Jun 15

Mexico and Safety

Panoramica Bahia de Acapulco. By Microstar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Date rape drugs are a problem in many different nations. A recent article in USA Today, however, reveals systemic issues at Mexican resorts. Raquel Rutledge’s well-researched piece, “Mother’s nightmare at Mexico resort: ‘There is more to this deeper, darker story than we know,'” reveals the inability or unwillingness of Mexican authorities to investigate the use of date rape drugs at these resorts. On a personal note, about six months ago I heard a second hand account from one of my students, who described a case of a husband and wife, in which the wife was raped after they were both given a date-rape drug. I can’t know if this story is true, since I did not speak to one of the people who were drugged. But what was disturbing to me about this particularly story was that this case allegedly took place not in a resort, but rather in a restaurant in Mexico City. Again, this story was not first-hand, and I cannot attest to its veracity. Still, Rutledge’s piece suggests that travelers to Mexico should exercise caution, and that Mexican authorities should thoroughly investigate all such cases, which should include medical examinations for rape, and blood testing to identify the drugs used.

Curious to read more about drugs in Mexico? You can also read this post. I also recommend this Propublica piece “How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico” by Ginger Thompson, which covers this topic in much greater depth than my initial blog post.

Shawn Smallman, 2018.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/06/mexico-and-safety/

Jun 10

Russian Hackers

I believe that in a 100 years people will believe that digital globalization was as an important a trend in the twenty-first century as financial, political and economic globalization. Cyberwarfare, artificial intelligence, cyber-currencies, the sharing economy, drones and robotics are fundamentally reshaping our world. In this context, hackers have become not only a security threat but also part of pop culture. But how do hacker’s themselves think about their culture and their activities? You can learn more by watching the BBC program, “The Hackers of Siberia,” which focuses on the “SiBears” of Siberia.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/06/russian-hackers/

Jun 01

Maps and Reality

I’ve written about maps many times before on this blog, because they have so much power. A website called The True Size is designed to allow people to compare the relative size of nations. To use the website, you enter the name of a country. Then you can drag and drop the country over any part of the world that you wish. The website quickly makes you realize the extent to which northern countries are magnified. Canada looks huge if you place it over Russia. It’s scale looks very different when placed over Africa. If one moves Australia over Europe it stretches from northern Finland to central Turkey, with Tasmania in the Mediterranean. In the west it covers Great Britain, while in the east it nearly touches Kazakhstan. There is something slightly hypnotic about manipulating the map.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/06/maps-and-size/

May 25

Book Review: Retreat from a Rising Sea

Citation: From the public domain source, the US EPA (2014): “This figure shows average absolute sea level change, which refers to the height of the ocean surface, regardless of whether nearby land is rising or falling. Satellite data are based solely on measured sea level, while the long-term tide gauge data include a small correction factor because the size and shape of the oceans are changing slowly over time. […]The shaded band shows the likely range of values, based on the number of measurements collected and the precision of the methods used.
By US EPA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pilkey, Orrin H., et al. Retreat from a Rising Sea : Hard Decisions in an Age of Climate Change. Columbia University Press, 2016.

As I’ve worked on the previous editions of our textbook with Kim Brown, I’ve become increasingly convinced that it’s important for educators to recognize that our task is not only to teach about how humanity can prevent global warming, but also how humanity will need to adapt to climate change. There is now so much additional CO2 in the atmosphere that we are committed to global warming for generations to come. Perhaps no environmental impact will affect people as much rising sea levels, which is the central theme of Retreat from a Rising Sea. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/05/book-review-retreat-from-a-rising-sea/

May 14

Conspiracy Theories and Zika

Conspiracy theories have long fascinated me. I’ve published (with my colleague Leopoldo Rodriguez) on the death of Alberto Nisman in Argentina, and the conspiracy theories that tragedy spawned. I’ve also written about the conspiracy theories that circulated regarding the 2009 H1N1 influenza epidemic. More recently, I’ve been doing research on the Zika epidemic. I’ve just published an article, “Conspiracy Theories and the Zika epidemic,” which you can view in the open-access Journal of International and Global Studies. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/05/conspiracy-theories-and-zika/

