Sunday, November 01, 2020

Why Social Media Is So Good at Polarizing Us

Michelle Obama’s Editor Launches New Publishing House With Unorthodox Marketing Strategy

“Rather than relying chiefly on bookstores, retailers, advertising and other traditional channels to promote authors,” Molly Stern plans to have her new venture, Zando, “team up with high-profile individuals, companies and brands, who will act as publishing partners and promote books to their fans and customers.” – The New York Times

Five Nice Things

After Siobhan O’Connor wrote about a game she plays with a friend called Five Nice Things — which she called “a less-corny name for a gratitude exercise” — my friend Michael Sippey shared his five nice things. And since I need a reminder about some of the good things in my life right now, I’ll share mine with you.

 3 laws about asking questions at talks, plus 4 tips and 7 suggested types of questions — from Guy Longworth (Warwick) back in 2013. I’d add: be succinct, as it’s respectful of others

WELL, THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU KNOW:  New Stent-like Electrode Allows Humans to Operate Computers With Their Thoughts.

“There is much to celebrate about humanity… but it is salutary, sometimes, to look in the mirror and see a monster. We cannot do this without history and philosophy and literature” — Daniel Gregory (Tübingen) on the value of the humanities

“Living a Good Life,” a philosophy course at Wesleyan, featured in the New York Times — the course is team taught by Stephen Angle, Steven Horst, and Tushar Irani

What is the best philosophical science fiction in all of history? — a trio of philosophers are putting together an anthology and are soliciting suggestions

“I’ve tried to cultivate a public personality for being okay with being wrong. Hopefully not too wrong all the time.” — I visit The Stoa to discuss disagreement [includes a 4.24 min video which is free to watch] – Mathematicians are teaming up with political scientists to create models of how social media divides us, and results suggest at least one popular solution might actually make the problem worse. “Americans are more polarized than ever—at least by some measures. A growing body of research suggests that social media is accelerating the trend, and many political scientists worry it’s tearing our country apart. It isn’t clear how to solve the problem. And new research suggests that one often-proposed solution—exposing users on the platforms to more content from the other side—might actually be making things worse, because of how social media amplifies extreme opinions. With an election looming, Congressional investigations highlighting the far-reaching power of Facebook and Google over what we see and hear, and long-term trends in polarization pointing toward an ever-more-fractured America, the question of what role social-media giants play in dividing or uniting us has taken on new urgency, says Christopher Bail, a professor of sociology at Duke University who studies the impact of social media on polarization. If social media seems particularly infuriating lately, it’s possible that it’s as much about the way it shapes our perception of what’s going on as it is about the reality of the viewpoints and behavior of our fellow Americans. It’s also possible that highly partisan media—something that was common at the birth of our nation but which the U.S. had a relative respite from during the age of broadcast media—is an unavoidable consequence of America’s foundational right to free expression. Technology only magnifies this natural effect of democracy. One of the challenges of studying polarization is defining polarization…”

See also Why Social Media Makes Us More Polarized and How to Fix It – Research shows it’s the influencers, not the networks themselves, that amplify differences between us.

Bay Area Theatre Is Devastated

“This is hitting our sector in a way it’s not hitting any other sector and no one has a plan for it. We are all frantically treading water just to stay afloat… “We have unemployment that is about three times the national average. Because of how the arts work and people having to physically be together, it’s one of the sectors that will be closed the longest and have the longest road to recovery.” – San Francisco Chronicle

The New York Times – The First Amendment in the age of disinformation. “…The United States is in the middle of a catastrophic public-health crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus. But it is also in the midst of an information crisis caused by the spread of viral disinformation, defined as falsehoods aimed at achieving a political goal. (“Misinformation” refers more generally to falsehoods.) Seven months into the pandemic in America, with Trump leading the way, coronavirus skeptics continue to mock masks and incorrectly equate the virus with the flu. Throughout the campaign season, Trump and other Republicans have promoted a false narrative of widespread voter fraud, which Attorney General William Barr, as the country’s top law-enforcement official, furthered in a September interview on CNN when he said someone in Texas was indicted for filling out 1,700 ballots for other people, which never happened. As fires tore through California and the Pacific Northwest last month, the president cast doubt on the science behind global warming, and people in Oregon defied evacuation orders because of false rumors that antifa, a loose term for left-wing activists, was setting the blazes and looting empty homes. The conspiracy theories, the lies, the distortions, the overwhelming amount of information, the anger encoded in it — these all serve to create chaos and confusion and make people, even nonpartisans, exhausted, skeptical and cynical about politics. The spewing of falsehoods isn’t meant to win any battle of ideas. Its goal is to prevent the actual battle from being fought, by causing us to simply give up. And the problem isn’t just the internet. A working paper from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard released early this month found that effective disinformation campaigns are often an “elite-driven, mass-media led process” in which “social media played only a secondary and supportive role.” Trump’s election put him in the position to operate directly through Fox News and other conservative media outlets, like Rush Limbaugh’s talk-radio show, which have come to function “in effect as a party press,” the Harvard researchers found…”

Yes, You Can Learn to Speak the Language of Plants

The  New York Times – “Latin might seem like an obscure, inscrutable language for naming plants. But it can open up the botanical world in ways you can’t imagine…Not all plant names offer such easy clues about traits like appearance, preferred conditions or place of origin. It’s worth digging deeper, though, and I’m grateful to several formally trained old-school horticulturists, my first garden teachers, who used botanical Latin confidently. Now, a recent book called “The Gardener’s Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names” is nudging me to sharpen my skills. The author, Ross Bayton, earned his doctorate in plant taxonomy at the University of Reading and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in England, and is now the assistant director of the public Heronswood Garden in Kingston, Wash…”

The Italian town auctioning off abandoned homes for $1.60