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The Flight From Conversation

The Flight From Conversation
At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done. Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Our colleagues want to go to that board meeting but pay attention only to what interests them. A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.” Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. Related:  Trends

Smart, dumb, candybar, flip, and brick: a visual history of mobile phones For most of their history, mobile phones have been shrinking. Small meant portable; it even, in the not too distant past, was a sort of status symbol. Remember Motorola’s runaway hit, the ultra-thin Razr? But something funny happened on the smartphone’s way to success. Years ago, your colleagues might have laughed at you if you couldn’t fit your phone in your pocket. If screen sizes continue to grow, you might want to invest in bigger pockets, a bulkier handbag, a man purse, or even a whole new way to carry your phone. Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Razr was Nokia’s runaway hit.

Feeling Anxious? Soon There Will Be an App for That “I did not notice any positive effect,” one woman with social anxiety who participated in the Harvard study said in an e-mail. “It seemed similar to when I played Scramble or other games on my phone.” In a review of studies of bias modification, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania concluded last year that the technique had a small effect that “significantly modified anxiety but not depression.” The authors noted that there was evidence of what scientists call a “file drawer” problem — in which studies finding no effect are filed away or ignored, while encouraging ones are published. It is perhaps fitting that the largest study to date — by Phil Enock, a graduate student at Harvard; Stefan Hofmann, of Boston University; and Dr. In March 2011, they were flooded, after an article in the Economist magazine about cognitive bias modification mentioned the project. “We’re not exactly excited about that finding; we have no idea what it means,” said Mr.

the ANTHROPOLOGiST Culture: Leading Scientists Explore Societies, Art, Power, and Technology by Maria Popova What 14th-century cathedrals have to do with Google, Darwin and the purpose of art’s existence. Yesterday, we devoured The Mind — the first in a series of anthologies by Edge.org editor John Brockman, curating 15 years’ worth of the most provocative thinking on major facets of science, culture, and intellectual life. On its heels comes Culture: Leading Scientists Explore Societies, Art, Power, and Technology — a treasure chest of insight true to the promise of its title, featuring essays and interviews by and with (alas, all-male) icons such as Brian Eno, George Dyson and Douglas Rushkoff, as well as Brain Pickings favorites like Denis Dutton, Stewart Brand, Clay Shirky and Dan Dennett. From the origin and social purpose of art to how technology shapes civilization to the Internet as a force of democracy and despotism, the 17 pieces exude the kind of intellectual inquiry and cultural curiosity that give progress its wings. Images via Flickr Commons Share on Tumblr

Fashionable Quote T-Shirts, Hoodies, Long Sleeve Shirts, and Bags by Quote Couture™ Mind Reading: Technology Turns Thought Into Action hide captionA patient participates in a brain-computer interface study. By placing an array of sensors directly on the brain and connecting them to a computer, researchers are able to decode brain signals into meaningful information, including some words. American Museum of Natural History Science Bulletins An old technology is providing new insights into the human brain. The technology is called electrocorticography, or ECoG, and it uses electrodes placed on the surface of the brain to detect electrical signals coming from the brain itself. Doctors have been using ECoG since the 1950s to figure out which area of the brain is causing seizures in people with severe epilepsy. In one recent experiment, researchers were able to use ECoG to determine the word a person was imagining. "This is both very exciting and somewhat frightening at the same time," says Gerwin Schalk, a researcher who studies ECoG at the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center in Albany.

Invisible Design The Amazing Power of "Tech Breaks" It is late afternoon and I am feeling decidedly blah. My energy is low and my motivation to work has disappeared. My brain has seemingly ceased to function, or at least it doesn't seem to want to work as well. I just can't focus. So the consensus appears to be that a coffee break is beneficial on a lot of levels because it allows for a rest period that enhances mood and allows our brain time to rest and consolidate what we have done prior to the break. Now consider the student in class who is feeling that same low energy blah feeling. Today's version of note passing is the text message. The same is true in the workplace. We are also seeing the same happening in the home. Using functional magnetic resonance tools (fMRI) we are able to get a fairly decent picture of how the brain works. fMRI measures oxygen flow to the brain, which corresponds to greater brain activation and more processing in that local brain area. Imagine the brain of our teenager in class.

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