Does the news reflect what we die from?

This is a page from the excellent site, “Our World in Data” which describes its mission as:

We believe that a key reason why we fail to achieve the progress we are capable of is that we do not make enough use of this existing research and data: the important knowledge is often stored in inaccessible databases, locked away behind paywalls and buried under jargon in academic papers.

The goal of our work is to make the knowledge on the big problems accessible and understandable. As we say on our homepage, Our World in Data is about Research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems.

This helps us evaluate how we acquire knowledge about the world and how reliable it is. Specifically, this helps us explore the contrast between emotion and reason as ways of acquiring knowledge and gives us some specific materials around the utility of math and data in learning about the world.

Among many questions they ask is whether the news reflects what we die from and why it matters. Great data and visuals along with discussions of the key issues involved.

https://ourworldindata.org/does-the-news-reflect-what-we-die-from

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The short history of global living conditions and why it matters that we know it

From the same site an exploration of macro world trends regarding global living conditions and our misperceptions of them.

https://ourworldindata.org/a-history-of-global-living-conditions-in-5-charts

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Here is a simple handout I made from the relevant text from the above links along with appropriate graphs and images. I’ve added nothing  to these. Just cut and pasted what I thought was most relevant for a class. Haven’t used it yet.

Download Perception vs Truth

Related handouts:

Download Assessing Risk Handout

Here is the article that accompanies the handout above.

Download Ten Ways We Get the Odds Wrong

Some different questions that get at the same point.

Download Alternative Assessing Risk

Here is yet another interesting example from Swedish physician Hans Rosling. He came up with a simple quiz assessing people’s knowledge of human development statistics. Even development experts were woefully unaware. You can take the quiz here:

https://factfulnessquiz.com/ 

Plane travel only feels like it’s dangerous

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Psychologists have long acknowledged that humans tend to “fear the rare”. Some 160,000 Americans die of heart disease each year, but few are paralyzed by the fear of clogged arteries. Instead, statistically unlikely events like earthquakes have an unreasonable grip on our imagination. While plane crash coverage may not give you a new phobia, experts regularly psotulate that extensive news coverage of plane crashes may play with our perception of risk.

https://www.popsci.com/plane-risk-safest-travel/

Here’s another great chart

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Coronavirus ‘Hits All the Hot Buttons’ for How We Misjudge Risk

When you encounter a potential risk, your brain does a quick search for past experiences with it. If it can easily pull up multiple alarming memories, then your brain concludes the danger is high. But it often fails to assess whether those memories are truly representative.

A classic example is airplane crashes.

If two happen in quick succession, flying suddenly feels scarier — even if your conscious mind knows that those crashes are a statistical aberration with little bearing on the safety of your next flight.

Impact of reading fiction on emotion and social skills

Literature’s Emotional Lessons

Characters are fictitious abstractions, and, without actors to bring them to life and makeup and digital tricks to make the drama feel real, students may strictly do the analytical work teachers expect without the interference of a significant emotional response. That’s a bad thing. An emotional response should be part of the curriculum.

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/educating-teenagers-emotions-through-literature/476790/

In the Minds of Others

Recent research shows that far from being a means to escape the social world, reading stories can actually improve your social skills by helping you better understand other human beings. The process of entering imagined worlds of fiction builds empathy and improves your ability to take another person’s point of view. It can even change your personality. The seemingly solitary act of holing up with a book, then, is actually an exercise in human interaction. It can hone your social brain, so that when you put your book down you may be better prepared for camaraderie, collaboration, even love.

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/chwe/austen/oatley2011.pdf

What should happen to “offensive” artwork?

Knowledge Questions: What are the ethical limitations of artwork? To what extent are artists responsible for the reactions their work receives? What is the role of the audience in deciding the meaning of artwork? To what extent do the intentions of the artist matter in the interpretation of their work? What are the responsibilities of institutions in deciding what work is appropriate for display?

This is a topic that will never quite leave us. There are countless cases of “offensive” artwork and the reactions it gets. All of these provide great opportunities for TOK.

A Los Angeles School Planned to Whitewash a Mural That Offended Korean Activists—Until Shepard Fairey Stepped in to Defend It

(Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Stanton’s work depicts the late actress Ava Gardner on a backdrop of blue and orange sun rays. It was targeted by Korean-American activists who complained that the sun-ray pattern is similar to that of the Japanese Imperial flag, which has become a symbol of the atrocities Japan committed before and during World War II, particularly in China and Korea. In response, the school district announced plans to cover it up. 

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/shepard-fairey-defends-beau-stanton-mural-1423192

Should Art That Infuriates Be Removed?

“Is the censorship, much less the destruction of art, abhorrent? Yes. Should people offended or outraged by an artwork or an exhibition mount protests? Absolutely. And might a museum have the foresight to frame a possibly controversial work of art through labels or programming? Yes, that, too. “

White Artist’s Painting of Emmett Till at Whitney Biennial Draws Protests

White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.” She added that “contemporary art is a fundamentally white supremacist institution despite all our nice friends.”

