Monday, 3 March 2014

Seen and heard: February 2014

Articles and postings
  • Dear Mr Gove: here is a manifesto for your education reforms – Michael Rosen’s "Letter from a Curious Parent" column in The Guardian, 4 February 2014. “I would like to offer you and your party a manifesto to help you push on with your education reforms…. . 2. We won't wait for schools or local authorities to decide if schools wish to be academies or not. We will abolish all power that local authorities have over education, apart from dealing with excluded pupils and pupils with special needs. The role of local authority education will be to absorb the pupils who the academies don't want to educate. This will enable academies to improve their exam results, while offering employment opportunities to retired army personnel…. 4. Once all schools are academies, these will continue to be overseen by the secretary of state. To assist him, he will commission firms to compete for the Regional Management of Academies, running the five areas of England. We expect to see reliable market leaders coming from the banking sector, football ownership and security firms with a strong ex-army presence on their boards…. 6. We are aiming for all schools to be above average by the second week of the next government.
  • What the Dunning-Kruger effect is and isn’t[citation needed] [sic!] blog, referenced in Mind Hacks blog. “For reasons I’m not really clear on, the Dunning-Kruger effect seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance over the past few months; it’s everywhere in the blogosphere and media…. the findings reported by Kruger and Dunning are often interpreted to suggest that the less competent people are, the more competent they think they are…. [In fact] the bias is definitively not that incompetent people think they’re better than competent people. Rather, it’s that incompetent people think they’re much better than they actually are. But they typically still don’t think they’re quite as good as people who, you know, actually are good.”  
  • Finished that ebook yet? Hang on, sorry, it keeps updating – John Naughton's Observer column 8.2.14 (referenced in his Memex1.1 blog). “A Kindle book, in contrast to a printed work, can be fluid, malleable – fungible almost. In the print world, we are accustomed to the idea of discrete editions of a text. But an ebook [can] have a new edition every month, or indeed every week. For fast-changing subjects (such as information technology) that might be very helpful – in which case the argument for physically printing such texts looks increasingly shaky. It will be amazing if, in 10 years' time, undergraduates will still be lugging round the astonishingly heavy textbooks that weigh down the rucksacks of today's students. For authors, the fact that it will technically be possible continually to update their books may be a mixed blessing. After all, one of the consolations of traditional authorship is that when a book is published, it's finished.”
  • Heroin, addiction and free willMind Hacks blog. “The death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has sparked some strong and seemingly contradictory responses. What these reactions show is that many people find it hard to think of addiction as being anything except either a choice or a loss of free will. The fact that addiction could involve an active choice to take drugs but still be utterly irresistible seems difficult for most people to fathom.”
  • The Reciprocity Principle: Give Before You Take in Web Design – online article from Nielsen Norman Group. “The reciprocity principle says that people respond in kind to nice behavior. If you want your users to trust you with their information and come back to you repeatedly, plant the reciprocity seed by being nice to them upfront and minimizing their interaction cost. Ask as little of your users as possible. On the web and elsewhere, start by giving before taking, and people will reciprocate.”
Shows and events, books and games

The Monuments Men - film drama about the US Army team charged with locating and rescuing Nazi-looted art treasures during World War II. Nice statement about the importance of art and culture even (especially?) in wartime, and people's willingness to risk (and occasionally give) their lives to protect it. Mirroring the on-screen drama, George Clooney has assembled and directed a crack ensemble cast, including Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchette, and Jean Dujardin.

To The Moon - unusual adventure game, low on puzzles and high on narrative, in which two "memory-retrieval specialists" attend the bedside of a dying man to run through his life memories and reconstruct them so that he fulfils his desire: to go to the moon.

The Beiderbecke Connection - the final drama from my Christmas present box set, which I never watched to its conclusion when first transmitted in 1988. A beautiful ending, with Trevor and Jill driving off into the sunset with their firstborn, having shared with us the secret of living in a mixed-up world - the trick being to listen to the music, which for Trevor (and scriptwriter Alan Plater) means his beloved jazz. "You do know how to listen don't you?" says Jill. "You put your ears together and..." Shhhh.

Treasures in MK – fun exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery, of curious and historic artworks and objects from collections near the city, including a couple of Dürers, a set of Hogarths, a beautiful but smug looking Jacobean lady, some plaster busts and cartoons of the Beatles, and an Aston Martin DB4.

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