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Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

crime documentary that avoids the usual moral panic

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The Violent Highway is unusual for TV programmes about violent crime. Instead of an unquestioning “everything is getting worse” angle, the documentary instead looks at crime past and present, through the device of a single London street.

“the film recreates key incidents taken from 300 years of muggings, wife-beatings, pub brawls and serial killings. Historians, psychologists, residents of The Highway and former gang members discuss whether we are more or less violent than we used to be, and what this street can reveal about the violence in all of us.”

At one point the narrator starts the usual hackneyed point about how violent modern TV and video games are, but this only leads into Steven Pinker pointing out how we take pleasure in the violence in  Greek and Shakespearean tragedy, and in murder mysteries too.

BBC Two Programmes – The Violent Highway

Written by Karen

May 22nd, 2009 at 7:45 pm

negative news

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Reading BBC News this weekend, my attention was drawn by a positive story Meningitis cases ‘at record low’. I was struck by the positive reporting and wondered whether that reaction was fair. Looking at the index of stories below it was noticeable that the positive tone was unusual:

negative news.

Just look at the language: “blunder, suffers, plea, assault, deadly, carnage, weakest, attacks, weak, shut”.

Now the bottom right corner sounds more positive:

  • Cow genome ‘to transform farming’
  • Cheryl Cole to record solo songs
  • Facebook users say yes to changes

But really the positivity depends on where you stand on genetic research, manufactured pop and the ethics of social networking businesses.

Written by Karen

April 28th, 2009 at 6:24 am

Posted in mood,optimism

slow down London

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Later this month will be a London event I feel like I can get involved in (unlike the G20 protests…what was it they wanted again?)

Slow Down London is a ten day festival that sets out to encourage Londoners to  improve their lives by slowing down to do things well.

Also coincidently discovered Academic Earth this week, kind of Ted talks but with guaranteed PhDs. In Paul Bloom’s lecture “The Good Life” he refers to two solutions to the hedonistic treadmill: keep doing different things or just get off the treadmill.

The Slow Down folks want to get off.

Written by Karen

April 2nd, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Posted in cities,happiness,speed

lessons in frugality from cats

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1. Sleep alot
Cats enjoy just lying around. They wallow in laziness. Our two positively scorn me when I rush around getting ready for work. If sleeping is getting boring, then find an exciting new place to sleep. Grumpy Cat challenges herself to squeeze through ever tigher gaps to get into prime sleeping spots.

cat, doing what she does best   Other Cat

2. Entertainment can be cheap
Noisy Cat likes elastic bands. Alot. Shop-bought toys don’t hold his attention anywhere near as long.

3. Luxury is simple
Radiators provide cats with obvious joy. In summer sunshine does the same. Best not to discuss their feelings about warm bird guts.

4. Be cute and someone else will feed you
I’m not sure this is something you should try and emulate but both our two fuzzballs were once strays. They hit the jackpot when they sucked up to me, winning a warm house, an easily manipulated lady of the house, no kids, no dogs, and a home where alot of home butchery goes on.

They have to put up with occasional humilating fussing from the humans but mostly the cats seem to have the better deal. They even seem to love their super-cheap cat food, known in our house as kitty-crack.

Written by Karen

January 30th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

why isn’t AI a GM-like bogeyman?

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I listened to the Gardeners Question Time GM debate recently. Afterwards I tried to explain to PW why anti-GM protesters annoy me, when I mostly agree that turning propagation into something controlled by corporations is a bad thing.

I suppose I get annoyed with the focus on GM as the science that will destroy the world. Pretty much any technology has that capability but we only seem to be allowed to worry about one at a time (fretting about nuclear is very last century, it seems).

Co-incidently I’ve just finished Dan Simmon’s Hyperion series (tetralogy? cantos?) which features sinister artificial intelligence that may be intent on genocide. The AI takeover of the world (AI apocalypse, Cybernetic revolt, Machine Rule, Grey Goo) is such a common theme in modern Sci-Fi that it seems curious that there has not yet been tabloid outrage at the reckless scientists working in the field of AI. Think Matrix, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica, and 2001. And after all, what’s is the etymology of ‘Frankenstein Foods’?

Perhaps it is just a little too early.

(I’m also regularly referred to as the AI, as in “we’ll get the AI to knock out some wireframes”, so I’m looking forward to being mistaken for a tabloid threat to humanity)

Written by Karen

December 31st, 2008 at 7:12 am

Posted in fear,future,science

strip, speak or sing?

