Archive for October 28th, 2013

How is gender equality represented on the web? Methodology of Psychology   no comments

Posted at 11:54 pm in Psychology

This post will look at the different perspectives in psychology, and the subsequent different approaches to conducting psychological research.

Here are the seven different perspectives of psychology:

Biological Perspective – Studying the physical to inform the mental. Looking at the neural processes in our brains along with studying the immune system, nervous system and genetics to inform the mental processes. For example, people who are closely related to people who develop mental diseases, may have a greater chance of developing the same disease based on their similar genetics.

Behaviour Genetics – Looking at what extent of our personality traits stem from our genetics, commonly looked at as the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate. This is often studied using twins, looking at the similarity of twins brought up in the same environment, versus twins brought up in completely different environments and seeing which similarities still manifest themselves.

Behavioural Perspective – How conditioning/environmental events can affect how people behave. E.g if somebody was left handed, but rapped on the knuckles every time they used their left hand to write, that would build up a condition in their minds. Years later if they were asked to write something, they would instinctively feel nervous and in anticipation of pain at the idea of writing it with their left hand.

Cognitive Perspective – Analysing mental processes in relation to people’s past recollections and approaches to problem solving / reasoning. For example if someone feels like they cannot give a presentation in front of a large audience, chances are they will fail to do so.

Social Perspective – How people react to other people and situations based on their different social groups and cultures. For example different social groups may tend towards different political persuasions or particular likes/dislikes of food based upon the groups of people they interact with and what is seen as ‘normal’ in that culture.

Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytical Perspective – Proposing that people act in a certain way based on how they wish something to be as opposed to how it actually is. E.g somebody fails an exam, and professes not to care about said exam and that studying is overated, you know that that isn’t their philosphy on learning and they actually care about their grades, so you make the assumption that they are saying that to save face and that they merely wish that was true as opposed to actually believing it.

Evolutionary Perspective – Arguable ‘survival of the fittest’ approach, suggests that humans have adopted characteristics from their ancestors that helped them procreate and survive. For example, humans have an unhealthy appetite for fats and sugars, in the past the ability to obtain fats and sugars probably indicated a richer better lifestyle with a much higher chance of survival; whereas now such foods are so readily available it results in an unhealthy body.

Psychology also holds a selection of research methods, below is a description of these:

Experimental – Experiments are conducted in carefully controlled conditions (often a lab). This allows for certain variables to be carefully manipulated and to ensure that several of the same experiment can be replecated under the same conditions. The disadvantage to this is that lab conditions don’t mirror real life conditions and therefore these experiments can only make accurate predictions based on findings to a certain extent. In addition the different personalities of groups taking part in experiments also need to be taken into account, plus the fact that not everything can be tested within a lab situation. The key element in experiments are collecting measurements of specified variables in the study. E.g depriving five people of sleep and measuring how well their memory stands up compared to when they were fully functioning.

Correlational – This looks at the potential relationship between two variables and their affects on one another. This allows situations to be tested in a more real life style situation than in the lab (although of course this does mean that it will be less carefully controlled). The disadvantage of this is that whilst in an experimental method the cause is clear (increasing/decreasing a variable leads to a conclusion) but this cause and effect conclusion cannot be drawn from studies like this. How much these two variables are related is measured using a descriptive statistic called the ‘correlation coefficient’. This statistic will either show that the values are positively correlated (aka they increase or decrease together) or that they are negatively correlated (one increasing means the other decreases). An example of this would be taking a group of smokers, and a group of non smokers and looking at their taste sensitivities.

Observational – This can be done in one of two ways, direct observation of a naturally occuring event, or surveying a group of people to measure their responses. The advantage of direct observation is that it shows things happening in their natural environment as opposed to specifically controlled conditions such as a lab (which would be hard to use in this type of study). However when the observer is merely watching the events as opposed to measuring/testing them in some way, then the results can be potentially tainted by observer bias, not to mention if people know they are being observed. Survey observation is advantageous as it can reveal a group opnion/attitude towards a certain issue, although it also depends on the participants being not only honest but able to accurately report their thoughts. Neither of these types of research allows us to establish causation either.

