Lifestream Week 10 Notes

This is the final week of the official Lifestream. I will probably keep it connected though as I find it interesting to build and hopefully others find it interesting to read. Because of world events I wasn’t able to dedicate as much time as usual to the course. I work for the NHS and we had everything else cancelled this week other than getting things ready for the increase in admissions from Covid-19. I usually get to spend a bit of time during work hours on the course, as well as using my lengthy commute (3 hours per day on the train). With everything running on emergency continuity plans at work I had no free time, and with the shift to working from home my commuting time was lost (rather than being replaced with the equivalent time to study at home, the time freed up had to be committed to a combination of child care and supporting my wife who has recently moved roles from being a nurse on a surgical ward to being a nurse out in the community). I continued to play with the Wish app’s algorithm, but had no chance to seek out additional interesting information online.

Tweets about Pinterest showing me Cyberpunk things

This carried on from week 9 and is discussed there. This week I had quite a long chat on Twitter with Eva, who makes much more use of Pinterest than I do. I left the Tweets of this conversation on my Lifestream because they represent something of a milestone for me – I’ve never really enjoyed Twitter and part of that may stem from never having had a conversation with someone using Tweets, any I join in on or instigate tend to fizzle out quickly. I think I could come to quite like Twitter if I can use it like this more often. I think we also reached some interesting conclusions about how the human side of human-algorithm interactions may also be to blame for them narrowing the field of people’s possible interactions online. We discussed the idea that sites like Pinterest, Tumbler and so forth started off quite broad in what they covered, but over time have shrunk to fit certain niche interests. As people who use those sites search for certain content more often, and the algorithms adjust to take this into account, the site becomes more focused on certain types of content, making it appeal less to general users. The human and algorithmic components of the equation feedback into each other, eventually changing the purpose of the site and maybe even killing it off.

Tweet of a meme based on Bladerunner

This was another humorous Tweet, but on where having looked at the subjects we have on this course it gained some added relevance and humour. I liked it because it had an obvious link to the early weeks where we looked at Cyberpunk as a Cyber Culture, so posting it sort of brought the whole Lifestream full circle. The other aspect of the content, the really bad synth owl, seemed relevant to our study of algorithms or even communities online. These aspects of digital culture are still very much in their early stages, and it will take a while before they fully develop. It’s a rare algorithm that could pass the Turing Test and fool someone into thinking it was a human, and it would be staggering is a community developed online that was as rich as the physical communities that we live in. In this respect they’re the unconvincing owl. We can see that they are owl shaped, and they may exhibit some of the behaviour that we expect from an owl, but nobody is going to confuse them with a real owl. In the same way that the robots from Block 1 on Cyber Cultures at best hit the “uncanny valley” and couldn’t be mistaken for real people, we would have a hard time considering the outputs of Algorithmic Culture to be real decision making.

The Plan from YouTube

Very little relevance to the course. I kept it because it is definitely a marker for the time when this Lifestream was put together.  The original version of The Plan from Sean of The Dead has been used in a number of memes about different situations from politics to Covid-19, usually in terms of the idea that people should just head to the pub and wait for it all to blow over. In the case of Covid-19 this is one of the worst things people could actually do, so to counter the spread of this idea the cast reshot the scene updated to make it sensible for the current situation. In a sense this does relate to algorithms. A meme spreads through being posted, and is then picked up as popular content and shown to more users on social media. By trying to counter a dangerous meme through producing a viral video that will spread in the same way, the cast of Sean of The Dead are using those same algorithms to improve public health.

Artefact 3: Do Androids Wish for Electric Worms

I made this one using Sway. It was sort of fun to put together, but is discussed in depth in the Artefacts pages so I won’t go into it here.

Tweet promoting the Artefact

Again I posted my Artefact later than I would have liked, so I wanted to make sure that other students might see it since it was unlikely to show on the collected artefacts page of the course site for a while.

Course summing up post before submission


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