Thursday, 17 January, 2013
Are you an asker or a guesser? If you want something, do you come right out with it, and ask regardless of how your request may be met, or do only ask if you’re mostly certain you won’t be knocked back?
In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture. In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.
I think we’d all be a lot better off if we were askers rather than guessers, after all, ask and you shall receive. Askers though can probably overdo it, and through a heightened sense of expectation of hearing an affirmative answer, may just dispense with tact and sensitivity. Always ask, but always ask nicely.
communication, personality, psychology
Wednesday, 19 December, 2012
Thinking of spicing up your holiday exploits for friends and family when you return home? You might want to think again. In days of old travellers could easily embellish the tales they told of the far-off places they’d been to, safe in the knowledge that it would be difficult for anyone to dispute what they were saying.
Satellite surveillance, smartphones, and the like, have put an end to that sort of carry-on however, as it’s just too easy now to check on the veracity, or otherwise, of the stories you may choose to tell:
Today the adventurer’s tale-telling days are over and his crooked ways have been made straight, and every untruth can be revealed. No point in lying: we’ve got it all on tape, as the TV detectives say. If you claim you drove to Nunavut and we think maybe you didn’t, we’ll just look at the E-ZPass records for the toll roads along the way. And if they don’t tell us, the cell-phone towers will. Formerly, a cell-phone tower could follow a phone only when the phone was on, and smart criminals knew to turn it off before committing crimes. Now phones ping the towers and the towers record the presence of the cell phones in the vicinity, often whether they are on or not, and to escape the network’s observation you must remove the battery entirely. Almost everywhere, some degree of electronic connection can be assumed.
communication, technology, travel
Tuesday, 18 December, 2012
While increasing numbers of people are signing up for silent retreats, undertakings that require them not to talk, or socialise whatsoever, for periods of one to seven days at a time, some participants at a Franciscan monastery in Northeast Washington, are finding the experience a little too overwhelming.
If you can’t talk to, or see, anyone else, what are you supposed to do (radio, TV, and internet are off limits by the way) for the duration of your retreat?
But it turns out solitude isn’t that simple. Although participation in silent retreats is on the rise, many of those preparing to spend time at the hermitage said they were so unaccustomed to unstructured time alone that they made to-do lists – then feared they were doing “solitude” wrong and scrapped them. They agonized over what to bring and wear and eat, as if they were traveling to an exotic land.
communication, lifestyle, solitude
Monday, 24 September, 2012
Adding emoticons to a SMS can, in some circumstances, double the cost of the message if certain symbols, or picture icons, are included in text messages sent through some Australian telephone networks.
It turns out it can cost SMS users twice as much to add some emotion to their messages, depending on which punctuation marks are used to construct that happy, sad or angry face. Because unknown to nearly every smartphone user, including those who work in the telecommunications industry, texters who include the bullet point symbol in their messages are charged twice, unless their message is under 70 letters. BusinessDay has also found that small picture icons – known as emojis or emoticons – have the same impact.
communication, emoticons, smartphones
Friday, 31 August, 2012
I don’t know if we can say that ants, specifically harvester ants, deserve credit for inventing the internet, but the way they go about collecting food bears an uncanny resemblance to the way data is transmitted online:
Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP, is an algorithm that manages data congestion on the Internet, and as such was integral in allowing the early web to scale up from a few dozen nodes to the billions in use today. Here’s how it works: As a source, A, transfers a file to a destination, B, the file is broken into numbered packets. When B receives each packet, it sends an acknowledgment, or an ack, to A, that the packet arrived. This feedback loop allows TCP to run congestion avoidance: If acks return at a slower rate than the data was sent out, that indicates that there is little bandwidth available, and the source throttles data transmission down accordingly. If acks return quickly, the source boosts its transmission speed. The process determines how much bandwidth is available and throttles data transmission accordingly. It turns out that harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) behave nearly the same way when searching for food. Gordon has found that the rate at which harvester ants – which forage for seeds as individuals – leave the nest to search for food corresponds to food availability.
communication, insects, internet, technology
Monday, 9 July, 2012
Tom Chiarella took to the streets of New York to hone his compliment making skills. As he soon discovered though, compliments can be double edged swords.
