You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Concepts’ category.

“In this new RSAnimate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. Taken from a lecture given by Iain McGilchrist as part of the RSA’s free public events programme.”

Hans Rosling <TEDFeb2006>

“Documentary which takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through the wonderful world of statistics to explore the remarkable power thay have to change our understanding of the world, presented by superstar boffin Professor Hans Rosling, whose eye-opening, mind-expanding and funny online lectures have made him an international internet legend.

Rosling is a man who revels in the glorious nerdiness of statistics, and here he entertainingly explores their history, how they work mathematically and how they can be used in today’s computer age to see the world as it really is, not just as we imagine it to be.

Rosling’s lectures use huge quantities of public data to reveal the story of the world’s past, present and future development. Now he tells the story of the world in 200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers – in just four minutes.

The film also explores cutting-edge examples of statistics in action today. In San Francisco, a new app mashes up police department data with the city’s street map to show what crime is being reported street by street, house by house, in near real-time. Every citizen can use it and the hidden patterns of their city are starkly revealed. Meanwhile, at Google HQ the machine translation project tries to translate between 57 languages, using lots of statistics and no linguists.

Despite its light and witty touch, the film nonetheless has a serious message – without statistics we are cast adrift on an ocean of confusion, but armed with stats we can take control of our lives, hold our rulers to account and see the world as it really is. What’s more, Hans concludes, we can now collect and analyse such huge quantities of data and at such speeds that scientific method itself seems to be changing.” <BBC>

The Joy of Stats with Professor Hans Rosling

Two years ago I posted about hyperrealism. Rarely have I discovered a topic that has fascinated me more–I haven’t really stopped thinking about the concept since. Specifically, I have been intrigued by the notion of “the natural” and what this means for individuals psychologically (do terms like “real” and “natural” have the same meaning and carry the same weight they used to? And what does/will this mean for us?). I remember hearing about a behavioral construct and a series of fascinating experiments in an introductory social psychology course I took many years ago that, until today, I could not recall…

“A superstimulus is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus that normally releases it.

Konrad Lorenz observed that birds would select for brooding eggs that resembled those of their own species but were larger. Niko Tinbergen, following his extensive analysis of the stimulus features that elicited food-begging in the chick of the herring gull, constructed an artificial superstimulus consisting of a red knitting needle with three white bands painted round it; this elicited a stronger response than an accurate three-dimensional model of the parent’s head (white) and bill (yellow with a red spot).

It is sometimes argued that phenomena such as sexual fetishes and the taste for junk food can be partially explained as examples of superstimulation. Modern artefacts may activate instinctive responses which evolved in a world without shiny fabrics or double cheeseburgers, where shiny skin was a sign of health in a prospective mate, and fat was a vital nutrient.” <wiki>

My favourite (living) philosopher, Daniel Dennett, on Cute, sexy, sweet, funny:

Couple of short essays that really captured my interest in the subject:

“A meme is any learned feeling, thought or behavior. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods. Memes propagate themselves and can move through a sociological “culture” in a manner similar to the behavior of a virus. As a unit of cultural evolution, a meme in some ways resembles a biological gene.

The word “meme” is a neologism coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins to describe how one might extend Darwinian principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. He gave as examples tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing-fashions, and the technology of building arches.

Meme-theorists contend that memes evolve by natural selection (similarly to Darwinian biological evolution) through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance influencing an individual entity’s reproductive success. So with memes, some ideas will propagate less successfully and become extinct, while others will survive, spread, and, for better or for worse, mutate. “Memeticists argue that the memes most beneficial to their hosts will not necessarily survive; rather, those memes that replicate the most effectively spread best, which allows for the possibility that successful memes may prove detrimental to their hosts.” <wiki>

This talk of ‘temes’ sounds quite similar to what Kevin Kelly has described as the Technium. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post. You should definitely check it out.

“A metamaterial is a material which gains its properties from its structure rather than directly from its composition. To distinguish metamaterials from other composite materials, the metamaterial label is usually used for a material which has unusual properties. The term was coined in 1999 by Rodger M. Walser of the University of Texas at Austin. He defined metamaterials as:

Macroscopic composites having a manmade, three-dimensional, periodic cellular architecture designed to produce an optimized combination, not available in nature, of two or more responses to specific excitation.

Among electromagnetics researchers, the term is often used, quite narrowly, for materials which exhibit negative refraction. The first metamaterials were developed by W.E. Kock in the late 1940s with metal-lens antennas and metallic delay lenses.” <wiki>

Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call. For example, the public may be invited to develop a new technology, carry out a design task, refine an algorithm or help capture, systematize or analyze large amounts of data.

The term has become popular with business authors and journalists as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals. However, both the term and its underlying business models have attracted controversy and criticism.

In some cases the labor is well-compensated. In other cases the only rewards may be kudos or intellectual satisfaction. Crowdsourcing may produce solutions from amateurs or volunteers working in their spare time, or from small businesses which were unknown to the initiating organization.

