Bookmarked The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion by John R. Zaller (Cambridge University Press)
In this book John Zaller develops a comprehensive theory to explain how people acquire political information from the mass media and convert it into political preferences. Using numerous specific examples, Zaller applies this theory in order to explain the dynamics of public opinion on a broad range of subjects, including both domestic and foreign policy, trust in government, racial equality, and presidential approval, as well as voting behavior in U.S. House, Senate and Presidential elections. Particularly perplexing characteristics of public opinion are also examined, such as the high degree of random fluctuations in political attitudes observed in opinion surveys and the changes in attitudes due to minor changes in the wording of survey questions.
Hat tip: Strong recommendation by Vicki Boykis (#)
Read Eliminating the Human by David ByrneDavid Byrne (MIT Technology Review)
We are beset by—and immersed in—apps and devices that are quietly reducing the amount of meaningful interaction we have with each other.
This piece makes a fascinating point about people and interactions. It’s the sort of thing that many in the design and IndieWeb communities should read and think about as they work.

I came to it via an episode of the podcast The Happiness Lab.

The consumer technology I am talking about doesn’t claim or acknowledge that eliminating the need to deal with humans directly is its primary goal, but it is the outcome in a surprising number of cases. I’m sort of thinking maybe it is the primary goal, even if it was not aimed at consciously.

Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:35AM

Most of the tech news we get barraged with is about algorithms, AI, robots, and self-driving cars, all of which fit this pattern. I am not saying that such developments are not efficient and convenient; this is not a judgment. I am simply noticing a pattern and wondering if, in recognizing that pattern, we might realize that it is only one trajectory of many. There are other possible roads we could be going down, and the one we’re on is not inevitable or the only one; it has been (possibly unconsciously) chosen.

Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:36AM

What I’m seeing here is the consistent “eliminating the human” pattern.

This seems as apt a name as any.
Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:39AM

“Social” media: This is social interaction that isn’t really social. While Facebook and others frequently claim to offer connection, and do offer the appearance of it, the fact is a lot of social media is a simulation of real connection.

Perhaps this is one of the things I like most about the older blogosphere and it’s more recent renaissance with the IndieWeb idea of Webmentions, a W3C recommendation spec for online interactions? While many of the interactions I get are small nods in the vein of likes, favorites, or reposts, some of them are longer, more visceral interactions.

My favorite just this past week was a piece that I’d worked on for a few days that elicited a short burst of excitement from someone who just a few minutes later wrote a reply that was almost as long as my piece itself.

To me this was completely worth the effort and the work, not because of the many other smaller interactions, but because of the human interaction that resulted. Not to mention that I’m still thinking out a reply still several days later.

This sort of human social interaction also seems to be at the heart of what Manton Reece is doing with micro.blog. By leaving out things like reposts and traditional “likes”, he’s really creating a human connection network to fix what traditional corporate social media silos have done to us. This past week’s episode of Micro Monday underlines this for us. (#)
Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:52AM

Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist at USC wrote about a patient he called Elliot, who had damage to his frontal lobe that made him unemotional. In all other respects he was fine—intelligent, healthy—but emotionally he was Spock. Elliot couldn’t make decisions. He’d waffle endlessly over details. ­Damasio concluded that although we think decision-­making is rational and machinelike, it’s our emotions that enable us to actually decide.

Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:56AM

And in the meantime, if less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

It may seem odd, but I think a lot of the success of the IndieWeb movement and community is exactly this: a group of people has come together to work and interact and increase our abilities to cooperate to make something much bigger, more diverse, and more interesting than any of us could have done separately.
Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:58AM

Remove humans from the equation, and we are less complete as people and as a society.

Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:59AM

A version of this piece originally appeared on his website, davidbyrne.com.

This piece seems so philosophical, it seems oddly trivial that I see this note here and can’t help but think about POSSE and syndication.
Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 11:01AM

Listened to Episode 4: Mistakenly Seeking Solitude from The Happiness Lab

Technology allows us to bank, shop and dine without talking to another human, but what toll is this taking on our happiness? The inventor of the ATM and the Talking Heads singer David Byrne join Dr Laurie Santos to explore the ways in which talking to strangers can bring us all genuine joy.

This episode makes me think a bit about Mike Monteiro’s book Ruined by Design. 

I’ll have to read the MIT Technology Review article by David Byrne. The idea of designing humanity out of things is such a sad one, but there’s definitely a lot of evidence for it.

