Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Are Online Recommendations a Form of Digital Peer Pressure?

Facebook's reminder that the new profile is here.

It started with Twitter's move to the version. The message that would appear on the top of the screen went something to the effect of "Psst, there's a new version of Twitter available. Why not try a sneak peek?" It was a bit coercive, but I clicked and tried my sneak peek. I also promptly opted to switch back. Similarly Facebook tried to entice me to try the new profile. I took a look at the preview and decided I would wait for the mandatory change. It seems that I have been resistant for longer than anticipated because the messages by both of these services has become a bit more direct. On Twitter, the message at the top of the screen informs me matter-of-factly that "You're using an older version of Twitter that won't be around much longer. Switch to the New Twitter!" Facebook is using a slightly different tactic as you can see from the image above: the application wants me to know that I'm trailing behind 99 of my connections in delaying the move to a newer version. In both cases, the message is clear, I'm lagging behind in adopting the latest digital tools.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What Does the Nutcracker Have to do With Christmas?


In this age of commercialization, it can be difficult to find true symbols of the season. After all, Santa himself is a spokesman for one of the largest department stores in the United States. And Rudolph, that iconic red-nosed reindeer, was created by Montgomery Ward, another large American retailer. A closer look at the Nutcracker and his battalion of wooden soldiers suggest that the figures and symbols that seem to get closest to the meaning of the holiday are those that are somewhat peripheral.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On My Shelf: Written in Stone (Review)

Brian Switek's Written in Stone is a quiet testament to the power of the fossil record. Page after page, Switek takes the reader through a deftly narrated tale of evolution as told by fossilized remains that have been interpreted, reinterpreted, manipulated, marketed, destroyed, and ultimately preserved. This is a journey not just through natural history, but through science. The real impact of Written in Stone is that it highlights the cast of characters who shaped our understanding of evolution—allowing readers share firsthand with the frustrations, ambitions, conflicts, and successes of the scientists. It's certainly an interesting approach to a history that has the potential to be dry and unappealing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sharing to Communicate Is Here to Stay


The Pew Research Center's most recent internet study suggests that the popularity of blogging is shifting between generations: declining among Millenials and younger users, and increasing among Gen-Xers and older cohorts.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Degrees of Tolerance


A few months ago, I wrote about the response to a crying child on the subway. Yesterday in a packed subway car, a young mom struggled with a crying toddler and the response from the other riders was decidedly different from that other instance. Why?

Monday, December 13, 2010

At a Loss for Words: Modern Lessons From a Lost Language


The back side of the Magdalena document shows
translations for numbers from Spanish to a lost language.
Photo by Jeffrey Quilter.

In a public-friendly article, Jeffrey Quilter and colleagues (2010) announced in September that they had uncovered a remarkable find at an archaeological dig in Northern Peru: It wasn't a funerary mask or ornate pottery or even a mummy, but a page. A letter actually, dating to 17th-century and detailing a minor trade event in the church complex where it was found. It is an interesting artifact by itself that could offer a glimpse into the life of the colonial community being uncovered. However, on the back of the letter someone had scribbled a number list in a previously unknown language, making the page more than just a record of church concerns. Though the list is short, it is enough to help researchers understand that they have in their hands the details of a number system that has not been previously recorded. As the researchers note, the history of the document itself—how and why it was created and then discarded—is tied to larger aspects of Peruvian history. And this history can help us understand the linguistic dynamics of cultural contact—which may be extended in some ways to the digital age.

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Substitute for IRL Relationships for Adolescents


It's no secret that the Internet is a black hole when it comes to time. Fifteen minutes on Twitter spirals into an hour or two of witty banter. A quick stop on Facebook to read statuses or water crops becomes three hours looking at photos from someone's vacation or wedding. It's easy to be online—simple and almost instantaneous access to all your friends and connections, and none of them need to know you're in your pajamas. And you can reinvent yourself online, which is handy for those of us with histories of awkwardness (or present awkwardness for that matter). The Internet is always with us. It's in our pockets and bags on our phones, and wherever free WiFi can be found for those with netbooks, tablets, and laptops, which provides us with a handy way to escape uncomfortable situations—how many of your with smart phones have checked (or pretended to check) email, Facebook, or Twitter at a party where the conversation wasn't going quite right? 

