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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The homo antecessor in Spain falls mainly on the plain

Doesn't have quite the same ring to it as the song.

Anyway, really, really old bones, the oldest known humanoid fossil found yet. In Spain! Odd, to say the least.

Documented and Democratized

This article in Newsweek really got me started thinking about this idea of the "Millenial" generation (post 1982, so I JUST missed the cut) as being over-documented, over-exposed, lack of privacy, democratization of information, lack of understanding of copyright and ownership laws, and how technologies like the Internet and cell phones have existed for as long as they've been aware enough to notice (although I still remember my mom being really excited about getting the Internet and me being disappointed because I couldn't find any games).
I know everyone says "this" generation is new and like nothing they've seen before, but "this" generation really IS like nothing we've seen before. It's like the first generation of colonists born in the American Colonies way back when. Sure their parents gave them this new land and brought them up in these new frontiers, but these kids were immersed in it from the moment they set foot outside, and all the while trying to adapt their parents' cultures and customs to this new reality.
I am fascinated to see what this generation, who has no fear or apprehension of technology, who is used to reality TV and learning physical discipline like parkour off the internet, and texting people while hanging out with other people, will come up with on their own, how they adapt their grandparents belief systems to this new way of living. This generation is also a lot more international, and yet not necessarily internationally aware, than previous generations. What exactly will go down? Stay tuned!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Interesting phenomenon, would love feedback

Carol Barron of Dublin City University told me this story at The Association for the Study of Play annual conference a few weeks ago:

When she was a nurse working in a middle eastern country a few years ago, she was married and yet had no children. The first wives would bring their children in to be examined, and bring the third or fourth wife along to. They would ask her if she was married, then if she had children, and when she said no they would be sad and cluck their tongues and say "oh, so sad, no children, no children."
The Muslim women were not allowed to take birth control, yet birth control pills was still sold in their country for the non-Muslims. And when the first wives would wander off, the third or fourth wife would pull birth control pills from under their berqua and whisper "no children, children" with a smile.
The fact that these women were able to subvert their culture like this first without getting caught and second without any real concern of getting caught fascinated me. I'd love to hear more from other people who have heard or seen similar experiences of subversion of oppressive culture in this way.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Guys are clueless, and we're cool with that.

This study done by Indiana University's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences says that guys are clueless when it comes to women's visual cues when trying to determine whether the woman is being friendly, sexual, sad, or rejecting.
Traditionally the argument has been that guys interpret every cue from women as a sexual advance. The researchers say that guys misinterpreted both friendly and sexual cues, so therefore they're just clueless or less able to communicate all around.
I'm still not convinced. I still think there's a biological advantage for men who misinterpret cues as sexual, whether the cues are or not. Maybe these college age kids weren't as sexually aggressive as others. Maybe men are intimidated by women in this new age of political correctness. I also imagine it has to do with the context. If a woman flashes a man a small at the bar versus the library, what is he going to think?

In another study, researchers found that people who are socially awkward make the best long-term mates (score one for the nerds!).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hot people unite!

This study is nothing new, but the article discusses the phenomenon of how people of equal levels of attractiveness will typically pair off as mates. There are some interesting observations tucked within the article.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Review: The Association for the Study of Play Conference

I am currently sitting in the airport on my way home from the 34th annual conference for The Association for the Study of Play (TASP), held in sunny Tempe, AZ.
I gave a presentation about how parkour is a form of grown-up freeform play, as opposed to soccer or working out at the gym. Freeform or "unstructured" play is something you see kids do all the time, but grown-ups generally stop doing it all together. Parkour does not, and instead encourages grown-ups to keep that kid spirit of finding play in every aspect of your environment, and seeing play as important as work or leisure.
But enough about me, onto the conference. Most of the conference was dominated by early childhood development researchers (0-5 years old), and how play is beneficial to them. Which is great, I'm all for it. However, that sort of meant that left the rest of us anthropologists, sociologists, pirmatologists, psychologists, older kid play specialists, and other researchers out on our own. We were heard, for sure, but the conference was truly dominated by them; there were only seven sessions out of 21 that didn't feature early childhood studies (this count includes workshops and panels).
But all moaning aside, it was a great conference, for one thing because you didn't have to explain why you were studying play, or why it was important/beneficial/worth studying/etc. I reluctantly stayed through Saturday for the session on the use of digital photography in play studies, and it was the best session of the whole event. Two of the women were doing exactly what I'd like to do as a study and research focus (namely giving people (kids) cameras as learning and research tools and see what they come up with). Unfortunately, neither of them good answer exactly what they were going to do with their research once it was done. Dr. Laurelle Phillips had expanded the use of cameras at her school to other classrooms, but the school was located on her university so they could afford to buy three cameras per classroom. Doctoral candidate Carol Borran wasn't sure what she was going to do with her work other than get her thesis. I spent the majority of Saturday talking with her and Dr. Pat Broadhead, and they were wonderful, both encouraging me to take time off from my research studies but also pursue a doctoral degree in my area of study. Dr. Broadhead said I could be Professor of Playful Spaces, which I must admit does sound cool. Usually the whole reason to go to conferences is to network, and while I regret I really didn't get into it until the very last day, I got to see some amazing research and speaking with those two women was wonderful; just to hear their attitude about things, to get an outsider's view of American attitudes to policy and pushing back against "the man."
There was a paper I wished I'd seen but was canceled, which was a study of portrayal of masculinity through MMA fighting.
I got some good sun, good experience presenting (I think this was the first time ever I wasn't really nervous going up and presenting in front of a group. I almost wondered what was wrong with me), and some good brain stimulation. So all in all good stuff.
For now I will leave you with a meditative question from the chair of the conference, Dr. David Kuschner: "If there is a toy in the woods and there is no one to play with it, is it really a toy?"

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Power of communication: "In My Language"

This video, which I found on the blog neuroanthropology, was created by a woman who is severely autistic. The first three minutes show the woman interacting with her environment, and then the woman, through typing on the computer, provides a translation of what she describes as her native language. She is severely critical of people who do not understand and appreciate how she views the world and who call her non-communicative.

This video is fascinating to me on so many levels (warning: possible spoilers). Watching her behavior from a psychologists' standpoint is interesting with observing her self-stimulating behavior and how her mind is processing all this. But it also from a visual anthropology perspective. She chose to include these specific examples of her language in the movie, and even though she explicitly says they do not symbolize anything in particular, I wonder why these were chosen. Why did she choose to use a visual format to explain herself? Was this video made originally for Youtube, or some other audience? There is obvious editing, and not so much a storyline but definite parts to the movie. How did she decide on this structure, and who helped her, if anyone? Did anyone else film her (from what I can tell I don't think so). How was she aided in this project? She gives credits at the end of her film, but they're all thanks as opposed to assigned jobs.

From a communication studies and linguistics perspective, she's challenging the definition of language. She argues that she has a discourse (several, actually) with her environment, with the objects in her house; they even get a credit at the end of the film. She also uses the "dominant language," as she describes it, to explain herself and language and berate those who do not appreciate hers for what it is.

She also points out that most of us would probably not look at her on the street, or deliberately look away, which is absolutely correct, which makes a great statement about humans' fear of the different, "disabled," and unknown.
(end spoilers)

So a really interesting video on many levels, and I'm sorry my visual anthropology class is essentially over this quarter because I think it'd be great to show to the class and have them discuss it.