The Hidden History of Coined Words

Book by Ralph Keyes: “Successful word-coinages — those that stay in currency for a good long time — tend to conceal their beginnings. We take them at face value and rarely when and where they were first minted. Engaging, illuminating, and authoritative, Ralph Keyes’s The Hidden History of Coined Words explores the etymological underworld of terms and expressions and uncovers plenty of hidden gems.

He also finds some fascinating patterns, such as that successful neologisms are as likely to be created by chance as by design. A remarkable number of new words were coined whimsically, originally intended to troll or taunt. Knickers, for example, resulted from a hoax; big bang from an insult. Casual wisecracking produced software, crowdsource, and blog. More than a few resulted from happy accidents, such as typos, mistranslations, and mishearing (bigly and buttonhole), or from being taken entirely out of context (robotics). Neologizers (a Thomas Jefferson coinage) include not just scholars and writers but cartoonists, columnists, children’s book authors. Wimp originated with a book series, as did goop, and nerd from a book by Dr. Seuss. Coinages are often contested, controversy swirling around such terms as gonzo, mojo, and booty call. Keyes considers all contenders, while also leading us through the fray between new word partisans, and those who resist them strenuously. He concludes with advice about how to make your own successful coinage….(More)”.

People Count: Contact-Tracing Apps and Public Health

Book by Susan Landau: “An introduction to the technology of contact tracing and its usefulness for public health, considering questions of efficacy, equity, and privacy.

How do you stop a pandemic before a vaccine arrives? Contact tracing is key, the first step in a process that has proven effective: trace, test, and isolate. Smartphones can collect some of the information required by contact tracers—not just where you’ve been but also who’s been near you. Can we repurpose the tracking technology that we carry with us—devices with GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and social media connectivity—to serve public health in a pandemic? In People Count, cybersecurity expert Susan Landau looks at some of the apps developed for contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding that issues of effectiveness and equity intersect.

Landau explains the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of a range of technological interventions, including dongles in Singapore that collect proximity information; India’s biometric national identity system; Harvard University’s experiment, TraceFi; and China’s surveillance network. Other nations rejected China-style surveillance in favor of systems based on Bluetooth, GPS, and cell towers, but Landau explains the limitations of these technologies. She also reports that many current apps appear to be premised on a model of middle-class income and a job that can be done remotely. How can they be effective when low-income communities and front-line workers are the ones who are hit hardest by the virus? COVID-19 will not be our last pandemic; we need to get this essential method of infection control right….(More)”.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation: A Commentary/Update of Selected Articles

Open Access Book edited by C. Kuner, L.A. Bygrave and C. Docksey et al: ” provides an update for selected articles of the GDPR Commentary published in 2020 by Oxford University Press. It covers developments between the last date of coverage of the Commentary (1 August 2019) and 1 January 2021 (with a few exceptions when later developments are taken into account). Edited by Christopher Kuner, Lee A. Bygrave, Chris Docksey, Laura Drechsler, and Luca Tosoni, it covers 49 articles of the GDPR, and is being made freely accessible with the kind permission of Oxford University Press. It also includes two appendices that cover the same period as the rest of this update: the first deals with judgments of the European courts and some selected judgments of particular importance from national courts, and the second with EDPB papers…(More)”

Cultures of Transparency: Between Promise and Peril

Book edited by Stefan Berger, Susanne Fengler, Dimitrij Owetschkin, and Julia Sittmann: “This volume addresses the major questions surrounding a concept that has become ubiquitous in the media and in civil society as well as in political and economic discourses in recent years, and which is demanded with increasing frequency: transparency.

How can society deal with increasing and often diverging demands and expectations of transparency? What role can different political and civil society actors play in processes of producing, or preventing, transparency? Where are the limits of transparency and how are these boundaries negotiated? What is the relationship of transparency to processes of social change, as well as systems of social surveillance and control? Engaging with transparency as an interrelated product of law, politics, economics and culture, this interdisciplinary volume explores the ambiguities and contradictions, as well as the social and political dilemmas, that the age of transparency has unleashed….(More)”.



