Monday, 16 October 2017

Article for October 23rd 2017

Hi everyone,

this is the article for the next class:

Andrea De Mauro, Marco Greco, Michele Grimaldi, (2016) "A formal definition of Big Data based on its essential features", Library Review, Vol. 65 Issue: 3, pp.122-135.

I'll see you around!


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Just who is "Fringe" and who is "Mainstream"?

Starting last class with Arwen's excellent presentation, each class going forward will feature at least one fantastical archaeology website review. So we're going to be talking a lot about what some characterize as fringe theories of the past, present, and how that shapes the world around us.

As always seems to be the case for me (thanks Google!), as you send me the links for the various web sites you want to review, my social media feeds start to fill up with "sites/posts I might like" which I really would rather not. There sure seems to be a lot of places on the web to explore how the past is understood in the present that isn't at all familiar to me... making the "fringe" seem, well, more abundant than the word might otherwise imply.

Well there may actually be something to this sense of pervasiveness, after all. Jason Colavito tends to explore such things as a debunker of fringe theories and whose site shares a lot in terms of format and intent, if counter messaging, with the fantastical heritage devotees' web sites we are looking at in class. In a recent blog, he reports on a fascinating survey out of Chapman University, in California. As I don't think anyone chose his site as a site for their review, I'm going to assume I'm safe in talking about his post here!

Jason is talking about the results from a portion of the 4th annual American Fears Survey, carried out and very recently released by Sociologists and Political Scientists at Chapman. This survey looked at a lot of different aspects of the fears Americans are willing to acknowledge in 2017. And perhaps it'll come as no surprise given the age we are living in, but the results and trends generally are worrisome and, well, frightening.... basically, people are more frightened by more things about and in the world these days. You can view a brief video describing the main results of their findings from 2017 here.

Jason's blog dug down into the survey and focused on the section that explores Paranormal America and paranormal beliefs. As he points out, based on the survey results from the last 3 years, belief in various paranormal theories, from advanced ancient civilizations like Atlantis (55%, up over 15% in a year), to the presence of aliens in the ancient past (35% up 15% in two years), to Bigfoot (16% up 8% in two years... sorry Jeff!), belief in fringe or fantastical theories has risen markedly in a short period of time. In fact, perhaps the most surprising result for me from the Chapman survey was the researchers' comment in this section noting "...we find that only a fourth of Americans (25.3%) do not hold any of these seven [paranormal] beliefs."

As Jason notes: "People write to me all the time to ask why I bother to talk about “crazy” topics like aliens and Atlantis. I am flabbergasted to report now that it is because more Americans now believe in Atlantis than do not." Yikes! For us, this realization has to be a sobering counter to our disciplinary warm and fuzzy notions that archaeology advances a collective, and presumably better, understanding of the past.