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I thought of an intervention to cyberbullying…

Ryan received special education services from preschool to fourth grade because of his speech, language and motor skills development.  After years of getting bullied by this specific boy from fifth grade to seventh grade, he and Ryan became friends.  Ryan felt comfortable with her.  Ryan shared an embarrassing personal story with this girl who he thought was his friend.  He was clearly not.  The bully started a rumor that Ryan was gay.  Her and her friends had a “pretty and popular” girl instant message Ryan and pretend she had feelings for him.  This led Ryan to share more embarrassing, personal information with her.  The bully copy and pasted the AIM messages with the rest of her friends.  On October 7, 2003 Ryan hung himself.  Later a folder of the AIM exchanges was found on his computer.  Since there was no criminal law catered to protecting the victim, there were no criminal charges to the bully.  Seven months later Vermont’s Governor signed Vermont’s Bully Prevention Law and Vermont’s Suicide Prevention Law.

Ryan’s case is a really good example of how large of an impact cyber bullying can have.  My intervention is education based.  All throughout middle and high school students are required to take health.  This is in attempt to teach safe sex and how to properly do something that will inevitably occur.  Technology is so prevalent in this day in age.  It is everywhere.  Now that it is so important, teens who grow up using it, should also grow up learning how to use it.  I do not mean coding or graphic classes.  I mean just as teens are taught how to practice safe sex, they should be taught how to properly use the internet and technology.

My educational intervention targets students in middle school.  This is when people tend to be most impressionable.  This is also the age where social media begins.  If my educational program was hands on and showed very specific examples, like Ryan’s, this would have a stronger impact.  One of the main issues around cyberbullying is that people are always told to not do it, but they are not informed of the effects that could actually be brought about from cyberbullying.  If these students heard actual stories, they would put emotions to the cause, more than just showing facts.  Actual experiences are the only true way to show what can actually happen.  Seeing videos and hearing these stories would allow students to related themselves to similar situations.  Key issues with cyberbullying is that kids can say “that would never happen with me”.  Showing them real-life examples would alleviate this thought from their minds.

This intervention also will prevent direct bullying.  Seeing what can happen in these educational programs, will hopefully resonate with cyberbullies.  Direct cyberbullying consists of people intentionally threatening or bullying others.  This intervention would linger in people’s heads and the horrible stories would come to their mind and they would opt to not intentionally bully someone.  In my opinion, direct bullying is the first place we need to stop.  This is because direct cyberbullies strategically do their bullying.  So stopping this first would result in a lot less instances.  I think that you have to target a specific group to actually make a difference, not a broad group.

In say “Preventative and treatment strategies are most likely to be beneficial when they are integrative (multilevel), that is, combining system-level and more individual-targeted approaches that tackle risky online behaviors while, in parallel, addressing potential pre-existing vulnerabilities,” Pingault and Schoeler agree with my intervention.  Having these classes throughout middle school, just as the health classes are dispersed, would teach students throughout three different years of their lives.  This time period is also right during development.  So it would stick with them and they would have many years of exposure to the situation to assist in helping them stop it.

I understand that there have been many attempts at stopping cyberbullying in the past.  However, my ideas about it are that it is nearly impossible to stop it.  But if we can get less kids to participate in it, the better off.  My intervention would not completely end cyber bullying.  Health classes are mandated, yet there is still teenage pregnancy and unsafe sex practiced.  But through the help of health classes, there is less teenage pregnancies and unsafe sex practices.  This is the key to eventually ending cyberbullying.  Life really revolves around a ripple effect.  If a few less students in middle school cyberbully, this will then influence less students in the following generations to cyberbully.



