Sunday in Sao Paulo – people strolling along the deserted Minhocão, “The Giant Earthworm”. This monstuous elevated road is busy with heavy traffic six days a week. The last day, it shuts down so to allow the most eerie display a Brazilian megacity can give: punch-drunk Paulistanossipping their águade coco while roaming an empty highway cutting through a forest of skyscrapers, surrounded by cryptic graffiti tags (pixações).
Carl Von Clausewitz famously claimed that “war is a continuation of state policy by other means”. During our stay at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), we had the pleasure to prove the controversial point that humanitarian intervention, on the other hand, can be regarded as the continuation of war by other means.
Our project (whose presentation you can download here in .pdf format) was part of the ESF-funded QMSS2 (Quantitative Methods for the Social Sciences) program. We tinkered a little with Pajek, with the substantive help of Raphael Wittek (University of Groningen) and the enlightening suggestions of Aleš Žiberna (University of Ljubljana).
The result turned out to be pretty mean. After tailoring a worldwide network of countries, we were able to perform an exploratory analysis that allowed us to detect a few geopolitical hot-spots where interventions by hegemonic countries can either take the form of armed conflicts or of foreign aid. Countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, who by now seem to be taken into an endless spiral of destruction/reconstruction, are the main targets of both bombs and bread coming from richer countries. For some of us, that’s just common sense. But it feels so good when you can hype it up with a nice graph 😛
AA Casilli, W Doerner, M Oubenal & P Rozbicka (2009) “Blockmodeling geopolitical interventions”, QMSS2 Summer School on Social Interactions and Social networks, Social Network Analysis using Pajek, University of Ljubljana, July 7th
Between 1999 and 2002, French historian and art critic Raphael Cuir hosted a web-TV show called Memoires Actives on Canalweb. His guests were prominent personalities of European art – curators, philosophers, writers and artists. Each of them was invited to answer this simple yet “monumental” question : “Why is there art rather than nothing?”
“All in all”, Cuir writes in his introduction to the book, “by rephrasing the famous question, the ultimate metaphysical question, I asked the art world the question that Leibniz, for instance, posed to the world as a whole: ‘why is there anything rather than nothing?’ and Heidegger to existence itself: “Why is there the being instead of nothing?'”
The diverse and stimulating contributions to this book range from claims of the nihilistic nature of art (J. Baudrillard) or of art as a manifestations of the void (C. Millet), to meditations on art as the innermost essence of humankind (G. Lista) which at the same time transcends human existence (T. Todorov) and paradoxically escapes nothingness by creating value out of “almost nothing” (Orlan). Despite the seriousness of Cuir’s enquiry, the book manages to strike – thanks to its aphoristic format – the right balance between readability and depth.
Laurent, M., & Vickers, T. (2009). Seeking Health Information Online: Does Wikipedia Matter? Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 16 (4), 471-479 DOI: 10.1197/jamia.M3059
Back in the day, patients used to show up at doctors’ practices with a set of symptoms. Since the advent of the Internet, though, they show up with a set of symptoms and a diagnosis of their own design. Now, this diagnosis is often concocted using whatever health information they run into while googling their scared asses around the web after the appearance of that skin rush or of that nasty lump. Traditionally, health professionals have expressed their disapproval towards these web-savvy patients who challenge medical diagnosis, multiply clinically-inappropriate requests , disrupt physician-patients relationship  and ultimately create a widespread climate of “cybercondria” .
A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association deals with this situation in a different way. The basic assumption here is that people do use Wikipedia to find relevant medical information, and that doctors should simply deal with it by contributing to the online encyclopedia. (more…)