Saturday, July 30, 2016

The beauty of human skin in every shade...



Angélica Dass's photography challenges how we think about skin color and ethnic identity. In this personal talk, hear about the inspiration behind her portrait project, Humanæ, and her pursuit to document humanity's true colors rather than the untrue white, red, black and yellow associated with race.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Tinder's in-house sociologist



http://www.lamag.com/longform/tinder-sociologist/

Kismet” is the word Jessica Carbino likes to use. She joined Tinder in October 2013, about a year after it launched in Los Angeles. Carbino was 27 and “looking.” She was also a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UCLA, writing her thesis on online dating. An undergraduate student had tipped her off about the free app, explaining how it pulls up an endless scroll of photos of people around you, displaying minimal, if any, biographical details about them. If you “like” someone, she was told, you swipe right; if you don’t, go left. A chat box appears only when both parties are into each other.
Her interest piqued, Carbino gave the app a spin. One of the photos she swiped right on was of a twentysomething with short dark hair and a stare intense enough to knock down walls. He swiped right on her, too. The guy, it turned out, was the company CEO, Sean Rad. Instead of a date, Carbino landed a job as the start-up’s in-house sociologist.
Close to three years later she’s leading me through Tinder’s headquarters several stories above the Sunset Strip. Tinder moved here last October, and the space still has a just-out-of-the-box vibe. The building belongs to Barry Diller’s IAC, a media conglomerate that owns four dozen dating sites, including OkCupid, Match.com, and PlentyOfFish as well as a controlling stake in Tinder. Yet those holdings constitute only a tiny fraction of the nearly 4,000 sites that make up the $2.2 billion online dating market. You can bet more will be emerging. Because as much as computers and smartphones have changed the dating game, what hasn’t changed is the central challenge everyone contends with: how to lock in a better match.
To a large degree the sector has staked its success on algorithms—proprietary math formulas that use a combination of profile information and online behaviors—to come up with the answers. For end users, though, providing the data to feed those algorithms can feel like a drag, what with the tedious profiles, the Psych 101 personality tests, and the interminable questionnaires (eHarmony’s has more than 150 questions). The payoff isn’t always there, either. “Chemistry [needs to] kick in, and that’s the toughest area—how to know someone’s going to have a good pheromones effect,” says Mark Brooks, president of New York-based Courtland Brooks, a consulting firm that has worked with many dating sites.
With Tinder, Rad has seemingly bypassed all that stuff and focused on one underlying premise: Attraction, at least with that initial spark, might really only be skin deep. Four years and 10 billion right swipes later, more than three-quarters of the app’s users are between 18 and 34 years old, a traditionally elusive demographic for the dating industry. Now Tinder is pushing for growth and revenue by adding extra features. It launched a tiered subscription service early last year, charging those over 30 a $20 monthly fee (and those younger, $10) for the privilege of undoing an accidental left swipe and the ability to search for prospects in other cities. In November the app started allowing users to include their employment and education information to provide a slightly more complete, as in more right-swipable, snapshot of themselves.
That’s where Carbino’s work comes in: to find out what users want and what they don’t know they want. “I think Tinder is far more complex than simply physical attractiveness,” she says. “With photos, people are not simply looking at whether someone has a nice smile or a nice face per se. They are looking at other factors related to that individual’s attributes—like socioenomic status, whether they think they are kind, nice, or mean.” We’re standing at her workstation by the marketing department, which at 10:30 a.m. (early by tech standards) has yet to clock in. Her portion of the cubicle consists of a chair, a desk, and a PC. That’s all the hardware Carbino, a petite and fast-talking 30-year-old brunet, needs to do her job, which entails running focus groups, creating surveys for Tinder and non-Tinder users, and filtering loads of data through the lens of social behaviors.
One project she spent seven months on involved poring over 12,000 images of Tinder users in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York, cataloging in minute detail the visual qualities users deem “attractive” and taking the definition beyond hot or not. The analysis draws on a long-established concept in psychology called “thin slicing,” which has to do with the vast amount of nonverbal cues first impressions can give us about a stranger. For instance, men with a softer jawline are generally perceived by women as kinder than, say, a guy with a Christian Bale thing going on. Carbino has also found that the selfie is the most common type of photo on the app, that women with makeup tend to get swiped right more by men, that a group shot should never be someone’s first photo, and that men in L.A. are more clean-shaven than those in other cities. There’s also this: About 80 percent of Tinder users are seeking long-term relationships, according to Carbino’s research.