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Evolutionary Roots of Talking With Our Hands



New Yorkers are hand talkers—we often use gestures to add emphasis to our conversations. Whether we're pointing to direct tourists, or waving to demonstrate our exasperation with traffic, drivers, or pedestrians, or trying to interject (New Yorkers don't interrupt!) we're gesticulating. We're not the only ones to do this, of course, but in my experience we do tend to employ this element of communication fairly frequently.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Revisiting The Myth of Yams and Pumpkin Pie

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914)
By Jennie A. Brownscombe

With the approach of Thanksgiving, elementary school aged children in the United States prepare to play yams in school plays, and sing songs about pumpkin pie and cranberries. They may dress up as Pilgrims in costumes with black hats and large, shiny buckles. And they often mime a feast with Native Americans signifying the beginning of a tradition of giving thanks in November. Their parents are undoubtedly delighted—as they should be: every child needs a picture dressed as a yam. 

These elements of Thanksgiving are the same half-truths that I was taught as a child. I say half-truths because Thanksgiving is a constructed holiday—over the years we have pieced together history and popular customs to create this national festival. It's based on a feast of thanksgiving, a religious event where the celebrants gave thanks to their god(s).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Evolving Together: Human Interference Not ALL Bad


There is no denying that humans have had a lasting impact on the environment, however biologist Jacques Blondel (2006) suggests that these ideas overlook the ways human activity has actually contributed to the maintenance, diversity, and embellishment of landscapes (714). Blondel acknowledges that there is a middle ground between these ideas when it comes to the relationship we have with our landscapes—a balance must exist between resistance and resilience, between disturbance and recovery. While Blondel focuses his discussion largely on the Mediterranean, perhaps these ideas can also be applied to our own local landscapes, and help us understand how biodiversity can evolve in these circumstances.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On My Shelf: Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation (Review)

Christmas came a bit early this year when my friend Wendy handed me a brown envelope and said, "I got us a book." (I sometimes get to help her relieve some of the clutter in her apartment.) After peering excitedly into the envelope, I pulled out a slim paperback that changed my view on the power of graphic novels. 

Michael Keller and illustrator Nicolle Rager Fuller have breathed new life into Darwin's On the Origin of Species with an amazing graphic adaptation that will surely excite an entirely new generation about evolution. I have never read Darwin in this way, and I found myself rediscovering evolution in a very accessible, clear, and thoughtful way.

The chapters cover Darwin's main tenets, taking the reader step-by-step through the theory of evolution. Along the way, readers get a peek into Darwin's conflict and the state of the scientific community at the time. And as an added bonus at the end, Darwin "himself" responds to the advancements in our understanding of evolution that have unfolded since his passing. "Genius! Why hadn't I thoughts of that?!" he says of Mendel's discovery regarding heredity.

While Keller has done a fantastic job distilling Origin and combining the text with primary sources to generate an engaging dialogue with the reader, this work would not be half of what it is without Fuller, whose imagining of Darwin and Origin helps us potentially see the theory unfold through Darwin's eyes. The illustrations are vivid and detailed, and evoke a thoughtfulness reminiscent of the naturalist himself. This promises to be a powerful tool in teaching students about evolution—and may make a handy stocking stuffer for your favorite scientist.

--
Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation | Michael Keller (author) and Nicolle Rager Fuller (Illustrator) | Rodale Books | 192 pages | $19.99 (Hardcover) $14.99 (Paperback)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fan Identity and Team Choice


How does one become a fan? Choose an allegiance? Decide that you’re going to wear bright green, or purple and gold, or paint your face orange and black? In many cases, these allegiances are decided for us—handed down via familial loyalties or decided by geographic boundaries. I raised this question on Twitter a few weeks ago, and the results all indicated that team alliance is linked to one’s point-of-entry into fandom: if you begin watching Team A and learning about the sport via Team A, and your network is tied to Team A, then you’re likely to become a fan of Team A. And like all habits, longstanding fan ties are difficult to break.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

C is for Cookie: Cookie Monster, Network Pressure, and Identity Formation


It’s not quite news that Cookie Monster no longer eats cookies. Well, he eats ONE cookie. After he fills up on vegetables! Vegetables!! Understandably, the public was outraged, and in response, Cookie felt the need to clarify: He still eats cookies—for dessert—but he likes fruit and vegetables too. Cookie Monster needed to reassert his identity, so he did what anyone would do: He interviewed with Matt Lauer. The message was plain: He’s a Cookie Monster and Cookie Monsters eat cookies. They dream of cookies. They would bathe in cookies if they could. They can’t get enough of cookies. But can Cookie Monsters eat fruits and vegetables too?

