Good science begins communication

Good science begins communication

Published in the Times Higher Education, my latest piece of journalism on science communication

PhD students shouldn’t wait to establish credibility in their field before they start reaping the benefits of public engagement with their research

Sheffield International Documentary Festival

Sheffield International Documentary Festival

This week, I was in Sheffield for Doc Fest, taking part in a discussion about the film “Hi, Ai”, which documents the lives of people who are building new relationships with humanoid robots.

The debate took us in lots of directions, but crucial for me is how the cultural context of robotics varies. We see a family in Japan and a single man in the USA, each of which are creating new kinds of experience with their robots.

Cheltenham Science Festival

Cheltenham Science Festival

Last weekend, I was at Cheltenham Science Festival installing GameLab and giving a talk about technology. We had a wonderful team from Salford University working on the install and some amazing experiences with the public. HERE’s an overview of what we presented, becoming now a fully fledged exhibition in the history of digital gaming.


Athlete 2.0

Athlete 2.0

It was great to be in Lausanne again last week for #TheSpot2019, a new conference bringing together the worlds of sport and technology. My keynote was focused on the connections between biology and digital technologies, you can read the manuscript over at Medium

Gene Doping for Humanity

Gene Doping for Humanity

Alongside the publication of my paper on Gene Doping and Transhumanism, the amazing Nick Busca has published this article with One Zero.

I’ve really appreciated Medium for a while, but have dug into it much more since talking to Nick. It is a fantastic ecosystem for ideas.

Forest 404 & Human Enhancement

Forest 404 & Human Enhancement

Last week, I featured in a podcast series associated with the new BBC Radio 4 Drama Forest 404. You can check it out and discover more about the drama here

The Royal Society and the Digital Society

The Royal Society and the Digital Society

Last week, I was invited by the Royal Society to take part in a round table meeting on the digital society, which brought some really great speaker together to consider where we are going and what it may mean to live a life in a more digital way.

My main take home from the day was just how difficult it is to develop insights into trends, behaviours, and concerns, when the platforms and environments are changing so rapidly. We need an ethics of uncertainty to accommodate the radical range of drift that occurs around our lives now.

There’s not much point in developing policies for platforms that are going to be defunct within 3-5 years and this is highly risky situation, as it allows a great detail of freedom to exploit people.

For example, by the time we have figured out what it means for a child’s mental health to be on Instagram from the age of 13 to 16, the platform may then be somewhere else.

This makes me think about how we develop an ethical framework for the often ephemeral experiences we have in digital space.

E(merging) Technologies & The Ideas Economy

E(merging) Technologies & The Ideas Economy

Last week, I was delighted to give a talk at Diversity UK’s Tech Showcase, focusing on the collaborative work we do at Salford University, bringing together art, science, technology, and digital media. It was great to hear the pitches of various companies in the region, so much creative innovation going on.

Sport 2.0 published in Japanese

Sport 2.0 published in Japanese

Amazing to see the publication of Sport 2.0 in Japanese this month, especially since the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are just around the corner. It has been a while since I’ve been to Japan and I can’t wait until the next visit.

Putting the NHS in Fortnite

Putting the NHS in Fortnite

Just before Christmas, I published an article which I have been developing for around 6 months. It is a first step in articulating a structure through which healthcare can be provided within digital environments, without having to require patients to relocate themselves into other spaces. I’m really excited about fleshing this out further and would welcome feedback. For me, it’s a crucial issue and makes a lot of sense given the habitualisation that goes into people’s use of digital worlds. There is still a lot to figure out, like what kind of relationship should exist between digital developers and healthcare service professionals, or what should be the format of intervening within such spaces, but here’s a starting point.

The X in Text

The X in Text

Putting the X in text: warm wishes or a kiss-off?

File 20181115 194506 1bqqjfv.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
lanych via Shutterstock
Andy Miah, University of Salford

Do you sign off texts and emails with an x? Have you ever thought what that x – shorthand for a kiss – means to you or the person who has sent it to you? It’s said that the liberal use of x in electronic correspondence, whether personal or professional, is feminising the workplace – and Labour MP Jess Phillips was told off for being unprofessional by a judge a couple of years ago for signing off an email to a constituent with an x. So how did we arrive at a situation where everybody gets one at the end of nearly every sentence we type?

Part of our answer is really simple – the x in correspondence conveys a special kind of empathy for the recipient. In a world where uppercase letters read like SHOUTING and where emojis are ambiguous, every element of a text message is easily misunderstood. The x serves as a catch-all device, telling your reader that all is well in your relationship.

The ubiquitous x can be applied to friendship, romantic, or even professional relationships when messaging. It is so versatile, revealing interest, affection and a general kind of togetherness which, if face to face, would be equivalent to some kind of non-verbal body language – a head tilt, or a sympathetic nod to show agreement and understanding. The x shows that you are in this together and that you seek to continue the conversation in a spirit of mutual and even jovial appreciation.

