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.

“It’s not surprising that elite schools report high graduation rates or alumni success.” So begins the description of MONEY magazine’s 2018-2019 Most Transformative Colleges article. The description continues: “What’s impressive is when a college helps students do far better than would be expected from their academic and economic backgrounds. We call this a college’s value add. For this list, we ranked colleges based on our exclusive value-added scores for graduation rates, earnings, and student loan repayment, eliminating schools with any negative scores or a graduation rate below 50%.” SJSU is #4 on the list!

The Pacific Standard recently posted an article about micro-grants for college students: “Often college students nearing graduation have bills that, while small, could prevent them from graduating. Many universities now offer micro-grants to cover such expenses, which helps keep such students on track to graduation.” Today is the first day of fall 2018 classes here at San José State University. Luckily we have a small micro-grant program as a component of the SJSU Cares program. As the article notes, this type of program is very beneficial.

In an August 2016 post about racial profiling on Nextdoor.com, I noted that the social networking site was experimenting with ways to curb actions based on racial stereotypes and biases. I just discovered a May 2018 Harvard Business Review article that provides an analysis of their efforts. The author notes, “how Nextdoor responded illustrates not only the importance of reacting quickly in a crisis, but how useful a data-driven, agile approach can be. Agile teams benefit from different perspectives, skills, and expertise, so the co-founders assembled a small, diverse team to tackle the issue.” Hopefully Nextdoor will continue to have success in its efforts to combat racial profiling.