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05 Sep 13:29

5 Plagiarism Facts Students Should Know in 2018

by Jonathan Bailey

Student LearningIt’s back to school time in the United States. As I’m writing this college and high school students across the country either have just started or are preparing to start their 2018-2019 school year.

If you are one of those students, you will undoubtedly be getting student handbooks, syllabi and other information from your school that will detail all of their policies, including their ones on plagiarism.

But, as important as those policies are, they may not tell the full story about how plagiarism is handled at your school. There are a few more things that you will probably want to understand before you hand in your first essay.

To that end, here are five things that you should know about plagiarism in the in 2018.

1: Plagiarism Detection Software is Everywhere

PlagSpotter Sample MatchYour school may advertise that it uses plagiarism detection technology of some sort. They may even require you to sign a waiver to run your content through it.

However, even if your school doesn’t run a dedicated system, it doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook and no one is checking for plagiarism.

Plagiarism detection tools are ubiquitous in 2018 and, even if your school hasn’t adopted a solution, it doesn’t mean your teachers haven’t. There are a variety of low-cost tools that teachers can and do use on their own. Even Google can be turned into a powerful plagiarism detection tool with a bit of work.

A large percentage of plagiarism investigations begin with a hunch, including the Harvard Cheating Scandal of 2012. It’s much better to assume that your work is being checked, because it may very well be.

2: Teachers Are the Arbiters of Plagiarism

Always remember this:

When it comes to plagiarism: Schools set policies, instructors set rules.

While your school’s policies are important in determining what happens AFTER you face a plagiarism allegation, it’s the instructor who determines what is or is not plagiarism.

For example, your instructor will set the boundaries on how you can work with other students (if at all), the format of the citation that’s required and what the specific originality requirements are.

In the end, it’s up to the teachers to decide what the rules are in their classroom. As such, if you have questions about those rules, they’re the ones you will want to take it up with.

3: If You’re Accused of Plagiarism, There’s Little Defense

Though schools often structure their academic disciplinary system to be like that of a court of law, it rarely operates anything like one.

In any disciplinary hearing, including plagiarism, the playing field is inevitably tilted against the accused.

There are many reasons for this, the biggest is that such cases don’t usually get brought unless the evidence is overwhelming. But couple that with the fact schools rarely seek impartial outsiders to hear cases and that those prosecuting the case are colleagues of those judging them, it’s almost impossible to overturn an accusation of plagiarism, especially once they reach that point.

As such, if you are accused of plagiarism and it makes it to a tribunal stage, the best thing you can do is mitigate the severity of the punishment, not prevent it.

4: However, Plagiarism is Rarely Life and Death

On the other hand, if you are accused of plagiarism, it probably won’t be as serious as you might think.

Though schools talk up severe penalties for plagiarism, most first offenses result in either a student being forced to redo an assignment or getting a zero in it.

While that’s still a potentially significant punishment, it isn’t expulsion or suspension either. Depending on the assignment and the class, you may even be able to recover and still get a decent grade in that class.

This is because teachers often choose to handle such cases in class rather than turning to the school’s disciplinary process. The reasons for this are complex but often include a desire to avoid the hassle of the disciplinary process or the fear of first-time plagiarists getting hit with a disproportionate punishment. Either way, first-time plagiarism offenses rarely become disciplinary matters.

That being said, do bear in mind that the punishment for plagiarism tends to get more severe the more significant the assignment and the further along you are in your educational career. A graduate student plagiarizing their thesis isn’t going to be treated the same as a high school freshman plagiarizing a weekly essay, even if both are first time offenders.

5: Essay Mills WILL Market To You

Doing a search for a paper? Expect to see ads for essay mills. Tweet your frustration about an assignment? Expect to see bots trying to get you to buy your paper instead.

No matter where you go you’ll likely be targeted by essay mill advertising and it will play to both your insecurities and your laziness.

It’s important to remember that these essay mills are lying to you. They’re best known for producing low-quality work, that’s if they aren’t outright scams that fail to deliver their product.

Essay mills are easy to fall for but do not let it happen to you.

Bottom Line

In 2018 plagiarism in academia is something of a mess. Schools are still attempting to strike a balance between education on plagiarism and punishment for plagiarists. This is particularly true when looking at citation issues with students who are non-native English speakers.

At the same time, there is an active war between academic institutions and essay mills, a war that is sometimes spilling over into legislation. This fight is likely overblown and at least one study has shown the much larger problem is less formalized contract cheating.

Still, as a student beginning the 2018 school year, this is the reality you are walking into. As such, the best advice you’re going to get from me, and likely anyone else, is to simply do your work, cite to the best of your ability and work with your teachers to address any issues you are unsure about.

If you do those things, you’re unlikely to have any significant troubles in this, or any other, year.

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The post 5 Plagiarism Facts Students Should Know in 2018 appeared first on Plagiarism Today.

04 Sep 19:47

Victory! California Passes Net Neutrality Bill

by Katharine Trendacosta

California’s net neutrality bill, S.B. 822 has received a majority of votes in the Senate and is heading to the governor’s desk. In this fight, ISPs with millions of dollars to spend lost to the voice of the majority of Americans who support net neutrality. This is a victory that can be replicated.

ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast hated this bill. S.B. 822 bans blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, classic ways that companies have violated net neutrality principles. It also incorporates much of what the FCC learned and incorporated into the 2015 Open Internet Order, preventing new assaults on the free and open Internet. This includes making sure companies can’t circumvent net neutrality at the point of interconnection within the state of California. It also prevents companies from using zero rating—the practice of not counting certain apps or services against a data limit—in a discriminatory way. That is to say that, say, there could be a plan where all media streaming services were zero-rated, but not one where just one was. One that had either paid for the privilege or one owned by the service provider. In that respect, it’s a practice much like discriminatory paid prioritization, where ISPs create fast lanes for those who can pay or for other companies they own.

ISPs and their surrogates waged a war of misinformation on this bill. They argued that net neutrality made it impossible to invest in expanding and upgrading their service, even though they make plenty of money. Lobbying groups sent out robocalls that didn’t mention net neutrality—which remains overwhelmingly popular—merely mentioned the bill’s number and claimed, with no evidence, that it would force ISPs to raise their prices by $30. And they argued against the zero-rating provision when we know those practices disproportionately affect lower-income consumers [pdf].

There was a brief moment in this fight when it looked like the ISPs had won. Amendments offered in the Assembly Committee on Communication and Conveyance after the bill had passed the California Senate mostly intact gutted the bill. But you made your voices heard again and again until the bill’s strength was restored and we turned opponents into supporters in the legislature.

In the middle of all of this, the story broke that Verizon had throttled the service of a fire department in California during a wildfire. During the largest wildfire in California history, the Santa Clara fire department found that its “unlimited” data plan was being throttled by Verizon and, when contacted, the ISP told the fire department they needed to pay more for a better plan. Under the 2015 Open Internet Order, the FCC would have been able to investigate Verizon’s actions. But since that order’s been repealed, Verizon might escape meaningful punishment for its actions.

The story underscored the importance of FCC oversight and its public safety implications. On August 30, S.B. 822 passed the California Assembly and then, on August 31, it received enough Senate votes to continue to the governor. With the governor’s signature, California will have passed a model net neutrality bill.

California’s fight is a microcosm of the nation’s. Net neutrality is popular across the country. The same large ISPs that led the fight against it in California are the ones that serve the rest of the country, a majority of which don’t have a choice of provider. The arguments that they made in California are the same ones they made to the FCC to get the Open Internet Order repealed. The only thing preventing what happened to California’s firefighters from happening elsewhere is Verizon saying it won’t.

