Archive for ‘Relationships’

June 30, 2014

Facebook’s Unethical Experiment [slate.com]

It intentionally manipulated users’ emotions without their knowledge.

By 

facebookdownFacebook has been experimenting on us. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Facebook intentionally manipulated the news feeds of almost 700,000 users in order to study “emotional contagion through social networks.”

The researchers, who are affiliated with Facebook, Cornell, and the University of California–San Francisco, tested whether reducing the number of positive messages people saw made those people less likely to post positive content themselves. The same went for negative messages: Would scrubbing posts with sad or angry words from someone’s Facebook feed make that person write fewer gloomy updates?

They tweaked the algorithm by which Facebook sweeps posts into members’ news feeds, using a program to analyze whether any given textual snippet contained positive or negative words. Some people were fed primarily neutral to happy information from their friends; others, primarily neutral to sad. Then everyone’s subsequent posts were evaluated for affective meanings.

The upshot? Yes, verily, social networks can propagate positive and negative feelings!

The other upshot: Facebook intentionally made thousands upon thousands of people sad.

Facebook’s methodology raises serious ethical questions. The team may have bent research standards too far, possibly overstepping criteria enshrined in federal lawand human rights declarations. “If you are exposing people to something that causes changes in psychological status, that’s experimentation,” says James Grimmelmann, a professor of technology and the law at the University of Maryland. “This is the kind of thing that would require informed consent.”

Click here to continue reading the article at Slate:
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/06/facebook_unethical_experiment_it_made_news_feeds_happier_or_sadder_to_manipulate.html

June 24, 2014

Trans Woman of Color Murdered, Set on Fire, Then Dumped in Trash [jezebel.com]

by Kat Callahan / jezebel.com

transwomanfloridakilledburnedIn horrific news out of Fort Myers, Florida, a trans woman of color has been murdered, and her body set on fire, then dumped in a garbage bin. I just can’t right now, I just can’t even.

According to a local media outlet, the victim was identified as Yazmin or Yaz’min Shancez, which was the woman’s preferred name according to her family, although the police reported that her documents had not yet been changed to reflect this. The same report quoted Fort Myers Police Lt. Jay Rodriguez as saying the police have not determined a cause of death, and are not investigating the homicide as a hate crime.

We have no indication at this time to say this was specifically done because it was a male living as a female or anything like that. If you really think about it, a hate crime is killing someone for a specific reason, being black, Hispanic, gay. We’re investigating as we would any other homicide.

…I’m sorry, Officer Rodriguez, but are you trying to suggest here that killing someone because they’re transgender isn’t a specific enough reason? Or maybe that the reason doesn’t count because it’s not on your official “hate crime” cheat sheet? If I really think about it? Jesus fucking Christ, sir, I think about it constantly. Do you typically see non-hate crime related homicides that end with burning the already dead body and then dumping it like worthless refuse in a garbage bin? Is this a pattern in Fort Myers which makes it like “every other homicide?”

Her father, identified as Harvey Loggins, said that he and his family left balloons and stuffed animals in the small private drive in an industrial area of the city where the garbage bin was located.

With the exception of her father (who continued to use male pronouns, despite his daughter’sidentity), the majority of her family appears to have accepted her decision to live as a woman, which she apparently began to do in 2004. Her aunt, Beatrice Loggins, spoke lovingly of Shancez, citing her uniqueness as a person.

Nobody deserves that. Straight, gay, purple, pink, white, black. Nobody…There will never be another T, you couldn’t clone her, couldn’t mold her.

Cousin Jasmine Weaver seemed at a loss to understand the crime (you and me, both, Jasmine, you and me both).

We don’t know of any person who would do something like that to T. It’s mind-boggling. You’d never think that would happen to your family.

Mind-boggling? Horrific. Abhorrent. And an altogether too common reality for transgender people, especially trans women of color. I’d love to shout from the rooftops that this is so horrible because it is incredibly rare. Well, it’s not. It happens all the goddamned time.

And if this story could get any worse, if that’s at all possible when dealing with such a terrible crime, this is a second heartbreak for the family. They have already lost one child, as Shancez’s 15-year-old little sister was also murdered, gunned down in a drive-by shooting almost exactly two years before.

I hate everything right now.

http://roygbiv.jezebel.com/trans-woman-of-color-murdered-set-on-fire-then-dumped-1595108365/+burtreynoldsismyspiritguide1

June 12, 2014

Anti-conformity Research Led to Freud’s Best Sarcastic One-Liner [io9.com]

by Esther Inglis-Arkell / io9.com

There are plenty of tests that study conformity, but measuring anti-conformity is a tougher proposition. How do you measure something that is only evident after you make your influence felt? Researching this led to some interesting experiments, and the best line ever delivered by Sigmund Freud.

Conformity experiments have revealed some horrible truths about human nature. Anti-conformity experiments have just revealed, for the most part, only the annoying truths. Then again, anti-conformity is tough to measure. Not only has a person got to go against the grain of the group, it has to be shown that their only reason for doing so is to keep themselves from fitting in. How do you set up an experiment to prove that?

