Discussion Post: Week 1
Hello everyone, and once again, welcome to the COM 315 course blog! Let’s get right into things with our first discussion post of the semester — you can feel free to respond to any part or parts of this post, including the additional stories at the end, and you can also make a new post on any relevant topic that I didn’t cover in this post. The same goes for all our other discussion posts over the course of the term.
Our first set of presentations is quickly approaching, so what have you been considering in terms of topics that you and your audience might both find interesting? What sorts of presentations would you like to see a few weeks from now? In what areas do you feel prepared to excel, and where do you think challenges might arise?
Let’s take a look at some of this week’s big headlines. “How’s the weather?” just became a serious question in New York City, where Hurricane Irene has forced a mandatory evacuation of low-lying waterfront areas, such as the financial district in lower Manhattan. The city that never sleeps suddenly has a number of abandoned regions thanks to the hurricane and the first ever mandatory evacuation of these areas; in all, around 270,000 residents have been ordered to leave. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also ordered that the city’s subway system be shut down from yesterday afternoon through tomorrow, which a spokesperson for the transit system said has only been done twice before. The storm even forced the PGA Tour to cancel the final round of its first 2011 FedEx Cup golf tournament, and Atlantic City all the way in New Jersey is shutting down. Has this storm affected you or your loved ones? Is Hurricane Irene having any effect on professionals within your industry of choice?
Speaking of weather, a recent study that appears to link El Niño to civil war has spurred a debate among scientists about the impact of the weather phenomenon. Solomon M. Hsiang and his colleagues at Columbia University noted that 20% of all civil wars since 1950 could be correlated with El Niño-related heat increases. To put that in different terms, “Tropical conflicts double during El Niño years” according to Quirin Schiermeier of Nature. Of course, not everyone agrees; Halvard Buhaug of Peace Research Institute Oslo, for example, says that the study is merely speculative, since it makes so effort to explain the apparent connection between El Niño heat and civil strife. What do you think about Hsiang et al.’s findings? Do you buy into the idea that these heat waves directly contribute to armed conflicts? Is there something else going on that better connects to both factors? Or does the whole idea sound rather fishy to you? Whether or not you think the findings are spurious, what does this study mean for our understanding of human behavior and of the environment? Furthermore, does the fact that there is such disagreement among scientists surprise you? What does this argument — and the fact that argumentation is necessary — mean for your own work?
If you thought social media was unimportant, you’re officially in the minority. A new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project says that almost two-thirds of all American internet-using adults — and half of all adults in the U.S. — are now users of Facebook, Twitter, or a similar social network. This trend is also growing among baby boomers, 32% of whom are now social media users. This is a whopping 20% increase from last year. How do you use (or avoid) social networks? Given that they have attained such prevalence in the daily lives of so many, how does that affect the ways in which you interact socially and professionally? What does it mean that so many of us spend so much time on these sites? Is it good that we have such means with which to connect with others, or does it represent some sort of problem?
Finally, we’ll conclude with the obvious story of the week: on Wednesday, Steve Jobs resigned from his position as Apple’s CEO. All three sections of our class have discussed this news to some extent, so I won’t belabor the point with further prompts, but please, feel free to talk further about this hot topic.
That’s all for this discussion post. Feel free, again, to discuss any of the above topics and any of the below stories; you can also make a brand-new post on a subject not addressed here, if you’d like. It’s all fair game, so have at it!
Other articles of interest:
Half of adults in the U.S. could be obese by 2030
Astronomers: We’ve found a planet made of diamond
Black Hole Behemoth Found Guilty of Star’s Murder
Russia likely to suspend space deliveries over loss of Progress freighter
Moon mission to explore Earth’s origins
NASA Robonaut R2 Tweets From Outer Space
Facebook hits 1 trillion page views? Nope.
Apple Just Hired a Notorious iPhone Jailbreak Hacker for an Internship
MasterImage 3D: The best glasses-free 3D technology yet
‘Jurassic Mother’ of Mammals, Humans Discovered in China