Archive for November, 2010

The Jesus factor of the iPhone

November 30, 2010

How the iPhone became divine: new media, religion and the intertextual circulation of meaning

From New  Media & Society

The labeling of the iPhone as the ‘Jesus phone’ illustrates how new media objects can possess multiple layers of meaning, which can shape how they are perceived by the public. This study explores the relationship between religious language, imagery and technology. In advance of its launch in 2007 bloggers had branded the forthcoming device not only as a revolutionary technology, but as a technological savior by combining the power of an iPod, cellphone and PDA. The iPhone was being referred to as the ‘Jesus phone’ online ‘the holy grail of all gadgets’. Media embraced the religious language and imagery, and eventually Apple’s iPhone media campaign incorporated this mystical aura into its ads, subtly appropriating the divine imagery for its own benefit. The study suggests a need to test the extent to which religious metaphors have sticking power.


Renewed interest in criminal careers

November 25, 2010

Special issue

From European Journal Of Criminology

This ‘criminal careers’ special issue showcases some of the best studies by respected European researchers exploring engagement in crime over the life course. Attention to the subject has been prompted by renewed interest in why people stop offending, and the processes by which they are rehabilitated or resettled back into the community. The issue includes re-analysis of existing data and some new cohort studies. The articles examine typology of offenders, the impact of social environment and consider a range of factors such as: parental income; ADHD; violence; aggression and gender. This collection points to useful directions for future research, particularly for European longitudinal research projects.


Haiti earthquake prompts guidelines for physicians doubling as journalists

November 24, 2010

Reporting by TV docs in Haiti raises ethical issues

From Electronic News

In the wake of extensive television news reporting in Haiti by physicians, guidelines for physician-journalists in covering disasters are proposed in this article. With a trend for dual roles individuals can find it difficult to balance the duties and responsibilities of their two professions. The author offers several rules that can be followed in the absence of any official explicit code of ethics in this area.


Science’s policy clout diminished, but oil risk looms large

November 23, 2010

The public’s trust in scientific claims regarding offshore oil drilling

From Public Understanding of Science

The findings of this research indicate that scientists’ efforts to influence public opinion have a limited effect.  The investigators behind this paper believe it is time for a content hypothesis revival – where people are most likely to accept a scientific claim if it supports their existing views, regardless of the source – specifically when it comes to views on offshore oil rigs.

The researchers assessed the public opinion of Californians to gauge the confidence people have in reports about safety studies on offshore oil drilling along the California coast. Californian voters are well versed in the debate about oilrig safety as the issue has been a hot potato since the turn of the 20th century.

Findings reveal a consistency between the content of messages and a person’s prior beliefs has a substantial impact. But the message source had no effect on peoples’ confidence in the scientific reports: liberals have overwhelming confidence in the claim that offshore oil drilling is riskier than previously thought, irrespective of the source, and conservatives place more faith in the message that oil drilling is safer. Given that liberals are generally pro-environment and conservatives are generally pro-development, this is exactly what the content hypothesis would predict. This study supports the view that prior beliefs may turn out to play a critical role in many policy disputes, muting the influence of scientific studies.


Censoring cyberspace

November 18, 2010

From Index on censorship

This special issue calls for a new approach to tackling censorship online. As cyberspace has become the arena for political activism, governments are growing more sophisticated in controlling free expression online – from surveillance to filtering. And it’s now becoming harder than ever for human rights activists to outwit the authorities. Targeted espionage is another worrying new development for companies and governments – and Google’s response to the attack on its infrastructure in January from China will have significant repercussions for western companies that do business with authoritarian regimes. The issue examines how technology has transformed the business of censorship at the same time as revolutionizing freedom of expression.


Effects of anxiety on memory in young children

November 17, 2010

Effects of anxiety on memory storage and updating in young children

From International Journal of Behavioral Development

This paper presents the findings of studies that tested the visual and verbal short term memory of young children. The test on visual memory did not reveal anxiety levels had any significant influence, however the results for verbal memory indicated that anxiety had detrimental effects on performance. These results and further testing could help elaborate prevention programs targeting memory functioning in young children with high anxiety levels.


The dramatic transformation of US-India relations over the past decade

November 16, 2010

Reviving the momentum in US engagement with India: an American perspective

From India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs

Headlines last week announced President Barack Obama’s support for India to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This can be recognized as a major foreign policy statement by the United States. The two leaders emphasized US-India ties, saying relations between the two countries would be “one of the century’s defining partnerships”.

This article considers the dramatic transformation of US-India relations over the past decade, and recognizes the positive changes are likely to be long-lasting. This most recent pledge of support from Obama helps maintain the strong momentum established by George Bush. Over the last ten years the US has moved away from a view of suspicion to an attitude of acceptance. For some time India has been perceived as a balancing power in Asia. It is situated in a highly unstable region, and its comparative political, economic and military strength will continue to attract American interest as several of the major threats to the US are a product of the instability in India’s neighborhood. Both nations have some shared goals: each oppose the spread of nuclear weapons. Other areas prioritized to co-operate are likely to be space, cyber space, energy, agriculture, health and nanotechnologies. Beyond that would be the protection of the vital Indian Ocean sea lanes that transport such a large part of the world’s oil and gas resources. The prospects for a stable Indo-US relationship are good as both sides have similar strategic goals in Asia.


Shyness negatively affects marital quality

November 11, 2010

Shyness and marriage: does shyness shape even established relationships?

From Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

A key psychological question is to what extent a person’s personality determines the shape and quality of his or her social relationships. This research explores the specific impact of shyness on marital quality. It outlines how shy people reported more problems with issues like trust, jealousy, money, and household management, revealing they are less confident in dealing with the inevitable problems that marriage entails. However, there is potential to improve relationships, as shy people can be taught how to effectively resolve the problems they face. Marital difficulties sparked by personality can therefore be prevented by explicit training.


Reconsidering culture and poverty

November 10, 2010

From ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

Historically scholars have been cautious when discussing links between culture and poverty. The concept of a “culture of poverty” reemerged briefly in the 60’s, but it was a short-lived headline for most as the idea that attitudes and behavior patterns kept people poor was avoided. But now, after decades of silence, a new generation of scholars is speaking openly conceding that culture and persistent poverty are entangled.

This special issue, recently highlighted on the front page of the New York Times, reconsiders culture and poverty announcing in the introduction that “Culture is back on the poverty research agenda”. The articles explore the scholarly and policy reasons why poverty researchers should be deeply concerned with culture, ultimately aiming to find a better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to the reproduction of poverty.

Read the special issue introduction for free

Article details:
Mario Luis Small, David J. Harding and Michèle Lamont (2010). Reconsidering Culture and Poverty The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , 629 (6) : 10.1177/0002716210362077

Bombers wearing suicide vests can be detected from a safe distance

November 9, 2010

Sensing and identifying the improvised explosive device suicide bombers: people carrying wires on their body

From The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology

Terrorist threats from small devices continue to be a very real global concern. A reminder of the persistent danger from such weapons was flagged just last week as Federal agents detected bombs in airplane packages sent from the Yemen to the United States. Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) pose a significant concern for the U.S. military and its allies. The exciting results of this study demonstrate that suicide bombers can be found prior to detonation of their bombs at ranges that are relatively safe. Several radar-based metrics were developed to allow detection of persons in a crowd wearing wires as part of a vest in an effort to stop the bombing. The trials achieved a success rate of detecting persons wearing wires in approximately 83.4% of cases. Ensuring every effort is made to get the appropriate technology into the hands of those that need it will protect and save lives.


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