Wednesday News: On words and pictures
Tom Wolfe challenges society’s understanding of evolution in latest book – So Tom Wolfe is now arguing that Darwin’s theory of evolution is a “myth.” It’s actually unclear from this brief interview with Wolfe what he really means by that, because I’m not sure that evolution as Darwin conceptualized it and the power of speech, as Wolfe characterizes it, are mutually exclusive. Also, on first glance it seems like Wolfe is rehearsing a somewhat extreme version of, say, a Lacanian philosophy of language. Ah, this article from the New York Times provides some clarification about Wolfe’s take on evolution, but I’m still not sure it’s enough to evaluate his argument. Has anyone read this one yet?
In his latest book, Wolfe argues speech, not evolution, is responsible for humanity’s highest achievements. He skewers the man who introduced evolution to the masses: Charles Darwin along with famed linguist Noam Chomsky.
“I came to the conclusion that Darwinism, the theory of evolution, is another myth. … And it’s no use saying that human beings evolved from animals, because they’re creatures with totally different powers. If you have the power of speech, that’s also the power of memory,” Wolfe said. – CBS News
Picture this: Exploring the Internet of Visuals – On the heels of the Wolfe articles I ran across this post on the rise of visual communication on the Internet. The argument takes off from Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends Report, and sites like Pinterest and Snapchat are presented as examples of the visual advantage. We’re already seeing new models of storytelling, so it will be interesting to see how, if at all, this shit affects digital books and reading.
In short, the Internet is becoming a far more visual medium, as consumers and businesses increasingly opt for pictures and videos over text-based communications as a means of storytelling. It’s the younger generation (between the ages of 18 to 34) that shows the most marked preference for pictures over words.
The rise of images has a lot to do with users’ increasing use of smartphones for storytelling, sharing, messaging and creative expression, Meeker said. Worldwide smartphone users grew 21% to over 2.5 billion in 2015, with Android shipments continuing to gain share over iOS: 81% to 16%, respectively. The global mobile user now has, on average, around 33 apps installed on their device, 12 of which are used daily and spends around 4 hours per day on their smartphone. – Gigaom
Dogs May Understand More Than We Thought – Anyone who has a dog will likely not be surprised by new research demonstrating that dogs “process the meaning and tone of words, and they do it in a very similar way to humans.” Researchers at Budapest’s Eötvös Loránd University studied 13 dogs of different breeds, running MRI scans on their brains while they listened to their trainer’s voice. So does this finally prove that dogs are smarter than cats?
The researchers say the scan results indicated that dogs, like humans, use different regions of the brain to process different parts of speech. They use the left hemisphere to parse the meanings of words and the right hemisphere to analyze intonation. And the dogs in the experiment were also apparently able to put these two types of information together—when positive words were matched with positive tones, the dopamine reward centers of the dogs’ brains were activated. When positive words were combined with neutral tones, however, the reward circuits were slightly less active. And when neutral conjunctive words were spoken in a positive tone—essentially forming a gibberish sentence—the dogs’ reward circuits did not respond at all. “Dogs are very smart,” Andics says. “Praising them with the correct intonation can work just as well as other rewards like food, or a pat on the back.” – Scientific American