Information & Technology

Bitcoin: from currency to investment

While attending the 2019 American Sociological Association annual conference in New York, I came across an advertisement that nicely captures the competing visions within the bitcoin community. The ad (Figure 1) depicts a scene from the American Revolution, illustrated in pointillist style to evoke American paper currency. A slogan, “The revolution needs rules,” overlays a throng of white men, each […]

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    Screen size matters: people understand the news less when they read it on their phones

Screen size matters: people understand the news less when they read it on their phones

Media consumption is increasingly conducted on-the-go. Whether its binge-watching episodes of Stranger Things, social networking, or watching the news, there’s an app for that. And ongoing improvements in smartphones, wireless coverage, network connectivity and speed make doing all these things on mobile devices more than possible; for many it’s preferable.
Industry trends are indicative. The global proliferation of smartphones is […]

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    We need to appreciate privacy as a value that protects social goods

We need to appreciate privacy as a value that protects social goods

Privacy has usually been defined in terms of an individual’s space, necessary for meeting the person’s vital interests. The central concept in these discussions is autonomy, a core value in our society. The best way to connect the two concepts is to consider privacy as a tool that fosters and encourages autonomy. Privacy contributes to the demarcation of a […]

Are you allowed to augment my reality?

In 2016, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. asked people to stop playing Pokémon GO inside the museum; having players trying to catch Pokémon detracted from the somber material the museum displayed. While Pokémon GO was one of the first uses of augmented reality to capture the public imagination, the technology is increasingly common in both business and […]

Why people need the dark web, whether they want it or not

Never before has the real world been so interconnected with the cyber with an increasing amount of our everyday activity becoming digitised. However, what we say, what information we look at, and every online activity necessarily leaves electronic records and footprints that can reveal some of our most personal activities and attributes. Unsurprisingly, this is something that has not […]

Content pricing in the age of the digital-native generation

The advent of the internet and information technology has led to the digitisation of content and this, in turn, has transformed the distribution and consumption of goods like newspapers, books, CDs, and DVDs. Traditionally, consumers have purchased content in a physical medium. Today, an increasing number of consumers buy and consume digital content such as newspapers, eBooks, album and […]

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    Algorithms could give the world its first ‘born digital’ free trade agreement in Africa

Algorithms could give the world its first ‘born digital’ free trade agreement in Africa

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, presently signed by 52 African Union (AU) member states, is remarkable in its geographic coverage and ambition to create a single market for the continent. The agreement’s extensive protocols will cover trade in goods, trade in services, investment, competition and intellectual property rights.

Following its ratification by the Gambia in April 2019, […]

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    Using consumer psychology to enhance mobile app recommendation

Using consumer psychology to enhance mobile app recommendation

Mobile apps play an increasingly important role in people’s lives and enrich almost every aspect, from social networking and health monitoring to shopping and entertaining. People now spend more time using mobile devices than PCs to access the internet. According to statistics from Yahoo’s Flurry analytics, 90 per cent of people’s mobile time is spent using apps, which they can […]

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    Blockchain can keep flawed data from machine learning systems

Blockchain can keep flawed data from machine learning systems

With the dramatic fall in popularity of cryptocurrencies and the wave of unpredictable volatility in the value of these immaterial currencies, comes a seeming drop in the interest in blockchain. Yet, the development of this technology and its application are still charging ahead in full force and blockchain’s full potential is yet to be seen, understood and implemented. We […]

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    Fake news: source ratings and better user interface design help us see deception

Fake news: source ratings and better user interface design help us see deception

Deception has been a long-running problem on the Internet, and it rose to global attention in 2016 with the Brexit referendum and the U.S. presidential election, when “fake news” was deliberately created and spread through social media as part of a disinformation campaign to influence voting. More than 50 per cent of adults get news from social media (primarily […]

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    Technologies of control: we have to defend our right of refusal

Technologies of control: we have to defend our right of refusal

It’s about time that we renewed a conversation about what it means an active digital citizen in the 21st century. The current conditions of our data-driven economy demand that we explore ways to deny technologies the possibility to control us.

Unfortunately, Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, which was the Obama Administration’s signature digital inclusion policy effort, marks the last time the US […]

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    The challenge of regulating biotech in personalised healthcare

The challenge of regulating biotech in personalised healthcare

In the last decades the hottest areas of medical innovation have been the fields of targeted therapies and personalised medicine – medical treatments tailored to the specific molecular features of patients or diseases. Monoclonal antibodies are the prime example of successful targeted therapies, while genuinely personalised treatments have not been as forthcoming as expected. The greatest promise in this […]

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    Unpicking the components of blockchain and their possible applications

Unpicking the components of blockchain and their possible applications

Blockchain is often discussed as if it is one single technology. But it is really a combination of several distinct features – decentralisation, distribution, cryptography, and automation – which are combined in different ways by different platforms. Some of these features may have benefits, while others may be unnecessary or even unhelpful – depending on the specific application. In […]

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    A dose of democracy in corporate governance may help save social media

A dose of democracy in corporate governance may help save social media

Hardly a day goes by without the national or international press publishing negative stories about social networks. Facebook has once more got problems in keeping the data of its more than two billion users under lock and key, or Mark Zuckerberg stands up another parliament in favour of a personal statement. YouTube, acting to protect children, disables the comment […]

Don’t fall into the AI doomsday trap

If you’re one of the many who see a dark future where the honest working man is replaced by mindless structures of automated metal, where technology has become so advanced that it is no longer under our control, and where the human race is overpowered by evil robots programmed to take over the world, 1) I envy your imagination, […]

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    Automation and disruption in the professional business model

Automation and disruption in the professional business model

Professional firms have long been able to use technology to preserve the commercial value of their business model. From the electronic calculator to spreadsheet software, technological advances allowed these firms to streamline operations by delegating labour-intensive, low-value tasks to cheaper and more efficient machines.

However, the story of technology and professional work is about to change. A new generation of […]

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    Blockchain governance: the system is not immune to capture by interest groups

Blockchain governance: the system is not immune to capture by interest groups

All blockchains have rules that govern their operations. As blockchains evolve, they may need to change their rules. Blockchain governance refers to the system in place through which decisions regarding the evolution of the blockchain are made. The question of blockchain governance is at the heart of a burgeoning debate in the blockchain community, where different governance systems are […]

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    In the race for AI supremacy, who will stand in the way of technological progress?

In the race for AI supremacy, who will stand in the way of technological progress?

In 2017 Russian president Vladimir Putin said that whoever becomes the world leader in the sphere of artificial intelligence (AI) will become the ruler of the world. Unsurprisingly, given his position (and previous form), his words were widely interpreted by the press as an attempt to draw divisions between nations – in particular, the two AI superpowers, China and […]

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    How our social interactions influence our decision to buy a new home

How our social interactions influence our decision to buy a new home

People regularly interact with their family, friends, and colleagues, but the effects of such social interactions on economic and financial decision-making are not well understood. Do such interactions influence people’s assessment of the attractiveness of investments such as houses or stocks, and if so, is the actual investment behaviour of those people affected? Are individuals more likely to purchase […]

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    Developing a research methodology for children’s online privacy

Developing a research methodology for children’s online privacy

With growing concerns over children’s online privacy and the commercial uses of their data, it is vital that children’s understandings of the digital environment, their digital skills and their capacity to consent are taken into account in designing services, regulation and policy. Our research project  set out to ask children directly, which was not a straightforward task.

Focus groups were a key […]