A Reader edited by Eric Hayot, Anatoly Detwyler, and Lea Pao: “…For decades, we have been told we live in the “information age”—a time when disruptive technological advancement has reshaped the categories and social uses of knowledge and when quantitative assessment is increasingly privileged. Such methodologies and concepts of information are usually considered the provenance of the natural and social sciences, which present them as politically and philosophically neutral. Yet the humanities should and do play an important role in interpreting and critiquing the historical, cultural, and conceptual nature of information.

This book is one of two companion volumes that explore theories and histories of information from a humanistic perspective. They consider information as a long-standing feature of social, cultural, and conceptual management, a matter of social practice, and a fundamental challenge for the humanities today.

Information: A Reader provides an introduction to the concept of information in historical, literary, and cultural studies. It features excerpts from more than forty texts by theorists and critics who have helped establish the notion of the “information age” or expand upon it. The reader establishes a canonical framework for thinking about information in humanistic terms. Together with Information: Keywords, it sets forth a major humanistic vision of the concept of information….(More)”

Responsible Data Science

Book by Peter Bruce and Grant Fleming: “The increasing popularity of data science has resulted in numerous well-publicized cases of bias, injustice, and discrimination. The widespread deployment of “Black box” algorithms that are difficult or impossible to understand and explain, even for their developers, is a primary source of these unanticipated harms, making modern techniques and methods for manipulating large data sets seem sinister, even dangerous. When put in the hands of authoritarian governments, these algorithms have enabled suppression of political dissent and persecution of minorities. To prevent these harms, data scientists everywhere must come to understand how the algorithms that they build and deploy may harm certain groups or be unfair.

Responsible Data Science delivers a comprehensive, practical treatment of how to implement data science solutions in an even-handed and ethical manner that minimizes the risk of undue harm to vulnerable members of society. Both data science practitioners and managers of analytics teams will learn how to:

  • Improve model transparency, even for black box models
  • Diagnose bias and unfairness within models using multiple metrics
  • Audit projects to ensure fairness and minimize the possibility of unintended harm…(More)”

Can Democracy Safeguard the Future?

Book by Graham Smith: “Our democracies repeatedly fail to safeguard the future. From pensions to pandemics, health and social care through to climate, biodiversity and emerging technologies, democracies have been unable to deliver robust policies for the long term.

In this book, Graham Smith asks why. Exploring the drivers of short-termism, he considers ways of reshaping legislatures and constitutions and proposes strengthening independent offices whose overarching goals do not change at every election. More radically, Smith argues that forms of participatory and deliberative politics offer the most effective democratic response to the current political myopia, as well as a powerful means of protecting the interests of generations to come….(More)”.

The Delusions of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups

Book by William J. Bernstein: “…Inspired by Charles Mackay’s 19th-century classic Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Bernstein engages with mass delusion with the same curiosity and passion, but armed with the latest scientific research that explains the biological, evolutionary, and psychosocial roots of human irrationality. Bernstein tells the stories of dramatic religious and financial mania in western society over the last 500 years—from the Anabaptist Madness that afflicted the Low Countries in the 1530s to the dangerous End-Times beliefs that animate ISIS and pervade today’s polarized America; and from the South Sea Bubble to the Enron scandal and dot com bubbles of recent years. Through Bernstein’s supple prose, the participants are as colorful as their motivation, invariably “the desire to improve one’s well-being in this life or the next.”

As revealing about human nature as they are historically significant, Bernstein’s chronicles reveal the huge cost and alarming implications of mass mania: for example, belief in dispensationalist End-Times has over decades profoundly affected U.S. Middle East policy. Bernstein observes that if we can absorb the history and biology of mass delusion, we can recognize it more readily in our own time, and avoid its frequently dire impact….(More)”.

Alphonse Bertillon and the Troubling Pursuit of Human Metrics

Article by Jessica Helfand: “…We are groomed, from an early age, to crave measurement. Notches on walls verify our height. Notes from doctors record our weight. We buy scales and diaries, save report cards and log achievements. As babies become toddlers become adolescents and adults, we take pictures — lots of pictures. Memories registered and milestones passed, we willingly share our data by way of a host of forms that cumulatively present, over a lifetime, as a kind of gold standard. On paper or online, they’re our material witnesses, holding the temporal at bay.

