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The Beading Gem Celebrates 16 Years of Blogging! | The Overton Window | Critical Thinking


Grab a cuppa and get comfortable. This is a long post! 

Who knew back on January 4, 2007 that I would still be writing about my favorite craft, 16 years later.  I was teaching jewelry design at the time and students wanted to know if I had a website.  I didn't. But I soon opted for a dynamic version, a weblog or web journal - blog for short, so I could showcase the work of students each day.

Nearly two years into blogging, I was amazed to see the popularity of my very first tutorial. The "aha" moment arrived.  Clearly my little blog could be a source of instruction and inspiration as there was then an unmet need in the crafting world. 

We take today's internet for granted. Back in 2007, there were comparatively few blogs and the general public were still not widely using the internet. I was constantly explaining what a blog was. Quite a few people also did not have their own email addresses.  I remember one irate husband emailing me to stop contacting him about my next workshop.  His wife had used his email as the contact one for my classes as she had none! 

I never really wanted the blog to be about me.  So I started promoting the work of excellent designers and instructors I found, admired and thought they deserved a wider audience. I do still write my own tutorials as often as possible but these consume a lot of my time. Each take days to complete, photograph and write. 


I don't begrudge the work required in publishing this blog because the constant writing practice meant I have developed my own blog voice (writing style) over the years and by golly, my photography also improved at the same time. Both writing and photography are still works in progress and I have even come to enjoy them as creative processes in themselves. 

The things I do begrudge are some of the other hats I must wear as a one woman operation.  It's not just about writing and hitting the Publish button. Editing is the bane of my life - sometimes I scramble to correct something the morning a scheduled post appears. I am also the webmaster. Troubleshooting technical and software issues behind the scenes is so not my forte. I am an absolute novice at HTML coding. Then there is the essential social media promotion. Some key time management tools I use are various auto -scheduling apps which means I am not tied to the computer or my mobile device. Like you, I prefer to be making things!

It is readers like you who make writing this blog a joy.  In an age where many eschew the written word for short sound bites and videos, I am grateful so many of you still like to read and are open to different angles and topics.  

It's quirky, this blog of mine.  I occasionally incorporate into posts my other non-crafting interests such as reading, musical theatre, history, technology and science. I am a lifelong learner and as my mother can attest, always curious. There were a few childhood escapades due to my curiosity!

I am also grateful for those of you who have taken the time to tip me off about something, commented - often with great tips of your own - or simply wrote to let me know how much you enjoy reading my blog. All this encourages me to continue writing. Thank you for also sharing my posts.  The more views my blog gets, the more they help this community.  

The blog is supported by affiliate fees, ads and sales from my stores - beadinggem and CraftaGems. So when you shop what you like and need through the links here, know that the modest revenue defrays the expenses I incur in this blog's production.  My thanks again for that as those are also what keeps this blog going. 

OVERTON WINDOW

I grew up speaking three (a Chinese dialect, English and Malay) of the four main languages in Malaysia which has a total of 137 living languages

Picture Source : Location of Malaysia

English slowly became my dominant language as it was the medium of instruction when I was in school due to Malaysia's colonial past and cemented as such when I moved abroad, first to the UK and then to Canada. 

I adore the English language. It is a rich language with an equally rich history. I try and improve my English all the time. I read a lot.  Every day, I learn a new English word and its often fascinating origin.   I have been a newsletter subscriber (it's free) of Wordsmith : A.Word.A.Day (AWAD) for over 20 years. 

One word or phrase I learned recently from AWAD was the Overton Window. It means :  
The range of beliefs, attitudes, etc., considered acceptable at any given time. It was named after Joseph Overton (1960-2003) who proposed the idea. Earliest documented use: 2003.


The Overton Window is not static. Popular views change with time and place.  It's applicable to many things in our world- in the past, the present and certainly in the future. 

For example, prior to the 2008 Financial Crisis, much of the public often considered crafts like knitting and crochet activities only grandmothers did.  Homemade meant you could not afford to purchase ready made.  But that economic meltdown changed perceptions i.e. the Overton Window moved for crafting. Starting from that time, the interest in handmade soon accelerated with noticeably more craft blogs, websites, Youtube channels and so on. It became widely acceptable, and even to have pride in, something you made yourself. 


