Category Archives: academic

decrease your erdos number

OK, this ebay auction has me ROFL: Decrease Your Erdos Number! If you’re a social networks geek, or a mathematician, physicist or computer scientist, you must check this out. Too funny. And there are even bids!

Update: Now that i’ve learned a bit more about the history and state of this auction, i thought i’d inform the curious reader of Jonah Peretti’s antics, normally called contagious media. Jonah set off a few memes of his own to see how they would spread – the Nike Sweatshop Email and the Rejection Hotline are my favorites.

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know: Work in the Information Age

“It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know: Work in the Information Age” is a paper by Bonnie Nardi, Steve Whittaker and Heinrich Schwarz (circa 2000).

We discuss our ethnographic research on personal social networks in the workplace, arguing that traditional institutional resources are being replaced by resources that workers mine from their own networks. Social networks are key sources of labor and information in a rapidly transforming economy characterized by less institutional stability and fewer reliable corporate resources. The personal social network is fast becoming the only sensible alternative to the traditional “org chart” for many everyday transactions in today’s economy.

This is a great paper by very respectable researchers, revealing some of the reasons that there is such motivation to empower individual’s use of their social network.

TV Addiction is Real

I was visiting a friend this weekend and somehow conversation wandered off into a discussion about TV Addiction and he started rambling off about a Scientific American article that he read back in February. As i was buried in my own research, i never even heard about this little bit flying by. How great is it to finally feel justified in my hatred of the TV for its addictive powers!

Apparently, we are biologically programmed with an orienting response that handles situations that provide a quick change in scenary. This is crucial because when something changes rapidly, we need to focus on it. Blood rushes to the brain to handle the thought processing necessary to react to such stimuli. Unfortunately, it takes upwards of 16 seconds to adjust to such changes in order for blood to leave the brain and stop focusing. Television capitalizes on this because scene-shifting is so common. Thus, we focus on the TV and never let go. Our processes slow down below sleep levels, making us feel even more groggy because we aren’t actually metabolizing at a high level. This sudden shift in reduced body processing is what makes us feel initially relaxed by sitting down in front of the TV – everything grinds to a halt. But the result is problematic and we start to feel gross with continued sitting, but are unable to break our gaze away from the addictive box. The initial draw to the TV becomes both a habit and an addiction, as we want that sudden stress relief, regardless of feeling even grosser hours later. Mental note: TV == heroin.

Now i can feel better knowing that i never want a TV in my home.

Keywords for search: Csikszentmihalyi

author of “The Lonely Crowd” died

David Riesman, author of the controversial academic/pop culture book The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character, passed away. It’s an intriguing book, written in the 1950’s, at the heart of the suburban American ‘togetherness’, developing a labeling system for talking about the different types of neighbors and community relationships…. Fun sociology critiques of the American dream (and American neuroses). Given all of Putnam‘s critiques that seem to long for the 1950’s, i wonder if American culture was ever truly functional… ha!