【6/24 (五) 8pm What's the best way to know if you'll enjoy something?
【7/1 (五) 8pm Which shapes your values more, your nationality or your profession?
【8/5 (五) 8pm Let's Talk Colonization!
【8/19 (五) 8pm The Limits of Relationships
【8/26 (五) 8pm Male Friendships and the Culture of Toxic Masculinity

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Male Friendships and the Culture of Toxic Masculinity

Last week we got into a side discussion on the differences between male and female friendship. I looked into English media on the topic and quickly found a lot of complaints on what makes male-male frienship difficult. American culture is particularly hard on men IMO, but how about Taiwanese culture? How does male friendship work in Taiwan culture?

An American cultural contempt for male friendship
The contempt for male friendship is a cultural failure on an epic scale. That contempt is everywhere. The friendships between women in popular culture are the source and choicest fruit of their maturity. At the end of Frances Ha, Frances glimpses her old friend across a crowded room. "Who are you making eyes at?" somebody asks. "That's Sophie. She's my best friend." …
For men, it's just the opposite. Male friendship on any given sitcom, is a retreat into thoughtlessness, crudity. The Big Lebowski hilariously painted male friendship as an extended and colossal fuckup. The Hangover movies turned it into a series of epic degradations. But … the greatest buddy movie of them all is Dumb and Dumber. Men get together onscreen to be idiots with one another.
To mature as a female person is to mature into female friendships. To mature as a male person is to mature out of male friendships.

The Limits of Relationships

Limits are boundaries. A boundary is a marker between two different states of being.
Tonight we're going to explore the boundaries of relationships.

There's one kind of boundary, between the the classifications of the kind of relationship a person has with us, for example, what's the difference between a lover, a girlfriend/boyfriend, or a wife/husband? That one's easier to answer than asking what's the difference between a casual friend, a good friend, and a best friend, right? That one's a lot harder to define, but why?

There's another kind of boundary, which has something to do with how you like to live your life, and the ways in which you feel comfortable doing things and being with people. On a broader level these boundaries could be created by morals or ideals, culture or social convention, but on a personal level they could also be created by beliefs or feelings, or even learned behaviours.

Sometimes a boundary is invisible to our own selves until someone crosses it; suddenly you know it's there, and it's real! Also when someone does push that boundary, your perception of them changes, and maybe your perception of yourself changes, too.

What makes you see a person differently...

...in a good way. Do you have any stories about a person showing something to you about themselves and afterwards you like them a whole lot more?

...in a bad way. Do you have any stories about a person who crossed a line with you and you couldn't think of them the same way after that?

Let’s Talk Colonization

It could be argued that Taiwan's culture today is a product of many years of colonization. This book “How Taiwan Became Chinese” discusses how Taiwan’s initial colonization was by the Dutch, using Chinese settlers. This book’s introduction also argues that while the European powers were colonizers, China was not. However for much of its thousands of years of empire, China used what in English is called a vassal-state system.

So let’s talk colonization. Is there a material difference between colonies and vassal-states? Is cultural expansion and takeover an inevitable part of globalization? Is globalization under capitalism any different than globalization under empire?

The Wikipedia article argues that Chinese expansionism over the centuries, or “The traditional Chinese international structure” was “different from many other systems developed in other parts of the world.” So Chinese expansionism was different than European expansionism because “it was premised on the belief that China was the cultural center of the world and that foreigners were "less civilized" or "barbarians.”” This sentence entirely ignores the fact that Europaen expansionism was predicated on exactly the same belief. I wonder if any expansionism is not based on the belief in the originating culture’s superiority?

These are just some of the questions these articles brought up for me. What questions do they bring up for you? Let’s talk about it on Friday :DD

Which shapes your values more, your nationality or your profession?

Do people from the same country operate the same at work?
Researchers and businesses have often operated under the idea that work-related cultural values are defined by country -- just think of stereotypes about countries that are known to have hard workers or are team-oriented. A new study finds that nationality is actually a bad proxy for work-related cultural values, and points to other groupings -- such as occupation -- as more reliable indicators.

Issues to look at regarding this issue
To examine the issue, the researchers looked at data from 558 studies on work-related values. The studies covered 32 countries from around the world, including the United States, Brazil, France, South Africa and China.

Specifically, the researchers evaluated variation, both within each country and between countries, on four work-related cultural values:

Individualism, which measures the extent to which a society places emphasis on individuals as opposed to groups;
Power distance, which measures the importance of status and hierarchy in work settings;
Uncertainty avoidance, which measures the extent to which cultures are willing to accept ambiguity or the unknown; and
Quantity versus quality of life, which measures emphasis on competition and material wealth versus emphasis on societal welfare and well-being.

The researchers found that approximately 80 percent of variation in these values was within countries. For example, at the low end, only 16.6 percent of the variation on individualism was between countries -- 83.4 percent of the variability was within countries. At the high end, 20.8 percent of variation on power distance was between countries -- which still left 79.2 percent of the variability within countries.

What's the best way to know if you'll enjoy something?

The Premise:
Your parents recommend taking a Caribbean cruise and tell you about a discount deal. You’ve never taken a cruise and aren’t so sure you’d enjoy it, so you dig up some information on the Web and even watch a couple of videos. You recollect the times you’ve been on ships, and your past visits to Caribbean islands—rum drinks, aqua waters.  But will you really enjoy an eight-day cruise? Turns out there is a better way to answer this question: ask anyone who has just gotten off a cruise boat—a total stranger is fine. That way, you’ll be 30 to 60 percent more likely to accurately predict your own experience than by basing your decision on painstaking research and inner speculations.

