Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Interdisciplinary synthesis   no comments

Posted at 11:49 am in Psychology,Uncategorized

Psychology and computer science are clearly distinct disciplines. As we have seen, there are obvious differences within the definitions and methodological approaches of the two. Still, despite the differences, there are some interdisciplinary subfields that try to fuse the two.

An interdisciplinary perspective on the two disciplines is cognitive science, wherein the human mind is seen as an information processor, a machine. According to cognitive scientists, the mind sees information in the same manner as computers do. First, it receives ‚Äėinput‚Äô from a source. Then, this input is stored on some kind of ‚Äėhard drive‚Äô. Finally, the input will be processed. The results of this process is the ‚Äėoutput‚Äô (Friedenberg, Silverman, 2006: p. 3). The mental representation of information is thus a significant part of cognitive science, which can be compared with information processing on computers.

A field that draws upon this is human-computer interaction (HCI). HCI can be seen as a merge between cognitive psychology and programming aspects of computer science, to create well designed interfaces. According to Carroll, it looks at how humans interact with technology, and how that can be supported through the design. It came into being partly because of ‚Äúthe recognition that computers can be deliberately designed to facilitate human activity and experience only when social and cognitive requirements drive the design process throughout‚ÄĚ (Carroll, 1997: p. 62, 79). Therefore, cognitive psychology should be considered for the design of computer systems.

Another example is artificial intelligence (AI), early mentioned as a subset of computer science. AI scientists try to build machines that can automatically make intelligent decisions. They try to do this at the level of intelligence of a human agent, which should lead to the fact that the machine can act in the same manner as humans (Friedenberg, Silverman, 2006: p. 320). The consideration of what this intelligent behaviour is, comes from psychology.

Sources

Carroll, John M. (1997) ‚ÄėHUMAN-COMPUTER INTERACTION: Psychology as a Science of Design‚Äô, Annual Rev. Psych., 48, pp. 61-83.

Friedenberg, Jay, Gordon Silverman. (2006) Cognitive Science. An introduction to the Study of Mind. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc.

Written by Gert Van Hardeveld on December 1st, 2013

Tagged with , , , , ,

Online surveillance and how psychology is related to it   no comments

Posted at 11:52 am in Psychology

This week I will look at online surveillance and how psychology is related to it. Online surveillance has been a hot topic in the last couple of years.

During the Arab Spring, many Middle-Eastern governments have been accused of tracking down (potential) opponents and arresting them because of their online activity. Also, the revelations by Edward Snowden about the NSA have led to more attention to how the Web can be used as a tool of espionage. The rise in these kinds of activity show similarities with 1984, by George Orwell. This book describes a society wherein the government continuously watches and monitors its population. With the rise of the World Wide Web, people have put more and more information about themselves online. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly interesting for different (authoritarian) governments to ‚Äėwatch and monitor‚Äô this information. Herewith, they can potentially control their country in an Orwellian way by arresting people who might potentially be a threat for them.

Of course, citizens are also becoming aware of the omnipresent online surveillance by governments. If they hear about people that have been arrested because of things they have posted on the Web, they might alter their (online) behaviour. From a psychological perspective, it is interesting to see how the mind and behaviour of people is changing because of this. Their response can be compared with psychological experiments, wherein the term social interference can be used to refer to such a response. This effect is a decline in performance when observers are present (Gray, 2007: p. 502). With an increasing notion of online surveillance, which might have consequences (i.e. physical punishment, imprisonment or worse) for a certain way of behaving, a citizen might become less (visibly) active online. This could be seen as a decline in performance.

This response can also be seen as the outcome of anxiety, which according to psychological terms can be seen as the mental situation when people worry excessively about a ‚Äústimulus or event that are vague, not identifiable, or in the future‚ÄĚ (Gray, 2007: p. 590). When one does not know what future dangers may lie ahead, but expects consequences for certain actions, behaviour can change.

Social interference and anxiety are just two topics that can be used to look at online surveillance from a psychological perspective. Still, it offers many other perspectives to look at the subject. The approaches that I described earlier in a blogpost (biological, behaviourist, cognitive, psychodynamic, and humanistic) can for example all be used to look at online surveillance in a different way.

Next time, I will look at how online surveillance can be studied from the perspective of computer science. Also, I will look at how psychology and computer science can be combined to study online surveillance.

Sources

Gray, Peter. Psychology. Fifth Edition. New York: Worth Publishers, 2007.

