robertogreco + socialscience   23

The Limits of “Grit” - The New Yorker
"For children, the situation has grown worse as we’ve slackened our efforts to fight poverty. In 1966, when Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives were a major national priority, the poverty rate among American children was eighteen per cent. Now it is twenty-two per cent. If we suffer from a grit deficiency in this country, it shows up in our unwillingness to face what is obviously true—that poverty is the real cause of failing schools.

In this context, grit appears as a new hope. As the federal programs stalled, psychologists, neuroscientists, pediatricians, education reformers, and journalists began looking at the lives of children in a different way. Their central finding: non-cognitive skills play just as great a role as talent and native intelligence (I.Q.) in the academic and social success of children, and maybe even a greater role. In brief, we are obsessed with talent, but we should also be obsessed with effort. Duckworth is both benefitting from this line of thought and expanding it herself. The finding about non-cognitive skills is being treated as a revelation, and maybe it should be; among other things, it opens possible avenues for action. Could cultivating grit and other character traits be the cure, the silver bullet that ends low performance?"



"Now, there’s something very odd about this list. There’s nothing in it about honesty or courage; nothing about integrity, kindliness, responsibility for others. The list is innocent of ethics, any notion of moral development, any mention of the behaviors by which character has traditionally been marked. Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth would seem to be preparing children for personal success only—doing well at school, getting into college, getting a job, especially a corporate job where such docility as is suggested by these approved traits (gratitude?) would be much appreciated by managers. Putting it politically, the “character” inculcated in students by Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth is perfectly suited to producing corporate drones in a capitalist economy. Putting it morally and existentially, the list is timid and empty. The creativity and wildness that were once our grace to imagine as part of human existence would be extinguished by strict adherence to these instrumentalist guidelines."



"Not just Duckworth’s research but the entire process feels tautological: we will decide what elements of “character” are essential to success, and we will inculcate these attributes in children, measuring and grading the children accordingly, and shutting down, as collateral damage, many other attributes of character and many children as well. Among other things, we will give up the sentimental notion that one of the cardinal functions of education is to bring out the individual nature of every child.

Can so narrow an ideal of character flourish in a society as abundantly and variously gifted as our own? Duckworth’s view of life is devoted exclusively to doing, at the expense of being. She seems indifferent to originality or creativity or even simple thoughtfulness. We must all gear up, for grit is a cause, an imp of force. “At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.” Through much of “Grit,” she gives the impression that quitting any activity before achieving mastery is a cop-out. (“How many of us vow to knit sweaters for all our friends but only manage half a sleeve before putting down the needles? Ditto for home vegetable gardens, compost bins, and diets.”) But what is the value of these projects? Surely some things are more worth pursuing than others. If grit mania really flowers, one can imagine a mass of grimly determined people exhausting themselves and everyone around them with obsessional devotion to semi-worthless tasks—a race of American squares, anxious, compulsive, and constrained. They can never try hard enough.

Duckworth’s single-mindedness could pose something of a danger to the literal-minded. Young people who stick to their obsessions could wind up out on a limb, without a market for their skills. Spelling ability is nice, if somewhat less useful than, say, the ability to make a mixed drink—a Negroni, a Tom Collins. But what do you do with it? Are the thirteen-year-old champion spellers going to go through life spelling out difficult words to astonished listeners? I realize, of course, that persistence in childhood may pay off years later in some unrelated activity. But I’m an owlish enough parent to insist that the champion spellers might have spent their time reading something good—or interacting with other kids. And what if a child has only moderate talent for her particular passion? Mike Egan, a former member of the United States Marine Band, wrote a letter to the Times Book Review in response to Judith Shulevitz’s review of Duckworth’s book. “Anyone who would tell a child that the only thing standing between him or her and world-class achievement is sufficient work,” Egan wrote, “ought to be jailed for child abuse.”

Duckworth not only ignores the actual market for skills and talents, she barely acknowledges that success has more than a casual relation to family income. After all, few of us can stick to a passion year after year that doesn’t pay off—not without serious support. Speaking for myself, the most important element in my social capital as an upper-middle-class New York guy was, indeed, capital—my parents carried me for a number of years as I fumbled my way to a career as a journalist and critic. Did I have grit? I suppose so, but their support made persistence possible.