On My Shelf: Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World (Review)

The present is certainly bleak, but all is not lost. That's the message in Don Tapscott and Anthony William's new book, Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the DIY revolution, and the potential it has to reshape industry. Tapscott and Williams have harnessed DIY methodology and expanded notions of crowd sourcing to present potential new solutions for remedying the sweeping global crisis. They propose a vision of super collaboration and sharing, which is at once broth frightening (Open access?!) and exciting (Open access!), requiring us to let go of current notions of privacy and possessiveness which have represented the industrial way of thinking.

The bottom line? DIY collaboration has immense potential.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

[Repost] Spitting on the Bat and Other Baseball Rituals


Baseball may be one of the few remaining bastions where superstitious beliefs and behaviors abound—and are actually encouraged. David Wright and his teammates on the New York Mets shaved their heads to break a slump last year, believing that a change and a show of solidarity would change the way their bats behaved.
Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game. John Smoltz did jumping jacks for almost half an hour once to keep a rally going for the Braves. And then there's the equipment: Players should talk to their bat, sleep with it, and never, ever loan it out. Players know that missing any one of these things could mean that the fate of the game—and the wrath of at least 40,000 screaming fans—could be on their shoulders. And that's only the beginning. There are tons of superstitious baseball beliefs like these.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is It Time for a Social Media Vacation?

Credit: Cynicald

Do you reach for your smart phone as soon as you wake up? Take it into the bathroom with you? Do you absolutely need to know what’s happening on Facebook, Twitter, and on email ALL the time? Are you starting to feel overwhelmed because you’re constantly connected?

Or maybe you’re just tired. Between Facebook, Twitter, and email (and those are just the big ones), it can be hard to keep up—and since they’re all on your phone, you can be connected … anywhere and anytime! We’re constantly plugged in and it can be exhausting.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Recycling for Profit: Rise of the Can Collectors


You can tell it's the night before the recycling is picked up in my neighborhood not by the number of blue recycling bins on the curb (many of which are placed on the curb in the morning before the homeowner leaves for work), but by the rattle of pushcarts that punctuate the stillness. The number of people seeking recyclable cans and bottles to return for a profit seems to have increased, including a range from dedicated collectors to those whose "amateur" efforts involve allowing their own cans and bottles to accumulate for several weeks before bringing them in to the bottle depository or working with neighbors to generate a large enough supply for a sizable return. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seeking Authenticity in Facebook Profiles


We've heard the horror stories about the times when friending a supervisor went astray (seriously, Google Facebook fired—there's even a group!), and we're learning that HR is increasingly reviewing the social media profiles of applicants before they're even invited for an interview. Sites like Facebook allow users to craft a personalized image of themselves—does this personalization suggest a more authentic self? And if so, does that make Facebook a more desirable point of contact for a more "complete" view of a person?

Monday, October 11, 2010

What Are Those Neanderthals Up to Now?

Scene from the Neanderthal diorama at the American Museum of Natural History.
Not shown: Male Neanderthal figure holding tool.

The Neanderthal story is quickly becoming a favorite serial—who knows what new drama the day will bring! Once regarded as brutish and stupid, it was accepted that they could not compete technologically and socially with early modern human (EMH) populations and were eradicated as the latter spread throughout the globe. But in the last few years, the reputation of our Neaderthal cousins has changed. In fact, we've learned that they were surprisingly like us in many ways: they painted shells for jewelry, provided care for those in need, and had a sophisticated tool industry (see more here). Their diorama at the American Museum of Natural History shows them in a family unit. Their genome has revealed few conspicuous differences, instead demonstrating that Neanderthals may have in fact left a trace of themselves in our own genes.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Digital Literacy at What Price?


