👓 Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult | C Thi Nguyen | Aeon Essays

Read Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult by C Thi Nguyen (Aeon)

First you don’t hear other views. Then you can’t trust them. Your personal information network entraps you just like a cult

Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs. Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry. Maybe political allegiance has replaced basic reasoning skills. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making – wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of likeminded friends and web pages and social media feeds.

But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically exclude sources of information. Both exaggerate their members’ confidence in their beliefs. But they work in entirely different ways, and they require very different modes of intervention. An epistemic bubble is when you don’t hear people from the other side. An echo chamber is what happens when you don’t trust people from the other side.

A stunning essay that gives me hope that we’re not in a “post-truth” world. On the other hand, we’re going to need to do a lot of work …

hat tip: Ian O’Byrne

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🎧 Season 2 Episode 6 The King of Tears | Revisionist History

Listened to Season 2 Episode 6 The King of Tears by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

Revisionist History goes to Nashville to talk with Bobby Braddock, who has written more sad songs than almost anyone else. What is it about music that makes us cry? And what sets country music apart?

Why country music makes you cry, and rock and roll doesn't: A musical interpretation of divided America.

The big idea in this episode that there is a bigger divide in America that falls along musical lines more than political ones is quite intriguing and fits in with my general experience living in South Carolina, Georgia, Connecticut, Maryland, Kentucky, and California. Having been raised by a Catholic family with one parent from the city, another from the countryside, and having lived in many blue/red states surrounded by people of various different musical tastes, I do have to wonder if there isn’t a lot of value in this thesis. It could make an interesting information theoretic political-related question for research. This might be the type of thing that could be teased out with some big data sets from Facebook.

Beauty and authenticity can create a mood. They set the stage, but I think the thing that pushes us over the top into tears is details. We cry when melancholy collides with specificity.

Malcolm Gladwell in The King of Tears

He then goes on into a nice example about the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses:

And specificity is not something that every genre does well.

This reminds me of a great quote in Made to Stick from Mother Theresa about specificity.

Mother Teresa once said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

There’s something very interesting about this idea of specificity and its uses in creating both ideas as well as storytelling and creating emotion.

There is one related old country music joke I’m surprised not to have seen mentioned here, possibly for length, tangential appropriateness, or perhaps because it’s so well known most may call it to mind. It plays off of the days of rock and roll when people played records backwards to find hidden (often satanic) messages.

Q: What do you get when you play a country music song backwards?
A: You get your job back, your wife back, your house back, and your dog back.

The episode finally rounds out with:

If you aren’t crying right now I can’t help you…

Thanks Malcolm, I was crying…

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🎧 Season 2 Episode 4 The Foot Soldier of Birmingham | Revisionist History

Listened to Revisionist History Season 2 Episode 4 The Foot Soldier of Birmingham by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

Birmingham, 1963. The image of a police dog viciously attacking a young black protester shocks the nation. The picture, taken in the midst of one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous marches, might be the most iconic photograph of the civil rights movement. But few have ever bothered to ask the people in the famous photograph what they think happened that day. It’s more complicated than it looks.



S2e4 content
CREDIT - Bill Hudson, AP
S2e4 content 2
“The Foot Soldier” by Ronald S. McDowell

What a stunning and unexpected story. I do so love this podcast.

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👓 Neanderthals produced symbolic art, research suggests | Cosmos Magazine

Read Neanderthals produced symbolic art, research suggests (Cosmos Magazine)
Grooves on an ancient piece of flint might have been made intentionally to encode information. Andrew Masterson reports.

An interesting synopsis though I suspect the paper is far more detailed.

h/t to @CosmosMagazine


bookmarked on May 03, 2018 at 09:03PM

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🎧 Episode 10 The Satire Paradox | Revisionist History

Listened to Episode 10 The Satire Paradox by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

In the political turmoil of mid-1990s Britain, a brilliant young comic named Harry Enfield set out to satirize the ideology and politics of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His parodies became famous. He wrote and performed a vicious sendup of the typical Thatcherite nouveau riche buffoon. People loved it. And what happened? Exactly the opposite of what Enfield hoped would happen. In an age dominated by political comedy, “The Satire Paradox” asks whether laughter and social protest are friends or foes.

An interesting dissection of satire and the effects it does (or doesn’t) have on society. Sadly, a lot of the best biting satire doesn’t have the effect that many of us would like it to have. How can we subtly change this to create more desirous effects? I’d like to delve more deeply into the paper he references.1 [pdf]

Some of this reminds me of the ideas relating to doublespeak that I’ve written about in the past, but here, it’s actually comprehensible and understandable.