In my early blogging days, tutorials were uncommon and many designers were not yet online. What I am seeing today is a steady increase in the quality and quantity of tutorials and marvel at the sheer creativity of so many people. It's not that any of these did not exist before but they are now much easier to find once online!

The easy access to huge amounts of information has both pros and cons. At its best, the internet connects people and enriches our knowledge.  But one really alarming con is the proliferation of misinformation (false or inaccurate information) and disinformation (wrong information which is deliberately used to mislead ).  This is threatening our progress on many fronts including scientific developments.

In the last 2000 years, the estimated historical mortality rate for children was dire - more than a quarter of infants never lived to see their first year and almost half of all children never made it to adulthood. Vaccines changed all that, reducing death rates by a huge margin, at least for countries who can afford vaccines for their populations. The mortality rates in the poorer parts of the world are still terrible because they lack access to vaccines, health care, proper nutrition and so on. 

Chart Source : Our World in Data


The years following the Second World War saw the introduction of miraculous antibiotics and the polio vaccine and their wide acceptance - people back then had a huge respect for science. But today's internet and social media has brought about such a flood of misinformation and disinformation. A distrust of science has seen the Overton Window for vaccines to shift. A significant number (17% in Canada) of parents are now vaccine hesitant. Numerous people became afraid of the highly successful mRNA vaccines which were developed for protecting against the Covid virus. And yet, if they or their children fell ill, they expect science and modern medicine to save them. That is the whole point of vaccines in the first place!

Trust in science has noticeably declined over the last few years as the public went through information overload, confusion and then outrage over encountered misinformation, and falling victim to disinformation by people, organizations and even foreign governments who twist info to deceive and sometimes exploit others for profit. 

The peddlers of disinformation make full use of confirmation bias. This is the all too human tendency to look for something that confirms or supports our own values or beliefs. For example, a person who is afraid of dogs might focus on a news story of a dog attacking a child who then sees that as confirmation of his or her belief that all dogs are dangerous.

The global pandemic which could have seen humanity coming together to defeat a common threat instead saw the very opposite. Understandably frightened people sought answers and sometimes not from reputable sources. Misinformation and disinformation, already present on social media, skyrocketed as people shared these inaccuracies again and again without any verification. It's faster to hit the share button than to take the time to ask and find out if the information is accurate.

The algorithms of social media are particularly problematic as they accelerate the spread of misinformation, disinformation, exploitation and abuse. (The young are particularly vulnerable to online grooming.)They can make people angrier and angrier. Clickbait titles are designed to invoke emotions and encourage people to go to the articles and thus fall into rabbit holes. 

Social media platforms have helped fuel political polarization and incitements to violence across the globe, from the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. This is because algorithms consistently select content that evokes anger and outrage from its users to maximize engagement. And sometimes, those extreme emotions turn into extreme actions.

Hate groups, conspiracy theories proliferate on social media targeting women, minorities, immigrants,  etc. Social media giants have grown so large, they can no longer effectively moderate content that is being uploaded very fast and in huge quantities.

 

Facebook, for example, is used worldwide - nearly two thirds of its users use languages other than English. So it struggles to moderate and that failure has had tragic consequences. 

 
It is also important to remember, what we see on social media is just a distortion and a microcosm of real life. People who spend a lot of time online and not engaging socially offline end up having a bizarre view of life.  The Guardian's The Ultimate Enemy is Women : Inside the Fear-Filled World of Incels  is worth a read. This anger among young men has real life consequences - in 2018, one incel (involuntary celibate) emboldened by other deadly incel attacks elsewhere, deliberately drove a van onto a crowded Toronto sidewalk and killed 11 people, mostly women. 

Trevor Noah, the wonderfully astute and insightful South African comedian, said in his recent final Daily Show hosting :
Please don’t forget the world is a friendlier place than the Internet or the news would make you think.
We can be hopeful for change. There are fledgling attempts like prebunking videos to help people identify the hallmarks of disinformation. One notable sign is the use of emotional language to manipulate people. Fearmongering at times. Ah, the power of words!


People should also be aware of fake screenshots - the giveaway is these are often doctored or misused pictures without any real links. 


