Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beyond the Brain: Difficult Metaphors

Continuing coverage of Beyond the Brain, by Loise Barrett. The first part of the extended blog review is here, there is a succinct published review in PsychCritiques.
Chris asked me a question over at Manchester Psychiatry and I realized three important things: 1) I have written a lot about Beyond the Brain, 7 posts. 2) I still have a few more posts to write. 3) I better do that soon. 

This post is the most "asking for help" of the things I have left to write. It is about metaphor. I love a good metaphor, and most of the metaphors in Barrett's book were good. However, there are two pairs of metaphors that just aren't working for me, and they are somewhat common metaphors in the complexity/dynamics systems literature. In particular, I found the ‘short leash’ vs. ‘long leash’ analogy weird, similarly the ‘loose coupling’ and ‘soft assembly’ analogies have never quite gelled for me. I would appreciate some help figuring out why these labels make sense.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Is computer programing an important part of a liberal arts education?

Recently New York City's Mayor Bloomburg announced that he was planning to learn how to code. A very smart blog post has drawn some fun attention the announcement. Over on "Coding Horror", Jeff has asserted that it is just plain silly to think that everyone should learn how to code, and that, in fact, more people learning to code might cause more harm than good. I thought this was particularly interesting, because I had recently been impressed by a very smart back-page article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, by Professor Krebs, proposing that humanities students should learn to be more like computer science students.

While I agree with Coding Horror it is silly to have a blanket judgement that everyone should learn how to code, I also agree with Krebs that many students would benefit tremendously from the experience. In addition to Krebs makes a good argument, I think there are several other reasons why we might want to consider treating computer programming as a core part of the liberal arts education.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some worthwhile links

Four things worth looking at:

1) Should faculty have input into course software decisions? At Penn State, the Faculty Senate has control over the curriculum (and is merely advisory on pretty much any other matter they chose to deliberate upon). One faculty member has suggested that because course software now dictates the structure of courses, and when and how content can be delivered, it should be thought of as a curriculum issue, which would give faculty control. Read/discuss, and give your input on a poll here.

2) Is there a distinction between theoretical and practical knowledge? Read/discuss here.

3) Should peer review remain a sacred pillar of academia? Read/discuss here.

4) Should Black Studies get shut down because a Chronicle blogger doesn't like the titles of a few dissertations? Read/discuss here. Or should the blogger be fired? Read/discuss here.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Two Ecological Psychologies - Continued

Continuing on my attempt to update Cutting's 1982 paper... two questions seemed of the most interest to blog readers 1) Why did Cutting write the original article? 2) What consequences of following Gibson's approach vs. the Connecticut approach?

The first question is more difficult. A lot was going on in the field at the time. All I can say for sure is that Cutting thought that Ecological Psychology was being moved away from Gibson's vision, and he thought that some aspects of the emerging approach were problematic (either because they undid desirable novelty of Gibson's approach, or because they resulted in tautology and related logical problems). It is worth noting, however, that regarding most of the differences, Cutting did not claim either approach was superior, only that they were different. He thought these differences would lead, presumably in the near future, to a splintering of the field. While I think most of Cutting's insights about the two emerging approaches were spot on, it has been thirty years, and the field is still together. Explaining why Cutting was wrong in that final prediction requires that we answer reader's second question.

---Off to California soon. I will be responding to comments, but am not sure about new posts over the next month.----

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What is wrong with Infant Looking Research

In a brief diversion from the ecological psychology stuff, a few people have asked me to comment on the recent popular press pieces regarding Elizabeth Spelke, and her amazing claims about infants.

Spelke and Susan Carey at Harvard, RenĂ©e Baillargeon at Illinois, and Karen Wynn at Yale are the matriarchs of the large literature using looking time to study cognition in infancy. Including their students, and others, many researchers are now active in this field, and my dissertation used looking time as its dependent variable. Other common labels in the literature include gaze duration, preferential looking time, orientation, ocular fixation, visual fixation, and attention. The history of this literature is fascinating, and the flaws in the current methods are deep. Looking time measures have a long history, but have only recently come to be used to assess infant’s insights into events. Thus, in an unusual twist, most of the criticisms of  this literature are based on long traditions of empirical work that existed before the criticized work started, and more recent research supports the criticisms.