How to use bad science to trash ereaders

Studies of ereading Studies about how reading paper books compares to reading electronic devices like a Kobo have gotten some attention in the media. Which makes sense because it’s often a chance to have a great moral panic about how technology is now ruining reading, or maybe even cognition. I’ve posted about technology panics before but ereader stories deserve a special, dishonourable mention. Here’s the story from August 2014 in the Guardian: Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds. I’ll quote a large chunk to set the context. A new study which found that readers using a […]

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Sympathy for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev vs the Bali Nine

In the last few days, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (the living Boston marathon bomber) has been in the news again. Having been convicted on all counts in April, he has just now been sentenced to death by lethal injection. Coming off the recent executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran by Indonesia and the furore this has caused in Australia, this is a good time to examine the public’s reaction to the death penalty. Firstly, about the process. Tsarnaev’s sentence was decided by a jury who could have also chosen not to apply the death penalty. However, apparently being anti-death penalty is […]

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The problem with global indexes

In the last decade, we’ve seen an explosion in the media of country-based rankings/indexes that are meant to measure more than “just” traditional economic metrics like GDP. While GDP is an important measure that tells us something about what’s going on in a region, it’s very easy to see that it misses a huge chunk of the bigger picture. That kind of stuff is a bit harder to see for something like the World Happiness Index. But we have to be skeptical. Not because these types of indexes are worthless (although some have huge problems) but because without a critical […]

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97% of porn statistics are made up on the spot

[CN: Contains links to SFW pages on NSFW/porn sites] Everybody loves a good porn usage story in the mainstream media. The latest one to hit the rounds was this one from Salon/Alternet about the Middle East’s use of porn, but these stories do the rounds quite regularly. They are however often based on really shoddy research methods or misunderstandings about the internet. And yet, this is an area that’s worth studying, reporting and reading about. It’s interesting but there are real social issues at stake too. We need to know about this as a society, for the sake of policy […]

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It’s been 100 years since the Armenian Genocide, denialism going strong

This Saturday, April 25th, Australia will commemorate the ANZAC Centenary. On April 25th 1915, the ANZAC troops landed in Gallipoli, and there will be plenty of information about that in the media and in official channels –– before, during and after. This makes it likely that at least in Australia, the other major anniversary won’t get the attention it deserves –– a sad irony since they’re so related. Because the day before the ANZACs landed (April 24th 1915), a very short distance away, the events that would lead to the Armenian Genocide got started. And the Armenian Genocide itself has […]

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Atheists don’t exist (if you’re misleading enough)

This is an oldie (from 2014) but a goodie. A legit science website (Science 2.0) publishes an blog post entitled Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke by Nury Vittachi. It’s a great example of what happens when you try to be so nuanced and sophisticated that your head gets sucked up into your own ass. The overall premise of the article is that studies seem to show that all people may tacitly hold religious beliefs. And hence people who identify as atheists may not be “true” atheists because subconsciously they still engage in religious […]

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Will selfies turn you into a psychopath? (No.)

A few weeks ago, there was an item in international media that is a perfect example of what happens when you get a combination of bad science reporting, bad science and moral panics. The story was that apparently research has shown that men who take selfies show more signs of psychopathy (and therefore cut the selfies out). The reporting There were lots of stories online but here are 3 I picked non-randomly: From Huffpo, Men Obsessed With Selfies Could Have Psychopathic Tendencies, Reveals Study From Sydney Morning Herald, Men who take a lot of selfies ‘show strong links to psychopathic […]

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How would a world with trigger warnings work?

Last week, I posted a defence of trigger warnings/content notes (and an attack on the anti-arguments). This is unfortunately where the debate is at – whether the culture should be more accommodating of people who want to know a few extra things about a piece of content before they consume it with informed consent. A much more interesting discussion is the practicalities of how this could be implemented, how it would start up. Here, I’ll try to propose something concrete. Ad-hoc labelling by content creators This is a content creator who wants to create a content note out of their […]

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Liveblogging #ThinkActChange: Ending the Asylum Seeker Debate

I’m liveblogging tonight’s ThinkActChange: Ending the Asylum Seeker Debate event. Speakers include: Kon Karapanagiotidis, Founder & CEO – Asylum Seekers Resource Centre Ben Doherty, Journalist – The Guardian Imogen Bailey, Actress & Ambassador, The Hot Potato Alycia Gawthorne, Campaigner – GetUp! John O’Callaghan, Director of JOC Consulting I’ve only blogged tangentially about asylum seekers (here, here and here) but haven’t yet done a dedicated post. Will hope to have more soon but this should be a great event for those already passionate about the issue. Here goes! Fairly white-looking crowd. [ADDED: Meaning this needs to get waaay bigger!] [6:40] Video […]

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Trigger Warnings/Content Notes: An Epic in Two Acts

Because the internet NEEDS another opinion on trigger warnings/content notes! Act 1 A long time ago in a parallel universe, writing was AuthenticTM. A host of manly men created great literature and disseminated them to the public. Everything was great and everyone got a true cultural experience. Along came an agitator. “You know what would be great?” the agitator whined entitledly. “There should be a short description of what each text contains as a teaser. You know, a little preview or blurb (maybe at the back of a book?) so we can decide what’s likely to appeal to our tastes […]

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The thinly-veiled identity of lives and rants in Sydney. Views not his own, provided by hivemind. All my original work on this blog is licensed under a CC BY-NC License. Click here for the privacy policy

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