Computer Science and Dissertation Update

This is just meant to be a brief update.  I completed 95% of the coursework for my MS in Computer Science.  I have a broad topic for my thesis, which is the semantic web.  I expect to wrap this up during the spring semester.

My dissertation has also had a new development.  The way that I was developing the project initially was focusing individual differences in the psychological and physiological response to a behavior task.  However, there really are not enough findings within the boredom literature to explain the findings or the reasons I made intuitive leaps in designing the methodology.  There are really not enough findings within the boredom literature to do much of anything on a first pass because it it tragically under-researched.  Basically, I was too theoretical.  Consequently, I have had to shift my perspective in the lit review.  Now it focuses on boredom and the distinction between consummatory and anticipatory emotions, with physiological correlates.  The second study now uses the literature on the distinction between consummatory and anticipatory positive emotions and how reinforcement might influence these to infer findings on how negative emotions might influence the response to rewards.   I have not had change any of my findings or my results (thankfully).  I have had to take a substantial amount of time off from this project to get through the CS Masters course load.

An Update a Long Time Coming

I still haven’t finished my PhD.  I am still working on it but had some spare time where my advisors were on sabbatical, which meant I could not do anything.  I have used this time to work on a MS in Computer Science at another institution.  I started last Spring and I am basically completing my course work at the end of this semester.  Things are good.  I am getting married this weekend.  I miss writing on psychology and philosophy though.

Social Developments and Evolution

As I do not know where I will end up, one of the things that I like to think about is the business models of internet startups and how technology has changed culture. I believe that the major cultural change since I have been born is the creation of the internet for the general public.

As I do not know where I will end up, one of the things that I like to think about is the business models of internet startups and how technology has changed culture.  I believe that the major cultural change since I have been born is the creation of the internet for the general public.

As a disclaimer, I was born in 1985 and grew up using computers.  I don’t think the internet had a lot of impact on culture until it was available to the general public.

Additionally, I think web 1.0  was useful because it served as an extended public library.  The potential of the internet did not exist until web 2.0 where individuals began to easily produce content.  The rise of web 2.0 allowed for the development of all of the social networking sites, such as facebook, that we all use commonly.  Both web 1.0 and 2.0 were significant in many realms, I will not discuss the potential economic implications of these developments.  Instead, I want to write a few paragraphs about the role that these changes have in our social development.

I believe that our social development mirrors our evolutionary development.  This is to say that the same types of changes can occur in both our biology and our social structure.  In evolution, there are two main theories about how we progress genetically.  The first is a linear analysis in which we slowly change to a more advanced form.  We also have punctuated equilibrium.  Punctuated equilibrium are quick changes in the evolutionary direction of a species.  In my mind, these occur because of quick changes in which the organism is evolving.  These quick changes suggest that there are a multitude of niches that an organism can evolve into.  Consequently, the species available evolve to fill these niches.  These two process are not opposed, instead, these process can co-occur depending upon changes in the environment of the species.  When there is a significant change in the environment punctuated equilibrium occurs.  When it is just normal fluctuation linear change occurs.

To relate this to our social structure, we can look at the internet in it’s 2.0 version.  The distinction between web 1.0 and 2.0 was shift from generated content to a focus on user generated content.  Web 1.0 was a digitization of our libraries.  We no longer had to visit a place that had existed for generations for knowledge.  Web 2.0 is different.  I think that the development of web 2.0 serves as a device that is one of the factors that would initiate punctuated equilibrium.  The best example of this, in my mind, is twitter.  Here, the purpose of the network was to generate short content from all users to be communicated to anyone that was in his or her network.  This change is reflected in the societal shift to viral marketing as a preferred method and by the IPO of Twitter.  The changes to our society, which we are currently close to reaching its tipping point, are unknown.  I do not know what will come out of it.  I do, however, know that the millennials will play a substantial role in the transformation of the future of our society and our business models.  We are the generation that grew up with these changes.  I said that I did not want to discuss my opinions of business, but simply, the models are probably outdated.


The Importance of Language

I have been asked a few times lately if I think boredom has a facial expression associated with it.  Research suggests that it does not have a facial expression.  More intriguingly though is to look at the relationship between between communication and the emotions.  Research (e.g. Ekman) has suggested that the facial expressions related to emotion exist in order to communicate an individual’s internal state to coordinate group actions.  Many of the emotions that we communicate have existed for many generations.  The term boredom, in the english language, was only recorded in literature by the late 19th century.  As far as emotions or affective sates, this is relatively recent.  This means that we have not evolved linked physiological responses such as facial expressions to represent this state.  However, we have other abilities that allow us to determine whether an individual is bored or not, namely theory of mind.  This higher level process allows for us to use both context and an individual’s misfit between our expectations of an appropriate response in that context to determine if an individual is bored.  In other words, when we expect to be interesting in a conversation, and we do not have the necessary signs of interest, then we can infer that an individual is experiencing boredom.


Still in the process of running subjects for my dissertation.  My mind is sharp, but tired.  I am likely to write philosophical here for a while if I ever get a chance to update as it is merely something different.  I have been thinking lately on the relationship between boredom and language, boredom and modernity, boredom and dissociation, and the meaninglessness of modern existence.

“It is not we that speak language but language that speaks us.” – Heidegger