And we can turn this question on ourselves: <em>why am I online?</em></p> <h2>What are we doing when we go online?</h2> <p>As the American sociologist Erving Goffman <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1975/02/16/archives/frame-analysis.html">pointed out</a>, asking “What is it that’s going on here?” about human behaviour can yield answers framed at different levels. These range from our superficial motives to a deeper understanding of what we are “really” doing.</p> <p>Sometimes we might be content to explain our online behaviour in purely practical terms, like checking traffic routes or paying a bill. Other times we might struggle to articulate our reasons for going or remaining online.</p> <p>Why are we continually looking at our phones or computers, when we could be getting on with physical tasks, or exercising, or meditating, or engaging more fully with the people who are physically around us?</p> <h2>The ever-present need to manage our emotions</h2> <p>As researchers of human-computer interaction, we are exploring answers in terms of the ever-present need to manage our emotions. Psychologists refer to this activity as <a href="https://www.guilford.com/books/Handbook-of-Emotion-Regulation/James-Gross/9781462520732">emotion regulation</a>.</p> <p>Theories of the nature and function of emotions are complex and contested. However, it is safe to say they are expressions of felt needs and motivations that arise in us through some fusion of physiology and culture.</p> <p>During a typical day, we often feel a need to <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1037/1089-2680.2.3.271">alter our emotional state</a>. We may wish to feel more serious about a competitive task or more sad at a funeral. Perhaps we would like to be less sad about events of the past, less angry when meeting an errant family member, or more angry about something we know in our heart is wrong.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PQkNb4CLjJ8?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Digital emotion regulation is becoming increasingly common in our everyday lives.</span></figcaption></figure> <p>One way to understand our frequent immersions into online experience is to see them as acts within a broader scheme of managing such daily emotional demands. Indeed, in <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1071581922001732">earlier research</a> we found up to half of all smartphone use may be for the purpose of emotional regulation.</p> <h2>Digital technologies are becoming key tools of emotion regulation</h2> <p>Over the pandemic lockdowns of 2020–21 in Melbourne, Australia, we investigated how digital technologies are becoming <a href="https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3491102.3517573">key tools of emotion regulation</a>. We were surprised to find that people readily talked of their technology use in these emotion-managing terms.</p> <p>Occasionally, this involved specially designed apps, for mindfulness and so on. But more often people relied on mundane tools, such as using social media alongside Zoom to combat feelings of boredom or isolation, browsing for “retail therapy”, playing phone games to de-stress, and searching online to alleviate anxiety about world events.</p> <p>To some extent, these uses of digital technology can be seen as re-packaging <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/026999399379285">traditional methods</a> of emotion management, such as listening to music, strengthening social connections, or enjoying the company of adorable animals. Indeed, people in our study used digital technologies to enact familiar strategies, such as immersion in selected situations, seeking distractions, and reappraising what a situation means.</p> <p>However, we also found indications that digital tools are changing the intensity and nature of how we regulate emotions. They provide emotional resources that are <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubiquitous_computing">nearly always available</a>, and virtual situations can be accessed, juxtaposed and navigated more deftly than their physical counterparts.</p> <p>Some participants in our study described how they built what we called “emotional toolkits”. These are collections of digital resources ready to be deployed when needed, each for a particular emotional effect.</p> <h2>A new kind of digital emotional intelligence</h2> <p>None of this is to say emotion regulation is automatically and always a good thing. It can be a means of avoiding important and meaningful endeavours and it can itself become dysfunctional.</p> <p>In our study of a small sample of Melburnians, we found that although digital applications appeared to be generally effective in this role, they are volatile and can lead to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/27/social-dilemma-media-facebook-twitter-society">unpredictable emotional outcomes</a>. A search for energising music or reassuring social contact, for example, can produce random or unwanted results.</p> <p>A new kind of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10187756/">digital emotional intelligence</a> might be needed to effectively navigate digital emotional landscapes.</p> <h2>An historic shift in everyday life</h2> <p>Returning to the question: <em>what am I doing online?</em> Emotion regulation may well be the part of the answer.</p> <p>You may be online for valid instrumental reasons. But equally, you are likely to be enacting your own strategies of <a href="https://cis.unimelb.edu.au/hci/projects/digitalemotionregulation">emotion regulation through digital means</a>.</p> <p>It is part of an historic shift playing out in how people negotiate the demands of everyday life. <!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/208483/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/wally-smith-1450210">Wally Smith</a>, Professor, School of Computing and Information Systems, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/greg-wadley-203663">Greg Wadley</a>, Senior Lecturer, Computing and Information Systems, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-am-i-online-research-shows-its-often-about-managing-emotions-208483">original article</a>.</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Facebook Messenger scams are on the rise – here’s how to protect yourself

<p><strong>Facebook Messenger scams prey on our vulnerabilities</strong></p> <p>Scams through Facebook’s Messenger platform are being reported at higher rates than ever before, according to AARP, citing its own data as well as that of the government. Since Facebook’s early days, cybercriminals have been mining Facebook’s direct-messaging capabilities to scam unsuspecting victims out of money. One of the earliest Facebook Messenger scams involved a message, purportedly from a friend, claiming they were stuck in a foreign country and in desperate need of immediate financial assistance to get out. It wasn’t really the friend, however, but rather a scammer who had hacked into the friend’s account. </p> <p>Imposter scams such as “the friend in a foreign country” have evolved and proliferated over the years. The common thread is the scammer either creates an account impersonating an actual Facebook account or hacks into an existing Facebook account. In either case, the scammer then uses the fake/hacked account to send private messages to the account holder’s friends that elicit either money or personal information. The messages vary, but all are designed to prey on our human vulnerabilities, including:</p> <ul> <li>the desire to be a “hero”</li> <li>the desire to appear “generous”</li> <li>the desire to win “free money”</li> <li>the desire to be loved and admired</li> <li>the desire to avoid shame or punishment</li> </ul> <p>If a scammer tries to message you, report them, Facebook advises, but that begs the larger question of how does one recognise a Facebook Messenger scam?</p> <p><strong>Current Messenger Facebook scams</strong></p> <p>According to Facebook and our cybersecurity experts, here are the most common Facebook Messenger scams today:</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Romance scams</em></span>. Preying on our desire to be loved and admired, romance scammers appear as attractive strangers with sad stories and a desire to love and be loved. The most effective romance scammers will friend a number of mutual friends before reaching out to any of them, in an attempt to make themselves seem less like strangers and more like people in the same social network. Many use photos they’ve stolen off the Internet and many pose as members of the military or as doctors, in an attempt to inspire trust, admiration, and even authority. What they all have in common is they can’t meet you just yet because they’re somewhere far away, and although it may take a bit of time, even as much as several weeks, they will eventually ask you to send money so that they can come to see you.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Lottery scams</em></span>. Preying on our desire for “free money,” lottery scammers appear as friends or organisations who are thrilled to tell you you’ve won money in some lottery or contest. The common thread? It’s a contest you have no recollection of having entered and to get the prize, you’ll have to either pay a fee or “refundable” advance or provide personal information.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Inheritance scams</em></span>. Also preying on our desire for free money, inheritance scammers claim to be lawyers or others who represent someone who has died and supposedly left you their estate or some portion of it – but first, you’ll have to fork over some money or personal information.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Loan scams</em></span>. Another variation on the “free money” theme is the loan scam, whereby the scammer promises low-interest loans with no money down – except for a “refundable” application fee. Facebook points out that loan scammers may send messages via Messenger and also leave posts and comments on Pages and in Groups to legitimise themselves. However, legitimate lenders wouldn’t offer loans via Facebook Messenger, nor would they ask you for money to proceed with a loan application.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Donation scams</em></span>. Facebook specifically warns users to watch out for “famous people” or people claiming to represent a charity hitting them up for a donation. Donation scams, which are easy money for a scammer because they are a direct request for payment, prey on our desire to be perceived, or to perceive ourselves, as generous.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>“Hey, is this you?” scams</em></span>. Consumer Affairs warns of this “phishing scam” that uses the threat of shame to goad you into giving up personal information. The scammer hacks into one of your Facebook friend’s Messenger accounts and sends you a video, asking if it’s really you in the video, and implying there’s something in the video that could embarrass you. If you ever get a message like this, Consumer Affairs urges you to ignore and delete it to avoid giving away personal information or introducing a virus onto your computer.</p> <p><strong>Red flags to watch out for</strong></p> <p>Unfortunately, Facebook Messenger scams evolve rapidly (as soon as we suss them out, there are several more to replace them). So, it’s a good idea to be aware of these warning signs that we culled from our experts:</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Someone is asking you for money</em></span>. While Facebook warns specifically against strangers asking for money, Rachel Wilson, investigative coordinator for The Smith Investigation Agency, points out to Reader’s Digest that any time anyone asks you for money over Messenger, it’s immediately suspect. “If friends or family ask you to help them in an emergency, always call to speak with them personally to confirm that the message originated with them.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Someone is getting a little too personal</em></span>. When someone sends you a message requesting personal information, especially financial information, it should be considered suspicious, advises Sean Messier, credit industry analyst for Credit Card Insider. Messier suggests not revealing any such information until you’re certain the message-sender is who they claim to be, but it’s probably also a good idea to never reveal any such information over Messenger at all.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Someone is offering something for free</em></span>. You know how they say there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Well, there’s no such thing as free money on Facebook, points out Robert Siciliano, security expert. This is true for any kind of “free money” Messenger message, including those involving lotteries, loans, contest winnings, inheritances, lost bank accounts, and reimbursements of money owed.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Someone who wants to take the conversation off Facebook (to text or email, etc)</em></span>. Facebook warns against taking conversations off Facebook unless you’re absolutely certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the message sender is who they say they are.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Messages that seem out of character for the sender</em></span>. If a message seems “out of the norm” for the sender, trust your instincts and ignore it. This is doubly true if the message includes an attachment. Be very wary of opening attachments in general, and particularly if something seems “off” about the message or the sender.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Messages rife with spelling and grammatical errors</em></span>. Facebook points out that when a message is filled with typos and grammatical errors, you should have your guard up. A single typo is one thing, but things like the misspelling of names and places are a big red flag.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Messages from new accounts with few friends</em></span>. Roger Thompson, CEO of Thompson Cybersecurity Labs, points out that new accounts with few friends should always be considered suspicious until confirmed otherwise. Friend requests from such accounts and from duplicate friend accounts should be considered suspect as well.</p> <p>To avoid getting hacked (and used by a cybercriminal in an imposter scam), Wilson recommends updating your social media passwords regularly and always use two-factor authentication. She also notes that with Facebook use increasing among seniors, it would be a good deed to speak to older family members about Messenger scams and how to avoid them.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/true-stories-lifestyle/science-technology/facebook-messenger-scams-are-on-the-rise-heres-how-to-protect-yourself" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

How scammers use psychology to create some of the most convincing internet cons – and what to watch out for

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stacey-wood-473147"><em>Stacey Wood</em></a><em>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/scripps-college-2153">Scripps College</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yaniv-hanoch-1341108">Yaniv Hanoch</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-southampton-1093">University of Southampton</a></em></p> <p><a href="https://www.experian.co.uk/blogs/latest-thinking/fraud-prevention/cybercrime-fraud-most-common-crime-uk/">Online fraud is today’s most common crime</a>. Victims are often told they are foolish for falling for it, but fraudsters use psychological mechanisms to infiltrate the defences of their targets, regardless of how intelligent they are.</p> <p>So it’s important to keep up with the latest scams and understand how they work.</p> <p>Recently, consumer protection magazine Which? <a href="https://www.which.co.uk/news/article/the-4-most-convincing-scams-weve-seen-in-2023-so-far-a7bRP9s0KJvG">identified some of the most convincing scams of 2023</a>. These scams all have one thing in common – they insidiously take advantage of people’s cognitive biases and psychological blind spots.</p> <p>They included “pig butchering” a way of fattening up victims with affection, the missing person scam which involves posting fake content on social media pages, the traditional PayPal scam, and a new scam called the “fake app alert” in which malware is hidden on apps that look legitimate.</p> <h2>Pig butchering</h2> <p>In our work as fraud psychology researchers we have noticed a trend towards hybrid scams, which combine different types of fraud. Hybrid scams often involve crypto investments and <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-fraud-crisis/202210/new-scams-committed-forced-trafficked-labor">sometimes use trafficked labour</a> In the US alone, <a href="https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/springfield/news/internet-crime-complaint-center-releases-2022-statistics">the FBI recently reported</a> that people lost US $3.3 billion (£2.6 billion) in 2023 to investment fraud.</p> <p>Pig butchering is a long-term deception. <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/02/pig-butchering-scammers-make-billions-convincing-victims-of-love.html">This type of scam</a> combines elements of <a href="https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud/romance-scams">romance scams</a> with an investment con. The name comes from the strategy of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2023/may/22/dating-cons-and-dodgy-apps-among-most-common-scams-says-uk-watchdog">“fattening up” a victim with affection before slaughter</a>.</p> <p>It will usually begin with <a href="https://www.which.co.uk/policy-and-insight/article/pig-butchering-among-most-convincing-scams-of-2023-so-far-which-warns-aDRtr4I1UT1R">standard scam approach like a text</a>, social media message, or an introduction at a job board site.</p> <p>Victims may have their guard up at first. However, these scams can unfold over months, with the scammer slowly gaining the victims’ trust and initiating a romantic relationship all the while learning about their vulnerabilities.</p> <p>For example, details of their financial situation, job stresses, and dreams about the life they want. Romance scammers often saturate their targets with affection and almost constant contact. Pig butchering sometimes involves several trafficked people working as a team to create a single persona.</p> <p>Once the victim depends on the scammer for their emotional connection, the scammer introduces the idea of making an investment and uses fake crypto platforms to demonstrate returns. The scammers may use legitimate sounding cryptocoins and platforms. Victims can invest and “see” strong returns online. In reality, their money is going directly to the scammer.</p> <p>Once a victim transfers a substantial amount of money to the con artist, they are less likely to pull out. This phenomenon is known as the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0749597885900494">“sunk cost fallacy”</a>. Research has shown people are likely to carry on investing money, time and effort in activities they have already invested in and ignore signs the endeavour isn’t in their best interests.</p> <p>When the victim runs out of money or tries to withdraw funds, they are blocked.</p> <p>The victim is left with not only financial devastation, but also the loss of what they may imagine to be their most intimate partnership. They are often <a href="https://cloud-platform-e218f50a4812967ba1215eaecede923f.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/sites/6/2021/12/VC-Who-Suffers-Fraud-Report-1.pdf">too embarrassed to discuss the experience</a> with friends and family or to report to the police.</p> <h2>PayPal scams</h2> <p>Fake payment requests are a common attack that works by volume rather than playing the long game. Payment requests appear to come from a genuine PayPal address. Fraudulent messages typically begin with a generic greeting, an urgent request and a fake link.</p> <p>For example, Dear User: You’ve received a payment, or you have paid too much. Please click link below for details. Users are directed to a spoofed website with a legitimate sounding name such as www.paypal.com/SpecialOffers and asked to enter their account information and password.</p> <p>Both of us have received these scam requests – and even we found them difficult to discern from legitimate PayPal request emails. These scams work through mimicry and play on the human tendency to trust authority. Legitimate PayPal correspondence is usually automatic bot language, so it is not difficult to imitate.</p> <p>But remember, genuine messages from PayPal <a href="https://www.paypal.com/ca/for-you/account/security/fraud-dangers#:%7E:text=Any%20email%20from%20PayPal%20will,bank%20account%2C%20or%20credit%20card.">will use your first and last name</a>.</p> <h2>The missing person scam</h2> <p>This seems to be a new scam that exploits a person’s kindness. In the past, charity scams involved posing as charitable organisation responding to a <a href="https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/charity.html">recent, real calamity</a>.</p> <p>The new missing person scam is more sophisticated. The initial plea is a <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/20875699/facebook-fake-missing-child-scam-warning/">fake missing person post</a> that generates likes and shares, increasing its credibility and exposure. Then the fraudster edits the content to create an investment scheme which now has the veneer of legitimacy.</p> <p>This scam may work because the initial consumers are unaware that the content is fraudulent, and there is no obvious request. In psychology, this type of persuasion is known as “<a href="https://thedecisionlab.com/reference-guide/psychology/social-proof">social proof</a>” – the tendency of individuals to follow and copy behaviour of others.</p> <h2>Fake app alerts</h2> <p>People post mobile apps, designed to steal users’ personal information, on the Google Play or Apple app store.</p> <p>The app often has a <a href="https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/crime/another-person-comes-forward-after-banking-app-scam-3584340">legitimate function</a>, which gives it a cover. Consumers unknowingly jeopardise their private information by downloading these apps which use malware to access additional information.</p> <p>Although there has been <a href="https://tech.co/news/fake-android-apps-delete">media coverage of Android security issues</a>, many users assume malware <a href="https://www.ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2020/8/18/app-stores">cannot bypass app store screening</a>. Again, this scam plays on people’s <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0021-9010.92.3.639">trust in authority figures</a> to keep tjem safe.</p> <p>Discuss any investment opportunities with friends, family members or professionals. It’s much easier said than done, but exercising caution one of the best strategies to reduce the chance of becoming a fraud victim.</p> <p>Scammers count on people paying little to no attention to their emails or messages before clicking on them or providing valuable information. When it comes to scams, the devil is in the missing details.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/207759/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stacey-wood-473147">Stacey Wood</a>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/scripps-college-2153">Scripps College</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yaniv-hanoch-1341108">Yaniv Hanoch</a>, Professor in Decision Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-southampton-1093">University of Southampton</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-scammers-use-psychology-to-create-some-of-the-most-convincing-internet-cons-and-what-to-watch-out-for-207759">original article</a>.</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Missing Titanic sub: what are submersibles, how do they communicate, and what may have gone wrong?

