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Happy New Year 2012 December 31, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 3:00 pm
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Last year I bought Russell chocolate and saved covers because they were too cute. This year I used them to create The Ultimate Answer collage as a Holiday Card. It has the happiness formula in it. In 2012 be kind to yourself and those around you! Be happy 🙂


Good Faith Collaboration (Part Two) December 30, 2011

I enjoyed learning about collaborative culture definitions from the book. Henry Jenkins defines participatory culture as one in which there are low barriers of engagement, support for creation and sharing, and some form of mentorship or socialization, and members believe that their contributions matter and they “feel some degree of social connection with one another”.

I agree with the author that openness and incrementalism may not be enough to create good quality content. “Wikipedia must reconcile their vision with the inescapable social reality of irritating personalities, philosophical difference and external threats”. He notes that “goodwill is not always necessary to Wikipedia’s production”.

Clay Shirky said: “Wikipedia is the product not of collectivism but of unending argumentation; the corpus grows not from harmonious thought but from constant scrutiny and emendation”.

Einbinder writes in the introduction to his critique, “since encyclopedia is a mirror of contemporary learning, it offers a valuable opportunity to examine prevailing attitudes and beliefs in a variety of fields.” Indeed, problems both in community’s culture and its content are a representation of our society.

“Thomas Mann, a librarian, argues we would be better … (know of) the pathologies that infect social organisms (ex. short-sightedness, selfishness, and ignorance are constant factors in human life), rather than celebrating the unproven presumption that technology can cure all. Wikipedia is said to favor mediocrity over expertise”.

It goes even further with this caricature: “fanatical mob producing Wikipedia exhibits little wisdom and is more like a Maoist cult of monkeys banging away on the keyboards and thumb pads of their gadgets, disturbing the noble repose of scholars and displacing high-quality content from the market place”.

I would say that any criticism should be constructive. I have no doubt that technology is capable of curing a lot of social problems; it just needs to be redesigned so that people cultivate their best qualities while using it.

Ideally, contributors should become more tolerant and compassionate in the process of collaboration. Today Wikipedia volunteers are restricted to behave with civility, but do they truly feel compassion to those with opposing views? Surely, they have a sense of purpose and connection to others, but at times Wikipedia becomes a vanity project for those proving their personal significance at the expense of others.

Georg von Krogh, in his article on “Care in knowledge creation”, identifies five dimensions relevant to the successful creation of knowledge within a community: mutual trust, active empathy, access to help, lenience in judgment, and courage. Benkler and Nissenbaum argue that “commons-based peer-production” entails virtues that are both self-regarding” (ex. autonomy, independence, creativity) and ”other-regarding” (ex. generosity, altruism, camaraderie, cooperation, and civic virtue).

The author says that “the central concern seems to be how we can conceive of our humanity in working together and its implications”. His definition of good faith is “assuming the best of others, striving for patience, civility, and humor”, and Wikipedia is trying to act with it.

From 2004 Letter from the Founder: “None of us is perfect in these matters; such is the human condition. But each of us can try every day, in our editing, in our mailing posts, in our irc chats, and in our private emails, to reach for a higher standard than the Internet usually encourages, a standard of rational benevolence and love”.

Personally, I think that Wikipedia is a great invention and a great resource, but it is just the beginning of an even better model of gathering knowledge and resolving misunderstandings and conflicts. Let’s call it 1.0 version where people work together towards one great goal. It is a good start. Next version would align personal goals of the members with community’s goals, and help them rediscover and develop themselves in the process of compassionate creation.

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer


Good Faith Collaboration (Part One) December 29, 2011

I recently finished reading Good Faith Collaboration book by Joseph Reagle. I was very curious about this book as not only it describes Wikipedia’s culture but also talks about its historical roots and contemporary criticism. Wikipedia is around for almost 11 years. So what is it?

First, there are actual Wikipedia pages and edits to them, as well as the meta pages documenting the policies and norms of Wikipedia itself. Second there is the talk/discussion page associated with each article. Third, there are mailing lists on which most abstract and difficult issues are often discussed. There are Wikipedia Signpost and Wikizine newsletter, other community forums such as popular “Village Pump”, and various Wikipedia related blogs, aggregators and podcasts. Fifth and finally, there are physical spaces in which some community members interact.

