MIT Technology Review: It’s time to rein in the data barons. “Facebook, Google, and Amazon all have business models that require them to scoop up large amounts of data about people to power their algorithms, and they derive their power from this information. It’s the sheer scale and sophistication of the data-collection empires they’ve built that make them so distinctive. For the past decade or so, these three firms have had a relatively smooth ride to the top. Their cornucopia of services, often provided for free, made them immensely popular and turned them into some of the most valuable businesses in the world. Their combined market capitalization of some $2 trillion at the end of May was roughly equal to the GDP of Italy. Now, however, debates are in full swing on both sides of the Atlantic about how to deal with their dominance.”
New York Times: Can a DNA Database Save the Trees? These Scientists Hope So. “Forests are disappearing. Maps show shrinking woodlands all over the world. Even trees coveted for their wood that are protected from logging are chopped down. Worried about such deforestation, environmental advocates are driving a project to create a DNA database of populations of the bigleaf maple tree on the West Coast. The eventual goal is to use DNA mapping to combat the thriving black markets for timber in tropical countries that are plagued by illegal logging.”
Open Science: Sharing Data Do Not Indicate Twitter Significantly Augments Article-Level Citation Impact of Recent Research Results. “Guest-authoring a post, published on June 12, 2018, for the Altmetric Blog, Stefanie Haustein, an information science scholar from the University of Ottawa and Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada, has drawn attention to the mixed findings on the connection between Twitter mentions and citation counts of recently published articles. While social media, such as Facebook, can be assumed to contribute to the visibility of scientific research results, the collection of essays on Internet-based indicators for the impact of science edited by Wolfgang Glänzel, Henk Moed, Ulrich Schmoch and Mike Thelwall, to be published later in 2018, incidentally opens the discussion on the degree to which altmetrics can be helpful for the assessment of article-level impact.”
Sarah E. Bond: Digitization ≠ Repatriation: When Digital Humanities Provides Access But Not Restitution. “This week over at Hyperallergic, I wrote about new exhibits at the British Library and the Victoria & Albert Museum which both engage with the cultural heritage of ancient and medieval Ethiopia. An examination of the Ethiopian cultural heritage held in the libraries and museums of Britain can perhaps demonstrate a seminal point about digitization and the digital humanities more broadly: Digital editions can never fully replace an analog object. No matter how many manuscripts we digitize and make available online or 3D scans we create of the Parthenon frieze, they are not a replacement for repatriation.”
New York Times Magazine: Want to Understand What Ails the Modern Internet? Look at eBay. “There was a time when eBay was practically synonymous with buying and selling things online. Now it’s surprisingly easy to forget that it exists, until you need to buy something you can’t find anywhere else or clear some space in the attic. Or until someone like Elon Musk, made fabulously wealthy when PayPal was acquired by eBay in 2002, muscles his way back into your consciousness by, for example, launching rockets into space or burrowing tunnels under major American cities. Where did he come from, exactly? As with a surprising number of tech heavyweights, the answer is complicated, but it runs through eBay.”
Futurism: IBM’s Debater AI Is Impressive, But It Won’t Conquer Humanity. “We’re living in a strange time, when it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish a human from artificial intelligence. And, yes, it can be pretty uncanny. One recent example: Google’s demonstration of its Duplex technology, in which the software fooled an innocent (human) hairdresser into believing she was talking to a human on the phone. And now, IBM has taken things a step further by putting on a human-robot debate, setting its brand new Project Debater against Israeli professional debater Dan Zafrir.”
A Virginia Tech Master’s Thesis: Trending in the Right Direction: Using Google Trends Data as a Measure of Public Opinion During a Presidential Election. “During the 2016 presidential election, public opinion polls consistently showed a lead in the popular vote and Electoral College for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Following Trump’s surprise victory, the political pundits and public at large began to question the accuracy of modern public opinion polling. Fielding a representative sample, convoluted and opaque methodologies, the sheer amount of polls, and both the media’s and general public’s inability to interpret poll results are among the flaws of the polling industry. An alternative or supplement to traditional polling practices is necessary. This thesis seeks to investigate whether Google Trends can be effectively used as a measure of public opinion during presidential elections. This study gathers polling data from the 2016 presidential election from states that were considered swing states. Specifically, this study examines six total polls, three from states that swung in the way the polls predicted they would – Nevada and Virginia – and three from states that swung against the prediction – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.” Click on the View/Open link to get the whole thesis as a PDF.