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stefan-b-williams-1448728">Stefan B. Williams</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>An extensive <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-65953872">search and rescue operation</a> is underway to locate a commercial submersible that went missing during a dive to the Titanic shipwreck.</p> <p>According to the US Coast Guard, contact with the submersible was lost about one hour and 45 minutes into the dive, with five people onboard. The vessel was <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/world/titanic-submersible-search-oceangate-expeditions-vessel-missing-as-us-coast-guard-launches-search/9d7352d8-6a6d-4dc1-afac-ce07dc63cea3">reported overdue</a> at 9.13pm local time on Sunday (12.13pm AEST, Monday).</p> <p>The expedition was being run by US company OceanGate as part of an eight-day trip with guests paying US$250,000 per head to visit the wreck site. As of <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/americas/live-news/titanic-submersible-missing-search-06-19-23/h_c2b5400daf8538d8717f50c619d762ac">Monday afternoon</a> (Tuesday morning in Australia), US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger said the watercraft likely had somewhere between 70 and the full 96 hours of oxygen available to the passengers.</p> <p>The Titanic’s wreck sits some 3,800 metres deep in the Atlantic, about 700km south of St John’s, Newfoundland. Finding an underwater vehicle the size of a small bus in this vast and remote expanse of ocean will be no small feat. Here’s what the search and rescue teams are up against.</p> <h2>OceanGate’s Titan submersible goes missing</h2> <p>Submersibles are manned watercraft that move in a similar fashion to submarines, but within a much more limited range. They’re often used for research and exploration purposes, including to search for shipwrecks and to document underwater environments. Unlike submarines, they usually have a viewport to allow passengers look outside, and outside cameras that provide a broader view around the submersible.</p> <p>The missing submersible in question is an OceanGate <a href="https://oceangate.com/our-subs/titan-submersible.html">Titan</a> watercraft, which can take five people to depths of up to 4,000m. The Titan is about 22 feet (6.7m) in length, with speeds of about 3 knots (or 5.5km per hour). Although submersibles are often connected to a surface vessel by a tether, video and photos suggest the Titan was likely operating independently of the surface ship.</p> <p>According to OceanGate’s website, the Titan is used “for site survey and inspection, research and data collection, film and media production, and deep-sea testing of hardware and software”.</p> <p>It also has a “real-time hull health monitoring (RTM) system”. This would likely include strain gauges to monitor the health of the Titan’s carbon fibre hull. A strain gauge is a kind of sensor that can measure applied force and small deformations in material resulting from changes in pressure, tension and weight.</p> <p>The Titan’s carbon fibre hull connects two domes made of composite titanium – a material that can withstand deep-sea pressures. At 3,800m below sea level (the depth of the Titanic) you can expect pressures about 380 times greater than the atmospheric pressure we’re used to on the surface of the earth.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/532840/original/file-20230620-23-c6k9lo.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/532840/original/file-20230620-23-c6k9lo.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/532840/original/file-20230620-23-c6k9lo.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=413&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532840/original/file-20230620-23-c6k9lo.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=413&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532840/original/file-20230620-23-c6k9lo.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=413&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532840/original/file-20230620-23-c6k9lo.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=518&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532840/original/file-20230620-23-c6k9lo.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=518&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532840/original/file-20230620-23-c6k9lo.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=518&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Several tube like shapes on a rectangular concrete platform underwater" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Titan on the launch platform underwater, awaiting a signal to commence the dive.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://oceangate.com/gallery/gallery-titan.html#nanogallery/titangallery/0/4">OceanGate</a></span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Communication and rescue efforts</h2> <p>The Titan would have had an acoustic link with its surface vessel, set up through a transponder (a device for receiving a sonar signal) on its end, and a transceiver (a device that can both transmit and receive communications) on the surface vessel.</p> <p>This link allows for underwater acoustic positioning, as well as for short text messages to be sent back and forth to the surface vessel – but the amount of data that can be shared is limited and usually includes basic telemetry and status information.</p> <p>The Titan is a battery-operated watercraft. Given it has lost all contact with its surface vessel, it may have suffered a power failure. Ideally, there would be an emergency backup power source (such as an independent battery) to maintain emergency and life support equipment – but it’s unclear if the missing vessel had any power backup on hand.</p> <p>According to reports, at least two aircraft, a submarine and sonar buoys were being used to search for the vessel. The sonar buoys will be listening for underwater noise, including any emergency distress beacons that may have gone off.</p> <p>One of the major challenges in the rescue effort will be contending with weather conditions, which will further shrink an already narrow search window.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/532842/original/file-20230620-49349-cnzdk6.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/532842/original/file-20230620-49349-cnzdk6.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/532842/original/file-20230620-49349-cnzdk6.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=413&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532842/original/file-20230620-49349-cnzdk6.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=413&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532842/original/file-20230620-49349-cnzdk6.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=413&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532842/original/file-20230620-49349-cnzdk6.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=518&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532842/original/file-20230620-49349-cnzdk6.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=518&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/532842/original/file-20230620-49349-cnzdk6.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=518&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A dark blue image with a tube like shape floating in the lower third" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Titan commencing a dive to 4,000m underwater.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://oceangate.com/gallery/gallery-titan.html#nanogallery/titangallery/0/1">OceanGate</a></span></figcaption></figure> <h2>What might have happened?</h2> <p>In a best case scenario, the Titan may have lost power and will have an inbuilt safety system that will help it return to the surface. For instance, it may be equipped with additional weights that can be dropped to instantly increase its buoyancy and bring it back to the surface.</p> <p>Alternatively, the vessel may have lost power and ended up at the bottom of the ocean. This would be a more problematic outcome.</p> <p>The worst case scenario is that it has suffered a catastrophic failure to its pressure housing. Although the Titan’s composite hull is built to withstand intense deep-sea pressures, any defect in its shape or build could compromise its integrity – in which case there’s a risk of implosion.</p> <p>Another possibility is that there may have been a fire onboard, such as from an electrical short circuit. This could compromise the vehicle’s electronic systems which are used for navigation and control of the vessel. Fires are a disastrous event in enclosed underwater environments, and can potentially incapacitate the crew and passengers.</p> <p>Time is of the essence. The search and rescue teams will need to find the vessel before its <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20230331121053/https://oceangateexpeditions.com/tour/titanic-expedition/">limited supplies</a> of oxygen and water run out.</p> <p>There’s an ongoing debate in scientific circles regarding the relative merit of manned submersibles, wherein each deployment incurs a safety risk – and the safety of the crew and passengers is paramount.</p> <p>Currently, most underwater research and offshore industrial work is conducted using unmanned and robotic vehicles. A loss to one of these vehicles might compromise the work being done, but at least lives aren’t at stake. In light of these events, there will likely be intense discussion about the risks associated with using these systems to support deep-sea tourism.<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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/208100/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stefan-b-williams-1448728">Stefan B. Williams</a>, Professor, Australian Centre for Field Robotics, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/missing-titanic-sub-what-are-submersibles-how-do-they-communicate-and-what-may-have-gone-wrong-208100">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

An El Niño looms over Australia’s stressed electricity system – and we must plan for the worst

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dylan-mcconnell-1602">Dylan McConnell</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/iain-macgill-576">Iain MacGill</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>The Bureau of Meteorology this week declared a 70% chance of an <a href="https://media.bom.gov.au/releases/1170/the-bureau-of-meteorology-issues-an-el-nino-alert/">El Niño</a> developing this year. It’s bad timing for the electricity sector, and means Australians may face supply disruptions and volatile prices.</p> <p><a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/updates/articles/a008-el-nino-and-australia.shtml">El Niño events</a> are <a href="https://theconversation.com/from-floods-to-fire-a-climate-scientist-on-the-chances-el-nino-will-hit-australia-this-year-197408">associated with</a> increased temperatures and heatwaves. These conditions drive demand for electricity, especially in summer.</p> <p>These same conditions can also mean some generators don’t produce at full capacity. And unfortunately, the likely El Niño comes as the electricity sector grapples with other significant headwinds.</p> <p>Australia’s electricity grid may be fine this summer. But given what’s on the horizon, it would be prudent to plan for the worst.</p> <h2>How does hot weather affect energy supplies?</h2> <p>Increased air conditioning use in summer can cause <a href="https://aemo.com.au/-/media/files/electricity/nem/planning_and_forecasting/nem_esoo/2022/forecasting-approach-electricity-demand-forecasting-methodology.pdf">demand to peak</a>, particularly during heatwaves, as the below graph shows.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/530604/original/file-20230607-27-m1kddg.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/530604/original/file-20230607-27-m1kddg.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=208&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530604/original/file-20230607-27-m1kddg.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=208&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530604/original/file-20230607-27-m1kddg.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=208&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530604/original/file-20230607-27-m1kddg.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=262&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530604/original/file-20230607-27-m1kddg.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=262&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530604/original/file-20230607-27-m1kddg.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=262&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Scatterplot of New South Wales demand and temperature, example based on 2017 calendar year" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Scatterplot of New South Wales demand and temperature, example based on 2017 calendar year.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">AEMO</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>At the same time, electricity generators – including coal, gas, <a href="https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/projects/esci/esci-case-studies/case-study-heat/">solar and wind</a> – can become less efficient in hot temperatures, and so provide less energy to the system. And the hotter transmission lines get, the less electrical current they can safely carry. This lowers their capacity to transport energy.</p> <p>When the electricity grid is under stress, this can lead to “load shedding” or blackouts – when power companies deliberately switch off the power supply to groups of customers to prevent the overall system from becoming dangerously unstable.</p> <p>This happened in Victoria in early 2019, when more than <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-26/victorian-blackouts-what-caused-them-and-is-this-the-new-normal/10751412">200,000 customers</a> lost power during a period of extreme heat.</p> <p>El Niño events are also associated with reduced rainfall. Among other effects on the electricity grid, this can reduce output from hydroelectricity generators (which produce electricity by pumping water through turbines). This <a href="https://theconversation.com/praying-for-rain-50085">occurred</a> in Tasmania in 2016, and contributed to an energy crisis in that state.</p> <h2>Other headwinds are blowing</h2> <p>Aside from facing a likely El Niño, the electricity sector faces other headaches.</p> <p>Earlier this year, the Australian Energy Market Operator <a href="https://aemo.com.au/newsroom/media-release/aemo-issues-nem-reliability-update">warned</a> electricity demand “may exceed supply” at times over the next decade due to factors such as weather conditions or generator outages.</p> <p>The market operator pointed to delays to the Snowy 2.0 hydro project and the gas-fired <a href="https://www.afr.com/companies/energy/new-snowy-ceo-can-t-rule-out-further-delays-at-projects-20230213-p5cjzr">Kurri Kurri Power Station</a>, both in New South Wales.</p> <p>The Kurri Kurri project has been delayed for a year. It was scheduled to begin operating in December this year – in time for the first summer since the Liddell coal-fired power station closed.</p> <p>The Australian Energy Market Operator said the electricity system was expected to meet the “reliability standard” in all regions for the next five years. The <a href="https://www.aemc.gov.au/energy-system/electricity/electricity-system/reliability#:%7E:text=What%20is%20the%20Reliability%20Standard,to%20be%20met%20each%20year.">standard requires</a> at least 99.998% of forecast demand be met each year. Unmet demand can lead to interrupted supply, or blackouts.</p> <p>But the operator also said delays to the Kurri Kurri project posed risks to reliability in NSW this summer.</p> <p>Adding to the pressures on the system, Queensland’s Callide C coal-fired power station is still not back to capacity more than two years after an explosion at the site. The station’s owners last week <a href="https://www.afr.com/companies/energy/energy-grid-fears-as-callide-c-return-delayed-until-mid-2024-20230529-p5dc90">announced</a> the plant would not be fully operational until mid-2024.</p> <p>Combine all this with a likely El Niño, and the electricity sector may be facing a challenging summer.</p> <h2>El Niño years are not normal</h2> <p>In August, the Australian Energy Market Operator is due to publish a new <a href="https://aemo.com.au/-/media/files/electricity/nem/planning_and_forecasting/nem_esoo/2022/esoo-and-reliability-forecast-methodology-document-2022.pdf">assessment</a> of the grid’s expected reliability over the next decade. It may well show reliability standards will be achieved.</p> <p>On first blush, that sounds like good news. However, the way the assessment is derived may mask the real risk during El Niño periods.</p> <p>The assessment combines a number of scenarios, which are based on different <a href="https://aemo.com.au/en/energy-systems/electricity/national-electricity-market-nem/nem-forecasting-and-planning/forecasting-and-reliability/projected-assessment-of-system-adequacy">forecasts</a> of electricity demand. The scenarios based on average weather conditions are given the most weight.</p> <p>But if an El Niño arrives, this summer will not be average. We’re likely to experience very hot and dry conditions. This may lead to higher demands on the energy system, and a greater likelihood of blackouts.</p> <p>This won’t be properly reflected in the assessment. So the grid may be deemed reliable even though electricity supplies are under immense pressure.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/530771/original/file-20230608-30-lb28wc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/530771/original/file-20230608-30-lb28wc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530771/original/file-20230608-30-lb28wc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530771/original/file-20230608-30-lb28wc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=450&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530771/original/file-20230608-30-lb28wc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530771/original/file-20230608-30-lb28wc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/530771/original/file-20230608-30-lb28wc.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=566&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="repair person climbs power pole" /><figcaption><span class="caption">The grid may be deemed reliable even though it’s under pressure.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></figcaption></figure> <h2>What can be done?</h2> <p>You might find all this news worrying. But there are measures and technologies in place to help reduce the risks.</p> <p><a href="https://aemo.com.au/en/energy-systems/electricity/emergency-management/reliability-and-emergency-reserve-trader-rert">A mechanism</a> exists that allows the market operator to secure emergency energy reserves. It could mean, for example, calling on a large industrial plant to pause operations to reduce its electricity use, or starting up a standby diesel generator. The operator can start procuring this months ahead of time, and will no doubt be monitoring the situation closely.</p> <p>In the medium term, the uptake of so-called “consumer energy resources” such as rooftop solar farms and small-scale battery storage shows promise. These technologies are located at homes and businesses. They can reduce demand on the grid at peak times and can potentially be built faster than big projects.</p> <p>Longer term, we need to build more “stuff”. This includes renewable energy and other “dispatchable” resources – which can provide energy when it’s needed – as well as more transmission infrastructure.</p> <p>Several federal funding measures – the <a href="https://www.energy.gov.au/government-priorities/energy-supply/capacity-investment-scheme">Capacity Investment Scheme</a> and <a href="https://www.energy.gov.au/news-media/news/rewiring-nation-supports-its-first-two-transmission-projects">Rewiring the Nation</a> – might help realise these projects.</p> <p>The reality is that ageing coal plants are closing – and while they remain open, they’re contributing to reliability challenges in the energy system. Unchecked climate change will also add considerable strain, through natural disasters and more extreme weather.</p> <p>Unfortunately, investment in renewable and other low-emission technology has been <a href="https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/news/clean-energy-construction-peaks-as-investment-pipeline-battles-headwinds">slower than necessary</a>. This has slowed Australia’s emissions reduction efforts and cast questions over the reliability of our energy supplies as an El Niño looms.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/207210/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dylan-mcconnell-1602">Dylan McConnell</a>, Senior Research Associate, Renewable Energy &amp; Energy Systems Analyst, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/iain-macgill-576">Iain MacGill</a>, Joint director, Collaboration on Energy and Environmental Markets, and Professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/an-el-nino-looms-over-australias-stressed-electricity-system-and-we-must-plan-for-the-worst-207210">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Social media snaps map the sweep of Japan’s cherry blossom season in unprecedented detail