There is a great example in here of people not knowing what they really want or need or what is healthy for themselves. In particular, the story of the psychologist that did research on trains and came across their survey that they were creating a “solitude car” because that’s what people said they wanted in surveys. Sadly the research shows people will be happier if they’re interacting. When he asked the train company why they didn’t make an “interaction car”, they said they used to have that, but they discontinued it because it was so crowded. Maybe they should have added an extra car instead?

Dr. Lynne Kelly’s research on history, indigenous people, and memory, and a dovetail with Big History

David Christian, Fred Spier, Bill Gates, Big History Institute, and other Big History researchers and thinkers, if you’re not already aware of her, allow me to introduce you to researcher Dr. Lynne Kelly. Her work dramatically expands our understanding of pre-literate societies’ learning, memory, and particularly collective learning. Further, it makes for a strong and fascinating story that could not only be integrated into Big History; it provides links between modern and pre-modern humans and ties deeply into ideas of origin stories, mythology, and early religion; and it provides actual methods for improving student’s memories and particularly that for history.

I think her work has some profound impact on the arc of Big History, particularly with respect to Threshold 6, well into Threshold 7, and continuing into the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. In true big history fashion, her thesis also touches heavily on a broad array of topics including anthropology, archaeology, psychology, neuroscience, history, and education.

A broad, reasonable introduction to her work can be had in CalTech physicist Sean Carroll’s  recent podcast interview.

Another short introduction is her TEDx Melbourne talk:

A solid popular science encapsulation of her work can be found in her book The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments (Pegasus Books, 2017).

A more thorough academic treatment of her work can naturally be found in:

With some work, I think her research could become a better foundational basis for a stronger bridge from threshold 6 into threshold 7 with dramatic impact on how we view origin stories, mythology, religion. It also has some spectacular implications for improving pedagogy and memory within our educational systems and how we view and use collective memory and even innovation in the modern world.

Read Dandelions, Tulips, Orchids and Neurological Pluralism by Ryan BorenRyan Boren (Ryan Boren)
I’m always on the look out for new ways of thinking about and designing for neurological pluralism, especially when it comes in threes. Dandelions, tulips, and orchids designate low-sensitive, medium-sensitive, and high-sensitive people. I like the way this aligns with caves, campfires, and watering holes, the red, yellow, green of interaction badges, and the three speeds of collaboration.
This is a fascinating thesis with some interesting long term effects on evolution.
Listened to Memory Craft: Lynne Kelly On The Potent Power Of Ancient Mnemonics by Anthony Metivier from magneticmemorymethod.com

Cover of Memory Craft by Lynne KellyNot only is Lynne Kelly the author of several books on memory, but she is a highly skilled researcher, science educator, author and memory competitor.

Most known for her theory about Stonehenge’s purpose, she has also contributed to work in popular science and is a promoter of skepticism.

Lynne’s critical thinking and contributions to such a wide range of science subjects has led to awards from the Royal Zoological Society of South Wales among others. As a memory expert, Lynne Kelly is that rare practitioner who takes on large learning projects and shares the journey in addition to attending memory sport activities.

Episode covers:

  • The real reason why stores play such upbeat, catchy music.
  • Why outdoor Memory Palaces can be so helpful for memory retention.
  • The benefits of “setting aside” time for memory training versus incorporating practice into everyday life.
  • How vivid, violent, or vulgar imagery can bring abstract concepts to life.
  • Why “rapscallions” are useful memory tools and not just mischievous little creatures.
  • How art can help you remember more in a Memory Palace.
  • The pros and cons to living with aphantasia.
  • The key to using hooks and layering to create dynamic visuals.
  • How to “dialogue” with your memory aids.
  • Why we should encode using music and places for maximum mental skill (and possible mental health) benefits.
  • The usefulness of memory techniques for school aged children and their long-term effects.
  • The secret to overcoming “ghosting” when using memory techniques.

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A fascinating interview, but likely needs some additional introductory material to make sense of what is going on. The audience here are people who have at least a passing knowledge of mnemonics and many of it’s methods. I could have stood to hear a few more hours between these two given my academic interest in the area.

There’s an interesting segment on aphantasia and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the middle here. I’d definitely be interested in looking into the research on aphantasia more. There’s also some more material here on memory methods for education (compared with other interviews with Dr. Kelly). She does use a physics example on force and the idea of push/pull with respect to Star Wars which I’ve heard her mention before.

Originally bookmarked on December 07, 2019 at 01:11PM

Listened to Tribalism, Anger and the State of Our Politics from On the Media | WNYC Studios

An extended conversation with Lilliana Mason about tribalism, anger and the state of our politics.