But mainly, Wikipedia is a snapshot of the community’s continuing conversation. Wikipedia culture encourages contributors to treat and think of others well, hence the name of the book. There are awards for best contributors like a “barnstar” (image placed on another’s user page to recognize merit). These awards are part of the Kindness Campaign and are meant to promote civility and WikiLove. There are more than 200 laws/norms by which Wikipedia contributors abide, including the guidelines of “Assume Good Faith” (AGF), “Please Do Not Bite the Newcomers” and “Neutral Point of View”.

This idea could be traced back to the beginning of the twentieth century, in particular Paul Otlet’s Universal Repertory and H.G. Wells’s proposal for a World Brain. Wells proposed the reference work compilers would be joined by world scholars and international technocrats to produce a resource that every student might easily access, in a personal, inexpensive, and portable format. This collection of the world’s intellect was envisioned to yield a greater sense of unity: wells hoped that such an encyclopedia could solve the “jig-saw puzzle” of global problems by bringing all the “mental wealth of our world into something like a common understanding”; this would be more than an education al resource, it would be an institution of global mediation.

As Wells said, “Without a World Encyclopedia to hold men’s minds together in a common interpretation of reality, there is no hope whatever of anything but an accidental and transitory alleviation to any of our world troubles.” I completely agree with the way Wells stated the problem. Additionally I question the transitory life cycle of one person’s knowledge. That knowledge must be reused even if the person is gone, as he/she may have insight into some solutions that are not easily generated, but the mankind desperately needs them.

One of the topics discussed in the book is who can really contribute. In Wikipedia’s predecessor Nupedia only educated and reasonable people were able to make final edits. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we often confuse formal school education and life experience, as one can be a PhD but uneducated in the matters of humanity. I am also not fond of the neutral point of view, as to be politically correct is not the same as being sincere and true. I would personally be more interested in hearing polar opinions to understand other people’s perspective and how they come to their conclusion.  Only when people know of completely opposite opinions on the same topic then can they start a conversation to reconcile their differences.  Having several versions of the most arguable topics is better than one bland version. Maybe views from the haters, the lovers and the neutrals.  People need to learn Dalai Lama’s realistic approach, value every person’s input and become compassionate. Only then we will be able to understand our humanity.

It seems to me that the primary goal of Wikipedia is compiling knowledge, while finding compassion is somehow secondary.

I agree about verifiability policy that “the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth”. If the material has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true. Even when it comes to voting, majority has more power over minority. Majority usually represents the most convenient opinion of the culture it represents. There should be international SMEs participating or at least rating the content in terms of trust ability. Otherwise there will always be an issue of quality due to the lack of expertise and diversity.

Here we come to another problem I see here – how globally disconnected are different language Wikipedia sites from each other. Language barrier is still present in the Wikipedia structure, which leads both to duplicated efforts (when the same articles are written separately in different languages) and the lack of content in one language when it truly exists in another language. It would add diversity if articles from different languages were swapped and became international. We would create a better version of reality if people of all nations worked on the content together, not separately. During search, there should be instant translation of all related content from other languages.

Finally, it feels that Wikipedia is not a hub of innovative views limited by its “no original content” norm, which means inclusion of referenced work only. Wikipedia is a repetition of what others said. Most importantly, it results in the loss of individuality and creativity both for their contributors and readers.

Today contributors appear to be simply compilers and hunters for good content. They are assemblers, not the creators. Everyone should be able to speak up and come up with new knowledge and solutions to the world problems. Only then will Wells’ statement become reality:  “Our world has complex and urgent problems that need to be addressed. We believe there are innovative ways for solving them together online.”

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer


Immortal Hacker Challenge (Part Three) December 28, 2011

Dear hackers of the world,

It is not superpowers but traits of character that need to be developed by means of avatars and immersion. People like to solve problems especially when they are virtual. By trying different choices we will learn what leads to pain and suffering and what to do in real life if similar circumstances occur. The player will develop understanding, resilience and compassion.

