Credit: Lindsay D'Addato.

Your Friday white paper: How ordinary people can become trolls.

Bridges connect places, people—and underneath them live trolls, slurping, snorting, enviously watching people go by. But where do trolls come from? 

Good (academic) reading in "Anyone Can Become a Troll: Causes of Trolling Behavior in Online Discussions," by Justin Cheng, Michael Bernstein, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Jure Leskovec.

A predictive model of trolling behavior shows that mood and discussion context together can explain trolling behavior better than an individual’s history of trolling. These results combine to suggest that ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, behave like trolls.

Feb 10, 2017

Five things to remember about Trump when vexed.

Sometimes, all the time, every rabbit hole that lurks at the bottom of every second, it feels like there's an alien species in the White House. Unfortunately, he's all too human. Here are five things to keep in mind when you struggle to grasp his moods and behavior, excerpted below.

1. Trump is a Damaged Personality

He needs to dominate everyone around him and is profoundly susceptible to ego injuries tied to not 'winning', not being the best, not being sufficiently praised and acclaimed, etc.

2. Trump is a Great Communicator

Trump has an intuitive and profound grasp of a certain kind of branding. It's not sophisticated. But mass branding seldom is. It is intuitive, even primal.

3. Trump's Hold on His Base Is Grievance

Despite all their differences, Trump meets his voters in a common perception (real or not) of being shunned, ignored and disrespected by 'elites.' 

4. Trump is Possible Because of Partisan Polarization

No matter how unpopular Trump gets, Republican lawmakers will continue to support him because the chances of ending their careers is greater in a GOP primary than in a general election.

5. Trump is Surrounded By Extremists and Desperados

Trump is primarily driven by impulse, grievance, the need to dominate and the need to be praised. There are core political beliefs Trump has had for decades which we should expect him to stick to. 

Feb 10, 2017

Humans have surveyed very little of our world, not even half of the sky and less than a fifth of the ocean floor. The VQR publishes a good story about the Aurora, a sixty-foot sloop exploring the shores of eastern Greenland, and other quests to map what's around us. 

If you could somehow drain the seas, scientists predict you’d see not sea monsters but a few volcanoes sprouting from an immense, flat floor, which is hundreds of thousands of hills covered by millennia of falling sediment.

(h/t the browser)

The problem is that travel writing, a form of writing about departures, about leaving the known in order to venture into the unknown, could become a stay-at-home genre.

Travel broadens the mind, reduces the gap between "us" and "them." But how about travel writing? Geoff Dyer says the form is eternal, is writing itself.
↩︎ Granta
Feb 10, 2017

Prisons in the Netherlands have a problem: a shortage of inmates

Too often we Americans forget prisons are supposed to be rehabilitative, that the vast majority of prisoners aren't monsters. Whereas, in Dutch-land:

About a third of Dutch prison cells sit empty, according to the Ministry of Justice. Criminologists attribute the situation to a spectacular fall in crime over the past two decades and an approach to law enforcement that prefers rehabilitation to incarceration.

“The Dutch have a deeply ingrained pragmatism when it comes to regulating law and order,” said René van Swaaningen, professor of criminology at Erasmus School of Law in Rotterdam, noting the country’s relatively liberal approach to “soft” drugs and prostitution. “Prisons are very expensive. Unlike the United States, where people tend to focus on the moral arguments for imprisonment, the Netherlands is more focused on what works and what is effective.”

Feb 10, 2017
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