All of her findings make their way into marketing pitches and tip sheets for users, but they are being used as well to refine the “product,” including its algorithm. Yes, even Tinder uses one. Called “Elo,” a chess reference, the formula assigns an undisclosed rating to each profile based on the frequency of right swipes. It’s one variable the app uses to determine which profiles someone sees (not that people at Tinder will say anything else about it).
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The challenge Tinder faces is how to retain its photocentric simplicity while adapting to an ever-evolving marketplace. Pleasing those on the hunt for one-night stands is easy (like Grindr, the gay hookup app, Tinder gets flak for encouraging promiscuity—despite the fact that Carbino’s research shows otherwise). But it’s considerably harder to sell users who are interested in something longer term on looks alone. One competitor, the League, follows the tried-and-true route of exclusivity by focusing on ambitious professionals. (“You’ll never have to wonder if that Harvard hottie is too good to be true on The League” is one of its pitch lines.) With another app, the Bumble, women have to make the first move to connect.
“Photos are very important but very limited,” says Brooks, the dating industry consultant. “Character is not being communicated there. I think Tinder will prompt us to think differently about how to match-make behind the scenes. And that’s important because that’s the evolution required for the industry to really reach its potential.”
Brooks’s expertise is tech-based dating, but what he’s pointing to are the limitations that Katie Chen capitalizes on. “Everyone online looks kind of similar, especially in the L.A. metro area. Everyone’s going to dress nice, they all work out, they all hike, they all love dining, love having good friends and traveling,” says Chen, who cofounded the Pico-Robertson-based Catch Matchmaking, which offers what Tinder doesn’t: personalized service. “You would think that online dating and matchmaking would grow in different directions, almost like if online dating is popular, matchmaking would go away,” she says. But the opposite is true. Too many choices can overwhelm a shopper. Catch’s clients are “busy professionals” in their late twenties through seventies, who are willing to shell out for a more tailor-made experience that includes pointers on how to dress and how to take a better photo. Sometimes they even get an honest talking-to about attitude and expectation. “They really are sick of online dating and app dating,” says Chen. “They’re like, ‘I’ll just hire you because if one more girl shows up and she doesn’t look like her photo…’ or ‘I’m not good at writing my profile’ or ‘I am not good at texting.’ They’d rather outsource it.”
Of course a matchmaker can cost thousands, which is partly why online dating cropped up in the first place. About 15 percent of American adults have used a dating site or app, according to a Pew study conducted earlier this year. The scholarly view of online dating is that it emerged because of socioeconomic forces: As people move around for jobs and school, they leave behind the network of family and friends that has traditionally helped them meet their other half. With those connections far away, the Internet became the most viable option.
It’s a phenomenon ripe for examination. Carbino certainly isn’t the first academic to be lured by the dating industry. Anthropologist Helen Fisher, who works for Match, famously created a personality test for Chemistry.com, another IAC property. And the now-defunct Perfectmatch.com was built on an algorithm developed by sociologist Pepper Schwartz. But every generation needs its interpreters. “I am a young sociologist, and it’s a young company,” Carbino says. “I think that’s my unique standpoint in the field.”
She became intrigued by online dating after starting her graduate program at UCLA, where she knew “not a soul.” Carbino figured that joining JDate, the Jewish singles site, was her best bet for meeting someone. “I went on one good date and saw the person on and off for a while,” she says. “I also went on many bad dates.” She quickly moved on to Ok-Cupid, Match.com, Jswipe, Hinge, and Coffee Meets Bagel. The more she browsed, the more curious she became. “The thing that was interesting to me is how people presented themselves. No one was studying that at the time,” she says.
As for her personal relationship with online dating, she called it quits long ago. A month after she started at Tinder the company, she met her boyfriend on Tinder the app. The couple have lived together for nearly two years with a pair of Maltipoos they rescued as puppies. Their names are Bonnie and Clyde.

