Social Media and Our Collective Well-being

A long time ago (1985) a New York University professor, Neil Postman, published Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. One of the principal ideas is that television is “entertainment,” even when the subject is serious. The “news” becomes just another “show.”

From time to time I have wondered what Professor Postman would have thought about social media. His principal complaint about television was that it turns “news” into “entertainment.” Rational discourse was replaced by video and sound “bites,” with the focus of attention increasingly fleeting and fragmented. I remember the history of television . . . → Read More: Social Media and Our Collective Well-being

True Believers

I recently had two online exchanges with “True Believers.” In my case, both were Christian “literalists” whose “true belief” was in Biblical inerrancy, believing that the Christian Bible is literally the “Word of God” and therefore contains no errors. The belief in inerrancy is more complex than the phrase implies, as there are so many different versions of the ancient texts. My concern is with inerrancy in general rather than which particular form it takes.

Christians aren’t the only ones who have an inerrancy faction. Muslims have one, too. Sunnis and Shia are currently in the news for their . . . → Read More: True Believers

Evidence Procedures

In NLP, one of the central Metamodel questions is, “How do you know?” An honest answer to the question provides information about a person’s “model of the world,” which is essentially a “reality strategy”—the way people decide what’s real. In most cases, what we think of as “real” is more accurately a “belief,” in some cases with very little in the way of supporting evidence. Most beliefs begin, of course, with some evidence in the external environment. Through the natural processes of deletion, distortion, and generalization, beliefs that have a logical beginning can become increasingly distorted over time. One of . . . → Read More: Evidence Procedures

I Read the News Today (Oh, Boy)

With apologies to the Beatles and “A Day in the Life”:

One of my daily habits is reading through the major online news sources to get a sense of what is happening here in the U.S. and in the world. I often find it fascinating to see what subjects are drawing the most media attention—and the kind of attention they are attracting. Here’s a brief round-up of recent “stuff”:

Placebos are in the news (again): One of the things I find most interesting about placebos is that articles about them written by medical doctors studiously avoid the word . . . → Read More: I Read the News Today (Oh, Boy)

American Exceptionalism

The term “American Exceptionalism” has been much in the news lately, primarily because President Obama has frequently been accused of not believing in it. It is a strange expression, as is referring to the United States of America as “America,” as though the “of” wasn’t part of the deal. North America, Central America, and South America are also part of “America.” In saying so, I am probably guilty of having denigrated the concept of “American Exceptionalism.”

But that’s not really the case. I agree that the United States of America is exceptional in one sense of that word. In . . . → Read More: American Exceptionalism

Are We Having Fun Yet?

What’s been happening in your life while you were making other plans? World events in recent weeks have basically captured attention I had intended to “spend” elsewhere. First, the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant meltdowns in Japan…. As someone with friends and semi-relatives (my daughter-in-law is Japanese, and her parents live in Osaka), I have been following the events there with some concern. Second, recent events in the Mideast have been difficult to ignore. Compared with what’s currently going on in Libya, the “revolution” in Egypt was fun to watch.

In an article titled, “Washington vs. the Merciless,” Thomas . . . → Read More: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Framing and Reframing

Those of you who have studied NLP or persuasive communication are familiar with the concept of perceptual frames. The metaphor is fairly obvious: a window frame, for example, limits what we see on the other side of the window; a photographer can choose what is included in the frame of a photo by trimming the image so that it focuses on, say, one person instead of a group. The concept has been adopted by psychology for the purpose of understanding the context that determines how something is interpreted.

All communication (all? Yes, all…) occurs within a contextual frame. In . . . → Read More: Framing and Reframing

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