Best Blog Posts and so forth…

Of the blog posts that I have written this past 10 weeks I definitely hold ___% of all statistics… close as one of my favorites and personal bests. This post goes beyond the class discussion about digital data accuracy and digs into the meat of the topic, the human mind. The sources that I bring up are physiological studies on how statistics can be fan-angled into making an audience believe what you want them to believe simply through how data is presented to them. This post takes the position that this is something that should be more readily addressed but at the same time acknowledges the difficulties in dealing with this sort of issue, leaving the reader questioning if there is a solution.

#UnbridledPotential is my other favorite post very much because it actually very much made me actually realize how I actually like Twitter and how useful Twitter can really be. The post starts out with a purely personal Twitter experience and then moves into a discussion about the different ways Twitter is used, ranging from business to publicity to simple everyday chat type tweets. At the end I open the floor up to questions about how their opinions on Twitter have changed as a result of using it for class and doing the live tweet assignment, and it actually resulted in some good responses regarding the usefulness of Twitter for the individual in both a social and business/information spectrum.

This comment on Now Versus Then‘s Where does the value go? does a good job of taking the one or the other question about the future of Civic Media Trends and taking a middle approach. Arguing that while trends die eventually or lose value to their original cause that they can still be of value or at least have had great value for some time is important, a thought that was continued on in the comments after mine.

My comment on A Career Through Viral Videos by DV’s World brings up the fact that as successful as people can become through making viral videos there is still lots of work and luck required to become successful. My comment also(somewhat unintentionally) brings up the fact that with so many successful people in this industry moving on to bigger productions outside of things like YouTube there is always a lot of space being freed up such that new people can get discovered and go viral.

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How loud is a like?

What can we do to help? That’s a common question in today’s world where so many awful things happen on the day-to-day. As I said in my last post a lot of things we see get ignored, most things just don’t interest us to pay attention for the five minutes it would take to read about something that we could help with, and even if we did read something and like or share it as we watched and read for Tuesday this is not necessarily going to help a issue at all. That said, it doesn’t hurt to be interested in something. For a lot of people liking or sharing is all they can do due to their situation, cause you can’t really ask a 17 year old to fly over to Africa for a protest or for a parents to donate tons of money to their favorite charity when they have kids to take care of. In this text by Nathan Teske at the top of page 32 he looks at the question, “Why would someone want to do that all the time?” He looks at it from the both the confused and admiring side of things. To many it would be great if they could help out and go actively join a the movement that they support or donate a few thousand dollars every year to something they care about, but many just can’t.

That said as we saw in the Jenkins reading, those willing to do simpler things and participate in social media can be more likely to become more and more active as their lives go on and as they acquire more time. If we really like something we will pursue it, its part of being human. For every human being that is too lazy to do anything at all there is someone else who is just waiting to get out of school or to retire so that they can spend the rest of their lives helping people or contributing a cause.

So are people really just so desensitized that they don’t want to help or are people just “slacktivists”? Or are many just waiting to find the time and cause that they want to dedicate themselves to?

Yup, that’s sad.

“What used to be emotionally arousing simply isn’t any longer.” Reading that in class got me thinking, are we becoming desensitized as a society? The answer is obviously yes in at least some way. Media is influential. We see a lot of bad things every single day whether we watch the news or not, as we read from Konnikova many sites are designing their media to specifically play on our emotions, yet, as she quotes above this tactic pays off less than it used to. I scroll down a Facebook feed and see something about a kid having a week left to live and I think, “Wow, that sucks,” then I scroll on. To elicit an actual negative emotional reaction for me now it takes something happening to me personally.

Violence is a facet that is often discussed when it comes to  desensitization. The journal of Psychological Science was quoted saying that, “If film is a drug, then violent film content might make people “comfortably numb” (borrowing the words of Pink Floyd).” I like their use of Pink Floyd here, it is extremely accurate, and potentially a good thing. Being “comfortably numb” in regards to violence and misfortune in our world may not be a bad thing. If we really held onto every dark thing we saw on Facebook or CNN we would likely end up with a weird hybrid culture of the 60’s and 70’s. Instead the existence where we are made aware of misfortunes and violence in our world and we acknowledge them without letting them get to us is ideal. It lets us carry on functioning even when the world is trying so hard to not. Stepping back, we can’t ignore these things mind you, as the New York Times discusses there may be a fair amount of correlation and causation between violent media and violent acts. However, for now this just remains as an idea. What do you think, do you think we are desensitized as a society? If so is that a bad thing, or maybe something in between?

