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Wild signs (Africa edition)

As anyone who walks, treks, or rambles in the countryside knows, nature is replete with messages. Animals deposit and pick up trails and traces. They communicate within and across groups, populations, species and families. They broadcast, narrowcast, and live stream messages to friends, rivals, predators and prey, deliberately, inadvertently, or even falsely. Not all channels … Continue reading

Executive secrets

Who doesn’t want some unstructured time, especially at work! The gaps in the US President’s daily schedule surfaced again this week. 60% of his time is labelled “Executive Time.” Like many others, I’m content to attribute his work patterns to sloth, contrarianism, disorganisation, and tv addiction. (See Axios article.) The main defence from his PR … Continue reading

Organic cyberwars

The respectable sounding Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a media organisation that was started by the Russian government in 2013, initially to exert influence over Ukrainian and Russian citizens. Some time before the 2016 US election the Russian IRA directed these operations to influence online political discussions in the US, with further influence in other … Continue reading

Secret listening: Private, personal, portable podcasts

Podcast listening is a personal and private matter, especially if the listener wears headphones. No one need know what you are listening to. That’s not to say that privacy and secrecy are the same. I’ve been listening to the Podcast Radio Hour published by the BBC. In the 19 October 2018 edition Stephen Fry speaks about … Continue reading

Challenges of the sharing economy

Architectural Research Quarterly just published an article by Tolu Onabolu and me called “Blockchain for architects: Challenges from the sharing economy.” Our tagline is: “Cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and other aspects of the sharing economy offer benefits and challenges for architecture. They also furnish metaphors about urban living.” The article derives from speculations in this blog … Continue reading

Speak truth to power

“It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.” These are the words of Cambridge Analytica chief executive, according to a recent Guardian article. See the fascinating undercover recording of a sting within a sting. Is truth really under siege? Speak … Continue reading

AI and advertising

Most prominent web publishers such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Reddit and news sites, generate revenue by placing banner, side-bar and in-text adverts on their pages. The ads are tailored for your eyes, and may differ from what others see on the same pages. Programmatic advertising directs what ads you see on web pages and social … Continue reading

Troll farming

When did the Internet lose its innocence? In 1993 pioneering advocate for life online Howard Rheingold wrote in The Virtual Community: “People in virtual communities use words on screens to exchange pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in love, find friends and … Continue reading

Fake followers

Singer Katy Perry has nearly 100 million followers on Twitter according to Friend or Follow. Close behind are Justin Bieber and Barack Obama, with Donald Trump ranked 34th in line with about 31 million followers. You don’t need to be a follower to find out what people are tweeting. You can just search on their … Continue reading

Reverse analytics

Can you infer a person’s politics from their online footprint? Let’s start with something less contentious: a person’s nature preference. If you were raised in a school and home environment that encouraged you to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature pursuits, then it is highly likely that in later life you will respect the environment, … Continue reading

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