Category: social media

A shed the size of a town: what Britain’s gian…

A shed the size of a town: what Britain’s giant distribution centres tell us about modern life:

Simple as they may look, distribution centres are sophisticated structures. The machinery that moves stuff around is constantly evolving. Their playing field-sized floors have to be exceptionally level, as small unevenness could cause the high fork-lift trucks they use to lean unacceptably at the top. Years of competition have made their structure as spare and economical as can be. Architects such as Chetwoods have to reconcile all this with the wishes of users (who might want something tailored to their needs) and of investors, who will want a structure to be adaptable to future users.It is tempting to say that these buildings make the internet visible, except that their visibility is strictly limited. Sometimes they get into the news when reporters, posing as warehouse workers, bring news of working conditions inside. You can get a glimmer on Google, for example from employee reviews of Primark’s warehouse, which sits like an acropolis on a raised earthwork in Northamptonshire: “they’re treating a people like nothing,” says one in imperfect English; “they beautiful lied on induction how much they cares about worker, don’t believe them.” The buildings, however, remain notably blank, giving almost no clue of their busy inner lives.

Some users and owners are dismissive of press inquiries to a degree unusual in big, public relations-conscious companies. Tesco refused a request to see inside their Dirft base, which was possibly not surprising, but also to answer simple questions, such as: what are its dimensions?

For the writer Carolyn Steel, whose book Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Livesexamines the relationship of society to food, this secrecy is the antithesis of the more public processes by which food once progressed from field to market to kitchen to plate. “The exchange of food used to bring people together,” she says. “Now the process is designed to exclude the human”. But distribution centres manifest the world we have chosen and had chosen for us, in return for efficiency and convenience, in which a product appears in the home by ever more inscrutable magic.

Their scale and growth are a consequence of the fact that all that physicality and volume that the virtual world displaces has to go somewhere. It’s welcome that architects and developers should try to make something of them and to mitigate their impact with woods, ponds and indeed coloured bands. But, short of a dramatic restructuring of the economic, technical and social basis of the modern world, these uncompromising building types will only become more essential to our lives. The contrast between what was previously thought of as natural and urban landscape will only become more stark.

Digital Human: Series 10, Episode 1 – Sublime

The Delphic Oracle, In Our Time – BBC Radio 4

The Delphic Oracle, In Our Time – BBC Radio 4:

Not a lunchtime lecture, but a very cool listen. Dive deep into the history of the Delphic Oracle.

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle

New Voices: Imagining our future…and changin…

New Voices: Imagining our future…and changing it | The Psychologist:


So you might think that as a rational human being you are able to make sharp predictions about your future. If your answer was in the affirmative I’m afraid you would be wrong. According to American psychologist Daniel Gilbert, ‘The future is fundamentally different than it appears through the prospectiscope’ – the prospectiscope being the skewed ways we perceive our future (see Gilbert, 2005, for a range of illuminating prospection distortions). As humans, we continuously trip ourselves up with erroneous predictions, at least in the sense that your present self has real problems predicting how your future self will feel.

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle

Ancient prophecy: oracles and the gods

Ancient prophecy: oracles and the gods:

An oracle was a gateway to knowing the will of the gods, a cosmic information super highway for understanding what lay ahead. The most famous oracle was the priestess of the temple of Apollo at the sanctuary of Delphi.

So important was this sanctuary and its oracle that Delphi even became known as the omphalos – the belly button – of the ancient Greek world. Individuals, cities and kings would come from across the ancient world to put their questions about their future plans to the Delphic oracle and wait to receive a response about what the gods thought of them.

Delphi became so busy that long queues would form on the certain days of the month on which the priestess could be consulted and, in later times, several oracular priestesses would operate at once. But consultants had to be careful how they interpreted the, often unclear, answers of the oracle.

King Croesus of Lydia (modern-day south-western Turkey) asked the oracle whether or not he should go to war on his neighbouring kingdom. The oracle replied that if he went to war, a great kingdom would fall. Croesus interpreted this as being his enemy’s… it turned out to be his own.

But Delphi was not the only site of oracular consultation in ancient Greece. In north western Greece was the oracular site of Dodona, where consultants wrote their questions on small lead tablets, which still survive today. In the deserts of Egypt, at the oasis of Siwah, lay the oracle of Ammon, which Alexander the Great make the journey to visit during his conquests.

And if a long journey wasn’t an option, then the ancient Greeks could consult one of the many ‘chresmologoi’ or ‘manteis’ (‘oracle-sellers’ and ‘seers’) who lived in the cities or travelled with armies, and who promised (for a fee) to translate the will of the gods by reading the signs of animal entrails, the flight of birds, the ripples of water or by using books of prophecy amongst a myriad of other mechanisms.

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle

Took some photos while recording with Malcolm …

Took some photos while recording with Malcolm Knight at The Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre – an amazing place to visit if you’re in Glasgow 🙂

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 3 – Visage

Would Twitter Ruin Bee Democracy? – Issue 55: …

Would Twitter Ruin Bee Democracy? – Issue 55: Trust – Nautilus:

Apparently, the lofty principles of our democracy may have a straightforward biological origin, and can emerge without any elaborate design. Simple-majority democracy can safeguard the will of the majority, and, at least judging by the frequency with which its found in nature, seems to be one of the best ways of resolving conflicting interests among individuals who have to stick together—whether it’s a swarm of bees or a band of monkeys. It’s no wonder a motley crew of gregarious species, including humans, have evolved to use this same wisdom in making collective decisions.

