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The real problem with distant reading. | The Stone and the Shell
"Because distant readers use larger corpora and more explicit data models than is usual for literary study, critics of the field (internal as well as external) have a tendency to push on those visible innovations, asking “What is still left out?” Something will always be left out, but I don’t think distant reading needs to be pushed toward even more complexity and completism. Computers make those things only too easy. Instead distant readers need to struggle to retain the vividness and polemical verve of the best literary criticism, and the  “combination of simplicity and strength” that characterizes useful social theory."
digital-humanities  distant-reading  scale  scope  limits 
june 2016 by tsuomela
Warning: Your reality is out of date - The Boston Globe
Coining the term mesofact, for slow-changing facts, like world population.
facts  scale  change  knowledge 
january 2015 by tsuomela
The Philosopher's Stone: RAMBO'S KNIFE
"namely the extent to which even the simplest things we have or do are so deeply integrated into the history of the human species that it would be impossible fully to explicate even one of them without evoking an entire culture."
teaching  culture  context  scale 
april 2013 by tsuomela
Empowering Long Tail Research
"The challenge of “big data” is felt by everyone, from international teams to “teams of one.” Small laboratories need services and tools to help them make full use—and be good stewards—of the valuable research data they collect and create."
research  academia  data-curation  lab  scale  information-science  technology 
february 2013 by tsuomela
USGS Release: A Big Day for Science: Citizens Have Contributed One Million Observations to Top Nature Database (5/3/2012 9:00:00 AM)
"Thanks to citizen-scientists around the country, the USA National Phenology Network hit a major milestone this week by reaching its one millionth nature observation."
citizen-science  success  phenology  scale 
february 2013 by tsuomela
A Chart that Reveals How Science Fiction Futures Changed Over Time
"Once we had our data, we divided it up into works set in the Near Future (0-50 years from the time the work came out), Middle Future (51-500 years from the time the work came out) and Far Future (501 years from the time the work came out)."
sf  future  fiction  time  scale  futures 
may 2012 by tsuomela
Trickle Down Science : Uncertain Principles
"Which is great when you're in one of the fields that's meant to serve as the grand and inspirational challenge. For the rest of us, though, this is trickle-down science: the best and the brightest get fired up to be rocket scientists, or high-energy particle physicists, and those who aren't quite the best or the brightest, well... they can study condensed matter physics, or something less inspirational. They'll still be an upgrade over the riff-raff who are presumably populating those fields now. You know, the ones motivated by wanting to save the world from cancer, or hunger, or pestilence.

Not only is this kind of insulting to those of us who have chosen to make careers in fields that aren't driven by Big Science, it's not remotely sustainable. If getting people to go into science and engineering is dependent on something as ephemeral as "inspiration," we're forever going to be careening from boom to bust."
science  motivation  physics  goals  goal-setting  scale  discipline 
may 2012 by tsuomela
The Cult of Positivity: If You Dream It, You Can’t Necessarily Become It | The University Times
"To ask questions about how to live life, to question whether you should be doing what you are doing, is indeed admirable. But to conclude that a positive attitude can solve all problems is naive and denies the possibility to enact change, when necessary, on your circumstances."
self-help  psychology  popular  positive-thinking  positive  individual  system  scale 
april 2012 by tsuomela
Glimpses of a Cryptic God
"The more I study technology, the more I tend to the view that it is a single connected whole. Recurring motifs like container ships can turn into obsessions precisely because they offer glimpses of a cryptic God. An object for the devoutly atheist and anti-humanist soul to seek in perpetuity, but never quite comprehend.

I go on infrastructure pilgrimages. I write barely readable pop-theology treatises with ponderous titles like The Baroque Unconscious in Technology, and I do my little dabbling with math, software and hardware on the side.

But I still haven’t seen It. Just an elbow here, a shoulder blade there. And I make my modest attempts to measure those distances."
technology  philosophy  infrastructure  scale  perception  visibility  legibility 
april 2012 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Ordinary and theoretical knowledge of capitalism
"Is the participant-level even the right perspective from which to try to identify an explanation? I don't think so. Were conditions in this factory harsh because this owner was hostile or cruel towards these particular workers? No, rather because the competitive environment of profitability and accumulation created an inexorable race to the bottom. So we can't explain this factory's working conditions by referring to specific features of this factory and its owner. This logic is spelled out very clearly in Capital, and it is a system-level characteristic."
sociology  explanation  level  system  scale  foundation  phenomenology  participation  capitalism  social-theory  theory 
march 2012 by tsuomela
getting big stuff done: is this an organizational problem? «
"I can see several reasons for why organization theorists don’t engage with these types of, “futurist” questions. First, theories of organization tend to lag practice. That is, organizational scholars describe and explain the world (in its current or past state), though they don’t often engage in speculative forecasting (about possible future states). Second, many of the organizational sub-fields suited for wide-eyed speculation are in a bit of a lull, or they represent small niches. For example, organization design isn’t a super “hot” area these days (certainly with exceptions) — despite its obvious importance. Institutional and environmental theories of organization have taken hold in many parts, and agentic theories are often seen as overly naive. Environmental and institutional theories of course are valuable, but they delimit and are incremental, and are perhaps just self-fulfilling and thus may not always be practically helpful for thinking about the future.