 

Met Defends Suggestive Painting of Girl After Petition Calls for Its Removal

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art will not remove a controversial painting by the French painter known as Balthus from public display.”

 

  • How do we determine whether art is “appropriate”?
  • How does context affect the meaning of art? Notice how the quote below makes mention of the “current climate.” Should the “current climate” affect what is allowed to be displayed in a museum?

“Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children,” it reads.

160803093028-australian-artist-clinton-mural-super-169Is censorship of artwork ever appropriate? If so, under what circumstances?

“A controversial mural of Hillary Clinton will be allowed to remain after the artist modified it from depicting the politician in a revealing swimsuit to one where she is wearing a burqa instead.”

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/02/asia/australia-clinton-mural-artist-burqa/

After hearing from both sides, the committee issued a statement that said the artwork “glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, Manifest Destiny, white supremacy, oppression, etc.” and does not represent the San Francisco school’s “values of social justice.”

Photograph that has attracted controversy for more than two decades attracts protests outside New York exhibition

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/sep/28/andres-serrano-piss-christ-new-york

Scientists Have Mapped Where People Feel Emotions in Their Bodies

Feelings are a funny thing. Love and heartache both happen inside your head, but they’re felt in very different places. On the flipside, excitement and fear are two very different emotions, but they feel nearly identical. To make things even more complicated, feelings are subjective — it’s hard to know if other people feel things the same way you do. That’s why this new study from a team of Finnish researchers is so fascinating: They’ve mapped emotions to where most people feel them in their own bodies. It turns out that most of us feel our emotions in similar places.

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https://curiosity.com/topics/scientists-have-mapped-where-people-feel-emotions-in-their-bodies-curiosity?fbclid=IwAR3hoWj6K6OeB-faJ37q_YOuYe6eqkhdDH3vqmMvrNRNFXnPJ7bHacN7b7M

Truthiness and Fake News

How do we determine what is true? What role do emotions play in our acquisition of knowledge?

In this clip from 2005, Stephen Colbert coins his phrase, “truthiness” which to some degree portended the coming of “fake news” and its pervasiveness a decade later.

Facts are believable and “true if they “feel” true. This also lends itself to a discussion of the role of emotion in the acquisition of knowledge.

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Using virtual reality to promote empathy

This article brings together many concepts from TOK including the role of sense perception and its connection to our emotions as well as the role of perspective in acquiring knowledge and the power of shifting perspectives.

“This article, by leading social entrepreneur Dr Alexandra Ivanovitch, explores how VR works in practice, the cognitive and psychological mechanisms underlying VR, and its potential application in the field of peacebuilding and conflict resolution. She reviews cutting-edge scientific research on how VR creates a “body ownership illusion” and “embodied cognition”, which help us transcend neurophysiological limitations inherent to our own point of view, and to adopt the perspective of another human being. The article also discusses experiments that show VR can reduce biases, build empathy and encourage prosocial behavior. Dr Ivanovitch calls for collaboration between technology, science and art to identify ways that immersive technology can be used to strengthen peace.”

http://www.centerforempathy.org/virtual-reality-the-frontier-of-peacemaking/

History and Art: The Story of “The Foot Soldier of Birmingham”

Writing history is an act of interpretation based on the past. Creating art about history further separates past events from the final work.

What happens when an artwork tells a story that distorts an actual event? What if that “distorted” artwork communicates a historical “truth”?

Below is a famous image from a civil rights protest in Birmingham. The image tells a powerful story. It turns out that the actual events leading up to the image and the people involved tell a much different story than one we would infer simply by looking at the image.

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There is a sculpture, based on the above image, that tells an even more dramatic story pictured below. What does it mean if the artwork, though powerful, does not accurately tell the actual story of the events it is depicting? What if it tells the truth of the brutality of the crackdown on the civil rights movement through inaccurately depicting an event? What does all this say about the power of artwork? The connection between history and art?

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Below is a link to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast that discusses these issues and is where I found this story.

 

Update (9/17/17)

I found another blog post discussing these issues in greater detail. Really interesting discussion as well in the comments section.

When the Truth Gets in the Way of the Story You Want to Tell

“Put simply, we don’t like complicated stories. We like our stories cleaned up and sanitized and well tailored for public consumption. We like heroic knights vs. evil villains. We like incorrigible racists and bigots vs. tolerant human rights champions. We like credulous believers vs. rational freethinkers. We like medieval jihadis vs. freedom fighters. We like damned vs. saved. We like lazy welfare sponges vs. hardworking taxpayers. We like sinners and saints and darkness and light and red and blue and black and white. And if reality doesn’t serve up the story that we want? If the truth turns out to be a bit blurrier and more inconvenient than we’d prefer? Well, we’ll just tell the story how we want to.”

https://ryandueck.com/2017/07/06/when-the-truth-gets-in-the-way-of-the-story-you-want-to-tell/