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Photonics Spectra
Since 1967, Photonics Spectra magazine has defined the science and industry of photonics, providing both technical and practical information for every aspect of the global industry and promoting an international dialogue among the engineers, scientists and end users who develop, commercialize and buy photonics products. Stay current with a FREE subscription to the digital or print edition.

Latest Issue
Apr 2020

The medium and the monitor

Humans are communicative beings. From Nüshu to TikTok, we need to express our thoughts, feelings, jokes, joys, and fears. Over millennia, our intimate and intellectual selves have spread across various media. And, over millennia, the media for communicating our selves have evolved with technological capabilities — from cave walls to bamboo scrolls, semaphores, and party lines. Even paper, with all its fantastic sensory experiences, is just another technological invention — one medium for human communication among a list of many.

As broad and deep as the history of communication, a complex and somewhat dark history of surveillance and monitoring runs in parallel. The Spanish Inquisition. The Cultural Revolution. Watergate wiretapping. Occasionally, it’s been necessary, as with letter censorship during WWI.

The popular medium has evolved again. No longer a passive tool or objet d’art, the medium has become an active and legal transference of information — monitoring — with both intended recipients and anonymous others participating in that transfer. Millions of smartphone users have given tacit approval. We communicate all sorts of things to both intended and unintended recipients, with all sorts of implications. The medium has become sticky, often lacks privacy, and is almost never just between individuals. Which means the stakes are high. Are current data-gathering scenarios fair? Has human communication become a lopsided proposition? Does it even matter?

Yuval Noah Harari — historian, philosopher, and author of the books Sapiens and Homo Deus — is an outspoken proponent for a better framework to regulate technology and data. He describes the current human-technology relationship in knowledge economies as “asymmetrical,” with tech holding a massively unfair advantage. In interviews, he offers the example of doctors who — because of regulatory frameworks — are prevented from being predatory and exploiting their knowledge advantage over those who depend on it. Within a framework, a level of trust can be established. It means we can trust a doctor not to swipe a kidney during heart surgery.

Has a parallel framework of trust been established in newer communication media? Citizens of the EU have the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the “right to disappear.” Now that the personal vehicle is poised to become a medium for communication, and the vehicle-to-everything (V2X) economy is gearing up, will those statutes hold? In economies without data regulation, where will all our data go? Read up on car in-cabin monitoring and let me know what you think.

For a less “high stakes” read, check out the “3 Questions” with Microdrones, a company that’s made a fun reality show out of lidar and data. Edmund Optics explains key differences between hyperspectral and multispectral imaging. DenseLight Semiconductors offers a look at a flip-chip approach to hybrid integrationof III-V on silicon photonics. Photonics Industries International discusses next-generation lasers for military applications. And Photonics Media’s Joel Williams reveals imaging trends in surgical robotics.

Be well,
Mike Wheeler
As editor-in-chief, Michael Wheeler oversees Photonics Media's editorial operations — spanning print, web, and podcasts. He also serves as editor of Vision Spectra, chronicling advancements in the rapidly expanding machine vision/inspection sector.
Susan Petrie
Susan Petrie is Senior Editor of Photonics Spectra and has two decades of experience with print and digital publications. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Bennington College.
Doug Farmer
Senior Editor Douglas Farmer has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, winning awards for health and education reporting. He has a master's degree in journalism from Ball State University. He is editor of EuroPhotonics and BioPhotonics magazines.
Robin Riley
Multimedia/Web Editor Robin Riley has 30+ years of experience in communications and marketing for a range of technical industries. She is a regular contributor to web content and social media, and organizes and produces custom and editorial webinars.
Valerie Coffey
Science writer Valerie C. Coffey holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s in astronomy. She has covered optics, photonics, physics, and astronomy for a variety of industry and academic publications since 2000.
Hank Hogan
Contributing Editor Hank Hogan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He worked in the semiconductor industry and now writes about science and technology.
Marie Freebody
Contributing Editor Marie Freebody is a freelance science and technology journalist with a master’s degree in physics and a concentration in nuclear astrophysics from the University of Surrey in England.
Farooq Ahmed
Farooq Ahmed has covered the physical and biological sciences for over a decade. He has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Brown University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Columbia University.
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