Sears Reshaped America, From Kenmore to Allstate

We just bought a new refrigerator from our local Sears. As a kid, I remember circling toys I wanted in the Christmas catalog. Pages of Legos, Matchbox cars, sleeping bags, remote-controlled cars. There might have been no Sears at all if Richard Sears, a 19th-century railway agent, hadn’t received an unwanted shipment of watches. He sold the watches to station agents up and down the rail line and then teamed…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi abuse blamed on Russian trolls and ‘political agendas’

More than half of the hostile responses to The Last Jedi, episode eight of the Star Wars saga, were politically motivated trolling or the result of non-human bot activity, according to an academic paper published by a US digital media expert. Morten Bay, a research fellow at the University of Southern California (USC), analysed Twitter activity about the film and concluded that more than 50% of posts are by “bots, trolls/sockpuppets or political…

The girl performed musical commercials for a fund-raiser in the Laurel Highlands (and she and I enjoyed an off-the-grid weekend).

The girl performed musical commercials for a fund-raiser in the Laurel Highlands. On the way back we stopped at a Denny’s, and after I paid the bill the waitress said she was impressed to see a teenaged girl enjoying an outing with her father without having a phone glued to her hand. (Carolyn had just been saying she liked the fact that during downtime she and her castmates had to…

Photograph by Ellen Cantor from her Prior Pleasures series © The artist. Courtesy dnj Gallery, Santa Monica, California (Harper's)

The Printed Word in Peril: The age of Homo virtualis is upon us

Who, I thought, besides a multidisciplinary team in search of research funding, could possibly imagine that a digital account of the impact of reading digital print on human cognition would be effective? For such an account rests on the supremacy of the very thing it seeks to counteract, which can be summarized as a view of the human mind/brain that is itself computational in form.

Jean M. Twenge: "Nearly all phone activities are linked to less happiness, and nearly all non-phone activities are linked to more happiness."

What Do Happy Teens Do? Hint: It doesn’t involve their phones.

I was surprised to see how closely happiness maps to non-phone activities, and unhappiness maps to phone-related activities. The author notes that this is a study of correlation, not causation. When I went through moody phases as a teen, I wrote, or worked, or did theater, or church youth group activities.  When I was busy, I had less time to write. When I didn’t feel like going out, and chose…

Digital literacy is different from print literacy. How do we balance the trade-off?

My job includes teaching students to read long, complex texts (novels, play scripts, and academic texts.) My job also includes asking students to write researched essays that are longer documents than many of them at first seem comfortable reading. Years after they graduate, students often thank me for what I’ve taught them, and say the effort was all worth it. Buoyed by that feedback, it would be an easy thing for…