rDigital News: Unplugging, Instagram Video, and the black rhino

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This week, we’ve seen how technology better enables us to tell stories and study the brain, but also, unchecked, can cause massive damage to our environment. As the NSA / Edward Snowden affair continues to develop, there is plenty of reason to step back and think about unplugging.

Instagram Video

Facebook’s photo-sharing social media platform Instagram took a step forward this week in response to Twitter’s video-sharing app Vine by adding video capabilities. Instagram video allows for 15-second clips and adds a few editing features that Vine lacks, including visual filters.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told media at the Thursday press conference that the app is about sharing and capturing moments, and video is only going to make that easier. The question for Facebook, of course, is whether they’ll be able to monetize it.

rdigitaLIFE team member Martin Waxman blogged about the new platform, and its established user base, much larger than Vine’s, might give Facebook a trump card over the Twitter’s upstart video app.

Storify has already added support for Instagram Video, which could enable digital storytellers and journalists to enhance their work with more multimedia content.

The extinction of the African black rhino

The West African black rhino has now been declared extinct.
The West African black rhino has now been declared extinct.

For centuries, humanity has established itself as not only an alpha predator, but increasingly as an absolute master of its environment. Our technological advances have enabled us to extract whatever resources we desire, often without consideration of the long-term dangers.

Another reminder of our deteriorating relationship with the environment came this week when it was announced by a leading conservation agency that the Western black rhino has become officially extinct.

Hunted by poachers hoping to sell their horns on Asian markets, where they’re an important ingredient in several Eastern medicinal practices, conservation efforts were unable to curb the unsustainable killing of the huge mammals.

Biologist Mark Siddall, a curator at the American Museum of National History, spoke with Ramona about the responsibility that comes with the advance of technology.

“With the potential for gain, there’s also the potential for loss,” he said. “Potential for benefit, there’s always a potential for harm.”

He pointed to the development of “niche modeling,” which helps conservationists better track and locate specific species. As valuable as it is for those trying to protect threatened species, that same information, in the hands of poachers, can become incredibly dangerous, enabling the unsustainable killing of species like the Western black rhino.

Should we be unplugging?

Psychological research increasingly points to the importance of separating the weekend from the workweek – taking time to unwind and recover from the accumulated stresses of the daily grind. But can we really detach without actually “unplugging?”

Because we carry digital devices that keep us “always on,” permanently connected to our email, to our social media accounts, the office is never really that far away. While the ability to accomplish leftover tasks on a lazy afternoon might make the workweek more manageable, it means we can’t block out the stresses of our careers.

It’s that stress that led Shane Hankins and Reboot to create the “National Day of Unplugging,” which encourages people to switch off, to go outside, to connect with others in a face-to-face fashion.

Watch Shane’s interview with Ramona about unplugging below.



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