Bookmarked Becoming a Social Media Influencer by Jen Golbeck (Medium)
I teach a class in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland called “Becoming a Social Media Influencer”. It’s a hands-on class where students create social media accounts (or work with ones they already have) and learn how to make good content, to build a community, to gain insights into social media algorithms, and to develop strategies for growing their accounts. We do in-class critiques and offer feedback along with doing readings and trying out new tech.
This looks somewhat interesting…

 

via 

Read A New Theory of Western Civilization (The Atlantic)
Could a marriage policy first pursued by the Catholic Church a millennium and a half ago explain what made the industrialized world so powerful—and so peculiar?
This is the second article on this book that I’ve seen in the last week or so. Perhaps I should add it to my list?

Henrich, who directs Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, is a cultural evolutionary theorist, which means that he gives cultural inheritance the same weight that traditional biologists give to genetic inheritance. Parents bequeath their DNA to their offspring, but they—along with other influential role models—also transmit skills, knowledge, values, tools, habits. Our genius as a species is that we learn and accumulate culture over time. Genes alone don’t determine whether a group survives or disappears. So do practices and beliefs. Human beings are not “the genetically evolved hardware of a computational machine,” he writes. They are conduits of the spirit, habits, and psychological patterns of their civilization, “the ghosts of past institutions.” 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:03AM

WEIRD people have a bad habit of universalizing from their own particularities. They think everyone thinks the way they do, and some of them (not all, of course) reinforce that assumption by studying themselves. In the run-up to writing the book, Henrich and two colleagues did a literature review of experimental psychology and found that 96 percent of subjects enlisted in the research came from northern Europe, North America, or Australia. About 70 percent of those were American undergraduates. Blinded by this kind of myopia, many Westerners assume that what’s good or bad for them is good or bad for everyone else. 

This is a painful reality. It’s also even more specific to the current Republican party. Do as we say, not as we do.

This is the sort of example that David Dylan Thomas will appreciate.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:09AM

By the time Protestantism came along, people had already internalized an individualist worldview. Henrich calls Protestantism “the WEIRDest religion,” and says it gave a “booster shot” to the process set in motion by the Catholic Church. Integral to the Reformation was the idea that faith entailed personal struggle rather than adherence to dogma. Vernacular translations of the Bible allowed people to interpret scripture more idiosyncratically. The mandate to read the Bible democratized literacy and education. After that came the inquiry into God-given natural (individual) rights and constitutional democracies. The effort to uncover the laws of political organization spurred interest in the laws of nature—in other words, science. The scientific method codified epistemic norms that broke the world down into categories and valorized abstract principles. All of these psychosocial changes fueled unprecedented innovation, the Industrial Revolution, and economic growth. 

Reading this makes me think about the political break in the United States along political and religious boundaries. Some of Trumps’ core base practices a more personal religion and are generally in areas that don’t display the level of individualism, but focus more on larger paternalistic families. This could be an interesting space for further exploration as it seems to be moving the “progress”(?) described by WEIRD countries backward.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:19AM

If Henrich’s history of Christianity and the West feels rushed and at times derivative—he acknowledges his debt to Max Weber—that’s because he’s in a hurry to explain Western psychology. 

This adds more to my prior comment with the addition to Max Weber here. Cross reference some of my reading this past week on his influence on the prosperity gospel.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:21AM

Henrich defends this sweeping thesis with several studies, including a test known as the Triad Task. Subjects are shown three images—say, a rabbit, a carrot, and a cat. The goal is to match a “target object”—the rabbit—with a second object. A person who matches the rabbit with the cat classifies: The rabbit and the cat are animals. A person who matches the rabbit with the carrot looks for relationships between the objects: The rabbit eats the carrot. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:25AM

Toppling the accomplishments of Western civilization off their great-man platforms, he erases their claim to be monuments to rationality: Everything we think of as a cause of culture is really an effect of culture, including us. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:27AM

He refutes genetic theories of European superiority and makes a good case against economic determinism. His quarry are the “enlightened” Westerners—would-be democratizers, globalizers, well-intended purveyors of humanitarian aid—who impose impersonal institutions and abstract political principles on societies rooted in familial networks, and don’t seem to notice the trouble that follows. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:29AM

Listened to Behavioral Economics When Psychology and Economics Collide — Lecture 1: What Is a Good Decision? by Scott HuettelScott Huettel from The Great Courses
Begin by examining “rational choice” models of decision making from traditional economics, which assume consistent, foresighted, and self-interested decision makers. Then consider how this concept fails to explain many human decisions that appear counterintuitive or paradoxical. Identify two fundamental limitations that challenge our decision-making process.
4% done; Finished Lecture 1
Fairly facile introduction from my perspective. Didn’t learn anything new here.
Read What's wrong with WhatsApp by William Davies (the Guardian)
The long read: As social media has become more inhospitable, the appeal of private online groups has grown. But they hold their own dangers – to those both inside and out.
Replied to a tweet by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (Twitter)
Without checking, I have to think that I carefully couched my wording there. For that audience, I did use the more famous example of Stonehenge, for which there is some pretty solid evidence for my claim. There are other examples in the archaeological record that certainly are older and in other cultural contexts. I can easily think of standing stones that are as old as 12,000 years old for which the same case could be made in borderline agricultural societies. The tough part is that would have required the definition of standing stones and a lot of other pieces which I didn’t feel I had the time to create the context for in that setting.

