Distraction Free Reading

Weekly Round-up | March 3rd, 2017

This week’s round-up careens from a Walden video game to the far reaches of interstellar space, with pit-stops for an algorithm that can identify evangelicals and some philosophical neuroscientists along the way. As always, if you find anything interesting, bizarre, despicable, or useful around the web — send it our way! We’d love to include it in next week’s round-up.

Painting of vaqueros rounding up cattle in 1830s Spanish California

Actual image of our link round-up process (public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia)

  • Wishing you lived more deliberately? There’s an app for that. The USC Game Innovation Lab has been working on Walden, a Game, for ages, and the interest following a recent NYT article has prompted them to release an early access version. Sort of like a meditative Minecraft, Walden is supposed to teach lessons in work-life balance, and perhaps counter-intuitively encourage people to spend more time in nature. Interesting, but this amateur game critic is rather shocked at the $20 price tag for six hours of game play!
  • We’ve been trying to avoid too much talk of Trumpism in these round-ups, but Sheila Jasanoff is spearheading an interesting writing project chronicling the First 100 Days of the administration from an STS perspective — especially critical, we think, in our lately and unfortunately post-truth moment.
  • Media studies folks have probably already seen this, but there’s enough there for everyone else that it warrants including a recent Current Anthropology special issue titled “New Media, New Publics?” This editor found the contributions on automobility, networked cameras, crisis, and the “weapons of the geek” particularly stimulating.
  • Now, we’ve all got to be little bit chauvinistic about our disciplines, but neuroscientists can sometimes be perhaps overly aggressive in their claims to explanatory purchase. It’s nice to see that the pendulum might be swinging away from radical physicalism towards a more nuanced picture of how the emergent properties of the brain interact with their physical substrate. If you’re interested in this stuff, be sure to check out the actual research paper discussed in the article, too.
  • Religion in Public has a pithy and readable description of how to build an evangelical-identifying algorithm. What’s interesting, beyond the machine’s success at prediction, is how the author seems ultimately more interested in cracking open the decision trees involved to actually learn something synthetic about how we ought to understand evangelicals.

That’s all for this week. Until next time — stay enthusiastic, folks!

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