Wednesday Round Up #115

I’m baaack… The last Wednesday round up was May 5th. I am now safely esconsed in Tampa, and getting started at the University of South Florida. Definitely excited about what’s to come, with a great anthropology department, an emphasis on integrated neuroscience research, and a lot of support for interdisciplinary work.

It’s also been a lot of fun for Greg and myself to get back in gear with There’s even better stuff to come, believe me. But for now it’s time to get back to the Wednesday round ups.

I’ll probably play around with things a little bit over the coming weeks. I haven’t used photos that often before, but a little image always brightens the day. Today’s comes from Pedro Gaspa, it’s called Retorcida; here’s his Flickr site. I also might try some longer and more integrated descriptions. Yesterday’s post, Death Becomes Us, actually started as a short meditation on a collection of links, but then ballooned into something robust enough for a short post.

And if you have any ideas for how to make the Wednesday round up better, or even reads that you might want to suggest, just send them over to encultured . brain @ gmail . com – yeah, take out the spaces.

And now below – some favs, mind, misc, anthro, video games, and addiction. Doing some of my consistent interests this time round. Plus a new surprise at the end. Enjoy!

Top of the List

Paul Rozin, What Kind of Empirical Work Should We Publish, Fund and Reward?
The esteemed psychologist, who really has been one of the most interdisciplinary minds of the past couple decades about human behavior, publishes a critique (pdf) of the narrow, lab-based, experimental-focus of psychology. Descriptive work is needed! (And I’d add that ethnography is a fundamental way to begin that descriptive work.)
For commentary, see Mind Hacks and Culture & Cognition

Culture Evolves
Website for one of the Royal Society’s 350th Anniversary Summer Science Exposition, which focuses on a group of leading researchers on how culture evolves. That evolution comes in two varieties, first research that shows cultural traditions in animals and second cumulative progress and change in human culture. You can access lots of information on some of the main case studies, including chimpanzees, meerkats, and laboratory microsocieties.
Andrew Whiten, an esteemed scientist in this area, provides a nice video introduction to the whole Culture Evolves project

Stephen Colbert, Threat StandDown – Monkey Terrorism
Very humorous video over at Colbert Nation, debunking the monkeys trained by Taliban to be terrorists story promoted by, well, you can guess it…

Angela Stuesse, African Human Rights Defenders or Colonialists? Seeking Justice in Equatorial Guinea
Angela’s a new colleague of mine at USF. Here she writes about corruption and poverty – the president of Equatorial Guinea is giving 3 million dollars away for an international prize competition even as his country suffers greatly. Includes some striking photos.


Daphne Merkin, My Life in Therapy
In this NY Times Magazine essay, Merkin describes her encounters with therapy over 40 years of treatment, and reflects on what makes therapy tick and why she continues to go. This is a follow-up piece to her earlier essay, A Journey through Darkness, a haunting account of her life-long struggles with depression

Jonah Lehrer, The Personality Paradox
Latest research – genes don’t predict personality. So, are the genes wrong, or the construct of personality wrong? The Neurocritic adds depth on the study itself

Neuroskeptic, Yes We Kant
Neural representations of place and direction appear in rats just a couple days after beginning exploration outside the nest – then an argument for hard-wired concepts in the brain, a neural solution to Kant’s innate categories

Deric Bownds, Speakers and Listeners – fMRI Shows Coupled Brains
“brain activities in a speaker-listener pair are tightly coupled” – now will the insights of linguistic anthropology be taken more seriously?

Christie Nicholson, Psychology Studies Biased Toward Western Undergrads
Scientific American podcast – 60 Seconds of Weird! Just in case you don’t want to read Greg’s massive post on the topic

Michael Discenza, From Cockpit to Concert Hall: Distributed Cognition
From Ed Hutchins, an anthropologist who studies who technology does our cognitive work for us, to the classroom, the library, and of course the Electronica concert at the Manhattan Terminal 5 venue

Dr. Shock, Mental Illness in Movies
From The Aviator to A Beautiful Mind, Dr. Shock draws on movie clips to try to convey to medical students how the diagnosis of mental illness works


Lawrence Krauss, Faith and Foolishness: When Religious Beliefs Become Dangerous
At Scientific American: “Religious leaders should be held accountable when their irrational ideas turn harmful”

Sarah Sweeney, What They’re Reading
Harvard professors share what they are reading over the summer. There are even some beach books!

Jaron Lanier, The First Church of Robotics
Presenting robots as high-tech puppets, and the unintended consequences: “by allowing artificial intelligence to reshape our concept of personhood, we are leaving ourselves open to the flipside: we think of people more and more as computers, just as we think of computers as people.”


Maximilian Forte, When I Hear the Word “Culture”
It’s not the “benign” idea promoted by anthropologists; it gets filled in, changed, used…

Neil Turner & Others, Disputed Questions – The Debates: Redefinition of the Concept of Society
Over at the Anth Coop, scholars debate how we should redefine our notions of “society”

Eugene Raikhel, Plenary Talks from the 2010 SCA Conference
The Society for Cultural Anthropology has an integrative theme this year – “Nature/Culture.” Here are videos from some of the big names, including Judith Farquhar and Donna Haraway

Kerim, Ethnographic Video Online
I’ve been wanting to highlight this online collection, but Savage Minds has done it for me, and for everyone else! The new site Ethnographic Video Online.