Written by Gert Van Hardeveld on November 26th, 2013

Tagged with ,

How is gender equality represented on the web? A Psychological Introduction.   no comments

Posted at 11:29 pm in Psychology

This post will look at the definition of gender and the different types of interaction to try and better understand the different gender interactions on the web, to further understand how one would go about answering this question using psychology as a discipline.

In order to study gender equality from a psychological point of view, it is first important to define the notion of gender. Psychology defines two terms in relation to defining gender: “gender identity” and “sex typing”. Gender identity is where there is a clear separation between male and female, and a vast majority of cultures extend that biological difference into affording highly contrasting attributes and expectations of behaviour to each gender. Sexual typing is the instance of a person of a specific gender taking on the qualities and characteristics of that gender as expected of them by culture and society.

Another interesting psychological area to look at is interactions, after all to study this topic interactions between different genders on the web would have to be addressed.

Group Interactions: these are often ruled by social norms whereby a certain level of behaviour is deemed acceptable or even actively encouraged. Group interaction patterns have the potential to become ‘institutionalised’, meaning that people who occupy certain roles will take on subsequent behavioural actions based on them. These roles could be the traditional ‘boss/employee’ role, however this could equally be applied to the stereotypical gender roles. Perhaps females will fall into occupying sites that contain material that is deemed ‘stereotypically female’ such as cooking and baking sites; whereas men will involve themselves with aggressive war based sites/online games.

This arguably may not even be a representation of gender inequality, as perhaps people are just running with their personal interests; however this could easily be an example of them falling into their historical roles even with a modern invention such as the web. Following on from the last psychology post involving case studies and direct observation as two of the methods of conducting psychological research, if I were investigating this question using psychology I would look at case studies of gender usage of the web and do some direct observing of posts on forums/social networking sites etc. A case study called ‘Measuring the Gender Gap on the Internet’ which looks at different genders presence and use of the internet. One of it’s hypothesis based on the larger presence of males over females was that ‘the Internet may have “gendered” attributes that favour men in some way’. It also suggests that the internet might be preferable to males given (or because of?) the stereotype that males prefer technology to females.

There are also different varieties of individual interaction: reactive, evocative and proactive.

Reactive Interaction: different individuals will interpret, experience and react to the same situations in vastly different ways depending on their personality. For example an anxious person might react significantly worse to a potentially worrying situation (e.g getting shut in a lift) in a very different way to a calm unaffected person. Different people could interpret different remarks about gender or websites that play to a specific gender stereotype in different ways inciting potential situations of gender inequality, or at least unequal gender representation.

Evocative Interaction: different personalities evoke varied responses from different people. Different types of behaviour will encourage people to react to them differently. Perhaps someone who makes a comment that implies they do not see the genders equally (even in jest) will provoke certain people to angry reactions thus resulting in gender bashing on both sides and potentially setting up of groups/statements being made that don’t represent the genders equally.

Proactive Interaction: we select our environments as we get older, perhaps one gender over the other will elect to spend their time on the web in a certain way, or even just spend more of their time on the web than the other; leading back to the case study about the gender gap on the internet.

I think studying the different types of interaction can give insight into gender representation on the web, as part of it will certainly be how both genders actually interact with each other on the web. Other factors will be looking into internet usage by the different genders, and also what sites are frequented by what genders. Drilling down into these it’s also looking at the access both genders have to various sites; the comments made about them and how they are represented on individual sites.

In my next two blog posts I will be looking at what defines a gender equal web from the perspectives of both philosophy and psychology, to better yet ascertain how I would answer this research question (aka determing the representation of gender on the web) by measuring reality against a proposed ‘idealised equal’ gender web.

[1] B. L. Fredrickson, S Nolen-Hocksema, G. R. Loftus, and W. A. Wagenaar. Atkinson and Hilgards’s Introduction to Psychology. Cengage Learning EMEA, 2009, 15th edition, 2009.
[2] David G Myers. Exploring Psychology. Worth Publishers, 2009, 7th edition, 2008.
[3] D. Westen and R. M. Kowalski. Psychology, Study Guide. Wiley, 5th edition, 2009.
[4] Bruce Bimber. Measuring the gender gap on the internet. Social science quarterly, 81(3):868‚Äď876, 2000.

