The odds are not what they seem

Or how innumerate must of us are

Hi! Welcome to another edition of the Internet in a Telegram, a newsletter about mediums and messages by Nevoazul magazine. This is our way of sharing with you what we discover when we are online. Thank you for subscribing!

In this newsletter, we write about:

  • 200,000 faces and 200 billion dollars

  • If Twitter is a town, Letter is a cafe

  • Ethnography as time travel

  • …and much more!

A normal day on the Internet | Odds

When Isabel Sá, designer and developer at Nevoazul, shared with me a 1989 article on numerical illiteracy, I did not expect to be so into it, nor did I expect to find so many similarities on how we struggle interpreting facts.

When it comes to disinformation, we rarely take the blame. It's easier to blame fake news and oversharing, but, it's likely that, more often than not, you are just not familiar with mathematical concepts. And I'm not the one who says it, it's the journalist John Allen Paulus.

“The television meteorologist announced that there was a 50 percent chance of rain for Saturday and a 50 percent chance for Sunday as well, and concluded that there was therefore a 100 percent chance of rain that weekend. I grant the mistake was not hilarious, but no one even smiled. ”

Today, with a global pandemic on the agenda, graphs and percentages seem to scream louder than words. The numbers grow day by day, and there is a curve that does not bend, but can we understand what these values ​​and lines really mean? It is easy to visualize and imagine what we can do with 1000 euros, but what about 10 billion? If we randomly shuffle a set of 52 cards, how likely is that we get the cards in the same order as some other person in the world?

Numerical values ​​are often used to help us interpret complex circumstances on a quantitative scale. But is our mathematical knowledge enough to understand the message altogether? Without learning to read and interpret odds and data, it will always be hard to understand what is going on.


Two weeks in three links

“One colleague snorted and laughed, stating, “You can’t study something that doesn’t exist.” Yet, as ethnographers and designers of emerging technology, this is exactly what we must find ways to do. And, in 2002, I set out to explore the many ways in which it is, in fact, quite possible to study the future.


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Visualizing systems

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Até já!

Inês 🌿


Want to know more about Nevoazul? Here's a quick recap :) Nevoazul is an annual magazine about how we communicate on and off the Internet. In our team, we have Inês Catarina Pinto, Bárbara Nogueira, Pedro Codeço, Isabel Sá, Pedro Oliveira, and Miguel Barbot. We are based in Porto, but you can find our magazine in cool kiosks around the world. As one of our subscribers, you have 30% off when buying any edition of the magazine. Just use the #telegrama code at checkout.