After many examples of success, Duckworth announces a theory: “Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.” It’s hardly E=mc2. It’s hardly a theory at all—it’s more like a pop way of formalizing commonplace observation and single-mindedness. Compare Duckworth’s book in this respect with Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” Gladwell also traced the backgrounds of extraordinarily accomplished people—the computer geniuses Bill Gates and Bill Joy, business tycoons, top lawyers in New York, and so on. And Gladwell discovered that, yes, his world-beaters devoted years to learning and to practice: ten thousand hours, he says, is the rough amount of time it takes for talented people to become masters.

Yet, if perseverance is central to Gladwell’s outliers, it’s hardly the sole reason for their success. Family background, opportunity, culture, landing at the right place at the right time, the over-all state of the economy—all these elements, operating at once, allow some talented people to do much better than other talented people. Gladwell provides the history and context of successful lives. Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success of its human reality, and her single-minded theory may explain very little. Is there any good football team, for instance, that doesn’t believe in endless practice, endurance, overcoming pain and exhaustion? All professional football teams train hard, so grit can’t be the necessary explanation for the Seahawks’ success. Pete Carroll and his coaches must be bringing other qualities, other strategies, to the field. Observing those special qualities is where actual understanding might begin."
grit  2016  angeladuckworth  race  class  luck  perseverance  daviddenby  education  mastery  practice  kipp  character  classism  elitism  obsessions  malcolmgladwell  serendipity  mikeegan  judithshulevitz  capital  privilege  success  effort  talent  skill  achievement  history  culture  society  edreform  nep  pisa  testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  socialscience  paultough  children  schools  poverty  eq  neuroscience  jackshonkoff  martinseligman  learnedoptimism  depression  pessimism  optimism  davelevin  dominicrandolph  honesty  courage  integrity  kindliness  kindness  samuelabrams 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Birth of Thanaticism | Public Seminar
"I don’t know why we still call it capitalism. It seems to be some sort of failure or blockage of the poetic function of critical thought.

Even its adherents have no problem calling it capitalism any more. Its critics seem to be reduced to adding modifiers to it: postfordist, neoliberal, or the rather charmingly optimistic ‘late’ capitalism. A bittersweet term, that one, as capitalism seems destined to outlive us all.

I awoke from a dream with the notion that it might make more sense to call it thanatism, after Thanatos, son of Nyx (night) and Erebos(darkness), twin of Hypnos (sleep), as Homer and Hesiod seem more or less to agree.

I tried thanatism out on twitter, where Jennifer Mills wrote: “yeah, I think we have something more enthusiastically suicidal. Thanaticism?”

That seems like a handy word. Thanaticism: like a fanaticism, a gleeful, overly enthusiastic will to death. The slight echo of Thatcherism is useful also.

Thanaticism: a social order which subordinates the production of use values to the production of exchange value, to the point that the production of exchange value threatens to extinguish the conditions of existence of use value. That might do as a first approximation.

Bill McKibben has suggested that climate scientists should go on strike. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 2013 report recently. It basically says what the last one said, with a bit more evidence, more detail, and worse projections. And still nothing much seems to be happening to stop Thanaticism. Why issue another report? It is not the science, it’s the political science that’s failed. Or maybe the political economy.

In the same week, BP quietly signaled their intention to fully exploit the carbon deposits to which it owns the rights. A large part of the value of the company, after all, is the value of those rights. To not dig or suck or frack carbon out of the ground for fuel would be suicide for the company, and yet to turn it all into fuel and have that fuel burned, releasing the carbon into the air, puts the climate into a truly dangerous zone.

But that can’t stand in the way of the production of exchange value. Exchange value has to unreel its own inner logic to the end: to mass extinction. The tail that is capital is wagging the dog that is earth.

Perhaps its no accident that the privatization of space appears on the horizon as an investment opportunity at just this moment when earth is going to the dogs. The ruling class must know it is presiding over the depletion of the earth. So they are dreaming of space-hotels. They want to not be touched by this, but to still have excellent views.