Written by Samantha Kanza on November 10th, 2013

Tagged with ,

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 Hilgards’s 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

Tagged with ,

Looking at psychology through different lenses   no comments

Posted at 5:15 pm in Psychology

After having described the basic definition and research strategies of psychology last week, I want to focus on the different approaches of the discipline this week. To do this in a proper manner, I loaned two books from the library: ‘Approaches to Psychology’ by Glassman and Hadad, and ‘Contemporary Approaches to Psychology’ by Helson and Bevan. After having looked at both books I found that, despite of the title, the latter is outdated, because it was firstly published in 1967. The Glassman and Hadad book, being published first in 2004, gives a more contemporary, clear and concise image of the different approaches that can be used to study the field of psychology. Because of this, it will be more useful for the eventual assignment.

Glassman and Hadad explain that there is a necessity to use different approaches, because of the complexity of behaviour. They argue that there is no single theory that can grasp every aspect of it (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 5). They identify five main approaches that over time have tried to understand psychology at its fullest:

  • The biological approach
  • The behaviourist approach
  • The cognitive approach
  • The psychodynamic approach
  • The humanistic approach

After describing these approaches, the two authors use them to show how one can look at development, social and abnormal psychology.

Glassman and Hadad start with the biological approach, a perspective wherein humans are seen as a biological organism. “What we do, and even what we think, is seen as having its basis in our physical structure”, they argue. Herewith, many biological researchers see behaviour as something that can be fully explained through the physics of the human body (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 44-45). In some ways, the second approach that they look at, is the opposite of the biological approach. Glassman and Hadad namely state that¬†the behaviourist approach¬†sees environmental stimuli as determinative for the way in which humans act. They argue herewith that “human experience can be understood through the interrelations between stimuli and responses.” Everything that cannot be studied empirically, like feelings and thoughts, is not relevant for the behaviourist approach (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 100-104). Only observable events are thus relevant.

The third approach, might be seen as a middle ground between the first two approaches.¬†“The cognitive approach¬†is concerned with understanding the thinking processes that underlie our actions”, Glassman and Hadad explain. According to them, it also “sees events within the person as being at least as important as environmental stimuli in the understanding of behaviour” (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 150, 151). The fourth approach is pioneered by Sigmund Freud. The so-called¬†psychodynamic approach¬†looks at inner processes, which include notions of self and awareness. Herewith, Glassman and Hadad describe it as a “both a theory of motivation and a theory of personality”. The authors contrast it to the cognitive approach, because the psychodynamic approach looks at behaviour within the context of personality and herewith at the whole person, not just at discrete mental processes (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 205). In the words of the authors: “The psychodynamic approach attempts to understand behaviour by analyzing how personality is shaped by past experience and the workings of the mind” (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 247).

The final approach, the humanistic approach, is arguably the most subjective way of looking at behaviour. Glassman and Hadad identify two assumptions: the belief that behaviour can only be understood through the subjective experience of an individual, and that behaviour is not constrained by current circumstances or past experience (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 255).

If one would look at the changing behaviour of individuals because of online surveillance, probably all of the approaches could be used and make an interesting study. The biological approach seems the hardest approach to associate with the subject of online surveillance. Still, when looking at examples that Glassman and Hadad give on social psychology, one could for example look at the innate characteristic of a human being to act differently when being ‘the victim’ of online surveillance (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 339). Is this explainable by heredity? Can the changed behaviour be explained by the characteristic of humans? Does the gender of an individual have an influence on the way online surveillance is affecting him or her? These questions are just some examples of how one can look at the subject. Therefore, I may conclude that the varying approaches in psychology are able to offer many ways of studying the subject of online surveillance.

Sources

Glassman, William E. and Marilyn Hadad. Approaches to Psychology. Fourth edition. Berkshire: Open University Press, 2004.

Helson, Harry and William Bevan.  Contemporary Approaches To Psychology. D.Van Nostrand Company Inc., 1967.

Written by Gert Van Hardeveld on October 27th, 2013

Psychology in a nutshell   no comments

Posted at 9:02 pm in Psychology

This week I have been looking at the basics of psychology. After I talked to a friend in the Netherlands, who studies psychology, I came to the conclusion that the book ‘Psychology’ by Peter Gray would be a solid introduction to the discipline and could introduce me in an appropriate matter to the subject. I scanned over the 654 pages of the book and learned about psychology’s basic methodologies and research fields.

