Posted in Uncategorized

Google Drive and Knowledge

Since its launch as an Internet search engine in 1998, Google has continually expanded the online services that it offers. Maps, search engines for researchers, cloud storage, and even its own internet service (Google Fiber) are among the many ways this company has diversified, while maintaining the philosophy that “You can make money without doing evil“.


But can Google help increase the amount of knowledge in the world? Can it make collaborative research easy, accessible, and reliable? One research tool it offers is Google Scholar, which allows you to search peer-reviewed publications using their algorithms to weed out irrelevant results. But their greatest contribution to the furthering of scientific knowledge is something even simpler: Google Drive.

Google Drive

If you’ve never used it, Drive is an online cloud storage platform that is included for free with any Gmail account. (And Gmail is also free!) In itself, the platform is great for sharing files – you can share something you create or upload with the public, specific people, or through a link.


This, of course, opens up the question of piracy – but Google will shut down accounts that are publicly sharing copyrighted files. You can share files with a few friends with no repercussions (similar to the First Sale doctrine that allows libraries to run), but blatantly breaking IP regulations on a broad scale isn’t allowed.

Using Apps to Create

But file sharing isn’t research! So how does this help people create new knowledge? Well, now we get into the apps that Drive offers: specifically Docs and Sheets. These are online versions of Microsoft Word and Excel, respectively, and they fall under the same sharing guidelines as any file in the cloud. Collaborators can work on the same document, or draw data from the same spreadsheet, without the hassle of e-mailing work back and forth. Instead, you simply log into the drive from wherever you are and start working. Drive saves everything as you go, and keeps records of revisions, so you can also see who did what to each document.


This not only increases the reliability of your information (since each writer’s name is attached to their work, they have reasons to ensure the accuracy), but also makes it much faster to collaborate. In fact, people can work on the same document simultaneously! So the epistemic speed, or “how quickly it leads to true answers” (Thagard, 1997), is quite high, because knowledge can be created, edited and fact-checked as fast as people can type. And because Drive is accessible to anyone with internet access – whether it’s at home, at the library, or through a mobile device – the amount of potential researchers is vastly increased. The fecundity, “ability to lead to large numbers of true beliefs for many practitioners” (Thagard, 1997) is also high, because the knowledge – once created – can be shared with anyone online. However, the power of Drive is hard to measure. While Google’s search algorithms make it easy “to help people find true answers to the questions that interest them” (Thagard, 1997), articles that exist on Drive must be accessible to the public for this to be useful.

And for the social sciences, this is especially amazing. No longer are you stuck with doing studies in your area, wondering if your results are truly generalizable to the larger population. Now you can set up a study, find collaborators in other areas, combine your data, and do research that’s not only broadly applicable but easily shared! And it opens up access to anyone with an internet connection – not just people who work or study in the academic fields. With the growing recognition that diversity in science is needed, Drive could be a major positive force for researchers all over the world.

Of course, you’ll have to make sure it doesn’t end like this…


Full text of my Epistemology of Google Drive is here!


Google Company. (2016). Ten things we know to be true. Retrieved from

Google Company. (2014). Our history in depth. Retrieved from

My Paper. (2012, May). Google drive not a pirates’ paradise. Retrieved from

Thagard, P. (1997). Internet epistemology: Contributions of new information technologies to scientific research. Retrieved from

Munroe, R. (2006, December 4). Working for Google. Retrieved from

Munroe, R. (2015, October 23). Human subjects. Retrieved from

Image Credit

NASA Goddard Space Flight. Retrieved from


Posted in Thoughts, Uncategorized

Computing is Everywhere!

The Merriam-Webster definition of ubiquitous is “existing or being everywhere at the same time :  constantly encountered”. Indeed, this does seem to be true about electronic devices – at least in the United States – which allow us to do seemingly anything imaginable. Want to track your steps taken, the hours of sleep you get, calories eaten (and burned), your heart rate, stairs climbed, and even remind you to start moving if you’re still too long? The Fitbit can do all that, and fit stylishly on your wrist besides; and it costs barely anything compared to what all the machines we USED to use would together. ($249 for the ultimate model, if you’re wondering.) And I won’t even touch the range of things common smartphones can do with a click…

But do the availability and cost-effectiveness of these consumer electronics (CE) make them a new hazard to our health – an addiction?

