Category: culture

Does anyone want to hear a story???:

What is truth is an oft asked question, especially online. This is a cool article digging into the plethora of made up stuff on Twitter, you should check it out 🙂

In his 1999 statement of principles known as the “Minnesota Declaration,” Werner Herzog gave an explanation of his theory of “ecstatic truth”. Cinema Verité, Herzog tells us, deals only with “superficial truth, the truth of accountants.” “One well-known representative of Cinema Verité declared publicly that truth can be easily found by taking a camera and trying to be honest. He resembles the night watchman at the Supreme Court who resents the amount of written law and legal procedures. ‘For me,’ he says, ‘there should be only one single law: the bad guys should go to jail.’”

In this, Herzog says, such realism “confounds facts and truth”: “Facts create norms, and truth illumination.” But luckily, against the realists, “There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.” In his work (most notably, his documentaries), Herzog seeks this “ecstatic truth”: to reflect reality not how it is on the surface, but how it is on a deep level, beyond the façade of what we merely perceive.

Of course this is difficult, and can go wrong — it can stray into a sort of dishonesty that it is impossible to even contest by means of verification. But when it works, it can tell us something we are unable to reach by means of engagement with surface reality alone — the essential truth, for instance, of engaging with British politics being like a posh teenager disinterestedly daring you to drink a big bucket of vomit and piss.

“Life in the oceans must be sheer hell,” Herzog concludes. “A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species — including man — crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.”

This what bothers me about those fake viral Twitter stories. They lack anything like ecstatic truth; they don’t reflect or reveal any reality deeper than what they describe. In this, they have only facts — and of course, as it turns out, they don’t even have that. If the stories had never posed as true, they would not have gone viral in the slightest. Like A Million Little Pieces or the hoax misery memoirs of JT Leroy, these stories need — regardless of any other formal accomplishments — to pose as true in order to make an impact on their audience. (Once you realize it’s not true, the Morris thread is literally just a guy saying: “Oh, and then this happened! And then hero (who I’ve made up) outwitted the drug dealers — wow! And he got away with it! Juh? How cool!”). Likewise, the Didn’t Happen lads seem determined to reduce all truth to mere facts, completely blind to the possibility that there could be more to the world than that — they don’t care about ecstatic truth at all.

The internet is causing more and more fake things to leak into our consciousness every day. But this is only really a problem if the fakes don’t contribute anything to our understanding of the world. We need to stop asking: is this true? We must instead ask: supposing this is true… what is its truth worth?

Digital Human: Series 17, Ep 4 – Cameo

‘I’m Really Good At Internet Stalking…’:

Nosing in on what people are up to isn’t new. The only thing that has changed is that our subjects used to be acquaintances from school, clubs, and down the road. Then, face-to-face conversation was within the realm of possibility even if fear got in the way. But keeping up-to-date with people you’ve never met from continents you’ve never visited isn’t weird to us. I’ve repeatedly found myself so entwined in the lives of unremarkable strangers that I feel the need to see how they’re doing (because actually following their account would be going ‘too far’).

Weird? Maybe a little, but the old saying that it’s not what you know but whom you know has taken on new meaning. Because lurking has become a part of our daily life, it’s not unacceptable to use it to benefit you. Creeping is currency.

Digital Human: Series 17, Ep 3 – Obsession

How Social Media Feeds Mimic OCD’s Intrusive Thoughts:

As a child of the digital age and a person with pure obsessional obsessive-compulsive disorder (“Pure O” OCD), I have observed abundant overlap between these two identities. Social media feeds are dictated by algorithms. Take Instagram, for example: a search tab so generously populates your feed with images and videos that might be of interest to you based on your behavior online. This is exactly how intrusive thoughts work. I have a thought that is ego dystonic, scares me and sets me off down the rabbit hole of mental compulsions in a futile attempt to disprove that thought. By seeking to avoid said intrusive thoughts, you guessed it, we affirm them. “What we resist, persists,” a counselor once told me. And what would have been diluted by simple acceptance is amplified by the friction our brains set into motion.

