Technology as a threat:

  • As more electronic objects are connected to the world outside our homes and offices, the once irrational fear of the new and unfamiliar playing tricks on us has become a completely rational, all-too-real threat. The vulnerable webcams that served as the staging ground for last week's botnet DDoS attacks have been recalled, which may be the first time that a tangible product has been pulled from the market for intangible failings that did not directly affect the owner/user. When the internet of things gets haunted, it could be someone hundreds or thousands of miles away getting spooked. 
  • The immersive power of VR can be disorienting, enthralling or disturbing - which means developers of virtual reality games/experiences have a higher level of responsibility to predict and mitigate potential harms. A recent article recounting harassment in a VR game has been making the rounds online, and the developers of the game in question responded, taking responsibility for their failures and roadmapping how such challenges could be navigated through 'digital defense' features. We're big believers that if you're building products, experiences or services, having a team with diverse experiences helps predict and prevent these kinds of problems before they emerge. While women are more often the targets of online and in real life harassment, the developer team seems to be all male, which may have contributed to this particular blind spot persisting all the way through to launching their alpha version. 


Feeding the Future: 


Humanity Intersecting Technology: 

  • Twitter announced that they are shutting down Vine, the social micro-video platform that fueled countless memes and other viral cultural artifacts. Mark S. Luckie, formerly of Twitter and Reddit wrote an excellent piece on what Vine and other social platforms have meant for black creators, and what black creators mean to the culture of the internet at large. The closure of Vine represents a larger paradox of socially networked tools: the ones we love the most are often the most difficult to monetize. Vibrant, creative communities are not always compatible with making it easy to serve up advertisements, and the richness of ad-hoc cultural production can reveal just how much fun can be had in generating independently and consuming socially, outside the broad agendas of brands. Humans at their best are far too idiosyncratic for most large corporations to feel comfortable aligning themselves with: our collective unpredictability and constant cultural innovation outpaces the attempts of marketers to parse, package and re-sell it to us. Where our digital commons collides with the demands of venture capital, maybe it's only the good that die young. 


More next week.