Psychogeography in an era of big data

As I was doing get-out-the-vote work for a political campaign here in Houston, I was thinking about this study I read about recently that looked at the “Wild West mentality”:

The researchers found that living at both a higher altitude and an elevation relative to the surrounding region—indicating “hilliness”—is associated with a distinct blend of personality traits that fits with “frontier settlement theory”.

“The harsh and remote environment of mountainous frontier regions historically attracted nonconformist settlers strongly motivated by a sense of freedom,” said researcher Friedrich Götz, from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology.

Now, let’s forgive and forget what the “wild west” even means for a minute. What I find fascinating about this study is the way that what was once a purely qualitative investigation (from de Tocqueville’s America to Debord’s urban dérive, for instance) opens out into impersonal data points. That a psychological profile can be quantified on a massive and fine-grained scale is … I don’t know, astonishing? Vertiginous?

It certainly induces a sense of vertigo in me. And that’s despite my skepticism of both psychological profiling and big data, each, in general, and the categories specifically deployed here.

In any case, geography as psychological ecology, nourishing mental niches that persist of over transgenerational human time. Wild indeed.

(Source: ‘Wild West’ mentality lingers in modern populations of US mountain regions)

Enterococcus, by poisoning its rivals, was saving the worms. This change depended entirely on the presence of Staph. When King exposed 15 generations of worms to Enterococcus alone, the mildly harmful bacterium became slightly more harmful. “On its own, it’s a little bit of a parasite,” says King. “But when it interacts with this much more virulent organism, it shifts along the continuum to be much more beneficial.

Ecology and “the passion of the Real”

My friend Brad Bolman has a new article out in the International Journal of Žižek Studies, “Seeking Peace, Finding the Violence of the Real: Traumatic Ecologies and the Post-Political Present.” The abstract:  

There is something queer about the social inability to act upon or to even fully think massive, impending ecological change. It is both obvious and confounding: on one level, we all know it is coming; on the other, we do not want to believe it and we refuse large-scale action to stop it. There is a game of political blame-shifting but there is also, and more importantly, an inability to ideologically engage with the contemporary ecological dilemma. Here I use the novel Butcher’s Crossing and the film Grizzly Man to investigate this dilemma through the psychoanalytic concept of “the passion of the Real.”

This is his second article for the IJZS (here’s the first), which is pretty impressive for such a young scholar (guess how young). 

Ecology and “the passion of the Real”