Up to 15% of Twitter users are bots. Are they changing our thoughts?

Podcasts this week: an exploration of online bots, and how to mother in the age of Trump

Bot world: How can we tell who is real and who is not?

Bot world: How can we tell who is real and who is not?

 

IRL: Online Life Is Real Life – Bot or Not

This podcast asks big questions about how we live on the internet and, given how connected so many of us are to online spaces, provides insights on the mechanisms of online spaces that we may not be fully aware of. This episode is a robust 30 minutes examining the nature of bots – the artificial intelligences that we share social media with, whether we know it or not.

There are good bots and bad bots, which can do anything from generate images of pretty landscapes and quotes from our favourite sitcoms all the way down to tampering with global politics, and even harvest your data and assume your identity.

The conversations are fairly jargon-heavy; this is a deep-dive into internet culture that pulls no punches. There’s no gentle explanation of heady tech terms, but if you’re a citizen of the internet who would like some more clarity about what kind of digital creatures are roaming the landscape, this is for you. Should we be allowed to be rude to them? How should we engage with them, if at all? What happens when we make them angry? How can we tell who is real and who is not?

These are the questions we should all be asking when we engage online – and this podcast doesn’t shy away from real discourse: there is a particularly interesting segment on what exactly political bots mean for the governance of countries, and how they affect the conversations we have – and therefore the thoughts we have. There are interviews with academics, the people who programme the bots and staff from Twitter, where up to 15 per cent of users are bots. This is a discussion of the ethics of the internet, and while there are no certain answers, this is still a must-listen for anyone who has a life online.

New Podcast of the Week The Bustle Huddle: Why 2018 Isn’t Going To Suck

This is the first episode of the feminist media publication Bustle’s podcast: the structure of which gives the feeling of a cover-to-cover women’s magazine.

The pace clips along swiftly: there is cultural discussion, some interviews, some vox pops, astrology. Editors of Bustle, and organisers of 2017’s Women’s March on Washington, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Paola Mendoza and Ana Gasteyer make for compelling, bright hosts. The cultural discussion is razor sharp and nuanced, in this episode particularly focusing on what the women of the west learned in 2017 and how to move into 2018 feeling optimistic, rather than damned.

The bright outlook is very contagious. Where the conversation could descend into helplessness, given the current political climate and what that means for women, instead it is full of resilience.

For example, there is a brief look at how motherhood feels under Trump’s regime – how raising a son while the president of their country spouts sexism and racism can be worrying, but how to resist that negativity and thrive despite it.

The conversation also looks hopefully into 2018, asking what we have to look forward to, even if it is only a couple of good movies and the spectacle of the royal wedding. There is a segment on self-care, which is genuinely affirming and handled lightly enough to not seem trite. This podcast takes a look at the brighter and more hopeful side of culture, and makes for a good, relevant and intelligent new-year-new-me-style listen.

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