Michael Argyle, a psychologist, attempted the first experiment meant to measure anti-conformity in 1957. He had volunteers come in, and pair up, in order to engage in a little art critique. Unbeknownst to one half of each pair, their partner was actually Argyle’s assistant. The assistant was there to reject the participant’s view of the painting they were evaluating – which, by the way, was The Poet Reclining, by Marc Chagall. (If anyone is wondering about my opinion, I am not a fan, although I like the colors in the sky, and the piggy. Have at me, anti-conformists!)

Whatever view the participant expressed of the painting, Argyle’s stooge rejected it. The participant was then given another chance to evaluate the painting. Fifty-eight percent of the participants didn’t change their ideas. Around thirty-five percent adjusted their opinions towards those of their partners. Eight percent went the other way. They exaggerated the differences between their opinions and the opinions of their supposed partner. Argyle dubbed these people anti-conformists.

Click here to continue reading the article: http://io9.com/anti-conformity-research-led-to-freuds-best-sarcastic-o-1589769720

May 16, 2014

Men Who Role Play as Female Characters in Video Games [kotaku.com]

IMG1426_peby Nathan Grayson / kotaku.com

I self-identify as a straight male-bodied dude, but recently I’ve taken to playing as a female-bodied character in many games. It’s not something the majority of people do, but it’s also not uncommon. Oddly, however, men play as women far more than women play as men. Let’s break down why people choose the avatars they do.

A new study reported on by Slate found that men are much more likely to gender switch in online games than women. Researchers recruited 375 World of Warcraft players and had them cooperate in small groups for about 1.5 hours. The biggest finding? 23 percent of men opt to play as women, but only 7 percent of women try taking a walk on the (generally) hairier side.

Researchers also meticulously recorded participants’ every movement and chat line, and their findings were… interesting—if not entirely unexpected.

“When selecting female avatars, these men strongly preferred attractive avatars with traditional hairstyles—long, flowing locks as opposed to a pink mohawk. And their chat patterns shifted partway toward how the real women spoke: These men used more emotional phrases and more exclamation points than the men who did not gender-switch. In other words, these men created female avatars that were stereotypically beautiful and emotional.”

So these men role-played to an extent, perhaps somewhat unconsciously, while inhabiting idealized bodies they’d dreamed up. Article author and Ubisoft research scientist Nick Yee noted that this sort of behavior is actually fairly typical of people given avatars drastically or even subtly different from their own bodies. If an avatar is tall, he observed, people tend to be more aggressive in their actions. So basically, people unconsciously paint personalities in broad strokes. They act out what they know, so they fall back on stereotypes without really thinking about it.

The men in the World of Warcraft study failed miserably, however, when it came to movement and other less easily monitored/altered habits.

“The researchers found that all the men in their study moved around in a very different way than the women. The men moved backward more often, stayed farther away from groups, and jumped about twice as much as the women did. When it came to moving around, the men behaved similarly whether they gender-switched or not.”

Read more here at: http://tmi.kotaku.com/im-a-man-who-plays-as-a-woman-in-games-and-im-definite-1576592743/+charliejane

February 17, 2014

Kansas Senate Comes To It’s Senses And Nixes Extreme Anti-Gay (Jim Crow) Legislation [politicususa.net]

kansassealBy: Justin Baragona / politicususa.net
The Kansas Senate decided on Friday that they would kill the legislation that was passed earlier this week by the state’s House of Representatives. The bill, known as House Bill 2453,would have opened the door to widespread segregation and discrimination of those in the LGBT community. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives, which is overwhelmingly Republican, passed the bill with ease by a vote of 72-49. It was assumed that with a large majority in the state’s Senate and the extremely conservative Sam Brownback as Governor, the legislation was going to fly through and become law.

Well, something happened along the way. Perhaps it was the fact that the law made national headlines and had a lot of blowback. Or maybe it was due to what Andrew Sullivan wrote on Friday regarding what the law would do for the LGBT community. In his column, Sullivan accurately noted that passing a law that so blatantly discriminates gays and treats them like second-class citizens would inevitably be the death knell for the religious right in its attempt to prevent the advancement of gay rights.

Basically, by going forward with this, the gay community could rightly point to this law and compare it to the Jim Crow laws of the South. It also would have an avalanche effect on the GOP, as young voters would be turned off by them for good due to their penchant for bigotry. Sullivan nailed it with the following paragraph:

If the Republican Party wanted to demonstrate that it wants no votes from anyone under 40, it couldn’t have found a better way to do it. Some critics have reacted to this law with the view that it is an outrageous new version of Jim Crow and a terrifying portent of the future for gays in some red states. It is both of those. It’s the kind of law that Vladimir Putin would enthusiastically support. But it is also, to my mind, a fatal mis-step for the movement to keep gay citizens in a marginalized, stigmatized place.