We need to net neutrality protections on as many levels as we can get them. And Congress can still vote to restore the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order. In fact, the Senate already did. So contact your member of the House of Representatives and tell them to vote for the Congressional Review Act and save national net neutrality protections. Californians, tell Gov. Jerry Brown to sign S.B. 822.

Take Action

tell the governor to sign the california net neutrality bill

04 Sep 19:11

ALA files amicus brief in support of net neutrality protections

by Larra Clark

The American Library Association this week argued in support of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) strong, enforceable rules to protect and preserve the open internet with an amici filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“The FCC made an ill-considered decision to roll back vital net neutrality protections in December 2017, and it will now have to defend its arbitrary move in court,” said American Library Association (ALA) President Loida Garcia-Febo. “Network neutrality is essential to ensuring open and nondiscriminatory access to information for all, and we have long been clear that preserving strong protections is a vital concern for our nation’s libraries. By rolling back court-affirmed and broadly supported net neutrality protections, the FCC has enabled commercial interests at the expense of the public, which depends on the internet as its primary means of information gathering, learning and communication. We will continue to fight the FCC’s decision, and we have filed as a friend of the court in support of strong, enforceable net neutrality protections.”

The American Library Association, along with other network neutrality allies also filing legal briefs, joined the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and higher education organizations including the American Council on Education and EDUCAUSE to file in support of petitioners in the case of Mozilla Corporation v. Federal Communications Commission and United States of America. ALA and the other library and higher education organizations focused their filing on how the FCC ignored the impacts on libraries and institutions of higher learning in its decision to eliminate the 2015 Open Internet rules. In its rush to judgment, the FCC ignored the impacts on libraries and institutions of higher learning that these organizations detailed and submitted into the record. The group of organizations filing in support of petitioners seeks to demonstrate to the Court that the FCC’s action will “imperil the internet’s continued operation as a reliable platform for research, learning and information sharing, and that the FCC’s decision should be reversed as arbitrary and capricious.”

Oral arguments are not yet scheduled.

The post ALA files amicus brief in support of net neutrality protections appeared first on District Dispatch.

04 Sep 18:26

Stop working on your commute – it doesn't benefit anyone

by David Spencer, Professor of Economics and Political Economy, University of Leeds
Just stop. Shutterstock

Our journey to and from the office has been taken over by work. Rather than reading a book, catching up with the news, or just relaxing, our commute time is now increasingly spent reading and replying to work-related emails. The transport we use to get to and from our jobs has become another venue for work.

The sad thing is that we consent to this extra work, despite it not being remunerated. Hours spent commuting are unpaid – they add nothing to our bank balances, though they save our employers the expense of higher wages.

The extension of work into commute time reflects the presence of an intrusive and pernicious “always-on” culture. It reflects an environment where we are enslaved to work, even when not physically in the office. Our busyness, however, can only come at the expense of the quality of our lives and our health. We must fight to resist it.

Work-life imbalance

Research shows how workers fit work into commute time, in part, to ease the burden of work. Answering emails on route to work can help to save time once you’re at work. Equally email can be answered on the way home from work to ease the pressure of work during the next working day. Work can also be done on the move that could not be finished at work.

But here “savings” of time and effort are likely to be illusory. Employers are not going to cut email traffic just because workers are replying to emails on the way to and from work. To the contrary the incentive is for employers to encourage email traffic outside of regular hours in order to exploit the free work of workers.

Work “saved” during commute time, in this case, may translate into more work during paid work time. Workers again may be in the position of doing more work, for no extra pay. Out-of-hours working implies that work cannot be fitted into paid hours. It suggests that workers are overworked (and underpaid) for the work they do.

Always-on culture

New technology enables us to connect with our work, beyond normal hours. Laptops and iPhones mean we have instant access to our work and workplaces. Wifi on trains and buses has helped to turn commuting into work time. But technology itself does not explain why work is performed outside of regular hours. For that we need to look at organisational culture.

Organisations increasingly demand that their employees give their bodies and lives to work. Staying late at work is a badge of honour. Presenteeism – the act of being present at work for longer than is required – is rife in workplaces and reflects on the culture of overwork that is endemic in modern society.

Staying late has become a badge of honour in some companies. Shutterstock

Working during commute time is simply an extension of the same culture. It demonstrates the way work has taken over our lives. We find time to work even when not at work because we are exposed to a culture that venerates hard work.

Few benefits

Yet, all this extra work seems to bring few economic benefits. Productivity remains low in the UK despite workers working all hours. Commuters are no more productive for answering emails on the go. Indeed productivity is likely to be lower due to the stressed out and exhausting nature of long commute and work schedules.

Research continues to show the negative health effects of long hours of work. By working more we suffer ill-health, physical as well as mental. We also neglect our families, friends and communities. And we lose the ability to think and act beyond the roles we fill as workers.

Work may now be a normal part of commuting time but its performance imposes high costs on us and society more generally. In a rational world, we would move to ban out-of-hours email, not just to protect free time, but also to safeguard health. Beyond this we would look to challenge the hegemony of work and promote ways of living that are less work-centred. Cutting work hours would be the only sane way of restoring any semblance of balance between jobs and life.

The Conversation

David Spencer has previously received funding from ESRC, EPSRC, and FP7

04 Sep 18:05

Could Andrew Gillum be the next governor of Florida?

by Sharon Austin, Professor of Political Science and Director of the African American Studies Program, University of Florida
Andrew Gillum with wife R. Jai Gillum addresses supporters after winning the Democrat primary for governor. AP Photo/Steve Cannon

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum electrified Democrats with his surprising victory in the Florida’s Democratic primary – but will he go on to win in the general election?

Come November, voters will choose between Gillum and Trump-endorsed candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, who represents Florida’s Sixth Congressional District, won his nomination by a significant margin. Both men are 39 years old, politically experienced Florida natives – perhaps the only two similarities they share.

After trailing in the polls for weeks before the election, Gillum, who spent US$6.5 million in the primary, defeated three opponents who each spent more than $100 million in their campaigns. Gillum, the only candidate who was not a millionaire, received $650,000 in last-minute contributions from donors such as Tom Steyer and George Soros.

He now joins Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and Maryland’s Ben Jealous – two other young African-Americans with strong chances of winning their state’s gubernatorial elections. Each won their Democratic primaries because of the strong backing from black voters. But because none of them could have won with the black vote alone, their campaigns emphasized issues voters of all races were concerned with, like health care, and education and jobs. All received significant backing in some predominantly white communities.

Their victories are significant and rare because only four African-Americans have ever served as governors in our nation’s history – but winning during the general election won’t be an easy task.

An uphill battle?

Gillum in particular is competing in a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic governor in 20 years. True, former President Barack Obama won Florida twice, but it was by close margins – 3.8 percent in 2008 and 0.9 percent in 2012. Then, President Trump again put Florida in the red category in 2016 by defeating Hillary Clinton by a mere 0.8 percent. However, as a professor of political science and African-American studies, I believe the unpredictable outcomes in recent national elections – as well as Florida’s tendency to swing from red to blue – should encourage Gillum.

So how can Gillum win? He’ll need a large turnout among his base of minority voters and progressives. He’ll also need to expand his appeal among moderate Democrats and to seek crossover support from Republicans who are dissatisfied with President Trump. In the primary, he won only 18 of the state’s 67 counties. Some of these included cities and towns with larger minority populations, but others were rural or suburban predominantly white counties – like Clay, Escambia and Hamilton. Gillum also did well in South Florida counties like Broward, Hendry, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.

