The social life of powerpoint

A few years before he wrote Blink, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article about the social life of paper [Gladwell, 2002]. Published in the New Yorker, the article argued that paper enables a certain kind of cognitive thinking and social process. This is because paper has a set of affordances that facilitate such social and cognitive behavior. For example, paper is tangible – we can pick up a document and flip through it at our own pace. Bits of paper can be arranged spatially to mean something (e.g., the piles on my desk). Paper can be annotated. I recognize what Gladwell is saying on a personal level. My desk is full of piles that go away only to make way for other piles.

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Who wants to be a cognitive neuroscientist millionaire

A graduate student – named Ogi – studying Cognitive Neuroscience of memory (that the exact description of what I did in graduate school as well) decides to use his understanding of memory to gain an edge in “Who wants to be a millionaire”. The article written in first person explains how memory works in an easy to understand manner. It is also an interesting example of a scientist using their research on themselves and observing themselves in the process.

For his $16,000 question – “Which country first published the inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed?”, Ogi used priming (to activate memories of a conversation he had with a friend about the issue) and successfully recalled that the country was Denmark.

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Neuroscience comes to the Superbowl – Further evidence that the brain has become a popstar

fmri brain I almost choked over my morning cup of coffee when I saw an instant experiment about the brain response to Superbowl ads on the Memeorandum front page. An instant-science experiment, what the heck is an instant experiment? The goal of the study was to simply watch some people react to the SuperBowl ads while they were in the magnet, and draw some inferences regarding effective ads.

Recently, I have been struck by how often I come across articles about fMRI research in newspapers and popular blogs. Articles that earlier used to remain confined to Cognitive Neuroscience Journals. A weekend article in New York Times comments on the same trend. As if just to highlight this point, there was a another article in the Magazine section about scientists looking for the deception center in the brain using fMRI. Quoting from the New York Times from whom I stole the phrase “The brain becomes a pop star”.

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Clustering your own del.icio.us tags

clustering delicious tagsSomeone pointed out this clustering application for del.icio.us. Its just for clustering your own data though, so its not leveraging the group mind. Still it was interesting to see the clusters formed by my tags. Some of the clusters were: clusteranalysis(!); visualization; mobile research; market research; flash; ajax; cardsorting; design.

Expectedly, they are using k-means clustering algorithm. I played around with the number of clusters and the cohesiveness of the clusters does change as the number of clusters goes up.

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The rising star of corporate anthropology

corporate anthropologyTwo recent articles about anthropology in the corporate environment caught my eye.

The article in Fortune magazine focuses on anthropological work at Microsoft and contrasts modern corporate anthropology with its origins:

“Their fieldwork is far removed from the popular perception of the anthropologist as lantern-jawed adventurer in baggy shorts and pith helmet, canoeing up the Amazon in search of the proverbial lost tribe. But there is a certain correspondence between Microsoft’s research agenda and the work of those old-time anthropologists, many of whom were funded by colonial governments that needed to understand their native subjects in order to rule them more effectively. The modern version of this knowledge-power dynamic is Microsoft, a multinational technology colossus that hires anthropologists who study the natives in order to sell them more software.”

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How to make my hippocampus grow (or why I rely less on online maps)

hippocampus.jpgEver since I discovered Yahoo maps (seems aeons ago now), I started using it for most of my navigation needs. Not just when going to a new address, I found myself using it for places I have visited before – places in the neighborhood. Its just so convenient, one never gets lost (well, I still get lost – but thats another story).

I have started realizing that I no longer have good generalized learning of a neighborhood. For example, we lived in San Francisco for over a year. I hardly learnt its geography, driving like a robot on its roads – turn right after .02, Bear left on Post.

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Neurobiology of trust

Neuro-economics is a burgeoning field, that I have written about before. Read about a fascinating experiment in trust, using a game scenario like economists often do. The twist is that both the participants are in the fMRI scanner so their brain activity can be watched by scientists.

The terms of the game were like this: “At the beginning of each round, Belur could put up to $20 in play. Any investment automatically tripled. Tang then decided how much to return and how much to keep.

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