Psychological Astronomy related to the web   no comments

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Originally I was going to learn about Psychology and Geography and see if I could combine these disciplines to the Arab Springs or the Dark web. At first it was going well and I learnt about psychology and developed my understanding about the subject as a “science that seeks to understand the behaviour and mental processes and, to apply that understanding in the service of human welfare” (Bernstein and Nash, 2002, p. 3). Within the textbooks I found there were a number of interesting sub topics that I thought could be related to my ideas. Specifically:

“Engineering Psychologists who study and try to improve, the relationships between human beings and the computers and other machines they use” (Bernstein and Nash, 2002, p. 6).

However I thought that this was already specific enough for the study of web science and wouldn’t offer much scope to creatively combine relatively new disciplines. I was nevertheless occupied with the idea of cognition within Psychology, which “emphasizes mechanisms through which people receive, store, retrieve, and otherwise process information” (Bernstein and Nash, 2002, p. 17).  Carlson et al. (2007, p.7) elaborates on the idea of the cognitive psychologist: “the events that cause behaviour consist of functions of the human brain that occur in response to environmental events”. This idea of behaviour being affected by the way that the human brain responds to information to do with the environment is particularly interesting. Furthermore, social cognition “involves our perception and interpretation of information about our social environment and our behaviour I response to that environment.

Already my study of psychology has led towards an environmental concern and obviously there are obvious overlaps with the discipline of Geography. For example, “humanistic geographers were concerned with the meaning that a place conveyed o an individual or, as it has been called, ‘a sense of place’” (Bradford and Kent, 1993, p. 9). Thus I decided to drop Geography and choose Astronomy instead.

“Astronomy is the only one of the sciences which gives man some knowledge of the entire visible universe” (Fath, 1955, p. 1) and is thus an interesting subject to combine with psychology. Since the Web is considered a virtual world which is invisible it is interesting to use an astronomical approach to explore the Web. Astronomers use light “to understand what is happening in the rest of the universe” (Holliday, 1998, p.1). Astronomers use light and similarly, web users use code.

The dominant research approach in Astronomy is through observations. Since the internet cannot be seen directly this mode of approach is problematic. In the following weeks I will explore how the web can be seen as a psychological world by which astronomy can be used to see the ‘real’ effects of this world.

Written by Lawrence Green on October 16th, 2012

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