References

1.
LaMarre HL, Landreville KD, Beam MA. The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report. T. 2009;14(2):212-231. doi:10.1177/1940161208330904
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📺 “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” West Virginia | CNN

Watched "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" West Virginia from IMDb
Bourdain digs deep into the proud, often misunderstood culture of West Virginia, as he traverses a 5,000 foot mine, observes the demolition derby-like sport of rock-bouncing and dines on signature Appalachian dishes.

There’s some interesting simple honesty to this show. Reminds me a bit of a more serious and food centric version of what W. Kamau Bell is doing with his show on CNN.

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🔖 Moving chairs in Starbucks: Observational studies find rice-wheat cultural differences in daily life in China | Science Advances

Bookmarked Moving chairs in Starbucks: Observational studies find rice-wheat cultural differences in daily life in China by Thomas Talhelm, Xuemin Zhang and Shigehiro Oishi (Science Advances)
Traditional paddy rice farmers had to share labor and coordinate irrigation in a way that most wheat farmers did not. We observed people in everyday life to test whether these agricultural legacies gave rice-farming southern China a more interdependent culture and wheat-farming northern China a more independent culture. In Study 1, we counted 8964 people sitting in cafes in six cities and found that people in northern China were more likely to be sitting alone. In Study 2, we moved chairs together in Starbucks across the country so that they were partially blocking the aisle ( n = 678). People in northern China were more likely to move the chair out of the way, which is consistent with findings that people in individualistic cultures are more likely to try to control the environment. People in southern China were more likely to adjust the self to the environment by squeezing through the chairs. Even in China’s most modern cities, rice-wheat differences live on in everyday life.
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🎧 Episode 01 The Lady Vanishes | Revisionist History

Listened to Episode 01 The Lady Vanishes from Revisionist History

In the late 19th, a painting by a virtually unknown artist took England by storm: The Roll Call but after that brilliant first effort, the artist all but disappeared. Why?

The Lady Vanishes explores the world of art and politics to examines the strange phenomenon of the “token”—the outsider whose success serves not to alleviate discrimination but perpetuate it. If a country elects a female president, does that mean the door is now open for all women to follow? Or does that simply give the status quo the justification to close the door again?

The roll call
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

I can tell that I’m going to love this series already. Strong and interesting theses melded with some great stories.

What does it mean to be the first of something? Does it improve things for those who come (or don’t) after?

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👓 Do you live in a bubble? A quiz | PBS NewsHour

Read Do you live in a bubble? A quiz (PBS NewsHour)
There's a new upper class that's completely disconnected from the average American and American culture at large, says Charles Murray. Take this 25-question quiz to find out just how thick your bubble is.

I’m not one for quizzes, but I’ve scored a 66 on this–on the far side of being stuck in a bubble apparently. I’m glad I can manage to see many sides of our culture.

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👓 The forgotten art of squatting is a revelation for bodies ruined by sitting | Quartzy

Read The forgotten art of squatting is a revelation for bodies ruined by sitting by Rosie Spinks (Quartzy)
Westerners have forgotten how to squat, and it's causing health problems.

I’m curious how long it takes for someone to invent the “squatting” desk as the next evolution of the standing desk?

There’s also a cultural mention of both Yoga and “grounding”, though not quite specific, and this is the third reference to the idea of “grounding” that I’ve heard in the past two weeks. I suspect that is becoming a “thing” now too.

I’d love to read some of the evolutionary and physiological studies about this phenomenon. This particular quote was about as close to a scientific reference as there was:

Every joint in our body has synovial fluid in it. This is the oil in our body that provides nutrition to the cartilage,” Jam says. “Two things are required to produce that fluid: movement and compression. So if a joint doesn’t go through its full range—if the hips and knees never go past 90 degrees—the body says ‘I’m not being used’ and starts to degenerate and stops the production of synovial fluid.

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👓 Studies are increasingly clear: Uber, Lyft congest cities | AP News

Read Studies are increasingly clear: Uber, Lyft congest cities by Steve LeBlanc (AP News)
One promise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft was fewer cars clogging city streets. But studies suggest the opposite: that ride-hailing companies are pulling riders off buses, subways, bicycles and their own feet and putting them in cars instead. And in what could be a new wrinkle, a service by Uber called Express Pool now is seen as directly competing with mass transit. Uber and Lyft argue that in Boston, for instance, they complement public transit by connecting riders to hubs like Logan Airport and South Station. But they have not released their own specific data about rides, leaving studies up to outside researchers. And the impact of all those cars is becoming clear, said Christo Wilson, a professor of computer science at Boston’s Northeastern University, who has looked at Uber’s practice of surge pricing during heavy volume. “The emerging consensus is that ride-sharing (is) increasing congestion,” Wilson said.

