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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Tweets for 2011-11-24

  • Creationist slams "research" from @sheffielduni Psychology department http://t.co/rIA2FEfC #
  • Ouch! Why is U2 popular? http://t.co/zpMy0XYw "The nostalgia is so thick you have to wipe it from your face. " via @rellimluap #
  • Economist debate from Dec 2010 "Language Shapes How We Think". http://t.co/9Wa5zsY4 Boroditsky vs Liberman (of Language Log), round one! #
  • Round Two! http://t.co/Kus1D5x4 #
  • Just found my opening music for today's lecture http://t.co/pfQ7XHiM #
  • "modelling natural action selection" book just out (and in my sweaty paw) http://t.co/O3JWKSRW #
  • .@tom_hartley and it is interesting – a proper evolutionary & computational treatment of decision making! #
  • Gladstone was prime minister 4 times in the 19C, AND he found time to dabble in linguistic anthropology http://t.co/LAzWO5zQ #
  • Your source for that is, of course, Gladstone, W. E. (1858). Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age. London: Oxford University Press #
  • Winston Churchill said "They told me how Mr Gladstone read Homer for fun, which I thought served him right." #
  • Birth of a myth: Whorf (1940) makes the claim that the Eskimos have many words for snow http://t.co/84OzD3Fe #
  • What's the collective noun for professors? One correspondent suggested "an absence" http://t.co/FusFgzE4 in @timeshighered #
  • Love the straight dope: "Could early man only see three colours?" http://t.co/LAzWO5zQ (quick answer: no) #
  • a solution if you don't like using a passive author voice, though not a recommended one http://t.co/avpD3oIU via @mathewe #
  • RT @PhEMH @tomstafford although really this is just another "Polly Matzinger rocks" story … which she does <– True! http://t.co/txFVggYw #
  • The more I read of the new Whorfianism the less impressed I am; Lera Boroditsky in Scientific American http://t.co/XgsMqBef #
  • Preparing for lectures on language and cognition. Do the words we use matter? This complaint to the BBC assumes they do http://t.co/aoOUKra5 #
  • "Viagra for engagement dysfunction" RT @tombennett71: Gamification is bullsh*t http://t.co/2dLN4pVa #
  • Fantastic paper from Flaherty & Senghas (2011) showing how language supportings thinking (about numbers in this case) http://t.co/DO5SeiPB #
  • "Language as a Cognitive Technology: English-Speakers Match Like Piraha When You Don’t Let Them Count" http://t.co/EpNFjaxC #

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The Principles of Newspeak


The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods.

From the foregoing account it will be seen that in Newspeak the expression of unorthodox opinions, above a very low level, was well-nigh impossible. It was of course possible to utter heresies of a very crude kind, a species of blasphemy. It would have been possible, for example, to say Big Brother is ungood. But this statement, which to an orthodox ear merely conveyed a self-evident absurdity, could not have been sustained by reasoned argument, because the necessary words were not available. Ideas inimical to Ingsoc could only be entertained in a vague wordless form, and could only be named in very broad terms which lumped together and condemned whole groups of heresies without defining them in doing so.

George Orwell, ‘The Principles of Newspeak’, the appendix to his ‘1984’ (1949)

Tweets for 2011-11-17

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Quote #277

At the base of the modern state there is the professor, not the executioner… for the monopoly of legitimate education is more important than the monopoly of legitimate violence.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan, reported here

Tweets for 2011-11-10

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What Sheffield’s sharing (bit.ly hack day report)

Yesterday was my research group’s first hackday. It’s a concept I borrowed from the software geeks, but which I thought we could use a bit of in psychological science. The plan was for the whole lab to get together and spend the day working on the same dataset, to see what we could come up with after a day of intense work.

Inspiration was provided by visiting data wizard Mike Dewar, who works with the link shortening service bit.ly. Mike was able to give us a slice of bit.ly data – all the shared links which the people of Sheffield had clicked on in a week. The leap from tech/internet business to psychology department isn’t so weird when you think about it. We’re both interested in taking high volume measurements of behaviour and trying to understand what is really going on (for us, inside the mind, for bit.ly, with the users behind the clicks).