May 07

China’s Rise

Hong Kong skyscraper. Photo by Shawn Smallman, August 2017

With the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Bank, and its One Belt/One Road intiative, China is changing the globe’s financial infrastructure. There is no question but that China’s economic rise is leading to new models for development. In some sense, what we are seeing is the start of a new period of Chinese-led globalization. The Chinese investment in small or developing economies -such as Greece and Venezuela- has had a significant impact on those nations, although it has not always provided great benefits to China. In Africa, Chinese foreign investment in land and infrastructure is creating new patterns of foreign investment and development. China’s influence in Central Asia has increased dramatically over the last fifteen years, especially as it has sought to obtain new sources of oil. Australia’s unusually long economic boom has relied heavily on China’s demand for commodities. China’s demand for goods, and its investments in other nations, has helped to fuel growth from Bishkek to Perth. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/05/chinas-rise/

May 01

The Stunning Collapse in Fertility

When Kim and I began to work on the second edition of the textbook one of the changes that we made was to add more material on demography. Of all trends, demography is perhaps both the easiest to forecast and to ignore. Despite the predictions of the 1970s that the world would face disaster because of over-population the greatest global change today is a global collapse in fertility. It’s difficult to overstate how rapid and sweeping this swing is. One of my favorite blogs is Lyman Stone’s In a State of Migration. Stone has a blog post, “The Great Baby Bust of 2017,” which begins by looking at the stunning drop of fertility in the United States over the last decade, and then moves to place this information in the broader context of the developed world. Canada, Europe, Japan and Russia have all witnessed a stunning fall in their fertility rates. France and Russia have done more than any other countries to reverse this trend, but even so only France is approaching the replacement birth rate. When placed in this context, what is striking is that the decline in the United States’ fertility is equivalent to other great collapses, such as what happened in Japan in the 1970s.

While the U.S. is experiencing a rapid decline in fertility, some parts of the country are undergoing a more dramatic transformation. In particular, Puerto Rico’s population has plunged. Stone has a blog post, “How Low will Puerto Rico’s population go?” which examines his own modeling of Puerto Rico’s demographic future, which matches fairly well with the U.S. census model. Two points stand out. First, Hurricane Maria had a devastating impact on the island’s demography, as population flooded to the mainland. Second, the island’s population will likely decline far into the future, perhaps even reaching numbers so low that they were last seen in the nineteenth century. The total fertility rate in Puerto Rico is 1.43. While much of the discussion of Puerto Rico has focused on its financial crisis, there are also broader forces impacting its finances, and shaping its future. And what is happening in Puerto Rico has many parallels throughout the Caribbean.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/05/the-stunning-collapse-in-fertility/

Apr 20

Bioterrorism and Cocaine

“A beautiful landscape of Mendoza City’s park seen from the height of the Gómez building.” By Itsmemarttin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mat Youkee has a fascinating article, “Who Killed the Nazi Scientist trying to Wipe out Cocaine,” on the online site Ozy. The piece tells the story of Heinz Brücher, who had served as a second lieutenant in the German military (S.S.) during World War Two. A biologist, Brücher had stolen a Ukrainian seed-bank on Heinrich Himmler’s orders. Later in the war, he disobeyed orders to destroy these seeds, and fled the Reich with them. As with other German military figures at the war’s end, he fled to Argentina, as part of an evacuation which has become a theme in popular culture from film to conspiracy theories. He did not stay in Argentina only, however, but also taught as a faculty member everywhere from Venezuela to Paraguay. Later in life, though, he wound up living in a farm house in Mendoza, Argentina, where he seems to have hatched an incredible plot: to destroy the coca plant that is the basis for the cocaine trade.