Schools are more likely to suspend minority students

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/06/chicago-public-schools-discipline-gap-education-department_n_1323681.html

and




http://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/tribune/article_popover.aspx?guid=2b97c788-27fe-4c5f-9057-ee8fbc2d7085
By Joy Resmovits
Tribune Newspapers
Schools suspend minority students at much higher rates than their peers, sometimes starting from preschool.
The Civil Rights Data Collection, a national survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, surveyed over 50 million students at more than 95,000 schools and found that while suspensions decreased by almost 20 percentage points between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 school years, gaps between the suspension rates of different groups of students remained, according to results released late Monday.
The survey included 1,439,188 preschool students enrolled in 28,783 schools. Of those, 6,743 preschool students or .47 percent were suspended out of school once or more than once. While black girls represent 20 percent of preschool enrollment, 54 percent of preschool girls suspended once or more were black. And black preschool children overall were 3.6 times as likely to be suspended as young white children.
The results don't “paint a very good picture,” said Liz King, senior policy analyst and director of education policy at the Leadership for Civil and Human Rights.
Across all grades, 2.8 million students were suspended once or more than once. Black students were nearly four times as likely to be suspended and almost twice as likely to be expelled as white students. Students with disabilities were also twice as likely to be suspended as general education students.
The disparity “tears at the moral fabric of the nation,” said Secretary of Education John King. “We will not compromise away the civil right of all students to an excellent education.”
The findings come amid a major nationwide debate over school discipline and just what statistics like these mean.
School districts across the country have reexamined the way they chastise students for misbehaving, in part because of previous civil rights survey results.
Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states must review schools' disciplinary statistics to reduce an “overuse of suspension.”
The disparities invite further investigation, said Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary of education responsible of the Office for Civil Rights. “Data by itself is not a reason to think there's intentional discrimination, but they are a reason to ask further questions,” she said.
Jason Okonofua, a social psychologist at Stanford University, found in his studies that the disparities stem from problems in the relationships between teachers and students. Minority students, he found, expect to be the victim of bias — which leads them to be less cooperative. On the other hand, he said, if a teacher feels disrespected, and as if the student is a troublemaker, the student will get punished more severely, causing the cycle to continue.
Okonofua asked 190 teachers to review information about a student misbehaving. He presented a scenario in which a student interrupted class by walking around. For some teachers, the scenario involved a boy named Jake, and for others, it involved a boy named Darnell, a name more often used among African-Americans. The teachers opted to discipline either boy almost the same way.
But when presented with another scenario — this time, Jake/Darnell fell asleep in class — some teachers punished Darnell more harshly.
The federal survey also tracked access to high-level courses and found that half of high schools don't offer calculus and more than one-quarter don't offer chemistry. While 56 percent of schools with low minority populations offered calculus, one-third of those with high black and Latino populations did.
“Right now we're talking a good game about college and career readiness, but not all students attend schools that offer courses that are necessary for college readiness,” said Daria Hall, interim vice president for government affairs and communications at the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based education advocacy group. “You look across all of this information, and it becomes very clear why we have gaps in achievement.”

