02 December 2010


TROLLING. Many Internet videos and articles (including this one) feature a comments section so that readers can post their thoughts in response to the content presented. In Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt, Julie Zhuo takes a closer look at the link between anonymous posts and trolling, "defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums." For as long as there has been public discourse, anonymity has often prompted even the mild-mannered among us to exhibit crude, insulting or aggressive behavior -- words and deeds in which we would never indulge if our identity were known. In short, we behave like cowards.

Zhuo notes that trolling is not only abusive, it can have broader implications for website users, since many websites now see the need to place limitations on content posted anonymously. Is this a violation of First Amendment rights to free speech, or a common sense method for encouraging civility and mutual respect? I encourage you to read her article, and decide for yourself.

Note -- my own policy is to publish all comments which readers post on this blog. I have had no problem with trolls to date. Those who disagree with my views tend to do so politely, and those who agree with my views tend to do so with enthusiasm. I'm interested in readers' views on this issue. Should an abusive remark devoid of substance be stricken as a waste of readers' time, or should it be published, leaving the reader to judge the merits of the abuse? Please share your thoughts in the comments section at the end of each day's post.

THE SEXUAL BRAIN. Andrea Kuszewski strikes again!! At the website for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, her article titled Your Brain on Sexual Imagery is presented as one of the 31 finest pieces to be submitted. Here is a teaser from the article:

"Invoking feelings of pleasure, sensuality, and sexual arousal can be quite easily done if you understand how the brain interprets and reacts to sexual stimuli. And you ask, who are the main players in this game of sexual priming? Once again, enter dopamine (he is just about everywhere, isn't he?), and say hello to his little friend, oxytocin.

"When we are first exposed (pun intended) to sexually arousing stimuli, certain neurochemical changes take place. Our brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in a plethora of functions -- pleasure, arousal, desire, and attraction, to name a few .... So how exactly do dopamine and oxytocin enhance pleasure? After our brain releases dopamine, we feel attracted to the object of our attention. We are compelled to draw closer to it, to experience it more fully. If we are stimulated enough to a point of high arousal, like right before or during orgasm, oxytocin is triggered. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter associated with attachment .... The DO Combo can be a pretty strong weapon in the game of attraction -- a pure biochemical love potion, if you will. And the thing is, you don't even have to engage in sexual activity in order to prime these neurotransmitter responses, which is why fantasies are so powerful. You create the sexual images in your mind, and your brain responds neurochemically, even in the absence of tactile stimuli."

Kuzewski goes on to discuss the implications for virtual sex, fantasy and pornography, in the context of classical conditioning. As always, her explorations are provocative, articulate and soundly based in research. Check out the full article at the link above, and see for yourself.