Posts tagged with "photos"

Too much information (TMI) is now a worldwide problem

April 17, 2019

Are you media-bashed? Are there just too many tweets, hashtags, news reports, Facebook comments, curated photos, streaming videos, surveys, petitions, and emails for you to process in a day—and more coming all the time?

You have plenty of company—based on findings of a study conducted in Europe by the Technical University of Denmark, Technische Universität Berlin, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and University College Cork; and published by the journal, Nature Communications.

Indeed, researchers have found that our collective attention span is narrowing due to the negative effects of an overabundance of social media, plus the hectic 24-hour news cycle to which we exposed.

What’s more, collectively, sociologists, psychologists, and teachers have warned of an emerging crisis stemming from a  fear of missing out (FOMO), the pressure to keep up-to-date on social media, and breaking news coming at us 24/7. So far, the evidence to support these claims has only been hinted at or has been largely anecdotal. There has been an obvious lack of a strong empirical foundation.

“It seems that the allocated attention in our collective minds has a certain size, but that the cultural items competing for that attention have become more densely packed. This would support the claim that it has indeed become more difficult to keep up to date on the news cycle, for example.” says Professor Sune Lehmann from DTU Compute.

The scientists have studied Twitter data from 2013 to 2016, books from Google Books going back 100 years, movie ticket sales going back 40 years, and citations of scientific publications from the last 25 years. In addition, they have gathered data from Google Trends (2010-2018), Reddit (2010-2015), and Wikipedia (2012-2017).

When looking into the global daily top 50 hashtags on Twitter, the scientists found that peaks became increasingly steep and frequent: In 2013 a hashtag stayed in the top 50 for an average of 17.5 hours. This gradually decreases to 11.9 hours in 2016.

This trend is mirrored when looking at other domains, online and offline–and covering different periods. Looking, for instance, at the occurrence of the same five-word phrases (n-grams) in Google Books for the past 100 years, and the success of top box office movies. The same goes for Google searches and the number of Reddit comments on individual submissions.

“We wanted to understand which mechanisms could drive this behavior. Picturing topics as species that feed on human attention, we designed a mathematical model with three basic ingredients: “hotness,” aging, and the thirst for something new.” says Dr. Philipp Hövel, lecturer for applied mathematics, University College Cork.

When more content is produced in less time, it exhausts the collective attention earlier. The shortened peak of public interest for one topic is directly followed by the next topic, because of the fierce competition for novelty.

“The one parameter in the model that was key in replicating the empirical findings was the input rate— the abundance of information. The world has become increasingly well connected in the past decades. This means that content is increasing in volume, which exhausts our attention and our urge for ‘newness’ causes us to collectively switch between topics more rapidly.” says postdoc Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

Since the available amount of attention remains more or less the same, the result is that people are more rapidly made aware of something happening and lose interest more quickly. However, the study does not address attention span on the level of the individual person, says Sune Lehmann:

Our data only supports the claim that our collective attention span is narrowing. Therefore, as a next step, it would be interesting to look into how this affects individuals, since the observed developments may have negative implications for an individual’s ability to evaluate the information they consume. Acceleration increases, for example, the pressure on journalists to keep up with an ever-changing news landscape. We hope that more research in this direction will inform the way we design new communication systems, such that information quality does not suffer even when new topics appear at increasing rates.”

Research contact: @DTUtweet

Festival brings together both Bigfoot believers and freethinkers

September 11, 2018

Thousands of Bigfoot believers and skeptics thronged the first-ever Carolina Bigfoot Festival in Marion, North Carolina on September 8—but the Sasquatch himself did not make an appearance, according to a September 9  report by NPR.

The tall, shaggy ape-like being, who walks upright and leaves large footprints, has been sighted most frequently by Americans in the Pacific Northwest—however, enthusiasts nationwide says they have spotted him (or her) briefly in their local backwoods areas.

Indeed, the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organizations reports recent sightings—including a daytime road crossing on MN-73 near the town of Cook in St. Louis County, Missouri this past April.

McDowell County Chamber of Commerce Director Steve Bush told NPR that he is ambivalent when it comes to Bigfoot. “I’m going to say that until I see him — I want to believe, but until I physically see him — I’m going to say no at this point,” says Bush.

However, his disbelief has not affected his delight with the festival.  The down-at-the-heels small town needed an influx of visitors—and the event provided one. “We’re getting a lot of life back into these old buildings, and that’s what’s exciting about Marion,” Bush says. “So, if you really want to see a little bit of the old mixed with the new, then Marion, North Carolina is the place you want to be.”

At first glance, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a an eccentric yet engaging meeting of the mammoth-chasing minds:  There are Bigfoot T-shirt booths, yard signs — but then there’s the Bigfoot Juice stand run by Allie Webb. She claims the earthy, woodsy-smelling concoction is both an insect repellant and a Bigfoot attractant.

“I believe that the Bigfoot juice does work,” Webb told the news outlet. “We say that it’s good for up to a mile and a half away. Just because you don’t see Bigfoot doesn’t mean that he didn’t see you and decide to turn around and run.”

Webb’s also is quick to point out that she has a witness. Festival organizer John Bruner has led the Bigfoot 911 explorer team for years in North carolina. He says they used the juice about a year ago and finally hit pay dirt.

“We were doing an expedition and I had one cross the forest service road about 30 yards from where I was at, and I got a really good look at it,” Bruner says. “I’ve been hunting Bigfoot for 40 years and doing research — and it was just totally exhilarating for me. … I finally got to see one after all I’ve went through and all the time I’ve spent in the woods.”

It’s a sentiment shared by many other researchers here at the festival, like Lee Woods, who told reporters, “The female we saw probably right between 11:30 and 11:45 at night. And we saw her with some night vision. And that was the first one I’d ever seen.”. Years later, he claims to have seen a male Sasquatch, some nine feet tall.

“And once you see it, it’s ingrained in your brain. Trust me [laughs]. Yeah, you don’t forget it. The reason I say that is the guy who actually saw it with me — his name is Sam, and he’s ex-Marine — and he said he’d never been so scared in his whole life when he seen it. And he’s never came back. Yeah, that’s how scared he was.”

Woods stands behind a booth alongside other experts, answering – questions, displaying Bigfoot photos, casts and even field recordings of strange sounds in the woods.

For many here at the festival, the Bigfoot calling competition will be the high point, for seasoned hobbyists like Woods and for Sasquatch newbies like Irys Frankon. She and her family drove from Clarkesville, Georgia to attend the event.At the Bigfoot calling competition, Frankon, along with dozens of others steps up to the microphone in front of City Hall one at a time. They belt out their best cry of the Sasquatch with hopes of luring a Bigfoot out of the forest and onto Main Street.

Eventually Bigfoot calling champions were announced and the daylong festival wrapped up for the year, with plans for another in 2019. There were no Bigfoot sightings, but stories were shared, thousands and thousands showed up for the occasion, and more than one Sasquatch skeptic was converted.

Research contact: @ChamberMcdowell