New Reason to Take Oprah’s No Phone Zone Pledge

By now, most of us have seen the data that shows using a cell phone while driving is about as dangerous as driving drunk. We’re slower to hit the brakes and more likely to crash—whether we’re holding the phone or talking hands-free. It’s mainly the conversation that impairs our attention and distracts us from the road.
But what about the conversation itself? Does it suffer when our attention is divided and our reactions delayed? Paul Rosenblatt, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota, and grad student Xiaohui Li think so. They say we take relationship risks when we talk to someone on the phone while driving. As they write in a new paper:

A driver talking on a cell phone might not hear some things, might misspeak, might misunderstand, and might cut the conversation short of what it should be for optimal communication and comfortable relationship. In general, cell phone usage while driving might lead to missed relationship stop lights, slow reactions to dangerous relationship circumstances, loss of control of one’s part of the interaction, and interaction mistakes that could lead to conflict, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and possibly even serious damage to the relationship.

Does Google Alter How We Think About Nanotech?

By now, almost everyone has noticed that when you start typing words into the Google search box, it offers a drop-down list of suggestions based on previous queries. Dietram Scheufele and a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison decided to look at Google’s data for nanotechnology-related searches, as well as its search suggestions, from October 2008 to September 2009, and they found something interesting.
As they write in their paper:

When searching Google for information about nanotechnology, citizens are likely to encounter health-related content, either through suggested search terms or through the search results provided by Google. This pattern was pervasive across different areas of application, i.e., even for searches not directly related to health. Several non-health searches had more health-related keywords per link than any other domain when averaged over the time period of our study. …
It is reasonable to assume that search results that frame nanotechnology in a medical context will also be influencing people’s future searches, further reinforcing Google suggestions and website rankings that are at least partially based on previous searches and indexed web pages. This may create a self-reinforcing spiral that cements a link between health and nanotechnology in online news environments, and reduces the complexity and detail of the information that citizens are likely to encounter online.

Over the course of the year, the search terms shifted, with economic-related phrases (with words like “stocks” and “jobs”) moving down and health-related searches (with words like “medicine” and “cancer”) rising toward the top.

It’s hard to know what’s going on behind a search engine, but by August, the researchers say, “nanotechnology in medicine” was the top suggestion when they typed “nanotechnology” into the search box, even though it ranked sixth on the list of most popular nanotechnology search terms. As Dominique Brossard, a life science communication professor who worked on the study, points out in a write-up of the research:

Sergey Brin and Larry Page created Google to sort search results, in part, based on how popular particular sites were. For science information, that means that surfers may be offered the most popular results rather than the ones that best represent the current state of the science.

Should the Nobel Peace Prize Go to the Internet?

Riccardo Luna, the editor in chief of the Italian edition of Wired, thinks so, saying:

The Internet can be considered the first weapon of mass construction, which we can deploy to destroy hate and conflict and to propagate peace and democracy. What happened in Iran after the latest election, and the role the Web played in spreading information that would otherwise have been censored, are only the newest examples of how the Internet can become a weapon of global hope.

If you agree, you can sign an online petition nominating the Internet for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

What Can We Expect Church 2.0 to Look Like?

According to Paul Lamb in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin:

Trend watchers suggest the latest fad is the emergence of “micro-churches.” With over 10,000 identified religions worldwide, and two or three new ones being introduced every day, the religious future is looking more and more like a community fruit basket and less like an orchard growing red-only apples. Technology will play a key role in the localization and miniaturization of religion, because it puts organizing and communications tools directly into the hands of people themselves. Why go to the church on the corner, which may not speak to you directly, when you can organize your own church of like-minded individuals in your neighborhood? These micro-communities will likely gain guidance from online mini-gatherings from around the globe.
This is not to say that the mainstream churches will disappear any time soon, but if they view social media and technology change as purely a communications challenge, they risk being left standing on the docks watching the future sail away.

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