Unfortunately for Andrew Gillum, he won’t be running against Ron DeSantis alone. He’s also be running against Donald Trump.

DeSantis is one of Trump’s most loyal allies. Hours after Gillum won the primary, Trump referred to him as “[ DeSantis’s] biggest dream … a failed socialist mayor.”

Problems at home

A more troublesome dilemma for Gillum concerns Tallahassee’s problems.

Three years after he entered office, in June 2017, the FBI issued a subpoena of city records. Although Gillum is reportedly not the focus of their corruption investigation, the investigation allows the DeSantis campaign to accuse him of being untrustworthy regardless of the outcome.

Tallahassee also has the highest crime rate in Florida, even though crime has actually decreased since Gillum began his term in 2014.

On the positive side, Gillum’s progressive agenda and endorsement from Bernie Sanders may appeal to younger voters. During the primary, the Gillum campaign emphasized the mobilization of African-Americans and younger voters. Even before he began his gubernatorial campaign, Gillum carried out several efforts to mobilize young voters in support of progressive causes. About a week after a February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resulted in the deaths of 17 students and educators in Parkland, Florida, Gillum led thousands of gun control advocates in a march at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He also opposes Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground Law.”

Race as the ‘elephant in the room’

Soon after Gillum’s primary victory, the issue of race surfaced. In a television interview, DeSantis said, “You know, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views and he’s a charismatic candidate.” He then said, “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”

Immediately, a debate surfaced about racialized rhetoric. DeSantis later argued that he had no racial intent. But, DeSantis has taken heat before. He referred to Puerto Rican candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a “girl of whatever she is” after she won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th Congressional District.

He also was criticized by Democrats – and praised by Republicans – because of a controversial campaign ad that featured him showing his young daughter how to “build the wall” and reading Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” to his infant son.

Regardless of the outcome, this will be a campaign that won’t soon be forgotten in Florida.

The Conversation

Sharon Austin does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

04 Sep 16:24

Trump's government denying passports to some Americans born near U.S.-Mexico border: WaPo

by Xeni Jardin

They served in the Army, Border Patrol and as police. They have legitimate U.S. birth certificates. But Trump's government is denying their passport applications and telling them they aren't U.S. citizens. (more…)
28 Aug 13:22

John McCain's farewell to America

by Gina Loukareas

Senator John McCain, who died on Saturday at age 81 from an aggressive form of brain cancer, wrote a farewell letter to America. The letter was read by family spokesman Rick Davis this afternoon. [youtube] Full text:
My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans, Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them. I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s. I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves. 'Fellow Americans' — that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process. We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been. We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do. Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still. Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history. Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.
It was also announced that President Trump will not be attending McCain's funeral at Washington National Cathedral on Saturday. John McCain's farewell statement -Politico [Photo: Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill/U.S. Army]
27 Aug 19:07

Technology hasn't killed public libraries – it's inspired them to transform and stay relevant

by Danielle Wyatt, Research Fellow, University of Melbourne
The State Library in Victoria illustrates that libraries are so much more than just places that contain books. from

In 2017, archaeologists discovered the ruins of the oldest public library in Cologne, Germany. The building may have housed up to 20,000 scrolls, and dates back to the Roman era in the second century. When literacy was restricted to a tiny elite, this library was open to the public. Located in the centre of the city in the marketplace, it sat at the heart of public life.

We may romanticise the library filled with ancient books; an institution dedicated to the interior life of the mind. But the Cologne discovery tells us something else. It suggests libraries may have meant something more to cities and their inhabitants than being just repositories of the printed word.

Read more: State libraries need our support and participation to survive

Contemporary public libraries tell us this too. Membership has generally declined or flat-lined, but people are now using libraries for more than borrowing books. Children come to play video games or complete homework assignments together. People go to hear lectures and musical performances, or attend craft workshops and book clubs.

Libraries have become vital for the marginalised, such as the homeless, to access essential government services such as Centrelink, and to stay connected. They have become defacto providers of basic digital literacy training – such as how to use an iPad or access an eGov account. Others cater to tech-enthusiasts offering advanced courses on coding or robotics in purpose-built spaces and laboratories.

We do romanticise libraries as being repositories of ancient knowledge. Clarisse Meyer/Unsplash

Yet the future of Australia’s public libraries is unfolding according to a contradictory, double narrative. One-off funding for “feature” libraries built by star architects exists in parallel with cuts and closures of libraries on the margins. In Victoria’s city of Geelong, for example, three regional libraries on the city’s periphery faced closure scarcely a year after the opening of the A$45m Geelong Library and Heritage Centre.

Part of the reason for this is that the expanded contribution of libraries to our communities and cities isn’t recognised at higher levels of government.

Read more: Has the library outlived its usefulness in the age of Internet? You'd be surprised

How libraries are changing

In the early 2000s, as archives shifted online, futurists predicted an imminent death to public libraries. But the threat of obsolescence made libraries take proactive steps to remain relevant in a digital world. They thought creatively about how to translate services they have always offered – universal access to information – into new formats.

Libraries digitised their collections and networked their catalogues, exponentially extending the range of materials users could access. They introduced e-books and e-readers to read them with. They mounted screens to watch movies or to play video games.

They also installed computers crucial to that 14% of the population who don’t have access to the internet at home. And they wired up their spaces with free WiFi, retrofitting extra power-points so users could plug in their own devices.

Libraries have a lot of programs around technology and the use of computers. from

Besides offering new technologies and services, libraries offer people a welcoming, safe space to gather without the pressure to spend money. Investing in attractive, versatile furnishings, they have actively encouraged people to dwell in their spaces, whether this is to read a newspaper, complete a job application online, or to study.

In an age where communication technologies create both efficiency as well as forms of isolation, such spaces assume a renewed social importance.

Read more: Friday essay: why libraries can and must change

How libraries shape the city

As vital as libraries are to individuals, their value is also connected to broader civic agendas. Libraries have deliberately sought to change perceptions of themselves from spaces of collection to spaces of creation. Some, such as the State Library of Victoria, see themselves facilitating creativity not only in an artistic sense, but also as entrepreneurial hubs for start-ups and budding innovators.

Public libraries have promoted their relevance to cities by strategically aligning themselves with government visions of economic growth. For instance, the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre was a signature investment in Geelong’s Digital Strategy, promoted as a “platform” to build “digital capacity” and a visible symbol of the city’s transition to a digital future.

Others, such as Dandenong library in Victoria, attract high levels of funding as part of urban renewal projects aimed at revitalising declining urban precincts.

These high-profile libraries, usually in urban centres, overshadow the uncertain fate of smaller libraries on the periphery, fighting to stay viable due to insufficient funding.

The Geelong Library and Heritage Centre cost millions of dollars to build, while three local libraries lost funding. from

This contradiction is occurring because provisioning for libraries is not embedded at high levels of urban planning and policy making. There is no nationally consistent model for allocating funds between the states and local government. Nor is there a consistent framework across Australia for evaluating library performance.

Critically and most revealingly, libraries are evaluated based on traditional metrics, such as loan and membership numbers, capturing only a fraction of the full value they contribute to our individual and collective life. Failure to recognise this by governments and policymakers puts at risk the diverse and nuanced ways libraries might shape Australia’s future.

