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Archive for 'alphabet'

H is for Humor

July 2, 2008

Picking up the “mind alphabet” series again… I’d gotten stuck on “H” months ago but having seen “humor” cropping up as a theme in some recent items, it seems like a good excuse to resume.

“Humor shown to be fundamental to our success as a species” from Science Daily (June 16, 2008) discusses the new book Pattern Recognition Theory of Humour by Alastair Clarke (available in the UK, but not even a preorder at Amazon.com). (see also “Finding Patterns” at The Thinking Meat Project)

“Isn’t It Funny?,” New York Review of Books (July 17, 2008) reviews Stop Me If You’ve Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes by Jim Holt and Looking at Laughter: Humor, Power, and Transgression in Roman Visual Culture, 100 B.C.- A.D. 250 by John R. Clarke.

Books on humor at the International Society for Humor Studies

More books on humor (hoping the widget works):

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G is for Games

December 8, 2007

[Continuing an occasional ‘mind alphabet’ series. I recently came across several things dealing with virtual worlds, not exactly games, but related…]

  • Mitch Kapor spoke at Berkeley’s I School about Second Life (podcast). Kapor believes that virtual worlds such as Second Life will become the next big “disruptive innovation” on a par with the personal computer and the Internet (topics of his two earlier talks in the series). Currently virtual worlds are in the early adopter stage, according to Kapor, comparable to the early “DOS era” of PCs.

Virtual worlds have exploded out of online game culture and now capture the attention of millions of ordinary people: husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, workers, retirees. Devoting dozens of hours each week to massively multiplayer virtual reality environments (like World of Warcraft and Second Life), these millions are the start of an exodus into the refuge of fantasy, where they experience life under a new social, political, and economic order built around fun. Given the choice between a fantasy world and the real world, how many of us would choose reality? Exodus to the Virtual World explains the growing migration into virtual reality, and how it will change the way we live–both in fantasy worlds and in the real one.

Some books related to games, further exploring the philosophical, psychological or cultural implications:

Ever get the feeling that life’s a game with changing rules and no clear sides, one you are compelled to play yet cannot win? Welcome to gamespace. Gamespace is where and how we live today. It is everywhere and nowhere: the main chance, the best shot, the big leagues, the only game in town. In a world thus configured, McKenzie Wark contends, digital computer games are the emergent cultural form of the times. Where others argue obsessively over violence in games, Wark approaches them as a utopian version of the world in which we actually live. Playing against the machine on a game console, we enjoy the only truly level playing field–where we get ahead on our strengths or not at all.

Gamer Theory uncovers the significance of games in the gap between the near-perfection of actual games and the highly imperfect gamespace of everyday life in the rat race of free-market society. The book depicts a world becoming an inescapable series of less and less perfect games. This world gives rise to a new persona. In place of the subject or citizen stands the gamer. As all previous such personae had their breviaries and manuals, Gamer Theory seeks to offer guidance for thinking within this new character. Neither a strategy guide nor a cheat sheet for improving one’s score or skills, the book is instead a primer in thinking about a world made over as a gamespace, recast as an imperfect copy of the game.

  • Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Berlin Johnson: “In this provocative, intelligent, and convincing endorsement of today’s mass entertainment, national bestselling author Steven Johnson argues that the pop culture we soak in every day-from “The Lord of the Rings” to “Grand Theft Auto” to “The Simpsons”-has been growing more and more sophisticated and, far from rotting our brains, is actually posing new cognitive challenges that are making our minds measurably sharper.”

In the mid twentieth century the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously asserted that games are indefinable; there are no common threads that link them all. “Nonsense,” says the sensible Bernard Suits: “playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” The short book Suits wrote demonstrating precisely that is as playful as it is insightful, as stimulating as it is delightful. Suits not only argues that games can be meaningfully defined; he also suggests that playing games is a central part of the ideal of human existence, so games belong at the heart of any vision of Utopia.

There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite.

A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.

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F is for Free will

November 10, 2007

Continuing an occasional ‘mind alphabet’ series….

For a conceptual overview: Free will on WikiMindMap

Selected books on free will:

A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will by Robert Kane (Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2005).
An Essay on Free Will by Peter Van Inwagen (Oxford [Oxfordshire] : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1983).
De La Mettrie’s Ghost: The Story of Decisions by Chris Nunn (New York : Macmillan, 2005).
Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting by Daniel Clement Dennett (Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 1984).
Four Views on Free Will (Great Debates in Philosophy)by John Martin Fischer (Malden, MA ; Oxford : Blackwell Pub., 2007).
Free Will (Blackwell Readings in Philosophy) by Robert Kane (Wiley, 2001). [readings]
Free Will: A Very Short Introduction by Thomas Pink (Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2004).
Free Will and Luck by Alfred R Mele (Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2006). (more…)

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E is for Emotion

October 19, 2007

masksI’ll have to give up on the Amazon slideshow widget at least for now. I thought I had it figured out earlier today; it worked in Internet Explorer but I found out that it didn’t work in Firefox at all. So here is a selection of books on emotion that would have been in the slideshow… (and I apologize for any problems that occurred with the feed):

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

Three by Antonio Damasio:

Emotions Revealed, Second Edition: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life by Paul Ekman

Emotion and Consciousness ed. by Lisa Feldman Barrett, Paula M. Niedenthal, and Piotr Winkielman

The Private Life of the Brain: Emotions, Consciousness, and the Secret of the Self by Susan Greenfield

Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama by Daniel Goleman

The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life by Joseph Ledoux

What Is an Emotion?: Classic and Contemporary Readings ed, by Robert C. Solomon

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D is for Decision-making

October 7, 2007

Decision-making turns out to be a popular topic, spanning self-help, business management, cognitive psychology, and various applied fields.

Below I have selected some titles published within the last few years (2005-2007), starred a couple that looked most interesting for the general reader (or to me at least), followed by links to some other book lists. [10/8/07 – added a section for reader recommendations ]

The Book of Hard Choices: How to Make the Right Decisions at Work and Keep Your Self-Respect by James A Autry; Peter Roy (New York : Morgan Road Books, 2006). [business-oriented]

Decision Making: 5 Steps to Better Results (Harvard Business Essentials) (Boston, Mass. : Harvard Business School ; London : McGraw-Hill [distributor], 2006). [business-oriented]

Decision Making & Problem Solving Strategies (Creating Success) by John Eric Adair (London ; Philadelphia : Kogan Page, 2007). [business-oriented]

Decision-making in Complex Environments ed. by Malcolm Cook; Janet M Noyes; Yvonne Masakowski (Aldershot, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007). [technical/specialized]

Emotion and Reason: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Decision Making by Alain Berthoz; tr. Giselle Weiss (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2006).

*The Era of Choice: The Ability to Choose and Its Transformation of Contemporary Life (Bradford Books) by Edward C Rosenthal (Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 2005).


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