I imagine that there are potentially examples of this sort of behavior going back as far as 30-40,000 years or more, but there is is no direct (known) archaeological evidence left to make such cases. There are oral histories of indigenous peoples in Australia that indicate memories of things that do exist in the geological record to provide some evidence of this.

I’ll also point out that astronomical use is NOT equal to memory use. To make that claim you’d need a lot of additional evidence. In fact, I might suggest something stronger, particularly about Stonehenge. Stonehenge’s primary use was not an astronomical one. Its primary use was as a mnemonic device. The astronomical one was important for the ritual practice (we would call it spaced repetition in modern psychology and pedagogic contexts), but wholly tangential.

If you’re interested in the underlying evidence, Dr. Lynne Kelly has an excellent Ph.D. thesis on the topic, but you might find her book The Memory Code, which expands on the thesis, more accessible. She’s also got a great bibliography of these topics on her website.

Read A Harvard sociologist explains why we confide in strangers by Jenny AndersonJenny Anderson (Quartz)
Who did you last trust with some really personal information? 

Small says there are three reasons we might avoid those closest to us when we are grappling with problems about our health, relationships, work, or kids. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:39PM

The first is that our closest relationships are our most complex ones. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:39PM

The second reason is that when we are dealing with something difficult, we commonly prefer to confide in people who have been through what we are going through rather than those who know us, seeking “cognitive empathy” over guaranteed warmth or closeness. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:40PM

The third reason is that in our moment of vulnerability, our need to talk is greater than our need to self-protect. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:41PM

Adam Smith, writing in 1790, said we can only expect real sympathy from real friends, not from mere acquaintances. More recently, in 1973, Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter established as a bedrock of social network analysis the idea that we rely on “strong” ties (our inner circle) for support and weak ties (our acquaintances) for information. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:43PM

Indicating Introversion / Extroversion at Conferences and Public Meeting Spaces

While I was at Innovate Pasadena’s Friday Morning Coffee Meetup on the topic of design this morning, I saw a woman wearing a large decorative flower in her hair. It reminded me of the social custom of Hawaiian women wearing flowers in their hair and what that indicates socially in terms of their wanting to be approached or not.

This made me begin wondering about the less gregarious or introverted people at meetings or conferences who can become overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and interactions that it becomes so burdensome that they need to take a break and get away for a bit. What if there were a way to easily indicate at conferences that one wanted to be approached, pitched, or engaged in conversation? While some are sure to still need quiet spaces or breaks, perhaps there’s a way to leverage external indicators to generally diminish the additional social, mental, and emotional burdens of interacting in large crowds of strangers?

I might suggest using the position of one’s name tag as the indicator, but in the United States, generally etiquette has been to wear the name tag on the right hand side and at many conferences it’s almost more common that one wears a lanyard which prevents explicit positioning of a name tag in any case. I might also suggest using different sides of a name tag or lanyard, but experience with the physics and design of these indicates they would be poorly suited for this.

The second method that comes to mind is to use the placement on the right/left of other conference paraphernalia? Perhaps pronoun badges might serve this secondary function? It’s a bit Western-oriented to suggest, but perhaps following the existing pattern of wedding rings on the left hand (or flowers above the left ear in Hawaiian culture) to indicate that one is “unavailable” or would prefer not to be bothered, pitched, or interacted with at the moment? Wearing them on the right indicates I’m open for conversation, pitches, or interaction. Using this also has the potential side benefit of encouraging more conferences to explicitly advertise pronouns and normalize these sorts of behaviors and cultural conventions.

Multi-colored pronoun buttons for she (orange), he (yellow), they (green), and ask (red) as well as an IndieWebCamp button
Image courtesy of the IndieWeb.org wiki via Aaron Parecki (with a CC0 license)

Have other event organizers considered this sort of system before? Are there other examples of it occurring in the wild? What other external indicators could one use and simultaneously be easy for both organizers and participants?

