Archive for October 13th, 2013

Does the Web make us evil?   no comments

Posted at 10:52 pm in Psychology


The Web provides a unique set of contexts and questions to study a variety of topics.¬†One area where this is particularly evident is our online presence.¬†It is well documented that people’s behaviours are different in an online situation, for instance trolling and hactivism.¬†Whilst these differences are often attributed to the anonymity that the web offers, there are many examples of them manifesting in identifiable circumstances, such as on social networking sites.¬†As a means to focus my research, I will likely concentrate on the activities of people on social networking sites with a view to understanding the behaviour behind them.

This issue of a difference between our online selves and ‘real’ selves can be examined through many different lenses.¬†There are legal aspects to this such as if and how laws are applied on the Web. Economically we can look at the differences between shopping on- and offline.¬†Broadly speaking, these deal with practical concerns relating to online personas.¬†From a more abstract perspective, and underpinning the practical approach, we can question the¬†way we think.

Considering how much of it I purportedly do for a living, until recently I had never given much consideration to understanding the processes behind. A fascinating idea I have come across is the difference between how we think and how we think we think. This is something where psychology and philosophy intertwine.


Psychology has always been associated with analysing social issues and behaviours. The psychology of online behaviour is a very broad subject with a great deal of conflicting conclusions. In recent months, an area that has unfortunately come to the fore is the phenomenon of depression and bullying that exists on and via social networking sites, and one of the areas I will look at is the ethics of online behaviour. In particular I am keen on looking into how our morals, or perception of morals, are formed. The reasons behind any disparity between offline and online ethics will provide an insight into this.


Morality is an issue that has been extensively studied from a philosophical perspective. Whilst psychology is useful in examining the reasoning behind a code of conduct, philosophy concerns itself more with the actual code. Various philosophers have attempted to explain what morality is and this provides a more direct approach to understanding its formation. The vast majority of these theories have been developed in the absence of the Web which hence provides a rigorous testing ground for them.

Naively speaking, psychology is the study of how we think whilst philosophy is the study of what we think. Of course, each of these fields can claim to subsume the other ipso facto. Rather than trying to combine these two fields in a hierarchical relation, I will attempt to unite them in a more balanced manner.

The topic of ethics can be viewed as a part of a larger debate into our attitude to socialising on the Web. Depending on the scope of the topic, this is something I will hope to extend to.

Written by Conrad D'Souza on October 13th, 2013

Improving Intertwingularity   no comments

Posted at 10:44 pm in Psychology,Uncategorized

In the 1987 revision of his book Computer Lib [1], Ted Nelson wrote:

EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED. In an important sense there are no “subjects” at all; there is only all knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly. Hierarchical and sequential structures, especially popular since Gutenberg, are usually forced and artificial. Intertwingularity is not generally acknowledged‚ÄĒpeople keep pretending they can make things hierarchical, categorizable and sequential when they can’t.

I’m not sure the Web has yet caught up with Nelson’s vision of ¬†Project Xanadu, or the degree to which it is practical to do so. But, he makes a good point about the weakness of relying too much on hierarchy.¬†Hypertext makes possible a wonderfully interconnected Web which has been a daily source of improvement and enjoyment. However, much of it feels like moving around a big box-and-line diagram, merely mapping nodes and links. Frequently, web usage is continuous a loop in and out of search tools (like Google) between individual or small clusters of pages, rather than following richly linked data strands.

Richer linking is less common. Although many links may be present in a document many are simply in-page/site navigation links or¬†SEO-aiding faux page breaks. Also, the paucity and sterility of links may reflect the economic approach of finding and trapping eyeballs ‚Äď why send people to your competitors, by linking to them? Links to, or through, paywalls are also of suspect value. Meanwhile, given the node-and-link model, we tend to envision the web as hierarchy – or a directed graph at least. A less intertwingled reality, it seems.