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I watched Horizon: How Mad Are You? the other week. It was a slightly odd programme in which the basic premise is the professionals try to guess which of the participants have been diagnosed with a mental illness. The participants had various activities inflicted on them to help the professionals identify the ‘mad ones’.

Generally the group agreed that cleaning up a revolting cow shed (to spot OCD) was far preferable to performing stand-up comedy (to spot social anxiety). PW and I nodded vigourously in agreement.

Which reminded me of the “Strip, Speak or Sing” debate:
A group of London IA ladies were discussing public speaking and whether those in the group who speak at conferences are “incredibly brave” or not. Somehow this evolved into a discussion of whether each individual would prefer to “Strip, Speak or Sing” in public  (in the appropriate context that is e.g. strip in a life drawing class, not just randoming stripping off in the office! ).

This was one of those conversations were each participant stared at the others in disbelief when they heard their order. Interestingly, no-one put Speak first.

Which in turn reminded me of an early BBC activity of working out the Myers Brigg types of all the members of a team. The team was then divided along MB lines and had to interogate each other about working behaviour. The conversation that struck with me, for obvious IA reasons, was:
“what? you never file any emails? none at all?”
“of course not. You mean some people really use all those little folders?”

All of these occasions were simple but necessary reminders that other people *really* don’t think like you.

(and if you’re wondering – I’m Strip, Speak, Sing)

Written by Karen

November 24th, 2008 at 6:38 am

Posted in psychology

i’m still here, honest

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There was a rumour that the BBC implanted chips in long serving staff, with a view to preventing them leaving, Wedlock-style  perhaps. I didn’t fall victim to anything so dramatic.

Nor can I blame my silence on overwork in my new job. There’s been loads to learn but that’s not the problem.

I’ve been over-committing myself elsewhere. Everything seems to be happening at once, from my writing for FUMSI, speaking events and Open University deadlines, plus trying to get the garden ready for winter.

Unfortunately blog-neglect also meant an unpleasant job of ploughing through weeks and weeks of comments spam. Always a nauseous task.

So to come…talking about the future of the web at the V&A, SharePoint IA, and the challenges of creating accessible IA deliverables.

Written by Karen

October 9th, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Posted in energy,gtd

The School Of Life

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“The School of Life is a new cultural enterprise based in central London offering intelligent instruction on how to lead a fulfilled life.

We offer evening and weekend courses, holidays to unexpected locations, stigma-free psychotherapy, secular sermons, conversation meals, a floating faculty of experts and a new kind of literary consultancy service called bibliotherapy.

Our faculty is made up of some of the brightest thinkers and artists at work today. They include Alain de Botton, Geoff Dyer, Susan Elderkin, Tom Hodgkinson, Brett Khar, Robert Macfarlane and Martin Parr.

We are based in a small but spectacular shop on Marchmont Street, a thriving and bohemian part of central London. We’ve organised the shop as a chemist for the mind, a place where you can try out a variety of cultural solutions to everyday ailments. We sell books, artworks, courses, holidays and therapeutic services.”

‘A floating faculty of experts’ generates lovely images. More from The School Of Life.

Written by Karen

August 10th, 2008 at 6:03 am

Posted in happiness

book: How to be Free by Tom Hodgkinson

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Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson follows up How to be Idle with How to be Free in which he exhorts us to live simpler lives, get off the capitalist hamster wheel and indulge in a bit of anarchism. Jolly medieval peasants seem to feature a lot. As reviewers have pointed out, he does seem to forget an awful lot of the nasty bits about the medieval period.

And for Hodgkinson, governments are responsible for wars and taxes but he conveniently ignores the NHS (which is the bit that vexes me about all this self-sufficiency stuff…. I’d still quite like having highly trained medical staff around and I don’t think they want to be paid in turnips or with a nice tune on the ukelele).

I felt compelled to follow this up with Medieval Lives by Terry Jones, which evened things out a bit with a healthy dose of corruption, pestilance and violence.

Written by Karen

July 2nd, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Posted in books,happiness,past


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I’m knackered. What with work, freelance stuff, studying, and then trips to hospital with PW, it’s all been a bit too much.

I’ve noticed that being tired has made me more abrupt and more likely to put voice to my frustrations. It isn’t very me and makes me uncomfortable, but it is more honest and there’s some satisfaction in saying how annoyed you are, rather than going home and kicking something (hopefully not the chickens).

Sorry if you’ve been on the receiving end but the chickens are grateful.

Written by Karen

June 30th, 2008 at 8:55 am

Posted in energy,mood,work