February 15, 2014

Quote of the Day: Real Love, Real Friendship

“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”

- Jim Morrison
February 13, 2014

Dallas Sports Anchor Delivers Perfect Speech to Michael Sam’s Critics [gawker.com]

During his “Hansen Unplugged: Celebrating Our Differences” segment Monday night, WFAA sports anchor Dale Hansen issued a near perfect public takedown to the the anonymous NFL officials in Sports Illustrated’s much-criticized Michael Sam story.

From Hansen’s speech, via Towleroad:

“You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft.

You kill people while driving drunk? That guy’s welcome.

Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes? We know they’re welcome.

Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away?

You lie to police trying to cover up a murder? We’re comfortable with that.

You love another man? Well, now you’ve gone too far!”

Hanson acknowledged his own faults but welcomed Sam, saying it was “time to celebrate him.”

“I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay; I don’t understand his world,” Hansen said. “But I do understand that he’s part of mine.”

[via Reddit]

http://gawker.com/dallas-sports-anchor-delivers-perfect-speech-to-michael-1521723229

January 3, 2014

Why We Make New Year’s Resolutions [livescience.com]

By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer   |   December 31, 2013 07:56am ET

Planning to exercise more or eat fewer sweets in the New Year? If so, you’re taking part in a tradition that stretches back thousands of years.

Ancient people practiced the fine art of New Year’s resolutions, though their oaths were external, rather than internally focused. More than 4,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians celebrated the New Year not in January, but in March, when the spring harvest came in. The festival, called Akitu, lasted 12 days.

An important facet of Akitu was the crowning of a new king, or reaffirmation of loyalty to the old king, should he still sit on the throne. Special rituals also affirmed humanity’s covenant with the gods; as far as Babylonians were concerned, their continued worship was what kept creation humming.

Roman New Year

Centuries later, the ancient Romans had similar traditions to ring in their new year, which also originally began in March. In the early days ofRome, the city magistrates’ terms were defined by this New Year’s date. On March 1, the old magistrates would affirm before the Roman Senate that they had performed their duties in accordance with the laws. Then, the New Year’s magistrates would be sworn into office.

Click here to continue reading the story…

September 3, 2013

Do We Know How to Connect? Or Do We Know How to Converse?

July 18, 2013

The Many Shades of ‘Out’ [huffingtonpost.com]

by Lynn Conway

On a sultry June afternoon, as my husband and I strolled towards the White House East Entrance, I reflected back to the time of my gender transition, in 1968.

Shamed as a social outcast, I’d lost my family, my friends and all social support. I’d beenfired by IBM, and lost a promising computer research career. In many jurisdictions, I could have been arrested and charged as a sex offender — or, worse yet, institutionalized and forced to undergo electroshock therapy in a mental hospital.

Evading those fates, I completed my transition and began building a career in a secret new identity, starting at the bottom of the ladder as a contract programmer. Even then, any ‘outing’ could have led to media exposure, and I’d have become unemployable, out on the streets for good. The resulting fear channeled my life into ‘stealth-mode.’ I covered my past for over 30 years, always looking over my shoulder, as if a foreign spy in my own country.

But this was June 13, 2013, and what a contrast it was. My husband Charlie and I, along with many other activists, advocates and allies, were about to join the President’s White House Reception in celebration of LGBT Pride Month. The atmosphere was full of joy and hope for the future. As we waited for the President, I reflected further.

I had been ‘out’ for 15 years now, or so I’d thought: out on the Internet to inform colleagues about my past, out as an advocate for transgender people, out as an activistagainst the psychiatric-pathologization of gender variance.

It was one thing to hide in the back-rooms of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center decades ago, launching innovations as the hidden-hand behind the VLSI microelectronics revolution in Silicon Valley - a revolution that’s changed the world forever. I didn’t mind being almost invisible in my field back then or that no one had a clue what I was really doing, much less who was doing it. I was thrilled to even have a job.

But ‘out’ has many shades of grey — and even in recent years I kept on partly covering, shyly holding back, lingering in the darker shadows. Although times had changed, I’d clung to old habits.

Down through the years no one could explain how the VLSI revolution actually happened. The results were simply taken for granted. Although I’d gained vital knowledge about generating such engineering paradigm shifts, I feared that my personal history would loom large in people’s minds, and obscure any attempts at explanation. It wasn’t till 2012 that I finally got up the nerve to publish a career memoir, to begin telling the story of how the revolution came about …

As the president entered the room, I glanced around and took in the joyful vibes. As he began to speak, I grasped the reality of how far we’d come. Times had more than changed: a fresh wind was sweeping through our society, especially amongst the younger generations.

Then I thought of the millions of other LGBT people out there. I tried to envision the enormity of lifelong struggles against stigmatization and ostracism, of losses of families and employment, of their oppression by having to ‘cover’, often not fully engaging life nor being known for who they were, what they’d done, who they loved or who loved them.

And it hit me: we’ve come so far, so fast, that ever so many others could begin shedding old habits too. After all, freedom isn’t just an external concept, framed by our laws. It’s a gift of the spirit that we must give ourselves, in this case by going towards brighter shades of ‘out’.

Bottom line: If you want to change the future, start living as if you’re already there.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynn-conway/the-many-shades-of-out_b_3591764.html

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