My experience from writing documentation and software¬†community support has shown it surprisingly hard to achieve sticky knowledge transfer except when working at or close to one-to-one scope; not ¬†very efficient. The lazy reaction is to blame the learners, but I’m open to the thought that as authors of hypertext, maybe we’re not doing this right. Perhaps we need to use a different tack and be less shallow in our weaving of the Web, offering the reader more routes to their goal of knowledge. More intertwingularity, applied with some thought, might move us forward. Approaches like spatial hypertext and techniques from hypertext fiction may help, even if currently egregious compared to standard practice.



Figure: Early stage planning in Tinderbox

Serendipity strikes, as now I’m being asked to look at a Web issue through the eyes of two different disciplines. Those I’ve selected as showing promise in providing a useful alternative view to the above, are:

  • Psychology. This studies the human mind and behaviour, seeking to explain how we feel, act and reason. The intuited relevance to my topic is that a better understanding of our reasoning – and motivation for behaviour – might allow us to make smarter choices about how we author hypertext, to meet and reward those motivations.
  • Literary Theory. This discipline seeks to describe the methods and ideas we use in the – reading and understanding of literature. A set of tools, if you will, by which we may understand literature. It will be interesting to see how the non-linearity of Hypertext fiction fits current theory.

I’m unsure as yet how narrow we may set our disciplinary scope here as, within the above, Cognitive Psychology and Narrative seem sensible sub-topics. Within the Literary Theory and indeed Narrative, culturally-based sub-sets with doubtless exist: does one size fit all? However, my plan is to start wide and winnow to find an appropriate breadth of coverage.

Starting Texts

Thus far my research has been a reconnaissance, more browsing than structural study, to help me pick some starting research references. So, these are my selections for initial study at least in terms of published books. Disclosure – I’ve not yet read these, rather they are what I plan to start reading:

  • Psychology / G. Neil Martin, Neil R. Carlson, William Buskist.
  • Cognitive psychology : a student’s handbook / Michael W. Eysenck, Mark T. Keane.
  • Literary theory : a very short introduction / Jonathan Culler
  • Literary theory : an introduction / Terry Eagleton


  • [1]¬†Nelson, Theodor (1987), Computer Lib/Dream Machines (Rev. ed.), Redmond, WA: Tempus Books of Microsoft Press, ISBN 0-914845-49-7

Written by Mark Anderson on October 13th, 2013

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Title: Impact of Open Trends in the Economy and the Government   no comments

Posted at 9:53 pm in Uncategorized



Areas: Web-Open Source-Economics, Web-Open Data-Political Science

 The Web is a global community in which more disciplines are open to collaborate and incorporate their knowledge. We are living in a world that the tendency to openness is gaining territory. A clear-cut example is the open source and open data trends. I am interested in doing research how these tendencies are developing the web, and how will be their behavior in the next years. Furthermore, I want to know how opening tendencies are related to social areas such as: Economy and Politics, and how these areas are being affected by this trend.


Open source operative systems have become increasingly important specially in smart phones and Servers.

This evidence shows that firms and governments such as: Google, Novell, IBM, Panasonic, Virgin America, CISCO, Amazon, Peugeot, Wikipedia, US department of Defense, US Navy Submarine Fleet, The City of Munich, Germany, Spain, Federal Aviation Administration, French Parliament, State-Owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Pakistani School and Collages, Cuba, Macedonia Ministry of Education and Science, U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Federal Courts, Government of Mexico City rely on open source systems to Systematize administrative, operational, and financial processes within the firm, by collecting information that improves rational decision making inside the firm which in turn affects the competitiveness and current profitability as well as future profitability.

For instance, an open source system could be a relatively low cost tool for the firm to collect and systematize data that allows the firm to make better decisions to allocate resources (by facilitating the comparison of suppliers in terms of price and quality), to reduce administrative costs, to improve the process of strategic planning, to improve the market penetration of the firm’s products (by gathering relevant information of the preferences of costumers over the firm’s products). Hence, open source systems are critical for the firm to be competitive and profitable.

Open Data means Better Governments

International institutions such as the World Bank have emphasized the role of governance. Better governance means that the government is willing and capable to better represent the preferences of a majority of individuals in public policies. This means that better governance is related with the willingness and ability of the government to satisfy the needs of a majority (instead of a minority) of their citizen.

