Archive for January, 2016

January 29, 2016

A Raisin in the Sun

Lorraine Hansberry

clybourne park

A Raisin in the Sun is a play by African American playwright Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem ‘Harlem’ by Langston Hughes: ‘What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?’ The story tells a black family’s experiences in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood as they attempt to ‘better’ themselves with an insurance payout from the death of the father.

Walter and Ruth Younger, their son Travis, along with Walter’s mother Lena (Mama) and sister Beneatha, live in poverty in a dilapidated two-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s south side. Walter is barely making a living as a limousine driver. Though Ruth is content with their lot, Walter is not and desperately wishes to become wealthy. His plan is to invest in a liquor store in partnership with Willy and Bobo, street-smart acquaintances of Walter’s.

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January 27, 2016


Daniel Levitin

The term infomania is used to describe a sometimes debilitating feeling of ‘information overload,’ caused by the combination of a backlog of information to process (usually in e-mail), and continuous interruptions from technologies like phones and instant messaging. It is also understood as distraction caused by the urge to constantly check on incoming information, which causes the person to neglect other, often more important things—duties, family, etc. (For instance, a typical symptom of infomania is that of checking email frequently during vacation.)

The term was coined by Elizabeth M. Ferrarini, the author of ‘Confessions of an Infomaniac ‘(1984) and ‘Infomania: The Guide to Essential Electronic Services’ (1985). Confessions was an early book about life online. In 2005, British psychologist Glenn Wilson conducted an experimental study which documented the detrimental effects of information overload on problem solving ability. This was described in a press release accompanying a self-report survey of the extent of misuse of modern technology sponsored by Hewlett-Packard (However, in 2010, Wilson published a clarifying note about the study in which he documented its limited size and stated the results were ‘widely misrepresented in the media.’)

January 26, 2016

Restraint Bias


Restraint bias is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control impulsive behavior. An inflated self-control belief may lead to greater exposure to temptation, and increased impulsiveness. Therefore, the restraint bias has bearing on addiction. For example, someone might experiment with drugs, simply because they believe they can resist any potential addiction. An individual’s inability to control, or their temptation can come from several different visceral impulses such as hunger, sexual arousal, and fatigue. These impulses provide information about the current state and behavior needed to keep the body satisfied.

The ‘Empathy Gap Effect’ deals with individuals having trouble appreciating the power that the impulse states have on their behavior. There is a cold-to-hot empathy gap that states when people are in a cold state, like not experiencing hunger, they tended to underestimate those influences in a hot state. The underestimation of the visceral impulses can be contributed to restricted memory for the visceral experience which means the individual can recall the impulsive state but cannot recreate the sensation of the impulsive state.

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January 25, 2016


Dactyl Nightmare

Virtuality is a line of virtual reality gaming machines produced by Virtuality Group, and found in video arcades in the early 1990s. The company was founded by Jonathan D Waldern, a VR researcher supported by IBM Research Labs in Hursley, UK. Virtuality Group began life in 1985 as a garage startup called W Industries. Waldern’s company developed many of the principal components including VR headsets, graphics subsystems, 3D trackers, exoskeleton data gloves and other enclosure designs.

There are two types of units (referred to by the company as ‘pods’): stand up (SU) and sit down (SD). Both unit types utilize head-mounted displays (the ‘Visette’) containing two LCD screens at resolutions of 276 x 372 each, four speakers, and a microphone. The SU units achieve motion tracking via a magnet built into the waist high ring with a receiver in a free-moving joystick (the ‘Space Joystick’). The stereoscopic display was able to react to head movements based on what the player would be ‘looking at’ within the gaming environment. The position of the joystick (also magnetically tracked) controlled movement of the player’s ‘virtual hand,’ and a button on the joystick moves the player forwards in the game arena.


January 24, 2016

Lil Miquela

Lil Miquela

Miquela Sousa, better known as Lil Miquela, is a fictional character and digital art project. Miquela is an Instagram model and music artist claiming to be from Downey, California. In 2017, Miquela released her first single, ‘Not Mine.’ Her pivot into music has been compared to virtual musicians Gorillaz and Hatsune Miku.

The project began in 2016 as an Instagram profile. By 2018, the account had amassed more than a million followers. Miquela portrays the lifestyle of an Instagram it-girl over social media. The account also details a fictional narrative which presents her as a sentient robot in conflict with other digital projects.

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January 22, 2016

Warrant Canary

canary watch

A warrant canary is a method by which a communications service provider aims to inform its users that the provider has not been served with a secret government subpoena. Secret subpoenas, including those covered under the ‘Patriot Act,’ provide criminal penalties for disclosing the existence of the warrant to any third party, including the service provider’s users. A warrant canary may be posted by the provider to inform users of dates that they have not been served a secret subpoena. If the canary has not been updated in the time period specified by the host, users are to assume that the host has been served with such a subpoena.

