Monday, February 04, 2019

Choosing the Right Words Matters

Books feed and cure and chortle and collide,”Gwendolyn Brooks wrote in her 1969 ode to why we read. For Kafka, a book was “the axe for the frozen sea inside us”; for Galileo, nothing less than a source of superhuman powers“Without the writing of books, there is no history, there is no concept of humanity,” Hermann Hesse wrote in his visionary 1930 meditation on “the magic of the book” and why we will always remain under its generous spell, no matter how the technologies of reading may change. 

We read to remember. We read to forget. We read to make ourselves and remake ourselves and save ourselves. “I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life,” Mary Oliver wrote in looking back on how books saved her. Most of all, we read to become selves. The wondrous gift of reading is that books can become both the life-raft to keep us from drowning and the very water that sculpts the riverbed of our lives, bending it this direction or that, traversing great distances and tessellated territories of being, chiseling through even the hardest rock

Jane Goodall’s Lovely Letter to Children About How Reading Shaped Her Life

Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies (Second Edition)

Administrative Conference of the United States: “…The purpose of this volume is to make government work better, which is the overall mission of the Conference. For agency general counsels, congressional staff, executive officials, and members of the judiciary, this is the place to broaden understanding of how agencies are organized. For those involved in reorganization and reform of administrative agencies, it will be a treasure trove of sources and ideas. It does not answer all questions, of course, but it answers many, including some that readers may not even have been asking. It is the latter kind of answers that often lead reformers to innovative and creative solutions, to “imagine another reality” in Thomas Mann’s words…”
Choosing Right Words: Knowledge@Wharton: “People use words to communicate what they think, feel and believe. But for social psychologists, words can do far more than convey one’s thoughts and emotions. The right combination of words can boost persuasiveness; it can forecast which ads will prompt people to share them and thus go viral. Exposure to the right kinds of words also can spur behavioral changes; word choices can encourage readers to keep perusing long-form content. Words can even predict how well a business could do. At the second annual Behavioral Insights from Text Conference held recently at Wharton, academics from various disciplines came together to share their research on text analysis using natural language processing and related tools. Several of the studies shared a common trait: persuasiveness. Whether it is prompting someone to adopt a pet, click on an online dating profile, share content on social media or keep reading a long blog, choosing the right words can make one more persuasive.

There are two routes people take to persuade, according to David Markowitz, assistant professor of social media data analytics at the University of Oregon. One is the “central route” where people communicate the main purpose of their appeal. This goes to the heart of the message. For example, when a bank customer applies for a home equity loan, he or she can convey to the lender that the funds will be used for a kitchen remodeling. Here, more information is better. “The more words you actually provide in your piece of text, the more likely that persuasion is going to occur,” Markowitz said. The writing style also has an important impact on persuasion. Text that is written more concretely is more persuasive, he added – that is, using words that can be observed by the senses, such as things, places and people, compared to abstract terms such as justice or peace.

The second route of persuasion is “peripheral.” Words that exist on the sidelines of the central message — such as social references like ‘best friend’ or adding descriptions including color or shape — are peripheral, Markowitz said. Such words are added to the main message usually in the belief that it would boost persuasiveness. Instead, his research showed that it could backfire. “These can actually undermine persuasion,” Markowitz said…”

SPIRING NOVELIST LEARNS TO LOVE BIG BROTHER: SJW mob shames debut Young Adult novelist Amelie Zhao into withdrawing her novel, surrendering her dream.

The book, which had positive buzz (Barnes & Noble called it one of the most anticipate YA releases of the year), has been the subject of a massive Social Justice Warrior pile-on on social media, as Jesse Singal discussed in a tweetstorm. Very few people have even read the novel, but the mob attacked it as racist for a variety of reasons, one of them being that Zhao created a fantasy world where “oppression is blind to skin color” (this, from the press release). It’s a fantasy world, and people haven’t even read the book, but the mob was certain that Blood Heir is racist, and that its author — a young woman raised in Beijing, but now living in New York City — ought to be shut down.
Today, they got their wish.

Read the whole thing. In the 50th anniversary edition of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury wrote,  “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.”