Konflikte und Authentizität?

“Die Lehrer-SchülerInnen-Beziehung…kann ich überhaupt mich selbst sein?” Konflikt hat verschiedene, vorangehende Variablen. Eine Sachanalyse über Konflikte zeigt, dass viele Faktoren, z.B. soziodemografische, emotionale, glaubensorientierte, rein-soziale, erzieherische, ressourcentechnische, etc. Auslöser sein können. Sie zeigen sich dann in den Konfliktsituationen selbst, zum Beispiel in sozialen Dilemmas, Verhandlungen, Kriege, etc., und sind so …

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I am so Glad to Have People in My Life Who Care

I was attending a cultural event at our university yesterday where Samir, a cinematic director with an Iraqi father and a Swiss mother, was presenting his latest work Iraqi Odyssey. The documentary is a tough pill to swallow, if you have a heart that is. It tells the tale of his family, how they …

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Bénévolement à Zurich

Il y a beaucoup de demandeurs d’asile en Europe ces jours-ci, à cause de la conflictualité et la situation politique, au Proche-Orient. Quelques gens pensent, que les réfugiés doivent apprendre à s’adapter s’ils veulent rester dans leurs nouveaux pays. En même temps, il y a des autres comme moi, qui croient que …

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Zu viel Empathie hilft niemanden? Von wegen.

I’ve just come across an article about how compassion in the working world may not be as useful as one would think. The notion at dispute here is “empathy”, as attacked by Prof. Dr. Myriam Bechtoldt, an organisational psychologist from  Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. She titles her German post on Xing, the …

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Schweizer Bildungstheorie – 1

Die Bildungstheorie Wilhem von Humboldts Aus: Hans-Christoph Koller (2015). Grundbegriffe, Theories und Methoden der Erziehungswissenschaft. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer. Seiten 73-87 Hauptaussagen Text  Koller (2015) erläutert die Bildungstheorie wie sie von Humboldt hervorgegangen ist. Hierbei geht er auf verschieden Werke von Humboldt ein und benutzt sie komplimentierend zueinander für die Darstellung des …

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Energy Conscious Behaviour

 

This short analysis on what would drive sustainable behaviour includes a short revision of antecedents to energy-efficient/pro-environmental behavioural intentions and these intentions in an interplay with possible behavioural implications.

Sustainable Behaviour Economics

Despite there having been amendments of the framework, the classical Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) and Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) as developed by Azjen and Fishbein (1975; 1980) explain how we form behavioural intentions from (1) attitudes, (2) subjective norms, and (3) perceived behavioural control (originating from self-efficacy theory).  Although TPB was developed based on TRA, for the purpose of his paper, we are going stick with the TPB. Using the model of TPB has accounted for around 1/3 of variance in actual behaviour (Armitage & Conner, 2001). By 2006, Conner has added two more variables in predicting behavioural intentions that I believe are relevant for this short investigation: (4) Anticipated Regret and (5) Moral Climate. Adding Anticipated Regret has been supported by Sandberg and Conner (2008). Other studies have shown that Moral Intensity has a moderating effect on environmental decision making intentions of managers (Flannery & May, 1999). A more recent study has seen Moral Norms as explaining 39% and 41% in recycling intentions and actual recycling behaviour (Chan & Bishop, 2013).

Although global warming, to some extent, does or will harm our health, the support of predictive power of the TPB model towards health-related behavioural intentions (Armitage & Conner, 2001) is not enough. A study on charitable behavioural intentions, shows the use of the TPB with moral norms, attitudes, perceived behavioral control and past behaviour significantly explaining around 70% of variance in charitable intent (van der Linden, 2011); the reason I bring charitable intent forward is that despite the idea that global warming represents a threat, it is a probable future threat, because individuals tend to discount future (Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team, 2011), which may probably not affect most humans – currently living – in any direct way. Hence, one may (as well) regard it more as a charitable behaviour, given the adequate queues, for individuals to reciprocate onto sustainable behaviour.

We shall just recognise some of the above (underlined) antecedents.

So what hinders us from saving our planet and our future selves?

Gifford (2011) claims that structural barriers like climate-averse infrastructure are to be removed wherever possible, but he himself believes this to be not sufficient either. He expands and says that psychological barriers also “impede behavioural choices that would facilitate mitigation, adaptation, and environmental sustainability”. Furthermore, he identifies the following 7 psychological barriers:

  1. limited cognition about the problem,
  2. ideological worldviews that tend to preclude pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour,
  3. comparisons with key other people,
  4. lower costs and behavioral momentum,
  5. discredence toward experts and authorities,
  6. perceived risks of change, and
  7. positive but inadequate behavior change.

A report by the British government has seen the following three barriers to energy efficient or pro-environmental behaviour:

  1. discounting the future,
  2. social norms, and
  3. defaults.

The barrier between environmental concern and pro-environemnetal behaviour was also well summarised by Blake’s Value Action Gap  from 1999 [reproduced from Kolmuss and Agyeman (2002)]:

 

Sure, benefits of pro-environmental behaviour are accrued over a long period of time and the costs associated with such behaviour performed now, are considered large. Because people who prefer smaller rewards today rather than larger rewards in the future, are they not being selfish? The idea is that a small reward now will benefit oneself in form of immediate cost-savings or personal ‘feel-goods’ and whatever little effect it has towards the outside world in the long-term, than larger pro-environmental commitments ensuring a smoother future for our children and children’s children extending itself to outer personal spheres. Well the preference of committing to a large-scale effort now, so that one’s children have it easier, may also be considered a personal preference, and hence also, selfish; but I reckon, considerably less than the former. Its says on the webpage of the EU commission for environment: “Sustainable Development stands for meeting the needs of present generations without jeopardizing the ability of futures generations to meet their own needs…” (EC, 2015). Here you have it. But some of us being very rational individuals, especially when it comes to being more energy efficient, one tends to objectively weigh costs and benefits – in the short-term – of investing precious resources like time and money into something to make our homes and lives more ‘green’ (Jackson, 2007). On the one hand there is a need of behavioural change without a 3rd-party reward system, like a voluntary behaviour change method that is “a change that occurs when individuals make choices for personal reward without a top-down mechanism, regulation of any sort, or a feeling of external compulsion” (Ampt, 2003), on the other hand, for those receptive to authoritarian methods, 3rd-party/government-led, top-down regulated measures are needed. For either methods, social marketing can be powerful.

To view some powerful guerrilla, spoof, digital or print social marketing ads, visit my Pinterest Board for Social Marketing. Models and theories and their uses in regard to behavioural change can be found here.

Either way, the barriers seem to match with the antecedents to behavioural intentions. We have attitudes that reflect concern but not enough for behaviour; we have subjective norms (that are based on our beliefs) influenced by social norms that promote other ideological views; we have the lack of perceived behavioural control and self-efficacy about pro-evironmental behaviour, firstly because we perceive our actions are futile, and secondly because we don’t believe to have the ability or other resources to achieve difference; we have anticipated regret of too much resources used without visible benefits; we do have past behaviours that wouldn’t reflect a very energy efficient use questioning the impact of a change in behaviour now; we do however have a moral climate that would suggest pro-environmental behaviour. At the end of the day, it seems to come down to, how your were raised, with whom you spend your social time, and mainly, how much resources you have available. Assuming some of these conditions are a given, let’s look at some sustainable energy systems.