Study: Minority students far more likely suspended
By Joy Resmovits
Tribune Newspapers
Schools suspend minority students at much higher rates than their peers, sometimes starting from preschool.
The Civil Rights Data Collection, a national survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, surveyed over 50 million students at more than 95,000 schools and found that while suspensions decreased by almost 20 percentage points between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 school years, gaps between the suspension rates of different groups of students remained, according to results released late Monday.
The survey included 1,439,188 preschool students enrolled in 28,783 schools. Of those, 6,743 preschool students or .47 percent were suspended out of school once or more than once. While black girls represent 20 percent of preschool enrollment, 54 percent of preschool girls suspended once or more were black. And black preschool children overall were 3.6 times as likely to be suspended as young white children.
The results don't “paint a very good picture,” said Liz King, senior policy analyst and director of education policy at the Leadership for Civil and Human Rights.
Across all grades, 2.8 million students were suspended once or more than once. Black students were nearly four times as likely to be suspended and almost twice as likely to be expelled as white students. Students with disabilities were also twice as likely to be suspended as general education students.
The disparity “tears at the moral fabric of the nation,” said Secretary of Education John King. “We will not compromise away the civil right of all students to an excellent education.”
The findings come amid a major nationwide debate over school discipline and just what statistics like these mean.
School districts across the country have reexamined the way they chastise students for misbehaving, in part because of previous civil rights survey results.
Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states must review schools' disciplinary statistics to reduce an “overuse of suspension.”
The disparities invite further investigation, said Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary of education responsible of the Office for Civil Rights. “Data by itself is not a reason to think there's intentional discrimination, but they are a reason to ask further questions,” she said.
Jason Okonofua, a social psychologist at Stanford University, found in his studies that the disparities stem from problems in the relationships between teachers and students. Minority students, he found, expect to be the victim of bias — which leads them to be less cooperative. On the other hand, he said, if a teacher feels disrespected, and as if the student is a troublemaker, the student will get punished more severely, causing the cycle to continue.
Okonofua asked 190 teachers to review information about a student misbehaving. He presented a scenario in which a student interrupted class by walking around. For some teachers, the scenario involved a boy named Jake, and for others, it involved a boy named Darnell, a name more often used among African-Americans. The teachers opted to discipline either boy almost the same way.
But when presented with another scenario — this time, Jake/Darnell fell asleep in class — some teachers punished Darnell more harshly.
The federal survey also tracked access to high-level courses and found that half of high schools don't offer calculus and more than one-quarter don't offer chemistry. While 56 percent of schools with low minority populations offered calculus, one-third of those with high black and Latino populations did.
“Right now we're talking a good game about college and career readiness, but not all students attend schools that offer courses that are necessary for college readiness,” said Daria Hall, interim vice president for government affairs and communications at the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based education advocacy group. “You look across all of this information, and it becomes very clear why we have gaps in achievement.”
- See more at: http://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/tribune/article_popover.aspx?guid=2b97c788-27fe-4c5f-9057-ee8fbc2d7085#sthash.LWuIMSiG.dpuf

Study finds Social Inequality could cause civilization collapse

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?



https://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists

"While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory 'so far' in support of doing nothing."

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Mindfulness and Focus: Manage your Attention, Not Your Time

Manage Your Attention, Not Your Time

If there is any one ‘secret’ to effectiveness, it is concentration.
—Peter F. Drucker, management philosopher
“At the end of the day, my brain feels like scrambled eggs!” admitted Phil, an attorney at whose firm I teach. He, like many, was living out the effects of what it means to not prioritize attention in the workday. When distractions abound how do you find focus to get something done?

Make Attention a Priority

My previous post explored what attention is and why it’s important to both quality of life and fundamental effectiveness. Attention is the basic resource or energy you have to invest in your experience. You are what you attend to. It’s that simple.
Let’s go “Big Picture” for a moment. Managing attention has not been on our radar screens because until recently most of us took it for granted. Education has largely emphasized skills for thinking and underemphasized, or ignored altogether, the skills of attending, seeing, and perceiving (let alone feeling). Look at what gets cut from school budgets when times are tough: Arts, sports, and music are the domains that cultivate perception, focus, and their relationship to performance. For good or for ill, we are an “I think therefore I am” culture. Given that, it’s easy to see how even the so-called “well-educated” can overlook attention.