Open data is related with the ability of citizen to request information about the activities of the government (such as salaries of public officials, the mechanism for the allocation of public funds to different public programs, access to information about how the government select individuals who benefit from public programs, and so on). Moreover,, open data increases the transparency of the government and accountability which induces the government to better respond to the demands of voters . In other words, open data improves governance.


Written by Alan Ponce on October 13th, 2013

How is gender equality represented on the web? A Philosophical and Psychological Study.   no comments

Posted at 7:20 pm in Psychology

This isn’t as some might think just an excuse to attack the male gender and point out the sites used to discriminate against females; rather looking at how the web has (in places) facilitated gender divides. There are websites, Facebook groups, forums, etc, set up in the name of promoting one gender over the other. The web (as in many areas such as cyber bullying) given people a safe impersonal place to display their prejudices and explore them with like minded people. Unfortunately it’s much easier to sit there and argue that your gender is superior than fight with both factions to say that everyone is the same. I support this topic and the arguments for it are essentially the same as cyber bullying, racism, ageism or any such discrimination on the web, although I would say that this was more of a grey area, and since it is one of personal interest I have chosen this specific section for my review.

The disciplines I have chosen are psychology and philosophy as I know absolutely nothing about them, and they have some relevance to this issue.

The areas that will be studied here are the basic principles of psychology particularly emphasising on behavioural psychology and why people behave the way they do in relation to gender inequality. Reading will focus on both feminist psychology values (and whether they are actually a set of values geared towards equality or if they are more geared towards female bias), in addition to finding out more about the male psyche. Both of these areas are relevant to the topic as they explore both sides of the coin, and on top of this I will be studying why people find the web an easier medium for their prejudices than face to face; and whether the web has brought out a ‘freer’ element for people to express their opinions, or actually negatively enhanced people’s ability to impersonalise discrimination.

Philosophy wise, the areas that seem most relevant and interesting to this topic are: firstly, the ultimate question of ‘what is equality’ gender or otherwise, from a philosophical standpoint; secondly an ethical investigation of how equality should be promoted, and what actually counts as discrimination. Philosophy leaves a lot of room for personal interpretation, and so does a lot of the material on the web, where should the line be drawn between a joke and something that is actually a discriminatory comment?

Philosophical Psychological View:
Finally these two disciplines will be looked at together in relation to this issue; hopefully to combine the ethical definitions of equality from a philosophical point of view, with the behavioural psychology points of view to better understand how the web has actually affected gender equality.

Blog Post Plan:
Week 1 (14th Oct) – Intro
Week 2 (21st Oct) – Philosophy 1 – Defining Equality & Arguments against Equality
Week 3 (28th Oct) – Psychology 1 – Methodology of Psychology
Week 4 (4th Nov) – Philosophy 2 – Methodology of Philosophy
Week 5 (11 Nov) – Psychology 2 –¬†Defining Gender & A Gender View of the Web
Week 6 (18 Nov) – Philosophy 3 – Key Question: What defines an gender equal web in terms of philosophy?
Week 7 (25 Nov) – Psychology 3 –¬†¬†Key Question: What defines an gender equal web in terms of psychology?
Week 8 (2nd Dec) – Philosophy 4 – Philosophical Conclusions
Week 9 (9th Dec) – Psychology 4 – Psychological Conclusions
Week 10 (16th Dec) – Philosophy of Psychology

Written by Samantha Kanza on October 13th, 2013

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“Is it safe to drink the water?”   no comments

Posted at 4:00 pm in Economics


How many people carry matches these days?/Susan Sermoneta ©2012/CC BY 2.0

How can corporations be encouraged to open their data (so that we know it’s safe to drink the water)?

The benefits to corporations of opening their data is well documented, but they are not necessarily appreciated in all sectors of industry.

Prospecting for oil and gas with the aim of engaging in hydraulic fracturing¬†(‘fracking’) operations causes some popular concern¬†which could be alleviated by the more open availability of real-time monitoring data.

