Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is 17 years old, legally a minor. Despite her age, in the past week, numerous actual adults have made her the subject of many forms of online harassment. Some say she ought to be “burnt at the stake”; others have circulated images of a sex doll that resembles Thunberg and purportedly “speaks” using recordings of her voice; still others created and distributed a cartoon that appears to depict the activist being sexually assaulted.
That last bit of harassment, which shows a nude woman with the word “Greta” tattooed across her lower back having her pigtails grabbed by two large hands, has been linked to Canadian oil company X-Site Energy Services, whose logo appears on the image. X-Site Energy Services employees reportedly turned the image into a sticker and shared it among themselves. The company’s general manager initially denied the company’s involvement, but X-Site Energy Services’ website has since been replaced with a statement committing to destroying the decals and apologizing for “the pain [they] may have caused.” In closing, the oil company promised to “do better.”
The internet didn’t create this problem, but it does amplify it. The same forces that have allowed Thunberg and her message to climb to global virality are, in the hands of those who wish to discredit the teenager, the best weapon to use against her. While these smears are especially troubling in Thunberg’s case because of her age, they mirror the kinds of targeted online harassment employed against many people and groups by those who wish to silence them. The behavior is shocking, but not a shock.
To begin with, Thunberg is a woman on the internet. While there is debate about whether men or women experience more harassment online, studies have shown the harassment women experience tends to be more personal, more gendered, more sexual, and more likely to be intense enough to drive them off of the social media platform where they’re being harassed. “The saddest thing that has emerged from my research is that young women aged 18 to 30 have accepted harassment as part and parcel of being online,” says Jessica Vitak, who studies online privacy and security at the University of Maryland. “They have various ways of dealing with it, but they don’t include thinking, ‘This shouldn’t be happening, and I should be fighting to make it stop.’” Harassment of women online has become a norm.
The harassment is only heightened when the woman in question is, like Thunberg, a public figure. The Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organization including the parliaments of 179 member countries, found that more than 80 percent of female parliamentarians had experienced psychological violence, the most common form being online harassment. According to Mona Lena Krook, who studies women in politics at Rutgers University, women activists like Thunberg have very similar experiences, and often in the exact form that Thunberg has been experiencing this week. “The first place people go are gender-based slurs or sexualizing tactics,” Krook says. “Photoshopped sexual images are really common. When you sexually objectify somebody, your perception of their competence and humanity changes. It’s about delegitimizing them to a broader audience.” Politicians and activists from Hillary Clinton to US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Malala Yousafzai are frequently pornified by their critics.
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Generally speaking, politics is a hostile sphere for everyone, regardless of gender. However, as the degrading sexualization of Thunberg and others demonstrates, the criticism and harassment women politicians and activists experience is different in kind than that experienced by their male counterparts. “Like men, women are attacked for their political ideas and ideologies,” Krook says, “and they’re attacked because they’re women. It’s more about keeping a certain group of people from participating in politics. It’s a different challenge to democracy.” Public figures belonging to other marginalized groups, like people of color or the LGBTQ+ community, experience similarly compounded criticisms. It’s about who you are as much as what you stand for.
The reason Thunberg’s harassment is so intense, and intensely normal, is that who she is places her at the center of multiple lines of traditional, identity-based delegitimization tactics. “This is an intersectionality issue, and it’s making her experience pretty horrible,” Vitak says. “She’s a woman, she’s young. People harped on her being autistic. It’s common historically for women and female activists to be labeled as irrational or too emotional.” Critics, including President Trump, have already dismissed Thunberg as too young to listen to, or as “mentally ill” or “very angry.” This week, some people decided to ignore the fact that she’s a minor, and take aim at her womanhood in the crudest, oldest way imaginable.
