Updated: 12/1/2005; 8:04:15 AM.
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Light-induced hormone surge points to benefits of light therapy.

A report in the November Cell Metabolism reveals powerful effects of light on the adrenal glands, a finding that might explain the broad benefits of bright light therapy for a variety of conditions, including sleep and depressive disorders, according to researchers. The body's two adrenal glands sit atop each kidney, where they secrete hormones that regulate stress response and metabolism.

[Science Blog -]
7:04:16 PM    comment

What are we doing when we look away during a conversation?.

In face to face conversation, we often look away from the person we’re speaking with. Somewhat paradoxically, the closer people sit to their conversation companions, the less often they look at them.

But other factors influence how often we avert our gaze, too. When we are asked personal questions, or difficult questions, or possibly when we are trying to deceive, we look away more often. When we talk with someone via a remote video monitor, we look at them more often than when we engage in the same type of conversation face to face.

So what’s the cause of this behavior? Do several different causes lead to looking away, or is the root cause the same for all of them? Perhaps we look away when we are feeling socially challenged. After all, difficult questions, or social intimacy, or the heightened social awareness involved in deceiving others could all lead to the same feeling of being put on the spot.

But another explanation is possible at least some of the time. We get a great deal of information by looking at faces, and this information places a significant load on our cognitive systems. Perhaps, when we’re asked a difficult question and need to concentrate, looking away from a face helps us focus on the cognitive demands of the question.

So do we look away because we’re self-conscious, or because it helps us concentrate? Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon and Fiona Phelps devised an experiment to distinguish between these two possibilities. They asked 8-year olds four different types of questions: verbal, arithmetic, episodic memory, and autobiographical memory. Each question was rated by the childrens’ teachers as easy, medium, or hard. Half the kids were tested face-to-face, by a questioner sitting across a table from them. The other half were tested via a real-time video link. Their questioner appeared on a video monitor. The children were videotaped as they gave oral responses to the questions. Later the tape was analyzed to determine how often they averted their gaze from the questioner.

Doherty-Sneddon and Phelps expected that the kids using the video monitor would avert their gaze less often. They were interested in a different aspect of the results: whether the kids in each condition would respond differently when more difficult questions were asked. Here are the results (click on the picture for a larger version):

The graphs show the proportion of the time the kids looked away as they responded to the questions. As expected, the kids in the face-to-face condition looked away more of the time than those in the video monitor condition. Otherwise, however, the results were essentially the same — as questions became harder, the children looked away more. Doherty-Sneddon and Phelps argue that if gaze aversion were solely due to self-consciousness, the kids in the face-to-face condition would avert their gaze proportionately longer as the questions became more difficult. Since this was not the case, the reason for looking away is probably simply to reduce the overall cognitive demand and focus on the question.

So it appears that there are at least two reasons we look away from others while we talk to them: because of our self-consciousness or embarrassment at the intimacy of the situation, and because averting our gaze enables us to focus on the ideas behind what we’re saying. This is not to say there aren’t additional reasons. As Doherty-Sneddon and Phelps point out, there are different expectations in different cultures for how much we should look at each other. However, their work does appear to demonstrate that there is more to gaze aversion than just social nicety.

Doherty-Sneddon, G., & Phelps, F.G. (2005). Gaze aversion: A response to cognitive or social difficulty? Memory & Cognition, 33(4), 727-733.

[Cognitive Daily]
6:44:58 PM    comment

Supreme Court Lets Utilization Rights Stand. [Slashdot] "Essentially if someone owns a physical copy of software, then they are allowed to modify the code as part of their regular use, no matter what other agreements are in place."
6:10:11 PM    comment

Court Finds For Student In Web FOS Case. [Slashdot]
6:05:36 PM    comment

More Taggy Goodness.

During the “Jessamyn and Jenny” show at the Internet Librarian conference, I was very glad Jessamyn emphasized that our interest in tagging and folksonomies does not mean we advocate doing away with structured classification or searching. Instead, we see them as complementary, especially if tagging helps users in ways Dewey and LCSH can’t.

So it’s fun to watch new tagging sites and tools springing up. Now there’s one that combines several of my interests at the moment: social software, tagging, and gaming!

