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Berkman Buzz: July 25, 2014

July 25, 2014

The Berkman Buzz is selected weekly from the posts of Berkman Center people and projects.
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Rey Junco explains why more kids—and girls especially—should play Minecraft

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Parents are constantly being warned about the dangers of too much screen time. And while the total amount of screen time is an important factor to consider, we don’t consider the quality of the games kids play. Some digital activities have much better educational value than others. A recurrent finding in my research as professor of education and human computer interaction is that technology use in and of itself is not related to learning outcomes, it’s the ways in which a technology is used that makes a difference.

Some technologies offer opportunities because of the way they are designed. The gameplay in "Minecraft" focuses squarely on building and is better suited to teach visuospatial skills than a first-person shooter, for instance (sorry "Titan Fall" fans).

From Rey Junco's post for mom.me, "Why Your Daughter Should Be Playing 'Minecraft' Right Now"
About Rey | @reyjunco

Sara Watson reflects on the human characteristics of big data

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We have to remember that big data is always made up of individuals. It might be our personal purchasing habits, our interest profile, our friends list, the collection of our published thoughts, or perhaps all of the above. On a macro scale, each of those data points allow researchers and firms to categorize populations or segment markets. But it takes work at the micro scale to grasp a contextual view of the individual. Research efforts and funding support must keep this in mind—big data methods can answer some questions, but certainly not all.

From Sara Watson's blog post, "Big Data with Human Characteristics"
About Sara | @smwat

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If this does not happen, then philosophy does not happen.
—Berkman Wisdom (@BerkmanWisdom)

(This week, Berkman Fellows Nate Matias and Sara Watson created Berkman Wisdom, which tweets out a random sentence from the Berkman Planet group of RSS feeds. The code is on Github.)

Ethan Zuckerman explores the globalization of sumo wrestling

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I have enormous respect for Osunaarashi, who not only is showing himself as a magnificent athlete, but is introducing the Japanese public to the dedication, intensity and beauty of the Muslim faith. Sumo wrestlers are not just competitors, but celebrities and cultural figures. Osunaarashi is emerging as an ambassador for the Muslim world, appearing as a guest lecturer in university classes and on TV to talk about differences and similarities between Japan and Egypt, between Islam and Shintoism.

I also have great admiration for Otake Oyakata, who has broken some of the traditions of sumo to make it possible for Osunaarashi to compete. Life in the sumo beya is highly ritualized – simply giving Osunaarashi time to pray five times a day is a break from sumo routines. Rikishi eat a rich, pork-heavy stew called chankonabe to pack on weight – the Otake stable now offers a fish-based chankonabe to Osunaarashi so he can gain weight while eating halal. These sound like minor changes, but they’re a big deal for a sport that is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition and extremely slow to change.

From Ethan Zuckerman's blog post, "Egyptian sumo wrestler bests a grand champion. Twice. While fasting for Ramadan."
About Ethan | @ethanz

Tim Davies shares 15 insights about open data

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I’m back living in Oxford after my almost-year in the USA at the Berkman Center. Before we returned, Rachel and I took a month to travel around the US – by Amtrak. The delightfully ponderous pace of US trains gave me plenty of time for reading, which was just as well, given June was the month when most of the partners in the Open Data in Developing Countries project I coordinate were producing their final reports. So, in-between time staring at the stunning scenery as we climbed through the Rockies, or watching amazing lightening storms from the viewing car, I was digging through in-depth reports into open data in the global south, and trying to pick out common themes and issues. A combination of post-it notes and scrivener index cards later, and finally back at my desk in Oxford, the result was a report, released alongside the ODDC Research Sharing Event in Berlin last week, that seeks to snapshot 15 insights or provocations for policy-makers and practitioners drawn out from the ODDC case study reports.

From Tim Davies' blog post, "Fifteen open data insights"
About Tim | @timdavies

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Overheard on the bus yesterday: "People in New York don't use web browsers anymore."
Andy Sellars (@andy_sellars)

Russia Offers 4 Million Rubles to Crack the Tor Network

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The Russian government is offering almost 4 million rubles (about USD $100,000) to anyone who can devise a reliable way to decrypt data sent over the Tor anonymity network. A mounting campaign by the Kremlin against the open Internet, not to mention revelations in the United States about government spying, have made Tor increasingly attractive to Russian Internet users seeking to circumvent state censorship.

From Kevin Rothrock's post for Global Voices, "Russia Offers 4 Million Rubles to Crack the Tor Network"
About Global Voices Online | @globalvoices

This Buzz was compiled by Rebekah Heacock.

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Last updated July 25, 2014