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
Matt Korostoff puts in scale Jeff Bezos' wealth, the lives lost by Covid 19, the number of Americans imprisoned and how eight minutes and forty-six seconds can feel like an eternity.
It isn't easy to follow conversations across multiple platforms or timelines. Letter recovers the bohemian side of letter correspondence and brings us in-depth discussions. My favourite so far is the exchange of letters between Sarah Haider and Ayaan Hirsi Ali with the theme "Is the Culture War Lost?".
Laura Forlano makes us think about what ethnographers can learn from science fiction and speculative design.
“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.
There is a conversation going on in the comment section. Today we're talking about:
Join the discussion and share with us links, thoughts, podcasts, or articles relevant to this topic. Let's turn this newsletter’s section into a safe place for curious minds.
…and we would love to know who is behind this screen :)