Traditional bad behaviors are still unacceptable. Because so many of Thunberg’s harassers are older, conservative men, Vitak recommends encouraging other men to step up as more vocal allies, since harassers tend to listen only when their own cohort speaks up. A stronger response from tech companies might also help. Still, both Vitak and Krook agree the most powerful response to this kind harassment has likely come from Thunberg herself: owning it. “They are starting to get more and more desperate,” Thunberg tweeted, referring to the sexually explicit cartoon. “This shows that we are winning.” The harassment may never end, but by documenting it, denormalizing it, and mocking it, she may be able to steal its power.
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Goodyear’s reCharge Concept Tire Regenerates Burned Off Rubber
If Goodyear scientists have their way, replacing complete tires every year or so simply because a few millimeters of rubber wears off will become a thing of the past. The company this week unveiled a far-out concept for a tire that will automatically generate its own tread, continuously replacing the rubber that sloughs off from…
If Goodyear scientists have their way, replacing complete tires every year or so simply because a few millimeters of rubber wears off will become a thing of the past. The company this week unveiled a far-out concept for a tire that will automatically generate its own tread, continuously replacing the rubber that sloughs off from daily use.
Called reCharge, the concept looks at how to curb the waste that plagues Goodyear’s industry: About 250 million tires were scrapped in the US in 2017. “The tire is one of the few components that doesn’t stay on for the life of the vehicle,” says CTO Chris Helsel. “It’s replaced quite often. So the first problem to solve was to make the tire more of a permanent structure, as part of the vehicle itself.”
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To make that happen, Goodyear’s engineers designed something that works a bit like a stick of lip balm. At the center of the wheel sits a cylindrical, pressurized cartridge filled with liquified, biodegradable tire compound. As the miles stack up and the tread wears down, the pressure differential between the interior of the cartridge and the tire surface draws out the compound. It oozes out of channels radiating from the center to the tread surface automatically, passing through a grid-like frame that molds it into the proper shape. (The system is envisioned as incorporating both tire and wheel, with a non-pneumatic support structure instead of a tire attached to a metal rim.) When exposed to outside air—where the rubber meets the road—the compound hardens, and your tires never go bald.
So instead of tossing old tires every few years, you’ll keep the bulk of the structure as long as you’ve got the car. The central cartridge would need replacing a few times over the wheel’s projected lifespan of between 100,00 and 300,00 miles, Goodyear estimates. That means less waste, Helsel says, since worn down tires get tossed even if the structural components beneath the tread and in the sidewall remain perfectly intact.
The reCharge concept comes with some other neat ideas built in. Helsel says sensors embedded within the reCharge structure can analyze wear patterns and driving style, and tune the type of compound the user might install next in order for it to better match. Aggressive brakers and performance nuts would get one kind of chemistry, hyper-miling road-trippers another. Goodyear could account for climate and road quality as well.
The tire is also well suited to electric vehicles. Because they’re usually heavier than their gas-powered counterparts and apply greater torque during acceleration, they can wear out tires 20 to 50 percent faster, Helsel says. “So you’re going to need a tire that lasts longer. This idea will allow for extended tire life and much easier swaps, and replacing just the cartridge will require one tenth of the number of parts that would need replacing compared to conventional tires.”
The concept, though, isn’t near production. Goodyear hasn’t made the all-important compound, and getting it to work as described would be complex, especially the bit about hardening with oxidation. Helsel says the company envisions something including fibrous material to enhance strength, inspired by the renowned toughness of natural spider silk. But different elements of the reCharge concept could trickle out sooner than a complete product—potentially within a decade. So the proposed tire compound, the structural framework, or the embedded sensors and artificial-intelligence-based analysis of use patterns might appear earlier in conventional tires. So your tires may get smarter—but they’ll still eventually lose the tread.
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New TCL Foldable Phone Concepts Are Weird but Exciting
TCL Communication, one of the fastest-growing TV brands in the US, now wants its own slice of the phone market—and it’s not afraid to push the envelope to get it.The company took the wraps off two foldable device concepts, different from the one it showed at CES 2020. The first has a trifold display; think…
TCL Communication, one of the fastest-growing TV brands in the US, now wants its own slice of the phone market—and it’s not afraid to push the envelope to get it.