Final exam schedules as a Market

We can think of final exam scheduling as a market. Every student has a preference for which exam time works best for each class. Every student is allocated a time for every exam. The currency is the ability to take exams. The giver, in this case a college’s schedule of exam times does not receive the currency. However, by allocating the resources efficiently they minimize the number of conflict reschedules they have to do. The buyers, students are best off when their exams are far apart and have no conflicts, this is what they strictly prefer and would be willing to pay the most for, however, there is no money in this market. Having money in this market would make scheduling exams very difficult, as people would try to schedule their exams at all different times at the expense of the administration having to offer one exam at many different times. Secondly, it would be unethical as students who could spend more on getting the best exam times would be more likely to do well on exams than those who could not afford the price of a perfect exam week.

When thinking about the market design, the main determinate of the final exam schedule is one that minimizes conflicts. When the final exam schedule is chosen the exam times minimize direct conflicts. For example, many engineers take Calculus and Physics at the same time so Calculus and Physics exams should not be scheduled at the same time. The college schedules their exams so that it minimizes conflicts. An alternative design element that could improve allocations would be to have students submit their exam scheduling preferences. Students would never schedule their exams to have a direct conflict. The most students that may have a conflict between two classes will have scheduled those exams for different times. Further, this would allow students to express preferences that would not necessarily be reflected in the school’s scheduling. For example, students might give preferences that have easier exams earlier in finals week and more challenging exams later.

I went a day without social media and texting…

“Hey I have to do ANOTHER social media blackout for ANOTHER class which means I cnt go on anything and I cnt txt.  I am not ignoring u and sry ab our snap streak, even though we were just getting it back.  Call if u need anything J’.   This was my second class in the course of a month that I needed to do a social media blackout for – and it does not get easier.

I completely understand why two classes would assign this task.  No more than thirty years ago, the “world wide web” was not even a thought and now we cannot survive without it.  A full day without the use of texting and social media is a lot more difficult than it sounds.  It is only until you are social media free that you realize how reliant you are on it.

I thought going on a second social media blackout would be much easier than the first, but I anticipated incorrectly.  This is because, the first time I did the blackout, I was home and not in school, so I just left my phone in my house.  This makes it a lot less tempting to go on social media.  Being in school, however, I deemed it unsafe to walk around by myself without my phone.  I was receiving many Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, GroupMe, Slack, and Twitter notifications.  This caused my phone to fill up with many red circles with high numbers.  The notifications were stressing me out.  What was I missing out on?  You never notice how many notifications you receive then read until you leave them unopened for a day.

I also made a rule with 2 of my friends to call me sporadically throughout the day.  I used these people to constantly update me on the plan for the day and make sure I was in the loop.  I realized how much texting can truly impact your day.  When I text my friends, I know their whereabouts and plans for the day, this helps me organize my schedule as well.   Keeping in touch with my friends was not that difficult.  I live with 38 of my friends, therefore whenever I am home, I do not even need a phone anyway.  We all just sit in the kitchen and living room and discuss what we are doing for the day.  I usually will sit in my bed for longer and just write in the group chat, but since I could not do that it caused me to talk to my friends only in person.  This is much easier for a Saturday, but if this blackout where to take place during the week, it would not be this simple.

Another thing I noticed that was occurring was the fact that I kept impulsively opening Instagram and Facebook multiple times during the day.  It was not part of my daily routine to not be frequently checking these applications.  I would unlock my phone, and without thinking, click on Facebook.  I would scroll for a millisecond then quickly exit the application.

I also noticed how quickly I fell asleep Saturday night.  I usually stay on my phone for about an hour checking all of the Instagram and Facebook posts and Snapchat stories that I missed out on during the day.  My prior belief was that looking at my phone, the screen would tire my eyes out and I would have an easier time falling asleep.  I was wrong.  My prediction is the light of my phone actually wakes up my eyes rather than tiring them.  I usually lay in my bed for another hour before actually falling asleep.  This was not the case when I did not scroll through my phone.  I instantly was able to fall asleep.

