Scaffolding

Response to “Is the Internet Making Us Quick but Shallow”

Carr, N. (2010). “Is the Internet Making Us Quick but Shallow,” CNN. Retrieved on 2010, June 29. http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/web/06/07/carr.internet.overload/index.html?hpt=C2 Nicholas Carr’s article, “Is the Internet Making Us Quick but Shallow,” demonstrates the negative consequences of the internet on the human mind. His article is in response to the media criticism President Obama received after stating that the internet and technological gadgets (i-pad, Blackberry, etc) ‘entertain,’ rather than ‘empower.’ While the media labeled Obama as anti-technology, the author defends and backups the president’s warning statement. Carr’s biggest criticism of the internet and screen gadgets is that they distract concentration, they hinder comprehension skills, and they weaken creative thought. The internet provides the user with an incredible amount of information and knowledge. However, the trouble lies within the manner in which that knowledge is transferred from the screen into the user’s brain. Links, for example, break and discombobulate information (the information is not provided in a linear and coherent format, such as found in a book) from one page of information to another, and thus causing the reader’s attention to rupture and drift. A case study done at Cornell University shows that laptops distract students in class and prevent them from absorbing information.…

Depression’s Upside

Lehrer, J. (2010). “Depression’s Upside.” The New York Times. Retrieved on 29 June, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/magazine/28depression-t.html Summary: Depression is a disorder that has long been associated with the anguished artist who is fixated on his work. The gloomy state of mind may have an upside and, according to research by psychiatrists Andy Thomson and Paul Andrews, it is this ability to be more attentive to our problems. Approaching the issue of depression from an evolutionary perspective, they believe it is not likely for the brain to adapt “pointless programming bugs”. Unlike other mental illnesses which occur in small percentages of the population, approximately 7 percent of people are afflicted with depression every year. Despite, the evolutionary problem which results from lowering one’s sexual libido (and limiting the urge for reproduction), depression could be viewed as an adaptive to the stressors of one’s environment. Neuroscientists in China observed a spike in functional connectivity in the brain allowing depressed people to be more analytical and able to stay focused on a difficult problem longer. The research of psychologist Joe Forgas, found that depressed people were better at judging accuracy of rumors, less likely to stereotype strangers, and had better recall memory. Rumination, the…

On “Singing ‘Rewires’ Damaged Brain”

Gill, V. (2010). “Singing ‘Rewires’ Damaged Brain.” BBC World News. Visited on 24 June 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8526699.stm Summary: This article discusses how singing can teach stroke patients to recover their speech abilities. Singing uses a different part of the brain than the areas that involve speech. The idea is that if the “speech center” of the brain is damaged patients can use their “singing center.” Already established as a medical technique, “melodic intonation therapy” was further studied by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School with the findings presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Using medical technology to scan the brain doctors were able to deduce that most speech took place on the left side of the brain, but melody and singing took place on the right side. This study is one of many larger studies examining the general effects of music and the brain. Dr Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist from Northwestern University, has concluded that musical training is an important part of children’s education. This article is important because many people have experienced or know someone who has experienced a stroke. Reading this article may prompt further investigation for those affected to seek…

On ‘Feeling Grumpy Is “Good for You”‘

BBC Staff (November 5th, 2009). “Feeling Grumpy Is «Good for You»” Retrieved 26th June, 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8339647.stm Summary: Being grumpy can enable us to access an entirely different range of skills apparently. According to Professor Joe Forgas, an Australian researcher at the University of New South Wales, «Negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world». He conducted a series of experiments with a random group of people, asking them to watch a random collection of movies while simultaneously imagining an instance in their life that made them happy or sad, hence affecting their mood. He then ran a series of tests on the subjects, ranging from simple observational skills to judging the truth of myths and urban legends to see what effect the mood would have on their performance. The results supported Forgas’s theory:- those in a bad mood were able to communicate better and made fewer mistakes than those in a good mood. Test results also showed that sad people were better able to state their cases through written arguments, supporting the Professor’s theory that «whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive,…

Error Opportunity Space

Confronted with one “True or False” question, an individual has a very small error opportunity space: three. There are three possible responses: true, false, or no answer. “No answer” will always be wrong, a betting man should choose one of the possible answers. But unfortunately situations where the error opportunity space is so narrow are rare. And in the real world, dealing with real problems, these spaces tend to be very large. Note that the size of the error opportunity space, EOS, makes no representations about the consequences of getting the problem right or wrong (or partially right or wrong). When the stock market tanked on May 7th, people involved in that process had a very large EOS. A week out, experts and participants are trying to figure out what went wrong and how to limit similar incidents in the future—they are trying, in effect, to drastically reduce the error opportunity space. This is a job of product designers. By analyzing the goals of the users and the system’s constraining variables, we can come up with conceptual design, interaction design, and interface design that would address the problems that were exposed on May 7th. Coming up with a solution is…

Neuro-Parasites & Problem Solving Errors

Dr. Robert Sapolsky is a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University. He started his career studying baboons, charting the relationship between stress hormones and an individual animal’s social ranking in the baboon society hierarchy. The lower the rank, the more stress the animal experiences, the more consequences there are to the health outcomes and longevity of the baboon. Making a parallel to human society, the conclusions of Dr. Sapolsky’s study is that it sucks to be at the bottom of the social order. In his books “Primate’s Memoir” and “Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” Dr. Sapolsky provides copious details of his work and his conclusions. (see Recommended Books for details) But residing on the bottom of the social ladder is not the only problem a mammal like us can experience. In his video interview with Edge (www.Edge.org), Dr. Sapolsky describes the adventures of Toxoplasma–a protozoan parasite carried by cats which causes an infection Toxo–in our amygdala. Post an active infectious state, Toxo is able to manipulate human dopamine levels. People with the post-Toxo infection have higher than normal dopamine levels, resulting in some interesting cognitive consequences. There’s been solid research that documents a high level of Toxo infections in schizophrenic patients. There…