Instagram, Drugs, and Music Festivals: an Interview with Ingmar Gorman

Image Credit Miguel Noriega
Image Credit Miguel Noriega

Two weeks ago Zel McCarthy published a story in Thump about a mysterious infographic that’s been making the rounds lately. The infographic purports to show which drugs are popular at various music festivals by scraping Instagram for references to different drugs. Anyone that knows a thing or two about research design would already raise an eyebrow but it gets worse. According to McCarthy:

this intentionally-opaque study was conducted and assembled by a Florida-based content marketing agency Fractl, which works regularly with DrugAbuse.com. While at first glance the site appears to be a credible resource for those struggling with addiction and abuse issues, it’s actually a redirect for for-profit rehab and addiction centers, mainly ones that bankrolls the site.

To help dig deep into the issues of research design, online performativity, and substance use I sat down over Skype with Ingmar Gorman, a clinical psychologist at the New School for Social Research who was quoted in the Thump article saying that this “study” was not only poorly constructed, it was also indicative of an archaic, “moralistic approach” to substance abuse research. What follows is edited to make us both sound more articulate. You can listen to the whole interview (warts and all), using the SoundCloud embed at the end of the interview. The recording, along with the sound of a computer fan and me saying “uhh” a lot, also includes something I’ll call “bonus content” about a study that used the Watson supercomputer to tell if someone was on psychedelics. Enjoy. more...

Augmenting the City to Combat HIV/AIDS

 

The card being used to advertise the service
The SMS service will be advertised using an ad campaign that is based on field work from the previous year by Dr. Audrey Bennett of RPI's Language Literature and Communication Department..

Next month I’ll be in Kumasi, Ghana doing field research and I thought I’d share what I hope to accomplish over there, since my work is informed by much of what I write about on this blog. (I will be blogging over here.) We hope to set up an information system by which Ghanaians can find condom sellers nearby. The primary interface will be text messaging using a fantastic open-source project called FrontLineSMS. By texting a certain number, the user will be asked to send their district and a list of nearby landmarks. The database will send back a list of condom sellers within a reasonable walking distance. We also hope to have several other front-end access points that are already becoming popular places to socialize. Our aim is to increase access to condoms in order to reduce the infection rate of HIV/AIDS. As of 2009, according to UNICEF, 230,000 people (about 2% of the population) live with HIV in Ghana. I should also note that cell phones are not a luxury item in Ghana. Adoption has exploded over the past several years, and it is estimated that about 67% of Ghanians own a cell phone.

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