Technological World for February 10: The dangers of scarelore, Slopes app for skiers and boarders, more programs for Disney+ subscribers, Indigenous world added to Minecraft

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This week, an app for skiers and snowboarders comes to Android, Star comes to Disney+, and an Anishinaabe world comes to Minecraft: Education Edition. But first, the danger of rumours being spread on social media.

Social media posts about abductions in Vancouver area are concerning for a number of reasons

Global News reported this week that RCMP in Coquitlam are warning the public to ‘stop spreading unproven rumours’ about missing women and alleged abduction attempts.

There’s a few things going on here, and I think things that are quite different are being talked about as if they were the same.

In recent weeks, there have been two women from the Lower Mainland who have gone missing. As is often the case, media coverage of those cases has largely ceased when there was nothing new to report about them. The police haven’t shared much, either, in the past while.

Which has got some in the community wondering what, exactly, is going on.

In B.C. there’s a dismal history when it comes to missing and murdered women and girls, and this is understandably a sensitive topic.

It’s also true that violence against women and girls is a problem. It is a problem that is systemic. It is a problem that needs to be addressed, and should be discussed openly.

The concern expressed by the RCMP, however, is justifiable, because “scarelore” that is perpetuated by social media is well documented and potentially dangerous.

Snopes fact checker Bethania Palma wrote in December 2019 about the white vans abducuting females hoax and reported that social panic that was triggered by the spread of this kind of misinformation resulted in incidents of violence in France and the U.S., where the innocent driver of a white van was shot and killed.

Just because the media has gone quiet and the police aren’t releasing any information doesn’t mean there’s a cover up, or a conspiracy, and it certainly doesn’t indicate that a serial killer or human traffickers are to blame.

The police should do better at being transparent with information, even when there’s nothing new to reveal. But potentially creating a panic in order to start a conversation is irresponsible.

It is possible to honour and respect the lived experience of women and girls who are victims of violence and to work for change without creating phantoms. In fact, it’s arguably more important to make sure that men who are actually the perpetrators are named and held accountable.

Slopes app now available for Android devices

Last year I discovered Slopes, an app that tracks me when I’m downhill skiing, and I love it.

As of last week, Slopes is available on both Android and iOS devices.

Developed by Curtis Herbert, an independent programmer, Slopes has a database of ski resorts around the world, providing trail maps and other information about the hills, including weather and snow reports.

Users of the app can report snow conditions, too, so you’ll get a real-time read before heading up.

What I love about Slopes is that it records my days on the hill, tracking what runs I take, how long I’m standing in line, and even how fast I ski. The app automatically selects the hill I’m at so I can be recording my day with a couple of taps. I can even configure it for voice control.

And this is all available for free.

The iOS version of Slopes has been around for a few years, and has a few more features that warrant considering paying for premium access to the app, which includes offline trail maps and health stats if you have an Apple Watch. You can also add friends who are also using Slopes and see how your shredding stacks up against theirs.

The pricing for premium makes sense for skiers, too. A day pass is $5.50, a week pass is $21, and an annual pass is $33.

Disney+ increasing Canadian streaming library, bumping subscription cost as a result

On February 23, Canadian subscribers to Disney+ will have a lot more to watch on the streaming service.

The company is adding more than 150 series and 500 movies through its Star brand. Among the titles that are being added are a bunch of things that come from 20th Century Fox, which Disney acquired in 2019.

This includes TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and spinoff Angel, 24, M*A*S*H, Hill Street Blues, and The X-Files.

The Alien films, Grosse Pointe Blank, Moulin Rouge, Romancing the Stone, and Speed are among the films that will be available.

Disney+ is also upating the parental controls available through the service so families can limit access to age appropriate content.

New titles are also being added in the form of Star Originals, which include Solar Opposites, a new adult animated sitcom from the co-creator of Rick & Morty and Only Murders in the Building, which stars Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez.

The bigger library comes with a bigger subscription fee, up $3 to $12 a month. You can save by paying annually, $119 a year, up from $90.

But if you subscribe before February 23, when Star debuts, you can lock in the cheaper price for six months.

Anishinaabe world launched in Minecraft: Education Edition

Today, Microsoft Canada revealed a new world inside the education version of Minecraft.

Manito Ahbee Aki is a representation of the the Whiteshell area of western Manitoba as it existed prior to European contact. It will be available to download on February 15.

It was all created in collaboration with members of the Louis Riel School Division’s Indigenous Council of Grandmothers and Grandfathers, including Chickadee Richards, as well as Knowledge Keepers from the Manitoba Anishinaabe community, and scholar Frank Deer.

The digital world includes plants and animals that are unique to Manito Ahbee Aki and the avatars of the characters populating the world are modelled after the Indigenous consultants who helped create the experience.

Minecraft: Education Edition is available to all teachers and educators whose school districts subscribe to Microsoft 365 for Education.

In a release, the Louis Riel School Division said that Manito Ahbee Aki translates to “the place where the creator sits” and the hope is that the Minecraft experience will help people “develop a deeper understanding of an Indigenous nation in Canada.”

One of the consultants on the game was Bobbie-Jo Leclair. “Not only will this game inspire and engage Indigenous students who don’t see themselves reflected in games, it provides an opportunity for all people to learn how Anishinaabe people respected the earth and all living things,” Leclair said in a release.

The Louis Riel School Division plans on creating additional Minecraft worlds that represent other Indigenous communities, including Cree, Dene, Oji-Cree, Ojibwe, and Dakota.

Christian Michalik, superintendent of the school division, said during a press event that one of the inspirations for Manito Ahbee Aki was Te Ao Māori, a world developed to explore traditional Māori culture by New Zealand game developer Piki Studios.

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