Recommended Reading: The Place of UX

I just read and enjoyed this:

Debates continue to rage about the role of UX designers, user research, and how far knowledge about the user should permeate the organization. On one extreme, UX is seen as a specialized pocket of knowledge that informs the definition of projects and sets requirements. On the other, UX is something for which the entire organization should somehow feel responsible.

A few concepts can facilitate a deeper discussion by drawing meaningful distinctions.

Read “The Place of UX”

Recommended Reading: A lengthy ramble through many responses to that FaceTime Attention Correction tweet

I just read and enjoyed this:

The latest beta of iOS 13 came out, and there’s a feature called FaceTime Attention Correction which, on video calls, silently manipulates the image of your face so that you’re looking the other person directly in the eye. Which on first blush to me sounded cool (eye contact is good! Maybe?) but on further thought made me do a weird face.

Read “A lengthy ramble through many responses to that FaceTime Attention Correction tweet”

A good ramble with some interesting links for earlier research on gaze detection that I hadn’t been familiar with.

My gut reaction to the news of FaceTime manipulating video call imagery to redirect the gaze of callers was a feeling of uneasiness. Which is interesting, because I don’t find the idea of a “beauty filter” that removes skin blemishes etc. particularly irritating. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become accustomed to the idea of image manipulation for changing the appearance of a person in advertising and media, whereas the novelty of manipulating the behavior of a person is still troubling (c.f. deep fakes). Whatever the reason, these are useful reminders that digital communication is always mediated (even when it doesn’t feel that way, as in the case of video calling) as Matt Webb points out.

Recommended Reading: Anatomy of an AI System


The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data and planetary resources:

A cylinder sits in a room. It is impassive, smooth, simple and small. It stands 14.8cm high, with a single blue-green circular light that traces around its upper rim. It is silently attending. A woman walks into the room, carrying a sleeping child in her arms, and she addresses the cylinder.
We start with an outline: an exploded view of a planetary system across three stages of birth, life and death, accompanied by an essay in 21 parts. Together, this becomes an anatomical map of a single AI system.

Related (previously): a preliminary atlas of gizmo landscapes

(As an aside, rediscovering this article after more than nine years was more difficult than anticipated. I’m just glad it’s still available.)

Also related (previously): iPhone Deconstructed

(Which sadly appears to have vanished from the internet many years ago, thus the link.)

Also (kinda) related: Leonard E. Read’s 1958 essay I, Pencil, making the argument that no human knows enough to create something as seemingly simple as a pencil. (Disclaimer: I don’t fully buy into the Invisible Hand narrative, but I wouldn’t entirely dismiss it either.)

Recommended Reading: Notes on AI Bias

I just read and enjoyed this:

Machine learning finds patterns in data. ‘AI Bias’ means that it might find the wrong patterns – a system for spotting skin cancer might be paying more attention to whether the photo was taken in a doctor’s office. ML doesn’t ‘understand’ anything – it just looks for patterns in numbers, and if the sample data isn’t representative, the output won’t be either. Meanwhile, the mechanics of ML might make this hard to spot.

Read “Notes on AI Bias”

Recommended Reading: Cameras that understand: portrait mode and Google Lens

I just read and enjoyed this:

I’ve talked quite a lot about the impact of machine learning and computer vision in general on everything from e-commerce recommendation to social to all kinds of cool industrial applications, but it’s also interesting just to look at the effect that machine learning is having on actual cameras.

Read “Cameras that understand: portrait mode and Google Lens”

Recommended Reading: The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, but It’s Not What We Expected

I just read and enjoyed this:

The Future Book was meant to be interactive, moving, alive. Its pages were supposed to be lush with whirling doodads, responsive, hands-on. The old paperback Zork choose-your-own-adventures were just the start. The Future Book would change depending on where you were, how you were feeling. It would incorporate your very environment into its story—the name of the coffee shop you were sitting at, your best friend’s birthday. It would be sly, maybe a little creepy. Definitely programmable. Ulysses would extend indefinitely in any direction you wanted to explore; just tap and some unique, mega-mind-blowing sui generis path of Joycean machine-learned words would wend itself out before your very eyes.

Read “The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, but It’s Not What We Expected”

Recommended Reading: Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs

I just read and enjoyed this:

Among some computer engineers, Lena is a mythic figure, a mononym on par with Woz or Zuck. Whether or not you know her face, you’ve used the technology it helped create; practically every photo you’ve ever taken, every website you’ve ever visited, every meme you’ve ever shared owes some small debt to Lena. Yet today, as a 67-year-old retiree living in her native Sweden, she remains a little mystified by her own fame. “I’m just surprised that it never ends,” she told me recently.

Read “Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs”

Recommended Reading: The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire

I just read and enjoyed this:

What’s on your mind? Right now, as I’m writing this, The New York Times is breaking the news that Facebook, after a year of staggering revelations concerning everything from misuse of private data to enabling Russian election interference to knowingly providing inflated metrics publishers used to remake the media landscape, has been caught giving other big companies access to its users’ information outside the framework of its normal privacy rules.

Read “The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire”

Recommended Reading: Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche

I just read and enjoyed this:

Draw me your map of utopia and I’ll tell you your tragic flaw. In 10 years of political reporting I’ve met a lot of intense, oddly dressed people with very specific ideas about what the perfect world would look like, some of them in elected office—but none quite so strange as the ideological soup of starry-eyed techno-utopians and sketchy-ass crypto-grifters on the 2018 CoinsBank Blockchain Cruise.

Read “Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche”