I’m Virtually Falling for this Research

UCT lab manager, Calvyn du Toit, wearing a virtual reality headset in a psychology department research facility. Photo: Diaan Mynhardt

My eyes open and I find myself standing atop an impossibly high pedestal, located in the middle of a large, brightly-lit industrial-looking room. The walls and distant floor are a deep matt black, and crisscrossed by a bright yellow grid. There’s no way down. From somewhere a disembodied voice gives a mischievous-sounding chuckle, then says, “I’m sorry, Diaan.” A sudden shove from behind unbalances me, and I fall. The floor rushes towards me, faster and faster, and my body reacts; my muscles tense as I feel the weightlessness of freefall. Adrenalin surges! I hit the bottom and my vision turns red. There’s no pain.
Continue reading “I’m Virtually Falling for this Research”

Bigger! Better! Faker!

Propaganda is as old as humanity itself, but the internet has given it a new life – that of fake news. Seen here is a Google Search for the term ‘propaganda’. Photo: Diaan Mynhardt

The internet, beautiful yet troubled machine that it is, allows us to do one thing better than ever before, and this one thing is communication. Whether you believe that our modern communications are more superficial than those of decades past or not, the one thing you can’t deny is that we’re doing a heck of a lot more of it. Continue reading “Bigger! Better! Faker!”

Facebook, or Facehook?

An infographic on beating Facebook addiction, created by Who Is Hosting This. The full infographic can be seen on their blog. Image: Who Is Hosting This

Internet addiction is a growing phenomenon. It is a multi-faceted behavioural addiction – science speak for a complicated addiction that does not involve substance use. Researchers recognise that internet addiction is not a single addiction, that a person addicted to online gambling is not necessarily also addicted to social networks[1,2]. Continue reading “Facebook, or Facehook?”

The Winds of Change… ed Communications

Coffee on the Jammie steps at The University of Cape Town. Photo: Diaan Mynhardt

Every year, like legions of young, trendy Zarathustras, thousands of bright and eager young faces flock from the many corners of South Africa and the world to the university on the mountain, The University of Cape Town. Like the many thousands before them they come here to this windswept prominence to learn, and to be transformed. Continue reading “The Winds of Change… ed Communications”

Yes, Naked Selfies Can be Empowering!

It’s me! The sharing of nude selfies are part of a global drive by millennials to take back their body image from societies repressive dominant ideals. Photo: Diaan Mynhardt

The internet is no stranger to the naked human body. According to Psychology Today[1], between four and fifteen percent of all web searches are porn related, and conservative types the world over are wringing their hands in anguish about the moral decay this might bring about. But I’m not a hand-wringing conservative type, so I’d like to focus on one positive aspect of internet nudity today, empowering exhibitionism. Continue reading “Yes, Naked Selfies Can be Empowering!”

On this Nostalgic Day

Facebook’s On This Day feature claiming to care about the author. Photo: Diaan Mynhardt

When writing the first post on this blog I experienced a moment of nostalgia for the first ever computer programme I wrote. Why did I indulge myself like that? It’s quite probably because remembering those early accomplishments made me feel good; it added meaning to my life. At least, that’s what the research says[1]. Websites like Facebook understand the research behind nostalgia, and are not afraid to use that knowledge to reel you in. Continue reading “On this Nostalgic Day”

Are You Giving Up on Online Privacy?

Facebook’s privacy setting page. Photo by: Diaan Mynhardt

Privacy cynicism: Faced with a never-ending deluge of threats, online users are simply giving up on privacy.

An international group of researchers led by Dr Christian Hoffmann, Professor of Communication Management at the University of Leipzig, Germany, has explained the perplexing divide between internet users’ consistently high privacy concerns, and reliably low privacy protection behaviour. Continue reading “Are You Giving Up on Online Privacy?”

Hello? World?

A PHP “Hello World” example from the PHP manual. Photo: Diaan Mynhardt

As with millions of others programmers everywhere, the words “hello world” heralded my entry into the complex world of computer programming[1]. I had made a computer, a mere machine, talk to me! My mind was blown! It was 1989, the year in which I turned ten, and computer languages like Microsoft Basic were all the rage[2]. Especially if you were a curious ten year old, like I was. Continue reading “Hello? World?”