We got together in one room and Mike guided us though some of the nuances of analysing the data. After a few busy hours, and along with those essential hackday accompaniments – takeaway food and cola (open source of course) – we had a snapshot of the kind of sites that people in Sheffield shared with each other.

This plot shows the trend of the weeks’ clicks for the top ten shared sites for Sheffield (with total click rate on the y-axis, and time on the x-axis). The scale is a bit small (click to expand), so here in a list is Sheffield’s top ten shared links for the analysed week:

1. Facebook (of course)
2. BBC (public service broadcasting FTW)
3. YouTube
4. GiveMeFootball
5. Celebuzz
6. Guardian
7. Google
8. Linksynergy
9. southyorkshire
10. swfc

Perhaps not a surprise, but we can see that people are sharing information on facebook, on news sites and about celebrities and football. And I note that the Owls win the Sheffield link-sharing derby! You can also see the daily peaks in click activity (at lunchtime? Or just after lunch perhaps!). With a bit more time we could delve into what times people preferred to click on different types of links (news vs business vs gossip would be an interesting comparison), and how the activity of a particular links changes over time, as it spreads out along social networks, passing from person to person, and a thousand other things. So think of this as a work in progress report. I’ll come back to you if we generate anything else.

Thanks to Mike and bit.ly for allowing us to play with their data, and to C, Maria, Donny, Tom, Martin and Stu for taking part.

Links for October (ish) 2011

books that make you feel like a genius

There’s a nice paragraph in Camilla Power’s book review in the time Times Higher Ed:

While there are interesting ideas here in a random scatter of cases and anecdotes, the trouble is that it makes the reader feel equally random: scatterbrained, as if you’ve been doing idle searches on Google or browsing Wikipedia all day. The kind of theoretical coherence found in the elegant, simple propositions of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene or Amotz and Avishag Zahavi’s The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle – books that made you feel like a genius, armed with a new perspective on the world – is not evident.

Power has captured what is wrong with so much popular science writing, and what is right with those books I really value

Tweets for 2011-11-03

  • PsychoPy is an open-source package for running experiments in Python (a real and free alternative to Matlab) http://t.co/3Nh8feHC @psychopy #
  • On Monday I start a week in London as part of the @royalsociety scientist-civil servant pairing scheme. #
  • My pairing is with a gentleman from the Home Office. I'm guessing they have their own particular take on 'psychology'. #
  • From the archive RT @psychmag: 7 years ago: @tomstafford meets Vilayanur Ramachandran http://t.co/xXUZjU9P #
  • I need 10 thousand leaky integrators, running in parallel on millisecond time scale. Suggestions? #
  • Awaiting luscious-haired psychologist @sapinker at the RGS, in the audience with @ResearchDigest #iq2pinker #
  • Ironic that a man who made his career triumphing the immutability of human nature is now celebrating it's adaptability #iq2pinker #
  • Interesting, evidence linking resource shortages to war surprisingly weak, sez Pinker #iq2pinker #
  • Rare lucidity lapse, Pinker garbles report of Baumeister's self-control work, making it sound like it supports hydraulic theory #iq2pinker #
  • RT @deevybee: NYT piece on Gazzaniga's new book on free will and the brain http://t.co/g7dMGeCj #
  • Summarised as: responsibility is an emergent property at the social level, not something that can be defined neurally #
  • Alison Gopnik on what psychology tells us about how universities should be run http://t.co/C3zdx72C via @anniemurphypaul #
  • Talking to my cousin about his University application personal statement. I told him not to do this: http://t.co/hjHAYbhn #
  • Day 4 of the @royalsociety pairing scheme. AM: at the Home Office research facility in St Albans. PM: watching debate in the House of Lords #
  • There's a film out about my favourite sociologisy, Zygmunt Bauman http://t.co/QeX46Ots #

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