Sustainable Energy Systems

Sustainable energy sources are now a constant buzz in the global community. But what  are they exactly?

All of this started to flourish when we ‘put a hole’ in the ozone layer, and greenhouse gases started to affect our climate. Read more about this in my previous blog post about global warming. Soon the idea of not pushing the (natural and already elevated) greenhouse effect even more through human activity (such as burning fossil fuels or deforestation) became more integral to our survival on this planet. This is when we came up with alternative, sustainable and/or renewable energy sources and systems. Following are the most prevalent:

  1. Anaerobic digestion: chemical dissolution of biodegradable material by bacteria
  2. Biofuels: is fuel that is derived from biological or organic materials
  3. Biomass: biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms
  4. Geothermal power: steam from reservoirs below the Earth’s surface
  5. Hydroelectricity: hydropower/gravitational force of falling or flowing water
  6. Solar energy: radiant light and heat from the sun
  7. Tidal power: hydropower that converts the energy of tides
  8. Wave power: transport of energy by ocean surface waves
  9. Wind power: extracted from air flow using wind turbines

Heat energy from modern renewable energy sources (like heat pumps, solar water heating, etc.) accounted for an approximate 4.2% of total final energy use; hydropower made up about 3.8%, and an estimated 2% was provided by power from wind, other solar sources, geothermal, and biomass, as well as by biofuels (REN21, 2014). Most of these energy systems are being technologically enhance day-by-day as we move forward towards an all renewable energy future. But we have a long way to go. The majority of our energy worldwide is still produced in power stations that burn coal, oil, and natural gases (all fossil fuels by the way) and some even from nuclear. But it’s not all bad news. An staggering 19% of all energy produced in 2012 was from renewable energy sources (10% modern, and  9% from biomass) and a 138 countries have policies in favour of renewable energy systems in place (REN21, 2014). Then again 2011 was a good year for investments into sustainable energy systems. This interactive map shows the  IEA/IRENA renewable energy sourcing targets for 2020 by country.

As previously mentioned, the removal of climate-averse infrastructure (like power plants) is one thing, but pro-active incentivising of (government) initiatives, tax-reductions, classroom based recycling, etc., are another must to fulfil the increasing demand of people to be sustainable. In the UK, The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme attempts to encourage people to be ‘green’ in their homes with the installation of renewable heating systems (Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team, 2011). The government could also force architects/civil engineers to comply with building regulatory instructions to build more insulated walls and buildings to preserve/deflect temperatures based on season. There are ways to employ top-down approaches to get individuals and business to behave more pro-environmentally, but many are seen as traditional methods and are looked down upon . These days, the individual man or woman and businesses have a lot more power.

What about on an individual level? Ever thought of getting solar panels fitted bags with charging stations inside? What about the fairphone instead of an iPhone? Did you count how many times Apple has changed their equipment, chargers inlets and other features not compatible with the very next version? Do buy at least a hybrid vehicle if not an electrical one, if the infrastructure of your city/community allows it. What about installing LED bulbs instead of incandescent ones? The latter are about 10 times more carbon emitting.  Or you could use a smartphone application like Green Outlet to estimate energy costs at home or other apps to control your thermostats at home. Are you sharing your processing power with super computers that are using the idle power to compute large data in fighting AIDS, cancer and space exploration? It seems almost that human curiosity and the need to know what lies beyond (what we even can grasp), and what follows current technological development, is very eminent, almost to an extent it being unbearable. We probably know more about the vastness of the observable universe – observable being the word – than the vast depths of our oceans. Do you realise how much energy is going into the development of new things, instead of stilling global hunger, defeating extreme poverty, beating cancer once and for all, or tackling the climate crisis?

The next post discusses Portable Technologies and Sustainability.


Works Cited

Ampt, E. (2003). Sustainable Development through Voluntary Behaviour Change. Travel Behaviour Research. Adelaide. Retrieved from http://helios.qwer.tk/~puk/wb/pdf/Sustainable_Development-Behaviour_Change.pdf

Armitage, C. J., & Conner, M. (2001). Efficacy of the Theory of Planned Behaviour: A meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology, 40(4), 471–499. http://doi.org/10.1348/014466601164939

Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team. (2011). Behaviour Change and Energy Use. London. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48123/2135-behaviour-change-and-energy-use.pdf

Chan, L., & Bishop, B. (2013). A moral basis for recycling: Extending the theory of planned behaviour. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 96–102. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.07.010

EC. (2015). Sustainable Development – Environment. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/

Flannery, B. L., & May, D. R. (1999). AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF THE EFFECT OF MORAL INTENSITY ON ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICAL DECISION MAKING. Academy of Management Proceedings, 1999(1), B1–B6. http://doi.org/10.5465/APBPP.1999.27628081

Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction: Psychological barriers that limit climate change mitigation and adaptation. American Psychologist, 66(4), 290–302. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0023566

Jackson, T. (2007). Motivating Sustainable Consumption: A Review of Evidence on Consumer Behaviour and Behavioural Change. London. Retrieved from http://www.sustainablelifestyles.ac.uk/sites/default/files/motivating_sc_final.pdf

Kollmuss, A. and Agyeman, J. (2002). Mind the gap: why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour? Environmental Education Research, 8(3): 239–60.

REN21. (2014). RENEWABLES 2014 GLOBAL STATUS REPORT. Paris. Retrieved from http://www.ren21.net/Portals/0/documents/Resources/GSR/2014/GSR2014_KeyFindings_low res.pdf

Sandberg, T., & Conner, M. (2008). Anticipated regret as an additionalpredictor in the theoryofplanned behaviour:A meta-analysis. British Journal of Social Psychology, 47(4), 589–606. http://doi.org/10.1348/014466607X258704

van der Linden, S. (2011). Charitable Intent: A Moral or Social Construct? A Revised Theory of Planned Behavior Model. Current Psychology, 30(4), 355–374. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-011-9122-1

Is Global Warming Real?

 


In short, yes, global warming is real. Read the current state of concerns, then a quick recap on the damage done to the ozone layer, and insights into the interplay of greenhouse gases, ice and the ocean.

2014-01-16 11.24.20

Ice and Future Livelihood

Alight, this is probably how earth is going to look like (video below), if sea levels rise by an approximate 65 meters (216 feet); this is destined to happen if global warming continues, accelerated by our carbon output. Research already shows that the melting of the ice at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is in fact unstoppable (Rignot et al., 2014). This is apparently due to ocean water currents, especially the warm water circulation of ocean water beneath the ice, which keeps melting the ice that sits on bedrock that is below sea level (Rignot et al., 2014); and the warm water is believed to be penetrating these areas as an effect of the drastic climate change (Thompson, 2014). Especially the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, although considerably smaller than the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, is vulnerable because of this fact, and the complete dissolution may already result in a 3 meter increase in sea levels (Thompson, 2014) putting cities like Amsterdam, New York or Venice in immense jeopardy. Currently it is about 130 cubic kilometers of ice every year (ESA, 2013) and we will probably be feeling its effects already in the next 200 to 1000 years to come (Joughin et al., 2014); we are talking about our grandchildren and generations to come who will have to deal with the mess we have created. This is serious. We are not even going to talk about the conditions of when the East Antarctic Ice Sheet melts, as it contains 4/5 of all ice on this planet resulting in an unbelievable 65 meters increase (NatGeoSociety, 2013). I am merely going to mention altered deep sea currents, stronger hurricanes, new deserts, mass species extinction, unbearable heat and social upheaval if not even partial anarchy.

