Magic Wells

Hey all. Here’s Digitally Literate, issue #353.

This past week was spent mostly at my physical therapist, having some RICE, and a lot of pain in my right thigh, glutes, and leg in general. At some point, I had some sort of injury or trauma to the region and everything locked up. All of the muscles in the gluteal region, the piriformis, my quad, knee, etc. I’ve been looking for a reason to spend more time changing up my workout habits…and this was it. ( ◡‿◡ *)

I’m one of the e-editors for the LRA website, and we’ve built up a space for researchers to post content and share. The first two pieces are by Maren Aukerman and they went live this week.

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Bonhoeffer‘s Theory of Stupidity

Dietrich Bonhoeffer argued that stupid people are more dangerous than evil ones. This is because while we can protest against or fight evil people, against stupid ones we are defenseless — reasons fall on dead ears

This suggests that stupidity is essentially a moral failing more than an intellectual one. The failure is a belief based on how things make us feel, rather than on their truthfulness. It puts taste above nutritional value and eventually we starve.

I should note that I have a problem with the frequent use of the term stupid in this video. I am privileged in that I have a lot of time, and the tools necessary to engage in regular, deep thinking activities.

How Elon Musk is complicating America’s understanding of free speech

Paul Levinson posted this unpacking of the Twitter Files expose that Elon Musk is touting on Twitter. For those that don’t spend their days reviewing the top stories section of Twitter, the Twitter Files are a series of Twitter threads based on internal documents shared by owner Elon Musk and freelance journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss in December 2022. Basically Musk, as the new owner of the social network, is going back through the communications and document history of the organization and posting content that they believe shows evidence of government, big media, or some political party trying to indoctrinate a population.

Why this matters. To me, the key element in this is the thorny problem of content moderation. The subjectivity of moderation decisions across the social web poses tremendous and complicated problems.

It is important to also note that much of this is not about the moderation and developing a better system. Instead, there is a desire to create the air of controversy, grievance, and scandal. Pay no attention to the honest, complex conversations behind the curtain.

Thinking Beyond ‘Free Speech’ in Responding to Online Harassment

Sky Croser with long form piece about online harassment and the movement that has emerged in response. Activists, as well as academics writing about online harassment, are pushing social media platforms to develop better policies around harassment, remove features that facilitate it, and give users more ways to protect themselves. Croser indicates that these discussions of the problem are grounded in a reference to free speech.

Why this matters. These arguments usually boil down to a discussion about free speech. An intersectional approach requires us to explore a more radical rethinking of the political traditions we draw on when responding to online harassment.

I recommend checking out this great comic version of what this all means.

The End of High-School English

My goodness. I hint at my interests in GPT-3, and my media feeds blow up this week. As a reminder, GPT-3 is the third generation of the Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, a neural network machine learning model that was trained using internet data to generate any kind of text. There are a lot of known, and unknown uses of this tool.

Daniel Herman suggests that this is the end of high school English. Stephen Marche thinks the college essay is now dead while Daniel Lametti considers this to be great for college essays. Lastly, Katy Ilonka Gero indicates that this helps reveal the most human parts of writing.

Why this matters. In most of our interactions, we privilege (value and expect) to read, write, speak, and listen to the English language. As such, reading and writing is one of the key ways that many view intelligence, or the lack thereof. New advances such as this indicate a need to re-examine and problematize these indicators of wisdom.

What’s the best way to deal with a flood of misinformation? Maybe it’s time for some deliberate ignorance

Joshua Benton unpacks this new paper titled Critical Ignoring as a Core Competence for Digital Citizens by Anastasia KozyrevaSam WineburgStephan Lewandowsky, and Ralph Hertwig.

The paper suggests that only by ignoring the torrent of low-quality information found online can people focus on applying critical search skills to the remaining now-manageable pool of potentially relevant information.

Why this matters. As we read online, there is a need to develop the skill to ignore, or not pay attention to everything. The authors provide a way to handle three different genres of mis- (distracting/low-quality info), dis- ( false/misleading info), or mal-information (trolling behaviors).

How Technology Is Helping Decode Animal Language

The scientific community is, thus, increasingly using technological tools including drones, recorders, robots and AI to study the calls of a range of species, from chickens and rodents, to cats and lemurs. This is described as a version of Google Translate for Animals…but it’s much more than that.

Digital technologies, so often associated with our alienation from nature, are offering us an opportunity to listen to nonhumans in powerful ways, reviving our connection to the natural world. – Karen Bakker

Why this matters. Karl von Frisch studied the honey bee and was one of the first to translate the meaning of the bee’s waggle dance. Frisch referred to honeybee dances as a “magic well”: The more he studied them, the more complex they turned out to be. We need to think more about the different magic wells of spatial, embodied language that exist, and how we can listen and learn.

News Feed Eradicator

I’ve got a challenge…a new tool for you to try.

News Feed Eradicator is a browser extension that deletes your news feed and replaces it with a nice quote. You can install it in Chrome or Firefox. It removes your feed from Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram…or whatever you’re comfortable with.

Test it out and let me know what you think. 🙂

Miraculous worlds may reveal themselves to a patient observer where the casual passerby sees nothing at all.

Karl von Frisch

Whew! That was a long one. If you made it to this point, what books have you gifted the most to others? And…is it appropriate to gift an ebook (Kindle book) or audiobook as opposed to a hard copy?

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