URLs of wisdom (February 14th 2015)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology. This instalment covers a fortnight as I’ve been busy with work-related travel.

Social network analysis


  • How news outlets help to spread or debunk false stories online –“outlets will start a chain of linking to and citing others who have already reported the rumor. “The story’s point of origin, once traced back through the chain of links, is often something posted on social media or a thinly sourced claim from a person or entity.”
  • A time for fewer, better friends – One study shows that as people reach their 30s they prune their social group: “Time is the key. When it is perceived as limited—either because of pressing family and work demands or because the future literally shrinks as people age—people spend it with those dearest. “We may have fewer friends, but are closer to them”
  • The changing definition of friendship –“while Facebook probably slows a relationship’s “rate of decay” when you no longer meet in person, …social media won’t stop a more intimate friend (say, in the 15 or 50 category) from moving into a further-out ring if there’s no longer any face-to-face contact.”

Academia online 

  • Interesting read on the digital humanities and what it means to use digital tools for research“some people feel excluded from the Digital Humanities as a discipline, but also sometimes feel excluded from their stated disciplines because of their digital work. These feelings were echoed by a number of participants, not just postgraduates but also early career and established researchers.”

Social media/networks

  • In STEM courses, a gender gap in online class discussions – “The study tracked 420,389 undergraduates and graduate students enrolled in STEM classes in the United States and Canada during four nonconsecutive semesters from the spring of 2012 to the fall of 2014. The study found that, on average, women in computer-science classes asked 2.20 questions and men asked 1.75. In contrast, women answered 0.70 questions and men answered 1.20 questions.”
  • New Ciencia Yale initiative -“The Yale Ciencia Initiative will establish programs based at Yale to enhance the scientific training and professional development of students across the nation and to develop culturally responsive strategies for the engagement of diverse audiences with science,” said Giovanna Guerrero-Medina, executive director of Ciencia Puerto Rico and associate research scientist in the Center for Teaching and Learning. “Research and scholarship about how these types of science networks can be applied for these purposes will also be a big part of the initiative.”


  • How science communication can fuel modern sexism – and the role for new media – “the analysis also illustrated the importance of new media in diversifying public discussion of science. Blogs and comments allow people to articulate their more personalised, spontaneous responses to scientific messages. This can mean, as in the case of the readers’ comments discussed above, the circulation of pejorative or reactionary statements that would not satisfy the editorial restrictions of more formal media outlets. However, in our study blogs and comments also offered a platform for objecting to the socially conservative interpretations of the research that dominated the traditional press. These online spaces were critical in facilitating more nuanced debate about the social implications of the research, and its potential to perpetuate gender stereotypes and inequalities. The new media bring a vastly increased variety of voices to science communication, which can open up more inclusive and dynamic debates about what emerging scientific findings mean for the local realities of individuals and communities.”


Social media developments


Just for fun

The creepiest things you can do on Facebook…



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