Archive for December 2015

Does Your Computer Make You Laugh More?

Obviously society has been hugely affected by the rise of the internet and the information that it makes available to users. Many of these effects have been measured, but many more are so useless or subtle that no one has seen fit to look into them. One question this writer asks because she’s being paid to say anything is: do people laugh more as a result of the emergence of the internet? Probably yes. But what does that mean for society as a whole? Let’s start out by looking to what laughter is and how it affects you.

memeLaughter is simply the physiological response to humor, which is itself a difficult thing to explain. Laughter as a phenomenon consists of two different parts: a set of gestures and a produced sound (though we have all had times in which we laugh so hard we produce no sound at all). When we laugh, our brain pressures us to participate in both of these activities, and hearty laughs allow for changes to occur in many parts of the body such as the arm, leg and trunk muscles.

Laughter is described by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “rhythmic, vocalized, expiratory and involuntary actions.” It involves the contraction of at least fifteen facial muscles and the stimulation of the zygomatic major muscle, which is responsible for moving your upper lip. The respiratory system is interrupted by the epiglottis half-closing the larynx, which is responsible for you gasping. Tear duct activation may occur, and the face may become red and wet.

Unfortunately for behavioral neurobiologist and laughter researcher Robert Provine, studying laughter is extremely difficult. He has found, however, that there are certain similarities among all laughter and that there a neurological process in the brain that leads people to be more prone to laughing if the people around them are also laughing.

Humor researcher Peter Derks claims that laughter response is “a really quick, automatic type of behavior.”

“In fact, how quickly our brain recognizes the incongruity that lies at the heart of most humor and attaches an abstract meaning to it determines whether we laugh,” he explained.

Cultural anthropologist Mahadev Apte had this to say: “Laughter occurs when people are comfortable with one another, when they feel open and free. And the more laughter, the more bonding within the group.”

trollStudies have also found that dominant individuals tend to use humor more than their subordinates. Controlling the laughter of a group can be a way of exercising power by controlling the emotional climate of said group. Some believe that laughter may have evolved to change the behavior of others.

What does this mean for an internet community ranging from trolls to bloggers? To some extent it means the creation of new circles of people across the world united by a shared sense of humor. It means that new social systems can function with humor as a major foundation of what everyone has in common and how power is attributed across the board. Memes are a thing.

Is Podcasting for You?

You’ve likely heard of them; internet radio stations you can download and listen to at your leisure instead of making sure to clear your schedule and tune in on the right day at the right time. Podcasts are a great invention that came alongside the internet, and they’ve allowed for huge amounts of niche radio stations to pop up and spout all kinds of knowledge and opinions. Here’s a little info on where podcasts came from and how you can start your own.

podcast broThe first podcast ever was created in 2004 by MTV video jockey Adam Curry and a software develeoper named Dave Winer. Curry had written a program called iPodder that allowed him to automatically download Internet radio broadcasts to his iPod, and then other software developers saw what he was going and improved on his idea, eventually creating the format for podcasting. Curry’s The Daily Source Code is now one of the most popular podcasts on the internet.

What’s great about podcasting is that it’s totally free from government regulation (unlike radio broadcasting, which requires that you purchase a license and comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s broadcast decency regulations). If you enjoy a good four-letter word now and then, chances this is good news. Despite this lack of regulation, copyright law still does apply to podcasters, so the government protects podcasters’ intellectual property without regulating it.

Podcasters are anything from highly paid employees of major corporations to people podcasting from home studios. They don’t rely on ratings or money, so people are free to talk about anything they want regardless of it being popular, allowing for there to be a podcast for every niche subject, from people just shooting the s*** to people totally committed to discovering UFOs and paranormal activity.

Some companies are actively trying to find a way to make money with podcasting. There are websites like and that act as a source for podcasts and now feature advertisements. Popular podcasts hosted by Tom Segura as well as the Stuff You Should Know podcast have their hosts present commercials for Me Undies and other random products.

podcast sisIf you’d like to start listening to a podcast, just choose a podcasting site and click on the hyperlink for whatever podcast sounds good to you. You could check out the iTunes store, The Podcast Network or The Podcast Directory if you want to browse for possible podcasts that suit your fancy. There are also apps on your mobile phone that you can download.

Audio files made for different sizes and capacities of audio streaming have been invented to compete with the standard MP3; there’s AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) and WMA (Windows Media Audio) for example. These advancements are so prevalent that no matter what you want, you can be sure that there’s a free version out there.

Maybe you’d like to create a podcast. Don’t even hesitate! It’s super easy. Just plug a microphone into your computer, install an audio recorder for Windows, Mac or Linux, create an audio file by making a recording of whatever you want on your podcast, and upload that audio file to one of the podcasting sites. If you want anyone to listen to it ever, you’re going to have to promote it pretty heavily.

You can also opt into videocasts if you’re interested in making more of a TV show type thing.