The same thing happens on Facebook and Instagram. I compare my relationship to the ever-repetitive rhetoric of #CoupleGoals, tapping and reading, tapping and linking to yet another related piece of content. My Search tab is then inundated with images of perfectly tanned, toned couples. The same goes for body image, professional success, activism, pie making abilities — you name it. Their (insert insecurity) must be more valid than mine, as they receive more engagement. It seems as if they are more worthy. I too portray aspirational parts of my life and work, but I am troubled by the unrealistic expectation perpetuated.  When I fixate on perfection, then my need for it continues. The sense of urgency remains because I keep sounding the alarm and affirming that it is important. Conundrums scream, “pay attention to me,” and although it negatively impacts my life, I pay attention.

Digital Human: Series 17, Ep 3 – Obsession

Radiotopia- Ways of Hearing:


We loved having Damon Krukowski on today’s show, but we only managed to touch on some of his research into how the shift to the digital world has shifted our perception of the world. 

Thankfully, Damon’s Radiotopia podcast and book ‘Ways of Hearing’ where you can go on a proper deep dive. I love episode 5 in particular, it’s about ow    digital corporations have created a musical universe that adapts to you no matter where you go in the world –  but go on and binge the whole thing, with headphones, you know you want to.

Digital Human, Series 17, Ep 2: The Analogue Human

Haptics and Emotions | Can feelings be stimulated by touch? – Ultrahaptics:

Can feelings be stimulated through mid-air touch? And more importantly, can technology convey these feelings from one person to another over distance? As if out of a science-fiction novel, answers to these questions around haptics and emotions were recently provided by Dr Obrist’s group at the University of Sussex, in collaboration with Bristol University and Ultrahaptics.

A technology that can mediate emotions in this way has a variety of application opportunities, Obrist said, including opening up new ways of communication for deaf and blind people.

“A similar technology could be used between parent and baby, or to enrich audio-visual communication in long-distance relationships.”

“It could [be applied] either for one-to-one interactions, such as a discrete tactile system between a couple or friends using, for instance, wearable technology, or it could be used for one-to-many interactions, where we can create tactile sensations for many such as in a cinema to create more immersive viewing experiences,” she said.

“All that we now know is that there is a non-arbitrary emotional mapping for mid-air haptic stimulation but we still need to further validate this mapping” Subramanian, co-author, said.

Digital Human: Series 17, Episode 1 – Numb

Let’s Recognise The Huge Decline In Teenage Pregnancy, And Try To Understand What’s Driven It:

But there are also lessons for us within our research, which strongly suggests that while we may worry about social media encouraging certain sexual behaviours, the picture is much more complex than we perhaps imagine, and indeed the amount of time spent on social media as opposed to face-to-face interaction is itself a factor in the fall in teenage pregnancy.

We also need to understand issues from the perspectives of teenagers themselves.

Take sexting for example – widely held to be negative and problematic.  Without a doubt, it can be – and 40% of those we surveyed felt it could damage young people’s wellbeing or relationships. However 44% also felt it could be part of a healthy sex life – and interestingly, some saw it a substitute and not just a precursor to sex itself. As such it is of course, unlikely to result in a pregnancy.

“It’s a good way of interacting with your partner without having sex,” said one young woman from our focus group.

“I think sexting doesn’t lead to sex as often as you’d think. People see it as something different, more of a gift than a  mutual experience,” added a young man.

Digital Human: Series 17, Episode 1 – Numb

How To Design Emotional Interfaces For Boring Apps — Smashing Magazine:

There’s a trickling line of ones and zeros that disappears behind a large yellow tube. A bear pops out of the tube as a clawed paw starts pointing at my browser’s toolbar, and a headline appears, saying: “Start your bear-owsing!”

Between my awwing and oohing I forget what I wanted to browse.

Products like a VPN service rarely evoke endearment — or any other emotion, for that matter. It’s not their job, not what they were built to do. But because TunnelBear does, I choose it over any other VPN and recommend it to my friends, so they can have some laughs while caught up in routine.