Dora’s material witness is typical of the sorts of records to which all of us are attached, official documents that connect faces to places, snapshots to statistics. Bureaucratic and perfunctory, we seldom stop to question the silent power of these documents, even as they transport our collective selves across time and space. Lacking nuance, devoid of emotion, they nevertheless confer a kind of keen graphic authority, begetting permission, enabling access, presupposing legitimacy, and anticipating a host of needs. Framed by the records that circumscribe that legitimacy — the records and diplomas, ID cards and passports and licenses — the playing field of difference is homogenized by numerical necessity, making all of us, in a sense, prisoners of the indexical.

Sir Francis Galton’s 1851 “Anthropometric Laboratory” — which was included in the International Health Exhibition held in London in 1885 — was an attempt to show the public how human characteristics could be both measured and recorded.

The pursuit of human metrics has a rich and fascinating history, dating back to the ancient Greeks, who viewed proportion itself as a physical projection of the harmony of the universe. Idealized proportion was synonymous with beauty, a physical expression of divine benevolence. (“The good, of course, is always beautiful,” wrote Plato, “and the beautiful never lacks proportion.”) From Dürer to da Vinci, the notion that humans might aspire to a pure and balanced ideal would find expression in everything from the writings of Vitruvius to the gardens of Le Nôtre to the evolution of the humanist alphabet. To the degree that proportion itself was deemed closer to the divine when realized as an expression of balance and geometry, proportion had everything to do with mathematics in general (and the golden section in particular) and found its most profound expression in the realization of the human form.

While there is ample evidence to suggest that the urge to measure had its origins in ancient civilizations, the science of bodily measurement was not recognized as a proper professional pursuit until the 19th century. With the advent of industry and the pragmatic concerns with which it was associated — growth projections, profit motives, numerical evidence as approved metrics for evaluation — certain public institutions were perhaps uniquely sensitized to appreciate the value of quantitative data. Statistics as a field of mathematical inquiry gained traction as a discipline thanks in no small part to the scholarship of Sir Francis Galton, whose obsession with counting and measuring everything imaginable (but especially human beings) warrants mention here. His 1851 “Anthropometric Laboratory” — which was included in the International Health Exhibition held in London in 1885 — was an attempt to show the public how human characteristics could be both measured and recorded. Add to this the rise in photography as a promising new technology and the idea of capturing evidence via methodical efforts in data mining was an idea whose time had clearly come….(More)”

Better Law for a Better World: New Approaches to Law Practice and Education

Book by Liz Curran: “How as a society can we find ways of ensuring the people who are the most vulnerable or have little voice can avail themselves of the protection in law to improve their social, cultural, health and economic outcomes as befits civilised society?

Better Law for a Better World answers this question by looking at innovative practices and developments emerging within law practice and education and shares the skills and techniques that could lead to confidence in the law and its ability to respond. Using recent research from Australia, practice initiatives and information, the book breaks down ways for law students, legal educators and law practitioners (including judicial officers, law administrators, legislators and policy makers) to enhance access to justice and improve outcomes through new approaches to lawyering. These can include: Multi-Disciplinary Practice (including health justice partnerships); integrated justice practice; restorative practice; empowerment modes (community & professional development and policy skills); client-centred approaches and collaborative interdisciplinary practice informed by practical experience. The book contains critical information on what such practice might look like and the elements that will be required in the development of the essential skills and criteria for such practice. It seeks to open up a dialogue about how we can make the law better. This includes making the community more central to the operation of the law and improving client-centred practice so that the Rule of Law can deliver on its claims to serve, protect and ensure equality before the law. It explores practical ways that emerging lawyers can be trained differently to ensure improved communication, collaboration, problem solving, partnership and interpersonal skills. The book explores the challenges of such work. It also gives suggestions on how to reduce professional barriers and variations in practice to effectively, humanely and efficiently make a difference in people’s lives….(More)”.