My experience without having a phone coincided with Dienlin’s theory of displacement.  I noticed that once I was not with my phone I was having many more face-to-face conversations with people.  Without social media and texting, the necessity of meeting face-to-face with people to communicate increased.  I never noticed how many texts I send in a day that replace conversations I would have to have in order to keep in touch with my friends.  I believe that Dienlin’s theory is correct after going through multiple social media and texting blackouts.  I truly found myself participating in many more face-to-face conversations than I usually do – which leaves me to believe that instant messaging and social networking sites replace many of my face-to-face interactions.

My experience also proves Bayer’s research to be correct.  Consciousness and Self-Regulation in Mobile Communication really relates to my apparent lack of self-control.  Since there were multiple times where I opened up a social media site without conscious effort examples my lack of self-control.  We live in an age where we are constantly consumed by our phone.  It is a habit of mine to open my phone and go right onto Facebook when I am just sitting around.  Since I had my phone with me all day still, I kept accidentally falling to this habit.

My experience of a social media and texting blackout has really opened my eyes to my dependency on social media and texting.  It is a constant part of my day, every day.  It is until you do not have something, you realize how much you actually use it.

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The Information Cascade of Sexual Allegations

Unfortunately in this day and age, especially this year, sexual harassment allegations are something way too familiar. We see it on the news and social media happening everywhere from work settings to college campuses. Although it seems like the rate of sexual assault has dramatically increased, this number hasn’t changed as drastic as one may think. This is because the rate of sexual harassment was most likely always high while the amount of people who reported sexual harassment was and still is significantly low. This can be due to many reasons such as the victim getting blamed, getting fired, or further harassed. So why the sudden shift in people speaking out about sexual harassment? According to US managing editor, Gillian Tett from Financial Times, in “Trump and the ‘information cascade’ created a cultural reckoning” one reason to explain the phenomenon is Information Cascades. More specifically, the information cascades formed by social networks.


An Information cascade is a situation where each person makes a decision/choice based on the observations or choices of others while ignoring his own personal information (Investopedia). We learned about this concept in class when explaining the example of the two urns filled with a number of red and blue marbles. One urn has a majority of blue marbles while the other has a majority of red marbles and each student would have to guess which urn is which based off the marble they chose as well as other people guesses. This example showed that people started to guess the popular answers that they heard before them regardless of what marble they chose. This same concept can be exemplified in the situation with sexual harassment too. Decades ago if women was to claim she was sexually harassed there was a very slow bureaucratic legal process and many months of research before it would get reported. Now, according to Tett, with the help of social networks, information can spread very rapidly beyond the control of lawyers and traditional authority figures. Isolated victims can suddenly congregate into a crowd to support each other. Also, people can repost or share someone’s story without needing to do anything other than clicking of a button. Thus, once a story is shared thousands of times it gets a perception that it is true then more people begin to share the story. Conclusive, due to this information cascade more victims feel comfortable speaking out.

Social Contagion and Campaign Donations

Traag, V. A. (2016). Complex Contagion of Campaign Donations. PLoS ONE, 11(4).                                              dio:101371/journal.pone.0153539.

Campaign Contributions have been at the forefront of every major political election, ever. This past election brought to light the many issues around campaign contributions, specifically the ethics behind disclosing how much money flows through Super Political Action Committees (PACs) and how income inequality affects political influence. While many campaign donations don’t come from the numbered elite in this country, a larger sum of money does. “Complex Contagion of Campaign Donations” by Traag (2016), looks at 50,000 elite and finds that campaign donations are socially contagious by creating network models.

The main finding of the study confirms independent reinforcement (pg 10), suggesting that exposure to donors, especially from many donors in one’s network who all don’t know each other, increases the likelihood of donating as well. This study also found that the “viability” of a candidate also affects their amount of money they’re able to raise. Indeed, people – wealthy or not – do care about the electability of a candidate. If a candidate seems like they will not win, people will not donate to their campaign. Further, this study showed that “Independent reinforcement is especially relevant for campaign donations to assess viability.” Because of this, it’s incredibly important to diversify the communities campaigns reach out to. Diversity of supporting communities significantly affects amount of money raised by a campaign due to independent reinforcement. This study also showed that different aiding communities can predict the success of a campaign more so than the number of donors. One really cool finding was that memes found on social networks also affect campaign contributions.