organizations  sociology  design  future  innovation  creativity  scale 
march 2012 by tsuomela
Ecology and Society:  Scale and Governance
Special issue of journal Ecology and Society, v. 16.2 2011
scale  governance  ecology 
september 2011 by tsuomela
Study Hacks » Blog Archive » The Calculus of Remarkability
"In my experience, most people are hesitant to adopt a power hitter approach to their projects — be it in academia or elsewhere. Assuming you have a fixed amount of time to dedicate to projects, you can either use this time to produce a large amount of solid work or a small amount of great work. To most, the first option seems safer, easier, and more satisfyingly productive.

The more I ponder Lieberman, however, the more I think that he’s stumbled onto a key insight: our hesitation about a big swing approach to projects is flawed. When you understand the true calculus of impressiveness, as I suspect Lieberman does, taking a small number of big swings becomes the only strategy that makes sense."
success  academic  career  visibility  scale  projects  ambition 
september 2011 by tsuomela
Polity IV Project: Home Page
"The Polity conceptual scheme is unique in that it examines concomitant qualities of democratic and autocratic authority in governing institutions, rather than discreet and mutually exclusive forms of governance. This perspective envisions a spectrum of governing authority that spans from fully institutionalized autocracies through mixed, or incoherent, authority regimes (termed "anocracies") to fully institutionalized democracies. The "Polity Score" captures this regime authority spectrum on a 21-point scale ranging from -10 (hereditary monarchy) to 10 (consolidated democracy). "
political-science  statistics  authority  scale  global  international 
august 2011 by tsuomela
The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything : Monkey See : NPR
"The vast majority of the world's books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It's just numbers."
limits  culture  reading  experience  scale 
july 2011 by tsuomela
The Tyranny of Scales - PhilSci-Archive
"This paper examines a fundamental problem in applied mathematics. How can one model the behavior of materials that display radically different, dominant behaviors at different length scales. Although we have good models for material behaviors at small and large scales, it is often hard to relate these scale-based models to one another."
philosophy  mathematics  modeling  scale  via:cshalizi 
july 2011 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Social networks as aggregators
"This passage emphasizes quite a few themes that have been important throughout UnderstandingSociety -- the heterogeneity of social phenomena, the difficulty of formulating a clear understanding of social ontology, and the challenge of representing the processes of aggregation through which individual social actions contribute to mid- and large-scale social outcomes.

So how do the analytical resources of network theory contribute to a better understanding of the ways that actions aggregate into outcomes?"
sociology  social  theory  objects  network-analysis  networks  scale 
april 2011 by tsuomela
Pocket Neighborhoods • Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World
"Pocket neighborhoods are clustered groups of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around some sort of shared open space — a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley — all of which have a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship. They can be in urban, suburban or rural areas."
design  architecture  urban  urbanism  suburbia  community  commons  scale  small-is-beautiful 
april 2011 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Connecting the dots
"There isn't very much transparency about the deep structure of almost any complex modern society. For most people their primary impressions of the society's functioning comes from the mass media and their own personal experiences. We each see the limited bits to which we are fairly directly exposed through our ordinary lives -- the newsroom if we happen to be a beat reporter, the university if we are professors, the play-and-learn center if we are in the business of preschool education. We gain a pretty good idea of how those networks of institutions and organizations work. But it's very difficult to gain a birds-eye picture of the social system as a whole."
sociology  society  vision  visibility  scale  understanding  education  structure 
april 2011 by tsuomela
Smaller government, smaller dreams, smaller people | slacktivist
"We have better tools than the rebuilders of Galveston had. We know more. And we are far, far wealthier as a nation. But we seem to lack their courage, their will, their vision and their determination to make the world better.

