Ashleigh: CIS Social Media

The CIS Australia Behind, Beneath and Beyond Social Media virtual programme was a fun, interactive and informative course about social media and the future of technology.

There were eight sessions across the two weeks, each was led by a different speaker and focussed on a specific aspect of social media and technology. One of the advantages of having a virtual programme was that we had speakers from all over the world talking about the field that they are passionate about. Getting to hear their experiences of the topics they care about helped to make the course engaging and exciting. Through the presentations, I was introduced to concepts and ideas that I was previously unaware of and they helped me to broaden my thinking and become more open to change.

Two sessions that really contributed to this were a session on neuroscience and technology and a session held in virtual reality. The idea that technology is at a place where we can recreate the pictures that people are thinking of or the words they want to say or actions they want to do by connecting ourselves to their brains was especially fascinating to me. I had not previously known or even thought about it, but it could have an amazing impact in helping people with disabilities become more independent.

Our session in VR introduced me to the idea of companies, clubs and theatres becoming VR experiences. Over the last year and a half, we have all become accustomed to using online learning and communication methods, but I had not realised that long before this there were companies operating entirely in VR programmes. Now there are even comedy and music performances being conducted from an artist’s living room that people can attend in VR.

The programme helped to improve my problem solving and critical thinking skills. When thinking about the future and technology, there are currently a lot of unknowns. It is hard to say exactly where we will be in the future, and it was interesting to consider the advancements that we are making and the direction that these discoveries and inventions may take us. In our first session, we learnt about exponential thinking from Sally Dominguez and how to be an adventurous thinker. This mindset allows creates a different way of thinking, turning the usual series of questions upside-down and encouraging new and creative ideas and ways to solve problems.

Overall, the programme was really interesting and informative. My eyes were opened to new ideas and ways of thinking that will be useful to me moving forward. The range of presenters from various different backgrounds located all around the world created an awesome experience. The programme was highly topical and fascinating, and I would happily attend another virtual programme in the future.

Behind, Beneath & Beyond Social Media | CISaustralia

Paul: CIS Social Media

The intersection of media, technology, psychology, and policy has never been as rich as it is now. The ongoing critiques of American democracy with manufactured consent, the problematic indoctrination through personalised filter bubbles and the erosion of personal connection for the profit of a handful of companies are all questions at the fore of the conversation around social media and its impact in contemporary society. Going into the CIS Australia Social Media programme I was excited to learn more about these issues, and hopefully get some answers to them too.

With a wide array of speakers, I was able to deeper and broaden my understanding of social medias effect on us all. One of the most exciting examples of this was Nell Watson, her talk Artificial Intelligence & Ethics: AI and Social Trust expanded on these questions, bringing together the issue of social media filter bubbles and democracy through the idea of information gerrymandering. A tool, created through algorithms and used by large tech platforms, to manipulate voting opinions within populations. Watson explained, by creating separate networks within a social media site and keeping groups of people within those networks exclusively, you could then gently change their opinions on a subject. Of course, this is most often used for political gain.

Another talk, Cybersecurity – Disinformation and Social Media by Pablo Breuer discussed just how much information we all have available on the internet. Breuer explained this through a demonstration. Breuer talked about just how much information we are putting online through a lens of malicious hacking. He explored just how vulnerable we all are, and the dangerous position we’re putting ourselves in by putting so much of our personal information online. He made his point more tangibly through an exercise, we were all given 15 minutes to find out as much information as possible about him using his public social media accounts. One student found his age, university, time spent in the military, his residential region and the age and names of both his kids.

Although the content of the programme was excellent, the online environment did make it more challenging. It was harder to communicate and socialise with the other students when doing group activities. To overcome this, I, and I’m sure other students, had to purposefully put in additional energy into communicating with each other and engaging with the content. This is something that I will take with me beyond the course and employ in future learning and professional environments. This programme was such a privilege to attend. The calibre of speakers they had was incredible. It was the first opportunity I had to discuss these topics with people in the tech industry and I hope it won’t be the last.

The sessions were laid out in a casual enough way for me to feel comfortable engaging with the speakers and other students in the programme, and with such knowledgeable guests I’m very glad I was able to discuss the content with them. I will certainly be looking at future 360 International events and I highly encourage any other students to give it a go. I learned so much, both on the topics I had in mind going into this programme, as well areas I had never been exposed to.

Behind, Beneath & Beyond Social Media | CISaustralia

Maryam: CIS Social Media

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.

Behind, Beneath & Beyond Social Media | CISaustralia

Ahona: CIS Social Media

I was thrilled when I discovered that I had been selected to participate in the CIS Behind, Beneath and Beyond Social Media virtual program! I’m incredibly grateful to the 360 International Team for funding me and allowing me to take part in this, as I believe this program imparts crucial skills and knowledge required to understand many of the technological advancements expected to be seen in the future, along with their various implications.

As we all know, new technologies and digital transformation have impacted countless facets within our society, contributing to growing changes in our daily lives. Most of us expect the coming decades to witness great scientific breakthroughs, many of which we have read about in science fiction novels. While these technologies can be used to make our lives easier, there are valid ethical concerns being raised in regards to such inventions coming into common usage. In the age of surveillance capitalism, where powerful entities exploit our personal data for financial gain, there’s no telling how technologies of the future will be used and for what malicious purposes. It’s evident that technological developments in the coming half-century will forever change life as we know it. All of these anxieties, hopes and predictions of the future, along with what’s going on in our current technological reality were highlighted in this virtual program.