Mimi Ito, Skate Life
New ethnography on the “culture and practice of skateboarders,” with a particular focus on the cultural space and notions of masculinity of the skateboarders in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Peter Railton, Moral Camouflage or Moral Monkeys?
Nice analysis on the evolutionary approach to morality, going from proximal psychological mechanisms to cultural evolution

Carl Zimmer, The End of Sex Week: Darwin, Sex, and Dada
The arbitrariness of sexual desire… Evolutionary-speaking, that is.

Video Games

Catherine Brahic, Artificial Life Forms Evolve Basic Intelligence
“They’re wonderful evolutionary pets.”

John Markoff, In a Video Game, Tackling the Complexities of Protein Folding
Human players beat the specialized computer algorithms for trying to figure out how proteins fold themselves into such interesting and complex spatial shapes. Not Exactly Rocket Science provides a great overview of the research. And catch the video below with the researchers.

Mike Fahey, You Play Video Games Like a Cyclops
“You might have a pair of eyes, but when you’re playing first-person video games, you’re no better than a cyclops.” Neuroscientist Mark Changizi uses the video game Call of Duty 2 to explain stereoscopic vision.

Michael Abbott, The Fun Factor Project
The Brainy Gamer needs your help, all in the quest for fun!


Angela Garcia, Dion’s Short, Tragic Life
In the LA Times, this wonderful ethnographer details where her work in a New Mexican village has taught here about addition and treatment in the US

Maggie Koerth-Baker, The Anthropology of Coffee
BoingBoing goes anthropological! Three posts from Anthropology in Practice are featured, all covering aspects of coffee. Here’s the first part on how coffee became part of our morning rituals.

Scicurious, Über Coca, by Sigmund Freud
The story of Freud’s experimentation with cocaine – his original paper sounds quite neuroanthropological from me, going from cross-cultural work to consideration of personal experience to pharmacological properties

Vaughan Bell, The Origins of Mexico’s Drug War
Mind Hacks provides a good summary of the recent NPR series on how governmental corruption and the growth in narco-trafficking went hand in hand in Mexico

Dirk Hanson, The Disease Model Reconsidered
The Addiction Inbox draws on the historian David Courtwright’s work, which challenges the disease model promoted by NIDA, and calls for a meeting of the minds

Katherine Harmon, Dopamine Determines Impulsive Behavior
Ah, the whims of dopamine…

Research Digest Blog, Stubbing Out Thoughts of Smoking Leads Smokers to End Up Smoking More
Ah, the whims of intentions…

Stanton Peele & Archie Brodsky, Addiction Is a Social Disease
Looking to the social roots of addiction – a classic from 1976

Mike Jay, The Globalisation of Addiction
The nth position reviews Bruce Alexander’s new book, The Globalisation of Addiction, which focuses in on a societal view of drug use and abuse. Alexander is the creator of The Rat Park, which showed just how strongly environments mediate drug use in rats – create Rat Paradise, rats won’t lever press for their drug fix

Catherine Rampell, A Map of the Drinking World
Get your color-coded map of countries by their legal drinking ages

Stephen Dubner, What Prohibition Can Teach Us About Marijuana Legalization — and Other Tales From Last Call Author Daniel Okrent
Some hard-hitting questions from readers, and hard-hitting answers back

Bryant Jordan, Study: Ecstasy Treats PTSD
And that news story is on! A small study, but some pretty positive results. What will the love drug do next?

Last Word

From the poet Robert Hass, and the book The Apple Trees at Olema. This excerpt is from the poem: “Picking Blackberries With a Friend Who Has Been Reading Jacques Lacan”

We have stopped talking

about L’Histoire de la verite
about the subject and object
and the meditation of desire

Our ears are stoppered
in the bee-hum. And Charlie,
laughing wonderfully,

beard stained purple
by the word juice,
goes to get a bigger pot.

5 thoughts on “Wednesday Round Up #115

  1. Lots of news here, and I was aware that you were “away” for a good while now, wondering what was happening. You’re at the University of South Florida? I’ve been there, it is a great department, and a very good friend and colleague of mine is there too, Kevin Yelvington. Elizabeth Bird’s text on media ethnography is one that I use in my media course. And, we have had students from USF doing a semester or more at Concordia, so USF Anthropology is probably the one I feel closest too outside of my own. They have a great series of courses in applied anthropology, action research, and an ethnically diverse student body, much more so than most anthropology departments, and possibly because USF does not have a Sociology department. In other words, CONGRATULATIONS! I am genuinely excited for you, and you’re living in a lovely place too, summer all year round, and those fantastic Cuban restaurants in Ybor City, wow. I have to stop now!

  2. Glad to see you’re back Daniel. After a summer of travel and not much blogging, I am trying to get my act back together!!! Good luck with the semester…

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