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adrian-dyer-387798">Adrian Dyer</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alan-dorin-12573">Alan Dorin</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carolyn-vlasveld-1442834">Carolyn Vlasveld</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/moataz-elqadi-1442833">Moataz ElQadi</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>Social media contains enormous amounts of data about people, our everyday lives, and our interactions with our surroundings. As a byproduct, it also contains a vast trove of information about the natural world.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0367253023001019#sec0024a">new study published in Flora</a>, we show how social media can be used for “incidental citizen science”. From photos posted to a social site, we mapped countrywide patterns in nature over a decade in relatively fine detail.</p> <p>Our case study was the annual spread of cherry blossom flowering across Japan, where millions of people view the blooming each year in a cultural event called “hanami”. The flowering spreads across Japan in a wave (“<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_blossom_front">sakura zensen</a>” or 桜前線) following the warmth of the arriving spring season.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/529000/original/file-20230530-15-mix84k.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/529000/original/file-20230530-15-mix84k.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=399&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/529000/original/file-20230530-15-mix84k.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=399&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/529000/original/file-20230530-15-mix84k.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=399&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/529000/original/file-20230530-15-mix84k.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=501&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/529000/original/file-20230530-15-mix84k.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=501&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/529000/original/file-20230530-15-mix84k.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=501&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="ALT TEXT" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Celebrating the cherry blossom is a centuries-old tradition in Japan.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanami">hanami festival</a> has been documented for centuries, and research shows climate change is making <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ac6bb4">early blossoming more likely</a>. The advent of mobile phones – and social network sites that allow people to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1574954116302321">upload photos tagged with time and location data</a> – presents a new opportunity to study how Japan’s flowering events are affected by seasonal climate.</p> <h2>Why are flowers useful to understand how nature is being altered by climate change?</h2> <p>Many flowering plants, including the cherry blossoms of Japan (<em>Prunus</em> subgenus <em>Cerasus</em>), require insect pollination. To reproduce, plant flowers bloom at optimal times to receive visits from insects like bees.</p> <p>Temperature is <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0200549">an important mechanism</a> for plants to trigger this flowering. <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01269.x">Previous research</a> has highlighted how climate change may create mismatches in space or time between the blooming of plants and the emergence of pollinating insects.</p> <p><iframe id="rtiQ0" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/rtiQ0/2/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>It has been difficult for researchers to map the extent of this problem in detail, as its study requires simultaneous data collection over large areas. The use of citizen science images deliberately, or incidentally, uploaded to social network sites enables <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data">big data</a> solutions.</p> <h2>How did we conduct our study?</h2> <p>We collected images from Japan uploaded to <a href="https://www.flickr.com/">Flickr</a> between 2008 and 2018 that were tagged by users as “cherry blossoms”. We used computer vision techniques to analyse these images, and to provide sets of keywords describing their image content.</p> <p>Next, we automatically filtered out images appearing to contain content that the computer vision algorithms determined didn’t match our targeted cherry blossoms. For instance, many contained images of autumn leaves, another popular ecological event to view in Japan.</p> <p>The locations and timestamps of the remaining cherry blossom images were then used to generate marks on a map of Japan showing the seasonal wave of sakura blossoms, and to estimate peak bloom times each year in different cities.</p> <h2>Checking the data</h2> <p>An important component of any scientific investigation is validation – how well does a proposed solution or data set represent the real-world phenomenon under study?</p> <figure class="align-right zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528702/original/file-20230528-21-4fxpkv.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528702/original/file-20230528-21-4fxpkv.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=237&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528702/original/file-20230528-21-4fxpkv.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=591&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528702/original/file-20230528-21-4fxpkv.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=591&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528702/original/file-20230528-21-4fxpkv.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=591&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528702/original/file-20230528-21-4fxpkv.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=743&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528702/original/file-20230528-21-4fxpkv.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=743&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528702/original/file-20230528-21-4fxpkv.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=743&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Blossom dates calculated from social media images compare well with official data.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">ElQadi et al.</span>, <span class="license">Author provided</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Our study using social network site images was validated against the detailed information published by the <a href="https://www.japan.travel/en/see-and-do/cherry-blossom-forecast-2023/">Japan National Tourism Organization</a>.</p> <p>We also manually examined a subset of images to confirm the presence of cherry flowers.</p> <p>Plum flowers (<em>Prunus mume</em>) look very similar to cherry blossoms, especially to tourists, and they are frequently mistaken and mislabelled as cherry blossoms. We used visible “notches” at the end of cherry petals, and other characteristics, to distinguish cherries from plums.</p> <p>Taken together, the data let us map the flowering event as it unfolds across Japan.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528769/original/file-20230529-17-wmgf5g.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528769/original/file-20230529-17-wmgf5g.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528769/original/file-20230529-17-wmgf5g.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=619&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528769/original/file-20230529-17-wmgf5g.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=619&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528769/original/file-20230529-17-wmgf5g.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=619&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528769/original/file-20230529-17-wmgf5g.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=777&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528769/original/file-20230529-17-wmgf5g.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=777&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528769/original/file-20230529-17-wmgf5g.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=777&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="An animated map showing cherry blossom flowering across Japan" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Images uploaded to social media over a ten year period 2008-2018, let us map the cherry blossom front as it sweeps across Japan.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">ElQadi et al.</span>, <span class="license">Author provided</span></span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Out-of-season blooms</h2> <p>Our social network site analysis was sufficiently detailed to accurately pinpoint the annual peak spring bloom in the major cities of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo">Tokyo</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto">Kyoto</a>, to within a few days of official records.</p> <p>Our data also revealed the presence of a consistent, and persistent, out-of-season cherry bloom in autumn. Upon further searching, we discovered that this “unexpected” seasonal bloom had also been noted in <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-45898333">mainstream media</a> in recent years. We thus confirmed that this is a real event, not an artefact of our study.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528832/original/file-20230529-25-wonef0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528832/original/file-20230529-25-wonef0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528832/original/file-20230529-25-wonef0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=450&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528832/original/file-20230529-25-wonef0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=450&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528832/original/file-20230529-25-wonef0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=450&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528832/original/file-20230529-25-wonef0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=566&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528832/original/file-20230529-25-wonef0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=566&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528832/original/file-20230529-25-wonef0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=566&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Cherry blossom photographs from Flickr taken within Japan from 2008 to 2018 show an April peak as well as an unexpected smaller peak in November.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">ElQadi et al.</span>, <span class="license">Author provided</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>So, even without knowing it, many of us are already helping to understand how climate change influences our environment, simply by posting online photographs we capture. Dedicated sites like <a href="https://wildpollinatorcount.com/">Wild Pollinator Count</a> are excellent resources to contribute to the growing knowledge base.</p> <p>The complex issues of climate change are still being mapped. Citizen science allows our daily observations to improve our understanding, and so better manage our relationship with the natural world.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/206574/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adrian-dyer-387798">Adrian Dyer</a>, Associate Professor, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alan-dorin-12573">Alan Dorin</a>, Associate Professor, Faculty of Information Technology, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carolyn-vlasveld-1442834">Carolyn Vlasveld</a>, PhD candidate, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/moataz-elqadi-1442833">Moataz ElQadi</a>, Adjunct Researcher, Faculty of Information Technology, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/social-media-snaps-map-the-sweep-of-japans-cherry-blossom-season-in-unprecedented-detail-206574">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