Where Tagging Works: Searching for a Good Game

Millions of Games is just what it suggests: A search tool for finding all manner of games on the internet. What makes it different from other similar sites is that users are encouraged to tag games (this is called ‘mogging’ a game). And with Millions of Games, most of the heavy-lifting for creating tags has already been done by the developers of the site.

The site uses controlled vocabulary (called ‘Gameology’) to describe categories (arcade, shooter, puzzle, etc). Although you can also add your own free-form tags, these category tags are well known to most users, so there's little ambiguity about what the tags mean….

Tagging on Millions of Games isn't perfect, but in general it does seem to work better than other services that aren't as narrowly focused. And the extra information you get on each game, like ratings, the number of people who have mogged a game, its thumbnail image and so on lead to an overall quite good search experience (not to mention a lot of fun new ways to waste time, if you're into gaming).” [SearchEngineWatch]

Here’s another fun one to play with:

Pudding in a TagCloud

“Thanks to Google Blogoscoped for reminding me about TagCloud, which generates clouds of tags based on RSS feeds you specify. The service is free and available at http://www.tagcloud.com/

TagCloud allows you to provide lists of RSS feeds. From there it'll extract the relevant information and generate "clouds" of tags based on the feeds. In addition to being heaps of syntax fun, this strikes me as in interesting way to broadly compare the content of different news sites/blogs.” [ResearchBuzz]

In a quick bit of fun, I set up clouds for TSL, my subscriptions in my aggregator, and MLS (MPOW). Just for fun, I threw one together for bloggers I heard speak at the 2005 Internet Librarian Conference.

[The Shifted Librarian]
7:48:04 AM    comment

PostgreSQL 8.1 Available. [Slashdot]
7:41:08 AM    comment

Switching Colleges Is Common but Takes a Toll, Study Finds. A new survey has found that college students who switch schools or take courses at more than one school are less engaged in the intellectual and social life of their campuses. By KAREN W. ARENSON. [NYT > Education]
5:44:41 AM    comment

Virtual dissection and physical collaboration - Kenneth R. Fleischmann, First Monday. This paper explores how software can be designed for individual use or for collaboration in the physical or virtual world, focusing on physical collaboration. The case study explored is the design and use of frog and human dissection simulation software. [Online Learning Update]
5:42:27 AM    comment

Wake-Up Call: Open Source LMS - Sam S. Adkins, Learning Circuits. There is a growing market demand for Open Source learning management system (OS LMS) products. This demand has attracted the attention of many corporate and government clients. Clients have begun to ask if Open Source LMSs are now viable alternatives to c [Online Learning Update]
5:41:22 AM    comment

IPod Gets Own BitTorrent Tracker. Podtropolis is devoted to iPod-friendly video, movies and music launches. Plus: At a reunion of the Homebrew Computer Club, Steve Wozniak recalls his early hacker days. From Leander Kahney's Cult of Mac blog. [Wired News]
5:40:20 AM    comment

How-to Links: Video Podcasting.

Although I haven’t had the good fortune of bringing home an iPod video, I’ve been excited about RSS-based subscription video for a while. Readers of this blog may recall my preference for FireAnt, a video and audio aggregator/player that was around long before iTunes began supporting subscription media. (I prefer the Mac version of FireAnt, but primarily use the Windows version to watch videos on my PC laptop.)

The recent launch of the iPod video has led to renewed interest in RSS-based subscription video, and some in higher ed are taking the plunge. Karine Joly at Collegewebeditor.com highlights this trend in a nice post about admission video podcasting efforts via iTunes at Savannah College of Art and Design.

So, what does it take to pull this off? The quickest path is to use a miniDV recorder, a simple editing/conversion program such as iMovie (Mac), a blog, and an RSS feed. Ryanne Hodson and Michael Verdi provide a free screencast tutorial showing how to put all the pieces together. I’ve done it; it’s extraordinarily easy, and fun. The video quality you can get from relatively inexpensive cameras (such as this Panasonic 3-chip model) is simply astounding.

Want some behind-the-scenes information from a serious practitioner? Andrew Baron, creator and producer of Rocketboom, a popular daily videoblog, was recently interviewed on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (link via Micro Persuasion). He talks about details like video compression–something you’ll want to consider if you decide to get into the business. He also talks about the hardware and software he uses to watch videos himself (hint: not iPod video, and not iTunes).

[Syndication for Higher Ed]
5:37:30 AM    comment

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