The coca plant has been used for thousands of years in the Andes. One can see ancient indigenous sculptures in which the cheek of one figure is extended, because the person is chewing coca. The leaf figures in ritual and religion, but is also a rich source of nutrition.Throughout Latin America coca tea is often used as an infusion because it is supposed to have medicinal properties. The leaf itself is vastly different from the processed drug known as cocaine. In 1898 a German chemist, Richard Martin Willstätter, created cocaine, which had become one of the most used drugs in the world. By the 1970s and 80s, cocaine was the basis for the cartels of Colombia. At the same time, there were allegations that the U.S. intelligence services were themselves involved in the cocaine trade in order to fund the guerrillas fighting against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/04/bioterrorism-and-cocaine/

Apr 09

Infographics in the classroom

A guest blog by Dr. Kimberley Brown:

Active learning for many faculty in International/global studies has meant simulations.  Alternatively, faculty could also vary teaching methods and assignments to meet the needs of a broad-base of students by using the principles of Universal Design for Learning. This post focuses on an infographic assignment substituted for a final paper in a section of a new online undergraduate course I taught last winter called “Human Rights and Language.”

Infographics are “a larger graphic design that combines data visualizations, illustrations, texts and images together in a format that tells a complete story” (Krum, 2014, 6). The basic assignment asked students to:

“Peruse our course topics.  Select one of the topics as the foundation for your infographic.  Your infographic will describe a linguistic human rights problem, the population affected by the problem, and solutions.  You will include a map of the area(s) where the problem you have identified occurs. Your goal is to disseminate information about the issue you have researched to diverse audiences. Your infographic should demonstrate a clear understanding of the issue you present and integrate course concepts and terminology.”

I was encouraged to adapt this assignment for my course after a group of colleagues in Community and Public Health (Shanks, Izumi, Sun, Martin and Shanks, 2017) successfully assigned this to their students. You can see their article, “Teaching Undergraduate Students to Visualize and Communicate Public Health Data with Infographics” here. The adaptation was quite extensive and it took many hours of collaboration with our Office of Academic Innovation to get it right. You can see the full directions for the assignment here.

I was anxious but with coaching broke the assignment into weekly parts including references, field testing, revision and reflection. Virtually no one in class had done an infographic before. I prepared written instructions as well as a screencast. Students had access to examples of Infographics. They were encouraged to use either Canva or Piktochart.  Both had tutorials. The results were highly creative. Only one student suggested that the assignment was better suited to a marketing course. Others noted that they had been pushed in unanticipated ways but could use this skill going forward. Four of the infographics are shared here with the permission of their authors. They all convey data very differently.

I adapted a grading rubric from a variety of rubrics for infographics accessed online.

If you would like more information about the assignment, please email me: brownk@pdx.edu

Please see examples of the infographics below:

Infographic on gendered languages by Madison Cheek

The Norway Infographic by Paige Nef

The Sierra Leone Infographic– Gaia Oyarzun

The Ainu Infographic–anonymous.

The full reference to our colleagues’ outstanding on article on infographics is:

Shanks, J., Izumi, B., Sun, C., Martin, A., & Byker Shanks, C. 2017. Teaching Undergraduate Students to Visualize and Communicate Public Health Data with Infographics. Frontiers in Public Health, 5, 315.

For another key reference see: Krum, R. 2014. Cool Infographics. Indianapolis: John Wiley and Sons.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/04/infographics-in-the-classroom/

Apr 01

Small victories and language

I’ve been studying Chinese for about two and a half years now, and I’m making slow progress. Very slow. I am certainly at that point in language study at which I say “after all this time, is this really the best that I’m able to speak Mandarin?” Last summer I was in China, and had a humiliating time at a ticket counter in Shenzhen, where I found that I couldn’t even explain to the ticket seller that I wanted to travel to Hong Kong (bad verb choice). I am certainly not someone who is good at languages. I should have learned the personal infinitive in Portuguese in an hour. It took me twenty years. But I love studying languages, which is what matters.  If you are someone who is studying a language and needs a little inspiration to keep going, I recommend this blog post. Sometimes it’s the small things that count.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/04/small-victories-and-language/

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