What are the long-term effects of quitting social media? Almost nobody can log off long enough to find out

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-malouff-313652">John Malouff</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-new-england-919">University of New England</a></em></p> <p>Being on social media has become synonymous with living in the 21st century. Year after year, we see new platforms and smarter algorithms roping us into highly addictive online worlds.</p> <p>Now, a growing number of people have noticed this trend and are actively making an effort to resist it.</p> <p>Anecdotally, a case can be made for quitting social media, and there are myriad reasons why someone might want to. But is there evidence that doing so is good for you in the long term?</p> <h2>Drivers for quitting</h2> <p>Although there are too many social media platforms to name, most people tend to think of the “big five”: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.</p> <p>Research has found people have various reasons for quitting one or more of these apps. Many quit over concerns about negative impacts on their mental and physical health. For example, studies have shown adolescent girls in particular can experience negative body image as a result of viewing manipulated <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-have-all-heard-social-media-can-impact-womens-body-image-but-it-isnt-all-bad-205214">selfies on Instagram</a>.</p> <p>People also <a href="https://www.qscience.com/content/journals/10.5339/connect.2023.spt.3?crawler=true">choose to quit</a> due to disliking ads, feeling like they’re wasting time, or if they’re worried about their privacy. The question then is: does quitting social media resolve these concerns?</p> <h2>Mixed research outcomes</h2> <p>It’s difficult to determine whether there are clear and lasting benefits to quitting social media – and a look at the research explains why.</p> <p><a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17459435.2020.1817140">One 2020 study</a> found people who had quit social media saw improvements in their close relationships, and were pleased to be free of comparison with others. But some also said they <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17459435.2020.1817140">missed</a> the informational and entertainment aspects of it.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328838624_No_More_FOMO_Limiting_Social_Media_Decreases_Loneliness_and_Depression">2018 study</a>, researchers assessed the psychological state of 143 American undergraduates before randomly assigning one group a daily ten-minute limit for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, per platform. Three weeks later, those who limited their social media use showed significantly lower levels of loneliness and depression. However, there was no significant effect on anxiety, self-esteem or wellbeing.</p> <p>And in <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0217743&amp;fbclid=IwAR1oLvPyeJDwMhD4WlODKU1A360ttIcaV_tManJs1_qEr-VAVZPsD0xQjq0">one 2019 study</a> with 78 participants, half were asked to take a one-week break from Facebook and Instagram. To the researchers’ surprise, the users in this group who were generally active on social media experienced <em>less</em> positive psychological effects than those in the control group.</p> <p>With research findings painting several different pictures, it’s safe to say our relationship with social media – and how it affects us – is very complex.</p> <h2>Research constraints</h2> <p>There appear to be no published studies that have assessed the long-term impacts of permanently quitting social media. This is probably because it’s difficult to find participants who will agree to be randomly assigned the task of dropping social media forever.</p> <p>One important consideration is that a percentage of individuals who quit social media will eventually <a href="https://cyberleninka.org/article/n/992039/viewer">go back</a>. Reasons for returning include feeling left out, fearing loss of connections, wanting to regain access to interesting or useful information, feeling social pressure to rejoin, or simply feeling that quitting wasn’t the right choice.</p> <p>Even if researchers do find a large enough group of people willing to quit social media for good, conducting long-term follow-ups would be highly resource-intensive. Beyond that, it would be difficult to figure out how much of a participant’s increase (or decrease) in life satisfaction is due to quitting social media, and not other factors.</p> <p>As such, there’s currently no evidence that quitting social media comes with concrete long-term benefits. And in the short term, results are mixed.</p> <h2>To quit, or not to quit?</h2> <p>However, that doesn’t mean quitting (for a short or long period) wouldn’t be beneficial for some people. It’s likely that any potential benefits will depend on the individual doing the quitting, and why they’re doing it.</p> <p>For instance, consensus that does emerge from the research is that <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-social-media-make-us-more-or-less-lonely-depends-on-how-you-use-it-128468">the <em>way</em> you use</a> social media plays a significant role in how negative or positive your experience is. By <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2056305120919105">using social media mindfully</a>, users can minimise potential harms while retaining the benefits.</p> <p>For some, it may only be one platform causing unease. If you strongly dislike Instagram’s tendency to be hyper-focused on people’s private lives, then you could simply stop using Instagram.</p> <p>Another technique is to curate your social media feeds by engaging only with content you find useful and positive. For instance, many young women take steps to avoid seeing <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-have-all-heard-social-media-can-impact-womens-body-image-but-it-isnt-all-bad-205214?fbclid=IwAR3cX7l116GAj0nnKDAk16x6GP6iRCxH_VutjIbxOiCij1yCqWmeOK0s0f0">perfect bodies all day</a> on their social media.</p> <p>If you’re still wondering whether quitting might be good for you, the simplest way to find out is to <a href="https://hbr.org/2018/10/i-ran-4-experiments-to-break-my-social-media-addiction-heres-what-worked">experiment</a> and do it.</p> <p>Take a break from one or more types of social media. After some time ask yourself whether the benefits seem worth it to you. If the answer is “yes”, make the break permanent.</p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-malouff-313652">John Malouff</a>, Associate Professor, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-new-england-919">University of New England</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-are-the-long-term-effects-of-quitting-social-media-almost-nobody-can-log-off-long-enough-to-find-out-205478">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

6 amazing things you didn’t know your phone could do

<p>Nobody ever bought a shiny brand new smartphone and then studiously read the manual! Maybe it’s just us but unfortunately it means we’ve missed out on the secret but amazing things your smartphone can do. You don't even need to download any apps to do these nifty tricks. Here are some of our favourite ones that we’re sure will impress next time you need them.</p> <p><strong>Taking a screenshot</strong></p> <p>A great trick if you want to share a hilarious text, picture or Facebook post with friends or family.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">iPhones</span> – SImultaneously press (but not hold) the Home button and the Sleep/Wake button (top right of phone). You should hear a shutter click as well as see a white flash. The screenshot will be located on your Camera Roll in photos.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Androids</span> - Hold down the Power button and Volume -down button at the same time for a couple of seconds. Or hold down power button and home icon at the same time. If this doesn’t work, you can hold down the power button until the option to take a screen shot appears.</p> <p><strong>Taking multiple photos at once</strong></p> <p>A life-saver if you are taking pictures of wriggling kids or people who blink exactly when you take the picture (there’s always someone in the group isn’t there?). This little trick lets you take multiple pictures with a single click.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">iPhones</span> – In the camera app, rather than tapping capture button to take photos, hold it down. Your camera will automatically take multiple picture (around 10 pictures a second) until you release the button.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Androids</span> - In the camera app, tap the gear icon and turn on “Burst Shot” settings. Return to your camera app and hold onto the capture button. Or go to camera, select mode, auto and click on burst shots.</p> <p><strong>Change text size</strong></p> <p>If the tiny text on the smartphone is giving you a headache, there’s an easily solution. You can change the settings so all text on your phone is large.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">iPhones</span> - Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on “Larger Text.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Androids</span> - Go to Settings > Accessibility > Vision and tap font size and set it to Large.</p> <p><strong>Read to you</strong></p> <p>It really seems like technology can do anything, including programming your smartphone to read to you.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">iPhones</span> - Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on “Speak Selection.” You can even customise the voice that speaks to you choosing from a wide range of accent including Australian. To get your phone to speak to you, highlight text (double-tapping or tapping and holding on to it) and then tap Speak button in the pop-up menu.</p> <p><strong>Turn off music automatically</strong></p> <p>If you are one to listen to music or audiobooks as you drift off to sleep, you can use a timer to turn it off so it doesn’t drain your battery life.  </p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">iPhones</span> - Go to the Clock app and tap on "Timer," then "When Timer Ends." From here, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen and select "Stop Playing."</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Androids</span> - Open the music player and go to Settings. Look for "Music auto off" and set it to however long you want the music to play.</p> <p><strong>Search text messages</strong></p> <p>Searching for messages is handy if you are looking for a specific text containing details like addresses, emails or dates.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">iPhones</span> – When you open your Message app, scroll up and a search bar should pop up at the top of all your messages. Type in the phrase you are looking for.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Androids</span> – Open the Message app and then tap on the Menu. A few options will appear and click search. </p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

ChatGPT and other generative AI could foster science denial and misunderstanding – here’s how you can be on alert