 

Although I am confident that in the decades to come we will find measures to slow down the warming more effectively and will probably be prepared for elevating sea-levels without it claiming millions, no – an approximated billion human lives living in coastal areas, we still have to act now, as individuals as well as together as humans who love their home planet. The efforts of Jason-3, the latest in a series of U.S.-European satellite missions that shall provide us with more insight on top of 23 years of data that already exists on global sea levels, will be helpful to understand how much we are affecting global climate change (Rasmussen, 2015). But why is this so important? Following is why.

A Short Overview on Global Warming

The idea behind the notion of global warming is that our planet is increasingly heating up, and as a result it derives  climate change. It roughly started with the human need to industrialise and develop beyond its own understanding. Whether or not China is the largest polluter now, Canada and the U.S. have the highest emissions per capita, or it was all initiated by the European industrial era that started in the 18th, took its toll mid-19th century (World Resources Institute, 2011), is irrelevant for our approach.

Despite the changes in atmospheric temperatures throughout the past 100’000 years, we are in an ‘interglacial’ period when CO2-levels are elevated (ESRL-NOAA, 2013), it is evident that current warming is not solely due to natural causes, but instead it seems humans are driving most of warming (NRC, 2010).

Lets look how we started to make things worse for us by using refrigerators and spray cans.

Ozone Depletion and Hole

Normally, our ozone layer, residing at the lower end of the stratosphere, would protect our troposphere (i.e. the crust-nearest part of the atmosphere/0-10km above sea level) and the biosphere (i.e. the surface where we live) from too much ‘intense’ radiation and the resulting heat being stored. Unfortunately for us, and quite ironically actually, back in the late 1920s, 2 chaps in order to prevent more fatalities from the use of refrigerants, were about to change the course of history: they came up with the ‘miracle’ compound Chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) as a safe alternative. CFCs were then used as propellants in spray cans, in refrigeration units, solvents  and other cleaning agents (Welch, 2014). Massive amounts of CFC and other ozone-depleting gases – like halons, did bring about the largest hole within our atmosphere. Here is what happened:

1) In the stratosphere, the ozone layer that consists of ozones (O3), usually absorbs much of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation coming from radiation. These ozones are actually born from the interplay of Oxygen (O2) and UV.

2) The increased use of chemicals like CFCs and other ozone-depleting gases led for these gaseous compounds to enter the stratosphere.

3) CFCs exposed to UV, had the effect of chlorine (and in other cases bromine) broken apart from the compound. The now freely moving around chlorine/Cl1 strips away an oxygen atom from ozone/O3 reducing the ozone to an oxygen molecule/O2. The new compound Cl1O1 is then approached by an oxygen atom/O1 and it strips away the oxygen/O1 leaving behind an individual Cl1 and an oxygen molecule/O2. The chlorine is now free to destroy more ozone once again.

4) One single compound of CFC/one chlorine atom can destroy 100’000 ozone molecules (EPA, 2010).

It was only after 50 years, in the 1970s when CFC was declared a serious environmental threat, around the same time when the ozone depletion hypothesis was put forward . With holes in the layer, it does not only support an increase in heat that is let in and is trapped in our atmosphere, but these rays in form of radiation (i.e. UV, IR and other types of radiation, which are invisible to us) are dangerous to the living beings dwelling the surface of our planet causing cancer, cataracts, and damage to genetic material, if directly hit (ESRL-NOAA, 2014). And to top it all off, guess where the largest ozone layer hole is! Yes, exactly above the Antarctic, so the melting of the ice can begin. In 1984 the hole was barely there, and now it is as big as the Arctic itself and just above it; no, it’s not a coincidence.

Although most (i.e. 98%) of “the consumption of all ozone-depleting substances has now been phased out” since action has been taken from the mid-1980s (UNEP Ozone Secretariat, 2012, p. xi), the ozone hole over the Arctic, the CFC-alternatives and greenhouse gases are still here.

Watch video about the ozone hole over the arctic.

It seems, that the hole is not the end of our world. But we did this, and our planet has o recuperate. And by recuperation, I mean the planet seeks way to balance out the imbalance we have created. Hasn’t she always done that? So now that we know how we caused long-term damage to the ozone layer, lets look specifically at what the melting brings and how it is promoted by GHG. Only because her ways doesn’t mean we have to push her, right?

The Greenhouse Effect and Ocean Conveyor Belt

When Earth gets energy in form of heat from the sun, it manages to balance how much should stay and be stored, and how much ought to be released back into the atmosphere; or at least this was the case until we, humans embarked on our own, separate mission. Larger reflective surfaces like the ice caps, glaciers or clouds throw back around 30% of the energy into the atmosphere (Riebeek, 2010). But with the constant melting even this capacity is being compromised. And in the end, everything that is not reflected is ‘stored’, usually by oceans, land and the atmosphere and is known as the “natural greenhouse effect” that keeps our planet at comfortable temperatures (Riebeek, 2010; EPA, 2014). As the rocks and sand, seas and air warm, and eventually release heat, a considerable amount never makes it into the vastness of the atmosphere. This is because of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that bind and trap the energy. GHGs are “gaseous compounds in the atmosphere that are capable of absorbing IR, thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere” (Lallanilla, 2015). About 90% of all human-produced heat trapped by greenhouse gases are additionally absorbed by the oceans, as they are vast and have high heat storing capacity (Levitus et al, 2012). Thus, what is leading to the unusual warming of our planet are the human-amassed long-lived GHGs in our atmosphere that either trap the reflected or the stored-and-released heat. These GHG molecules keep the heat alive like “tiny heaters” do (Riebeek, 2010). Melting ice flowing into the oceans and warming oceans are not to be taken lightly. This affects the thermohaline circulation tremendously. From thermo (heat) and haline (salt), two factors that influence density, these massive deep underwater currents move constantly from north to south and back again in a particular pattern around the globe (UCAR, 2011; NatGeoEdu, 2015). They move around the water, and turn it over in the entire ocean, upside down; this is “somewhat like a giant conveyor belt, moving warm surface waters downward and forcing cold, nutrient-rich waters upward” (NatGeoEdu, 2015). We have less nutrients from deep water being mixed into warmer surface due to lack of CO2 in deep waters that algae use for their photosynthetic processes, the first link in a very vast food chain and biological carbon circulation. These algae are consumed by plankton, further up the food chain, some animals would release the CO2 back into the atmosphere. The proliferation of these algae though is higher than the  consumption of algae by the zooplankton, leaving the algae, after having used all the nutrients, to die and sink to the bottom of the sea with CO2 bound to their cells (Lighthouse Foundation, 2013). This directly affects ocean nutrient distribution, all marine life, land fauna that depends on fishes, and global climate. Just to emphasise the sizes we are tapping into, a current e.g. the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is so large, that it moves more water than all rivers of our planet combined, and now take into account the faster melting Antarctic sea ice making sea water less denser, and you may draw the picture yourself.