Case Studies – Where a small number of cases are investigated in depth. This allows the psychologist to build up a more complex profile than a one time experiment or observation, and they tend to provide common data that can lead towards producing a hypotheses. However, this is not the sort of research that can be easily repeated in such a way that multiple sets of studies could aid one another, and again is subject to researcher bias.

Obviously looking at all of these different perspectives and methodologies is unrealistic, not only because we are writing a 2500 word essay, but because not all of these are relevant to how one would go about studying how gender is represented on the web from a psychological point of view.

The perspectives and research methods that would be most relevant to this study are:

Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytical Perspective – looking at why different people represent genders in a potentially unequal manner on the web, and are these representations merely a way of showing their unconscious mental desires (e.g similarly to pretending that one doesn’t wish to be in a relationship after the other person leaving, one might perceive a comment as ‘sexist’ or indeed face a real life situation involving gender bias, and subsequently unconsciously be drawn to expressing an unequal view on the web.)

Behavioural Perspective – looking at how we have been conditioned to react to certain things, perhaps some men and women are conditioned to believe that ultimately their gender is better and that is reflected in their behaviour on the web. Additionally perhaps some people/genders are conditioned to feel like the unvervalued gender and therefore look for gender inequality where it doesn’t exist.

Direct Observation – looking at how events on the web unfold, facebook groups, forum conversations, blogs etc.

Case Studies – looking at studies and research on this issue.

[1] B. L. Fredrickson, S Nolen-Hocksema, G. R. Loftus, and W. A. Wagenaar. Atkinson and HilgardsÔÇÖs Introduction to Psychology. Cengage Learning EMEA, 2009, 15th edition, 2009.
[2] D. G. Myers. Exploring Psychology. Worth Publishers, 2009, 7th edition, 2008.
[3] D. Westen and R. M. Kowalski. Psychology, Study Guide. Wiley, 5th edition, 2009.

Written by Samantha Kanza on October 28th, 2013

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Cognitive Science   no comments

Posted at 3:28 pm in Uncategorized

Aristotle was perhaps amongst the first who drew attention to the way that the mind processes information .He was interested in the reasons why an argument could be accepted as valid by those who were both for and against it. His theory of syllogistic reasoning is a form of deductive reasoning that suggests the validity of the argument could be explained by its symbolic form rather than its content.

Various questions about the human mind and the way it processes the information has led to the birth of cognitive science. An example of this is the thought processes that happen in the mind of a jazz musician when he/she is improvising (In some cases without any formal music theory knowledge).How would they know how to put the specific notes and phrases in the right order while making infinite set of improvisations in the chords that remain loyal to a finite set of formal structures.

Cognitive science has a multidisciplinary nature. Scientists from different scientific paradigms such as computer science, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics and philosophy have used cognitive science in their fields to try finding answers to many questions about the human mind. We can have a look at a few examples of this below:

Cognitive science today is a major part of computer science as there has always been an analogy between the human mind and the computer mind. These two fields on many occasions have played the role of a catalyst in the process of improvements and developments of one another but yet in some cases can be misleading.

Cognitive psychologists have achieved many breakthroughs in the areas of education and learning by studying the process of reading or learning .Applied cognitive science has been used by scientists to diagnose and treat learning difficulties, speech impairments, and aiding therapies for stroke victims. As exciting as applied cognitive science can be, it also raises many moral and political challenges for cognitive scientists in this field as the technology in some cases can be misused. Therefore cognitive science is also interrelated with the studying of history, social science and humanities.

Reference:

1. Neil A. Stillings , Steven E. Weisler , Christopher H. Chase , Mark H. Feinstein , Jay L. Garfield and Edwina L. Rissland (1987),Cognitive Science: An Introduction – 2nd Edition.(1-17)[Accessed 17 Oct 2013]
 

 

Written by Faranak on October 28th, 2013

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The Digital Divide and Geography   no comments

Posted at 1:30 pm in Uncategorized

I’ve decided to approach this assignment by focusing on a disciplinary at a time, as well as enhancing my knowledge on the Digital Divide. This week I have focused on Geography, Human Geography to be specific.