But I was still rushing. If a worthwhile compliment needs anything, it is the weight of realization behind it. So I fell back, watched people go about their jobs, the quality of their interactions, the way they looked at their reflection as they walked the street. I registered. And I learned, or started to learn, that a compliment is a partnership, because the pleasure of giving it lies in its effect upon the person receiving it. What I’d been doing was little more than a salesman’s trick, poorly played. I’d succeeded only in making myself bold enough to broadcast my judgments – dry little seeds spun out on the lawn of humanity – on the fly. I had to risk a little connection.
communication, psychology, relationships
Thursday, 28 June, 2012
Are you in dread of who may be calling from an unknown, or private, phone number? Are you someone would sooner ignore most incoming calls and instead conduct your “telephone” communications via text messaging? If so it could be you are afflicted with “telephobia”.
“It’s just plain scary to talk to other people. We avoid it not because people don’t matter – but because they do. And each of us brings emotional baggage to to these interactions. when my phone rings, and I don’t recognise that number – forget it. I’m too scarred by the years I spent dodging credit card companies to take that kind of dare. I also don’t jump off cliffs, or do cartwheels on the highway. In fact, it’s amazing to me that there was a time when the phone rang, and someone just answered it. Who could it be? Could it be the guy who was currently making your heart pound? Oooh, let’s pick it up and find out! Now, when I see an unfamiliar number, I feel nothing but outrage.”
communication, telephones, texting
Thursday, 21 June, 2012
With another language dying out every fortnight, The Enduring Voices project – a National Geographic initiative – that strives to preserve endangered languages, certainly has its work cut out, though hopefully the Talking Dictionaries it is compiling will prevent some from disappearing completely.
Every 14 days a language dies. By 2100, more than half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth – many of them not yet recorded – may disappear, taking with them a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain. National Geographic’s Enduring Voices Project (conducted in collaboration with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages) strives to preserve endangered languages by identifying language hotspots – the places on our planet with the most unique, poorly understood, or threatened indigenous languages – and documenting the languages and cultures within them.
communication, culture, language
Wednesday, 13 June, 2012
US computer scientist Scott Fahlman is credited with bringing smilies – as in the “sideways” smiley face emoticons – into widespread use, after suggesting they be incorporated into bulletin board messages his associates at Carnegie Mellon would send each other, so as to render dispatches with the appropriate tone:
Given the nature of the community, a good many of the posts were humorous (or attempted humor). The problem was that if someone made a sarcastic remark, a few readers would fail to get the joke, and each of them would post a lengthy diatribe in response. That would stir up more people with more responses, and soon the original thread of the discussion was buried. In at least one case, a humorous remark was interpreted by someone as a serious safety warning.
Via It’s Okay To Be Smart.
communication, emoticons, history, trivia
Monday, 11 June, 2012
Is there a separate skill-set required for conversing by telephone, as opposed to doing so face to face? A question like this, assuming it is legit, causes me to think either there is – or more worryingly, though hopefully unlikely – that schools are not teaching students basic communication techniques.
That’s changed. I’ve made a couple friends who prefer talking on the phone. I suppose if you measure by how long you stay on the phone with them it’s not a total failure, but I feel like I’m flailing around trying to fill the silences and saying really inane stuff as a result, and I feel like my voice comes off badly and I stutter and just make things awkward. I don’t know how you’re supposed to make conversations flow when it’s so weirdly distant and impersonal and you can’t see the person, and the connection breaks up so you can barely hear them sometimes and ugh. This is a basic life skill and I feel like I missed out on whatever part of a girl’s upbringing teaches you to have hour-long (or more!) phone conversations. We do see each other in person sometimes, but the rest of the time?
communication, conversation, telephones