A cultural and cognitive shift is well underway in terms of how we access and process information via digital media. And a recent study confirms our suspicions: though we are becoming more tech savvy, it may be at the expense of creative and critical thinking. Researchers from the University of Israel (2009), tested digital literacy with a group in 2002. In 2007, they tested this same group again and found statistically significant changes on the test scores.  Is this further proof of the widening double digital divide?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An App for Everything: "The Rise of 'Apps Culture'" from the Pew Research Center


The popularity of smart phones has ushered in an "apps culture," according to a recent report from the Pew Internet Project. And some surprising things are revealed about app-consciousness. Take a moment and think about the importance your phone has in your life—beyond making calls, that is (which probably actually only account for a fraction of your usage anyway). If you own a variety of smart phone, really take a moment and consider the ways the device works to connect you—to businesses, people, media, and tools. If you own a "normal" phone, you may only have a fraction of these services available, but developers have tried to increase access to "perks" such as video and the Internet on standard devices. While these features are distinct from apps, which Pew defines as software applications that "extend the phone's capabilities" instead of being hardwired into the phone, they speak to a growing demand for connectivity.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On My Shelf: The Search for the Codex Cardona (Review)


Part journal and part novel, The Search for the Codex Cardona is a tale of dogged persistence, forgeries, and the depths of the antiquities trade. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The US Stamp Design Selection Process

Farming in the West stamp, 1898.
Credit: NYPL Digital Archives.

Following yesterday's post, and a comment about the use of the pronoun "we" in describing the significance of stamps in relation to our history, i did some digging on just exactly how images are selected for "stamphood." 

The short of it is this: The Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) collects requests and suggestions from the public and makes recommendations to the Postmaster General, who appears to have a heavy hand in the designs that appear on stamps. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Mother Theresa Stamp and the Cultural Legacy of Postage

Unveiling of the Mother Theresa postage stamp Sept. 5th, 2010 at the National Shrine. Postmaster General Jack Potter was in attendance (immediately to the left of the stamp).

Over the recent Labor Day weekend, S and I visited Washington D.C. where purely by chance we stumbled on a stamp unveiling. We were touring the National Shrine—the mosaics are breathtaking—when we realized the ceremony occurring at the front had little to do with normal services.  The United States Post Office had a covered display at the front, so we wound our way up the side aisle and came across a placard announcing that a stamp for Mother Theresa was being issued. (This actually explained the large number of nuns present wearing her traditional white and blue sari.) So we found a spot along the wall and settled into to watch.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can Peruvian Coffee Gain a Foothold at Home?


The lives of Peruvian coffee growers and their families are not easy. Coffee growers outside of cooperatives often don't get paid very much for their product. Often they sell beans at market to a middleman, who may sell the beans again to another contact, who may then get the beans to a known roaster and wholesaler. The beans often change hands several times—and for the local grower this means low prices for his product. And that leads to other problems.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peruvian Coffee: Matching Consumption With Production


Peruvian coffee has been developed specifically for foreign markets, which allows foreign brands to hold a position of importance in the absence of a domestic presence. Brands, such as Nescafe, may have infiltrated the market and spread under the reputation of industrialism and modernity.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Trading Talent for Money


In case you haven’t heard, the economy isn’t doing so well. There are lots of everyday signs this is the case: the shuttered store fronts in neighborhoods, the reduced number of people on the commuter trains, and the increase in people asking for money.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Baseball Fans Behaving Badly


So it's done. I've accepted it. There will be no playoff entry for the Mets this year—something that was evident earlier in the year, but the motto of this team is "Ya gotta believe." So you know, I had to believe. Am I disappointed? Yes. What fan wouldn't be? Am I surprised? No. What Mets fan would be? Does it mean that I won't be there come spring anxiously awaiting the crack of the bat? Absolutely not. Because being a fan means being a member of the team—yes, an actual member (sans the paycheck). Fans may not get time at bat, but being a fan creates a connection that goes beyond selecting a team that will represent you publicly—participation in fandom links you to wins and losses as strongly as the actual players themselves and fan response is as important to the reputation of the team as the players' own behavior. But does the nature of successful teams lend itself to unruly fan behavior?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Don't Ma'am Me


Yesterday, I posted a link to an article from the Times on the nature of titles and the response of some women to being called ma’am. My female Twitter audience seemed to agree that they didn't really care for the title—though older females indicated that ma’am didn’t bother them as much. I have only been called ma’am once. I was definitely put off by it, but the sales clerk who did it had to be about fifteen, so perhaps I looked like a ma’am to her. (Still, yikes!) Ma’am is my mom, my aunts, my mother-in-law. Ma’am can now probably be applied to some teachers I had in school. My feeling is that I am not a ma’am. I might become one in the future, but for now that is not me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Making Coffee Conversational Again: The Return of the Coffeehouse


The original coffeehouses were public gathering places. They were social spaces where people could argue politics, get and share news, and just generally enjoy each others' company. This trend persisted despite attempts to ban these meetinghouses and the caffeinated beverage that drew people together. Coffee—and caffeine—had us hooked on this type of downtime. But it wouldn’t last.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

White Flight in Social Networks? A Story of Another Digital Divide


Ed Note: It is with great pleasure that AiP plays host to
Eric Michael Johnson as part of the Primate Diaries in Exile blog tour. Eric has written a fantastic post on the anthropology of social networks, covering the racial and economic disparities of Facebook and MySpace. You can follow other stops on this tour through his RSS feed or at the #PDEx hashtag on Twitter. Eric, you're definitely welcome any time!