Over the span of 2 weeks, we had to attend 8 different sessions with experts from all across the world, who spoke to us about their unique experiences in their respective lines of work. As a result, each session was a deep dive into a specific aspect of social media and/or technology, allowing us to gain fascinating insights into the world of tech. A great thing about this program is the fact that there are no assignments, therefore you’re given the opportunity to simply listen and learn from a group of amazing people who have had years of experience in their fields and will impart invaluable knowledge.

Themes of the sessions ranged from topics including artificial intelligence, ethics, data, cybersecurity, neuroscience, cyborgism, biohacking, posthumanism and so much more. Following every session, we were sent a list of resources recommended by the guest speakers so as to acquire a better understanding of their presentations. We also participated in a number of engaging activities that were designed to help us really absorb all of these new and challenging ideas.

Overall, this was an amazing experience that allowed me to learn a great deal about what to expect in the future in terms of technology, along with ways I can protect myself in the age of surveillance capitalism. It’s so important to listen to various new perspectives about a future that will affect us all. No matter what your academic focus is, I highly encourage anyone who wants to participate in this virtual program to do so. Not only will it help further your academic, professional and personal development, you will also obtain knowledge that will help you prepare for the future of technology.

Behind, Beneath & Beyond Social Media | CISaustralia

Shivali: CIS Social Media

Social media is a central part of all of our lives. Collectively, we spend hours on social media without understanding the extent of information we provide and the extent of information provided to us. This virtual programme was well structured to provide students with valuable insight into social media and technology. Sessions ranged from a US militant’s personal experience to neuroscience. I am now better able to understand that social media is more than an app. I understand what happens when you post a photo online, why websites recommend specific products and the dangers behind social media. This knowledge helps me understand the risks, and allows me to make better decisions to stay safe online.

Although this programme was online, it was very interactive. We were able to ask questions, complete various activities and work in groups. Being able to work in groups allowed us to share ideas and think collaboratively. The final session was exciting because it was held on Virbela. This is an automated open campus where students create their avatars and watch the session in an online classroom. Through this different software, the programme remained interesting and innovative over the two weeks. A skill that I have developed throughout this programme is the ability to think exponentially. Things are changing rapidly in this world. We need to develop an analytical mindset to solve challenges before they grow into detrimental problems. It is no longer enough to approach problems in a linear manner.

I intend to pursue a career in the legal and business profession, and exponential thinking will help me solve complex problems. Cybercrime has increased due to the rise of technology and technological expertise. This programme taught me how people could steal our identities with very little information. With this knowledge, I will advise my clients better and protect the people around me. Also, with a better understanding of the logistics of social media, I can develop effective marketing campaigns and reach the target audience.

I highly recommend that students from all departments get involved in this experience. Not only does it grow your knowledge, but it is also an opportunity to advance your interpersonal skills. You will be able to collaborate with like-minded peers from different departments. You will also work with mentors from different areas of the world we may never otherwise have an opportunity to speak to. A virtual programme is also a convenient way to participate within the comfort of your own home. This was a fantastic opportunity, and I thank the team for this experience.

Behind, Beneath & Beyond Social Media | CISaustralia

Cameron: CIS Social Media

This course consisted of eight online lectures of 2 – 3 hours each in duration, covering topics such as AI, social media algorithms, security, VR, and futurism. Personally, I used to be into futurism and new technologies, but over time I lost hope for the future as disasters like climate change become worse. But it’s important to remember that technology is still developing and that we are on the cusp of some revolutionary shifts.

One of the ideas stressed by many of the speakers was the idea of exponential growth – to model both technological innovation and spread of ideas in an online space. One of the things I appreciated was how these technologies were shown to be important to everyday life; previously when I heard about stuff like AI or transhumanism, they sounded very far-flung and not worthy of discussion outside of hypothetical situations. Listening to speakers who specialise in these areas, as well as the question and answer segments, showed me that these are quickly growing areas that will soon pervade our society.

Ethics was also a prevalent topic for discussion – including ownership of data, disinformation, political propaganda, and personhood. Understanding how social media operates and how it can manipulate you is very important for today’s society – where targeted advertising can bit by bit change people’s opinions and have real world effects. I try to avoid algorithmic social medias, and learning more about this only made me more determined to protect myself from them. I signed up for this course because I am a content creator on social media and wanted to understand how to manage my use of it more efficiently.

My one big takeaway was how much of a problem disinformation is – and how vulnerable I might be to it when it is framed as aligning with my political opinions or coming from a content creator or community I enjoy. I am definitely taking this on board going forward. Something I found very interesting was the exploration of how more futuristic sounding technologies would change humanity’s very identity, with topics such as postgenderism, posthumanism and cyborgism being explored. The rules and regulations, as well as its overall accountability to the public, surrounding the technologies of today will surely influence how we grow and develop in the future. Understanding how humanity may change long-term can help us figure out which direction we want to go in, and how we can get there starting today.

Behind, Beneath & Beyond Social Media | CISaustralia