The sub-header of the recent Pacific Standard article The Boundary Between Our Bodies and Our Tech is “Our online identities have become a part of who we are in the real world—whether we’re always aware of it or not.” The author asks readers to conduct a thought experiment:

Where do you end? Not your body, but you, the nebulous identity you think of as your “self.” Does it end at the limits of your physical form? Or does it include your voice, which can now be heard as far as outer space; your personal and behavioral data, which is spread out across the impossibly broad plane known as digital space; and your active online personas, which probably encompass dozens of different social media networks, text message conversations, and email exchanges? This is a question with no clear answer, and, as the smartphone grows more and more essential to our daily lives, that border’s only getting blurrier.

The rest of the article provides a compelling analysis of the blurred lines.

Thanksgiving was last week in the United States. According to CityLab, many young adults also celebrate “Friendsgiving.”  I’ll have to explore that more next year!

I was recently in Chicago to attend the CCAS Annual Meeting. Unfortunately, I did not have time to investigate the Folded Map Project, in which residents with shared street names and numbers meet to discuss their experiences in an attempt to dispel stereotypes and create more meaningful conversations across racial and class lines. The Chicago Tribune published an interesting story about the project.

In response to recent news about academic journals publishing fake articles, The Pacific Standard asked: “What Good is an Academic Hoax in the Age of Post-Truth?”  It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 20 years since Alan Sokal faked out Social Text.

Over the weekend I received an email about free rides on Lime scooters and bikes to the polls on election day next week (November 6). It appears that other ride sharing services and public transit agencies are also providing free rides. Hopefully these actions will enable more people to participate in the important civic duty of voting!

“There is a movement in cities across the world to reclaim underutilized infrastructure and reimagine it as public space.” This statement is on the top of The High Line Network, which offers news and information about public infrastructure reuse projects. Whenever I go to New York City I visit the High Line, and I need to see Atlanta’s BeltLine on my next trip to my “traditional” hometown [I lived there from ages 2 to 22; Minneapolis became my spiritual hometown, however, after living there for 14 years as a professor], and sould venture through Philadelphia’s Rail Park on the next trip to my wife’s hometown. I see that the first international project is now listed in Toronto (“the Bentway”), which will give me a reason to visit that city again!

The Pacific Standard has an interesting article about the use of humor to increase critical thinking. The article notes, however, “while funny things can be reassuring and uplifting, making us feel better, humor isn’t automatically guaranteed to change a viewer’s mind. In fact, humor can do the opposite, reinforcing what we already think.” Indeed.

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has called on researchers, research foundations, the U.S. government, and the private sector to create new partnerships to address social science research challenges. A recent SSRC research report — “To Secure Knowledge: Social Science Partnerships for the Common Good” — argues that social science research faces serious threats from reduced federal funding and the public’s skepticism about data. The report includes recommendations such as creating a central database for public and private social data, and forging new public-private funding relationships. Hopefully these and other recommendations will be fruitful.

CityLab has a new article about how urban and rural residents can find common ground. In the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX), for example, “participants go on three weekend-long retreats to strengthen bonds with people from other parts of the state, creating a ‘currency of connection’ (in the words of RUX organizers) to increase mutual understanding, spark collective problem-solving, and, of course, develop friendships across divides, whether real or perceived.” Fascinating!

In the September 2018 issue of Wired magazine Clive Thompson argues that we need software to help slow us down, not speed up. He discusses “friction engineering,” which is “software that’s designed not to speed us up but to slow us down. It’s a principle that inverts everything we know about why software exists.” In social scientific circles, a great example the article cites is the social media site Nextdoor’s attempts to redesign its software to reduce racial profiling [see also my August 13, 2018 post.]

One strange item about the article: the online title is “We Need Software to Help Us Slow Down, Not Speed up.” In the print magazine, however, the article appears on page 38 as “Slow Software: In Praise of Fiction.” Weird.