Now, how does it all fit together? For once we have the capacity of oceans to hold CO2 reduced, as the oceans warm up; we have cold ice waters messing with deep water formation in polar waters as it is released on the surface from the melting; so oceans are heating up because of various factors like melting of ice, and greenhouse gases being absorbed threading the ecosystem of currents, living beings and climate.

It seems we contributed so much GHGs into our atmosphere that it is affecting the climate in our entire biosphere. The most controversial of these GHGs we have been adding so enthusiastically into our atmosphere are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Compared to the pre-industrial period, the CO2 concentrations are 40% higher at current state (EPA, 2014), and at an all-time high compared to the past 800’000 years (NRC, 2010). Methane levels are at a soaring 250% since the pre-industrial era, and N2O at 118% (Solomon, 2007). While methane is 21 times more efficient at absorbing heat rather than CO2, methane only lasts 10 years in the atmosphere compared to centuries CO2 can last (Lallanilla, 2015).  In the past few decades, they have already made their effects clear in increasing water and air temperatures around the globe. It is however burning of fossil fuels and change in lands such as deforestation that have caused the most disruptions (EPA, 2014).

Here are some extended measures recommended by the EPA or by the NRDC that can be undertaken to prevent higher production of GHGs. More about the imbalance of Energy coming into our atmosphere and leaving it can be read on EPA’s Climate Change page.

To wrap things up…

If are you driving a car that uses fuel, always buy the latest gimmicks and gadgets, leave the heating on at home all day long to keep your room warm and cozy, buy non-biodegradable products that requires them to be burned or some other source of energy to put it away, or even eat meat, you are most probably supporting, and by supporting I mean disregarding, global warming and climate change, or at the least giving it a low priority. Remember, it is increased demand that will cause greater supply. Hence, with every new product you buy, or service your hire, think whether you are guilty of adding to what is already a mess.

The next blog post talks about what we can do to fight it in the new era of technology.


Works Cited

Earth System Research Laboratory – NOAA. (2013). CO2 at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory reaches new milestone: Tops 400 ppm. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/news/7074.html

Earth System Research Laboratory – NOAA. (2014). Stratospheric Ozone Layer Depletion and Recovery. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/research/themes/o3/

EPA. (2010). The Process of Ozone Depletion | Ozone Layer Protection. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/process.html

EPA. (2014). Causes of Climate Change. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html#ref1

ESA. (2013). Antarctica’s Ice Loss on the Rise. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/CryoSat/Antarctica_s_ice_loss_on_the_rise

Joughin, I., Smith, B. E., & Medley, B. (2014). Marine ice sheet collapse potentially under way for the Thwaites Glacier Basin, West Antarctica. Science (New York, N.Y.), 344(6185), 735–8. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.1249055

Lallanilla, M. (2015). Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Causes & Sources. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://www.livescience.com/37821-greenhouse-gases.html

Levitus, S., Antonov, J. I., Boyer, T. P., Baranova, O. K., Garcia, H. E., Locarnini, R. A., … Zweng, M. M. (2012). World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0-2000 m), 1955-2010. Geophysical Research Letters, 39(10). http://doi.org/10.1029/2012GL051106

Foundation Lighthouse. (2013). The Greenhouse Effect and the Oceans. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from http://www.lighthouse-foundation.org/index.php?id=107&L=1

National Geographic Education. (2015). Ocean Conveyor Belt. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/ocean-conveyor-belt/?ar_a=1

National Geographic Society. (2013). Rising Seas – Interactive: If All The Ice Melted. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/rising-seas/if-ice-melted-map

NRC (2010). Advancing the Science of Climate Change. National Research Council. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Thompson, A. (2014). Melt of Key Antarctic Glaciers “Unstoppable,” Studies Find | Climate Central. Retrieved April 24, 2015, from http://www.climatecentral.org/news/melt-of-key-antarctic-glaciers-unstoppable-studies-find-17426

Rasmussen, C. (2015). Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: Jason-3 will add to record of the sea’s rise and fall. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://climate.nasa.gov/news/2274/

Riebeek, H. (2010). NASA – Earth Observatory – Global Warming. Retrieved April 25, 2015, from http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page2.php

Rignot, E., Mouginot, J., Morlighem, M., Seroussi, H., & Scheuchl, B. (2014). Widespread, rapid grounding line retreat of Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith, and Kohler glaciers, West Antarctica, from 1992 to 2011. Geophysical Research Letters, 41(10), 3502–3509. http://doi.org/10.1002/2014GL060140

Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, R.B. Alley, T. Berntsen, N.L. Bindoff, Z. Chen, A. Chidthaisong, J.M. Gregory, G.C. Hegerl, M. Heimann, B. Hewitson, B.J. Hoskins, F. Joos, J. Jouzel, V. Kattsov, U. Lohmann, T. Matsuno, M. Molina, N. Nicholls, J. Overpeck, G. Raga, V. Ramaswamy, J. Ren, M. Rusticucci, R. Somerville, T.F. Stocker, P. Whetton, R.A. Wood and D. Wratt (2007). Technical Summary. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis . Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

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Online Dating Behaviour

Online Dating Sites and us: Where is it heading?

 

We are to ask ourselves whether dating online is currently a phenomenon, with those in favour wanting to hitch on the ride we experience as the new digital era driven by openness and fear (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 1995; Boyd, 2012), and with those opposing or neglecting it, disregarding it as much of what the future holds for us. In the latter case, why do couples still experience some sort of stigma when telling their story? Why do those who met someone of interest still fall back into filtering for someone even ‘better’ at the first sign of deterioration of their relationship? These are just a few thoughts on what will be discussed later in this work.

Needless to say, online dating has developed to be one of the most popular means of meeting partners. Since the first dating site www.match.com opened its portal to the world almost 20 years ago (The Economist, 2012), a lot has happened. Today in the UK, more than 1400 sites or applications (apps) offer people, regardless of their preferences (e.g. Jewish: www.jdate.com, vegetarian: www.datingvegetarian.co.uk, black: Black Tryst App, Indian: www.shaadi.com, lesbian: www.dattch.com, etc.), a tailored platform in their pursuit of love, or casual relationships (The Telegraph, 2013). There are three identified categories of platforms (Fiore & Donath, 2004):      (I) search/sort/match systems like www.rsvp.com.au that allows users to search for partners with specific characteristics; (II) personality-matching systems like www.eHarmony.com with control over the matching procedure remaining with the system administrators who use specific metrics; and (III) social network systems like www.friendster.com that encourages users to recommend people to the site or to possible matching users. Online behaviour and relationships are now an intensively studied field, which is covered by an increasing number of literature (Barraket & Henry-Waring, 2008). But little is discussed about the sociological implications shifting our “customary laws” and potentially even challenging – as contradicting that may sound, future “natural laws”.

 

The ‘Online Dating Summit’, 1st February 2013, UCL, London

The overall impression of the presentations and round-table was that it was relatively informative, but vague in regard to their wide areas of application. Following insight, recapturing the essentials of the summit, shall give the basement for further critical evaluation.

The Demographics

Data from PEW Internet and Daily Life project revealed already in 2006 that 11% of all online adults seek romantic relationships (Madden & Lenhart, 2006). Cunningham (2013) asserted that people who do online dating, are from a specific social class: They are not from the lower class (e.g. lack of resources), not from the upper class (e.g. people who work for the government, or are CEOs, who are too busy, but mainly rich), but from the middle class, namely busy professionals. There are also two noteworthy categories of people using dating sites (Spalton, 2013; Cunningham, 2013): those in their (early to mid) 20s, stuck in the same circle of friends, and those above 40, who went through a divorce, got widowed, were looking for someone throughout, focused on their careers first, but never found the significant other.