In the UK, all industrial activities are subject to health and safety audits and some involve continuous, around the clock monitoring. For example Cuadrilla Resources employ Ground Gas Solutions to provide 24 hour monitoring of their explorations in the UK. Ground Gas Solutions monitoring aim to:

provide confidence to regulators, local communities and interested third parties that no environmental damage has occurred. (GGS, 2013)

Currently the data collected through this monitoring is made public via reports to regulation authorities, which can be subject to significant delay, are often written in technical language, and are not easily accessed by the general public.

My argument is that real time (or close to real time) monitoring data could be made open without any damage to the commercial advantage of the companies involved, and, if clearly and unambiguously presented (e.g. via a mobile app), could go some way to alleviating public concerns, particularly regarding the possible contamination of drinking water. Exploring what motivates some corporations to make their data open and the challenges they have overcome to do this, may suggest successful strategies for encouraging proactive, open behaviour within industry.

Anthropology –¬†Considers key aspects of social life – identity, culture, rationality, ethnicity and belief systems.

Anthropologists aim to achieve a richness in the description of encounters they have with people and places, and have a strong tradition of creating narratives and developing theories that describe and  attempt to explain human behaviour. In the context of the exploration industry, how might an anthropologist explore the underlying cultural values and prevalent beliefs of people working within corporations?

I believe that exploring this issue through the lens of anthropology would provide some insight into the workings of the energy exploration business and uncover useful data that may indicate strategies for encouraging corporations to share real time monitoring data.

Economics –¬†Analyses the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

The widespread use of empirical data related to economic exchange together with emerging theories of human behaviour appear to underpin this discipline, which I believe have significant value to the study of my question. Exploring the commercial incentives for opening real time monitoring data from the perspective of differing economic theories combined with the data collection methodologies prevalent within this discipline can provide useful understandings of the question, which may point to practical solutions.

Anthropological Economics: an interdisciplinary approach
The question: “How can corporations be encouraged to open their data?” appears to call for solutions that tackle not simply the “bottom line” of economic necessity, but also the culture that requires individuals within corporations to maintain secrecy in order to maintain or improve their employers market position.¬†From my current naive standpoint, a combination of the anthropologists qualitative, narrative-driven approach to studying human behaviour with the economists quantitative, theory-dominated view of commercial interaction looks like a worthwhile approach to gaining a better understanding of the key issues.

Proposed reading list
Eriksen, T. H., 2004. What is Anthropology? London: Pluto Press.
Eriksen, T. H., 2001. Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology. London: Pluto Press.
Fife, W., 2005. Doing Fieldwork. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Miller, D. ed., 1995. Acknowledging Consumption. London: Routledge.

Fogel, R. W., Fogel, E. M., Guglielmo, M. and Grotte, N., 2013. Political Arithmetic : Simon Kuznets and the Empirical Tradition in Economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Giudici, P. and Figini, S., 2009. Applied Data Mining for Business and Industry. London: Wiley.
Isaac, R. M. and Norton, D. A., 2011. Research in Experimental Economics: Experiments on Energy, The Environment, and Sustainability Governance in the Business Environment. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.
Quiggin, J., 2011. Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us. Woodstock: Princeton University Press.

Written by Tim O'Riordan on October 13th, 2013

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Understanding sharing – ‘Viral’ media sharing across social networks   no comments

Posted at 2:22 pm in Uncategorized

As a linguist, the way in which material can be shared internationally between various linguistic groups is something I find fascinating. To take a particular example, let’s use ‘Gangnam Style’ – A song with Korean lyrics. Korean is, at the risk of sounding harsh, not the most widely spoken of languages. Consider that of its 75 million native speakers (, many live in North Korea and would have had no access to the song. On a more linguistic level, Korean belongs to the Altaic language family and is, according to what can be described as a ‘best linguistic guess’, most closely related to Japanese. But I can assure you now that not only do the speakers of the two languages have some long running disputes, but they also don’t understand each other at all. As a speaker of Japanese, I can assure anyone reading this that the languages are not even slightly similar.