Readers, thanks for joining us today—if this is your first visit to Anthropology in Practice, please make yourself comfortable and peruse the archives. You are also welcome any time.  - K
_______________________________________________________


When I was in high school in a small California town I quickly figured out that mixing cliques was difficult. My network of friends initially extended across cultural and class lines but I soon understood that I had to choose. Since I lived in the rural mountains just outside of town many of the friends I grew up with would, in high school terms, be classified as “rednecks” or “white trash.” But as I was building my self-identity I gravitated more towards my artistic and theater friends and away from those who enjoyed heavy metal and going off-roading in their pickup trucks. But in order to fit in I found I had to adopt the same style as those around me. So out went the sports T-shirts and ball caps and in came the thrift store clothing and suit jackets. I found it strange that to be an independent freethinker (what my friends in the arts saw as the most important quality) I would have to dress and act just like them. Little did I know it, but this would be an important lesson in understanding the anthropology of social networks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hoarding Connections: The Boundaries of the Network


Facebook users are probably already familiar with the "People You May Know Feature" on Facebook which attempts to connect users to people whom they may, well, know based on degrees of connectivity. This feature has moved toward the bottom of the page and has been replaced by a "Friend Finder" feature which offers to search the user's email address book for potential missing contacts, but the idea remains the same: network saturation. These tools are meant to maximize the potential of our online networks, but are they really working?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Unmasking Eoanthropus dawsoni, The First Englishman


Archaeology can hold the key to national identity. Think about it: a find, even if it’s not King Tut’s funerary mask, can provide a testament to the accomplishments of a civilization. It anchors the heritage of a people. So it should come as no surprise that when archaeologists began to piece together the story of human evolution that everyone wanted to claim a place in the narrative—as evolution came to be more accepted in the late 19th-century, there was a certain pride in claiming a human ancestor within the boundaries of the nation. It provided a sense of origin for people and heightened their sense of nativism.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Driven By Coffee: Creating a Culture of Productivity


Coffee has attained tremendous importance among workers. Sidney Mintz, a renowned anthropologist who has written extensively about food, included it in a list for "proletarian hunger killers," which also includes sugar, tea, and chocolate (1979). Coffee is important to capitalism in many ways: it has spurred trade and the exchange of ideas, and like spices and other commodities, has served as leverage for controlling powers through the ages. It's a part of a larger global conversation, but have you stopped to consider its role in your life?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Trail of Coffee Beans


The word coffee dates to the late 16th-century, and is derived from the Dutch word koffie. But both the word and the product are much older than this, although the Dutch are a big reason coffee found its way to America. We talked on Monday about how coffee was marketed into our lives, and I mentioned that its value was linked to its origin. But where does coffee come from? 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Manufacturing The Coffee Culture


This week on AiP, I'm featuring a three-part series on coffee. Today's post investigates how coffee came to be such an integral part of everyday life. Look for additional posts on Wednesday and Friday for followup discussions.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why Do Some Like It Hot?


Why do some people like and prefer spicy foods to the point where they consume mouth scorching dishes—and ask for more? This was the question posed to me by a coworker recently, as he reached helplessly for the can of spicy peanuts sitting in the communal kitchen area at work. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sourcing the Social Web


Crib sheets are archaic. They’ve long been replaced by camera phones, MP3 players, and scientific calculators. Cheating, which has always required some creativity, has gone high-tech. And though educators are taking steps to turn technology around on dishonest students, plagiarism remains a persistent problem. A few well chosen words typed into a search engine and that 15 page paper on Napoleon’s early expedition to Egypt has all but written itself. Are high-tech solutions the answer, or is it time to think about our relationship with information?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Psychology of Liking


We all know that person on Facebook. The one who Likes everything—let's call him Mike. Whether your cat got sick or you got a raise or went for a walk or had sushi for dinner, are feeling blue or just biked five miles, it's all Likable to Mike. How can we understand Mike's affability? As we use social media tools more frequently to connect with and communicate with others, the act of Liking is a means of creating alliances. But can Mike over-use this tool?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Put Down Your iPhone and Watch the Game: Notes on the Home Team Advantage


