This feelin' ain't right
Loneliness and wicked problems
ONS published their first-ever report into children's loneliness, and the findings are equal parts fascinating and harrowing:
Loneliness has been linked to poor physical health, mental health, and poor personal well-being, with potentially adverse effects on communities, it is an issue of increasing interest to policymakers at local and national levels as well as internationally.
27.5% of children (10-15) who received free school meals said they were “often” lonely, compared with 5.5% of those who did not
19.5% of children living in a city reported “often” feeling lonely, compared with just over 5% of those living in either towns or rural areas
The highest reported proportion of young people who “often or always” felt lonely was for 18- and 21-year-olds.
Factors that impacted loneliness included number of children in the household, personal well-being, gender, health, deprivation and geography. Factors that did not significantly impact loneliness included ethnicity and number of adults in the household.
On a practical level, this report is excellent for anyone working with young people. It is also, of course, brilliant for communications planners, as it clearly lays out life stages, drivers and even key moments of transition.
On a less(?) practical level, I find the report noteworthy because it looks at loneliness from a public health point of view. That is, as a wicked problem with multiple factors, and not something to be hand-waved away as 'all in the mind'. This not only shows that society is starting to understand mental health in a mature way, but also starts us down the path of practical solutions.
If we can identify some external drivers of loneliness, that's something that can then be addressed systematically: transport, pricing models, creating community spaces, whatever. Obviously there are psychological and interpersonal factors as well, but, as this report shows, loneliness is more than 'something in your head'.
Get: Those overwhelmed by a really, really big problem
To: Move past 'raising awareness' as the solution
By: Identifying the drivers that are both relevant and controllable
The Loneliness Lab is tackling the issue from an accelerator point of view, with a lot of interesting mini-projects.
We perceive our own vulnerability differently than others do - in fact, what we see as weakness, others might see as courage. Thus the 'beautiful mess' theory.
Loneliness is a 'wicked problem' - a problem with no objective measurement, no clear solution, and no clean testing environment. The term originates from "Dilemmas in a general theory of planning", a 1973 paper by Rittel and Webber. It is well worth tracking down, especially for strategists attacking stickier behaviour change issues.
The OECD Better Life Index takes systematic approach to the wicked problem of unhappiness, by breaking down into a series of quantifiable factors, from work-life balance to environmental quality.
Robert Sharp shows how image tagging can change the course of history:
So why does everyone online think that ‘The Sword’ is a picture of Evelyn Beatrice Hall? The answer lies, as it so often does in the 21st century, with algorithms and poor web page design.
Lots to learn here, including a nice reminder that there's still a sizeable gap between Wikipedia and 'professional curators'.
An Atlantic feature on the con artists selling 'get rich quick' secrets to Amazon sellers. Given the size of the platform, this is inevitable:
Amazon captures nearly half of all online retail spending in the United States, and more than half of its sales come from third-party sellers. It’s where America shops online. But if selling things on Amazon is the new internet gold rush, the web abounds with people pledging to help followers find the treasure, for a hefty fee.
I think 'gold rush' implies a certain skeptical transience, whereas all the evidence points to the contrary. Amazonise-commerce - which means, for all practical purposes, commerce. (And then some.)
The speed of Amazon's rise means that most small businesses (and large ones) are still left out in the cold, so it is no surprise that scam artists are preying on their insecurities. As we've seen in individual sectors - from romance books to fashion accessories - there's currently no best practice, no code of conduct, no right - or 'correct' - way of achieving success, and an exceeding laissez-faire style of regulation by Amazon itself. The best you can hope for is some 'good advice' from predatory peers.
The result is predictably unpredictable. Everything from extremist content to money laundering, manipulation of reviews and metadata to schemes and outright scams. Is this a Libertarian wet dream? Or a shonky cyberpunk dystopia? Discuss.
Buy my book.
And, speaking of buying my book(s) - two events in February for The Outcast Hours:
Thursday, 21st February at the Phoenix Artist Club. With Marina Warner, M. Suddain, Lavie Tidhar, Louis Greenberg and Will Hill. Details here. £10 ticket, which includes a nicely discounted copy of the book!
Thursday, 28th February at Brick Lane Books. Featuring Frances Hardinge, Will Hill, Karen Onojaife and Maha Khan Phillips. Details here. £5 tickets, redeemable against the price of the books.
The comparative pricing (£10 but discounted or £5 and not discounted) makes this feel like an experiment by from the Nudge unit. So, be sure to come along - FOR SCIENCE!
Also also, The Best of British Fantasy is progressing nicely. Contracts have been sent out for the selected stories. There's also a 'highly recommended' list that will be revealed. I'm afraid both the Table of Content and the 'highly recommended' will be kept under wraps for a little while.