The Conversation

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

27 Aug 18:20

The real Emily Brontë was red in tooth and claw, forget the on-screen romance

by Hila Shachar, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, De Montfort University
Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights in 1847, at a time when writing was largely the preserve of men. BBC/PBS

With their fierce, independent heroines, brooding anti-heroes and all sorts of dastardly plots, it’s no surprise the Brontë sisters and their novels occupy a special place in screen adaptations of literature.

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) tends to attract different kinds of film and TV adaptations to the usual polite drawing-room dramas. This is partly because Wuthering Heights is a brutal novel, despite all the romance associated with it. But it’s also down to how Brontë is remembered as an author. In this, her bicentenary year, her enduring appeal as a romanticised figure is much discussed.

This can be traced back to her older sister Charlotte’s own myth-making around Emily following her death in 1848. The myth of Emily relies on her image as a noble savage: a child-like innocent who had little contact with the world beyond her Yorkshire village and beloved moors. Charlotte’s defence relied on the idea that Emily didn’t really know what she was doing when she wrote this extraordinary novel.

It’s easy to understand why Charlotte felt compelled to defend her sister. In the 19th century, writing was still considered a masculine creative act, and taking up the pen as a woman brought accusations of being “unfeminine”. The Brontës existed in the real world and had to navigate their social reputations within it, especially if one of the aims of their writing was economic independence. But Charlotte’s defence of her sister set the scene for how adapters would later approach Emily and her work.

Bringing out Emily

A good example is the 1992 film adaptation of Wuthering Heights starring Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff and Juliette Binoche as Cathy. This version neatly does away with the novel’s complicated story-within-a-story structure and its two main narrators – housekeeper Nelly Dean and the pompous visitor Lockwood – and instead casts Emily herself as the storyteller.

Played by the waif-like Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor, Emily stumbles upon the ruins of a real house while wandering the moors and, under a mysterious hooded cloak, tells the viewer:

First I found the place … something whispered to my mind, and I began to write.

Emily as a mystical medium is the ultimate visual symbol of how authors are commonly conjured up – as divine geniuses, inspired from above. Of course this is far more attractive than showing the blood, sweat and tears that come with the real craft of writing. But there is something more going on here – something which is representative of wider cultural politics and what often happens with authors like Emily Brontë: they are turned into easily consumable, harmless, generic figures.

Western culture tends to invest in ideas of transcendence around well-known writers. People like to think of them as unique beings who move above and beyond their own cultural and social moments. But when it comes to Emily Brontë, perhaps there is also an unspoken desire to neutralise her complex and subversive engagement with her own world.

Hollywood’s 1939 version of Wuthering Heights is a strongly romantic interpretation that ignores much of the novel’s original plot. United Artists

An explosive tale, Wuthering Heights is unflinching in its depiction of domestic abuse, racism, women as property and the abuse of social power. The direct, unromantic way in which this is explored in the novel is itself threatening to the social order it portrays, and seems like a subversive act for a female author. Adapting the story as romance sells better, and plays down the book’s uncomfortable brutality, as does the idea of Emily Brontë as an “unworldly” young woman who existed outside of conventional society.

This results in constant adaptations of her novel that rely on almost identical images of natural transcendence, beginning with an image from William Wyler’s hugely popular 1939 Hollywood version starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. It shows Cathy and Heathcliff together on the moors, which seems to encapsulate for many people what the novel is about. Most adaptations repeat this imagery, but you’d have to search hard to find it in the novel, as Cathy and Heathcliff aren’t really depicted as adult lovers frolicking on the moors.

This iconic imagery is not just due to Hollywood creating a visual “template” for the novel through romance; it’s also the product of how adapters have woven the myth of Emily as a transcendent noble savage into her own characters.

A more realistic Emily

A notable and recent exception is To Walk Invisible, the 2016 BBC biopic of the Brontës, in which the sisters are shown discussing the economic necessity of becoming writers. When debating whether to take up male pseudonyms, Emily, played by a straight-talking Chloe Pirrie, says:

When a man writes something it’s what he’s written that’s judged. When a woman writes something it’s her that’s judged.

This blunt assertion seems to summarise how authors of the past – particularly female authors – are dealt with: who they are as human beings and their specific cultural environment are often ignored. They are rendered harmless and powerless to speak to us in a politicised way about the past we’ve inherited, and about our own world. With Emily, the emphasis is instead on romanticising the female author as a child-mystic, rather than focusing on her fiction as informed adult social critique.

Mythologising an author like Emily Brontë may provide a consistent and comfortable way to “consume” famous writers in contemporary culture, but it does a disservice to the potential for a more complex dialogue between past and present – after all, the realities of power, race, gender and class that Brontë wrote about in the 19th century are still issues being tackled today.

The question is, in 2018, should adaptations continue to collude in the screen legacy of a “safe” Emily Brontë, viewed from a transcending distance, or could they consider a more dangerous, unpredictable Emily who compels the reader to examine forms of power and powerlessness in contemporary times? It’s time to shed the romance for the reality.

The Conversation

Hila Shachar does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

27 Aug 18:16

Ancient teenager the first known person with parents of two different species

by Michelle Langley, ARC DECRA Research Fellow, Griffith University
We don't have the full skeleton of a Denisovan so we don't really know what they looked like. from

A new ancient DNA study published in Nature today reports the first known person to have had parents of two different species. The studied remains belonged to a girl who had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.

Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) lived throughout Europe and Western Asia until around 30,000 years ago. This species lived in several different ecological zones, survived three glacial periods, and were excellent hunters and tool-makers.

Denisovans (Homo sapiens denisova), on the other hand, we know very little about. Thus far they have only been found in Denisova Cave in Sibera as tiny bone fragments. We don’t yet know what they looked like – nor exactly what they were capable of.

Neanderthal, Denisovans, and modern humans all shared a common ancestor more than 400,000 years ago.

Is this what Denisova 11’s mother looked like? A museum model of a Neanderthal woman. from

Read more: Why the Neanderthals may have been more sophisticated hunters than we thought – new study

Found in Denisova Cave, this child — known as “Denisova 11” — was at least 13 years of age at the time of her death. Analysis of a piece of her bone found that the girl died more than 50,000 years ago.

Over many thousands of years, Denisova Cave in Siberia was occupied by Denisovans, Neanderthals and modern humans. Google Earth

This discovery occurred through ancient DNA analysis, whereby a small piece of the teenager’s bone was pulverised, the DNA extracted, and then sequenced. The sequence was then compared to previously analysed samples from Neanderthals, modern humans, and Denisovans. Her genetic traits could only be explained if her mother was a Neanderthal and her father was a Denisovan.

Denisova 11 was a first generation Neanderthal-Denisovan woman – perhaps we could call her a “Neandersovan”?

Neighbours of modern humans

Neanderthals and Denisovans inhabited Eurasia until about 40,000 years ago when they were replaced by modern humans (Homo sapiens).

But before this replacement occurred, there appears to have been a fair bit of mingling going on whenever the different groups met.

Where ancient people roamed: the valley above the Denisova Cave archaeological site, Russia. Bence Viola

Indeed, the ancestors of modern-day Oceanians and Asians contain Denisovan DNA, while present-day non-Africans contain 2-4% Neanderthal DNA.

Read more: Neanderthals didn't give us red hair but they certainly changed the way we sleep

More mobile than we thought

The DNA of this girl — Denisova 11 — also suggests that there was some quite significant movement of Neanderthal groups between Western Europe and the East. Analysis of her DNA found that rather than being more closely related to a Neanderthal who lived in her home cave sometime prior to her birth, she instead showed more connections to those recovered in Western Europe.

