Society

Ursula LeGuin and writers of hope

Watch this video clip of fantasy writer Ursula LeGuin's acceptance speech of the 2014 U.S. National Book Award. Be prepared to summarize and discuss the points she makes about writers and the contemporary world.

 


Vocabulary:

  • fear-stricken—suffering severely from the effects of fear.
  • grounds for—a reason for doing or believing something.
  • visionary—having clear ideas of what the world should be like in the future.

Visuals: Children's dream jobs

Adecco, a Japanese company providing human resource services, conducted a national survey asking 900 elementary and junior high school boys and girls what job they wanted to do when they grew up. Many children showed an interest in jobs that involve digital technology, which is no surprise since they have been surrounded by the technology since birth.

The detailed results of the survey are shown below.
 

How Meta targets political ads

Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, says it will provide outside researchers more information on how political and social ads are targeted on its platform, providing insight into the ways that politicians, campaign operatives and political strategists buy and use ads during election periods. Starting from May 2022, academics and researchers registered with Facebook Open Research and Transparency will be allowed to see more detailed targeting data, including which interest categories—such as “people who like dogs” or “people who enjoy the outdoors”—have been chosen to aim ads at specific people.

Meta also plans to include summaries of targeting information for some of its ads in its publicly viewable Ad Library. Created in 2019, the Ad Library allows the public to obtain information about political ads, thus helping to safeguard elections against the misuse of digital advertising.

The Dalai Lama on leadership

The Dalai Lama wrote an opinion piece for the Harvard Business Review about the importance of leadership and what makes a strong leader.

He says that the world is facing an emotional crisis where rates of stress, anxiety and depression are higher than ever. The focus on turning a profit often overrules a commitment to people and society. In organizations, he explains, people work closely together every day, but many feel lonely and stressed. This is because there is a lack of responsibility toward each other.

He advises leaders to be mindful towards each other, saying that the opposite of fear is trust, which boosts our self-confidence. Compassion also reduces fear, reflecting a concern for others’ well-being. He asserts that people are naturally driven by self-interest, but we need wise self-interest that is generous and cooperative, taking others’ interests also into account.

Men artists: Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) was part of the French Impressionist art movement, the first school of art to break away from classical painting. Impressionism focuses on the light and colors of a particular moment in time. Because artists wanted to capture a brief moment and didn't have cameras yet, they needed to paint quickly. So they used quick, flat strokes without precise detail.

They also used colors in new ways. The best example is that shadows aren't just the object's color with gray or brown mixed in. Instead, the painters added strokes of the complementary color of the object (e.g., strokes of red in the shadow of something green). This makes the shadows come alive. 

The importance of smartphones

Smartphones are everywhere. People use them in rich countries and poor countries. Sometimes very poor people have smartphones, even when they live in slums. I think that most people understand how important smartphones can be. For example, some tuk-tuk drivers in Cambodia would have less business without a smartphone. This is because they can find riders through an app and make more money than just looking for customers on the street.

Phones have changed a lot in the last 20 years. I remember when you could only make calls on cellphones. Now, you can take free classes from top universities. You can film video, edit it and upload it to social media.  

There are many apps available—2.8 million are available for download on the Google Play Store. Apple's App store has 1.8 million. Some people use apps a lot. Research says about 20% of Millennials open an app more than 50 times per day. In general, most people open an app 11 or more times each day.

Men artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) was part of the Neo-Expressionist movement of the 1980s, led by Andy Warhol. Basquiat's primitive style grew out of his time as a graffiti artist in New York City. People first knew him as part of the anonymous duo SAMO© (pronounced "same-o"), with Al Diaz. They were among the first to use words to communicate thoughts, rather than just tags with names and numbers.

For 3 years, from the age of 17–20, Basquiat sold his art on t-shirts and postcards on the street for a couple of bucks each. Finally, he made it into a group show at an art gallery. People and critics loved his work, and in no time people were paying $50,000 or more for one of his pieces.

The child of a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat brought the Black and Latino experience into the fine art world. His art was angry and harsh, yet also poetic. He was able to express a reality that had long been excluded from elite society.

Pinterest: safety over free speech

How much should tech companies regulate information? While Facebook and Twitter have up to now chosen to err on the side of free speech, an unlikely platform has taken an important step. Pinterest found that users were searching for information on vaccines, so CEO Ben Silbermann pulled all medical information from the platform.

Vaccines have been a contentious issue in social media, but not in science. While the science is clear that vaccines save lives, there has been a reemergence of previously eradicated diseases like measles. That reemergence has been linked to disinformation shared in social media. 

Race, ethnicity, and nationality

The words "race", "ethnicity" and "nationality" are often misunderstood or even used interchangeably. They mean very different things, however.

Here are basic definitions of the categories.

As you can see, the words refer separately to physical features, cultural background, and the country you are from. In countries like Japan, the three things are closely linked. But in a place like the U.S., where people come from many different places and backgrounds, they are completely separate.

Let's look at how I fit into them.

Race