It’s interesting that the “simple” story peddled by ridesharing companies is the one that’s most believed. Outside studies like this are certainly both wanted and needed.

It’s always seemed to me that these companies weren’t quite doing what they said they were from a simple economics standpoint. Particularly with these companies losing money to build market share, they’re essentially subsidizing a portion of their user’s cost. The fact that they’re siphoning off people from public transportation isn’t widely reported. I suspect that outside of major metropolitan areas they’re not doing as much as they are in them. They’re building market share, but primarily by breaking regulations in places with taxi or other related services. I’d certainly love to see more broad based statistics of their ridership compared with statistics from taxi companies and municipal transportation services. I have a feeling the economic piper will eventually come for them when the playing field is leveled.

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👓 Where is the remotest spot in the United States? | BBC

Read Where is the remotest spot in the United States? (BBC News)
One couple - and their eight-year-old daughter - are visiting the remotest spot in every state.

What a fun and generally uplifting story. Makes me want to travel.

I do wonder what the statistical drop off is from the largest distance to the second largest and so on…

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Reply to Colin Walker on the idea of a required reading page

Replied to I've been thinking some more about the idea of a required reading page. by Colin Walker (Social Thoughts)
Could the things held here be placed on an About page? Possibly - it depends what they are. If they are links to your own posts then almost certainly. External links? Maybe, maybe not. So, why have a required page and what does it give the reader?

In classical studies in the Renaissance the number of texts which were popular and considered expected/required reading for a “learned” person were a relatively set number and generally completely consumable and completely known by those with an education. Thus a writer could make a reference to the old testament or to Cato and the vast majority of the audience would get that reference (without footnotes or explicit references) having read these same texts.

Sadly the depth and breadth of available literature has exploded since Gutenberg making it nearly impossible for anyone in a modern audience to have read and know what the author may presume them to know. As an example, in Shakespeare’s day many of his side references would be known by even the uneducated, while most modern students have to rely on Cliff’s Notes or annotated editions to understand those cultural references. The modern day equivalent is that most avid fans of the Simpsons television show are also generally well educated on popular film since the 1940s, otherwise they’re missing 90% of the jokes.

Things become much more stilted within the blogging arena, particularly when a writer may cover a dozen areas or more in which they may have significant experience, but which will likely be completely unknown to some of their regular readers, much less new readers who aren’t specialists in these fields themselves. This may turn away readers at worst, but will destroy the conversation at best. (Though I will admit it doesn’t seem deter some of the lookie-loos from taking at shot at interacting on the lowest levels at Terry Tao’s blog.)

In some sense, in knowing their audience, writers have to have some grasp of what they do or don’t know, otherwise it becomes difficult to communicate those progressively more expanding thoughts. Having hyperlinks certainly helps within a piece, much the way academics footnote journal articles, but it can be just as painful for the writer to constantly be referring back to the same handful of articles constantly. In this sense, having a recommended/required reading section may be useful, particularly if it were ubiquitous, but I suspect that the casual drive-by reader may not notice or care very much. However, for that rare <5% it may be just the primer they’re looking for to better understand you and what you’re writing about.

One of the most difficult things to do in a new job or when entering a new field is to become aware of the understood culture and history of the company or the field itself. One must learn the jargon and history to contextualize the overarching conversation. Jumping into Dave Winer’s blog without knowing his background and history is certainly a more painful thing than starting to read someone whose blog is less than a year old and could thus be consumed in a short time versus thousands upon thousands of posts since the literal start of blogging on the internet. It’s somewhat reminiscent of David Shanske’s problem of distilling down a bio for an h-card from the rest of his site and his resume. What do you want someone you’ve just met to know about you to more quickly put you into a broader context, especially when you want them to get to know you better?

I think we’re all in the same boat as David in figuring out the painful path of distilling all this down in a sensible and straightforward manner. I’m curious to see what you come up with and how it evolves over time.

👓 If SoundCloud Disappears, What Happens to Its Music Culture? | New York Times

Read If SoundCloud Disappears, What Happens to Its Music Culture? by Jenna Wortham (New York Times)
The platform offered a public space with monetization as an afterthought. Now it could simply be deleted.
Jace Clayton, musician and the author of Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture
in If SoundCloud Disappears, What Happens to Its Music Culture? in the New York Times

 

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