There should be every day scenarios for people, like getting laid off after working for the same company for many years, not having savings and not being able to find a job for a while… What does avatar do and experience? Or racial – one white guy has to live in all black community or one black guy in all Asian community, etc. or to participate in religious services of other religions…  Learn about other cultures and their customs adn traditions. Go live in a foreign country for a year with no local language skills and being illegal. Become a virtual refugee!

It is important to create problem and suffering simulation both for existing and future scenarios. The impact will be tremendous.

Imagine that virtual Alcoholic Anonymous game was translated to all languages and distributed around the world, how many people would stop drinking heavily? Will alcoholism rates go down and people become happier?

Imagine that all young people have access to video games that teach what to do in difficult situations. A teen becomes pregnant or tries drugs for the first time to impress someone, the person creates a habit and starts eating fast food every day and gets ill, someone becomes a soldier and goes to war, followed by PTSD, etc. 

Suddenly a computer virus sounds lame. You can be immortal if you create something that impacts people’s lives positively. See Steve Pavlina’s story Living Virtues below:

“After I reached adulthood and began seriously pondering the question of how to live, the first major stopping point was essentially where Aristotle left off. In my early and mid-20s, I spent a lot of time working on living virtuously. I saw living the best possible life as becoming a person of virtue: to live with honor, integrity, courage, compassion, etc. I listed out the virtues I wanted to attain and even set about inventing exercises to help myself develop them. Benjamin Franklin did something very similar, as I read in his autobiography, and each week he chose to focus on one particular virtue in order to develop his character.

Oddly, there was a particular computer game I absolutely fell in love with during this time — Ultima IV. To date I would have to say it is still my favorite game of all time. In this role-playing game you are the Avatar, a seeker of truth, and your goal is not to destroy some enemy but rather to attain what is called the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom. In order to achieve this goal, you must develop your character in the eight virtues. All of these virtues derive from the eight possible combinations of truth, love, and courage as follows:

Truth = Honesty
Love = Compassion
Courage = Valor
Truth + Love = Justice
Truth + Courage = Honor
Love + Courage = Sacrifice
Truth + Love + Courage = Spirituality
The absence of Truth, Love, and Courage is Pride, the opposite of which is Humility.

I found this system of virtues absolutely brilliant, especially coming from a game. Years later when I finally met Richard Garriott, designer of the Ultima series, at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), I asked him how he came up with this system and how he ended up choosing these virtues. He told me it started with brainstorming a long list and noticing patterns in how the virtues related to each other.

As strange as it is that I got these insights from a game, I still think of living virtuously in much the same way today, where these eight virtues come about through the overlapping sets of truth, love, and courage. For the combination of all three virtues though, I feel that “integrity” is a better fit than “spirituality.” Ultima V went on to explore the opposite of these, the vices which can be derived from falsehood, hatred, and cowardice. Unfortunately I feel the Ultima series really went downhill since then and completely lost its soul — I would have loved to have seen the virtue idea taken even farther”.

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer


Immortal Hacker Challenge (Part Two) December 26, 2011

Avatar based recovery. Patient has access to his data and an interesting ability to track goals and milestones. It is also efficient not to have paperwork which saves time.

Janus of Santa Cruz developed drug and alcohol treatment, which includes clinical assessment, goal setting, VR training and support. Digital registration, online wellness forms and presence questionnaire. They conducted a study with 35 adults, 8 weeks protocol, non-compliance and relapses happen. Participants had to play a game daily, which formed good rituals (habits) and relationships. 

Ivana Steigman, who formely worked at InWorld Solutions, told us about Thrive Research projects. In one research they had a sponsor (coach), clinician, basic assessment administrator, patient. They had reward contract and electronic forms. Link to thrive points, incentives – coffee, gas, grocery. There is a dashboard, where they had to check in daily – visual representation of where you are. The six domains of well-being: Physical, Social, Affective, Cognitive, Vocational, and Spiritual.

NeuroSim Lab makes use of virtual worlds to assess the ways in which the structure and function of the brain relate to specific psychological processes and overt behaviors.

