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Links 1 through 10 of 67 by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D. tagged web2.0

Did you just have to click on a link? What is it about our technology that is so addictive? As much as we hate to admit it, we are hooked on the digital world. Whether it is texting, gaming, downloading or emailing, so much of our time is spent in the virtual realm.

Luckily, the off button is easy to find. Take a week to cut back on digital stimulation as much as you can. The goal is not to dwell on the pitfalls of our electronic devices but to reflect on ourselves. And who knows, if the magic begins to creep back into your life, the digital detox may never end.

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Fascinating study comparing effectiveness of people solving problems using "helpful" [externalization] software vs. simple [internalization]. "Subjects that used the Internalization interface imprinted relevant task and rule knowledge better and were not affected by a severe interruption in the workflow, whereas Externalization subjects were.... [U]sers who internalize information themselves behave more plan-based, are more proactive and ready to make inferences. This in turn results in more focus, more direct and economical solutions, better strategies, and better imprinting of knowledge. This knowledge is easier to recall at a future point in time, and is better transferable to transfer situations where the interface, the task, or both were different, less vulnerable to a severe interruption, and better applicable to transfer situations. Human-computer interaction designers can take advantage from considerations that go beyond plain usability, even when they go against common sense."

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In 1995, Sherry Turkle, a professor of the “social studies of science” at M.I.T., published a book about identity in the digital age called “Life on the Screen.” It was a mostly optimistic account, as Turkle celebrated the freedom of online identity.... In Turkle’s latest book, “Alone Together,” this optimism is long gone. If the Internet of 1995 was a postmodern playhouse, allowing individuals to engage in unbridled expression, Turkle describes it today as a corporate trap, a ball and chain that keeps us tethered to the tiny screens of our cellphones, tapping out trite messages to stay in touch. She summarizes her new view of things with typical eloquence: “We expect more from technology and less from each other.”

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"The number-crunchers on Wall Street are starting to crunch something else: the news. Math-loving traders are using powerful computers to speed-read news reports, editorials, company Web sites, blog posts and even Twitter messages — and then letting the machines decide what it all means for the markets. The development goes far beyond standard digital fare like most-read and e-mailed lists. In some cases, the computers are actually parsing writers’ words, sentence structure, even the odd emoticon. A wink and a smile — ;) — for instance, just might mean things are looking up for the markets. Then, often without human intervention, the programs are interpreting that news and trading on it."

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The WikiLeaks website contends that it’s out to expose “contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors”.... Assange has also claimed that he wants to “make the world more civil” by making secretive organizations like the US State Department and Department of Defense accountable for their actions... to force them “to lock down and balkanize,” protecting themselves by becoming more opaque and thereby more “closed, conspiratorial, and inefficient.” This is, to say the least, a patently contradictory agenda; I’m not sure how we’re supposed to make sense of it. In practical terms it seems to boil down to a policy of disclosure for disclosure’s sake. This is what the technology allows, and Assange has merely followed its lead. I don’t see coherently articulated morality, or even immorality, at work here at all; what I see is an amoral, technocratic void.

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[Digital alarmists] argue that the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of new communication tools trap us in a shallow culture of constant interruption as we frenetically tweet, text and e-mail. This in turn leaves us little time for deep reading, reflection and serious conversation — pensive activities traditionally thought to build knowledge and wisdom.... [But the] basic plan of the brain's "wiring" is determined by genetic programs and biochemical interactions that do most of their work long before a child discovers Facebook and Twitter. There is simply no experimental evidence to show that living with new technologies fundamentally changes brain organization in a way that affects one's ability to focus. Of course, the brain changes any time we form a memory or learn a new skill, but new skills build on our existing capacities without fundamentally changing them. We will no more lose our ability to pay attention than we will lose our ability to listen, see or speak.

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"Pete and Alisha Arnold, both 30, both tech professionals, live in the Minneapolis suburb of Apple Valley and have been married for 10 years. Since September, they've blogged about their expected child at birthornot.com, posting health updates about the mother and the fetus (which will be 17 weeks-old tomorrow), and ultrasound pictures and video. But at the top of the blog is a poll hosted by PollDaddy.com. The question: "Should We Give Birth or Have an Abortion?" "Give Birth" has 46 percent of the vote at the moment, with "Have an Abortion" at 54 percent.... According to the couple, they've been unsure about whether they're ready to be parents and have concluded that the best way to proceed is to ask random people on the Internet if they should have the child."

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"I acknowledge the sheer and increasing difficulty of following that first rule of social media (endlessly recounted in books, presentations, blogs and so forth): LISTEN (damn it). (Or else.) And yet, I can't help but think that through our quest to reduce the noise, we are, in fact, getting rid of that which is most important to the formation of a sense of community. I have a hunch that it is exactly from the noise that community arises. That the emotional connections we are making with members of our networks (friends, followers, etc.) come from the noise, not the facts, the links shared, etc. I fear that through cutting down the noise, we are handicapping communications."

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Individuals influence each others’ decisions about cultural products such as songs, books, and movies; but to what extent can the perception of success become a “self-fulfilling prophecy”? We have explored this question experimentally by artificially inverting the true popularity of songs in an online “music market,” in which 12,207 participants listened to and downloaded songs by unknown bands. We found that most songs experienced self-fulfilling prophecies, in which perceived—but initially false—popularity became real over time. We also found, however, that the inversion was not self-fulfilling for the market as a whole, in part because the very best songs recovered their popularity in the long run. Moreover, the distortion of market information reduced the correlation between appeal and popularity, and led to fewer overall downloads. These results, although partial and speculative, suggest a new approach to the study of cultural markets.

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A group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives. An undercover investigation has exposed this effort, which has been in action for more than one year.

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