Arguing online and cognative closure

Why do you waste your time and energy arguing with people on social media? You’re not learning anything from that echo chamber!


If you’ve been subjected this argument/accusation because of your tendency to engage online here is some good news. A quantitative study published in the Journal of Social Media Studies suggests that the opposite is true. Those who engage in discussion are exposed to a broader spectrum of views than those who simply read a preferred source of traditional media. Those who engage in two sided conversation are also more likely to change their minds on an existing issue.

The key is engagement. If the social media user is broadcasting opinion or ideas from a news source (like many organized trolls – I’m looking at you, 4chan) with no interest in deeper understanding, or simply insulting or deflecting opposition, they’re not really learning much.


But if you question, listen and argue (even with somebody who doesn’t change their mind) YOU are likely to be looking to broaden your horizons. While those who think it’s a waste of time might just not be keen to challenge their own worldview.
Notably, information-seeking motivations was a positive predictor of cross-cutting discussion, but a negative predictor of cross-cutting exposure. This finding indicates that those who utilize SNS for political information are actually less exposed to diverse views. The most plausible psychological mechanism to explain this counter-intuitive finding may be selective exposure; it might be that those who closely follow political news via SNS tend to seek consonant information by friending or following like- minded people or news sources they prefer. This suggests the possibility of SNS functions as homogeneous “echo chambers” where diverse views are hard to find as a result of political fragmentation. However, even for these consonant information-seekers, engaging in cross-cutting political discussion has a strong deliberation effect such that they are significantly more likely to change their original views and get more involved in the issue of discussion than those who are not engaged in cross-cutting discussion.

Cause and effect would be difficult to establish. Does arguing on the internet make you more inquisitive? Or are the arguments symptom of your inquisitive tendencies? Don’t know. The the answer is likely to be, as always, a little bit of both.


What comics can do (for ethnography)

In 2009 I submitted my honors thesis in the field of anthropology. The central argument of that thesis was that medium of comics (as in, the format of comic-books) can (and should) be used to tell ethnographic and scientific stories. I did my best to make a good argument. I think I did OK because my University department decided to call my bluff. The following year I started fieldwork and research for a PhD. A large part of this new thesis was to be told through the unique combination of words and image that make up comic(s).

The topic of research turned out to be way, way deeper and more immersive than I had anticipated. My experiment with format had to take a back seat to the presentation and analysis of parkour culture, community and practice. It was an incredible experience for which I am super grateful. I learned so much and made so many friends! About two months ago I submitted that thesis. And, as planned, it had comics in it! Though, not as many as I initially hoped.

While I wait for my results I find the time to look around to discover that there are quite a few others who are experimenting with format. There are exciting things going on and I’m really delighted to see the work of others who share my passion for illustration and comics in Anthropology.

So, I want to fly a flag and put my stuff out there. If this is the kinda stuff you’re into (comics or visual anthropology) I’d love to hear from you!

Below are a few pages from the conclusion of my honors thesis. They’re about the capabilities of the medium of comics.


– Pava

P.S. Sorry! This file is en early draft! I can’t find the finals. Excuse the expressive gremlins… But hopefully it will be enough to give you an idea!






There was more text… but I don’t want to bore you.

What do you think?

Check out some ethnographic comics from my PhD:
Ilja in Copenhagen
Ruz and EZ

Evolving the Parkour Lifestyle

Port Lincoln Parkour Trip 2015

Videos have been really central to parkour. I think that without them, parkour would not have spread the way that it has – really quickly, with a great deal of variation depending on location. Over time, we have seen the focus of these videos shift.

When it all started, people were keen to get a glimpse of technique. They wanted to know how these other people made this movement magic happen. ‘Lifestyle’ was there almost because it had to be. For parkour, the environment where practice happens defines practice in many ways. The first Yamakazi videos said more than they intended when they showed the modernist landscapes that look like hell to the public, but are perfect playgrounds for people who practice parkour and freerunning. They showed how drab concrete walls that were designed to contain life could be used to proliferate it. In videos, as people figured out the techniques, and developed their own, the focus shifted. Technique gave more way to lifestyle. Naturally, we all wanted to know more about the people who moved, not just the movements themselves.

Enter the brilliant lifestyle videos of parkour / freerunning ‘teams’ like Farrang, Storror and GUP. We got a taste of whom the people were and the values they upheld. This kind of bled into the movement too. We saw big personalities, with big ambitions doing big moves. We saw them working for those big ambitions.

Julie Angel’s videos were there too. While I hope she will correct me if I am wrong, I saw that as something different. It wasn’t the moves, it wasn’t the ambition. Rather, it was the people and how they moved: the detail of the movement and of the character. The landing, the idea, the slip up, the mistake, the tones that come up when the light is not so stark as to cast binary shadows of black and white, good or bad, excitement and mundanety. Graphic artists know that harsh contrast are used to grand effect. In these terms, Julie was looking for the human greys while lifestyle teams were showing the heroic contrasts.

The focus was always inwards. There was always an overwhelming focus on the parkour object: the person, the technique, the clique, the style, the parkour community, the parkour location. This helped the community. But in many ways it was also quite esoteric and insular. It was always about those people who do parkour.

Now we are seeing an evolution of the lifestyle video. This evolution shifts its focus outward while still speaking the insiders’ language. There are many parkour documentaries. They are made so that people who know nothing about parkour can understand how it is good, for the outside world to be able to look in.

This video is different. It speaks the language of parkour. It draws on the semantics that PK/FR people understand. But it speaks about the outside world. Movement and lifestyle are there. So is the community. Not in the parkour sense, but in the broader sense. Conceptually, semantically, stylistically, this is parkour bleeding out to the rest of the world from the ground up, not the world looking in on parkour. This might not be the first time this has been done, but this does it so well.

It is looking at the outside world from within.

I really love this. I hope to see more of it from all over the world.