This past election brought to light many of the issues of both major parties, Democrats and Republicans. Division among party lines is not uncommon. It’s also not a surprise that many close friends in a network are likely to have the same or similar political ideologies. Traag (2016) found that exposure to people who support one particular party can trigger a rise in donations to another. This proves just how much animosity between political parties and one’s network can also affect campaign donations.

Bitcoin Block Chain Network

I found this article very interesting:

It described how the IRS was using a startup called Chainalysis to track the flow of bitcoins through the block chain. The IRS, being interested in tracking individuals’ hidden assets, clearly would like to know if someone has bitcoins but hasn’t disclosed that. Law enforcement have been attempting to do the same thing to track silk road purchases and payments made to ransom-ware. A piece of ransom-ware might distribute itself and only ask individuals to send bitcoins to a particular address, which would simply appear as 1HyasSC2VifTZo7YkUNn33udnWXw3Ffq7T.

The problem is that addresses are free to make, and so people trying to hide their identity have no reason to use the same wallet twice, or not use many intermediary wallets. On the other hand, every transaction is publicly available for inspection, so many straight forwards tricks such as an intermediary wallet would be pointless. What is less pointless is sending bitcoins to a large, “hub”, node and receiving them out to another address or to multiple addresses. Because of the branching factor near such hubs it becomes very difficult to track the true identities behind these transactions.

This presentation showed off some of the techniques used to catch scammers and track bitcoins:

Some of the techniques are as simple as noticing patterns, such as a set of transactions always of a certain size and always divisible by certain values. Other tell tail signs involve tracking how bitcoins are divided by certain wallets. For example, in one incident the author of a malicious piece of code split the profits in a 20-80 manner with a partner. This split quickly became a tell-tale sign of malicious activity. In other circumstances, the original creators of wallets could be deduced by checking who originally put bitcoins into it. In another circumstance, related nodes were found by calculating how often they participated in similar transactions.

The anatomy of information cascades in the classroom

This observational study analyzes how information cascades appear and evolve and what factors are relevant for the formation of cascades within a classroom through online learning platforms. This study found that students don’t prefer to share the content given to them by professors, rather they prefer to share the content they find themselves. It was also found that high-performing students shared documents with more information, or high information. The study defined an interaction as a communication between two students sharing some documents or messages. They recorded interactions such as conversations in the course Facebook Chat Canvas, documents shared on online platforms, and files shared as URLs by students in their course specific Facebook accounts. There were informal resources, such as blogs, Q&A sites, or online tutorials, as well as formal resources, which were manuals, peer-reviewed papers, and presentation slides. Results found that only a fraction of the documents from the educational portals, user accounts and social platforms were propagated to the students and then never accessed again. Although student content was re-shared more frequently than professor content, students did reference the professor content. Overall, longer information cascades contained content suggested by students, while shorter cascades contained content shared by professors. Some factors that led to a cease in the information cascade were information density, length of the content, and whether the student was high-performing or low-performing.

This relates to the concept of information cascades in lecture, in which the spread of technology, products, social movements, or opinions can be analyzed. This study revealed a few factors behind information cascade within the classroom. Content suggested by students tended to be shared more, with longer information cascades. It was also found that high-performing students shared content faster, in more complex cascades, and more regularly than mid- and low- performing students. More content shared led to longer cascades. We can also look into the idea of low threshold compared to high threshold. As learned in lecture with thresholds and what may lead to a cease in the cascade, this study touches upon characteristics of the content that may lead to a cease in the cascade. Such factors include information density or information of documents. So, this information cascade is a bit different from lecture in that it is not that a cascades stops because there needs to be a certain number of your neighbors using the new technology for you to switch, but rather if the content that is being shared would be beneficial or valuable to a student based on the length, or content. A student may stop the information cascade if they don’t find that the content is valuable enough to pass on. Overall, this study emphasizes that information cascades exist within classrooms and online platforms, as students are able to pass along information and content they find helpful to other students, and then the other students will continue to pass along the information if they find it helpful.