 CRITICAL THINKING
 
More and more people are beginning to ask questions, a key feature of critical thinking, before hitting the Share button.  Is this social media post true? Is it trying to manipulate me?  Is it just propaganda? Are these claims true or are they just encouraging me to buy a product?

One of the problems with social media is that people tend to trust someone they know in their social circle rather than an expert in the topic. So critical thinking prevents us from being swayed by the reaction and beliefs of others and to independently evaluate what we see.

Critical thinking is the foundation of science.  But it should be taught in all schools. The BBC reports that the Finnish school system is the cornerstone of the fight against disinformation. Since a 2016 curriculum update, Finnish children are now taught media literacy by building on thinking skills :
"We teach critical thinking across several subjects. For example in math classes we look at how statistics can be manipulated," explains Marika Kerola, a teacher in the northern city of Oulu. "

In art, a typical project would be for children to create their own versions of a shampoo advertisement. It may be a picture showing that hair is not as shiny or radiant as it's been promised on the bottle." 

 In language classes they will compare the same story written as fact-based text and as propaganda, she says. In history, they will compare war-time posters in Nazi Germany and the United States, for example.

Reputable news sources always label Opinion articles as such but not every media source is so scrupulous about biased write-ups.  See these media bias charts - by Allsides and AdFontesMedia - for additional information to help determine if a particular news source you read is biased and in which direction. 

 


You do not have to be a biologist to see that nature is very diverse and varied. We humans vary in many ways -  for example, the color of our skin, eyes, hair, height, shapes of noses, ears, handedness, age, sexualilty and gender identity, etc.  None of us have any choice in the genetic roll of the dice.


There are many Overton Windows for some human features. Some are culturally based. Aging is a normal part of life. Yet how old people are perceived varies between the East, where they are generally more respected,valued and cared for, and the West, where youth culture dominates, where ageism is prevalent and the elderly are treated poorly and sometimes neglected.


Another difference that I never knew existed until I left South East Asia where black hair is universal, is the prejudice against redheads especially in the UK. This hair color is uncommon and those who have it are easy targets for bullies. Social media can intensify the bullying.



"Race" is a social invention which has had a negative impact on so many people for centuries.  Biologically, there are no races - we are all humans. Our species is Homo sapiens. We all have near identical DNA. The color of the skin is just like hair, has many variations.  Racism is fundamentally about one group attempting to exert dominance over another. Yet, if we go back far enough, we are all "mixed" with common ancestors. This is due to a great deal of migration and mingling over millions of years as our species slowly moved out of Africa. 



The Overton Windows for a number of other human traits are changing or have totally changed with time, depending on where one is.  Take handedness for example.  Most people are right handed, about 10%, more or less, are left-handed and about 1% are ambidextrous. Today, in the West, nobody cares a hoot about which hand is your dominant one. 



Yet for centuries, left handed people faced severe discrimination. They still are in some parts of the world -where the right hand is traditionally used for eating, writing etc and the left is reserved for cleaning yourself in places where water, not paper, is used for the toilet. Some Chinese characters are difficult to write with the left hand so the perceived % of left handers in China is lower because many lefties use their right hands to write.

Historically, the left and thus left handedness had loads of negative overtures. For example, the English word sinister came from the Latin adjective sinister/sinistra/sinistrum meaning left but evolved to mean evil. In Sanskrit, an ancient South Asian language, the word for left and wicked is the same.


Until fairly recently in the West, left handed children were forced to use their right, sometimes cruelly so. Their left arms might be tied behind their backs or schoolteachers would hit them for using their left hands. 

Some cases of stuttering have been attributed to the enforced use of the right hand. An oft quoted example is Britain's  King George VI (1895-1952), a natural left hander. He apparently did not stammer until he was forced to switch hands when he learned to write. 


Scientist, Dr Howard Kushner, who researches handedness and other aspects of neuroscience,  explains more in this short video : King George, His Speech and Left Handedness. The movie he refers to is  The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth. Studies in the 1930's showed that when left handed stutterers were switched back to their dominant hand, their speech improved. When left handers are forced to use their right hands, the motor function for writing switches to the right side of the brain but the language function remains where it is, on the left. Hence, there is a disconnect and the brain stumbles in processing speech.  The scientist explains why the King's therapist did not try this but opted for other methods to help the King.



