- Using data visualization to convey the scale and shifting geographies of U.S. arms exports. While its designed to capture a single category of goods, mapping that flow of deadly objects also reveals changes in policy and just how unstable the delineation between friend and foe has been over time.
- Holding a magnifying glass up to all the big business and startup talk of designing great user experiences to reveal the myths, suggest alternatives, and better understand how systems can be redesigned.
Feeding the Future:
- A California tax incentive designed to get owners of vacant lots to allow agriculture on their properties has failed to take hold, with only four receiving the tax break. It underscores the difficulties of bringing the rural practices of agriculture to bear on urban spaces in a meaningful way that goes beyond the novelty of a hobby farm.
- Han Jan Kamps of the hardware VC firm Bolt draws a sharp line between VR and AR, and details the differences in form, benefits, and usability. We tend to agree with the basic arguments presented here: AR is more easily enmeshed with (non-digitized) life itself, whether the mode is work or leisure, and likely has a larger addressable market as a result.
Up in the Air:
- Facebook is working on internet satellites (rumors have been circulating for some time), and they appear to be fairly far along, claiming that the first will be launched in 2019. While the technological expansion makes strategic business sense, it's also troubling to see the social media company, which has struggled in recent years with 'fake news' scandals and violation of psychological experiment protocols attempting to grab even more power and control.
- The Washington Post profiles a handful of transgender men, with their reflections on how transitioning revealed social mores and politics of gender and remapped their day-to-day choices.
Bias and Brains:
- A study measuring the reactions of participants to different colored robots draws the conclusion that racial bias follows through to robotic subjects. The researchers recommend creating "more diverse" robots, which seems like a bizarre solution. Robots need not reflect the diversity of the human world any more than toasters ought to, and given how racist propaganda of the past impacts present perceptions and policies, conflating people and machines seems especially grotesque. Progress has to be addressed at the level of human society, not by pasting appearances onto automatons and hoping for the best.