It makes perfect sense that in these times agencies like the NSA are basically spying on everybody. The ruling class must know that they are the enemies now of our entire species. They are traitors to our species being. So not surprisingly they are panicky and paranoid. They imagine we’re all out to get them.

And so the state becomes an agent of generalized surveillance and armed force for the defense of property. The role of the state is no longer managing biopower. It cares less and less about the wellbeing of populations. Life is a threat to capital and has to be treated as such.

The role of the state is not to manage biopower but to manage thanopower. From whom is the maintenance of life to be withdrawn first? Which populations should fester and die off? First, those of no use as labor or consumers, and who have ceased already to be physically and mentally fit for the armed forces.

Much of these populations can no longer vote. They may shortly loose food stamps and other biopolitical support regimes. Only those willing and able to defend death to the death will have a right to live.

And that’s just in the over-developed world. Hundreds of millions now live in danger of rising seas, desertification and other metabolic rifts. Everyone knows this: those populations are henceforth to be treated as expendable.

Everybody knows things can’t go on as they are. Its obvious. Nobody likes to think about it too much. We all like our distractions. We’ll all take the click-bait. But really, everybody knows. There’s a good living to be made in the service of death, however. Any hint of an excuse for thanaticism as a way of life is heaped with Niagras of praise.

We no longer have public intellectuals; we have public idiots. Anybody with a story or a ‘game-changing’ idea can have some screen time, so long as it either deflects attention from thanaticism, or better – justifies it. Even the best of this era’s public idiots come off like used car salesmen. It is not a great age for the rhetorical arts.

It is clear that the university as we know it has to go. The sciences, social sciences and the humanities, each in their own ways, were dedicated to the struggle for knowledge. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion, no matter what one’s discipline, that the reigning order is a kind of thanatcisim.

The best traditional knowledge disciplines can do is to focus in tightly on some small, subsidiary problem, to just avoid the big picture and look at some detail. That no longer suffices. Traditional forms of knowledge production, which focus on minor or subsidiary kinds of knowledge are still too dangerous. All of them start to discover the traces of thanaticism at work.

So the university mast be destroyed. In its place, a celebration of all kinds of non-knowledge. Whole new disciplines are emerging, such as the inhumanities and the antisocial sciences. Their object is not the problem of the human or the social. Their object is thanaticism, its description and justification. We are to identify with, and celebrate, that which is inimical to life. Such an implausible and dysfunctional belief system can only succeed by abolishing its rivals.

All of which could be depressing. But depression is a subsidiary aspect of thanaticism. You are supposed to be depressed, and you are supposed to think that’s your individual failing or problem. Your bright illusory fantasy-world is ripped away from you, and the thanatic reality is bared – you are supposed to think its your fault. You have failed to believe. See a shrink. Take some drugs. Do some retail therapy.

Thanaticism also tries to incorporate those who doubt its rule with a make-over of their critique as new iterations of thatatic production. Buy a hybrid car! Do the recycling! No, do it properly! Separate that shit! Again, its reduced to personal virtue and responsibility. Its your fault that thanaticism wants to destroy the world. Its your fault as a consumer, and yet you have not choice but to consume.

“We later civilizations… know too that we are mortal,” Valery said in 1919. At that moment, after the most vicious and useless war hitherto, such a thing could appear with some clarity. But we lost that clarity. And so: a modest proposal. Let’s at least name the thing after its primary attribute.

This is the era of the rule of thanaticism: the mode of production of non-life. Wake me when its over."
capital  capitalism  porperty  well-being  2015  mckenziewark  civilization  society  consumerism  death  thanaticism  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  thanatos  jennifermills  thatcherism  billmckibben  climatechange  economics  politics  politicaleconomy  exchangevalue  privatization  space  biopower  thanopower  gamechanging  socialscience  knowledge  disciplines  non-knowledge  humanities  universities  highered  highereducation 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Queering Outer Space — Space + Anthropology — Medium
"It’s time to queer outer space.

