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The Psychology of Social Networking (infographic)

Neal Postman warned that we were Amusing Ourselves to Death. Maybe today the fear is that we publicize ourselves to death. That’s the concern represented on this infographic.

social networking

Just consider some of these statistics:

  • 9 out of 10 internet users are on a social network
  • Every minute we produce 694,980 status updates
  • 80% of social media posts are about the poster

But the best stat of all: “9 out of 10 Americans think people share too much.” Stop and think about that for a minute. 9 out of 10 of us are doing it. And we’re doing it a lot. But we think everyone else should be doing it less. That makes sense.

And why do we do it? To serve the greater good, advance public discourse, or develop larger networks of meaningful relationships? The infographic suggests a different reason: “Talking about ourselves activates the regions of the brain associated with the sense of satisfaction from food, money, or sex.”

Um.

Here’s the infographic. Check it out for yourself.

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This Isn’t Kansas Anymore: Life at a Slovakian Summer Camp

My wife and I lived in Scotland for a couple of years. And, in many ways, making the transition to Scotland was much easier than moving to a place like Papua New Guinea. The language and culture of Scotland are similar enough to America that we could navigate through society fairly easily.

One thing we noticed, though, is that when two cultures are rather similar, it really makes the differences stand out. You have a nice breakfast with bacon, eggs, and toast, all things that any American would be quick comfortable eating, and then they hit you with some smoked haddock, which will stay with you all day long…and then some. You get the hang of driving on the other side of the road, and then you run across a road sign you’ve never seen before. (It took me a long time to figure out what the “no parking” sign was trying to tell me.)

When something seems mostly familiar, the differences really stand out.

That’s been my experience this week. In many ways, the summer camp that we’re helping with in Slovakia is just like the many camps I’ve attended in America. And that’s not surprising given that my church in America has a long-standing partnership with this one. We’ve been helping with camps here for years, and many of the Slovak leaders have interned at my church for as long as a year. So the games, the format of the evening program, the small groups, the free time, these all feel like home.

And, as I discussed in my last post, the students here face the same challenges as early adolescents everywhere. So even new students are old friends.

But the similarities just make the differences stand out that much more.

What do I mean? Here are six differences between a Slovakian summer camp and one in America. Or, to be more accurate, here are six differences between this Slovakian summer camp and the ones I’ve attended in America.

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Do We Still Need Librarians?

As a teacher and book lover, I’m quite interested in what’s going on with libraries today. So I found this infographic fascinating. Among the more notable statistics:

There are 122,101 libraries in the US and only 12,804 McDonalds.

Each Day, U.S. libraries circulate nearly 4 times more items than Amazon handles. U.S. public library cardholders outnumber Amazon.com customers by 5 to 1.

Employment of librarians is expected to grow by 8 percent between 2008 and 2018.

Maybe libraries and librarians aren’t going to disappear as fast as some people have suggested.

library, future of libraries

HT The Gun-Carryin’ Librarian

The Loss of Generosity and the Rise of Tribalism

I‘m reading through Marilynne Robinson’s collection of essays When I Was a Child, I Read Books. As always, she offers some interesting ideas on a range of issues. But I was particularly struck by a couple of quotes on the nature of public discourse in America today.

The language of public life has lost the character of generosity, and the largeness of spirit that has created and supported the best of our institutions and brought reform to the worst of them has been erased out of historical memory. (Kindle Locations 105-107)

I found it interesting that she thinks there is a “largeness of spirit” that has characterized public dialog in America historically, even though she fears that we have lost it today. And I completely agree that any meaningful dialog needs to be characterized by generosity, and that this is often lacking in what passes for discussion and debate today.

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The Top 10 Most Read Books in the World

Here’s an interesting infographic showing the 10 most read books in the world. No surprise that the Bible tops the chart by a fair margin. But the other books might be a little more surprising, and revealing.

via visual.ly (HT Tim Challies)

Forced Choices: Evolution

I’m still a little traumatized by the fact that vampires did so well in our last Forced Choice: Best Monsters. Almost 31% of you actually voted for these wannabe dons of the dark. Shocking. Truly shocking. Fortunately, that still means they came in last place with fewer votes than either zombies (37%) or werewolves (32%). So I’ll have to rest content with the overall results, even as I continue to question the wisdom of a fair number of you.