Digital Human: Series 17, Episode 1 – Numb

The End of Empathy?:

Recently Fox News covered our study on declining empathy in American college students with this alarming title: “The End of Empathy.”

Is this true? Are we now living in a society entirely devoid of the basic glue of human connection and interaction?

In order to form an educated opinion, you’ll need some background about the study. To summarize briefly, we collected empathy scores from 72 academic sources from 1979 to 2009. In all of these sources, empathy was measured using a standard scale called the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index. People who score high on this “empathy test” give freely of their time and money and frequently help others in need. You can try the test and see how you score compared to the 13,737 students in our sample by clicking here. We ran a statistical analysis to see whether there were changes over time in empathy and found that there had been overall declines, especially since the year 2000.

I never imagined that we would end up being able to share good newsabout empathy when we presented our research at the Association for Psychological Science Annual Convention in May.

The good news is that empathy is not “destroyed” or “under siege,” as the author of the Fox News post suggests. Instead, empathy may be sick. Not “you have 6 months to live” sick, more like “you need to spend a few days in bed” sick. In other words, although there has been a decline in empathy, there are a few key things to consider about the data before declaring a state of emergency on the moral health of the nation.

Why this is not a total crisis:

1. Empathy is measured on a 1 to 5 scale, with higher numbers meaning that people are high in empathy. The good news is that despite the declines in empathy, the average empathy score in 2009 is still just above the midpoint of the scale (i.e. just above 3). So, there is no need to plan empathy’s funeral quite yet.

2. On that note, there are a wide variety of empathy scores represented within the college student annual average. About half of these scores are higher than the average, and about half of them are lower than the average. In order words, just because empathy is declining on average, does not mean that each individual is low in empathy. To accuse an entire generation of low empathy is not very kind, nor is it accurate.

3. American college students are not the most prototypical Americans. They are richer, whiter, more female, and in our sample at least, about 20 years old on average. So as long as you can avoid college towns, you should be fine. And until future research proves otherwise, I wouldn’t suggest joining the empathy militia.

4. Violent criminal acts such as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault have all shown steady, marked decreases from the early 1990s to the late 2000s. This is the opposite of what we would expect if empathy was ‘under siege.’

Why I am still concerned:

1. This is not the first study to find trends related to declining empathy in American college students. In my dissertation work we also found increases in the personality trait narcissism over time. The fact that there has been other research with similar trends is notable.

2. It’s true that the average empathy score still hovers above the midpoint of the scale, but empathy is still declining substantially, and at a faster rate in more recent years. If recent trends continue, this could eventually translate into broader societal problems. I’m most concerned that current declines in empathy could lead to negative reciprocal spirals as people feed off of each other’s low empathy.

3. Right now our evidence is limited to American college students, but future work will look at broader trends in narcissism and empathy in American society at large. We’re also interested in cross-cultural changes. Stay tuned…

4. Although violent crime in general has declined, certain types of violent crimes have actually risen over time: i) acts of violence against the homeless have shown dramatic increases, especially over the past ten years, and were recently estimated to be at an all time high; ii) hate crimes against Hispanics and perceived immigrants, as well as against lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender individuals are all significantly increasing; and iii) hit-and-run car accidents have increased by about 20% since 1998. Each of these specific types of crime target stigmatized, marginalized, or otherwise defenseless groups.

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What do you think?

Is the decline in empathy we recently found something to worry about it? Have you noticed this in your life? Why do think empathy has declined in the past 30 years?

Digital Human: Series 17, Episode 1 – Numb

An evening with the author of Mirror Touch: Notes from a Doctor Who Can Feel Your Pain

Digital Human: Series 17, Episode 1 – Numb

‘Phubbing’ can threaten our basic human needs – University of Kent:

Ignoring someone you’re with in a social setting to concentrate on your mobile phone – called ‘phubbing’ – can have a negative effect on relationships by threatening our basic human need to belong.

Digital Human: Series 17, Episode 1 – Numb