Since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, the U.S. space agency NASA has turned over much of the work on space transportation to private corporations and the “commercial crew” program. As venture capitalist space entrepreneurs and aerospace contractors compete to profit from space exploration, we’re running up against increasingly conflicting visions for human futures in outer space. Narratives of military tactical dominance alongside “NewSpace” ventures like asteroid mining projects call for the defense, privatization, and commodification of space and other worlds, framing space as a resource-rich “frontier” to be “settled” in what amounts to a new era of colonization (Anker 2005; Redfield 2000; Valentine 2012).

However, from at least the 1970s, some space scientists have challenged this trajectory of resource extraction, neo-colonialism, and reproduction of earthly political economies with alternative visions of the future (McCray 2012). Today’s “visionary” space scientists imagine space exploration as a source of transformative solutions to earthly problems such as climate change, economic inequality, conflict, and food insecurity (Grinspoon 2003; Hadfield 2013; Sagan 1994; Shostak 2013; Tyson 2012; Vakoch 2013).

Elsewhere I’m doing research on all of this as a PhD student in anthropology, but here I want to argue that we must go even further than academically interrogating the military and corporate narratives of space “exploration” and “colonization.” We must water, fertilize,and tend the seeds of alternative visions of possible futures in space, not only seeking solutions to earthly problems which are trendy at the moment, but actively queering outer space and challenging the future to be even more queer.

I’m queering the word queer here — I want to use it to call for more people of color, more indigenous voices, more women, more LGBTQetc., more alternative voices to the dominant narratives of space programs and space exploration. I want to use queer to stand in for a kind of intersectionality that I can speak from without appropriating or speaking on behalf of others, as a queer person. So by saying queer, I’m not trying to subsume other identities and struggles into the queer ones, but calling out to them and expressing solidarity and respect for difference in joint struggle, I’m inviting you all. I also don’t want to write “intersectionalize” outer space but it’s basically what I mean. So, when I use it here queer is not marriage equality and the HRC and heteronormativity mapped onto cis, white, gay, male characters ready for a television show. It’s also not me with my own limited corner of queer, minority, and disability experience. Queer is deeply and fully queer. As Charlie, an awesome person I follow on twitter calls it: “queer as heck.”

So in this way queer is also, if you’ll permit it, a call-out to mad pride, Black power, sex workers, disability pride, Native pride, polyamory, abolitionist veganism, the elderly, imprisoned people, indigenous revolutionaries, impoverished people, anarchism, linguistic minorities, people living under occupation, and much more. It’s all those ways that we are given no choice but to move in the between spaces of social, economic, and environmental life because the highways and sidewalks are full of other people whose identity, behavior, politics, and sensitivities aren’t questioned all the time, and they won’t budge.

In a sense, it’s the old definition of queer as odd — because when they tell you that you don’t belong, you don’t fit it, you’re unusual, then you’re queer. It’s that feeling that you’re walking behind those five people walking side-by-side who won’t let you pass becuase you’re not one of them. Queer is radical, marginal, partial, torn, assembled, defiant, emergent selves — queer is also non-human — from stones and mountains to plants and ‘invasive’ species. I know, you’re thinking: then what isn’t queer? But, if you’re asking that — the answer might be you.

***

I. Queer Lives in Orbit…

II. De-colonizing Mars and Beyond…

III. Extraterrestrial Allies

IV. Generations of Queer Futures"
michaeloman-reagan  2015  socialscience  space  outerspace  anthropology  colonization  race  gender  sexuality  multispecies  sciencefiction  scifi  science  spaceexploration  decolonization  donnaharaway  chrishadfield  davidgrinspoon  carlsagan  sethshostak  peterredfield  nasa  colinmilburn  patrickmccray  walidahimarisha  adriennemareebrown  frederikceyssens  maartendriesen  kristofwouters  marleenbarr  pederanker  100yss  racism  sexism  xenophobia  naisargidave  queerness  queer  DNLee  lisamesseri  elonmusk  mars  occupy  sensitivity  inclusinvity  inclusion  identity  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Learning From @NateSilver538's OMG-Wrong #Bra vs #Ger Prediction — The Message — Medium
"Problem One: Ignoring Measurement Error in Your Data



All measurements are partial, incorrect reflections. We are always in Plato’s Cave. Everything is a partial shadow. There is no perfect data, big or otherwise. All researchers should repeat this to themselves, and even more importantly, to the general public to avoid giving the impression that some kinds of data have special magic sauce that make them error-free. Nope."



