I have never partaken in a 100% virtual study programme. I was anxious, a bit worried but with a buzz of excitement. The program overview “Behind, Beneath and Beyond Social Media” was fascinating to read about. The program was about breaking down social media and exploring what underlies it and what goes beyond the social media we know daily. One of the biggest takeaways from taking this programme was now having a deeper understanding of the development in neuroscience on the issues surrounding the governance of personal data and the security and ethical issues surrounding this.
For example, a big development in neuroscience is having the technology decode neural data and controlling various communication technologies with the mind. Stroke patients, for example, are now able to use technology to recreate speech, an activity otherwise extremely difficult or impossible due to their speech motor functions being impaired. At the core of this, the patient is essentially using their mind to control a piece of technology. While this advancement in science is noteworthy, should this technology trickle into the public domain, massive issues around neural data sovereignty and security will arise. Our privacy is at high risk if appropriate laws, policies, and regulations are not in place before introducing these technologies to the public domain. You cannot ‘fake’ your own neural data, whereas on the web, you can carefully choose what to display and share. I have also become very wary and mindful of the data I put out online.
After a session about OSINT (open-source intelligence) and disinformation, I have come to fully acknowledge and understand how easy it is to collect personal data without hacking anything and steal entire identities. It is a terrifying thought. One that many don’t fully realise the extent of its dangers. From this programme, I have developed a fascination with the intersection between neuroscience, psychology, and communications. More specifically, I am interested in how we can educate the public in being better educated on the issues that arise from communication technologies that increasingly impact and affect data sovereignty. This has sought me to look for research that I can take part in to explore the implications further and, most importantly, how this will affect the public sphere. My anxieties prior to beginning the program were dispelled almost immediately after I had attended the online orientation session.
The session went through what was expected of us, what we could expect, and contact details should any issues occur. Heavy thanks go to the coordinators for the program for making everything highly organised and well put together. Information was consolidated nicely and was easily digestible. A big challenge were the session times. Session times were only confirmed around a week prior to the programme starting, and I could not attend the first and last session due to prior confirmed engagements. Though a bit delayed, recordings were provided to everyone who was not able to attend. Missing a session did not impact your understanding of the next session, as another guest speaker led each session, each with their topic.
Overall, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to take part in this programme. I would highly recommend anyone interested in data, neuroscience, social media, ethics, algorithms, or artificial intelligence to partake in this programme. They will benefit from gaining an increased understanding of how all these areas impact one another.