Will it ever be game over?

Video games are pretty great. There is an incredible variety in types of game across all gaming platforms that should let anyone enjoy them so long as they find the right game. Unfortunately a lot of video game fans are not great, and you can find just as much variety in fans as you can games. “Fully 73% of adult internet users have seen someone be harassed in some way online.”  I have witnessed harassment, often never as anything extreme, typically online harassment that I see is just an immature player venting in an extreme way, and I would be lying if I said I don’t get frustrated and vent my not always nice comments aloud as well. However, that sort of harassment doesn’t even compare to kind of harassment I have seen women receive. I have lots of friends who play games, not just video games, but games ranging from table top games to all variety of video games, and some of these friends have had to put up with some shit to enjoy the things they do. One such example is where I had a friend told to her face that, “It’s alright, you’re a girl, you don’t know that much about how Magic The Gathering works.” That statement was just after not recognizing a popular card, and is one of the much lighter examples of harassment when it comes to women playing or just being involved in games.

A much more extreme example of the harassment of women would be the entire #Gamergate incident from the past year, where the darker corner of harassers decided to rise and give voice to a disgusting number of death and rape threats. Even excluding those threats however it is not uncommon for women to be treated as if they are different within the context of gaming, they get babied, they get ignored, they get banned from content by other players. I once read that lots of women play male characters in games multiplayer games where the option is available in order to escape the “gamer girl label” and embrace the anonymity, which I see as pretty valid considering most experiences where I have seen a woman be revealed as a woman online have resulted in a few of the assholes becoming suddenly vocal.

What do you think, is too much of the gaming community too far gone? Or will diversity spread slowly but surely?

#UnbridledPotential

A few words and a picture can make us unusually excited.

This seemingly pointless image I saw tweeted by @whatatroy last night is an example of this. For those of you that don’t know, Marble Hornets is a horror series on YouTube loosely based on Slenderman myths told through short little video clips ranging from a less than a minute to over 20 minutes long. That series ended 2 years ago and since the guys that did that series have started a new horror series called clear lakes. Now what makes this image so interesting you ask?

Nothing. It is just Troy (one of the directors and writers) posting and un-spoilery screenshot for the next entry in their series that will come out very soon. This is cool and important as they don’t post a release schedule, sometimes we get an entry every week sometimes its a month or more in between. This single post style is pretty much the only announcement fans of their work ever receive, and its awesome.

For class we read The Art of Live-Tweeting where Long comments about how there are several types of tweets that can contribute to a conversation. Likewise there even more styles of tweets that serve an even wider variety if purposes. For example, the tweet I discuss above is a hype tweet, serving no other purpose but to give fans something they want, drop the mic, and then carry on. But tweets can hold so much more power than that. This Entrepreneur article discusses tactics to use twitter to network for a business and bring in clients or customers. BBC goes hashtag-by-hashtag to show how things in our life ranging from politics to the arts to activism have been drastically influenced by twitter. Twitter is one of the most incredibly multi-purpose services I have ever seen, which perhaps is why I have never used my twitter account particularly much.

Its mind blowing to me that I could continue to just twitter about nonsense and retweet random interesting things I find with some of my take on them, or I could expand my twitter in the future as I move on to bigger and better things. What do you think? Is twitter this incredible multi-tool with infinite potential or is it just a weird site with too many @ signs and #’s.

History written by anon?

There a lot of things that just… ARE… Like the sun or the moon there are so many things that just are what they are and they always have been and they always will be. For me a lot of things feel that way even though I can remember I time without them, like Google or what we spent our last class discussing, Wikipedia. I remember when Wikipedia was just beginning to get big and was taking so much flak from nearly any teacher I could talk to, and now its the first place I go if I want quick basic and probably mostly correct information.