We seem to have become a shallow, convenience-obsessed people supporting the kind of shallow, convenience-obsessed leadership that will allow us to lead shallow, convenience-obsessed lives uninterrupted by concern for the future or any attempt to be better than that."
american  spirit  dreams  history  scale 
march 2011 by tsuomela
Our Obsession with the Word "Random": Fear of a Millennial Planet | The Awl
"When Ringle opened his Washington Post article with the line, "We have seen the future and it is random," I believe he was making a moral point. The post-World War II "neat" may have been an ignorant oversimplification of the world and its inherent messiness, but the post-9/11 random is an exaggeration of this messiness and an unwillingness to find resolve or connection. There is something unthinking and uncurious and unfeeling in its use. It is defensive. It indicates a lack of empathy.

Random is anathema to synthesis through imagination, a refusal to enter the unknown."
language  trends  randomness  metaphor  ambition  modernity  scale 
march 2011 by tsuomela
SpringerLink - Climatic Change, Volume 98, Numbers 1-2
Over 100 years of daily and monthly temperature data collected in western Montana, USA are analyzed for long-term changes in seasonal averages and daily extremes.
climate  global-warming  scale  regions  change  national-parks 
february 2011 by tsuomela
UnderstandingSociety: Granularity
"Twentieth century thinking in the social sciences has generally continued this trend. What makes social science "scientific" is rigorous attention to empirical characteristics of the social world. There is generally even less patience with large philosophical theories of society and history. A good theory isn't of much interest unless it can be closely tied to particular bodies of empirical observation. It is hard to think of a 20th-century sociologist who took up the Comtean project of comparing the course of civilizations. And there is a growing consensus that the focus of social research needs somehow to capture the behavior of situated actors within socially specific arrangements -- in other words, a refinement of focus towards the more particular arrangements."
social-science  methodology  scale  granularity  objects  sts  sociology  history  academic 
december 2010 by tsuomela
Inured to "Trillions" : CJR
I understand that there’s a lot already in the public domain about the emergency loan programs, but it’s important to take a step back on this. We’ve become inured to stuff that was unthinkable a few years ago. Think about how awesome (in the old sense of the world) this bailout was, how stark the contrast between what the banks got and what struggling homeowners got (the shaft), and how much risk the Fed took in our name and in secret. It’s too easy to succumb to a sort of savvy complacency here, but the press has to fight that urge.

For my money (which is ironic, because these are the two outlets here which have never got a dime from me), some of the best coverage comes from Bloomberg and—dare I say it—The Huffington Post.
banking  crisis  journalism  media  scale 
december 2010 by tsuomela
New Ways to Gauge the Finite Atmosphere -
I recently became aware of fascinating efforts by  Adam Nieman to help society appreciate environmental challenges in fresh ways by visualizing volumes that are otherwise abstractions. In 2003 he created the image above, illustrating the volume of the world’s oceans and atmosphere (if the air were all at sea-level density) by rendering them as spheres sitting next to the Earth instead of spread out over its surface. To my eye, this helps powerfully convey the finite nature of these shared global assets.
environment  climate  climatology  visualization  visual-thinking  scale  global-warming 
november 2010 by tsuomela
Open Data for the Arts – Human Scale Data and Synecdoche – Blog – BERG
Synecdoche’s a term from literature, best explained as “the part representing a whole“. That’s a terrible explanation. It’s better explained with some examples:

“A hundred keels cut the ocean“; “keel” stands for “ship“. “The herd was a hundred head strong“; “head” stands for “cow“.

So: for me, Tower Bridge is synecdoche, for the Thames, for London, for the city, for home. Low Flying Rocks is synecdoche not only for the scale of the universe, all the activity in the solar system, the earth’s place in that – but also for NASA, for science, for discovery.

Synecdoche allows you to make big, terrifying data, human-scale.
twitter  horizon  awareness  social-media  scale  big-data 
october 2010 by tsuomela
Press Release - Small sciences could benefit from better data-sharing practices
"Other research has shown that small science generates a substantial amount of data, and, over time, perhaps even more than big science," Cragin said. "Unfortunately, we don't yet have systems in place to facilitate best practice for data management or to address the range of needs related to sharing practices, but this is becoming increasingly important, particularly as funding agencies add requirements for data sharing and data-management plans."
science  data  sharing  collaboration  size  scale 
september 2010 by tsuomela
News: The Aging of Science - Inside Higher Ed
What if key elements of science policy are based on patterns of discovery that no longer exist?