Also, around 70% amongst all users are women, and the majority is above the age of 30 (Cunningham, 2013; Spalton, 2013). Cunningham (2013) continues how proceeding and throughout the 90s, men were the ones active, taking the initiative on setting up a date. But since the new millennium, women have better carriers, and have the control (with more specific candidate profiles, and easier technologies) over contact initiation and dates, even more than men. This well refers to the inspirations of Donna Haraway’s and her “Cyborg Manifesto” essay that lead to cyberfeminism, supporting, now not so much utopian, ideals of a unified “virtual realm” that liberates social constructs like gender, sex difference and identity (Hardey, 2002). The ideology behind it has been transforming our world (at least the western hemisphere) since the mid 90s and is still to reach its zenith, argumentatively feminist politics being somewhat the stronger driver in comparison to the technological developments (Wajcman, 2006).

Usage Today

When Cunningham (2013) opened the session, introducing how dating online has evolved through the use of technology, and how trust increased, after, for almost two decades online-initiated relationships were regarded for the incompetent “lovers” or unattractive ones, or even psychopaths. He continued describing how, because of the high of number of users today, one is ought to give more accurate information to stand out, and needs to interact more actively with one another, and further with a higher number of users, since filtering does not always do the trick. The idea of providing more accurate information about oneself increases the credibility of ones profile and comes down to avoiding generic, commonly used, or ambiguous expressions that describe a user’s personal characteristics (e.g. funny, smart, etc.), instead, by using specific cues and descriptive elaborations that exert one’s interest or proficiency in something as an integral part of ones daily life or underlying values (Anderson, 2013). Additionally, the self-report nature of most of these platforms induces social desirability bias, hence admitting users to rationalize intentional distortion of information (Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006). Hence, women, straight or not, spend a considerable amount browsing other women, and they tend to like the lower self-disclosing females, whereas men do not seem to mind (Rosen, Cheever, Cummings, & Felt, 2008).

Social factors, much reflected through other literature, were identified in their reasoning to use online dating sites (Barraket & Henry-Waring, 2008): (I) change in location/country for work and to meet people; (II) isolation experienced as a single parent; (III) long/irregular work-hours limiting possibilities for face-to-face interaction; and (IV) having ended a (long-term) relationship and looking for a new partner.

The main issue people face is that they do not trust themselves, and do not know how to portray themselves online/send the image they would like to (Spalton, 2013). Furthermore, people do get frustrated because they have to keep their profiles abreast, experience neglect and rejections, have to have several dates, go through one or the other bad date, looping in a viscous circle that leaves a user unmotivated (d’Felice, 2013). Research suggests that the distortion of the ego-centric self when meeting a stranger online, in case of non-fulfilment, does not indicate the end of the belonging to a particular community (in this case online dating community), but merely the reformulation of the community based on experienced ethical encounter with others within the community (Introna & Brigham, 2007).

Professional Endeavour of a Dating Coach

Spalton (2013) gives personal feedback for dates as a dating coach: he would have a test-date organized with him or one of his female coaches, or have sessions where one has to interact with three random candidates, separately, in order to fight fear, get a taste and just to feel at ease after. In order for Spalton to do this, he tried many dating sites, to increase his own knowledge within the field. On another note, he helps people to have their online profile pictures taken. He asserts that there is a tendency for users not to believe others’ profile pictures. Corresponding with current research knowledge profiles with a picture are considered more trustworthy, but that the picture may almost always involve an element of deception (e.g. edit, light, angle, selective (body-) framing, etc.) and not fully representing the real self (Toma, Hancock, & Ellison, 2008). Profile pictures are chosen so that they indicate the least amount of deception (Hancock & Toma, 2009).

Saha and Kingsley-Miller (2013) have embarked on a pursuit of an “anti-date” app, which attempts to avoid dating in the traditional sense. In a nutshell, instead of letting the website do the matching, location-based services suggests ‘alike’ people based on their proximity. The assumption however that the people one may spontaneously meet up during e.g. lunch-hour, are probably alike/not weird, seems plausible given that it is targeted at professionals (a similar group), but slightly far-fetched in regard to that suggestions may not consider preferences or background. Hence, the integration of a profile (with background information), preferences (e.g. movies and books) might be an option; but, since similar apps exist, what is their key performace indicator?

The columnist d’Felice (2013) contributes to articles in the tabloid METRO and provides consulting services to the site www.match.com. It seems that her practical approach found wide attention and application: for the matching section in METRO, she publishes requests people send in, e.g. announcing “to the red-haired girl on the Central Line, embarked at…“; For the sex column she contributes with fellow experts on questions of readers who find themselves in ‘bottlenecked’ sex-situations and relationship dilemmas. It seems the advancement of the digital-age has brought about that people face higher difficulties to start-up a conversation face-to-face all the way through an average day. Whether in the tube, in the queue during lunch-break, or in the elevator, the new emerged norms suggest that time and timing may not be adequate to initiate a haphazard conversation under the given circumstances (Barraket & Henry-Waring, 2008); in comparison the usage of mobile (data) connection to stay in touch, online platforms (including dating sites), or the occasional tabloid request letter service to create new connections is becoming more accepted.

 

Information, Technology, and the Future of Relationships

As to what Herbert Simon bespoke in the 1970s, an “information-rich world” will bring about the “scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes”: the attention of those who perceive or receive the information (Simon, 1971, pp. 40–41). As such the notions of “information overload” and “attention economy” have become very prevalent, especially in regard to the digital landscape (Boyd, 2012). Whether it is online advertising, an email or an online article, our attention does have a value (e.g. brand recall, customer service, readership, etc.) and if attention is seen as a resource, we only have a limited amount of it. Could the idea of “radical transparency” as suggested by Daniel Goleman possibly counter-effect the deception and over-load, leaving only little to chance (Sifry, 2011)? For all we know, recreational sex and polyamory (i.e. multiple relationships, with consent of all parties involved), much as described in Albert Huxley’s novel Brave New World, does not seem an utopia anymore. In a globally transcendent “colour-blind” era, one would expect that at some point only mixed-raced people would dominate the world-population, but currently indicate sorting within a race still marks the landscape, based on a preference for the (culturally close) same-raced. But hence multicollinearity exists between race and education or income, intra-ethnicity sorting may as well take place as a result of preferences for these attributes, former being a strong determinant of preference (Hitsch, Hortaçsu, & Ariely, 2010; Lee, 2009). Interestingly, neither income nor education are a predetermining factor of signing up to a dating site (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007).

When it comes to relationship satisfaction, individuals with similar personalities seem to be happier [1] (Dyrenforth, Kashy, Donnellan, & Lucas, 2010). An investigation around the idea of homophily within dating environments is not a surprise given the nature of online dating sites: users opt for similarities (e.g. life course, wanting children, or physique or smoking habits) rather than leaving it to chance whether one might “click” with one another (Fiore & Donath, 2005). The search “for the other half” will prevail over time no matter the development in the technological realm; so it seems.

