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Excuse Me. May I Have Your Seat? : Milgram Strikes Again
A small group of reporters form the New York Times recently replicated Stanley Milgram’s subway seat experiment. Experimenters entered the New York City subway and very simply asked fellow riders to give up their seat. Well, maybe not so simply, as it was back in Milgram’s day a majority of subway riders did vacate their seats for seemly no reason when asked to do so, but as with the original experiment one of the most interesting aspects of the study was the anxiety experimenters experienced as a result of making the request. My research assistants and I experienced similar anxiety in 2001 when we replicated the lost letter study, “loosing” a letter in a store was surprisingly difficult, we all felt like “reverse shoplifters.” Article
Sat Oct 16, 2004 @ 5:12:07 pm


cell phones and the end of telephone surveys?
Pollsters have long accepted a margin of error in polling as a result of that segment of the population that could not afford or rejected home phones. However, for what I assume is the first time in recent decades, there in an increasing trend of rejecting home phone ownership, particularly amongst younger adults. Wired News and the San Francisco Chronicle have recently published articles on this subject. These articles estimate that 3-5% of Americans (growing to 15% by 2009) use a mobile phone as their only phone. Survey companies are prohibited from using automated dialing equipment to call wireless numbers. The articles suggest that telephone polling may be nearing an end, but I would ask, how reliable has telephone polling been in recent years as response rates decline and pollsters survey only those who are home, board and not watching television?
Fri Oct 15, 2004 @ 4:53:49 pm


saved, and enslaved, by the cell
The New York Times reports on the role of mobile phones in the maintenance of social relationships and decision making. This article brings together the authors of a number of recent publications related to the social implications of cell phone use. I was particularly interested in the discussion of collaborative decision making and the idea that people are less capable of making independent decision when they have immediate access to close friends and family through their cell phones. The comments at the end of the article by Kenneth J. Gergen, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, that “The best decisions are made in a whole set of dialogues†caught my attention. My argument has always been that mobile phones reinforce our existing strong ties (see the work by Rich Ling) - not our more diverse weak social ties - and as a result they reinforce homogeneity of beliefs. Mobile phones probably do not aid in decision making by providing diverse, new views and opinions, but by reinforcing existing norms and expectations that are common to our personal network.
Thu Oct 14, 2004 @ 6:12:05 am


study links suburban sprawl and chronic health problems
A study in the October edition of Public Health by the RAND Corporation suggests a direct link between suburbs and health. On the surface an obvious connection, as a result of transportation costs - less time to walk and further to walk - people who live in suburbs have more chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, arthritis, headaches, etc (but not mental health problems). However, the press release argues that people who live in cities like Atlanta, with more sprawl, have a health profile similar to those who are four years older and live in cities with less sprawl, like Seattle. After controlling for the obvious things, they argue that poor health is a function of the built environment. They argue that to improve health cities should be more walkable, dense and mixed use (flash back to Jane Jacobs). While I agree that this is an ideal living environment - for me - the study seems to ignore the importance of self-selection. People move to the suburbs for a variety of reasons, common factors include children and the location of work. Could it be that a certain type of people live in suburbs and that these folks are susceptible to chronic health issues for other related reasons? This is all very retro in relation to concerns sociologist had with the built environment and mental health back in the early 20th century, thank goodness for the work of William Michelson and others that addressed concerns of environmental determinism long ago. Press Release
Wed Oct 13, 2004 @ 4:05:02 pm


Unique use of RFID in Catalan
Right out of the science fiction pages, a club in Barcelona has adopted the surgical implantation of RFID tags as a method of tracking VIP club members. VIP members have a capsule (1.3mm by 1mm) surgically embedded under their skin. The tag is scanned at the door for admission, and used as a debit card when paying for drinks. BBC - Barcelona clubbers get chipped
Wed Oct 6, 2004 @ 9:17:51 am

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