“Surrogation”: consulting the experience of another person, a surrogate, in deciding whether something will make you happy. They discovered that the direct experience of another person trumps the conjecturing of our own minds.
Try this thought experiment: ask a random person to list all possible human experiences, ranking them from best to worst. Then ask another randomly chosen individual to do the same. Gilbert predicts, “You’d see 99 percent overlap in their arrangements.” That’s why surrogation works. (It isn’t, however, a perfect guide, only better than the alternatives. Surrogation’s a poor strategy in those rare circumstances where human emotional responses vary widely—e.g., to a question like, “What’s your favorite number?”)

How satellites are changing everything

A new kind of accountability
For a world in which people are constantly connected to one another through the Internet and mobile devices, our ability to look at the Earth from space is surprisingly limited. Google Earth allows us to see almost any point on the planet, to be sure. But the image that Google provides is static – usually, between one and three years old. Most people have no way of seeing the Earth in real time.

“How many trees were cut down yesterday around the planet? How much coal was mined yesterday or last week or last month? The basic infrastructure doesn’t exist to answer those questions at all,” says Andrews of BlackSky Global.

[However,] cheaper, more readily available satellite imagery promises to change the way that many organizations operate. [When the planned networks of small satellites come online, we will be able to monitor the global economy in real time.] Companies will be able to closely monitor their competitors, and investors will have a better idea of how their investment targets operate.

Andrews points out that satellite imagery will help many companies streamline their processes – for example, oil and gas companies that have to monitor their pipelines for leaks. Instead of sending workers out in trucks to check out pipelines, in the future these companies can sit back and watch from space.
Faster satellite imagery will also have big consequences for people working in security and defense, for example helping monitor troop movements and drug trafficking. It will be helpful to international groups that monitor climate change, illegal logging and certain human rights abuses.

The broader availability of satellite imagery could also raise privacy concerns. The United States and other countries are now competing to let their domestic companies offer the highest-resolution images. Images that are sharp enough to identify people -- technology that was previously only available to governments -- is increasingly available to anyone willing to pay for it.

But this democratization of data about the planet could also change the way that society functions for the better. “People do illegal logging, fishing and dumping because no one is looking," says Andrews of BlackSky Global. "If you can look from space, suddenly it forces accountability, on people, corporations and governments.”

Designing for Social Norms?

Okay, so the reason this article is interesting to me is because even though it’s describing how people behave in social media…arenas? corrals? fishtanks? (what actually is the group word for this? ‘Platforms’ doesn’t really describe how people are all thrown in together) …the article is actually describing how any community comes together, and I think it’s particularly interesting to get into this after our democracy discussion of two weeks ago.

How do social norms develop?
Good UX (=user interface) designers know that they have the power to shape certain kinds of social practices by how they design systems. And engineers often fail to give UX folks credit for the important work that they do. But designing the system itself is only a fraction of the design challenge when thinking about what unfolds. Social norms aren’t designed into the system. They don’t emerge by telling people how they should behave. And they don’t necessarily follow market logic. Social norms emerge as people – dare we say “users” – work out how a technology makes sense and fits into their lives. Social norms take hold as people bring their own personal values and beliefs to a system and help frame how future users can understand the system. And just as “first impressions matter” for social interactions, I cannot underestimate the importance of early adopters. Early adopters configure the technology in critical ways and they play a central role in shaping the social norms that surround a particular system.

Boaty McBoatface

Boaty McBoatface? What????
British democracy has survived all sorts of things: the unraveling of the British Empire, independence movements in Ireland and Scotland, Prime Minister’s Questions. But never before has it confronted Boaty McBoatface.

The boat, which is really a ship, acquired new significance this week, when a British official suggested he wouldn’t respect the results of an online government poll in which more than 124,000 people voted to christen the country’s new $300-million research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” The name received three times more votes than the runner-up entry. The people of the Internet had spoken emphatically, and they’d spoken like a five-year-old.

Do we change behavior when we change language?

We touched on this in our last discussion, I thought it would be interesting to give it a closer look. Below are a bunch of excerpts from different internet articles that discuss aspects of this issue. As usual, we'll hash it out in the discussion :)

Does language shape how we think?
"Does your language shape how you think?" Linguists have gone back and forth on this question, explains Guy Deutscher in The New York Times. Back in 1940, an article by anthropologist Benjamin Lee Whorf floated the notion that "our mother tongue restricts what we are able to think." [This may not be true, but it still may be true that our mother tongue does affect us in what it makes us think about, for example:] English does not "habitually [oblige]" its speakers to consider gender. Its speakers "do not have to consider the sexes of neighbors, friends, teachers and a host of other persons each time they come up in a conversation, whereas speakers of some languages are obliged to do so." Likewise, English speakers do not think of chairs as masculine or feminine, although a Spanish or French speaker might. It turns out that this does have an effect:
"In recent years, various experiments have shown that grammatical genders can shape the feelings and associations of speakers toward objects around them. ... When speakers were asked to grade various objects on a range of characteristics, Spanish speakers deemed bridges, clocks and violins to have more "manly properties" like strength, but Germans tended to think of them as more slender or elegant."