Online dating sites offer an opportunity to merely get to know one another online, and move later on to a face-to-face relation (Hardey, 2002). Assumedly, this hype will take on bigger dimensions in the near future. Interestingly, in an American study with 811 college students, only 25% of the students using online means to find a partner would actually not want to meet up face-to-face at any point (Koeppel, Smith, & Bouffard, 2013). It may probably seem far-fetched to assume that the Cyborg-metaphor, as introduced by Haraway (1994), is the foundation to the argument that our younger generations are not much more concerned with the physical world as compared to the virtual one. The Cyborg metaphor symbolizes the idea of unrestrained and fluid selves constituted in cyberspace (Campbell, 2004). The Cyberspace acts as a mediator between reality and virtual-space for an intimate embodiment (Barraket & Henry-Waring, 2008), thus people may be embodied more virtually than in the real world, especially now that the virtual population demographically almost resembles the physical population (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007). All we know for now is that there will be more single individuals and one-person households, relatively to the increase in Internet usage (online dating in particular) (Hardey, 2002); UK and Australia have been experiencing this trend since some time already.

Dating online has it as an advantage that long-distance relationships are started and maintained with ease. The mere thought of being continents away is not of prevalent concern at initiation; not until it comes to the need for ‘proximity’. Research speculates the virtual relations cannot “attain the thickness of flesh” (Ihde, 1998; Murray, 2000; Hardey, 2002). Past research also showed that long-distance relationships, as compared to proximal relationships, did not induce less quality relationships (Guldner & Swensen, 1995; Stafford & Merolla, 2007), much based on the idea that long-distance, induced a large amount of idealisation of the relationship at hand (i.e. distortion, romance, perceived agreement, etc.) (Stafford & Merolla, 2007). Nevertheless if virtual relationships are not taken to shared personal offline experiences, i.e. shared events and circumstances through which a history is created and consequently a foundation for mutual trust and reciprocity is developed, relationships remain weak, impersonal and less holistic (Mesch & Talmud, 2006); The novel A Brave New World (by Huxley) depicts us in this very form, not far from now. Additionally, the temporal length of relationships is diminishing with the growth and increase in popularity of online dating sites; the ready pool of individuals awaiting an inviting conversation, intimacy, or a simple compliment is vast, diverse and ever-growing (Slater, 2013).

But for those, at the beginning of their relationships, or on a temporary geographical separation, who is to say that this “idealisation” cannot be maintained by ‘reducing’ the ‘virtual’ distance? In fact, Havas Worldwide Sydney in cooperation with Durex, are running an experiment called Fundawear (i.e. from “Fun”, and “Underwear”), in which the sensation through tactile stimuli are taken into account for geographically distant relationships [2] (HAVAS Worldwide Sydney, 2013).

 

The Focus Group and more recent Research

A focus group [3] conducted by the author of this paper, summarized that dating online should be used to get to know people to the extent of “bare necessities”, upon which a face-to-face date is to be set up. Moreover online dating sites only exist to facilitate the search for a real partner, and that the actual match depends on a variety of factors is a ruthless but true fact to accept (Hitsch, Hortaçsu, & Ariely, 2010). Another outcome of the focus group was that one has access to a pool of people with whom one may not have had any interaction with, which supported Castells ideas (2001). The group also discussed the reasons for deception, amongst which a positive first impression and self-presentation were the prevalent ones, aligning with Ellison, Hancock, & Toma (2011) work; other studies showed that eight in ten participants lied at least on one factor (i.e. physical attributes as weight, height, physique were distorted the most) (Toma, Hancock, & Ellison, 2008), and that small lies (with low magnitude) are perceived (by our self-concept) as not grave, not causing an internal shift away from a honest individual (Mazar & Ariely, 2006). This has eventually led to scepticism about the authenticity of profiles online and the genuine interest of an individual to get involved in ‘a’ serious relationship. But while scepticism still remains moderate-to-high, it is in fact only “rejection sensitivity” that had predictive validity over whether or not to use an online dating platform. And interestingly, those with higher sensitivity (i.e. more afraid of a rejection e.g. through a message, or not receiving an answer) were more likely to use such online dating sites. But it is also the higher rejection sensitive individuals, along with those low on conscientiousness and men, who then go on to engage in risky offline behaviours with online dating partners (Blackhart, Fitzpatrick & Williamson, 2014). It also seems men are 4 times more likely to contact their heterosexual/female counterparts (Blackhart, Fitzpatrick & Williamson, 2014), as women are less likely to use these type of platforms to solely find (casual) sex partners (Clemens, Atkin & Krishnan, 2015). Yet, only women who initiate the contact, indeed significantly connect with more desirable partners. Nevertheless, both women and men have initial tendencies of almost exclusively contacting their alters that are socially most desirable individuals (Blackhart, Fitzpatrick & Williamson, 2014). It’s only after few trials that one approaches users that reflect one’s own social desirability. Homosexuals, who are more open to experience compared to heterosexuals, use online dating sites for a broader array of gratification, such as a relationship, but as well in search for a sex partner, distraction, and/or convenient companion (Clemens, Atkin & Krishnan, 2015).

More in regard to personalities, generally social individuals and extroverts were perceived to be more outgoing on online sites. Neurotics, i.e. those emotionally less stable, were using online dating sites to build an identity and as a distraction, those open to experience use it to be social, those who are inclined to be less agreeable use it because they undergo peer pressure or because it portrays a particular status, and finally conscientious users are found to use it to find a relationship (Clemens, Atkin & Krishnan, 2015). Generally, online behaviour echoes offline patterns quite comparably; extroverts still have more social interaction than introverts, individuals with less dating anxiety will get more dates than those with more, and the ‘physically’ lonely tend be virtually lonely too (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007). This is also reflected by the larger amount of “high rejection sensitive” users, as rejection sensitivity is related to “greater loneliness” (Watson & Nesdale, 2012). This is to say, people who feel lonelier are inclined to use online dating sites more, where rejection is not imminent.

What separates online daters from traditional ones, is that the former group can and prefers to form impressions through written words, value emotionality and a moderate-to-low amount of self-disclosure (Rosen, Cheever, Cummings, & Felt, 2008). However, stigma still seems to exist around the idea of meeting one’s ‘other half’ online; it is not the most desirable or ‘romantic’ way of first encounter (Baker, 2008). This is because currently, most people are together with partners that they met traditionally and offline (e.g. school, work, bars); so empirically recorded correlations in marriages (along certain attributes like income and education), might be entirely due to the social institutions that brought mates together and only partially due to the preferences individuals have over their partners (Hitsch, Hortaçsu, & Ariely, 2010).

In General, it seems, “online dating lowers the search costs of finding a partner in a market characterized by large search frictions” (Hitsch, Hortaçsu, & Ariely, 2010, p.27). Match.com reported back in 2012 already, that every 1 in 5 new relationships and 1 in 6 new marriages have their origin on online dating sites (Ramirez, et al., 2014), and the numbers will only climb. It is also believed that giving the users a query to filter through the online population does give the user a sense of self-censorship, that is the exclusive contacting of candidates who’s preferences one beliefs to have matched, seemingly leading to better quality lists of candidates (Diaz et al., 2010). But interestingly enough, users pass considerable amount of time at random selection too, and there is significant evidence that a discrepancy between a user’s stated dating preference and his/her actual online dating behaviour exists (Xia, et al., 2014).