On the first page of his book, Gray states the following:

“Psychology is the science of behavior and the mind. In this definition behavior refers to the observable actions of a person or an animal. Mind refers to an individual‚Äôs sensations, perceptions, memories, thoughts, dreams, motives, emotional feelings, and other subjective experiences.”

(Gray, 2007: p. 1)

After this formal definition, Gray continues with explaining that there are three foundation ideas for psychology. The first idea is that behavior and mental experience have physical causes, the second that mind and behavior are shaped by experience, and the last is that the machinery of behavior and mind have evolved through natural selection (Gray, 2007: p. 2).

These foundational ideas are explored by using different research strategies. Gray recognizes three categories in which these strategies can be ordered. The first is research design, wherefore experiments, correlational studies, and descriptive studies are needed. The setting is the second category. Herewith, one must think of either field or laboratory research. Finally, the data-collection method is important. The basic types are self-report and observation (Gray, 2007: p. 29). Another important factor of psychology is the usage of statistical methods to understand the data that has been collected. According to Gray, descriptive statistics are used to summarize sets of data. Inferential statistics help researchers in their confidence about the collected data (Gray, 2007: p. 35).

After the basic methodologies of psychology, Gray goes into more detail and talks about the different fields that are being explored in psychology and have shaped it to what it is now. Human behavior is an important field, that is often being examined  through genetic evolution and the environment around a human being (Gray, 2007: p. 49). Furthermore, cognition and neuroscience are important in studying the shaping of behavior and the mind.

An interesting example in which the field of psychology is particularly relevant to Web Science and the subject that I chose, online surveillance, is through laws of behavior as social facilitation and social interference. These terms are being described by Gray as influential on human behavior, because the individual knows when it is being observed and its behavior is being affected by it (Gray, 2007: p. 502).

This week I wrote on the basic definition of psychology and some of its methodologies. Next week I want to explore in detail which different fields of psychology exist and how they might relate to online surveillance. 

 

Source

Gray, Peter. Psychology. Fifth Edition. New York: Worth Publishers, 2007.

Written by Gert Van Hardeveld on October 21st, 2013

Tagged with , ,

Does the Web make us evil?   no comments

Posted at 10:52 pm in Psychology

google_morality

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

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.

Philosophy

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.

COMP6044-planning

 

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

Footnotes:

  • [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

Tagged with , , ,

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.

Psychology:
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:
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

Tagged with , ,

Psychology and Computer Science   no comments

Posted at 2:53 pm in Psychology

Back in Amsterdam, I wrote my bachelor thesis on the usage of social media during the so-called ‘new media revolutions’ during the Arab Spring. One of my main conclusions was that social media are not just of use for the oppressed populations to liberate themselves, but are also being used by (authoritarian) governments to track, and often arrest, opponents. While writing my thesis I herewith developed an interest for the ways in which governments all over the world detect, track and eliminate potential ‘enemies’ of the state through the Web.

Online surveillance is for me one of the most interesting subjects when studying the Web. On the one hand it could be used to¬†protect the state¬†by finding criminals, terrorists and other dissidents. At the same time, omnipresent surveillance can affect ‘regular’ citizens. When governments misuse their power in this field, they can become a ‘Big Brother’ that closely tracks everyone in a nation. This may change the way people browse the Web.

Because of this fact, I think that an interesting way of looking at the topic can be through the disciplines of Psychology and Computer Science.

Psychology

Users of the Web might alter their (online) behavior if they have the feeling that they are being constantly ‘watched’. Looking at online surveillance from a psychological perspective may give an explanation why users act differently. Psychology is the study of mind and behavior, and therefore will most likely offer many different theories to analyze web users that have the feeling (or are actually) being watched. I loaned the book Psychology¬†by Peter Gray from the library to start learning about the epistemologies and ontologies in Psychology.

Computer Science

Besides a psychological perspective, it could also be interesting to look at online surveillance from a Computer Science perspective. Through this field it can be analyzed how governments can watch citizens, while at the same time it can look at how the citizens can avoid being watched. I loaned the book Computer Science. An Overview by J. Glenn Brookshear to get some insights in how computers work and how they have been used over the years.

By combining Psychology and Computer Science I hope to get a human perspective with a technological perspective and learn more about how to combine these disciplines.

Sources

Brookshear, J. Glenn. Computer Science. An Overview. Eleventh Edition. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2012.

Gray, Peter. Psychology. Fifth Edition. New York: Worth Publishers, 2007.

Written by Gert Van Hardeveld on October 11th, 2013

Tagged with , ,