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The Week in Ideas 7/1

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  July 1, 2013 09:00 AM

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Lee Jae-Won Reuters.jpeg

Which is the real Korea?: Sheila Miyoshi Jager on the dramatic differences between North and South Korea and how those differences help us understand the North’s isolated, bellicose regime. As Jager explains, tension between the two countries dates back to the Korean War, which concluded in 1953 with no official peace treaty. In the eyes of North Korea that conflict is still playing out, and to adopt modern reforms that would make it more like South Korea would be tantamount to admitting defeat.

Revising your writing again? Blame the Modernists: Craig Fehrman on how revision became a standard part of the writing process. In a new book, “The Work of Revision,” Oxford University English professor Hannah Sullivan argues that revision became essential in the 20th century under the influence of modernist writers like Ezra Pound and Virginia Woolf—and that their obsession with revision owed in large part to the invention of the typewriter, which made “massive structural transformation” more feasible than they were when people wrote by hand. Furthermore, the ability to revise was central to the Modernist push to create avant-garde literature, because with each revision writers could move towards a more uniquely, self-consciously created style.

American history, hacked to bits: William L. Bird Jr. on a unique breed of patriotic souvenir—pieces carved off of national monuments. Such moves are unthinkable (or at least illegal) today, but until the mid-19th century people were quite happy to chip off a piece of Plymouth Rock and bring it home. Bird details pieces of national monuments that will be on display as part of a new exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution on souvenir collecting.

What your metadata says about you: Abraham Riesman interviews César Hidalgo of the MIT Media Lab, who has created a program called “Immersion” which analyzes your metadata. Metadata—as we’ve all learned recently thanks to revelations that the National Security Agency collects it—is everything about, say, an email exchange except the content of the message itself. “Immersion,” which went live yesterday, extracts metadata from your Gmail account (with the option to later delete this information) and presents you with a visual map of who you communicate with, how often you communicate with them, and the interactions between people in your network.

You can try out Immersion here.

Plus: Kevin Lewis on how sitting in a spacious (versus compact) seat makes people more likely to cheat; how people are willing to pay more for equivalent portions with larger-sounding labels; how political influence determines vaccine distribution when an epidemic is afoot; and more.

Top: David Guttenfelder/AP. Bottom: Pop sensation Psy performing in Seoul in August 2012, Lee Jae-Won/Reuters.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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