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/gale-sinatra-1234776">Gale Sinatra</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-southern-california-1265">University of Southern California</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/barbara-k-hofer-1231530">Barbara K. Hofer</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/middlebury-1247">Middlebury</a></em></p> <p>Until very recently, if you wanted to know more about a controversial scientific topic – stem cell research, the safety of nuclear energy, climate change – you probably did a Google search. Presented with multiple sources, you chose what to read, selecting which sites or authorities to trust.</p> <p>Now you have another option: You can pose your question to ChatGPT or another generative artificial intelligence platform and quickly receive a succinct response in paragraph form.</p> <p>ChatGPT does not search the internet the way Google does. Instead, it generates responses to queries by <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/05/07/ai-beginners-guide/">predicting likely word combinations</a> from a massive amalgam of available online information.</p> <p>Although it has the potential for <a href="https://hbr.org/podcast/2023/05/how-generative-ai-changes-productivity">enhancing productivity</a>, generative AI has been shown to have some major faults. It can <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ai-platforms-like-chatgpt-are-easy-to-use-but-also-potentially-dangerous/">produce misinformation</a>. It can create “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/01/business/ai-chatbots-hallucination.html">hallucinations</a>” – a benign term for making things up. And it doesn’t always accurately solve reasoning problems. For example, when asked if both a car and a tank can fit through a doorway, it <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/14/technology/openai-new-gpt4.html">failed to consider both width and height</a>. Nevertheless, it is already being used to <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2023/01/17/cnet-ai-articles-journalism-corrections/">produce articles</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/19/technology/ai-generated-content-discovered-on-news-sites-content-farms-and-product-reviews.html">website content</a> you may have encountered, or <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/21/opinion/chatgpt-journalism.html">as a tool</a> in the writing process. Yet you are unlikely to know if what you’re reading was created by AI.</p> <p>As the authors of “<a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/science-denial-9780197683330">Science Denial: Why It Happens and What to Do About It</a>,” we are concerned about how generative AI may blur the boundaries between truth and fiction for those seeking authoritative scientific information.</p> <p>Every media consumer needs to be more vigilant than ever in verifying scientific accuracy in what they read. Here’s how you can stay on your toes in this new information landscape.</p> <h2>How generative AI could promote science denial</h2> <p><strong>Erosion of epistemic trust</strong>. All consumers of science information depend on judgments of scientific and medical experts. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/02691728.2014.971907">Epistemic trust</a> is the process of trusting knowledge you get from others. It is fundamental to the understanding and use of scientific information. Whether someone is seeking information about a health concern or trying to understand solutions to climate change, they often have limited scientific understanding and little access to firsthand evidence. With a rapidly growing body of information online, people must make frequent decisions about what and whom to trust. With the increased use of generative AI and the potential for manipulation, we believe trust is likely to erode further than <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2022/02/15/americans-trust-in-scientists-other-groups-declines/">it already has</a>.</p> <p><strong>Misleading or just plain wrong</strong>. If there are errors or biases in the data on which AI platforms are trained, that <a href="https://theconversation.com/ai-information-retrieval-a-search-engine-researcher-explains-the-promise-and-peril-of-letting-chatgpt-and-its-cousins-search-the-web-for-you-200875">can be reflected in the results</a>. In our own searches, when we have asked ChatGPT to regenerate multiple answers to the same question, we have gotten conflicting answers. Asked why, it responded, “Sometimes I make mistakes.” Perhaps the trickiest issue with AI-generated content is knowing when it is wrong.</p> <p><strong>Disinformation spread intentionally</strong>. AI can be used to generate compelling disinformation as text as well as deepfake images and videos. When we asked ChatGPT to “<a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ai-platforms-like-chatgpt-are-easy-to-use-but-also-potentially-dangerous/">write about vaccines in the style of disinformation</a>,” it produced a nonexistent citation with fake data. Geoffrey Hinton, former head of AI development at Google, quit to be free to sound the alarm, saying, “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/01/technology/ai-google-chatbot-engineer-quits-hinton.html">using it for bad things</a>.” The potential to create and spread deliberately incorrect information about science already existed, but it is now dangerously easy.</p> <p><strong>Fabricated sources</strong>. ChatGPT provides responses with no sources at all, or if asked for sources, may present <a href="https://economistwritingeveryday.com/2023/01/21/chatgpt-cites-economics-papers-that-do-not-exist/">ones it made up</a>. We both asked ChatGPT to generate a list of our own publications. We each identified a few correct sources. More were hallucinations, yet seemingly reputable and mostly plausible, with actual previous co-authors, in similar sounding journals. This inventiveness is a big problem if a list of a scholar’s publications conveys authority to a reader who doesn’t take time to verify them.</p> <p><strong>Dated knowledge</strong>. ChatGPT doesn’t know what happened in the world after its training concluded. A query on what percentage of the world has had COVID-19 returned an answer prefaced by “as of my knowledge cutoff date of September 2021.” Given how rapidly knowledge advances in some areas, this limitation could mean readers get erroneous outdated information. If you’re seeking recent research on a personal health issue, for instance, beware.</p> <p><strong>Rapid advancement and poor transparency</strong>. AI systems continue to become <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/01/technology/ai-google-chatbot-engineer-quits-hinton.html">more powerful and learn faster</a>, and they may learn more science misinformation along the way. Google recently announced <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/10/technology/google-ai-products.html">25 new embedded uses of AI in its services</a>. At this point, <a href="https://theconversation.com/regulating-ai-3-experts-explain-why-its-difficult-to-do-and-important-to-get-right-198868">insufficient guardrails are in place</a> to assure that generative AI will become a more accurate purveyor of scientific information over time.</p> <h2>What can you do?</h2> <p>If you use ChatGPT or other AI platforms, recognize that they might not be completely accurate. The burden falls to the user to discern accuracy.</p> <p><strong>Increase your vigilance</strong>. <a href="https://www.niemanlab.org/2022/12/ai-will-start-fact-checking-we-may-not-like-the-results/">AI fact-checking apps may be available soon</a>, but for now, users must serve as their own fact-checkers. <a href="https://www.nsta.org/science-teacher/science-teacher-januaryfebruary-2023/plausible">There are steps we recommend</a>. The first is: Be vigilant. People often reflexively share information found from searches on social media with little or no vetting. Know when to become more deliberately thoughtful and when it’s worth identifying and evaluating sources of information. If you’re trying to decide how to manage a serious illness or to understand the best steps for addressing climate change, take time to vet the sources.</p> <p><strong>Improve your fact-checking</strong>. A second step is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000740">lateral reading</a>, a process professional fact-checkers use. Open a new window and search for <a href="https://www.nsta.org/science-teacher/science-teacher-mayjune-2023/marginalizing-misinformation">information about the sources</a>, if provided. Is the source credible? Does the author have relevant expertise? And what is the consensus of experts? If no sources are provided or you don’t know if they are valid, use a traditional search engine to find and evaluate experts on the topic.</p> <p><strong>Evaluate the evidence</strong>. Next, take a look at the evidence and its connection to the claim. Is there evidence that genetically modified foods are safe? Is there evidence that they are not? What is the scientific consensus? Evaluating the claims will take effort beyond a quick query to ChatGPT.</p> <p><strong>If you begin with AI, don’t stop there</strong>. Exercise caution in using it as the sole authority on any scientific issue. You might see what ChatGPT has to say about genetically modified organisms or vaccine safety, but also follow up with a more diligent search using traditional search engines before you draw conclusions.</p> <p><strong>Assess plausibility</strong>. Judge whether the claim is plausible. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2013.03.001">Is it likely to be true</a>? If AI makes an implausible (and inaccurate) statement like “<a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2022/12/23/fact-check-false-claim-covid-19-vaccines-caused-1-1-million-deaths/10929679002/">1 million deaths were caused by vaccines, not COVID-19</a>,” consider if it even makes sense. Make a tentative judgment and then be open to revising your thinking once you have checked the evidence.</p> <p><strong>Promote digital literacy in yourself and others</strong>. Everyone needs to up their game. <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-be-a-good-digital-citizen-during-the-election-and-its-aftermath-148974">Improve your own digital literacy</a>, and if you are a parent, teacher, mentor or community leader, promote digital literacy in others. The American Psychological Association provides guidance on <a href="https://www.apa.org/topics/social-media-internet/social-media-literacy-teens">fact-checking online information</a> and recommends teens be <a href="https://www.apa.org/topics/social-media-internet/health-advisory-adolescent-social-media-use">trained in social media skills</a> to minimize risks to health and well-being. <a href="https://newslit.org/">The News Literacy Project</a> provides helpful tools for improving and supporting digital literacy.</p> <p>Arm yourself with the skills you need to navigate the new AI information landscape. Even if you don’t use generative AI, it is likely you have already read articles created by it or developed from it. It can take time and effort to find and evaluate reliable information about science online – but it is worth it.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/204897/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/gale-sinatra-1234776">Gale Sinatra</a>, Professor of Education and Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-southern-california-1265">University of Southern California</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/barbara-k-hofer-1231530">Barbara K. Hofer</a>, Professor of Psychology Emerita, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/middlebury-1247">Middlebury</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/chatgpt-and-other-generative-ai-could-foster-science-denial-and-misunderstanding-heres-how-you-can-be-on-alert-204897">original article</a>.</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Five ways to manage your doomscrolling habit

