8/26/2010 12:38:15 PM
In an excerpt from Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences by Thomas Armstrong in the April/May issue of Ode, Armstrong writes about a metaphorical “rose psychiatrist” diagnosing other non-rose flowers with diseases and disabilities. A sunflower has “hugism,” while a calla lilly is diagnosed with “PDD, or petal deficit disorder.” The metaphor, Armstrong posits, shows “how our culture treats neurological differences in human beings these days.” Instead of there being one “normal” brain (the rose brain in the metaphor), we need to think about different brains as just that, different, with what we now consider “normal” as only one spot on a continuum of brain types, making all brain types connected versus placing some in “other” categories and therefore separate. With this in mind, Armstrong says we must consider our brains to be more like ecosystems than the old comparison to machines.
Since medical research tends to focus on disease, instead of on health, Armstrong writes:
The concept of neurodiversity provides a more balanced perspective. Instead of regarding traditionally pathologized populations as disabled or disordered, the emphasis in neurodiversity is placed on differences.
This is not, as some people might suspect, merely a new form of political correctness (e.g., “serial killers are differently assertive”). Instead, research from brain science, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, sociology and the humanities demonstrates that these differences are real and deserve serious consideration.
I recognize that they also involve tremendous hardship, suffering and pain. The importance of identifying mental illness, treating it appropriately and developing the means of preventing it in early childhood cannot be overstated.
However, one important ingredient in the alleviation of this suffering is an emphasis on the positive dimensions of people who have traditionally been stigmatized as less than normal.
Armstrong has come up with eight principles of neurodiversity to guide the reader in seeing how certain mental disorders may just be “alternative forms of natural human difference.”
Source: Ode, Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences
8/25/2010 12:05:59 PM
Whether you like it or not, technology is a boy’s pursuit. Exploiting gender stereotypes, Google portrayed its Droid as a masculine “can-do” smart-phone, in comparison to Apple’s “tiara-wearing, digitally clueless beauty-pageant queen” iPhone. Until recently, most of the video game market was directed towards boys. Also, consider the term for the room of the house with the 8-foot flat-screen plasma television, state-of-the-art hi-def surround sound stereo system, and Energy Star-rated mini-fridge: a “man cave.” Girls are absent from the frontier of technological sophistication.
Professionally, the status quo is shocking. According to Tammy Oler’s article in Bitch:
Efforts to get more girls and women involved in tech are taking on a new sense of urgency these days. According to statistics compiled by the National Center for Women and Information Technology, only 18 percent of all computer science degrees earned in 2008 were earned by women, down from 37 percent in 1985. And while more than half of all professional occupations are held by women, only 25 percent of computing-related professions are—and women are executives at only 11 percent of Fortune 500 technology companies. Additionally, only a very small percentage of women working in technology professions are African-American, Latina, or Asian.
A handful of DIY designers, craft-enthusiasts and fashionistas are trying to literally makeover the appearance of girls in the landscape of technology—by outfitting them with chic, wired clothing and accessories. Oler writes, “‘tech crafting’ may just be the key to getting more women and girls involved in technology.”
Of course, digi-couture is a problematic solution to a cultural conundrum. “While tech crafting and girlcentric offerings may offer welcome alternatives to BattleBot building,” Oler warns, “they do little to ameliorate existing gender stereotypes around technology . . . . The downside of the tech-crafting push is that it risks ascribing women’s interest in technology to the domains of fashion and craft, and may inadvertently support the gender divide at the heart of the problem it seeks to help overcome.”
Similarly, Jeff Severns Guntzel recently wrote about girls’ exclusion from online file-sharing culture.
Image by whiteafrican, licensed under Creative Commons.
8/20/2010 10:59:15 AM
Troubled by the increase in the number of diabetes cases among their members, the Havasupai Tribe, in 1989, agreed to let researchers from Arizona State University draw and test their blood to try to find a reason for the elevated rate of the disease. When a paper on the research was published in 1991 stating there was no genetic reason for the high levels of diabetes, the tribe thought that was that.
However, Arizona State University continued using the samples for more research, according to an article in Native Peoples. “Unbeknownst to the tribe,” writes Patty Talahongva, “additional research using the samples went on for more than a decade.” “[I]nstead of using that blood solely for diabetes research [ASU staff members] conducted further research, on schizophrenia, inbreeding and even migration patterns.”
Havasupai tribal member Carletta Tilousi, when she learned about the further research, “was outraged to learn that blood drawn for a diabetes study,” Talahongva writes, “was instead being used to dispel her people’s beliefs and cultural teachings, which say that the Havasupai originated in the Grand Canyon.” (A doctoral student’s dissertation claimed that the tribe had migrated across the Bering Strait.)
A lawsuit was brought against ASU “charging them with genetic piracy” and eventually a settlement was reached, including a $700,000 payment and a return of the blood samples to the tribe, as well as “new collaborations with the tribe, such as building a high school, a new health clinic and providing scholarships to Havasupai tribal members to each of the state’s three universities.”