A New Way to Think about What “Well-Educated” Means

Management philosopher Peter F. Drucker understood that going forward truly educated (and effective) people “will need trained perception fully as much as analysis.” In a quickly-changing world, effective people will need to clearly see as much as clearly think. The starting point of this is managing attention and focus. So many stimuli compete for attention, any hope for effectiveness rests on being more conscious of how you use it alone and together with others.
This series of posts intends to create the talking points for you to have a conversation with those you work and live with to make a priority around attention. The more you do that, the better able you will be to stay true to your goals, perform toward your best, and engage the world in a meaningful way.
So many stimuli compete for attention, any hope for effectiveness rests on being more conscious of how you use it alone and together with others.

1. Manage Attention Not Time

People tend to think managing time forms the foundation for able action. Even Drucker thought, “Time is an executive’s scarcest and most precious resource.” However, I believe this is a misperception. Who actually can manage time? Can you make the future come faster or return to the past? Unless you’re a sci-fi hero, no. What people actually do in the flow of time is manage attention.
For example, Phil may block off several hours to work on a case, but if he spends those hours obsessing over baseball stats, we say he mismanaged his time. In reality, his attention wasn’t where it needed to be. No one manages time. We manage our attention.
This point may seem like nitpicking, but I believe it is vital because it gives you a lever you can actually pull. What follows are real-life strategies developed by my students and clients that have worked for them.

2. Name Your Priorities

This sounds simple, but I’ve observed that we don’t name them frequently enough. All too often, we allow the momentum of whatever we’ve been doing to make our decisions for us. Habits are great as long as they’re serving our true intentions or a situation’s real needs. Otherwise, we wake up and go through the motions while missing the important things.
So, the first and most essential step is knowing what your intentions are. Ask yourself: “What’s vital for me to put energy on right now”?” or “Is this the best use of my energy?” These questions can help clarify what’s essential. Intentions also help to say “no” to the less important (but perhaps more urgent). Clarifying intentions brings greater direction to investing energy.
Habits are great as long as they’re serving our true intentions or a situation’s real needs. Otherwise, we wake up and go through the motions while missing the important things.
Ask yourself these questions to clarify your priorities:
  1. What are you doing to prioritize your day and develop an action plan when you are inevitably interrupted?
  2. What is okay to say “no” to?
  3. How will you handle interruptions when they arise?
  4. Do you hold an assumption that you must respond to any interruption?
  5. Are you afraid you will be disliked/unloved/fired if you fail to respond immediately to an email?
I’ve consistently found that people have far more latitude in saying no or “later” to incoming requests than they realize.
Priorities apply both to the short- and long-term. In the moment, it means choosing where attention should focus right now. Finish this memo due tomorrow or look-up that Yoda quote you can’t quite recall?
In the long run, where we put our attention is central to a sense of meaning and purpose. Is Phil’s diversion into baseball stats and not writing law briefs a sign that maybe he’s bored with being a lawyer? Is there something else he’d rather be doing?
In the long run, where we put our attention is central to a sense of meaning and purpose.

3. Conduct an Attention Audit to Improve Focus

Knowing where attention should go isn’t going to help if you can’t stay there. Distractions destroy focused attention. While I’m not convinced it’s possible to entirely remove them, it is possible to make great strides in creating an environment that promotes and protects attention.
Look at your environment and what is there to support focus or hinder it. Evelyn, a frustrated marketing executive, looked at her workspace through the lens of attention. She immediately noticed that the office copy machine was placed outside her door. The dots connected. She was frustrated because while waiting for their copies, her well-intentioned colleagues would stick their head in her door and chat. This happened several times an hour and she could rarely find focused flow. Eureka! A phone call to facilities to move the machine and she finally enjoyed a day of satisfying concentration.
Look around, what can you do right now? Do you work in an open office environment? What signals can you send that say, “Don’t bother me?”
These steps are only the beginning. Each of these strategies can be built out and expanded upon. The next post will dive into deeper detail.
Remember, be patient with yourself as you start this process. These essential skills take time to cultivate and explore to find the strategies that help each of us stay effective in turbulent times.