The rise of sexual harassment cases and information cascades



The article linked above, written by Gillian Tett, discusses the election of Donald Trump and the recent wave of sexual harassment cases. In this article, Tett, explores two factors that she believes contributed to the new surge of sexual harassment cases. These two factors, she states, are Donald Trump and information cascades facilitated by the prevalence of social media. According to Tett, Donald Trump and his election to the Presidency contributed to the rise of sexual harassment cases by empowering feminist. She states that, “When [Donald Trump] was elected, shattering hopes that Hillary Clinton might be America’s first female president, most observers presumed that his victory was bad for women. However, a year later, it has become clear that Mr. Trump has unexpectedly empowered feminists. One early sign of this was the women’s’ marches.” Tett’s claim is that Donald Trump’s election, empowered women giving them a figure to stand against. Someone who actively strives to damage any social progress made in this country.

The second key factor that Tett touches on is that of information cascades contribution to increase in sexual harassment cases. According to Tett, information cascades contributed to the upsurge of the sexual harassment cases and experiences being revealed because with the commonness of social media in our lives, information about these cases can be spread easily and accessed by large amounts of people effortlessly. This information can then be broadcasted by one victim and spread to another, who, might be inspired to share their story and thus continue the cascade. Tett states that:

If a woman wanted to complain about sexual harassment allegations two decades ago, there was a slow-moving bureaucratic and legal process. And if a reporter wanted to corroborate a story, this entailed months of painstaking research. But in cyber networks, information can spread at lightning speed, beyond the control of lawyers or traditional authority figures. Journalists can appeal for tips and be inundated within minutes. Once-powerless victims have a megaphone. Isolated victims can suddenly congregate into a crowd. Informational cascades, in other words, overturn power structures.

Information cascades in conjunction with the catalyst Donald Trump is, provided the optimal conditions for sexual harassment occurrences to finally be brought into the light.

The Weinstein Effect as a Tipping Point

The article linked below is a conversation between NPR host Noel King and NPR writers Mary Schmich, Elizabeth Blair and Alexandra Schwartz about the recent revelations surrounding sexual assault by powerful men not necessarily in Hollywood, but across industries. “The Weinstein Effect”, as the writers have dubbed the phenomenon, refers to the growing list of women coming forth with their stories of sexual harassment and assault by powerful men after Harvey Weinstein was exposed earlier this year. Allegations against Weinstein, an American film producer and former top film executive, were brought to light through an expose done by the New York Times detailing decades of allegations of sexual misconduct by several women. Since The Times’s expose, however, several women have come forth with allegations surrounding other men as well.


Similar to the tipping point in cascade models we discussed in class, the NPR writers engaging in this conversation argue that the Weinstein scandal was a tipping point in the cascade that occurred after. Although there were several factors that contributed to the increase in women coming forth with their stories of sexual harassment/assault – President Trump and the Access Hollywood tape is one of the factors mentioned – the Weinstein scandal was the tipping point for the trend that occurred after. As we covered in class, a tipping point refers to the point in a situation at which a seemingly minor development instigates a cascade of behavior. In this case, the Weinstein scandal was the tipping point for many of the movements that followed – the Me Too Movement, the spike in reports of harassments and assaults by women in Hollywood, the accusations against Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Roy Price, Charlie Rose. An interesting and relevant application of tipping points, the Weinstein Effect refers to the cascade of women coming forth with their stories of powerful men engaging in sexual assault and/or harassment with the Weinstein scandal being the tipping point for the cascade itself.



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