"In other words, this time, the hedgehogs knew something the fox didn’t. But this fox is often too committed to methodological singularity and fighting pundits, sometimes for the sake of fighting them, so it often doesn’t like to listen to non-statistical data. In reality, methodological triangulation is almost always stronger, though harder to pull-offs.

The Fix? Find Experts You Trust and/or do Qualitative Pull-Outs.
Instead of the aggressive pundit-versus-data stance taken by some big data proponents, it’s important to recognize that substantive area experts are often pretty good at recognizing measurement errors."



"If the substantive experts are deemed unreliable, another option is “qualitative pull-outs” of your data to check for measurement error."



"Problem Two: Ignoring Field (or Broad) Effects

Many data analytic efforts look only at the network (or the team at hand) without considering how events affect the whole field."



"Since humans have this thing called psychology, it’s not easy to run data analysis by replacing one human with another as it were Lego pieces and looking at the resulting structure. It rarely works that way. In fact, the original analysis of FiveThirtyEight mention this factor, but their predictive score seems completely unaffected by this reality."



"The Fix? Recognize Frailties in Studying Human Endeavors
This one is hard because this is a structural feature of most human endeavors—and one that disciplined efforts like militaries and organized sports try to minimize through extensive training and drilling so people do act like cogs in a machine, even under pressure. Still, though, it’s hard to fully account for."



"Problem Three: Humans Are Not Gases in a Chamber, but reflexive beings who react to events.

A problem with much statistical analysis is ignoring the fact that humans, umm, react to things around them. (Social science jargon for this is reflexivity). I know this seems so simple, but it’s amazing how much predictive analytics don’t factor this in.



The Fix? Recognize that Stability and Instability are not that far apart for structural reasons
This, too, comes under “hard to predict exact timing but not hard to substantively discuss possibility” category. It means recognizing that models that are snapshots in time are just that—and that events themselves carry force in feedback loops."
zeyneptufekci  data  statistics  fox  hedgehog  worldcup  behavior  psychology  socialscience  measurement  2014  qualitativedata  quantification 
july 2014 by robertogreco
What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun? | David Graeber | The Baffler
"Generally speaking, an analysis of animal behavior is not considered scientific unless the animal is assumed, at least tacitly, to be operating according to the same means/end calculations that one would apply to economic transactions. Under this assumption, an expenditure of energy must be directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food, securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive success—unless one can absolutely prove that it isn’t, and absolute proof in such matters is, as one might imagine, very hard to come by.

I must emphasize here that it doesn’t really matter what sort of theory of animal motivation a scientist might entertain: what she believes an animal to be thinking, whether she thinks an animal can be said to be “thinking” anything at all. I’m not saying that ethologists actually believe that animals are simply rational calculating machines. I’m simply saying that ethologists have boxed themselves into a world where to be scientific means to offer an explanation of behavior in rational terms—which in turn means describing an animal as if it were a calculating economic actor trying to maximize some sort of self-interest—whatever their theory of animal psychology, or motivation, might be.

That’s why the existence of animal play is considered something of an intellectual scandal. It’s understudied, and those who do study it are seen as mildly eccentric. As with many vaguely threatening, speculative notions, difficult-to-satisfy criteria are introduced for proving animal play exists, and even when it is acknowledged, the research more often than not cannibalizes its own insights by trying to demonstrate that play must have some long-term survival or reproductive function.":



"Years ago, when I taught at Yale, I would sometimes assign a reading containing a famous Taoist story. I offered an automatic “A” to any student who could tell me why the last line made sense. (None ever succeeded.)
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling on a bridge over the River Hao, when the former observed, “See how the minnows dart between the rocks! Such is the happiness of fishes.”