That said Wikipedia is actually a giant enigma to me, I still don’t fully get why it works. I understand the how, but not the why. Looking at this BBC article brings part of the picture together for me, as it ultimately comes down to the same reason anything works at all in this weird world. Some people just… Care too much about certain things, which is this great thing that just keeps things like Wikipedia up and running despite having no incentives to do so. “The encyclopedia-writing endeavor requires a different kind of credibility than scientific inquiry,” says Andrea Forte and Amy Bruckman in a paper written for Georgia Tech’s computing college. And its true. The reason why there is an extreme range in the type of people you have editing and creating Wikipedia pages is because it takes having people who care enough to know about the bizarre topics that no one would think to look up on Wikipedia.

It has become even more obvious why the Gender Gap article is so important. Less than 15% percent of Wikipedia contributors means that some people who care way too much aren’t finding what they care about on Wikipedia, and that discourages them from contributing especially when they see all the other articles on Wikipedia that have so much more contribution. I don’t know the current stats on gender distribution on Wikipedia today, I imagine it is more even though probably not by much. I also imagine that it shares a similar growth to women in STEM fields and other formerly male dominated fields.

Wikipedia is and will be one of the defining creations of our century, when we’re all gone it will be something that is talked about in history books, and I don’t know about you, but I do wonder what they will say.

___% of all statistics…

… are made up on the spot. A common myth that is deeply rooted in the truth that we really like to make up numbers when talking about things. I don’t think hardly anyone can say that they haven’t at some point or another described themselves as being 99% sure or quoted data in an approximate percent form just to prove a point about something. What is strange about all this is that as good as we can be about seeing through bad numbers when someone is describing them (though lets be real a trusted person throwing numbers at you can be particularly tricky), we have a really hard time seeing that data is bad or somewhat wrong when they are given in official looking studies or through visuals.

“We have a natural tendency to trust images more than text.” Randy Olsen brings this important fact to the table to give good reason as to why visuals can fool us so easily, but an entire extra layer when you dig deeper into looking at how you can fool people into believing data. The British Journal of Psychology did a study where they introduced an audience that was split into two groups to a fictional disease and gave them the same data for who got better and who did not, the only difference, one group was given data that a large amount of people tried the experimental remedy and the other was told very few used the remedy. The results of the study came out showing that those who were told that the majority used the remedy believed the remedy helped, while the other group saw through the remedy quite easily.

In a more humorous example this article describes how a journalist posed as a Ph. D and got people to help him do a study to “prove” that that chocolate helps with weight loss. This example is less of an illusion as the previous, but it is similar in that people trusted newspapers and magazines published data that chocolate did indeed cause people to lose weight.

False data is unfortunately all around us, and while I think many of us have become adept at seeing though some of it ultimately the human mind seems to doom us to falling for something every now and again. Likely the only true solution to the problem is to screen published data so that it is valid and reliable, but that cannot happen as it would lead to a whole slew of other problems.

Brain train(ing)

Are we robots? Are we some weird collective consciousness that is constantly trying to identify what it means to be human? I really don’t think so, though it is entirely possible that humans being robotic in nature might not really be that totally far off from reality. As quoted by Nicholas Carr, “The brain has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.” Does this not sound robotic? Does it matter? I argue that it does not, it is just one of the wonderful parts of being human.

We can change our minds, and not only in regards to opinions but in regards to how we think about stuff. To me that is incredibly cool, it is a perfect example of human evolution through time. Where the problems really start are where they always started, which is that people are scared of change. As we have read people feared writing when it first began, and I’d reach to say people probably feared the wheel too. That is what we are currently going through as a race in regards to all this rapidly evolving and emerging technology.

An older Wall Street Journal article discuss several points that have been made for and against technology and how it affects writing and thinking, and the part that I love most about it is a short point towards the end, “Whatever the mix of good and bad, technology only advances and cannot be put back in the bottle.” I love this statement so much as it really embodies my two biggest thoughts regarding technological evolution and how it affects us. The first is that there is ultimately nothing we can do about the change as it is happening, so we might as well make the most out of it and learn and adapt and enjoy. The second is it that again, the change is here, and we need to try and adapt to it so that we can make it easier for generations to come to adapt.

Adapting to change is a fact of life, and it is something I believe we as a society could do better at bring to our young who really need this skill in order to grow up in a time where new discoveries are being made technologically nearly every day.