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christian-van-nieuwerburgh-1157439">Christian van Nieuwerburgh</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rcsi-university-of-medicine-and-health-sciences-788">RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences</a></em></p> <p>Doomscrolling, according to <a href="https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/doomsurfing-doomscrolling-words-were-watching">Merriam-Webster</a>, is “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing”. For many it’s a habit born of the pandemic – and one that is likely to stay.</p> <p>Some health experts recommend limiting access to social media to <a href="https://www.health.com/mind-body/what-is-doomscrolling">reduce the negative effects of doomscrolling</a>, and popular magazines <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/how-to-stop-doomscrolling-psychology-social-media-fomo/">highlight the risks</a> of social media addiction. According to the BBC, the barrage of negative coverage of doomscrolling has led to some people <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/business-60067032">ditching their smartphones</a> altogether.</p> <p>Although research showing the negative effects of doomscrolling is convincing and the <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1461670X.2021.2021105">recommendations are clear</a>, few of us seem to be following this well-intentioned advice. There are a few reasons for this.</p> <p>First, blocking out news during times of crisis may not be such a good idea. Second, many of us <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4675534/">don’t respond well</a> to being told what we can and cannot do.</p> <p>Finally, being asked not to do something can make matters worse. It can push us into a negative frame of mind and make us <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/words-can-change-your-brain/201208/why-word-is-so-dangerous-say-or-hear">less likely to change our behaviour</a>.</p> <p>Rather than quitting doomscrolling, what if we simply got better at managing it?</p> <p>It is helpful to start by acknowledging that seeking news and information during times of crisis is perfectly normal. In fact, this response is hard-wired in us humans.</p> <p>Staying alert to danger is part of our survival mechanism. Gathering information and being prepared to face threats have been key to our survival for millennia.</p> <p>Right now, there are many threats facing us: a war in Europe that could escalate to nuclear conflict, a pandemic that has already killed millions of people and predictions of a climate catastrophe, alongside many other natural disasters and human conflicts across the world.</p> <p>In this context, it is not surprising that we want to be alert to danger. Wanting to learn more about what is happening and equipping ourselves with the latest information is perfectly reasonable.</p> <p>Rather than avoiding the news altogether, let’s make sure that we are getting what we need from our interactions with the news. Here are five suggestions to achieve this.</p> <h2>1. Choose how much time you’re going to invest in consuming the news</h2> <p>Why not include all the ways you access the news? What amount of time each day seems reasonable to you? Once you have a time window, try sticking to it.</p> <h2>2. Be aware of confirmation bias when choosing what to consume</h2> <p>Remember, you are the consumer and you can choose what to learn about. However, we need to be aware of a tendency that psychologists call “<a href="https://www.simplypsychology.org/confirmation-bias.html">confirmation bias</a>”. This is when we favour information that supports our existing beliefs or viewpoints.</p> <p>In other words, we sometimes seek news that confirms what we already believe. This may have been one reason you clicked on this article. So just be aware of this tendency and be aware of what you’re not choosing to read.</p> <h2>3. Check the source</h2> <p>Any time you consume anything, it is helpful to know its source. Who has posted this information? Why are they sharing it with you? Are they trying to convince you of something? Are they trying to manipulate you to think or behave in a particular way?</p> <p>Knowing the answers to these questions will support you to stay in control of how you use the information that you have gathered.</p> <h2>4. Remember that things are not always black or white</h2> <p>We live in an increasingly polarised world. According to psychologists, “polarised thinking” is a <a href="https://exploringyourmind.com/polarized-thinking-cognitive-distortion/">cognitive distortion</a> (thinking error) that can occur when we’re under pressure. It is the tendency to see things as black or white, rather than recognising that we live in a world with many colours and shades of grey.</p> <p>Find ways to hold strong views while remaining curious about other opinions. Selecting and consuming articles that represent differing opinions may support this.</p> <h2>5. Be biased towards the positive</h2> <p>One reason that doomscrolling can be so detrimental is that many of us are drawn to negative information. Psychologists call this the “<a href="https://positivepsychology.com/3-steps-negativity-bias/">negativity bias</a>”. From an evolutionary perspective, it has been important for us to prioritise negative stimuli (threats such as predators) over positive stimuli (enjoying the warmth of a summer’s day).</p> <p>To counterbalance this tendency, we can adopt a bias towards the positive as we consume news. In practical terms, this means seeking positive news stories to balance out our experience of staying updated.</p> <p>Managed properly, keeping on top of the latest news can support you to feel better informed and able to respond in case it becomes necessary. If we’re going to doomscroll, let’s do it right.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/183265/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christian-van-nieuwerburgh-1157439">Christian van Nieuwerburgh</a>, Professor of Coaching and Positive Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rcsi-university-of-medicine-and-health-sciences-788">RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/five-ways-to-manage-your-doomscrolling-habit-183265">original article</a>.</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

“That is my face”: Harrison Ford takes pro-de-ageing stance

<p>Harrison Ford has come to the defence of the de-ageing technology used in the upcoming fifth instalment in the <em>Indiana Jones</em> series: <em>Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny</em>.</p> <p>The film drew criticism from reviewers over its application of the technology, with many wondering why the studio hadn’t opted to instead support younger actors and cast them in the role, while others simply questioned the “believability” of the tech. </p> <p>But Ford, who has been the face of Indiana Jones since the professor’s first film in 1981, is having none of that. During a press conference at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, the actor moved to silence critics, telling them “I know that that is my face. </p> <p>“It’s not a kind of Photoshop magic - that’s what I looked like 35 years ago. Because Lucasfilm has every frame of film that we’ve made together over all of these years.</p> <p>“This process, this scientific mining of this library, this was put to good [use] … It’s just a trick unless it’s supported by a story, and it sticks out like a sore thumb if it’s not honest, it’s not real… I mean, emotionally real. </p> <p>“And so I think it was used very skillfully.”</p> <p>And for those concerned that the 80-year-old’s take might carry across into his stance on the process of ageing itself, he was quick to note that when it comes to growing older, he is “very happy with it, but I don't look back and say, 'I wish I was that guy again,' because I don't.</p> <p>"I'm real happy with age. I love being older. It was great to be young, but s***fire I could be dead, and I'm still working."</p> <p>Despite this, Ford has confirmed that this film will be the last time fans can expect to see him in the iconic role, and he’ll be hanging up Jones’ hat for good. </p> <p>And when asked why, Ford’s answer was simple, with the actor confessing “I need to sit down and rest a little bit. I love to work, and I love this character, and I love what it brought into my life, and that's all I can say.”</p> <p>Fans of the star and the franchise have come out in support of his decision, most recently during a standing ovation at the same festival he’d spoken at - applause that had moved Ford to tears. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Harrison Ford with tears in his eyes during the standing ovation for ‘INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY’. <a href="https://t.co/mJtRv4wLKk">pic.twitter.com/mJtRv4wLKk</a></p> <p>— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) <a href="https://twitter.com/DiscussingFilm/status/1659294979485757486?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 18, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p>However, as one user pointed out, that didn’t necessarily mean smooth sailing for fans, with the fifth film likely to get them talking - de-ageing technology aside. </p> <p>“Oh my god. no bc if HE is crying it means the movie is really gonna be something special,” one wrote. “i'm gonna be sick”.</p> <p>“Thanks for the last adventure,” another said. “Surreal that this moment in cinema is here. The last time we will ever get an Indiana Jones film with Harrison Ford.”</p> <p>And as someone else put it, “seeing him get emotional for getting praise for a role that he loves so dearly has me emotional too.”</p> <p>“And there is proof Harrison Ford loves what he does,” one other declared. “A proper movie star who just wants to act. That's genuine pride.”</p> <p><em>Images: Lucas Film Ltd </em></p>

Movies

Placeholder Content Image

10 things we sort of miss because of technological advances

<p>The world has certainly changed in the last few decades – great technological advancements has meant many things we did in the past are all but a memory (or they are on their way out.) Let’s look back on ten things we sort of miss even though they’ve been replaced by new technology.</p> <p>1. Buying disposable cameras, only taking picture that were worth the cost of film and having to go all the way to the chemist to develop and print photographs. Then you had to decide how to arrange them in an album.</p> <p>2. Recording your favourite television programs using a video tape. Nowadays people are downloading movies and TV shows straight to their computer.</p> <p>3. Saving all your loose change just in case you needed to use the pay phone when you were out. And having to remember numbers.</p> <p>4. Spending hours over a road map and writing down your own directions so you wouldn’t get lost before a holiday road trip or just going somewhere new. Nobody needs to remember how to get anywhere now because most have GPS.</p> <p>5. Physically visiting institutions like banks, post office and the newsagents. We don’t miss the long lines but at least it was personal.</p> <p>6. Hand-writing essays, letters and notes, which meant knowing how to hand-write. Now it’s about how fast you type not how legible your handwriting is!</p> <p>7. Looking up information in big encyclopaedias and definitions in the dictionary. Not just consulting the internet.</p> <p>8. Receiving mail in your letterbox not your inbox. Unluckily, there is more “junk mail” and spam now than ever.</p> <p>9. Advertising or looking for finds in classified section of the newspaper.</p> <p>10. Packing your friends in the backseats of the car to go to the drive-in movies because it was the only one around. While we do love the comfy seats in air-conditioned cinemas, you can’t beat the fun and romantic possibilities of drive-in cinemas. </p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Where to find free wifi when you’re travelling

<p>Data usage overseas can be eye-wateringly expensive so if you want to stay connected with your smartphone, tablet or laptop you’ll need to hunt down a wifi hotspot. And it’s even better when it’s free. These are the most likely places where you’ll be able to log on for no charge.</p> <p><strong>The food chain</strong></p> <p>Most travellers do their best to steer clear of chains like Starbucks and McDonalds while travelling (and with good reason), but they almost always offer free wifi with a purchase. Grab a cup of coffee or some chicken nuggets and settle in. In smaller cafes or restaurants, look out for a sign in the window offering free wifi – many establishments in popular tourist areas will offer it in the hope of attracting more customers.</p> <p><strong>In the bedroom</strong></p> <p>Plenty of hotels are stubbornly sticking to their guns and charging exorbitant fees for wifi and, strangely enough, it tends to be the more expensive hotels that will hit your hip pocket. Check out the Hotel Chatter wifi Report for a list of the wifi winners, and choose brands like Ibis, Mercure, Holiday Inn, Radisson blu or Best Western for free coverage. You also want to make sure that it extends to your room and is not just available in the foyer or restaurant.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><strong><a href="http://oversixty.com.au/travel/travel-club/2015/01/best-travel-gadgets/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Related link: 8 of the best travel gadgets for your next trip</a></strong></em></span></p> <p><strong>Public property</strong></p> <p>Libraries, shopping centres, museums and even public parks often have their own free wifi hotspots and generally just require you to accept their terms or register your email address. Some cities have gone the whole way and established municipal networks that cover the whole city. So if you’re going to Seoul, Boston, Osaka, Perth or Barcelona you’ll find hundreds of hotspots blanketing the city.</p> <p><strong>Appy trails</strong></p> <p>Download the wifi Finder app before you travel and you’ll never be stuck for a connection. It has a database of over 650,000 hotspots worldwide that you can download and then access without an internet connection. Your phone’s GPS will point you in the right direction.</p> <p><strong>Related links:</strong></p> <p><em><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://oversixty.com.au/travel/travel-club/2014/12/best-day-walks-in-australia/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Easy does it – the best day walks around Australia</a></span></strong></em></p> <p><em><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://oversixty.com.au/travel/travel-club/2015/02/survive-a-long-haul-flight/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Survive a long-haul flight</a></span></strong></em></p> <p><em><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://oversixty.com.au/travel/travel-club/2014/12/how-to-get-an-upgrade/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Insider tips for securing an upgrade</a></span></strong></em></p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p>