Research:

The chunky textbook┬á“An Introduction to Human Geography” ┬áby P. Daniels et al, has been the first to enlighten me on the foundations of Human Geography. Likewise to Web Science, it is known to be a multi-disciplinary field of study. “It is about the world around us” but this does not just mean the physical aspects, which we all initially think of when Geography is mentioned. Human Geography draws upon sociology, anthropology, politics as well as oceanography and geology (and many others). It’s focus involves people in places, spaces and landscapes that are modified by human interventions.

This book provided a significant insight to a range of topics covered within Human Geography, including Globalisation, Demography, Capitalism, Social Inequalities and Spatial Divides. The majority directly and indirectly affecting, the digital divide:

Globalisation:- “Shrinking World’; affected by technical, political, cultural and economical factors; Fast developing technologies and Satellite Communications = more global and connected world;

Capitalism:- Between 1500 and 1900 fundamental changes of the organisation of the western world; World Systems theory uses the socio-economic systems involving 3 categories – ┬áCore, Periphery and Semi-Periphery; Industrial Production is noted to be regionally diversified and geographically uneven; Newly Industrialised Countries’ (NIC’s) are ‘catching up’.

Social Inequality and Spatial Divides:- Labels with negative associations for the under developed; requires encouragement for solving development problems; 2-way relationship between society and space; mapping based on quality of life (needs and desires) in different places; measured by Human Development Index (HDI) taking into account a variety of factors including access to the internet/technology

Reference: Daniels., P, Bradshaw., P, Shaw., D, Sidaway., J,  (2012) An Introduction to Human Geography, 4th ed, Essex: Pearson.

 

Although going backwards with regard to the publication date, the Human Geography Issues for 21st Century┬áby P. Daniels et al textbook was also a worthwhile read. It discusses the focus Geographers have – an interest in ways places differ from one another and the similarities and interconnections between places. In terms of the digital divide this is relevant as it is vital to understand the cause of the divide, comprehend it’s effects and draw up solutions.

Population, Resources and Development:- the concern isn’t just about the resources running out, but the exchange and consumption of the resources that benefit rich nations at the expense of the poor and natural environment; The terms┬á‘Push’ and ‘Pull’ factors, related to migration, put pressure on resources and increase social tensions – access to, and use of, technology is a major push/pull factor.

Impact of technologies:- dynamic and linked to human society; A definite ‘technological progress’; Makes old technologies and associated resources redundant; The resource-rich are able to exploit the use and supply of resources – causing wars and conflict; Technological change improved link between economic development and energy consumption – the developing world could go through this development too?!

Digital Economy:-┬áI believe to be Geographer’s terminology linking to the Digital Divide; The Global Digital Economy is changing the geography of the economy, with the use of the internet, e-commerce and digital economies rapidly growing and diversifying; The challenge is connecting national economies to the internet, being excluded will widen a gap that already exists; Connecting countries to the internet is improving; ┬áStill major steps involving training and educating to be able to use the technologies; There is a clear geographical distribution of available computers/telecommunications/networks and software – all of which are needed to participate in the digital economy; Issue that introducing these technologies in the developing world will bring more negative impacts than positive, as it requires users to be highly skilled (a trait many in the developing world have unfortunately not been able to obtain).

Reference: Daniels., P, Bradshaw., P, Shaw., D, Sidaway., J, (2008), An Introduction to Human Geography: Issues for the 21st Century, 3rd ed, Essex:Pearson

My Thoughts/Questions:

The research so far has left me to ponder on the following:

– Was there already a significant gap before the Digital Divide was established?

– ┬áIs the Technology being blamed for a gap that already existed simply because it has been a major contributor to the expansion of the divide?

– Prior to the evolution of technology, were there actions in place to reduce the gap between the first and third world?

– We have caused this digital divide – but realistically, will it ever close or only expand?

– Have we simply created a vicious circle we now can’t control?

– If NIC’s are overcoming the divide, surely other developing countries can?

– Do the western/developed countries genuinely want to help improve/overcome the digital divide or is it too risky as it could jeopardise the benefits the developed world receive (i.e. could it lose their connections, cheaper access to resources etc)?

 

 

 

Written by Sophie Parsons on October 28th, 2013