Tag Archives: Social Media

Jason Bradbury in two places at once

Who said you can’t be in two places at once?
bradburyTV presenter, tech guru for The Gadget Show and Visiting Lecturer Jason Bradbury showed us how by delivering a virtual lecture for our second year ‘Group Project’ students using new robotic communication technology.
Using a Double Robotics system, Jason was able to have a physical presence in front of our students, even though he couldn’t be there in person.
He presented his lecture, moved around the room and discussed creative new ideas with students, all from his base in London.“It is so exciting to be living in a time when technology enables you to teach an entire lecture theatre in person, despite being hundreds of miles away. Technological advances are improving our means of communication on a daily basis,” explained Jason. “I’m delighted to be able to deliver virtual lectures at the University of Lincoln as part of what is a very exciting project for the students.”

Jason’s lecture formed part of a module for second year Computer Science students, entitled My AI Ate My Homework. He tasked the students with a challenging new project – to design and develop an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system that is capable of passing the Turing Test.

The Turing Test was created by Alan Turing OBE, who was a pioneering computer scientist and mathematician and was instrumental in many technological developments during the 1940s. His work at the Bletchley Park codebreaking centre, where he lead a group to breaking the Enigma code, played a pivotal role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in World War II.


The Turing Test is a test of a machine’s ability to give the perception of ‘intelligent behaviour’, or to make itself indistinguishable from a human being. Thus, the student’s project would be to create a system which would make people believe they were interacting with a person, when really they’ve been responding to an AI robot.

Bruce Hargrave, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, is leading the module. He said: “Turing proposed that for a machine to pass his test, a human must be unable to tell if he or she was communicating with another human or with a machine. In computer science, the interactions between humans and robots are important areas of study and it is fascinating to explore what it is that distinguishes human behaviour from that of a machine. We are inviting our students to build their own machine with the ability to do just that – appear human.”Suggestions for the type of systems that could be developed by the students include an online agony aunt, a social media communicator, a fortune teller and a fast food ordering service.

The students will submit written proposals before developing their systems, with the aim of exhibiting them in public later in the year.

How outages of social networks affect the internet

An article by Dr  Ben Kirman and Tom Feltwell, from the School of Computer Science, is featured on news analysis and opinion website The Conversation.

The piece discusses the issues that arise when social networks crash, following the server error which brought down Facebook, Instagram and Tinder for about 50 minutes earlier this week.

The apparent outage at Facebook’s HQ cascaded to other networks that use Facebook to authenticate users.

Read the article here: https://theconversation.com/when-facebook-goes-down-it-takes-big-chunks-of-the-internet-with-it-36873

What can the Twitter storm over Benefits Street teach us?

A new research project will investigate how social media can play its part in both inciting discrimination against and building understanding of marginalised communities.

The CuRAtOR (Challenging online feaR And OtheRing) project, led by the University of Lincoln, UK, will explore where and how representations of certain minority groups by government and broadcast media can lead to discrimination driven by social media.

Cultures of fear can be spread, either deliberately or otherwise, by a wide range of agents including the media, government, science, the arts, industry and politics.

Examples of this include the recent portrayal of a (seemingly) whole community of benefit claimants in Channel 4’s Benefits Street. Observations of social media discussions about the documentary highlighted high levels of antipathy, anger and abuse directed at the community portrayed within the programme.

Funded by a £750,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Empathy and Trust In Communicating ONline (EMoTICON) call, the research will focus on understanding how empathy and trust are developed, maintained, transformed and lost in social media interactions.

Principal Investigator, Professor Shaun Lawson from the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, said: “One way of marginalising communities is by instilling fear in the general public. What is not understood at present is the interplay between traditional broadcast media, government messages and what’s happening online with social media, particularly on Twitter and Facebook.

“There are significant unanswered questions on what role online digital media can have in propagating cultures of fear and mistrust. The big question, however, is whether the outwardly vitriolic reaction to the people in programmes like Benefits Street is actually enforcing the negative perception, and if not what is really happening.”

The second aspect of the three-year project will investigate the possibility of creating alternative digital experiences that might counteract the negative effects of this kind of discrimination.

Professor Lawson said: “It’s about making people think more critically and challenge what they view as fact. We need to create the environment to foster that kind of thinking and make sure people are aware of the bigger picture. So, if a company makes a TV programme, how can social media be used to counteract certain negative kinds of messages and make people think more deeply about those issues? How we create those new experiences is what we hope to achieve through the research.”

The project will also look at how the media and emerging digital data contributes to the unfair portrayal of communities. For instance, the release of open crime data is intended to increase confidence in our law enforcement agencies, yet its effect is to increase fear of crime.

The project team, which also involves researchers from Bath, Newcastle, Nottingham and Aberdeen universities, will be investigating whether this type of data can be used in a more critical way.

Dr David Cobham, Head of the Lincoln School of Computer Science, added: “This is the latest in a series of extremely thought provoking projects undertaken by the Lincoln Social Computing (LiSC) Research Centre. LiSC is one of the UK’s leading technology research units investigating the way social media are being used and abused. The CuRAtOR project helps us understand how society can harness the power of social computing for the greater good. Given that our lives are increasingly affected and influenced by social media, this line of technology research is incredibly revealing and is absolutely essential.”

For more on the EMoTICON call, go to http://lncn.eu/uwy2

Fear definition

Social media garden is first step in creating ‘emotional’ buildings

A Twitter-reactive garden could provide a prototype for the future development of ‘smart’ buildings that can adapt to our emotional state.

The structure has been created by academics from the University of Lincoln, UK, taking its inspiration from the University’s Digital Capabilities garden, which won Gold at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013.

The STAN (Science Technology Architecture Networks) research project, which involves computer scientists and architects, is exploring whether architecture is able to reflect and map human emotions.

The garden consists of an articulating raw steel structure, which sits vertically and horizontally, and is controlled by people’s responses via Twitter. In this way it is continuously revealing what the landscape is covering, while also remodelling itself.

The STAN project will be making its first public appearance at the Garden Up horticultural event in Sheffield on 7th and 8th June 2014.

The garden will react to activity on Twitter when people use the #gardenup hashtag, translating this information into movements of the garden’s mechanical landscape.

Richard M Wright, Senior Lecturer in the Lincoln School of Architecture, developed the construct, together with fellow academic Barbara Griffin and students Amy Hayeselden, Nicholas Sharpe and Liam Bennett from the University’s School of Architecture.

He said: “The garden essentially points to a future in which buildings could modify themselves in response to monitoring our emotional state via social media. For example, if we feel like wearing a big cosy jumper and sipping a cup of boiling hot soup, it will turn the temperature down and open a window. Buildings may also begin to reflect the mood of a populace by changing colour or shape, constantly remapping our perception of our urban environment, with façades becoming animated, reflective and mobile in response to communal desires and emotions.

“The fact we decided to retain the structure’s raw metal appearance is a tangible reminder of Sheffield’s industrial past, changing and weathering as a result of the environment.”

Dr Duncan Rowland, a fine artist and Reader in the School of Computer Science, developed the software application. He added: “We exist in a dynamic flux of social information; the software aims to intercept and expose some of this data in a tangible representation.”

The STAN project will also be making an appearance at the Lincolnshire Show which takes place on 18th and 19th June 2014.

Horticultural experts, Crowders Nurseries of Horncastle, will be providing the plants for Lincolnshire Show with Samantha Snowden providing horticultural and plant design expertise for both events.

Follow @thestanproject on Twitter to learn more about the project.

STAN garden top

The STAN project
The STAN project