Travel Tips

Placeholder Content Image

Feed me: 4 ways to take control of social media algorithms and get the content you actually want

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marc-cheong-998488">Marc Cheong</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>Whether it’s Facebook’s News Feed or TikTok’s For You page, social media algorithms are constantly making behind-the-scenes decisions to boost certain content – giving rise to the “curated” feeds we’ve all become accustomed to.</p> <p>But does anyone actually know how these algorithms work? And, more importantly, is there a way to “game” them to see more of the content you want?</p> <h2>Optimising for engagement</h2> <p>In broader computing terms, an algorithm is simply a set of rules that specifies a particular computational procedure.</p> <p>In a social media context, algorithms (specifically “recommender algorithms”) determine everything from what you’re likely to read, to whom you’re likely to follow, to whether a specific post appears in front of you.</p> <p>Their main goal is to <a href="https://arxiv.org/abs/2304.14679">sustain your attention</a> for as long as possible, in a process called “optimising for engagement”. The more you engage with content on a platform, the more effectively that platform can commodify your attention and target you with ads: its main revenue source.</p> <p>One of the earliest social media <a href="https://mashable.com/archive/facebook-news-feed-evolution">feed algorithms</a> came from Facebook in the mid-2000s. It can be summarised in one sentence "Sort all of the user’s friend updates – including photos, statuses and more – in reverse chronological order (newer posts first)."</p> <p>Since then, algorithms have become much more powerful and nuanced. They now take myriad factors into consideration to determine how content is promoted. For instance, Twitter’s “For You” recommendation algorithm is based on a neural network that uses <a href="https://blog.twitter.com/engineering/en_us/topics/open-source/2023/twitter-recommendation-algorithm">about 48 million parameters</a>!</p> <h2>A black box</h2> <p>Imagine a hypothetical user named Basil who follows users and pages that primarily discuss <em>space</em>, <em>dog memes</em> and <em>cooking</em>. Social media algorithms might give Basil recommendations for T-shirts featuring puppies dressed as astronauts.</p> <p>Although this might seem simple, algorithms are typically “black boxes” that have their inner workings hidden. It’s in the interests of tech companies to keep the recipe for their “secret sauce”, well, a secret.</p> <p>Trying to “game” an algorithm is like trying to solve a 3D box puzzle without any instructions and without being able to peer inside. You can only use trial-and-error – manipulating the pieces you see on the outside, and gauging the effects on the overall state of the box.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><em><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/525271/original/file-20230510-27-qte7k8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/525271/original/file-20230510-27-qte7k8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/525271/original/file-20230510-27-qte7k8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525271/original/file-20230510-27-qte7k8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525271/original/file-20230510-27-qte7k8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525271/original/file-20230510-27-qte7k8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525271/original/file-20230510-27-qte7k8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525271/original/file-20230510-27-qte7k8.jpeg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a></em><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Manipulating social media algorithms isn’t impossible, but it’s still tricky due to how opaque they are.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Shutterstock</span></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>Even when an algorithm’s code is revealed to the public – such as <a href="https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2023/a-new-era-of-transparency-for-twitter">when Twitter released</a> the source code for its recommender algorithm in March – it’s not enough to bend them to one’s will.</p> <p>Between the sheer complexity of the code, constant tweaks by developers, and the presence of arbitrary design choices (such as <a href="https://mashable.com/article/twitter-releases-algorithm-showing-it-tracks-elon-musk-tweets">explicitly tracking</a> Elon Musk’s tweets), any claims of being able to perfectly “game” an algorithm should be taken with a pinch of salt.</p> <p>TikTok’s algorithm, in particular, is notoriously powerful yet opaque. A Wall Street Journal investigation found it uses “subtle cues, such as how long you linger on a video” to predict what you’re <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/tiktok-algorithm-video-investigation-11626877477">likely to engage with</a>.</p> <h2>So what <em>can</em> you do?</h2> <p>That said, there are some ways you can try to curate your social media to serve you better.</p> <p>Since algorithms are powered by your data and social media habits, a good first step is to change these habits and data – or at least understand how they may be shaping your online experience.</p> <h1>1. Engage with content you trust and want more of</h1> <p>Regardless of the kind of feed you want to create, it’s important to follow reliable sources. Basil, who is fascinated by space, knows they would do well to follow NASA and steer clear of users who believe the Moon is made of cheese.</p> <p>Think critically about the accounts and pages you follow, asking <a href="https://guides.lib.uw.edu/research/faq/reliable">questions such as</a> <em>Who is the author of this content? Do they have authority in this topic? Might they have a bias, or an agenda?</em></p> <p>The higher the quality of the content you engage with, the more likely it is that you’ll be recommended similarly valuable content (rather than fake news or nonsense).</p> <p>Also, you can play to the ethos of “optimising for engagement” by engaging more (and for longer) with the kind of content you want to be recommended. That means liking and sharing it, and actively seeking out similar posts.</p> <h1>2. Be stingy with your information</h1> <p>Secondly, you can be parsimonious in providing your data to platforms. Social media companies know more about you than you think – from your location, to your perceived interests, to your activities outside the app, and even the activities and interests of your social circle!</p> <p>If you limit the information you provide about yourself, you limit the extent to which the algorithm can target you. It helps to keep your different social media accounts unlinked, and to avoid using the “Login with Facebook” or “Login with Google” options when signing up for a new account.</p> <h1>3. Use your settings</h1> <p>Adjusting your <a href="https://www.consumerreports.org/privacy/facebook-privacy-settings-a1775535782/">privacy and personalisation settings</a> will further help you avoid being microtargeted through your feed.</p> <p>The “Off-Facebook Activity” <a href="https://www.kaspersky.com.au/blog/what-is-off-facebook-activity/28925/">setting</a> allows you to break the link between your Facebook account and your activities outside of Facebook. Similar options exist for <a href="https://support.tiktok.com/en/account-and-privacy/account-privacy-settings">TikTok</a> and <a href="https://help.twitter.com/en/resources/how-you-can-control-your-privacy">Twitter</a>.</p> <p>Ad blockers and privacy-enhancing browser add-ons can also help. These tools, such as the open-source <a href="https://ublockorigin.com/">uBlock Origin</a> and <a href="https://privacybadger.org/">Privacy Badger</a>, help prevent cookies and marketing pixels from “following” your browsing habits as you move between social media and other websites.</p> <h1>4. Get (dis)engaged</h1> <p>A final piece of advice is to simply disengage with content you don’t want in your feed. This means:</p> <ul> <li>ignoring any posts you aren’t a fan of, or “hiding” them if possible</li> <li>taking mindful breaks to avoid “<a href="https://theconversation.com/doomscrolling-is-literally-bad-for-your-health-here-are-4-tips-to-help-you-stop-190059">doomscrolling</a>”</li> <li>regularly revising who you follow, and making sure this list coincides with what you want from your feed.</li> </ul> <p>So, hypothetically, could Basil unfollow all users and pages unrelated to <em>space</em>, <em>dog memes</em> and <em>cooking</em> to ultimately starve the recommender algorithm of potential ways to distract them?</p> <p>Well, not exactly. Even if they do this, the algorithm won’t necessarily “forget” all their data: it might still exist in caches or backups. Because of how complex and pervasive algorithms are, you can’t guarantee control over them.</p> <p>Nonetheless, you shouldn’t let tech giants’ bottom line dictate how you engage with social media. By being aware of how algorithms work, what they’re capable of and what their purpose is, you can make the shift from being a sitting duck for advertisers to an active curator of your own feeds.</p> <figure class="align-center "><em><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/498128/original/file-20221129-22-imtnz0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/498128/original/file-20221129-22-imtnz0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=115&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/498128/original/file-20221129-22-imtnz0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=115&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/498128/original/file-20221129-22-imtnz0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=115&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/498128/original/file-20221129-22-imtnz0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=144&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/498128/original/file-20221129-22-imtnz0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=144&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/498128/original/file-20221129-22-imtnz0.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=144&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></em><figcaption></figcaption></figure> <p><em>The Conversation is commissioning articles by academics across the world who are researching how society is being shaped by our digital interactions with each other. <a href="https://theconversation.com/uk/topics/social-media-and-society-125586">Read more here</a><!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/204374/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marc-cheong-998488">Marc Cheong</a>, Senior Lecturer of Information Systems, School of Computing and Information Systems; and (Honorary) Senior Fellow, Melbourne Law School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/feed-me-4-ways-to-take-control-of-social-media-algorithms-and-get-the-content-you-actually-want-204374">original article</a>.</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Social media good for older people’s health

<p>Older people should use Facebook and other social media to help prevent their health declining, a study has found.</p> <p>Researchers at the University of Exeter in England carried out the research among 65 to 95-year-olds and found that people who spent time online did not feel as lonely as others their age, which helps stop declining physical and mental health.</p> <p>The study followed seniors from 31 residential care homes across the United Kingdom. Researchers noted those trained to use technology felt more self-competent, were more sociable and demonstrated improved cognitive abilities.</p> <p>The project's leader, Dr Thomas Morton, said the findings highlighted how loneliness among older people can contribute to their poor health.</p> <p>“Human beings are social animals, and it’s no surprise that we tend to do better when we have the capacity to connect with others.</p> <p>“But what can be surprising is just how important social connections are to cognitive and physical health.</p> <p>“People who are socially isolated or who experience loneliness are more vulnerable to disease and decline.”</p> <p>Margaret Keohone, a participant of the study, said learning to navigate the internet “changed her life”.</p> <p>“Having this training changes people's lives and opens up their worlds, invigorates their minds and for lots of us gives us a completely different way of recognising our worth as we age,” said Margaret Keohone. </p> <p>“I was just slipping away into a slower way of life.”</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Technology

Our Partners