This finding is interesting because most archaeological evidence indicates that Neanderthals — unlike modern humans — were not interested in long-distance movement. They don’t seem to have moved much beyond relatively constrained territories which provided everything they needed for day-to-day life.

Read more: Neanderthals cared for each other and survived into old age – new research

Denisova 11 suggests that at least some major movement of ancient humans occurred between west and east. But when? And why?

And how did a Neanderthal woman meet a Denisovan man? How did their respective communities interact? These are questions that now must be asked and investigated.

Scientists found the unique bone in the East Chamber of Denisova Cave, Russia. Bence Viola

Mystery girl

While this young girl has told us so much about her ancestors, we know very little about her.

Because it was only a small piece of one of her long bones found, we don’t know how she died. We can’t know if she suffered any serious illness in her short life, nor if she ever broke a bone.

We only know that she lived.

The Conversation

Michelle Langley is an Australian Research Council DECRA Research Fellow in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution at Griffith University.

27 Aug 18:10

Companies keep slashing jobs, but new technologies won't replace good management

by Mary Barrett, Professor of Management, University of Wollongong

As technology improves, it’s tempting for company executives to slash jobs that are “standard” and “routine”, making them easy to automate. But research shows focusing on improving management practices will do more to improve companies’ bottom lines.

In a study of 32,000 manufacturing firms, American researchers showed firms using certain management practices had 20% better productivity than firms that neglected to use them.

At the same time, integrating technology into business practices was found to only improve firm productivity by 10%.

Read more: Why coaching, not gadgets, is key to getting the most out of employees

The firms studied varied widely in how much they used structured management practices - targets, performance monitoring and incentives. Targets and monitoring make it clear what employees need to do and whether they are doing it. The right incentives give them a reason to make the necessary effort.

This suggests organisations such as Optus, Telstra, the big four banks, CSIRO and the ABC, who have all cut jobs citing the possibility of new technology, may be pursuing the least effective option.

What’s good management in practice?

To avoid over-relying on technology while keeping up with change, managers must have the creativity and persuasiveness of an artist as well as the objectivity of a scientist.

While standard, routine problems can be automated, others require managers to invent a range of options, choose among these alternatives, and then persuade other people to follow that choice.

In “The Art of Rhetoric” Aristotle described the skills necessary:

  • ethos: an understanding of human character and goodness. To change a situation, managers need credibility and authenticity
  • logos: the capacity to reason logically. Managers must put forward a rigorous case for converting a firm’s problems into ideas, then options, then actions
  • pathos: the ability to understand emotions. To persuade people, especially in large numbers, managers must understand their audience.

Managers shedding staff in the interests of organisational survival face a severe test of all three persuasion skills. In terms of ethos (credibility and authenticity), managers need to admit they cannot offer loyalty to employees and so should not expect it.

Read more: Mass layoffs increase teen suicide rates

Rather than shedding jobs in favour of technology, and at a minimum, organisations should offer training to prepare people for the time they will no longer be needed. And, respecting pathos (emotional understanding), treat departing employees with care and respect.

A drop in share price is a sign shareholders lack confidence in the logos (reasoned logic) of an organisation’s strategy. But there are other, more subtle signals an organisation has over-played its digital capabilities.

An example is the reputational damage to organisations that use cybervetting - seeking information about job applicants from social media and search engines. Studies of cybervetting show some employers use technology to better their business at potentially the expense of good management.

Employers see cybervetting as a digital extension of background checking that increases organisational efficiency. Some even see it as the beginning of an employment relationship. But applicants disagree with this logic, perceiving the practice as unfair.

Cybervetting reduces applicants’ trust and identification with the organisation because they perceive it as lacking ethos (credibility and autheniticity). Its reputation is damaged in their eyes so they are less likely to accept a job offer.

Framing a solution

Applying technology to organisational processes is part of working smarter, not harder. Careful management is the other part. But as organisations’ technological capacities grow, managers need to ask themselves what is possible and desirable when using technology.

Logos (reasoned logic) and ethos (credibility and authenticity) will be useful as they do this. Then, using pathos (emotional understanding), they must try to understand how others are likely to frame their answers to similar questions.

Read more: Why the end of auto manufacturing won't be as apocalyptic as previous mass layoffs

Applicants, unlike employers, don’t see cybervetting as a more efficient replacement for personal interaction during the early stages of an employment relationship. To use Karl Weick’s term, job applicants and employers make sense of the same situation differently.

Aristotle’s ancient typology of management skills promises to remain useful as digital solutions - and dilemmas - increase.

The Conversation

Mary Barrett does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

27 Aug 18:06

How a small American Indian tribe came to give an incredible gift to Irish famine sufferers

by Padraig Kirwan, Senior Lecturer in the Literature of the Americas, Goldsmiths, University of London
Yulia Plekhanova /

In the winter of 1847, the people of Ireland were suffering from a devastating famine. Meanwhile, members of the Choctaw Nation of American Indians, one of the five great southern tribes of the United States, met in a small town in Indian Territory called Skullyville. There, members of the tribe discussed the experiences of the Irish poor. It was proposed that they would gather what monies they could spare. This wasn’t going to be much in the wake of their recent removal from their tribal homelands east of the Mississippi River.

Ultimately, they collected US$170, a sum roughly equivalent to US$5,000 today. Rather than use what money they had to buy badly needed resources in the new territory — land, food, housing, and so on — the tribe made the altogether remarkable decision to send a goodly portion of their money to those who were starving and destitute in Ireland.

There was an unprecedented global response to the Irish Famine of 1845-52, and aid came from many sources. But the fact that the Choctaws had suffered great losses in the early decades of the 19th century makes their donation particularly marvellous. In those years, the tribe had endured displacement, poverty and untold hardship. Virtually all of this had been caused by their removal from their ancestral lands following the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830.

Of course, Ireland, the destination for the charitable gift, was also a site of great hardship. This was the worst famine that was to befall any European country in the 19th century. The blight that decimated the potato crop in 1845 was a calamity of huge proportions; a million people died during the Great Irish Famine, and at least a million more emigrated.

Choctaw Village near the Chefuncte, François Bernard, 1869. Wikimedia Commons

Choctaw charity

What, we might ask, led to the Choctaw peoples’ particularly affecting instance of generosity? The historian Turtle Bunbury has credited Major William Armstrong with gathering the collection at Skullyville. Armstrong, who was of Scots-Irish descent and had been appointed special agent and superintendent of the removal of the Choctaws from their homes east of the Mississippi River in 1832, may well have spoken of Ireland’s plight.

But it seems more likely that the task of calling the meeting would have fallen instead to one of the 27 elected representatives who made up the Choctaw general council, or one of the executive departments three district chiefs. Those tribal leaders possibly heard about the Irish famine from recently settled Irish immigrants or religious missionaries.

The Choctaw’s extraordinary act of charity has a lot to say about contemporary philanthropy and nation-to-nation relationships. To those of us alive today, it is a salient reminder that we live in an interlinked global village. We might read it as a true moment of cross-cultural interaction, championing the power and importance of true selflessness and solidarity. LeAnne Howe from the University of Georgia, reminds us of that fact when she notes that the word “ima”, which means “to give” in the Choctaw language, carries the connotes that there are “no strings attached”.

Of course, the tribe’s concern for the people of Ireland might also be viewed in terms of diplomacy and perhaps even deliberateness. The monies gathered in Skullyville became, in many respects, emblematic of the Choctaw’s continued autonomy, strength and robustness; it was a sign of their endurance and moral strength.

