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 They’ve long been replaced by camera phones, MP3 players, and scientific calculators.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.