So not that many people world-wide would understand the song. And yet its Youtube video has 1,788,916,808 views. ( In the time it took me to type that out, it has probably grown again. And according to Laura Edwards, that’s for one simple reason – Social media sharing, or as she puts it people wanting “their friends, family and distant acquaintances to…share in the enjoyment of” the video. (

There are thousands upon thousands of other examples – Youtube videos like ‘Will it Blend?’, memes, songs, adverts…But why DO things go viral? And how do they spread?

With these questions in mind, I’ve chosen the following disciplines: Complexity Science and Psychology. And the reasons for that are simple: Complexity Science deals with complex systems – understanding that system by modelling it and seeking to understand how it works. And is there any system more complicated than a social network? Someone’s sharing something with one group while possibly hiding it from another group – Nobody wants their grandma to see how drunk they were last night.

Psychology, on the other hand, seeks to understand the individual. And the individual users are just as important, in this case. Consider a user X. He sees the Gangnam Style video and does not think it’s funny – He doesn’t share it. Consider a different user, Y – He hears the Gangnam Style song and has an obsession with K-Rap, so he finds the video and shares it everywhere without even seeing it. Understanding these ideosyncrasies is the forte of Psychology, making it ideal for this purpose.

To start with, I’ve already read the Wikipedia entries for Complexity Science (Which redirects to Complex Systems) and Pyschology, spoken to friends studying for postgraduate qualifications in both fields and read “Psychology – A Very Short Introduction” (Butler, G & McManus, F; 1998; Oxford University Press), as well as various Internet articles which seek to define the two disciplines. This was predominantly to confirm my choices than to seek to define them.

As far as further study goes, I’m hoping that the friends I’ve spoken to will provide me with a list of useful materials soon, but in the meantime¬† I’m going to start on Pyschology as it’s more familiar – Linguistics shares some similar concepts. So particularly useful sources that I’ve found so far are “The Analysis of Mind,” by Bertrand Russell, available online from the library, a book called “Approaching Multivariate Analysis: An Introduction for psychology,” which I’m hoping might help me begin to understand how Psychology seeks to ‘solve’ problems and “Atkinson & Hilgard’s introduction to psychology,” all of which are seemingly relevant books I’ve found on Webcat.

With regard to Complexity Science, I’ve come up with the following sources: Chaos Under Control (Peak, David) which seems to give a basic overview of how Complexity Science seeks to cope with ‘chaos’, which seems useful for a social network; Morowitz’s “The Emergence of Everything – How the World Became Complex,” which is an electronic resource which doesn’t seem 100% helpful but I’m reading anyway to get in the ‘complexity mindset’; the Journal of Systems Science and Complexity, which I’m reading just to look at how complexity science is applied and how it ‘solves’ problems.

In addition, I’ve got a lot of Google search result links. I’m working my way through them, but they mostly concern introductions to the relevant disciplines and subfields, such as ‘Internet Psychology’, which seems particularly useful – Who knows: Maybe psychology will turn out to be too broad and I’ll go for that one?

So that’s all for now. Back to reading, I guess

Written by Neal Reeves on October 13th, 2013

Twitter ‚Äď a tool for social good or another chance for online abuse?   no comments

Posted at 11:13 am in Politics

Twitter states that it is a tool for social good, helping charities to promote their cause, helping businesses to work more effectively and giving the public fast, up to date access about whatever they find interesting [1]. While twitter has undoubtedly been used for good, for instance in education [2], and for fundraising activities [3], it has also been seriously abused [4], leading to implications for society on whether the site can be controlled effectively in the future, or whether things will only get worse.

The two disciplines I have chosen to look at are Philosophy and Politics.