However, this still doesn’t fully explain why it is an x that has come to wield such power, or why it feels so essential to include one. After all, it could be – and sometimes is – a different symbol: an emoji perhaps, or a simple smiley face like this: :). Nor does it tell us about the journey taken by the x in becoming this multifaceted symbol.

Are you free with your emojis? Mego studio via Shutterstock

Making your mark

History tells us that the x has a long pedigree. In the middle ages, handwritten letters would end with an + to signify the Christian symbol of Christ. With most people being illiterate, a cross was deemed to be sufficiently accessible to verify identity. What’s more, there is evidence of such rituals of signing documentation to be accompanied by a physical kiss being given to the paper, as one might kiss a cross if of certain religious persuasions.

But, this still leaves a big gap between then and now. What happened at the beginnings of the digital revolution that explains this progressive encroachment into all of our correspondence, turning every message into its own letter? Equally, why did the x remain, while other elements of letter writing disappeared, such as writing: “Dear [name]”, or “from [name]” at the start and end of correspondence. We nearly never do this now when sending texts, because messaging has become an endless letter, a conversation that is always left open, to be picked up again at a later stage. It isn’t difficult to imagine that the cross at the end of letters evolved into the x just as words like “goodbye”, evolved out of “God be with you”.

Kissing culture

Yet, for today’s generation, the connection behind the x is likely to be completely lost – it is simply some kind of kiss and, just like a cross, using it could land you in big trouble. After all, the kiss is remarkably culturally specific and an x can mean something very different – or nothing at all in a different language. For instance, in Spanish, x is short for “por”, meaning “for”. Equally, a kiss in one culture means something different in another and, in some cultures, there is no kissing at all. There is also a gendered politics to a kiss, which can make it a highly risky undertaking to send, especially in professional settings.

Forgotten your phone? Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

At the same time, the x can be a way of allowing somebody to express themselves physically without the pressure of actually having to touch somebody. Indeed, this is one of the web’s most amazing features; it can liberate us from the constraints of social conventions and provide a space for relating to others differently – a perspective that researchers have outlined since its inception.

There may be many people who sign off with an x who would not think of kissing the person when face to face, but feel comfortable expressing such affection through a symbol. At a time when the world wide web’s inventor, Sir Tim Berners Lee, has called for more love online, this is surely a good thing.

So, while seemingly one of the most uncomplicated things we do when messaging, the x in texts has far wider implications than perhaps we first thought. A good rule may be to only send an x to people who would be comfortable with you kissing them face to face. Would you actually kiss that person, if they were in front of you? If not, then perhaps drop the x.The Conversation

Andy Miah, Chair in Science Communication & Future Media, University of Salford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You have been upgraded

You have been upgraded

It was amazing to take part and support the realisation of Jon Spooner’s live event, ‘You Have Been Upgraded’. This was a really special experience, especially as it took place at the Science and Industry Museum. Lots of conversations about human enhancement!

Manchester Science Festival

Manchester Science Festival

Another year and another amazing festival. We did so much stuff, it’s hard to know where to begin. So, here’s a quick glimpse of our programme.

Olympism in Action

Olympism in Action

Last weekend, I was in Argentina for the Olympism in Action Forum, invited by the International Olympic Committee to speak about doping. The event took place in advance of the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games. Here’s a quick overview of what took place, but it doesn’t really capture what I said in full.

Broadly speaking, I discussed how society must decide how far it is prepared to push health and longer lives, in order to come to terms with the doping dilemma. We live in times of profound experimentation with biotechnological changes, which make any notion of the natural athlete as a criterion of value within sport an historically redundant notion. This wider cultural shift is what calls into question the anti-doping mandate and is among the biggest problems our society has yet to solve.

Athlete 365

Athlete 365

A few years ago, I developed a course for Olympic athletes, as part of the International Olympic Committee learning initiative. I’m delighted to say that I’ll be developing a new version of this, which will feature all things digital. As a teaser, check out this Dos and Donts list for using social media as an athlete.

The future of the eSports experience

The future of the eSports experience

Ahead of the Blooloop Live event next week in London, I gave an interview about where we are headed in the world of esport. Check it out here.

The Prospect of Immortality #BlueDotFestival

The Prospect of Immortality #BlueDotFestival

On 21st July, I spoke in a panel with Prof Kevin Warwick, Prof Mike Stubbs, and Gina Czarnecki about the future of death, as part of a series of talks within BlueDot Festival. 

The prospect of immortality has long been a fascination for me, an extension of the pursuit of human enhancement and the logical consequence to expanding the potential of evolution.

While there are many big challenges to dealing with death in a technological age, the possibility of extending life means we are confronted with some completely new questions about our lives. How would we organize ourselves if we lived to even 200 years? Would we go to school for longer? Would we procreate at the same time? Would we think about our careers as singular paths in life? Would we transform our political regulations to ensure nobody had too much power? All of this is up for grabs and needs thinking about, if we continue to pursue longer and healthier lives.

The BioDigital Athlete #TNW2018

The BioDigital Athlete #TNW2018

My keynote for The Next Web conference in Amsterdam brought together my years writing about digital and biotechnological change in performance. Here's the video...