This sculpture in County Cork commemorates the aid given by the Choctaw Nation during the Great Famine. Gavin Sheridan/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Looking back

In any event, it is important that we remember not only the generosity shown by the tribe, but also the Irish people’s great need at that time. Speaking in 2002, at the official dedication of the Irish Hunger Memorial in New York, the Irish President Mary McAleese described Ireland as “a first world nation with a third world memory” (echoing Irish academic Luke Gibbons). McAleese’s words underlined the manner in which our values and ideals in the present moment, as well as our ability to map new futures, are influenced by our understanding of history.

It is in that spirit, I believe, that Ireland recently sought membership of the United Nations Security Council. On the whole, the Irish see themselves as obligated rather than entitled. America’s tribal peoples often see themselves in the same light; connected and compelled to think both globally and connectedly as well as locally and collectively. Jodi Byrd has written a wonderful precis of this metaphoric cosmos or worldview as it is held by her tribe, the Chickasaw, for a book that I and Howe are currently editing on the topic of the Choctaw gift. The Chickasaw are closely linked to the Choctaw, and their jurisdictional territory includes 7,648 square miles of south-central Oklahoma. Byrd explains that her community:

Locates itself initially within the particularities of Chickasaw and Choctaw structures of relationality and governance, and from there it looks out toward a region, a hemisphere, to a world.

Views of this kind are sorely needed in our world today, especially when international politicians such as Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, and US President Donald Trump are employing the rhetoric of discrimination and illiberality to further their political ends.

By remembering the great hunger and the Choctaw’s gift, Irish people such as myself are reminded of our reliance on others in the past and our good fortune now. And we might all be reminded of the importance of tolerance, acceptance, empathy and dialogue between culturally distinct communities.

The Conversation

Padraig Kirwan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

27 Aug 17:26

Woke Giant, retro political art for third century America

by Rusty Blazenhoff

Over at Woke Giant you'll find some seriously cool, retro-styled "political art for third century America." Don't miss the downloadable protest signs!

Here's a taste: Stress is the enemy! Keep resisting! Flint still needs water!

Thanks, Tricia!

27 Aug 17:24

Oil paintings show how people who wear glasses see the world without them

by Rusty Blazenhoff

People who have good vision: Ever wonder what it's like to see the world as someone who is nearsighted? Well, Cape Town-based artist Philip Barlow has imagined this blurry world for you in a series of hyperrealistic oil paintings. See more of his work on his Instagram.

(Bored Panda)

27 Aug 17:06

NYU makes med school free for all students

by Cory Doctorow

The median US med-school grad has $195,000 in loans; all 93 of NYU's freshman med-school class will have free tuition for their entire degree program, as will all future students (the 350 currently enrolled students will no longer pay tuition, same goes for the school's 9 grad students) (more…)

27 Aug 16:56

A browser extension that checks web-pages for misleading and hoax images

by Cory Doctorow

Surfsafe is a browser extension that compares all the images you load in your browser to images that appear on "trusted news sites," fact-checking services, and Snopes, and pops up a tool-tip warning when you hover over known hoax images with links to more information. (more…)

27 Aug 16:48

22 states jointly petition the Federal Circuit appeals court to reinstate Net Neutrality

by Cory Doctorow

The Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia have filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, asking it to reinstate the Network Neutrality rules killed by Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. (more…)

27 Aug 16:46

European measles outbreak infects 41,000 people, killing 27 of them (so far)

by Jason Weisberger

Anti-vaccine shenanigans have lowered Europe's average vaccination rate below the threshold to adequately provide for herd immunity. Following the decade's lowest year of measles cases in 2016, the rate of measles cases in Europe in 2018 is already headed for the stars. (more…)

27 Aug 16:44

European lawmaker writes post warning about dangers of automatic copyright filters, which is taken down by an automatic copyright filter

by Cory Doctorow

Julia Reda is the Member of the European Parliament who has led the fight against Article 13, a proposal to force all online services to create automatic filters that block anything claimed as a copyrighted work. (more…)

27 Aug 16:30

Shaking Like a Samurai - Musha Burui

by Thersa Matsuura

One of my favorite things about learning Japanese and living here for over half my life is discovering all the words and phrases that have no exact equivalent in English. It’s an incredible feeling when you learn to describe an emotion, situation, or predicament that you never even realized you hadn’t previously been able to articulate. It wasn’t too long ago that the Japanese words kintsugi (repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with gold) and tsundoku (the act of piling up reading material, but not quite getting around to reading it) made the rounds. It dawned on me that maybe other people like discovering these little treasures, as well. Today I give you one of my favorite Japanese phrases: mushaburui. This one’s an oldie but a goodie. Let me explain: Musha in Japanese means warrior or samurai. While the character for burui is a different pronunciation of furu, to shiver, quiver, or shake. Thus, I give you the “shivering samurai”. But what it means is even better than that. When I was first taught this phrase, I was told to imagine the evening before a large battle. A samurai warrior is quietly making his preparations. He’s nervous, frightened, excited. Yet, despite this mix of emotions, there is a calmness and resignation at facing what might be a great victory or his inevitable death. He doesn’t know why, but as he reaches for his sword he’s trembling. It is an older Japanese term used to describe a feeling I think we’ve all had at sometime in our lives. Maybe we weren’t standing at the jaws of war. Maybe we were simply just about to do something out of our comfort zone, something we were terrified to do, but knew we had to do it. Going for an interview at our dream job. Telling our best friend that we’ve been in love with them all this time. Maybe we were submitting an article to BoingBoing. These situations, too, are mushaburui.
27 Aug 14:53

Russian arms maker Kalashnikov unveils retro electric car

by Rob Beschizza

So much for Tesla. AK-47 not included!
The look was inspired by a Soviet hatchback model developed in the 1970s called “Izh-Kombi”, according to a statement on the Kalashnikov website. Its holding company, Kalashnikov Concern, said it had developed cutting-edge elements for the “electric supercar”, including a “revolutionary” inverter. The vehicle can travel 217 miles (350km) on one charge.
Photo: Kalashnikov Media
27 Aug 14:43

Online Russian trolls hyped vaccination scares

by Jason Weisberger

Putin's army pushed our buttons over the anti-vax agenda during the 2016 US election, and likely beyond. The Russians do this to help spread distrust in the government, distrust in vaccines and to sow general discord.

Vaccines are good. Do not be fooled.

Via the BBC:

Troll accounts that had attempted to influence the US election had also been tweeting about vaccines, a study says.

Many posted both pro- and anti-vaccination messages to create "false equivalency", the study found.

It examined thousands of tweets sent between 2014 and 2017.

Vaccination was being used by trolls and sophisticated bots as a "wedge issue", said Mark Dredze from Johns Hopkins University.

"By playing both sides, they erode public trust in vaccination, exposing us all to the risk of infectious diseases," he said.