In this area I have been looking at the three main distinctions of philosophy; metaphysics, epistemology and moral/political philosophy. Whilst the first two areas are perhaps more abstract, containing huge fundamental questions beyond the scope of this project,¬† it is the third area that I am particularly interested in and that I believe ties in well with the question. For instance the area can be well applied to how people, including the general public and those with power, use twitter on a daily basis. Should companies be allowed to use celebrities to casually endorse their products? Why do hundreds of people take to ‚Äėbullying‚Äô one another on a daily basis? Does a lack of norms allow for this? Can we justify this behaviour? Is it the duty of the government to do something about this?


This is an area which I have not yet looked into as fully, but from my first readings it appears that politics studies anything and everything to do with those who have been allocated a position of power, and what policies they decide to uphold. In the area of political philosophy, I am particularly interested in what makes governmental decisions legitimate and does the government have power over online space?







Craig, E. ‚ÄėPhilosophy: A very short introduction‚Äô

Honderich, T. ‚ÄėThe Oxford companion to Philosophy‚Äô

Nutall, J. ‚ÄėAn introduction to Philosophy‚Äô

Warburton, N. ‚ÄėPhilosophy the basics‚Äô

Sellers, R. ‚ÄėThe principles, perspectives and problems of Philosophy‚Äô


Lanne, J. and Ersson, S. ‚ÄėComparative Politics‚Äô

Kelly, P. ‚ÄėThe Politics book‚Äô

Political Philosophy

Wolff, J. ‚ÄėAn introduction to Political Philosophy‚Äô

Swift, A. ‚ÄėPolitical Philosophy‚Äô

Written by Laura Hyrjak on October 13th, 2013

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Effects of the physical and environmental factors on the perception of privacy on the web amongst teenagers   no comments

Posted at 8:42 am in Uncategorized


I am very interested to investigate the potential effects of the physical and environmental factors on the perception of privacy on the web amongst teenagers.

Environmental factors (such as the room that we publish our information from) or physical factors (such as the medium or device that we use and it’s characteristics including its size or portability) can play a crucial role in our perception of privacy. Examples of this can be seen amongst teenagers.

I found myself very interested in this subject after reading an article by Elizabeth Kandel Englander on cyberbullying that was published on the Harvard Education Letter recently. As part of this article Englander talks about the effects of the physical environment (including the location or size of the screen) on the perception of privacy amongst teenagers. She writes:

“In a study I’m currently conducting, about half of the teens who said they had sent or posted something they regretted said they did so while in their bedrooms‚ÄĒand 83 percent said it happened from a room inside their home. About two-thirds said they were using a device with a small screen‚ÄĒwhich can also promote a false feeling of privacy, since the screen size means that others can‚Äôt easily read over your shoulder. ”

But what exactly triggers this ? How does our brain trick us into believing that what we are sharing online is not going to be seen by many people and how do we get persuaded ? What is the thought process from the moment that our sensors collect information about the environment until the moment that the perception happens ? What role does biology play in creating the illusion of privacy in our brains?

I would like to approach this subject from the perspectives of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience.


cognitive  psychology:

I believe that approaching ideas about perceptions of privacy through perceptual psychology as a subset of cognitive psychology could shed light on how the teenage mind could interpret the stimuli from the physical environment in a way that it could create an illusion of privacy. Cognitive psychology could also help determine the cognitive processes that occur within the minds of the said teenagers which could direct the physical senses to lead into such conclusions.

cognitive  neuroscience:

Despite it being a very fast-growing field, neuroscience still has many questions unanswered. As it is a very diverse and wide discipline, I’m planning to focus on very basic details of the cognitive levels. This is perhaps an intersection between neuropsychology and biology and could potentially be where an expert cognitive-neuroscientist could come up with answers to complex questions about the way that the brain interacts with the environment. Without looking for answers, this could be a great opportunity to try to look at the issue from the perspective of a neuroscientist.


Some textbooks that I’m planning to use:

  1. Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind , Michael Gazzaniga , Richard B. Ivry , George R. Mangun
  2. The Student’s Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience, Jamie Ward
  3. Cognitive Psychology and its Implications, John R. Anderson
  4. Cognitive Psychology , Robert L. Solso, Otto H. MacLin, M. Kimberly MacLin





Written by Faranak on October 13th, 2013

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