Can’t Get You out of My Head

Paula Poundstone (a stand-up comedian) talks about how people are addicted to electronics – a common theme on the internet. (While this may be satire, it’s satirizing a very popular opinion.) As proof, she states:

“I love to play ping-pong, I love to practice the drums, I love to tap dance. But I have never, even once, tried to figure out how to do any one of those things, while driving, in such a way that the cops couldn’t see. Because I am not addicted to those activities, I just enjoy them, and there’s a huge difference.”

And most of us can probably think of a moment where CE distracted someone from an important conversation or moment – whether it was yourself, a friend, or a co-worker. There are people banning smartphones from wedding ceremonies, so that people are actually “there”, not just recording images.

Personal admission: Right now, I’m writing this blog post in between feeding my one-year old his lunch, because I rarely have time to just sit down and type without multitasking something else as well. Before I deactivated my Facebook account a week ago, I would randomly browse posts in between other tasks – probably at least twice an hour, if not more. Since I deactivated it, I’ve actually had more time to do stuff with my family, because my work online is so much more productive. But I’m still behind, and still have to work in my “computing” time between all my other responsibilities. (I refuse to get a smartphone, because my laptop and tablet are already too intrusive, too tempting.)

Internet or Devices – the New Chicken or the Egg?

But maybe it’s not the devices that are the problem – maybe it’s the Internet itself. After all, there are several peer-reviewed articles on Internet Addiction Disorder, which (despite the literature) has not been included in the DSM-V (the psychological manual for mental disorders). It’s hard to think of a device we use that doesn’t link to the internet in some way – even the Fitbit mentioned earlier has an app that allows you to compare your activity with friends…or the world. Is the preponderance of information available online the real problem? Are we addicted to the semblance of knowledge?

Love of Knowledge vs. Love of Knowing

Paterson touched on the love of knowledge (and truth) in our reading from last week, but I believe there’s a deeper need being expressed here. We’re bombarded every day with information, with news, with stories that may or may not be true. (The fact that needs to exist is part of this.) Our natural desire to know about the world around us is being smashed by deluges of data, so instead we just want to “know” more, anything, even if it’s not true. We don’t turn off the learning process when we leave childhood, it’s just shaped and molded by our adult experience. So, in some cases, this turns into an addiction, an obsession with knowing what our friends and celebrities are writing, an urge to constantly be “on” without stopping to consider why. It’s not that we don’t care about the truth anymore, it’s just that there are so many truths out there and mentally – it’s exhausting.

The definition of addiction is this: “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal” (Merriam-Webster). It seems this definition could hold true for the devices we use, and the Internet we access with them.

Knowledge has always been addicting, the search for wisdom a drug we start in childhood. It’s just that now we crave the pursuit, the chase, the hyperlink clicking and video watching sometimes more than the knowledge that may be contained in all of it. Is that the fault of electronics? Or our fault, for not finding other better things to satisfy that desire to know?


Paterson, R. W. K. 1979. “Towards an Axiology of Knowledge.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 13:91-100.

Posted in Thoughts

The Reboot I Want Hollywood to Make

I’ve always loved action movies. Especially a certain “class” of action movies. You know, the ones from the 80’s with Arnold, Jean-Claude, Kurt, etc. Lots of explosions and fist-fighting and gunfights and cheese.

So. Much. Cheese.

And with all the reboots constantly filling the theater, and the anger/joy (depending on who you are) about the female Ghostbusters movie, I started thinking. Why can’t we have a cheesy action movie reboot with all female characters?