Conclusion

To recapture the magnitude of how the online dating movement influences the way people currently interact is probably by asking ourselves “is it omissible to ignore online dating without missing out or even causing damage to how life takes its course, and is it evitable in future”? If prospective face-to-face interaction is to diminish, we are facing the necessity of accepting our online presence, with a good amount of self-promotion, and the acknowledgement of deception that will continue to exist until a radical way of making things secure and transparent is imposed.

On the brighter side of things, it is another way of meeting people, which one can employ or not. If embarking onto the online dating world is anything like rowing a boat, then it has the females on one side and males on another. The balance between each side and the direction is important, and it seems, different online platforms have found ways to segment themselves using diverse user or market criteria.

All current tendencies and developments indicate that the virtual world is here to stay, to be an imperative pillar of how our societies form norms and laws in future. Geographical separation will seem less disturbing. The bridge between the virtual and physical world will become more apparent, and the way we interact with each other will need to be rewritten. But evolution is intricate and does not necessarily exclude the merge with the machines.

[1] Similar personality of the two parties (<0.5% of variance); actor effect (if the partners fits the image of ones perception of an ideal partner) comprised for ca. 6% variance; and partner effect (partner’s image of oneself fits to the image of an ideal partner) for 1-3% in relationship satisfaction.

[2] Watch the Fundawear “Durexperiment” at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb7DN3kpl2o

[3] 4 participants in support and 3 opposing dating online, with 2 supporters having used it to date online.

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Wajcman, J. (2006). TechnoCapitalism Meets TechnoFeminism: Women and Technology in a Wireless World. Labour and Industry , 16 (3), 7-20.

Watson, J., & Nesdale, D. (2012). Rejection sensitivity, social withdrawal, and loneliness in young adults. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42, 1984–2005. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2012.00927.x.

Xia, P., Tu, K., Ribeiro, B., Jiang, H., Wang, X., Chen, C., … Towsley, D. (2014). Who is Dating Whom: Characterizing User Behaviors of a Large Online Dating Site. Social and Information Networks, (Submitted), 1–21. Physics and Society. Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/1401.5710

 

To be more healthy at the Computer

 



What to do to be more healthy and time-efficient when working extensively at the computer:

Whether holding an IT seat at an incumbent software corporation, working from home as a blogger, or as a researcher writing up for the next publication, most of us have experienced the aches of a sedentary working environment.

As a very health-conscious scientist, I was merely researching on what to consider when wanting to spend another day in front of the screen, before going from back pain to being a hunchback or from needing glassed to needing an eye operation. Consider following measures on two very important aspects:

 


Positioning and Pacing :

So science says you should get up every now and then. And this is about every 20 minutes after sitting (O’Sullivan et al. 2002). My previous – tiny- post mentioned the benefits of general physical activity on a daily basis. That is, contracting muscles, increasing blood flow, and increasing the intake of oxygen are very basic steps to prevent long-term damage to body and mind. So the best thing to do is to get up, go and get some fresh air and stretch a little every 20 minutes, this does even improve your engagement and concentration thereinafter (Griswold, 2012). This can be partially achieved by inhaling slower and deeper from time to time. Or try more agile things to sit on such a swopper, a Classic Balance Ball® Chair, or just a gymnastic ball. You may also want to try getting standing station/desk if that should fit you better. The idea is that u may be more inclined to move being solely on your feet rather than leaning your back, sitting on your buttocks and resting your feet – the state of resting on a chair. However, the same thoughts count for either: Sway standing and slump sitting will both affect the activation – or rather the lack of – certain muscles (i.e. lumbopelvic stabilising musculature) that prevail when a healthy optimally aligned, erect postures is adopted (O’Sullivan et al., 2002). So whether standing or sitting, a straight back, 90-degrees elbow towards the keyboard and looking at the screen in a straight horizontal line (to a few inches lower) is probably best. Branded wearable wrist bands such as the Fitbit, Jawbone UP or Misfit models, may help remind you of, or keep track of idle and active periods so you may macing effectively; and linked with a smartphone this becomes a powerful fitness and well-being coach. Give it a try if you feel it would be of help.



Sensing light and Reading :

A lot of strain to being long hours in front of a screen is also caused by a number of factors that involve our visual sensory organs. Here are some tips:

Blink often, roll your eyes and look away from the screen once in a while. As the focus and the position of the eye changes the optical muscles can relax. This is, as with limbs, something you should do regularly.

Use computer in an adequately lit room. Overhead light, sunlight and screen light, find a suitable average that is comfortable; and sometimes what is required to see what needs to be seen maybe just half the light. Fluorescent lighting in the room can be appropriate during day time, but see they don’t hit you or your screen directly. Avoid glare at any point, it is a strain to filter through ‘additional information’. You may want adjust your screen brightness to a smiler intensity and brightness to that of your environment. The app f.lux can be downloaded for free is a simple programme that adjusts the colour temperature of the computer to simulate day and night time lighting. F.Lux, and similar apps, dim the screen and give it a orange touch (i.e. longer wavelength hues at around 2500K) based on your location/timezone, not only for long-term viewing comfort, but also taking into account the time of the day so it reflects a healthy sleeping and waking pattern. While ‘bright’, blue light at 6500K is linked with enhanced cognitive performance (i.e. positively relates to alertness) (Chellappa, 2011), it also causes the suppression of Melatonin (the sleep-promoting hormone) (Chan, 2014), which correlates with diseases such as cancer (Wood et al., 2013). Light is also not only sensed by our eyes, but also by our largest organ: the skin. Hence, both skin and eyes sensing fluorescent or too bright light in the evening or during the night gives the body the impression it is in fact day.



There are ways to ease reading or writing: Use bigger fonts, higher contrast backgrounds to write on, and use the reader function of your browser or the page itself.

And I can’t emphasise the need for keeping your body hydrated. High levels of brain activity and stress at work requires you to drink lots of water (and/or other healthy fluid substances like a glass of fresh juice). The best thing probably to do is to keep your own mug or glass and jug always at your working station; get them filled right before you start your endless marathon.

Last but not least, be social a few times a day. You are not alone in this. And a little break once in a while chatting with a friend is not harmful. And if your boss may think otherwise, suggest him or her what it mean to be efficient at work. Don’t get fired though.

My general base for benchmarking is as always: “What would be the reality if I’d have lived 1000s of years ago”? Move a lot and dimmed light in the evening seems reasonable. Mingling, taking a break and quenching your thirst ought to be done anyway. Maybe, do not sit at a computer all day long. Get up say “hi” to your neighbour and enjoy life people.