If solidarity and the recognition of mutual self-interest are the keys to moving past our fractious moment, it can be hard to see how we'll get there. Anger and tribalism appear to be at an all-time high, creating political and societal rifts that seem unbridgeable. Indeed, it is hard to believe that only 70 years ago, the country was deemed by political scientists to be not polarized enough. In 1950, the American Political Science Association put out a report that suggested that the parties were not distinct enough and that it was making people's political decision making too difficult.

Over the next few decades, they became distinct alright. Lilliana Mason is a political psychologist at the University of Maryland. When we spoke to her last fall, she told us that most people think they know exactly what each party stands for — leaving us with two camps that both seek to destroy the other. 

Listened to OTM presents: Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture by Sara Fishko from On the Media | WNYC Studios

WNYC's Sara Fishko and guests sift through the lingering effects of the Great War on modern art and life in Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture.

You really have a feeling that here is a building that looks fantastically beautiful, and it’s got its whole façade simply blown off by this war.

 -Philipp Blom

World War I presented civilization with unprecedented violence and destruction. The shock of the first modern, “industrial” war extended far into the 20th century and even into the 21st, and changed how people saw the world and themselves. And that was reflected in the cultural responses to the war – which included a burgeoning obsession with beauty and body image, the birth of jazz, new thinking about the human psyche, the Harlem Renaissance, Surrealism...and more.

WNYC's Sara Fishko and guests sift through the lingering effects of the Great War on modern art and life in Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture.

Guests include Jon Batiste, Ann Temkin, David Lubin, Philipp Blom, Jay Winter, Ana Carden-Coyne, Sabine Rewald, David Levering Lewis, Emma Chambers, Marion von Osten, Emily Bernard, and Gail Stavitsky

I was a bit surprised that they mentioned George Antheil, but left out his work and collaboration with Hedy Lamar who was a German refugee whose husband was a major arms dealer for the Germans.

This is a fantastic piece that makes me want to subscribe to more of Fishko’s work.

Listened to Queen of Cuba, Season 4 Episode 11 by Malcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History
A strange chain of events preceded the shoot-down, and people in the intelligence business turned to a rising star in the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ana Montes. Montes was known around Washington as the “Queen of Cuba” for her insights into the Castro regime.

👓 rapid eye movement from dominique o’brien | General Memory Chat | Art of Memory Forum

Read rapid eye movement from dominique o'brien (Art of Memory Forum)
Hi, in a TV-show about all kinds of crazy world records I saw dominique o’brien memorising 50 objects that were placed on some kind of running track. When he was doing this, his eyes moved from side to side in a very fast pace. This reminded me of an incredibly smart IT-guy (I felt like Forrest Gump in comparison) that came to our warehouse to implement a new computer system. If he was asked a very difficult question he would look up in the air and his eyes would behave precisely like those o...

Possibly tangentially related:

  • If you sit on a swivel chair (safer than doing the same thing standing up) and gently place your fingertips on your closed eyes while you turn around and around, you’ll be able to discern that your eyes will still exhibit saccadic movement even though you can’t “see” anything. (Not sure if this is true for the blind, but it’s worth considering who this may not be true for and why.)
  • Rapid Serial Visual Presentation methods for speed reading (Spritz and related apps) work well primarily because they limit saccadic eye movements which take up a proportionally large portion of your reading time. (Ultimately I think there is an upper limit to how fast one can read and comprehend and retain information.)
  • The visual systems of chickens are responsible for their odd walking manner in which they throw their heads forward and then move their body underneath them while their head remains stationary. Essentially while their head is moving, they’re “blind”.

Is it possible that saccades of the eye are tied into our visual processing and memory systems in a manner deeper than we’re consciously aware? Does reading on a page help our comprehension or long term memories more because the words have a location on a page versus RSVP reading methods? Do our mental visualizations (imagination) change depending on these visual/reading methods? What effects to these have on our memories?

Some interesting questions worth pondering/researching.

🎧 Episode 1: You Can Change | The Happiness Lab

Listened to Episode 1: You Can Change from The Happiness Lab

There are things you can do today to make yourself happier. Your life circumstances and personality aren't nearly as important as you think in deciding how happy you can be. Dr Laurie Santos explains how understanding the latest science will point you in the right direction to making you more satisfied with your life.

👓 Why Women, but Not Men, Are Judged for a Messy House | New York Times

Read Why Women, but Not Men, Are Judged for a Messy House (New York Times)
They’re still held to a higher social standard, which explains why they’re doing so much housework, studies show.

👓 How Barr and Trump Use a Russian Disinformation Tactic | New York Times

Read Opinion | How Barr and Trump Use a Russian Disinformation Tactic (New York Times)
They were able to define “collusion” to benefit themselves. Don’t let them twist meanings again with their “spying” investigation.