Listened to Episode 9: Make 'Em Laugh by Dr Laurie SantosDr Laurie Santos from The Happiness Lab

The world's greatest expert on canned TV laugh tracks helps Dr Laurie Santos demonstrate how the emotions of those around us can make us feel happier or more sad. If happiness is so contagious... can we use them to bring joy to ourselves and our loved ones?

Jeff’s research showed that participants pick up other people’s emotions through text— in say, a quick email note or an online comment— just as easily as they do in face-to-face real world interaction.”

Hancock, J. T., Landrigan, C., & Silver, C. (2007, April). Expressing emotion in text-based communication. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 929-932). ACM.

The social media giant allowed Jeff to run an experiment to figure out the emotional impact of Facebook posts.

Kramer, A. D., Guillory, J. E., & Hancock, J. T. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8788-8790.

This is particularly an interesting listen for web developers and designers who could be thinking about the emotional contagion that their products may have on others.

The original link has some additional references and research, but I’ve excerpted some small portions of the ethically questionable research Facebook allowed on emotional contagion several years back. 

This research reminds me of things like Tantek Çelik‘s 100 Days of Positive Posts.

Listened to Episode 8: Choice Overload by Dr Laurie SantosDr Laurie Santos from The Happiness Lab

We all make thousands of choices each day. But making even trivial decisions can sap our energy and cause anxiety. Dr Laurie Santos examines why our society wrongly prioritises choice over happiness, and meets a woman who junked her wardrobe in a bid to improve her life.

Limiting one’s choice can be an important thing in life.

There’s some discussion of limiting one’s wardrobe choices as a way of freeing one’s life up a bit. They didn’t mention the oft-heard example of Einstein wearing the same thing every day, but did catch the possibly better example of Obama cycling through the small handful of choices in his wardrobe to limit the yet another decision of many he had to make each day.

Listened to Episode 7: Don't Accentuate the Positive by Dr Laurie SantosDr Laurie Santos from The Happiness Lab

We often think positive thinking is the best way to achieve our ambitions - but the science shows it holds us all back. Dr Laurie Santos hears how champion swimmer Michael Phelps imagined the worst to help make his Olympic dreams come true.

Bob Bowman’s book

Kristin Beck | Wikipedia

Gabriele Oettingen’s website

Dr. Santos mentions Norman Vincent Peale and his book The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) as one of the earliest in this space. I might suggest that Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (1937) was a natural precursor to this and these ideas of visualizing what you want as a means of helping to get it. His work assuredly influenced Peale’s and probably sells as well today.


 It takes what it takes. 

–Bob Bowman, swimming coach of 23-time Olympic medal winning swimmer Michael Phelps


On planning:

Hope is not a course of action.

–Kristin Beck, Senior chief petty officer, United States Navy SEAL, ret.


Gabriele Oettingen’s work and the Woop concept  (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) sound interesting. Perhaps worth reading some of her work: 

Oettingen, G. (2015). Rethinking positive thinking: Inside the new science of motivation. Current.

“You name the goal, and research shows that positive thinking makes it less likely you’ll reach it.”

Oettingen, G., & Mayer, D. (2002). The motivating function of thinking about the future: Expectations versus fantasies. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(5), 1198

Oettingen, G., & Wadden, T. A. (1991). Expectation, fantasy, and weight loss: Is the impact of positive thinking always positive?. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 15(2), 167-175

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., & Portnow, S. (2016). Pleasure now, pain later: Positive fantasies about the future predict symptoms of depression. Psychological Science, 27(3), 345-353.

“It’s a strategy Gabrielle calls “mental contrasting.”

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Timur Sevincer, A., Stephens, E. J., Pak, H. J., & Hagenah, M. (2009). Mental contrasting and goal commitment: The mediating role of energization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(5), 608-622.

“In addition to simulating the obstacles, Gabrielle also recommends taking time to imagine— very intentionally— what it would feel like to implement our plan whenever the obstacle comes up.”

Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. (2010). Strategies of setting and implementing goals: Mental contrasting and implementation intentions (pp. 114-135).

Some of the ideas behind the WOOP concept remind me of some tangential sounding philosophy and framing that Matt Maldre wrote about in his recent posts about New Year’s resolutions. [1] [2]

WOOP also seems tangential to some areas of memory research as the visualization can tend to create “false” memories that one can look back on as experience when moving toward a particular goal. I often found that in my diving practices in college I did significantly better on new dives when I visualized them or practiced them in my mind several days and even the night before practices.

Listened to Episode 3: A Silver Lining from The Happiness Lab

You can't win 'em all - but you'll only beat unhappiness when you stop comparing yourself so harshly to others.

Ice skater Michelle Kwan was all set to win Olympic Gold... but in a major sporting upset came second. Sharing her story with Dr Laurie Santos, Michelle lets us in on a key secret to achieving happiness when life doesn't go to plan.