After all, the reason I hated seeing females in action movies was because their parts were so, so terrible. They were either there to get rescued or to get naked. Or! In some movies, they could fight for a bit, and THEN get rescued/naked. It’s no wonder I didn’t really have any female role models until I started reading more authors like Tamora Pierce and Patricia Wrede. I want to see a female Arnold Schwarzenegger breaking people’s faces and shooting them out of a helicopter, while spouting terrible lines. I want to see a movie where a bunch of girls fight evil in the most over the top way possible, without just being male eye-candy. It’d be like The Women, but with a lot more punching.

Actually, now that I think of it, DOA: Dead or Alive fits almost all of my criteria. Cheesy, female leads, not too much story, lots of smashing. And it does (still!) make me happy every time I watch it. So there you have it, story scouts. Remake DOA with more females and get ALL my money.

What terrible movies do you still love?

Posted in Thoughts

Automatic Thinking (or, psychology in the kitchen)

Did you know I’ve written other blog posts? And they’re full of useful information for students? You can read them here.

I’ve developed a (bad?) habit of rarely using measuring cups or spoons when I make food. Part of this is to save dirty dishes – I hate cleaning more things than I need to – and part of it is years of experience. When you make something more than once, it’s easy to judge amounts by eye. And honestly, most recipes don’t require a huge degree of precision!

(When I make bread, I always have to judge the dough by eye. Our sporadic weather, and the fact that I use whole wheat flour, make recipes more like…suggestions, really. This does make it really difficult to write down recipes that I created, though.)

This is one of the examples of “automatic thinking” in my life. I know this kind of thinking gets a bad reputation, because it can also lead to stereotypes, assumptions, and bias. But I feel the positive side of it is mostly ignored. It’s pretty amazing that our minds can record something as simple as “this is what a cup of milk looks like”, and then store it in our reference library for the next recipe.

Sometimes I wish that other things were automatic for me. Knowing what to say to strangers. Understanding the warning signs before I get into a terrible relationship. Being a good parent, a good girlfriend, a good friend. But then, if all of that was easy and thoughtless – would it count? I’m not sure.

What kind of helpful “automatic thinking” do you use in your life? And what do you wish was automatic?

Posted in Thoughts

Finding my voice

I used to write constantly.

When I was a teenager, a friend introduced me to a forum online where I could talk to people across the world about…anything. It was wonderful and exhilarating. As a shy, quiet girl who looked years younger than my age it was hard for me to start conversations; but somehow the Internet-me was different. I was smart, funny, silly, and entertaining online. This new persona even seemed to leak out into my non-written conversations, and I would talk on the phone to my new friends for hours on end.

But the best thing about all these new friends? Letters.

I know, I could talk to them for free (and faster!) through email, chat, and phone. But somehow a lot of us wanted more. Letters felt more personal, more intimate. Maybe because they weren’t out there available for any hacker to read, or maybe it was just the way thoughts seem to flow from your mind out through a pen/pencil a little differently than they do through a keyboard. And for some reason, words rushed out of me every time I picked up a pen and paper. Thoughts, dreams, stories from my past, other people’s stories, questions all filled page after page. I learned how many sheets of paper I could mail with one stamp (6) very quickly, and 12-page letters became my default – a way to cut myself off before I rambled on too long.

And one friend, who quickly became my best friend, started to challenge me to write more and more. We competed with huge letters (the longest was 120 pages – 60 ridiculous sheets of paper!), and waited eagerly for the next mini-novel to come through the mail. I’ve always struggled with going to sleep at night, and so instead of lying in bed I would wander the neighborhood and write letters in my head until hours of walking wore me out enough to sleep. Several years of my life – in great detail – are out there in Australia where my friend lives, should I ever care to revisit the past.

I miss that time where my whole life was full of writing whatever was on my mind. School has forced me to alter and suppress my written “voice” for my papers, and constantly edit and alter my writing. While I don’t mind writing in a scholarly manner, I think I also need an outlet so that my voice – and the freedom to use it – is still around.

My plan is to begin regular writing again with this blog: once a week, whatever is on my mind. It’s not letters, but should inspire me to write more of those as well. I know it’ll be hard at first, but well worth it for the mental “boost” writing always gives me.

So what about you? What things do you love but don’t always have time for? Share your dreams and your plans to get back on track in the comments!