A Visible City
I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
At first, I thought I would go back to all my old posts and tag them (maybe I still will). Then it seemed daunting. Then I worried about being somewhat consistent in my tagging, so that a reader could clearly see that I write a lot about anthropology, or social media. But then I looked at my posts and realized I actually write about a lot of different things. So if I start labeling, do I end up with just a long list of tags? Or do I then feel a need to constrain what I write about to a defined set of categories?
I realize blogs with a theme are powerful...and I think I have some themes running through here...interspersed with random thoughts or items that catch my interest.
What to do? Does it matter? Is there meaning in tags (beyond the meaning I as the tagger ascribe to them)? A goal of semantic web is to provide structure to the web through labeling and tags, and my understanding is that ideally it is supposed to work whether it is my categorization of the world, or yours.
By the way, I am not sure you want to get into my categorization of the world--I am one of those people who knows exactly where a book is on my shelf because it is in a perfectly logical place to me, but you'd probably never figure it out.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
My most important reminder to try not to be distracted is Julian...with so much work to do it is easy to try to multitask while playing with him...but why?
I get that the purported reason for the switch is to save on electricity and other power costs. I'm all for that. I also get that a century ago, the usage patterns of electricity did mean that DST led to conservation. However, recent studies show that same conservation effect is not necessarily true today (if it ever was).
Maybe I am just griping because I lost an hour today. Maybe I resent that the mornings will be dark again. Or maybe this whole clock thing is just silly.
What I noticed most was along our path between dinos and space...the various halls showing human cultures, which unfortunately haven't changed in years. The dinosaur halls seemed relatively recently updated (I am pretty sure I would have learned a few new things if I hadn't been going through at a 4-year old's pace). And Rose Center for Earth and Space received a lot of attention when it opened, both because it is a wonderful exhibit wing, and because when it opened it did not include Pluto as a planet (several years before the International Astronomical Union declassification).
Anyway, to cross the museum we walked through the hall of African Peoples. Great artifacts, but to me these older exhibits still come across as "what interesting foreign people, look how different they are." And they live far away too.
I realize that politics and money play a great deal into which exhibits get updated, and anthropology often doesn't figure high into either one. But to me it is unfortunate that there isn't more public education around a holistic view of humanity. We have enough of a natural (human) tendency to emphasize otherness, I'd rather fight against that.
I also realize it begs the question of how else to exhibit the great collections museums like AMNH have. In the spirit of being holistic, why not exhibits around basic human activities, that could then show the variations across time and cultures, as well as similarities? Of course spirituality and pilgrimage jumped to my mind first, but I know I am biased in that regard having done my own research in that area. What about shelter, or food and sustenance? Art and decorations?
Ah well when I make my fortune I guess I can endow museum exhibits, huh?
Friday, March 06, 2009
At any rate, I wasn't unsettled by the school itself. By the end of the evening we felt pretty good about it. Admittedly having them talk about snacks and backbacks before the content of a typical day didn't match my priorities. (OK, I know different parents have different concerns, but mine are really about what is he going to be doing day to day, what is going to be learning). And my uneasiness was not about sending him off to school, since he's been in day care full time for 4 years. And it's not the thought of putting a little guy on the bus alone (well ok, maybe that a little).
On some reflection, I realized was unsettled me was all the forms we brought home. Starting school means it is time for him to be tracked and stacked and other impersonal stuff, like "do you really live in this town?" Yeah, I know he's been in the system since the day he was born (hey the kid even has a passport) but something about a stack of forms really did it for me.
And I have another photo ID, for work. This one carries an RFID tag, which codes what doors I can open and tracks my comings and goings (except for when I follow others in or out without scanning my badge). Recently a security guard in a different building tried to insist that I had to replace it because it was the old style. I decided it wasn't worth the argument to explain that the outer style of the badge has no effect on its validity as long as I can scan in the door. Noone looks at the picture.
In the spirit of full replacement of IDs today I gave in and had a new pic taken to get a new badge at work too. Wonder if it will still open all the same doors?
I suppose if you have found what you are looking for, appearances don't much affect stickiness (and because of SEO lots of sites are starting to look like this), but where is the balance with good design?
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Monday, March 02, 2009
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
As an anthropologist, I find the more interesting question is why people are not compliant. My friend Ari Shapiro did an interesting study on this, noting that "Ethnography opens up the issue by entering the private space of pill-taking to understand the beliefs, relationships, and activities that contribute to patient (non-)compliance." The abstract for his paper is available at the EPIC website, but you have to be a member of Anthrosource to get the whole thing.
His study, as well as many articles in the popular media, point to the fact that compliance is about much more than remembering to take pills at the right time. Medications can make people feel awful, or look awful, or be unable to participate in important family events. Teenagers with cancer don't really believe they might die. The list goes on.
Interestingly, in my (admittedly very cursory) research, it looked like HIV/AIDS patients are a constituency which overall is very concerned with being compliant, but it is difficult because of all the cocktails and combinations of meds that must be taken at different times. I found several instances of people looking for community solutions (say text messaging each other) to help remember. I am not sure why this is different that other diseases (if in fact it is, or just a sampling error in my own research) but it is interesting nonetheless.
One of the questions she asked me was what course did I think was essential, if I were to set up an anthropology program. I couldn't give her one course, but I did give a description of my ideal program. Granted, I went through a strictly academic progam, so I lean that way--I do feel an ideal program should expose students to all four fields, but in such a way that they understand how they are related to each other, and that they understand both how they can be applied in the "real world" (what is the real world?) or they can pursue deeper academic reseach. I have to admit I am not sure who if anyone is doing that. There are some great academic programs, and some great applied programs (and many people who work on both sides), but it seems like for anthropology to have a strong future better integration than there is now.
An interesting fact I didn't know was that his father, Thomas Dodd, was one of the prosecutors at the Nuremburg Trials.
While we as humans don't hibernate (though sometimes I wish I could), I am not sure how well suited we are for colder climates where we do need to hide from the elements. Now that the weather is warmer, the only place my son (19 months old today!) wants to be is outside, and he objects when it is time to come in. We did evolve in Africa after all, and one only need to visit warmer climates to see how much of traditional life is lived outside--I write this of course at a cubicle removed from windows or doors...