Another valuable thing I learned from my doctoral journey is somehow developing this tendency to ask more ‘productive’ questions — productive, in which I define as would involve actionable steps, rather than just treating the means as an end. These questions are more than (in the context of social network platforms usage in protest movements) “are they effective?” but more towards “how would these social network platforms reconfigure the dynamics of protest movements? How will these affordances of the platforms do this? Who would benefit from these new dynamics? And who would be potentially be harmed?” etc.
One edition in WITI a few days ago talked exactly about this, particularly when it comes to contextualising data. As researchers, a lot of our daily work involves coming across a great deal of numbers and statistics that sometimes, in the early days of our career, we tend to just publish them without actually questioning how relevant they are and how they can add more value to our reports. I like the part when Noah quoted Columbia statistics professor Andrew Gelman of his answer about how to do better with stats as a writer (emphasis mine).
I recommended to the reporter that, when he sees a report of an interesting study, that he contact the authors and push them with hard questions: not just “Can you elaborate on the importance of this result?” but also “How might this result be criticised?”, “What’s the shakiest thing you’re claiming?”, “Who are the people who won’t be convinced by this paper?”, etc. Ask these questions in a polite way, not in any attempt to shoot the study down—your job, after all, is to promote this sort of work—but rather in the spirit of a fuller understanding of the study.
I especially like the part where his answer places people in the focus of the question, “Who are the people who won’t be convinced by this paper? How might this result be criticised?” which is often my first and foremost principle whenever I try to embark on any research project — placing people first.
There’s also another WITI where I learned about the existence of the fabric called sea silk. Writer and illustrator Edith Zimmerman, who also owns her own newsletter Drawing Links, wrote this edition following her and her mum’s vacation from Sanibel Island, Florida. They visited Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum where she came across sea silk, a fibre made from the tufts of giant mussels (or, noble pen mollusks). According to her, “Garments made of sea silk are prized for being both light and warm, but sea silk’s real allure is that when it’s submerged in something acidic, like cow urine or lemon juice, it turns from a dull brown into something that glitters like gold in the sun — and retains that quality permanently.”
Speaking of the Sun itself, the National Science Foundation has just released the very first and the highest resolution images of the Sun. Taken using the new Inouye solar telescope, it shows three times more detail than previous imaging techniques. Every blistering cell in the image is about the size of… Texas.
I was joking to a friend today that the Sun looks like caramel popcorn, and now she wanted some.
My tabs are currently opened to:
- What happens to babies born on planes?
- How to misinform yourself about coronavirus.
- “For growing numbers of people, the weekend is an emotional wilderness where interaction is minimal and social life non-existent.” Sounds like most of my weekends too.
- “The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our own destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible.” — Alan Rickman.
- London is open, today and always (has it always been though?) #BrexitDay
- Reading: Emily Carroll’s horror webcomic, His Face All Red. It was only ten pages, but it managed to send chills down my spine. Looking forward to getting her horror graphic novel, Through the Woods, and spook myself.
- Viewing: Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak on Netflix, a timely documentary. And this gorgeous stop motion animation by Charlotte Arene, called La mer à boire (French for “it’s not that big a deal” — it’s not like drinking the sea).
- Listening: Khruangbin, a three-piece band from Houston sporting instrumental jams through Jamaican reggae effects and techniques, whose band name takes inspiration from 70’s Thai funk music. Also, dinosaurs in love.
- Food & Drink: I had the fluffiest croissant ever, I am still full now.