That's the question behind a paper released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper -- by Benjamin Jones, associate professor of management at Northwestern University -- argues that science has changed in key ways. Specifically, it argues that the age at which researchers are able to make breakthroughs has advanced, and that scientists are parts of increasingly larger teams, encouraging narrow specialization. Yet, he argues, science policy (or a lot of it) continues to assume the possibility if not desirability of breakthroughs by a lone young investigator.
science  sts  sociology  discovery  generation  age  success  collaboration  teamwork  scale  economics 
may 2010 by tsuomela
Fernand Braudel Center Home Page, Binghamton University
The Fernand Braudel Center was founded in September 1976 to engage in the analysis of large-scale social change over long periods of historical time.
history  scale  time  macrohistory 
december 2009 by tsuomela
End User Complaint « Easily Distracted
Every public health campaign that starts from the premise that there’s a simple and rational preventive behavior change that people of course should adopt is setting itself up for failure, because it’s not thinking clearly about how most human beings in general inhabit the landscape of habit and convenience and risk-calculation, let alone local cultural framings of those same things.
scale  public  health  africa  history  medicine 
october 2009 by tsuomela
Does Falling in Love Make Us More Creative?: Scientific American
The clever experiments demonstrated that love makes us think differently in that it triggers global processing, which in turn promotes creative thinking and interferes with analytic thinking. Thinking about sex, however, has the opposite effect: it triggers local processing, which in turn promotes analytic thinking and interferes with creativity.
psychology  creativity  innovation  love  sex  construal-level-theory  perspective  scale  distance  art 
october 2009 by tsuomela
The Microhistorical Unknown « Easily Distracted
I’m by no means the only person to argue that a better analogy for the relationship between very small or individual experience and macrohistorical change is the relationship between quantum physics and classical physics. The lives of individuals or single communities in a small span of days or months happens within the same temporal and physical world as the life of the human species over a million years. A single event happens within the same reality as vast patterns of events and actions across centuries. But there is a profound break between the two levels or registers of historical experience, and it’s not just about scale. The microhistorical scale is where we find and interpret the meaning in other human lives, where the peculiarity and idiosyncracy of other people’s experience makes it possible to feel and imagine circumstances and decisions beyond our own individual lives.
history  macrohistory  microhistory  scale  knowledge  philosophy  historiography 
september 2009 by tsuomela
The Neighborhood: Our Place in Space
Our Place In Space. An inward swoop of perspectives, from the intergalactic void through the Milky Way down to Earth. Extensive content on extrasolar planetary systems.
astronomy  cosmology  science  space  photos  scale  maps 
september 2009 by tsuomela
Soapbox: We'll Be Back - 8/24/2009 - Publishers Weekly
Why scaling down is good for publishing
by Douglas Rushkoff
publishing  industry  business  books  future  scale 
august 2009 by tsuomela
The Scope of Human Thought | Forum
It is a spectacular scientific puzzle that human beings are the sole species that seems to be able to think and feel beyond the limits of the scale for their species.
human-nature  human-scale  human  mental  mind  cognition  scale  network  thinking  species  animals 
august 2009 by tsuomela
Stumbling and Mumbling: Markets in public services
The issue, then, is not so much one of principle as empirics: what is the educational production function? To what extent is a good school scalable? The thing is, AFAIK (I’d welcome corrections) there’s not much hard evidence here
economics  ideology  education  scale 
july 2009 by tsuomela
[cond-mat/0403299] Discrete Hierarchical Organization of Social Group Sizes
The "social brain hypothesis" for the evolution of large brains in primates has led to evidence for the coevolution of neocortical size and social group sizes. Extrapolation of these findings to modern humans indicated that the equivalent group size for our species should be approximately 150 (essentially the number of people known personally as individuals). Here, we combine data on human grouping in a comprehensive and systematic study. Using fractal analysis, we identify with high statistical confidence a discrete hierarchy of group sizes with a preferred scaling ratio close to 3: rather than a single or a continuous spectrum of group sizes, humans spontaneously form groups of preferred sizes organized in a geometrical series approximating 3, 9, 27,... Such discrete scale invariance (DSI) could be related to that identified in signatures of herding behavior in financial markets and might reflect a hierarchical processing of social nearness by human brains.
social-psychology  networks  scale  fractal  complexity  dunbar-number  distributed  cognition 
july 2009 by tsuomela
Overcoming Bias: Near Far In Science Fiction
This SF film scene pattern not only makes sense in terms of near-far theory, but it also illuminates how science fiction fits as a genre serving the functions of fiction.

I have suggested that fiction mostly functions to let us show our associates what we think about who should be praised and reviled, or rewarded and punished, in what situations. In the ethos of science fiction (as in its co-genre fantasy), people are to be praised or reviled in substantial part for their relation to the grand arc of history. After all, the (basically-false) core conceit of science fiction is that scientists are heroic because it is they who most make our modern world powerful.
sf  fiction  literature  scale  psychology  criticism 
may 2009 by tsuomela
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