Baseball is not golf. Yes, in both sports players attempt to hit a ball with a stick, but that's essentially where the similarities end. Baseball, unlike golf, thrives on the noisy participation of the fans. Golf asks spectators to "remain still and quiet during a player's shot [and] crowds are strongly discouraged from cheering until after a player hits the ball." Baseball will have none of that. When the home team has the game riding on the final out, or the pitcher needs some help facing a key batter, or the umpire has—to put it delicately—something in his eye, the baseball ethos expects that spectators will be on their feet making as much noise as they possibly can. Why? Because noisy spectators can affect the outcome of the game.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Virtual Experience of Time: VR and Online Games


In an earlier post, I explored the conflicts that can result from an attempt to compress time and space (e.g., jet lag). The question I left you with, Readers, was whether the physical and social ripples that result from navigating space-time compression can be minimized online? Recently, I suggested that the Internet may be a timeless state. But does this argument hold in virtual reality? Once the body is transported into the digital realm, it brings with it the experiences of the real world—including Time. Does VR preserve a sense of Time?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Service in the City: City Beautification

If you've ever played Sim City, there's a place in the budget for city beautification. Sims like parks and playgrounds—it raises their happiness and the happier your residents, the more likely people will want to move to your city. But beautification doesn't come cheap. You have to make sure that enough funds are allocated to the expense or the effect isn't really noticeable. And then the Sims start to complain. Once you've budgeted enough, a crew of invisible workers keeps your parks and playground sparkling.

In real life, though they may not be a part of the mainstream consciousness, there is a fleet of workers responsible for keeping parts of the city clean. Neighborhood alliance groups have sprung up to preserve the environmental and cultural reputations of spaces. I spoke to 24 year-old Marcel, employed by the Downtown Alliance. Every morning, he scours the streets of the Financial District looking for errant trash.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Social Networks Help World Cup Spectators Cope With Chance


Given the reduced volume of World Cup related posts in my Twitter and Facebook streams, it appears that soccer fever is abating the in US. The reach of the World Cup has been far this year, thanks in part to the role of social media outlets in encouraging discussion and raising awareness about the sport. For a few weeks, Twitter and Facebook were inundated with World Cup related posts, with Twitter reporting surges well above the general 750 Tweets-per-second (TPS) the normally constitute usage on the site. Marked by soccer ball icons and the flags of participating countries, conversations and comments about the World Cup were highly visible. How did this change the experience for World Cup spectators—particularly for Americans?

Friday, June 25, 2010

A State of Timelessness


I talked about Standard Time from a somewhat political standpoint, but there's a fair bit of history involved in the standardization of Time. And I promised you a little more information, but I've been a bit wary about lecturing. There's a ton of information on this topic (and I'm not even planning to touch daylight savings time—we really couldn't leave well enough alone, could we?) I've decided to give you a fly-by history. If you have any questions, post them in the comments and I'll be glad to try and get you some answers.
 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Does It Still Take a Village?

Anyone who has taken mass transit knows how intense the experience can be with an unhappy child in close proximity. Loud iPods, sprawling seatmates, dripping umbrellas, body odor, and large packages are minor concerns compared with a wailing child. When confined in a subway car with a child in mid-tantrum, there comes a point when the proverbial village seems to come to life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Standardized Time and Power Relations

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.orgWhose Time do we live in? Time zones have set standards in keeping with longitudinal boundaries so that we share a clock experience that is often managed by an urban center. I am not the first to note, however, that these standards of Time overlook local, social definitions of Time. Though these local definitions persist, they are not generally the norm adhered to when individuals interact both across and within Time. Are local Times accounted for online?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Online Reputation Management on the Rise

It seems the iGeneration is coming of age—and they're addressing the very issues the "old timers" have been railing about far more efficiently and willingly than the group that raised concerns about online privacy and digital reputations. What steps are you taking to manage your online reputation? You may want to take a few pointers from the 18-29 crowd.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hungry, Homeless, and Traveling—Measurements of Wealth

Last night as I entered the subway at William Street, there was a homeless young man sitting at the bottom of the stairs with a docile, friendly puppy of perhaps the Lab family. (I'm not particularly good with dog breeds on sight.) His cardboard sign read, "Hungry, Homeless & Traveling. Folks please help." As usual, most people streamed on by, but as I descended the stairs I overheard an interesting proposition.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everyday Reflections of the Digital