“You not being a fish,” said Huizi, “how can you possibly know what makes fish happy?”

“And you not being I,” said Zhuangzi, “how can you know that I don’t know what makes fish happy?”

“If I, not being you, cannot know what you know,” replied Huizi, “does it not follow from that very fact that you, not being a fish, cannot know what makes fish happy?”

“Let us go back,” said Zhuangzi, “to your original question. You asked me how I knew what makes fish happy. The very fact you asked shows that you knew I knew—as I did know, from my own feelings on this bridge.”

The anecdote is usually taken as a confrontation between two irreconcilable approaches to the world: the logician versus the mystic. But if that’s true, then why did Zhuangzi, who wrote it down, show himself to be defeated by his logician friend?

After thinking about the story for years, it struck me that this was the entire point. By all accounts, Zhuangzi and Huizi were the best of friends. They liked to spend hours arguing like this. Surely, that was what Zhuangzi was really getting at. We can each understand what the other is feeling because, arguing about the fish, we are doing exactly what the fish are doing: having fun, doing something we do well for the sheer pleasure of doing it. Engaging in a form of play. The very fact that you felt compelled to try to beat me in an argument, and were so happy to be able to do so, shows that the premise you were arguing must be false. Since if even philosophers are motivated primarily by such pleasures, by the exercise of their highest powers simply for the sake of doing so, then surely this is a principle that exists on every level of nature—which is why I could spontaneously identify it, too, in fish.

Zhuangzi was right. So was June Thunderstorm. Our minds are just a part of nature. We can understand the happiness of fishes—or ants, or inchworms—because what drives us to think and argue about such matters is, ultimately, exactly the same thing.

Now wasn’t that fun?"

[See also: http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1194 via @bobbyjgeorge ]
davidgraeber  fun  play  evolution  culture  psychology  economics  socialscience  2014  history  philosophy  living  life  freedom  homoludens  animals  behavior  multispecies 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Bursting the Neuro-Utopian Bubble - NYTimes.com
"Pyschosocial problems cannot simply be solved in the neuroscientist’s lab."



"Psychology has traditionally concerned itself with the ways in which we engage with the world and grow into social beings with the hope of improving our personal relationships and communal well-being. Neuroscience could complement this project by offering better information about the material substrate of consciousness, but it is rather, and often self-consciously, a usurper, a harbinger of a new psychological paradigm that replaces the socially formed self with the active brain. It neglects the forms of private and public conversation that hold out the possibility of self-transformation for instrumental dissections of the brain that promise only self-manipulation. Its future is not one that is worked toward in concert with other human beings, but one that is physiologically shaped by a vanguard of synthetic biologists."



"This is not to question the intentions of neuroscientists. Doubtless they are driven, at least in part, by a desire to better human life. But as Freud argued back in 1930, the forces of civilization have a strange tendency to work at cross-purposes with themselves, imperiling the very projects they also make possible. By humbly claiming ignorance about the “causes” of mental problems, and thus the need for a project like the Brain Initiative, neuroscientists unconsciously repress all that we know about the alienating, unequal, and dissatisfying world in which we live and the harmful effects it has on the psyche, thus unwittingly foreclosing the kind of communicative work that could alleviate mental disorder.

Like many others, I worry that the work of neuroscience will fall, almost of necessity, into the wrong hands – say, corporations interested in controlling consumers at a neurobiological level; but its development in the “right” hands is, perhaps, even more disconcerting."
via:ablerism  neuroscience  psychology  benjaminfong  science  socialscience  2013 
august 2013 by robertogreco
The Danger of Big Data: Social Media as Computational Social Science
"This paper begins with a consideration of the nature and risks of computational social science, followed by a focus on social media platforms as social science tools. We then discuss the aggregation of data and the expansion of computational social science along both horizontal and vertical axes. We consider the problems aggregation has raised in past social science research, as well as the potential problems raised by the use of social media as computational social science by business customers, government, platform providers and platform users; this discussion includes consideration of consumer protection, ethical codes, and civil liberty impacts. We end by highlighting the richness of social media data for computational social science research and the need to ensure this data is used ethically and the public is protected from abuse. The danger today is that computational social science is being used opaquely and near ubiquitously, without recognition or regard for the past debate on ethical social science experimentation."
digitalhumanities  bloggable  via:ayjay  bigdata  socialscience 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Controversy over the Christakis-Fowler findings on the contagion of obesity — The Monkey Cage
"To return to Christakis and Fowler: I’d be interested to see their reply to the criticisms of Lyons and others. Perhaps they’ll simply step back a few paces and say that the Framingham data are sparse, that they’ve found some interesting patterns that they hope will inspire further study in other contexts.

