Berkeley School of Information

An Entomological Etymology

Over the centuries, bug has become an astonishingly versatile little word, with roughly six common meanings and 170 slang uses. But why? Where did the word come from and how did it manage to so infest the English language?

The question was buggin’ me, so I called up Geoffrey Nunberg, renowned linguist and professor at the Berkeley School of Information, to see what he could tell me. Read more about An Entomological Etymology »

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

The Revolution Will Be Tweeted: In Politics, TV Still Matters, but Social Media Matters More and More

Not long ago, they were the pulse of the American political campaign: Mom and Dad, sitting in front of the nightly news broadcast on TV, armed with a dog-eared copy of the daily newspaper. The ads, the daily coverage and editorials, televised debates, polls and TV ratings—over dinner-table discourse, it all mattered. Read more about The Revolution Will Be Tweeted: In Politics, TV Still Matters, but Social Media Matters More and More »

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Oh Snap! Founding Fathers Didn’t Envision Snapchatting State of Union

Not unlike virtually everyone under the age of 25, the White House has a blog. And its most recent post reads like a hokey commercial: “Our Official Story will take you behind the scenes of the White House’s State of the Union preparations, with footage and angles you won’t find anywhere else.”

Where you will find the “Official Story” is on Snapchat, the third most popular social media app (after Facebook and Twitter), which famously allows users to send photos and videos that only last a short time before disappearing. Read more about Oh Snap! Founding Fathers Didn't Envision Snapchatting State of Union »

Academics of Arrangement: Berkeley Prof Deciphers How and Why We Organize Things

Robert Glushko’s job is to think about the organization of, well, everything: Ikea, zoos, spice racks, even crime families. He tries to get at the concepts behind how and why we arrange things, and what makes certain arrangements better than others. Take a bus, for example, says the UC Berkeley School of Information professor—it’s really just a vehicle traveling on a series of points on a graph. “If you replaced it with a spaceship, it wouldn’t matter,” he says. The ideas behind plotting a route would be the same. Read more about Academics of Arrangement: Berkeley Prof Deciphers How and Why We Organize Things »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can

Think people know when you’re being sarcastic? Yeah, right.

Studies show that most of us believe we are much better at communicating than we actually are, especially when interacting online. For instance, a 2005 study found that recipients correctly identified the sarcasm behind email statements only 56 percent of the time. Furthermore, the participants remained confident they were being understood even when their actual ability to convey sarcasm varied significantly between email and verbal communication. Read more about Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

So Long, Passwords: What Will it Take for Us To Entrust Our Security to Biometrics?

Passwords and humans are frenemies: We tolerate each other because we have to, but we seem to know that one will screw the other over sooner or later (as evidenced by the many security breaches of 2015). Managing our password portfolio is more maddening than ever, given that more than half of us have five or more unique passwords, and nearly a third of us have more than 10. Read more about So Long, Passwords: What Will it Take for Us To Entrust Our Security to Biometrics? »

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