 

Sources:

Chang, A.-M., Aeschbach, D., Duffy, J. F., & Czeisler, C. A. (2014). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(4), 201418490. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1418490112

Chellappa, S. L., Steiner, R., Blattner, P., Oelhafen, P., Götz, T., & Cajochen, C. (2011). Non-visual effects of light on melatonin, alertness and cognitive performance: can blue-enriched light keep us alert? PloS One, 6(1), e16429. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0016429

Dunstan, D. W., Kingwell, B. A., Larsen, R., Healy, G. N., Cerin, E., Hamilton, M. T., … Owen, N. (2012). Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 35(5), 976–83. http://doi.org/10.2337/dc11-1931

Griswold, A. (2012). To Work Better, Just Get Up From Your Desk. Retrieved March 26, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alisongriswold/2012/06/12/to-work-better-just-get-up-from-your-desk/

O’Sullivan, P. B., Grahamslaw, K. M., Kendell, M., Lapenskie, S. C., Möller, N. E., & Richards, K. V. (2002). The effect of different standing and sitting postures on trunk muscle activity in a pain-free population. Spine, 27(11), 1238–1244. http://doi.org/10.1097/00007632-200206010-00019

Wood, B., Rea, M. S., Plitnick, B., & Figueiro, M. G. (2013). Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Applied Ergonomics, 44(2), 237–40. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2012.07.008

Physical Activity & Well-Being

There is no doubt that physical activities form part of our daily lives. Whether we rush for an escalator or climb the staircase on our daily route to school or work, or occasionally meet up with a colleague for a jog, planned physical activities contribute to more than just physical well-being.  A scheduled ‘plan’ for exercise and physical activity (especially outdoors) may help not only to coordinate our daily routines, but also, contrary to popular belief, energizes and enables us to accomplish (even) more within a given time. Regard it as a time-off, a break to supply the brain with oxygen it so desperately needs during a busy period, and to circulate the body’s blood in order to feel revitalized. So, physical activities can reduce work-related stress if it’s scheduled in a timely manner, as well as help us be more efficient throughout the whole day, leaving us with more spare time for relaxation and enabling us to master the work-life balance.

Fun Climbing at Barnard Castle by Alex Mattakathu

Pseudoscience and Lateralization

In November 2013 in the course of an alumni event I was welcomed a guest speaker in Basel, Switzerland, at the University of Applied Sciences Northwest Switzerland. My presentation was on “scientific research in academia and business”, which also was the namesake title. The presentation went remarkably well in light of the efforts that were put into the preparations. As I later came to know the title would not attract the crowd I was hoping for; Other presentations with titles including notions such as “new media” or “entrepreneurship” had definitively caught the attentions of the attendees. As an alumnus, however, I was determined to bring across the path of science, as the courses at the uni were – and probably still are – very business savvy. Which is a little hypocritical considering one is being awarded with a bachelor of science upon successful completion.

IBM netwroking eventApéro after Presentation (Alex Mattakathu in the chequered shirt)
l.: Introductory talk by the dean; r. :Apéro after Presentation (me in the chequered shirt)

At any rate, my preparations was about how scientific research is employed in academia and business to advance and establish new findings. The presentation was very broad and covered a vast landscape and ranged from research methods including Netnography and softwares used, to big data, employee research and personality assessments in regard to hiring. I’ll probably cover these topics on my blog one by one at a later point.

What was interesting though is that, after the presentation, in the discussion session, we had a good conversation about “pseudoscience”, an expression I had previously mentioned in the presentation. And despite that fire the conversation had sparked then, I’d like to go at it from a different angle here. Bare with me as I make a brief excursion into couple of examples.

Pseudoscience for once, are claims that either have no scientific evidence, did not allude into scientific grounds profoundly enough, or just are misrepresentation of ‘reality’. And it is interesting that claims over time have been proven wrong by tests having been rerun, through newer methods, brighter scientists, etc., and the whole belief system surrounding – the now pseudoscientific – claim came crumbling down. A fair example for this is the (still) common belief that our brains are divided into two hemispheres with distinctive roles, know as laterelization of the brain in psychology. If you don’t know what it’s about the following infographs (still live on Pinterest) illustrate the claim:

Left vs. Right Brain – Overview
L & R Brain
Right and left brain thinking

This is my personal favourite:
Are You Right or Left Brained?

This idea became fairly popular in the 70s, and became eventually widely accepted, even leading to a Nobel Prize in 1981 to the man who was responsible for the discovery: Roger W. Sperry. In a nutshell, it claims facets of our sensory perception and the abilities to produce particular functions such as being intuitive or creative are controlled by centres located in the right brain, while being analytical and logical in the left. I still remember that a decade ago I underwent some sort of test (a short survey on the internet) that would then present me with the result saying: “You are left-brained Alex. Just like Einstein”. The pseudoscientific aspect of this claim is indeed the popular belief that the sole responsibility of a certain function lies within either hemisphere; This is bullocks. That each cerebral hemisphere has its dominant role in controlling and enacting on a bodily function (i.e. right- and left-brain dominance theory) is true.

Today we know that the brain is not nearly as dichotomous as it was once believed to be. If anything, quite the contrary is (also) true. Albert Einstein (or rather his brain) was an exemplary specimen for the ‘well-connectedness’ of right and left hemispheres in proving his brilliance to the world, as a post-mortem scan of his brain later on revealed. He had even stated: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant.” Which leads to the question, how can to opposing claims be true? Well, that our brain is lateralized into two hemispheres, and that there are tendencies in each hemisphere contributing more to a particular function has some truth to it. In fact the “corpus callosum”, neural fibres beneath the cerebral cortex, has it as a (main) role to inhibit the other hemisphere, and interestingly enough it is located at and along the longitudinal fissure (the deep groove that separates the two hemispheres. But while either hemisphere is used (unconsciously that is) for specific functions, one hemisphere can’t accomplish the task at hand without the other. So the question is not which hemisphere accomplishes which function, but rather how is a task accomplished with the interaction of both hemispheres.

In the following video, prominent psychiatrist and author Iain McGilchrist explains how things go down in the ‘real’ world, how the hemispheres interact with one another; It is remarkably well illustrated (like RSA usually does) and (relatively) easy to understand.

RSA Animate – The Divided Brain from The RSA on Vimeo.

He also wrote a book that is titled “The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World” published in 2009. This in-depth analysis of the two hemisphere within the field of neuroscience is a fundamental contribution to the enlightenment for a long-made claim and generally a thorough read on laterelization. Read into it if you are interested.

But despite all this, it is to say that there were times when we could not get to the roots of a scientific enquiry and researchers presented the best they have had gotten, which in some cases were either insufficient, incomplete or incorrect. But let’s not forget it was those certain pseudo breakthroughs that have changed the world in favour of betterment, whether by the modest contribution it did in the spirit of advancement or by dragging the attention of fellow or future researchers in reassuring, completing or disapproving the discovery. So don’t rip of the nobel prize of the poor fellow. I believe if not with ignorance or malicious intent, any contribution is subject to betterment. So, keep using both hemispheres and don’t fall victim to predators.

Author: Alex Mattakathu

Sources and further readings:

McGilchrist, I. (2009). The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

MacNeilage, P. F., Rogers, L. J., & Vallortigara, G. (2009). Origins of the left & right brain. Scientific American, 301(1), 60-67.

Vallortigara, G., & Rogers, L. J. (2005). Survival with an asymmetrical brain: advantages and disadvantages of cerebral lateralization. Behavioral and brain sciences, 28(4), 575-588.

UCL Graduation with Alex Mattakathu

Before I start blogging on more relevant topics, I wanted to congratulate my fellow graduates for acquiring the MSc in Industrial/Organizational & Business Psychology with me from University College London (UCL). You are all so unique and added just the right amount if spice to the course and made my endeavour of getting my last degree a pleasure.

See you all on the other side.

f.l.t.r.: Reece Akhtar, Tanya Ardabili, Kathrin Reinke, Maya Mansour, Alex Mattakathu, Eduardo Leung Zheng & Maya Tudor.

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