After all, even if the Framingham results were unambiguously statistically significant, robust to reasonable models of measurement error, and had a clean identification strategy—even then, it’s just one group of people. In that sense, the debate about Christakis and Fowler’s particular claims, interesting and (methodologically) important as it is, is only part of a larger story of personal networks, health, and behavior. I hope that Lyons’s article and any responses by Christakis, Fowler, and others will be helpful in designing and analyzing future studies and in piecing together the big picture."
2011  nicholaschristakis  jamesfowler  statistics  socialscience  research  data  controversy  obesity  math  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
Social contagions debunked: Reports of infectious obesity and divorce were grossly overstated. - By Dave Johns - Slate Magazine
"But just because contagion is important in one context doesn't mean something like obesity spreads like a virus—much less one that can infect someone as remote from you as your son's best friend's mother. (For the record, I & my best friend's mother will eat our hats if it turns out to be true, as Christakis & Fowler claim, that loneliness is infectious, too.) Yes, we influence each other all the time, in how we talk & how we dress & what kinds of screwball videos we watch on the Internet. But careful studies of our social networks reveal what may be a more powerful & pervasive effect: We tend to form ties w/ the people who are most like us to begin with. The mother who blames her son's boozebag friends for his wild behavior must face up to the fact that he prefers the fast crowd in the first place. We are all connected, yes, but the way those links get made could be the most important part of the story."

[via: http://mindhacks.com/2011/07/05/doubts-about-social-contagion/ ]
[Previously: http://www.slate.com/id/2250102/pagenum/all/ ]

[Update: There are some dead links, but one of the articles is here: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2011/07/disconnected.single.html ]
contagion  socialcontagion  jamesfowler  nicholaschristakis  rosemcdermott  statistics  mathematics  research  publishing  socialscience  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  evidence  sciencejournalism  journalism  politics  policy  science  peerreview  media  2011  obesity  behavior  divorce  davejohns  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (9780972819640): David Graeber: Books
"Everywhere anarchism is on the upswing as a political philosophy—everywhere, that is, except the academy. Anarchists repeatedly appeal to anthropologists for ideas about how society might be reorganized on a more egalitarian, less alienating basis. Anthropologists, terrified of being accused of romanticism, respond with silence . . . . But what if they didn't?

This pamphlet ponders what that response would be, and explores the implications of linking anthropology to anarchism. Here, David Graeber invites readers to imagine this discipline that currently only exists in the realm of possibility: anarchist anthropology."
anarchism  anthropology  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  favidgraeber  socialscience  egalitarianism  philosophy  books  toread  via:anterobot  activism  politics  situationist  jamesfrazer  pierreclastres  socialorganization  organization  potlatch  indigenous  voluntaryassociation  cooperation  autonomism  exodus  power  counterpower  ethnogenesis  communities  ethnography  radicalism  anarchistanthropology  criticaltheory  from delicious
june 2011 by robertogreco
Op-Ed Columnist - The Young and the Neuro - NYTimes.com
"baby steps in long conversation...work could give us a clearer picture of...fuzzy words like ‘culture.’...fill hole in understanding of ourselves. Economists, political scientists & policy makers treat humans as ultrarational creatures because they can’t define & systematize emotions...demonstrates that we are awash in social signals & any social science that treats individuals as discrete decision-making creatures is nonsense...even though most of our reactions are fast & automatic, we still have free will & control...consciousness is too slow to see what happens inside...possible to change lenses through which we unconsciously construe world...work will someday give us new categories [to] replace misleading ‘emotion’ & ‘reason.’...take us beyond obsession with IQ...give us firmer understanding of motivation, equilibrium, sensitivity...sciences are interpenetrating social sciences...shines attention on things poets have traditionally cared about: power of human attachments."
technology  neuroscience  society  culture  science  psychology  socialscience  behavior  policy  davidbrooks  attitudes  iq  brain  research  cognitive  emotions  social 
october 2009 by robertogreco
Memex 1.1 » Blog Archive » The dismal (and dangerous) science
"The truth of the matter is that large chunks of the analytical apparatus of modern economics has been shown to be a house of theoretical cards. But given the profession’s huge investment in said cardboard structures, it’s probably incapable of admitting its colossal mistake. Time for a Kuhnian revolution?"
via:preoccupations  economics  science  socialscience  crisis  2009  banking  finance 
august 2009 by robertogreco
Digital Ethnography » Toward a New Future of “Whatever”
"Here is the video from my recent talk at the Personal Democracy Forum at Jazz at Lincoln Center. About 10 minutes of it is a minor update (rehash) of An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube, but the rest is new."