This remarkable fact is more than a curiosity—it can also be a useful model. It offers the opportunity to evaluate how robust democracy is against deviations from simple-majority rules.

Not all voters are well-informed. Some may be ignorant, incompetent, or uninterested in the common good. How can a simple majority work in this case? It’s an issue that has concerned thinkers ancient and modern, including Plato, Thomas Hobbes, and John Stuart Mill. Plato was almost paranoid about the prospect of electing fools who are narrowly self-interested and have no philosophical vision. (Today we have plenty of examples.) He decried democracy as nothing more than mob rule, and preferred instead an aristocracy led by a wise “philosopher king.” Concerns like this led to the practice of voter literacy tests, which were only ditched in the United States in 1975.

But will ignorant voters really jeopardize simple-majority democracy? By looking at animals, we get the hint of an answer. Iain Couzin and colleagues at Princeton University used food to train two groups of golden shiners (a small fish) to swim from one end of a tank to either a yellow or a blue target located on the other end.3 They then released the two groups of trained fish into a group of naïve fish. The naïve fish tended to follow whichever informed group had more members—the majority. If there were more informed fish pursuing the yellow (or blue) target, the naïve fish also pursued it. What’s more, the more naïve fish there were, the stronger the trend became. So the presence of the ignorant not only failed to undermine the voting of the informed majority, it actually fortified it.

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

Demonstrations, Riots, and Uprisings: mediat…

The Cutting Edge of Human Rights | Alex Gladstein | SingulartyU South Africa

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

Researchers Examine The Psychology Of Protest …

Researchers Examine The Psychology Of Protest Movements:


And so if you are taking part in a protest, is your message getting out? Are you having an impact? It turns out what you think is happening might not be reality. And let’s talk about that with NPR’s social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, who’s back in our studios. Hey, Shankar.


GREENE: So what are these researchers actually testing here?

VEDANTAM: Well, the researchers wanted to study what happens when people protest. We all have intuitions about the effectiveness of protests, and protesters certainly have those intuitions as well. This was an attempt to actually measure whether those intuitions were accurate. I was speaking with Robb Willer. He’s a sociologist and psychologist at Stanford University. Along with his colleagues, Matthew Feinberg and Chloe Kovacheff, Willer found that many protesters tend to equate being effective with getting a lot of attention from the public and the media.

So they wanted to test if this was true. They presented volunteers with different kinds of protests. Some were at a Donald Trump presidential campaign rally. Some of the protests involved people just simply holding up signs and chanting slogans. But others involved what Willer calls extreme tactics. Protesters used violence. They blocked people from assembly. They blocked traffic. Willer measured the effects of the different protest tactics on the volunteers.

ROBB WILLER: What we found was that the extreme protest tactic led people to report increased support for Trump. So this would be consistent with the idea that exposure to an extreme protest event risks creating a public opinion backlash where people actually turn away from your cause even if they might have supported it otherwise.

GREENE: Extreme anti-Trump protests where they were, you know, like, breaking things actually caused volunteers who were watching this to support Donald Trump. So the protesters were not getting done what they wanted to.

VEDANTAM: Exactly. And now, certainly the people who felt this way included Trump supporters. But what was interesting is they also included people who were Trump opponents and people who were neutral. Compared to milder protest tactics, volunteers of all political stripes became more inclined to support Trump when they saw the protesters use extreme tactics. Willer thinks this is because when people see a protest, they ask themselves whether they can see themselves identifying with the protesters. He explains what happens inside the minds of the audience.

WILLER: I might have agreed with their cause, but the way they’re doing it is not the way I would have done it. And so I think that’s the risk with extreme protest tactics, is they lead people – observers, bystanders – to answer that question – am I like those people? Should I go join them? – in the negative where they might have said, yeah, I am like them. I’m going to join that movement.

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

Silent, unseen but not forgotten: Poland’s res…

Silent, unseen but not forgotten: Poland’s resistance fighters honoured:

Senior officers and veterans from Polish and British special forces are to gather in London to mark the 75th anniversary of a little-known chapter of the secret war against the Nazis.

The soldiers will on Saturday be honouring the Cichociemni (the Silent and Unseen) – Polish guerrilla fighters trained in Britain. They were parachuted at night into occupied Poland from 1941 onwards, the first such air drops behind German lines, to lead the resistance movement against the Nazi occupation.

The Armia Krajowa (the “home army”) had 300,000 men and women fighting for it at its peak, by far the biggest resistance movement under the Third Reich, and it temporarily succeeded in liberating Warsaw in the summer of 1944. Many of its leaders were Cichociemni. However, their history was suppressed even before the war was over by Poland’s new Soviet occupiers, who saw them as British agents.

Of the 316 Cichociemni who parachuted into occupied Poland, 103 were killed in the war, either in combat or in camps or under Gestapo torture. Nine were killed by the Soviet secret police after the war, and many more were imprisoned. Some managed to avoid capture by melting back into postwar Polish life, either changing their names or keeping their wartime exploits a secret.

Just one of the 316 is still alive. Aleksander Tarnawski, who flew to London for this weekend’s event, is 95 but evidently still fit. Less than two years ago, he carried out a parachute jump.

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.