Whistleblowing – are we even allowed to dare?

Repression photoPaul Brookes, an associate professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, dared to be a whistleblower.  According to an interview he gave in the Magazine Science, he was author of the now defunct blog science-fraud.org. Like oh so many, he tried to achieve that via the internet. After realising that a lot of the scientific literature that is published contains faults in the form of wrong data, wrong or missing sources, and more, he decided that it was high time to speak out against bad writing and publishing practice. In order to protect his university and himself, he wrote about the problems anonymously. But with the way the internet actually functions, it was not that hard to blow his cover. Somebody apparently tracked back his IP Adress, and since his blog was uncomfortable for more than a few fellow scientists, someone, yet again anonymous, send an email to his university and to other institutions, exposing him and threatening with a law suit. Brookes subsequently declared his authorship the next day and removed the blog from the internet. Fortunately, the university, although not being particularly happy about Brookes actions, led him hold on to his job and Brookes is still blogging about faulty papers. Now under his own name and strictly in his private time. Continue reading “Whistleblowing – are we even allowed to dare?”

Is the internet changing the emotional landscape?

Internet-based emotions?Have our emotions changed over the century?  A recent and entertaining article discusses five new emotions that have come into existence with the rise of computer use in everyday life.  Though not exactly a rigorous examination, the article raises an important point: one can’t help but accept the fact that computers, and indeed the internet, are an increasing part of our daily lives – and we are going to have corresponding emotional responses to all sorts of computer-related phenomena.  Articulations of affects relating to internet-time-wasting and facebook might not, on this understanding, just be entertaining illustrations of this everyday engagement with computers, but may actually be pointing the creation of new emotional cues and behaviours.

Emotions are historical phenomena. Consider love.  To many, this emotion seems an essential part of the human condition.  Every human, from the most humble caveman to the most noble Queen has the potential (even if not exercised) to recognize and to experience love.  It can come as a shock to this view that our modern understanding of love qua romantic love (viz. the way in which love is not only as an emotional experience, but one with corresponding notions of fidelity, and sacrifice) comes from Trobadours, who expressed this idea of love in their songs and poetry in the Middle Ages.  Indeed, the way in which love has been understood has changed dramatically over the centuries: from the kind of love exemplified by Aphrodite shining her light upon Helen, to the agape-love discussed by Augustine, up to the courtly love of Lancelot and Guinevere, and the romantic love of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Continue reading “Is the internet changing the emotional landscape?”

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Maryan Czajkowski

Ed Yong (via Pharyngulareports on a cool study conducted by psychologist Nicholas Epley:

Epley asked different groups of volunteers to rate their own beliefs about important issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, the death penalty, the Iraq War, and the legalisation of marijuana. The volunteers also had to speculate about God’s take on these issues, as well as the stances of an “average American”, Bill Gates (a celebrity with relatively unknown beliefs) and George Bush (a celebrity whose positions are well-known).

The result: “In every case, [Epley] found that people’s own attitudes and beliefs matched those they suggested for God more precisely than those they suggested for the other humans.”

Ed says that Epley’s study shows that “relying on a deity to guide one’s decisions and judgments is little more than spiritual sockpuppetry.”  (A sockpuppet is a “false identity through which a member of an Internet community speaks with or about himself or herself, pretending to be a different person, like a ventriloquist manipulating a hand puppet” — Wikipedia.)

I can think of at least one other plausible interpretation of this study.

Continue reading “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Maryan Czajkowski”

Twittering On

The Thread begins a new series on London’s Resonance FM, starting with an episode entitled ‘The Poetics of Twitter‘. The Twitter device reveals interesting and often counter-intuitive phenomena that challenge pre-conceived philosophical and aesthetic notions – about formation of the self, about Ego, about what ‘space’ or ‘network’ might mean, about semiotics.

Most fascinating are the multifarious manipulations of the Twitter form by artists, poets, academics: a piece of software designed to attract followers according to an exponential scale and then groom these followers according to a specific demographic; another that posted every letter typed into a particular PC directly onto a Twitter account, revealing intimate details of a person’s activities; another using Twitter as the structural framework for a kind of automatic poetry.

Fascinating also is what the response to such new media may be from traditional academic circles. In an attempt to keep up with hyperspeed technology, will we see more fragmentary, topical discussion-based analysis and less long-form literature?

Related articles:
Experimental Philosophy
By Joshua Knobe , University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
(Vol. 1, November 2006)
Philosophy Compass

The Text-Performance Relation in Theater
By James Hamilton , Kansas State University
(Vol. 4, June 2009)
Philosophy Compass

MyFriends.com

538px-Man-and-woman-icon.svgIn the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that friendship is a necessary requisite for human ‘happiness.’  His broad description of these relationships includes friendships of utility (as between student and teacher) and of pleasure (as between lovers).  However, the ancient Greek thinker remains critically uncertain of the summit, the highest culmination, of friendship.  In fact, Aristotle claims that ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’ friendship is rare, if not impossible.  Most friendships are, therefore, as much about auxiliary benefits as about the individuals themselves.

While most would agree that friendship is a difficult matter to pin down, modern cyber-technology is pushing some to question such ‘liberal’ standards.  Archbishop Vincent Nichols recently criticized the kind of friendship promoted through ‘social networking sites’ (i.e., MySpace and Facebook).  The Catholic leader maintained that these ‘un-rounded’ communities foster ‘transient relationships’ and are a likely source of the increasing alienation and depression felt amongst today’s youth. Continue reading “MyFriends.com”