The company took the wraps off two foldable device concepts, different from the one it showed at CES 2020. The first has a trifold display; think the triple-folded paper brochure you get at state parks, except replace the paper with a phone. It’s one of the first concepts we’ve seen with two separate hinge mechanisms working simultaneously, converting a 6.65-inch phone into a 10-inch tablet.
I got a chance to play around with a prototype. It feels very rough around the edges—namely, it’s stiff and tough to unfold—but the device veritably went from a traditional-looking phone into an iPad-like tablet. You can also fold one-third of the screen away for the times you don’t need the maximum available amount of screen space. I can easily see myself unfolding this in a coffee shop and pulling out a slim Bluetooth keyboard to type up some words instead of lugging around a laptop.
Unfortunately with so much folding going on it, it’s a very thick phone—around the chunkiness of Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, if not more. It’s not terribly fun to use one-handed.
That’s why the second concept is a little more interesting. It’s not exactly a foldable phone, rather a phone with a “rollable” screen, as TCL puts it. It looks just like an ordinary smartphone with a 6.75-inch screen, but spectacularly, you can tug on the right edge of the handset to roll out more display and increase the screen real estate to 7.8 inches—about as much as the iPad Mini, and with no folding required. This design keeps the phone really thin at 0.35 inches. The dummy unit I used required me to manually extend the screen, but TCL said it has a motorized version that automatically does it.
Since TCL manufactures its own displays, the company has gone wild playing around with various form factors. It has more than three dozen other concepts floating around in its factories. However, it’s likely the two concepts being unveiled today (as well as the wallet-like foldable device that debuted at CES) will never make it to market.
“We are not shy to show some of these ideas to engage in a discussion, to get your feedback, to learn,” says Stefan Streit, general manager of global marketing at TCL. “We believe this is much more important than just putting a product out, keep the volumes low, charge a very high price, and make the consumer a beta user and pay for it. That’s not TCL’s style.”
This testing phase lets the company identify which types of foldable phones resonate with people the most. Once it nails down a particular design and form—and there’s apparently a leading candidate—TCL intends to create a portfolio of foldables that give several options to buyers.
Being patient also gives the company time to figure out how to make foldable phones more affordable overall. Most of the products we’ve seen from the likes of Samsung, Lenovo, Motorola, and Huawei start at $1,380 and go all the way up to $2,700. That’s far more expensive than some of TCL’s most popular TVs.
“We’re not here to make novelty products,” says Jason Gerdon, head of global strategic communications. “We’re here to make innovation accessible.”
Whatever design TCL ends up settling on, the foldable phone is expected to arrive by the end of the year or early 2021. Before then, TCL is expected to launch its first US phones: the TCL 10 Pro, 10L, and the TCL 10 5G, which it teased at CES. (Gerdon said TCL doesn’t see the Covid-19 outbreak causing a substantial impact on its supply chain in the immediate term, but there is a chance products could be delayed “the longer the crisis continues.”)
Regardless, all this shows just how much TCL is now investing in its own brand name after a few attempts at leveraging others. It licenses the BlackBerry name and made a couple of keyboard-laden phones, but after making no real gains in smartphone market share, TCL is ending its BlackBerry contract this summer. Streit said making BlackBerry phones was still a very valuable learning experience.
TCL also licenses the Alcatel brand and owns Palm, both of which are here to stay. Alcatel will continue to offer ultra-low-cost phones—the TCL phone brand will sit just above it—and Palm will explore other ways to minimize screen time like, say, slapping a flexible screen on your wrist as a bracelet, Streit suggested.
Whether foldable phones prove to be a big part of our future is still up in the air. There’s no singular folding device stealing the hearts of mainstream consumers. But it’s undeniable that a folding screen makes any phone just a little more interesting.
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