Perceived benefits of crowdsourcing include:

  • Problems can be explored at comparatively little cost.
  • Payment is by results.
  • The organization can tap a wider range of talent than might be present in its own organisation.

The difference between crowdsourcing and ordinary outsourcing is that a task or problem is outsourced to the public, rather than another body. The difference between crowdsourcing and open source is that open source production is a cooperative activity initiated and voluntarily undertaken by members of the public. In crowdsourcing the activity is initiated by a client, and the work may be undertaken on an individual, as well as a group, basis.” <wiki>

Cambrian House is a web-based community owned business that combines the principles of wisdom of crowds and peer production to identify and develop sticky software ideas. The company’s stated mission is to discover and commercialize software ideas through the wisdom and participation of crowds.” <wiki> <home>

The following top five websites were selected for having the best short (20-120 minute), interesting, and accessible ideas. Each of these sites are easy to browse, have great functionality, and are generally non-technical. I am deeply indebted to these sites and others for continually providing high quality, fascinating, and free talks that spark the imagination and infuse my life with wonder and awe.

  1. TED Talks – “group of remarkable people that gather to exchange ideas of incalculable value”
  2. Pop!Casts – annual mass media, technology and society conference held in Camden, Maine
  3. Big Think – engaging discussions and debate on contemporary issues (beta version)
  4. – delivers discourse, discussion, and debates on the world’s most interesting political, social, and cultural issues, and enables viewers to join the conversation
  5. Google Talks – Google TechTalks, Authors@Google and Miscellaneous

“LIFT is a series of events intended to facilitate and promote discussion about new technologies and their impact on our society. The conference happens in both Geneva (Switzerland) and Seoul (South Korea) every year, with smaller events happening all around the year.” <home>

“LIFT leads a new generation of conferences exploring the social implications of technologies in our society in a unique and tested format maximizing creativity and networking. It is a three-day experience built upon:

  • workshops and open stage talks, proposed and selected by LIFT participants
  • keynote speeches and panels with world renowned experts
  • artistic activities offered to facilitate networking and innovative thinking, allowing attendees to play and create to keep their mind fresh and meet others.” <about>

Past talks have included:

  • Paul Barnett, “MMO’s, movies, las vegas, and golf”
  • Kevin Marks, “Google’s Open Social”
  • Robin Hunicke, “The Modern Age of Gaming”
  • Jonathan Cabiria, “Virtual Environments and Social Justice”
  • Cory Doctorow, “Digital Rights Management”
  • And many, many more!

Complete video list of conference speakers can be found here.

The concept of dialogical self is a new development in psychology which combines the work of theorists such as Bakhtin and James with the latest developments in cultural, cognitive and social psychology and in psychotherapy. This new approach is closely related to narrative psychology, constructivism, and cultural psychology, but the focus is upon the multivoiced self. According to the con

cept of the dialogical self, the individual self is social in origin and dialogical in function. The self reflects and appropriates the voices of society and significant others, and within the functioning of the self we find these voices in dialogue.Exploration of the dialogical self has broad scope, ranging from literary sciences to brain research and from empirical psychology to psychotherapy practice. It brings together different fields of psychology, such as personality, developmental, social, and clinical psychology. Across these diverse fields, the concept of the dialogical self provides an interdisciplinary platform for innovative research, theory and practice.” <home>

Central topics of interest include:

  • self and identity
  • culture and self
  • globalization
  • music and dialogue
  • power and rhetoric
  • dialogue and political psychology
  • reconstruction of self-narratives in psychotherapy
  • dialogue and development

A recent review of the field can be found in: Hermans, HJM, & Dimaggio, G. (2007). Self, identity, and globalisation in times of uncertainty: A dialogical analysis. Review of General Psychology, March.

Up-to-date articles and discussions can also be found in the International Journal for Dialogical Science (IJDS), which is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, electronic open-access journal.

<watch the probe’s descent>

Does Life Exist Elsewhere in the Universe?

Also known as astrobiology, exobiology is the “study of life in space, combining aspects of astronomy, biology and geology. It is focused primarily on the study of the origin, distribution and evolution of life.

Some major astrobiological research topics include: What is life? How did life arise on Earth? What kind of environments can life tolerate? How can we determine if life exists on other planets? How often can we expect to find complex life? What will life consist of on other planets? Will it be DNA/Carbon based or based on something else? What will it look like?” <wiki> <“Meaning of Life“, SEED>

An estimate for the number of planets with (intelligent) extraterrestrial life can be gleaned from the Drake equation, essentially an equation expressing the probability of intelligent life as the product of factors such as the fraction of planets that might be habitable and the fraction of planets on which life might arise:


Welcome to OpenLearning! Here you will find the useful links to online learning material suxh as academic podcasts, video lectures, and audiobooks; in addition to posting must-see videos on topics of interest.