Science deconstructs humor: What makes some things funny?

Alex Borgella, Tufts University

Think of the most hilarious video you’ve ever seen on the internet. Why is it so funny?

As a researcher who investigates some of the potential side effects of humor, I spend a fair bit of time verifying the funniness of the jokes, photos and videos we present to participants in our studies. Quantifying the perception of humor is paramount in ensuring our findings are valid and reliable. We often rely on pretesting – that is, trying out jokes and other potential stimuli on different samples of people – to give us a sense of whether they might work in our studies. (more…)

No, Bob Dylan isn’t the first lyricist to win the Nobel

Bob Dylan isn't first Nobel Price lyricist

Bob Dylan

Alex Lubet, University of Minnesota

There’s been a great deal of excitement over Bob Dylan winning the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. It’s rare for artists who have achieved widespread, mainstream popularity to win. And although Nobels often go to Americans, the last literature prize to go to one was Toni Morrison in 1993. Furthermore, according to The New York Times, “It is the first time the honor has gone to a musician.”

But as Bob Dylan might croon, “the Times they are mistaken.” (more…)

What makes someone a good writer?

Robin Macauley, Arthur Koestler, and Flannery O'Connor, 9 October 1947 (courtesy Robie MacCauley)

Robin Macauley, Arthur Koestler, and Flannery O’Connor, 9 October 1947 (courtesy Robie MacCauley)

What makes someone a good writer or what makes writing good?

To begin to understand what makes writing, and writers, “good,” we need to ask the larger question “What is writing?”

It’s easy to agree on the definition of writing if we limit it to something like “putting pen to paper” or “typing ideas into a computer.”

But if we look more closely at the elements of the act of writing, the definition comes to life. (more…)

How to avoid buying into spammy blogs?

How to avoid buying into spammy blogs?

Nothing beats great content. A good writer could get 500 words out of this photograph alone!

I was cruising the Twittersphere recently when I discovered a story on a website called DreamGrow entitled “How to Choose a Content Writer.”

Now, choosing (and providing) content writers is something I happen to know a lot about. So I thought I’d compare notes. I’m so glad I did.

“How to Choose a Content Writer” starts off with all the usual gusto — explaining that you need a writer who’s “engaging, educational and entertaining,” and so forth. Stuff no one can disagree with. (Unless one prefers the serial comma, but I digress.) (more…)

What is storytelling vis a vis web sites?

What is storytelling?The word “storytelling” has a lot of buzz about it these days — from film to web.

You can understand how important storytelling is to film and video.

When you tell a good story, you involve your audience, who identifies with one or more characters. Screenwriting guru Robert McKee talks a lot about stories in this Harvard Business Review interview.

Good stories light up the imaginations of those who are reading, hearing, or experiencing them in other ways. (more…)

Content has always been king

Content has always been king (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Content has always been king (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Lately the Internet is rife with the phrase “content is king.” What? Content has always been king.

Content, of course, is anything that contributes to your message: words, illustrations, photographs, videos, and, increasingly, design. A web site needs to look good and BE good. (more…)

Pin It on Pinterest