Errors

Cultural Trauma

Bloody 4th of July

I felt devastated by the shootings in Uvalde. How could we have allowed this to happen? The video of the police response was recently released. Hundreds of gunshots can be heard. The police carefully edited out the screams of the children. I can easily imagine my own children’s voices…and I can’t even… The mass shooting during the 4th of July parade in a sleepy Jewish suburb of Chicago was another blow. A close friend grew up there. Her backyard neighbor was one of the killed, and she spent hours trying to learn the fates of her classmates. The little boy who will grow up without parents, for what? What do we get to gain by equipping ourselves with weapons of war? The guns used in these two and most other mass shootings were made to kill people. They are very at it. Why do we need these weapons among civilians living in a peaceful nation? America is very efficient. If it ever came to us needing weapons to defend ourselves from enemies, I’m sure we can distribute them to those who know how to use them — our national guard in no time. Apocalypse is great to watch in the…

The Music of Language

Old World Language Families

The illustration above is created by Minna Sundberg. Unlike pictorial art, music is perceived and processed in time. Complex music — consisting of more than one melody woven together — is even more difficult to process than a single stream. It requires focused attention. It’s more akin to listening to several conversations at once even if they are speaking on the same topic. If attention strays for just a moment, vital data can be lost. Thus music comprehension improves over several listenings. Things like nuance in performance, which ride on top of the basic syntax and message, are easy to miss for novice listeners. Listening, like performing, requires the development of skills. Humans are poor at splitting their attention and multitasking, and thus are prone to missing a lot of details. Language is also much more than a ruled-based string of words. There is a melody to each that varies from language to language. The melody provides the underpinning of emotion to the informational content that words carry. It’s easy to create cognitive dissonance by using the wrong emotional music while delivering a message. People who are good at this are good at manipulation. This is because we listen to…

Alternative Facts in Medicine

Doctors' hygiene

While we are collectively freaking out over the Trump’s White House use of Alternative Facts, these kinds of “facts” have been floating around in medicine (and politics) for a long time. And it is instructive to take a look at how we as a society have been dealing with Alternative Facts in Medicine and what damage these “facts” have wrought on us individually and collectively. I propose the following formula for how Alternative Facts come to be: Desperate Need + Greed = Alternative Fact Medical Myths: Beliefs Based on Outdated Science To start, allow me to refresh your memory, for our history is full of myths when it comes to our heath and our diseases. Let’s begin with a bit of bloodletting. Bloodletting is almost as old as our civilization. Thousands of years ago (that’s thousands, with three zeros!), a healer’s first choice of treatment was to let out the “excess” blood from a patient. Be it a migraine, an infection, or a virus, a person who was probably too sick to object was cut with a lancet or some other easily available tool and weakened even further via blood loss. The Greek physician Erasistratus believed all illnesses were due…

Inattention Errors in Extemporaneous Writing

Rapefruit

Automation provides many opportunities for inattention errors. Extemporaneous writing/typing is particularly prone to errors so egregious that they are funny… in retrospect. Here are a few examples of “scary” autocorrect mistakes as well as other problems caused by limited or spit [sorry, that was “split”] attention on the task of communication. 1. Everyone fails sometimes It is easy to fail when we are in a hurry, or are under pressure, or don’t proofread our work before it goes out. Some fails are the result of trying to be too clever and not getting a second opinion. Some fails are due to lack of process — a second pair of eyes on the copy would have noticed the “extra word” problem. Some fails are easily caught via a spellchecker… But in some cases, a spellchecker does help… And in many cases, spellcheck is the CAUSE of strange communications. I had a few of those myself… 2. Errors are different from mistakes Mistakes are things that we know are wrong the moment we notice them — the head-slappers! They are usually caused by inattention on the task. Errors are different. Errors result from true ignorance. But it doesn’t make the resulting fails…

LinkedIn Groups

Abstract Groups Image

I’ve started a discussion (or I hoped I did) the other day — it was about LinkedIn algorithms for auto moderating. These algorithms don’t work well. As an example, I invoked a group discussion I’ve started in a group where I am a moderator that was moved to “jobs” because LinkedIn didn’t understand the content. The article I shared was on the psychology of criminal sentencing research. It had nothing to do with jobs. Then when I looked around, I found other articles that people shared that ended up under “promotions” and “jobs” tabs. Different groups have different purposes. Some groups are about sharing information — I welcome people sharing articles about relevant topics. Such groups become magazines, news papers for narrow subject areas and self-selected audiences. That is very useful. Sometimes, there are discussion around these articles, sometimes not. That’s okay — that’s the kind of group it might be. When groups start, they are a potentiality — something wonderful might happen…or might not. It takes at least 500 group members to start the group moving and propagating. (I did a bit of research on this a few years ago.) Before that number, it is a lot of work…

Review eBook: Affordances and Design

Manches a Gigots

Victor Kaptelinin, a Professor at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, and the Department of Informatics, Umeaa University, Sweden, just published an eBook with Interaction Design Foundation: “Affordances and Design.” I was asked to write a review of this book and provide some insights into using affordances in interaction design and HCI. Let me start by providing the definition of affordance as given by Donald Norman: In his eBook, Victor Kaptelinin provides the history of the idea of affordance from its initial introduction by James Gibson in 1977 to the present day. The eBook’s bibliography and reference section is a great place to start the exploration of this topic for anyone new to these ideas. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t help much if an individual is looking for some guidance on how to apply these ideas in practical situations during interaction design or HCI design. For clarity’s sake, allow me to give a very brief explanation of affordances, from their roots to the present time. When James Gibson first introduced the concept of affordances, he focused on physical environment — what actions are possible? And the set of these action were invariable — just because…