As far as subway lines go, the F, M, and L trains have long trundled along their respective tracks innocuously enough. However, the recent reshuffling of the subway system which eliminated some trains and shifted the routes of others as a result of severe budgetary issues has brought an Internet meme to life.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Digital and Social Media in the Classroom

A few weeks ago, I considered whether laptops in the classroom were digital distractions—a topic that appears to have divided the academic community. Since that post, I've learned of a number of different ways that the social web and digital media are being implemented in the classroom. A few colleagues expressed uncertainty about whether these technologies have a place within higher education, and while usage is far from widespread, these examples suggest means of harnessing digital and social media to assist in the classroom.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Time in Passing: Mentions of Time in Fiction

I've managed to sneak in a few fiction reads. (I needed to. The books on my shelves call to me if I leave them alone for too long. Some call louder and more persistently than others.) But it seems that even in fiction, my research interests persist.

There I was, sitting in the sun thinking, "Hah! I'm taking a break from reading about circadian rhythms and death and teamwork and digital media and—ahhh! Okay, I'm taking a break. I'm taking a break." With this protective chant running through my mind, I settled back into my chair, breathed in the smell of freshly mowed grass, and turned the page. And found Time waiting for me. I dismissed it, and picked up another favorite—Time was waiting there too.

In any event, I managed to devour three books from authors who are my pick-me-ups—the ones that I can always go to because we know each other almost by heart. And Time was waiting in all three. Here's a look at what I found.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Are Baseball Announcers Necessary?

As digital and social media infiltrate the world of sports, and make teams, athletes, reporters, and information overall more accessible for fans, there is a greater opportunity for fans to connect to the game. This connection is important to the longevity of the franchises, and has largely been borne on the shoulders of the games' announcers. But why bother turning up the volume on the radio or television when you can follow the progress and emotions of a hashtag community on Twitter? Are announcers still important in this evolving landscape?

Friday, June 4, 2010

One (Facebook) Friend Too Many?

How many Facebook friends do you have? 500? 2500? 5000? Why stop at all? Why not 10,000? Well, actually, Facebook caps the total number of friends you can have at 5000, so it might make for some awkwardness as you explain to friend no. 5001 that while you're connected, you can't acknowledge your deep and meaningful relationship on Facebook. So what would you do? Start a new Facebook profile? (If you do, don't let Facebook know.) A recent article in the New York Times explores our need to connect expansively and discusses the strategies employed by a few to keep their numbers high.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Subway History on Display

As the MTA prepares to roll out a new, user-friendly subway map this month, I thought it might be the right time to take a look at some artifacts from the subway's history.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Farmers' Markets: Community Development, Green Opportunities, and Better Nutrition

Markets are vibrant, exciting places where you can usually find a mix of people and products. They suggest a time when commerce was more personal. Whenever I have the chance to explore markets (like supermarkets) I take it—and can easily spend hours browsing the stalls, trying samples, and talking to vendors eager to make a sale. (I also just like to see what people are buying.)

I was in Union Square on Monday and caught the tail end of the day's farmers' market (there is a regular farmers' market and a seasonal holiday market that appear in Union Square). The remaining stalls were still bustling though wares had thinned considerably. I couldn't resist dawdling just a bit, and you're invited to linger with me. The Union Square market gives us a unique look at "local" life, drawing in people and products from the area. And it gives us a look at local agriculture—there's more to local New York foods than "dirty water dogs."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Investigating the "Benefits" of Bullying Online

Today we're picking up the conversation from yesterday, and investigating whether cyberbullying has any positive effects. We've looked at some articles discussing the adaptive and maladaptive ways children respond to bullying, and determined that bullying may help children develop responses for challenging situations and help them identify personalities to avoid later in life. There are definite consequences though. Today, we'll be looking at whether these ideas are true in the context of as well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Is a Little Bullying—Offline and Online—Good for You?

ResearchBlogging.orgFollowing my discussion on bullying and cyberbullying, the NYT featured an article discussing the ways "antagonistic relationships can often enhance social and emotional development more than they impede it." The article suggests that when someone dislikes you, "it may be adaptive to dislike them back." This two part post will explore the following questions:
  • Are there documented benefits to being bullied? 
  • And if there are, then how do these benefits unfold in the digital realm?