Sim Coach, the goal is to create an experience that will motivate troops and their significant others to take the first step – to empower themselves with regard to their healthcare (e.g., psychological health and traumatic brain injury). There was a virtual agent, former US Army soldier,  who told his story about PTSD and encouraged audience to read some recommended reading and talk to someone about their traumatic experiences (he gave free numbers to call and suggested other resources). That was cool!

Virtually Better, treat a variety of anxiety disorders such as Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Specific Phobias.

There were other individuals and organizations working in that area (Patrick Bordnick, Virtual Patent lab, VRPsych Lab, etc.) and creating new technology to help patients overcome drug and substance abuse, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, etc. There are video chat rooms where you can see a bar and people tempt you to use alcohol but you learn to overcome urges in simulated environments. They modify level of urges to build your resilience.

My favorite was a virtual meeting for AA members. You as a member pick avatar and go to live sessions with other member’s avatars from different locations. You would then discuss your issues and do the same thing as you would do in a real meeting. What really works is the power of sharing and social support.

Read more about this session from Avatar-Based Recovery Using Immersive Virtual Environments article and another session from Innovative Technologies for Psychological Intervention, Consultation and Training article.

I also attended a session about Innovation and opportunities in mobile interventions for addictions, they were discussing various mobile apps. At the exhibition hall I saw a booth advertising Stress Tracker app, which is based in Needham, MA. Another session was about national tele centers providing psychological services to patients in remote areas by means of online CBTs and video conferencing. See another article about the UK approach.

It was mentioned that American psychologists are still hesitant to use Skype or Facetime out of fear to be completely replaced by technology. Les Posen from Australia told an incredible story about government support (subsidies) for depression-cure sites and tools and as a result hundreds of organizations had sprung across Australia: Beacon, e-couch, Mood gym, anxiety online, etc. They all deliver e-health services and strategy online.

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer


Immortal Hacker Challenge (Part One) December 24, 2011

I was going to write about The art of happiness in the troubled world book, but my computer caught a virus. Instead of getting mad at the hackers who wrote that virus I thought of a topic for my blog. First, let me tell you what I learned about Virtual Reality and the role of technology in psychology during the 119th APA Convention back in August. I attended at least 4 sessions about it.

Assessment of video game use. They were talking about Star Craft Game, and how it is popular to watch it in Korea. Spectators want to become players and win one day, even though their chances are pretty slim. We watched a video about thousands of spectators observing players of the game live in a big space which looked like a concert hall. People were rooting for their favorite players, eating and drinking. It looked crazy to me. Competitive video gaming is new to the US.

Is video gaming just for fun? The answer is no. For older adults games are used as therapeutic and learning tools. For example, insurance companies are developing video games to help reduce number of accidents per member. For children, some video games help improve pro-social skills, working memory, cognitive process speed. For people with disabilities, to learn and develop skills, example, read together and talk together., based in RI, suggests smarter playing curriculum. They use with children Say, Do, Review technique, so that children learn, practice and remember, they also take breaks between activities and do physical exercise. It’s called “play diet” that helps make video games digitally nutritious.

Video games are not intergenerational yet, but the goal is to help parents transfer their knowledge to children in interactive way.

Clinical use of video games – measures are still being developed, as there should be corrective index to adjust scores, not only self-report measures and interviews, etc. There is also a need for age appropriate measures, measures of stability, engagement, content (solitary, violent, competitive) and lists of side effects (unequal potential effects, consequences. etc).

Students spend too much time on games instead of studying. Impulse control is still hypothetical and can’t be observed or how it triggers behavioral addiction. Methodology is not efficient based on analogy. It is necessary to rate and analyze effects not only of new games but current games.

Virtual Reality (VR) is “a consciousness-noticing machine” and could be immersion(with goggles) and avatar-based. IBM plans to create avatars for every employee in 4 years, they will have new 3-D studio; it helps employees to better communicate. Avatar: “you are not a gadget”.

Examples of VR: flat public – Second life, flat secure – Inworld solutions, immersion public and immersion secure – Virtually Better.

Why VR is popular? It is an incarnation for some, virtual ability to be anything you want. So far there are ½ billion online game players. On average, 1 hour per game. Average age of the player is 10-15 y.o. In 2013 there will be 2 billion users. Online games help satisfy the need for human interaction. They also make changes in human behavior.

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer


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