The intention is to allow the provider to warn users of the existence of a subpoena passively, without disclosing to others that the government has sought or obtained access to information or records under a secret subpoena. Warrant canaries have been found to be legal by the United States Justice Department, so long as they are passive in their notifications.

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January 18, 2016

For Want of a Nail


camel nose

For Want of a Nail is a proverb, having numerous variations over several centuries, reminding that seemingly unimportant acts or omissions can have grave and unforeseen consequences: ‘For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.’

The earliest reference to the full proverb may refer to the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. This short variation of the proverb was published in ‘Fifty Famous People’ by James Baldwin. Richard III is unhorsed in the rhyme, but, historically Richard’s horse was merely mired in the mud. The reference to losing a horse is directly linked to the titular character famously shouting ‘A Horse! A Horse! My Kingdom for a Horse!,’ in Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ (c. 1591).

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January 14, 2016

ADE 651

bomb sniffer

The ADE 651 is a fake bomb detector produced by ATSC (UK), which claimed that the device could effectively and accurately, from long range, detect the presence and location of various types of explosives, drugs, ivory, and other substances. The device has been sold to 20 countries in the Middle East and Asia, including Iraq and Afghanistan, for as much as US$60,000 each. The Iraqi government is said to have spent £52 million on the devices.

Investigations by the BBC and other organizations found that the device is little more than a ‘glorified dowsing rod’ with no ability to perform its claimed functions. In 2010, export of the device was banned by the British government and the managing director of ATSC was arrested on suspicion of fraud. The company was dissolved in 2013, and the founder, Jim McCormick, was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. Similar ‘bomb sniffing’ devices, which are still widely used, have also come under scrutiny in the wake of the revelations about the ADE 651.

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January 12, 2016

Hedgehog’s Dilemma

porcupines by Slug Signorino

The hedgehog’s dilemma is a metaphor about the challenges of human intimacy. It describes a situation in which a group of hedgehogs all seek to become close to one another in order to share heat during cold weather. They must remain apart, however, as they cannot avoid hurting one another with their sharp spines. Though they all share the intention of a close reciprocal relationship, this may not occur, for reasons they cannot avoid.

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud have used this situation to describe what they feel is the state of the individual in relation to others in society. The hedgehog’s dilemma suggests that despite goodwill, human intimacy cannot occur without substantial mutual harm, and what results is cautious behavior and weak relationships. The hedgehog’s dilemma demands moderation in affairs with others both because of self-interest, as well as out of consideration for others, leading to introversion and isolationism.

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January 11, 2016

Knee Defender

knee defender

The Knee Defender is a device that an airplane passenger can place on the struts that support his/her drop-down airplane seat tray table to limit the extent to which the seat directly in front of him/her can be reclined. The device was invented by Ira Goldman, and it was first sold to the public in 2003.

In August 2014, on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Denver, an argument developed between a passenger using a Knee Defender and the passenger seated in front of him who wanted to recline. Ultimately the pilot diverted the flight to Chicago and both of those passengers were deplaned.

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January 9, 2016




In the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud, afterwardsness is a ‘mode of belated understanding or retroactive attribution of [meaning] to earlier events… [from the German word] ‘Nachträglichkeit,’ translated as ‘deferred action, retroaction, après-coup, afterwardsness.’ As summarized by another scholar, ‘In one sense, Freud’s theory of deferred action can be simply stated: memory is reprinted, so to speak, in accordance with later experience.’

Closely related for Freud to deferred action was ‘deferred obedience’: again, ‘a deferred effect…a ‘deferred obedience’ under the influence of repression.’ Thus for instance Freud explored the different phases of a man’s infantile attitude to his father: ‘As long as his father was alive it showed itself in unmitigated rebelliousness and open discord, but immediately after his death it took the form of a neurosis based on abject submission and deferred obedience to him.’ In ‘Totem and Taboo’ he generalized the principle and ‘depicted the social contract also as based on posthumous obedience to the father’s authority’ — offset at times by its converse, occasional Carnival-like licence such as ‘the memorial festival of the totem meal, in which the restrictions of deferred obedience no longer held.’

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January 8, 2016



The psychological concept of the uncanny [uhn-kan-ee] was first described by Sigmund Freud in his essay ‘Das Unheimliche’ as something that is strangely familiar, rather than just mysterious. Because the uncanny is familiar, yet incongruous, it has been seen as creating cognitive dissonance within the experiencing subject, due to the paradoxical nature of being simultaneously attracted to yet repulsed by an object.

This cognitive dissonance (discomfort stemming from holding conflicting beliefs) often leads to an outright rejection of the object, as one would rather reject than rationalize, as in the ‘uncanny valley’ effect (people are not as affected in an emotional way by an object if it is easy to tell it is not human, but after a certain point, they start to feel emotionally about it, but feel bad emotions because it is so nonhuman).

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