Home » australia
Category Archives: australia
Seeing the referendum to give a Voice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples profoundly defeated across Australia today is heart-breaking and confusing.
My heart goes out to all Australians feeling let down, but especially, of course, to the Indigenous people of this country for whom this would have been, at least, one small step in the right direction.
As someone who researches online communication, digital platforms and how we communicate and tell stories to each other, I fear the impact of this referendum will be even wider still.
The rampant and unabashed misinformation and disinformation that washed over social media, and was then amplified and normalised as it was reported in mainstream media, is more than worrying.
Make no mistake, this was Australia’s Brexit. It was the pilot, the test, to see how far disinformation can succeed in campaigning in this country. And succeed it did.
In the UK, the pretty devastating economic impact of Brexit has revealed the lies that drove campaigning for it (as have former campaigners who admitted the truth was no barrier for them).
I fear most non-Indigenous Australians will not have as clear and unambiguous a sign that they’ve been lied to, at least this time.
In Australia, the mechanisms of disinformation have now been tested, polished, refined and sharpened. They will be a force to be reckoned with in all coming elections. And our electoral laws lack the teeth to do almost anything about that right now.
I do not believe that today’s result is just down to disinformation, but I do believe it played a significant role. I’m not sure if it changed the outcome, but I’m not sure it didn’t, either.
There was research that warned about the unprecedented levels of misinformation looking at early campaigning around the Voice. There will be more that looks back after this result.
But before another election comes along, we need more than just research. We need more than just improved digital literacies, although that’s profoundly necessary.
We need critical thinking like never before, we need to equip people to make informed choices by being able to spot bullshit in its myriad forms.
I am under no illusion that means people will agree, but they deserve to have tools to make an actually informed choice. Not a coerced one. Social media isn’t just entertainment; it’s our political sphere. Messages don’t just live on social media, even if they start there.
Messages might start digital, but they travel across all media, old and new.
I know this is a rant after a profoundly disappointing referendum, and probably not the best expressed one. But there is so much work to do if this country isn’t even more assailed by weaponised disinformation at every turn.
As new technologies emerge, educators have an opportunity to help students think about the best practical and ethical uses of these tools, or hide their heads in the sand and hope it’ll be someone else’s problem.
It’s incredibly disappointing to see the Western Australian Department of Education forcing every state teacher to join the heads in the sand camp, banning ChatGPT in state schools.
Generative AI is here to stay. By the time they graduate, our kids will be in jobs where these will be important creative and productive tools in the workplace and in creative spaces.
Education should be arming our kids with the critical skills to use, evaluate and extend the uses and outputs of generative AI in an ethical way. Not be forced to try them out behind closed doors at home because our education system is paranoid that every student will somehow want to use these to cheat.
For many students, using these tools to cheat probably never occurred to them until they saw headlines about it in the wake of WA joining a number of other states in this reactionary ban.
Young people deserve to be part of the conversation about generative AI tools, and to help think about and design the best practical and ethical uses for the future.
Schools should be places where those conversations can flourish. Having access to the early versions of tomorrow’s tools today is vital to helping those conversations start.
Sure, getting around a school firewall takes one kid with a smartphone using it as a hotspot, or simply using a VPN. But they shouldn’t need to resort to that. Nor should students from more affluent backgrounds be more able to circumvent these bans than others.
Digital and technological literacies are part of the literacy every young person will need to flourish tomorrow. Education should be the bastion equipping young people for the world they’re going to be living in. Not trying to prevent them thinking about it at all.
[Image: “Learning with technology” generated by Lexica, 1 February 2023]
Update: Here’s an audio file of an AI speech synthesis tool by Eleven Labs reading this blog post:
At an amazing ceremony and dinner at the National Gallery in Canberra tonight I was surprised, flattered and delighted to receive an Australian Award for University Teaching in the Humanities and Arts. This is a huge honour, and I’m extremely grateful to have my approaches to learning and teaching acknowledged in this manner. That said, I’m incredibly conscious that no one teaches in a vacuum, and in Internet Communications I am but one cog in a very complex and well-maintained machine, so this award is at least as much testimony to all of our team at Curtin University as it is to me.
Most importantly, though, I wanted to publicly thank the students who offered their thoughts and feedback about my teaching. We live in an era where students get asked to fill in an awfully large number of feedback forms, surveys and evaluations, so adding even one more thing to that pile is a big ask. So, THANK YOU to all of my students, current and past, whose kind words led to this award.
I’d also like to think that this award is a reminder that despite the huge media attention being paid to MOOCs and so forth, quality online education has been available and refined over more than a decade, and our Internet Communications program is one such example. I truly hope that as this next generation of online learning matures, close attention will be paid to successful examples already available! Successful learning and teaching is, after all, built on understanding the successes and failures of the past.