Berkman Buzz: July 11, 2014

July 11, 2014

The Berkman Buzz is selected weekly from the posts of Berkman Center people and projects.
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Alison Head & John Wihbey explain why tech-savvy grads aren't necessarily research-savvy


While students will always need to think critically and ask the right questions, emerging in this new world is the need for a skill set we call 'knowledge in action,' a kind of athletics of the mind aided by Internet-enabled devices, search engines, and pools of data from a wide variety of outlets...But imagine that you’re Googling "vaccine autism" or "violent video game" or any other hot topic. You’ll soon be flooded with a torrent of conflicting findings, many not credible. Knowledge in action means being able to sort through that growing thicket of information. This is a lifelong learning skill, crucial to health, wealth, social equality, and well-being. In an era of partisan fog and the polarization of many subjects, it is a skill vital for effective citizenship.

From Alison Head and John Wihbey's commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, "At Sea in a Deluge of Data"
About Alison | @alisonjhead

danah boyd asks what we can learn from the Facebook experiment


Guess what? When people are surrounded by fear-mongering news media, they get anxious. They fear the wrong things. Moral panics emerge. And yet, we as a society believe that it’s totally acceptable for news media – and its click bait brethren – to manipulate people’s emotions through the headlines they produce and the content they cover. And we generally accept that algorithmic curators are perfectly well within their right to prioritize that heavily clicked content over others, regardless of the psychological toll on individuals or the society. What makes their practice different? (Other than the fact that the media wouldn’t hold itself accountable for its own manipulative practices…)

Somehow, shrugging our shoulders and saying that we promoted content because it was popular is acceptable because those actors don’t voice that their intention is to manipulate your emotions so that you keep viewing their reporting and advertisements. And it’s also acceptable to manipulate people for advertising because that’s just business. But when researchers admit that they’re trying to learn if they can manipulate people’s emotions, they’re shunned. What this suggests is that the practice is acceptable, but admitting the intention and being transparent about the process is not.

From danah boyd's blog post, "What does the Facebook experiment teach us? "
About danah | @zephoria

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Global Voices @advox interviews Facebook representatives about anti-Palestinian hate speech that remains on the site:
Ethan Zuckerman (@ethanz)

Amy Johnson explores how to use light field images in research


Lytro markets the images from its light field cameras as “living pictures.” This makes me think of the magical portraits from Harry Potter, their subjects managing door security and popping from frame to frame. (Not the photographs. Harry Potter photographs are pretty much anigifs.) “Living picture” is certainly evocative marketspeak, but it obscures what a fascinating methodological tool light field images can be—and the fresh questions about openness and participation in research such cameras provoke.

From Amy Johnson's blog post, "Light Fieldwork: Lytro Cameras, Open Research & the Partial"
About Amy | @shrapnelofme

Berkman, MIT's Media Lab, and the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub announce new coding literacy effort

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Many people view computer programming as a narrow, technical activity appropriate for only a small segment of the population. But, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from MIT’s Media Lab, the University of California’s Digital Media and Learning (DML) Research Hub, and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society is seeking to change that.

With a recently awarded $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the researchers aim to engage a broader range of young people in computer programming by building on their interests in areas such as music, dance and sports.

From the Berkman Center, "21st Century Literacy: New Initiative Makes the Case that Learning to Code is for Everyone"

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This summer we’re researching ways teachers can use @dpla to enhance student learning & exploration. Read more at
Digital Public Library of America (@dpla)

Sara Watson reflects on what the Facebook study means for data science

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The Facebook Data Science team is a prototypical data science operation. In the company’s own words, it collects, manages, and analyzes data to "drive informed decisions in areas critical to the success of the company, and conduct social science research of both internal and external interest." Last year, for example, it studied self-censorship—when users input but do not post status updates. Facebook’s involvement with data research goes beyond its in-house team. The company is actively recruiting social scientists with the promise of conducting research on "recording social interaction in real time as it occurs completely naturally." So what does it mean for Facebook to have a Core Data Science Team, describing their work—on their own product—as data science?

From Sara Watson's piece for The Atlantic, "Data Science: What the Facebook Controversy is Really About"
About Sara | @smwat

Fed Up With the Country's Economic Woes, Ghanaians Launch Their Own Occupy Movement

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A group of Ghanaians rallied near the president's office as part of a campaign dubbed #OccupyFlagStaffHouse to protest corruption and the country's poor economic situation and press the government to do something about it.

The peaceful march, organized in less than five days, happened on July 1, 2014, a public holiday that marked the 54th year since Ghana became a republic following British colonial rule. The movement was launched on Facebook as OccupyGhana on June 28, and by July 1 it had over 3,000 followers in support of the protest. It now has more than 6,000.

From L. Abena Annan's post for Global Voices, "Fed Up With the Country's Economic Woes, Ghanaians Launch Their Own Occupy Movement"
About Global Voices Online | @globalvoices

This Buzz was compiled by Rebekah Heacock.

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Last updated

July 11, 2014