Talahongva brings up questions, though, as to whether or not justice will be served:
“The tribe has fewer than 700 enrolled members. Their high school graduation rate is low and few Havasupai end up enrolling in college, thus many observers question the value of the promises made….The settlement also does not hold the original researchers accountable for their actions.”
In the end, the awareness of the case among other tribes may be the best thing to come of it, because “[a]s news of the settlement has spread, many tribes and tribal organizations say the case is a good example of why tribes need to adopt and implement scientific research protocols and ordinances.”
Unfortunately, the high levels of diabetes have not been reduced in the last two decades since the Havasupai originally sought help. The disease, Talahongva writes, “is still rampant among [the tribe].”
Talahongva’s story is not available online, however more on this story and its implications on DNA research can be found in this New York Times article, as well as in the article “Indian Givers” in Phoenix New Times, which broke this story back in 2004, according to New Times.
Source: Native Peoples (Article only available in print edition.)
Image by The Sierra Club, liscenced under Creative Commons.
8/12/2010 2:08:28 PM
When a 50-megaton nuclear explosion incinerates the American heartland, do you really want to be caught in a mildew-ridden, dumpy motel next to a highway in the middle of Nowhereville? Of course not. So when the apocalypse comes a-knockin’, protect yourself in a luxury end-times bunker from the Del Mar, Calif.-based Vivos Group.
“Each hardened subterranean resort, designed to house 200 people for a year, will give a new meaning to the term ‘all-inclusive’,” reports IEEE Spectrum. “Accommodations will include an on-site power generator and water supply, air filters, sewage disposal, a hospital, a library, a gym, and even a jail.” Further, according to the Vivos website, “the complex includes community gathering areas and private suites providing comfortable and spacious accommodations with about 100 square feet per person.”
Like at any other posh resort, opulence demands an equally ritzy price tag. According to IEEE Spectrum, “The postapocalyptic extended-stay package costs $50,000 per adult and $25,000 per child.” As incentive, pets survive doomsday free-of-charge.
Enjoy comfortable, modern living—even as nuclear fallout finishes off life on the Earth's surface.
Source: IEEE Spectrum
Images courtesy of Terravivos.com ©2010.
8/11/2010 3:07:21 PM
In theory, it's a neat idea. You're walking down the street and observe a sewage leak or some illegally dumped trash. You snap a quick picture with your smart phone and that picture along with your location are automatically forwarded to an online city map. Ideally, someone from the city government acknowledges this, and, ideally, this someone does something to remedy the problem.
This is essentially the idea behind City Sourced, an LA-based company that Urbanite highlighted earlier this year as a pioneer in "crowdsourcing for a cause." The goal is for ordinary citizens to exercise some semblance of civic mindedness, and for city officials to be more aware of the little issues in their respective districts.
"The best aspect?" says Urbanite, "Doing your part takes no more than sixty seconds."
Like I said before, in theory this sounds great. However, I can't help but think how this basically amounts to the activism of the mildly indolent.
In a better world (or at least a less apathetic one), we would all possess the time, resources, and motivation to be like these two guys, who took it upon themselves to build "The Astoria Scum River Bridge." Constructed over a "gross and dangerous" cesspool-esque puddle that developed under a New York Amtrak overpass due to a perpetually leaking pipe, the bridge prevented pedestrians from slipping in the winter when the puddle iced over, and helped people avoid smelly gunk on their way to and from the subway everyday. The team w as acknowledged by a local councilmember for their good deed, Amtrak fixed the leaky pipe, and the Scum River was no more.
Source: Urbanite, Gimundo
, licensed under
8/11/2010 12:32:20 PM
Get out of the way bus rapid transit, you’re moving too slow. Light Rail? Psssh, soooo 21st Century. The radical future of public transportation is coming soon to a Chinese megalopolis near you.
Trying to preempt an unprecedented population boom, China is investing heavily in its urban infrastructure, especially mass transit. The latest, most outlandish transit solution, reports China Hush, is a “straddling bus” (also called a “three-dimensional fast bus”) that travels over the tops of automobiles, like a mobile tunnel. Commuters board from a station one story above the ground, and when the straddling bus parks to pick up riders—as many as 1200 per vehicle—it doesn’t disrupt the flow of traffic.
The project seems almost too good to be true, even though construction of a 115-mile line in Beijing’s Mentougou District is set to begin by the end of the year. The innovating company, Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment, claims that building the infrastructure for straddling buses is three times faster and much cheaper than a comparable distance of new subways. The wheel-rail-hybrid buses are powered by municipal electricity and solar energy, thus reducing the cost of their operation as well as fuel consumption. They will purportedly reduce traffic jams by 25 percent. There’s even motion-sensing alarm system built into the bus to prevent oversize vehicles from passing through the bus and to warn cars if they swerve too close to the bus’ wheels.
Source: China Hush
Image courtesy of Umiwi.com.
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