[Now at: http://mediatedcultures.net/presentations/toward-a-new-future-of-whatever/ ]
michaelwesch  technology  youtube  ethnography  anthropology  socialscience  teaching  learning  tcsnmy  social  culture  internet  change 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Wolf Lepenies: Banished to the banlieues - signandsight
"Paris' social sciences institutes have been ordered to move to the suburbs. To experience first-hand what they otherwise only talk about."
france  academia  socialscience  research  suburbs  place  experience  setting  studies  anthropology  society  sociology  via:cityofsound 
january 2008 by robertogreco
Cyberbullying Suicide Stokes the Internet Fury Machine
"Cyberbullying case leads to a teen girl's suicide, and an internet mob forms to take justice into its own hands. Experts say it's just the latest example of a social imperative running amok online."
activism  cyberbullying  vigilantism  mob  socialscience  socialnetworking  myspace  cyberspace  behavior  human  groups  internet  online  web  justice  society 
november 2007 by robertogreco
"If I look at the mass I will never act'': Psychic numbing and genocide
"Most people are caring and will exert great effort to rescue individual victims whose needy plight comes to their attention. These same good people, however, often become numbly indifferent to the plight of individuals who are "one of many" in a much gre
culture  psychology  genocide  darfur  socialscience  human  compassion  ngo  research 
september 2007 by robertogreco
Civic Literacy Report - Civics Quiz
"Test your knowledge by answering the sixty multiple-choice questions below. You must answer all questions. When you are finished, use the button at the bottom to submit your quiz for scoring."
government  history  socialscience  politics  quiz  civics  us  tcsnmy  culture  education  economics  literacy  citizenship  americanhistory 
september 2007 by robertogreco
Inside IT: Forecasting human behaviour carries big risks | Technology | Guardian Unlimited Technology
"Predictive models [while appearing] scientific/rigorous yet simple approach to targeting resources and making decisions about complex human problems...are [according to study] insufficiently accurate to make important decisions about individuals."
forecasting  individual  psychology  simulations  statistics  predictions  socialscience  behavior 
july 2007 by robertogreco
Swarm Behavior - National Geographic Magazine
"A single ant or bee isn't smart, but their colonies are. The study of swarm intelligence is providing insights that can help humans manage complex systems, from truck routing to military robots."
ai  animals  bees  behavior  biology  bugs  business  chaos  cognition  collaboration  collective  collectivism  crowds  insects  intelligence  leadership  math  nanotechnology  nature  networks  psychology  politics  research  science  socialscience  sociology  stevenjohnson  technology  systems  structure  swarms 
july 2007 by robertogreco
thinking about things: Why social science?
"...a pretty good test of whether a person is a social scientist or not: do they eavesdrop on a fairly regular basis on other people’s conversations...? If they don’t, I suspect that they really want to be a philosopher or an architect – or both."
socialscience  research  design  architecture  philosophy  technology  society  anthropology  sociology  psychology 
march 2007 by robertogreco

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