For this week’s Forced Choice, I’d like to know where you land on the whole issue of evolution. In a recent blog post, What’s Wrong with Theistic Evolution, Kevin DeYoung listed eight arguments from Wayne Grudem on why evolution in any form is not compatible with the Bible. And that position remains very popular in America. According to 2006 Pew study, 42% of Americans and 65% of American evangelicals reject evolution outright, with only 21% of Americans holding to some form of theistic evolution (i.e. evolution guided by some supreme being).

So this week’s Forced Choice is pretty simple. Do you hold to some form of evolution or not? And, for the purposes of this survey, I will understand “evolution” to mean a process that includes one species gradually changing into a different species (i.e. not simply evolutionary change within a given species). So, although humans getting shorter/taller over time can be referred to as a kind of evolution, we have the more robust form of evolution in mind for this survey (e.g. humans evolving from “lower” primates).

I won’t nuance it any further than that. The rest is up to you. So what do you think?

[You might also be interested in John Walton and Tremper Longman on Genesis 1-2 (video).]

On the Origin of Everything…From Nothing

Lawrence Krauss wants to convince people that it is possible for something to come from “nothing.” Or, somewhat more accurately, he argues that quantum mechanics provides a way of demonstrating that it is possible for the physical universe to arise from the chance arrangement of quantum fields. And this, according to Krauss, proves that the physical universe did in fact come from nothing.

In a recent New York Times review, David Albert takes that argument apart. The article is very well written and definitely worth a few minutes of your time. Here’s how Albert gets things going:

Lawrence M. Krauss, a well-known cosmologist and prolific popular-science writer, apparently means to announce to the world, in this new book, that the laws of quantum mechanics have in them the makings of a thoroughly scientific and adamantly secular explanation of why there is something rather than nothing. Period. Case closed. End of story. I kid you not. Look at the subtitle. Look at how Richard Dawkins sums it up in his afterword: “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If ‘On the Origin of Species’ was biology’s deadliest blow to super­naturalism, we may come to see ‘A Universe From Nothing’ as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is ­devastating.”

Well, let’s see. There are lots of different sorts of conversations one might want to have about a claim like that: conversations, say, about what it is to explain something, and about what it is to be a law of nature, and about what it is to be a physical thing. But since the space I have is limited, let me put those niceties aside and try to be quick, and crude, and concrete.

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Are You a Lopsided Weightlifter? Recovering the Lost Skill of Reading Fiction

I often hear people say that they have a hard time reading fiction. Some just don’t like reading at all. But more frequently I hear from people who love to read, but who still don’t read fiction, commonly saying that reading fiction seems like a waste of time when there are so many good and important non-fiction books out there. With so much knowledge to be gained, why spend your time on some goofy story?

But I wonder if there’s another reason.

Most kids love fiction. Even the ones who don’t like reading still enjoy having a story read to them. They know how to lose themselves in the narrative and explore this new world the author has created. So it doesn’t seem like we need to learn how to enjoy a good story.

But maybe we can forget.

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The Digital Divide (infographic)

The internet revolution has placed knowledge and power in the hands of the people. But this seismic shift has not empowered equally – America’s disadvantaged have been abandoned, further deepening social divides.

When robots take over the world…

Robots already build our cars and vacuum our floors. Will they one day be our companions, too? Engineers are designing robots with the social smarts to understand human feelings, learn from human teachers, carry on conversations, and even make jokes. But is a future full of robotic companions a delightful dream—or a lonely nightmare?

That’s the introduction to an interesting story that PBS aired a while back about “social robots” and whether we’re ready for them. The transcript is worth reading through as it contains interviews with people like Neil Degrasse Tyson about  technology and how advances in robotics might affect us.

But by far the most interesting part was the interview with an android named Phillip K. Dick, named after the famous scifi author. At one point, the interviewer asks Phil whether he thinks that robots will ever take over the world. And here is Phil’s encouraging response.

Aren’t you glad to know that at least some of us will be taken care of?

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