27 Aug 14:38

Don't Press My Whorl: a hairy superstition in Japan

by Thersa Matsuura

Here’s a word I learned in English today: hair whorl. Wikipedia defines it as “…a patch of hair growing in a circular direction around a visible center point. Hair whorls occur in most hairy animals, on the body as well as on the head.” It’s curious that I’ve known the word in Japanese for a very long time now, but I had to look it up in English. The reason I know it in Japanese is because people actually say the word. Friends actually talk about their children’s hair whorls in casual conversation. Also, it’s used in a common idiom and in an curious superstition. Let’s start off with how to say hair whorl in Japanese. It’s a cute word: tsumuji. I think it has a nicer ring than hair whorl. Next, the idiom you sometimes hear people use is tsumuji wo mageru, or you could call someone tsumuji magari. Literally, bending or twisting one’s hair whorl. If someone does this, it means they’re being contrary, unreasonable, or unaccommodating. “My little brother is a tsumuji magari. He disagrees with everything I say.” Something like that. The superstition, on the other hand, is one you'll hear Japanese children giggling about. That is, you should never press on your friend’s hair whorl. Why? Well, the jury is out on which of the following will happen, but neither sound good. It’s said if you push on a person’s hair whorl, they’ll either go bald or come down with a bad case of diarrhea. Again, this is a childhood superstition, still, you might not want to go pressing on your hair whorl to test it out. Just in case. On a side note: the Japanese language seems to have quite a few ways to say someone is being contrary or difficult or just a pain in the ass. I talk about a mythical heavenly demon (amanojaku) and how this creature’s name is also a label for contrariness here. Photo: Thersa Matsuura
27 Aug 14:33

Modernist homes get a Thomas Kinkade-style makeover

by Rusty Blazenhoff

This is one of those genius "I can't believe this hasn't been done already" kind of things. An architect from Indiana has photoshopped recognizable modernist homes into the overly sentimental, idyllic world of a Thomas Kinkade painting, making for a funny mashup series. It all started with this tweet from another architect, Donna Sink, where she instigates, "Does anyone do paintings of Modern buildings in the style of Thomas Kincade?" Indianapolis-based @robyniko answered her call, writing, "I'm in. Let's start off easy with one of Kahn's beautiful boxes (eg the Fisher house)..."

Here's that one (the wishing well is a nice touch!):

Then someone requested he do architect Philip Johnson's historic Glass House next. He calls his creation "Philip Johnson's Glass Cottage," (emphasis mine) a nod to Kinkade's use of cottages in his paintings: On this one, he writes, "Ok i really have to stop now. Merry Corbsmas:" But he didn't stop. He then tackled the Farnsworth House (which I included as the lead image above). A couple days later he was still at it. On this one, he writes, "Pack your bags for a rocky seaside getaway at the Gehryhaus! You'll love the *squints at copy* homey chain link fence & softly weathered *checks notes* corrugated steel siding while you eat a homemade breakfast in the soft glow of the *deep sigh* aggressively geometric sun room."

You can follow how it all went down in this thread:


images via @robyniko, used with permission

23 Aug 11:48

Netflix dropped the ball by streaming new fat-shaming series

by (Paige Wisniewski, COLUMNIST )

Netflix should have cancelled the fat-shaming series before it ever aired. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE


When a TV show’s trailer generates as much public scrutiny as Netflix’s Insatiable, it would most likely be in the streaming platform’s best interest to cancel it before its premiere. However, Netflix still decided to stream a show that promotes fat shaming and a negative stigma toward overweight bodies.

The show’s premise involves an overweight high-school student, Patty Bladell (often referred to as “Fatty Patty”), who loses 70 pounds in three months after being assaulted, causing her mouth to be wired shut. Patty then becomes thin and starts seeking revenge on all her peers who previously bullied and mocked her.

It is unsurprising that a show where a character’s self worth being related to her dress size would not be well received by a larger audience. Before Insatiable’s release date on Aug. 10, a petition already acquired over 200,000 signatures calling for the show’s cancellation.

Patty is played by actress and former Disney-Channel star Debby Ryan, who appears in a fat suit in the beginning of the first episode.

Dressing a thin actor in a fat suit has been a “comedic” device used in many popular shows to make a large body a punchline. Such instances include, Terry Jeffords in Brooklyn Nine Nine or Monica Geller in Friends, so the Patty character is no exception to this trope.

The use of this method — especially in the context of Insatiable — contributes to a narrative that one’s value is determined by their weight. It promotes the idea that when a body is fat, it can be the subject of ridicule and discrimination, but when the same body becomes a size deemed culturally acceptable, only then is personal and social success possible.

The show’s creator, Lauren Gussis, and one of the show’s stars, Alyssa Milano, took to Twitter to defend the show after the initial backlash received from the trailer release on July 19.

Gussis wrote, “This show is a cautionary tale about how damaging it can be to believe the outsides are more important — to judge without going deeper.”

Milano wrote in a Tweet, “We are addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from fat shaming.”

Even if their claims that Insatiable is a purely satirical comedy are sincere, it seems that satirizing a fat person’s experiences as based on relentless abuse until they lose weight is tasteless and lazy writing.

Patty’s fatness was reduced to a “sickness” and blamed on an out-of-control appetite.

Real people have diverse bodies.

Assuming a large body is an unhealthy body only perpetuates fat stigma.

Insatiable is not a ground-breaking comedy that gives light to body image issues, regardless of its creator’s intentions. Netflix should not be promoting a sitcom that alienates a significant part of its intended audience. A better narrative would showcase a fat character, played by a fat actor, who remains the same size throughout the show, and knows their worth and successes have nothing to do with a number on a scale.

Paige Wisniewski is a senior majoring in interdisciplinary social science. 
21 Aug 13:25

Despite preeminence boost, USF loses funding from state

by (Josh Fiallo, Managing Editor)

Even with an increase in performance by USF, the school received $7.7 million less from Florida’s Board of Governors in performance-based funding for the 2018-19 academic school year. ORACLE PHOTO/CHAVELI GUZMAN

It became official on June 27: Following year-after-year improvements in performance for the past five years, USF joined the ranks of Florida State University (FSU) and the University of Florida (UF) as the state’s third preeminent university.

Along with the elite status came prestige, as well as an additional $6.15 million bonus in funding from the state to USF. Despite the cash bonus and an increase in performance from the year prior, however, the university still received over $1.5 million less in funding from the state after the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) chopped USF’s performance-based funding by $7.5 million for the 2018-19 academic year.

Without the extra funding, USF Provost Ralph Wilcox says the university may have to scale back on certain one-time purchases for the school at times, such as purchasing new “holdings” for the library, which would include new books, computers, printers, etc.

The loss in funding comes at the same time UF gained $2.5 million more in performance-based funding over the year prior, despite performing two points lower — from a 95 to 93 — on the metrics used by the BOG to judge schools’ performance.

In that same time frame, USF improved its score — which is judged out of 100 — from an 84 to 86.

The reason behind the funding discrepancy can be tricky. The simplest reasoning behind it, according to Wilcox, is that UF, despite its performance decrease, has the largest base budget to begin with. He also says it’s because UF is still the state's top performing university and consistently receives the most funding as a result — receiving $57.6 million to USF’s $37.6 million for the 2018-19 academic year.

But still, why would USF lose funding for increasing its performance, which is judged off of 10 student-success metrics, while its fellow state university earned more for a lesser performance?

According to Wilcox, it’s because USF, which regularly finishes alone in at least third place of the state's top-three universities in performance, failed to do so in the last academic year.

Since the bottom three public universities in Florida receive no performance-based funding from the state, Wilcox says the money that would otherwise go to those schools who finished in the bottom three on the point scale — Florida Gulf Coast, North Florida and FAMU in 2018 — goes to the top-three performers instead.

Coming in a three-way tie with FSU and UWF for third place in performance for the 2017-18 academic year, USF lost its bonus funding after a tiebreaker between the three institutions granted FSU the undisclosed multi-million dollar amount of funding, while USF received no extra money.

“We were disappointed that we didn’t win out, if you will, on some of that distribution,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox says that the method of using the tiebreaker to award one school all of the funds was laid out well before the tie came to be, so the school did not object the method.

Instead, what was more disappointing to Wilcox and the university was that USF was shut out from additional funding despite being designated as an institution that has surpassed the “excellence school benchmark,” while FSU did not, which gave it an advantage USF did not possess.

USF, due to its status as an “excellence school,” cannot reap the benefits of receiving extra points for improvement, but only on how high it performs. Meanwhile, FSU can receive extra points for improving in certain metrics and did so, earning improvement points for increasing its net tuition and fees per 120 credit hours for students.

The BOG judges schools not just on how well they perform, but also on how much certain schools have improved in key areas — such as six-year graduation rate and median wages of bachelors a year after graduation — from one year to the next.

The boost was enough to bring FSU — which finished in fourth the year prior — to being tied with USF and UWF. After the tiebreaker, which judged performance and improvement together, FSU received the bonus, bringing its total performance-based funding, not including its preeminence funding from the state, to $51.6 million.

USF finished second in the tiebreaker.

If schools were judged solely on high performance, Wilcox says, USF would have finished in the top three on its own, eliminating the need for a tiebreaker.

“The disappointment for me was that here you have a university that scored well on the excellence scale (USF) and another university (FSU) who scored well on excellence, but also with a pretty significant point total on at least one of the metrics in improvement,” Wilcox said. “And the excellence school, the school who scored exclusively on the excellent scale (USF), lost out on the tiebreaker. That’s what’s disappointing.”

Despite the disappointment of losing out, Wilcox stressed that USF is not making excuses for itself. Instead, he says, it is ensuring that in the future there’s no need for a tiebreaker to determine whether the school earns a bonus from the state.

The goal for USF this academic year: Earn 89 or 90 points on the metric scale, Wilcox said.

“I think it motivated everyone even more,” Wilcox said. “To ensure we don’t get caught in a tiebreaker in the future. Certainly, we’re not going to be satisfied with anything less than ending up in the top three.”

Still, Wilcox stressed how unpredictable the final standings can be due to how the BOG judge schools based not only on performance, but also off of improvement.

“We’ve seen here and we’ve seen in the past, rather unexpectedly, universities can pop out of nowhere and score well on improvement even though they don’t come anywhere close to the University of South Florida’s performance and be the beneficiary of significant state investments at the expense of USF,” Wilcox said.

“The challenge for us is to keep driving forward and to continue to press upward. Quite clearly, it’s motivated us to roll our sleeves up, to work harder and focus even more on how to improve our performance on these metrics.”


17 Aug 12:38

The 1950s Guide to Proper Telephone Etiquette

by Matt Novak

Phone calls here in 2018 seem to be more and more rare, especially with younger people. But most Americans still know basic phone etiquette, like saying “hello” when you answer the phone, and not hanging up without some kind of goodbye. But in case you’ve forgotten, here’s a helpful guide from 1950 that was produced…


15 Aug 19:44

Wearing an ill-fitting bra isn't just uncomfortable, it's bad for your health

by Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, Professor of Biomechanics, University of Portsmouth

Wearing the wrong size bra is not only uncomfortable, it can cause a range of health problems. Research has shown that a lack of breast support often leads to breast pain, which is reported by 50% of women. An ill-fitting bra that doesn’t give the right support can also lead to breast skin damage – usually seen as stretch marks, caused by stretching the skin beyond its recovery point.

Ill-fitting bras have also been associated with neck, back and shoulder pain, bad posture, and rubbing and chafing leading to skin abrasions.

We also see ill-fitting bras causing permanent changes to the body, such as deep grooves in the shoulders caused by pressure from the bra shoulder straps. Ill-fitting bras have even been associated with a desire for breast reduction surgery. And with 80% of women wearing a poorly fitting bra, this is potentially a significant problem. In a study that assessed the bra fit of women wanting breast reduction surgery, all were wearing an ill-fitting bra.

The lack of breast support and the difficulty in finding a well-fitting bra has also been linked to a reluctance to exercise, with obvious long-term consequences.

Despite this fairly long list of health implications, millions of women continue to wear ill-fitting bras.

Forget about cup size

In 1935, Warner Brothers incorporated breast volume into bra sizing and the alphabet bra cup size system we use today was launched.

This original bra sizing system went up to a D cup. But since introducing this system, body sizes have changed a lot. Many women now buy a D cup bra or larger. Some bra companies use this same sizing system to make bras up to an N cup.

Bra size is difficult to measure. The accuracy of bra measurement is affected by breathing, posture and how thin you are. Researchers suggest that bra-size measurement should take place over a well-fitted, unpadded and thin bra. But most women are likely to be fitted in a shop while wearing their own bra, regardless of whether or not it fits well.

Bras produced by different manufacturers have inconsistent sizing, as there is no universal size chart or grading method. Unfortunately, bra fitters have varied experience, and there is no agreed level of competency or bra fit qualification.

The bra marketplace can be overwhelming and confusing. But, unlike shoes, breasts change size, shape and position throughout the menstrual cycle and throughout life. So women’s bra size can change regularly. Despite this, there is limited guidance for women to assess their own bra fit.

Our research team works with most of the lingerie companies around the world to offer a scientific, evidence-based approach to bra development. We use 3D scanners and biomechanical technology to understand bra fit.

Five simple steps to good bra fit.

Our approach to bra fitting is not to rely on the tape measure to establish bra size, but to educate women and give them the power to assess their own bra fit. We have used our 13 years of experience in breast and bra science to develop an evidence-based bra fit video to help women forget about bra size and focus on the five simple steps to a good fit.

This simple checklist could help millions of women avoid bra-related health problems, and it’s as simple as forgetting your ABC.

The Conversation

Joanna Wakefield-Scur receives funding from bra companies around the world.

15 Aug 19:29

Disney (yes, Disney) declares war on "overzealous copyright holders"

by Cory Doctorow

Disney is being sued by the Michael Jackson estate for using fair-use clips in a biopic called "The Last Days of Michael Jackson" -- in its brief, the company decries "overzealous copyright holders" whose unwillingness to consider fair use harms "the right of free speech under the First Amendment." (more…)

14 Aug 19:38

11-year-old hacks replica of Florida's state election website in less than ten minutes

by Gina Loukareas

Can we please have paper ballots nationwide? Last week at DEFCON 26 in Las Vegas, eleven-year-old Emmett Brewer hacked into a replica of Florida's state election site and changed the voting results. That's scary enough. What's even scarier is that it took him less than ten minutes. An eleven-year-old girl was able to hack into the same site in about fifteen minutes. And more than THIRTY kids were able to hack into replicas of other states' sites in less than half an hour. That is straight up alarming and you'd think the folks in charge of our state and federal elections would be concerned about this and want to take immediate action. That would be the normal reaction. But we're a long way from normal.
In a statement regarding the event, the National Association of Secretaries of State said it is “ready to work with civic-minded members of the DEFCON community wanting to become part of a proactive team effort to secure our elections.” But the organization expressed skepticism over the hackers’ abilities to access the actual state websites. “It would be extremely difficult to replicate these systems since many states utilize unique networks and custom-built databases with new and updated security protocols,” it read. “While it is undeniable websites are vulnerable to hackers, election night reporting websites are only used to publish preliminary, unofficial results for the public and the media. The sites are not connected to vote counting equipment and could never change actual election results.”’
I'm sure we'll be fine, though. Congress is hard at work to protect the sanctity of our elections to ensure we don't have a repeat of 2016. Oh, wait. No, they're not. An 11-year-old changed election results on a replica Florida state website in under 10 minutes [Michael D. Regan/PBS][Image: Pixabay]