The chart below shows the rate of left handers in the US. The rapid rise of left handers born from about 1915-1945 does not mean there was a sudden increase in left handers. This was the "coming out" of left handers as they were no longer being suppressed. The plateau shows what the natural percentage of left handers in the US is (just under 12%) once this group was totally free to be what nature dictated.



Similarly, the Overton range for how natural human sexuality variances (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual etc) are perceived, has slowly shifted in some parts of the world but is still deeply rooted in prejudice in others. 


An example of how this range changed in one country over time can be seen in the case of Alan Turing. He was the brilliant English mathematician and cryptologist who led the successful effort to break the Nazi's Enigma Code. Some historians believe it was the single most important Allied victory during World War II as many enemy attacks were foiled. 


He was prosecuted in 1952 under Victorian-era homosexuality laws and forced to undergo chemical castration. His death in 1954 was ruled a suicide. Britain did not decriminalize homosexuality until 1967. The government did not formally apologise for his treatment until 2009. Queen Elizabeth II finally signed a full pardon in 2013, 59 years after his death.   See the movie, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.



Gender variance is also not new.   Gender variance, the recognition of more than two genders, has been acknowledged in many cultures around the world throughout recorded history.  Just like the rapid rise in the numbers of left handers a century ago did not mean people chose to be left handers, the increase numbers of transgender people today just shows people recognizing their own variances and are no longer hiding what they were born as. It is not a fad. 


 New scientific research is changing our previously held assumptions about gender and gender identity.  Work has shown the brain is actually a varying mixture of traits rather than a strictly "male" or "female" brain. These genetic complexities of gender determination results in variations of gender identities and expressions


Just like enforced right hand use for left handers, attempts to change a person's sexuality or gender identity don't work either and can do great harm.


It took some effort and time, but in 2021, Canada formally banned conversion therapy  (Bill C-4). Conversion therapy is the widely discredited practice aimed at changing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. More countries around the world are also passing legislation banning it as it "may constitute fraud and has been described by experts as torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and contrary to human rights norms."


The noticeable pattern to all discriminatory human trait Overton Windows is the focus on minorities - people who easily stand out physically or are starting to coming out as different from what some societies judge as "normal".  Instead of being curious about someone different and asking questions to learn more,  a lot of people are just straight out judgmental. An easy thing to do because it involves no thinking at all. 


Humans evolved as small hunter-gatherer groups or tribes who shared common identities and often reject those not like themselves.  We no longer live in such societies so our ingrained tribalism is also something we have to understand and overcome.


There are also Overton Windows in the jewelry world. Years ago, I came across a young woman who bemoaned the fact she had almost no earlobes for earrings. Fortunately, the Overton Window for where you can wear earrings have changed. There are also some nifty ear cuffs as alternatives to traditional dangles. I hope that person eventually found some!


Picture Source


Many younger people have also taken to other piercings and plugs, body modifications which can also be seen in other cultures around the world. These styles have existed for thousands of years. 


This snug Septum Nose Ring is from eleven44jewelry. It's a huggie for the nose.



This plug earring is also from eleven44jewelry.



Men as well as women have always worn jewelry throughout history although what they wore could defer in style and quantity. Then the Regency era dandy,  Beau Brummell came along. He dictated the style and fashion for men and reset the Overton Window for Western men's fashion and jewelry, or lack of, for some 200 years. Men started to copy him and wear only plain and darker colors and avoided most jewelry.  But that Overton Window is changing as men have returned to wearing jewelry.


Beau Brummell (1778-1840)


For years pundits reckoned online sales would really take off but didn't because many people were not comfortable buying online. But that Overton Window for online shopping changed abruptly when the pandemic hit. 2020 was a banner year for anyone selling online including craft suppliers and finished jewelry makers, as people had nowhere else to buy from.  Those without an online presence rushed to create one.

 

The world is still recovering from the pandemic and a war was started which upended so many things. While most of us live far away from the conflict in Europe, we have not escaped its consequences.  Oil prices skyrocketed and affected the cost of of virtually everything we need. Both the Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of sunflower oil and wheat. So a reduction in those staples caused other cooking oil and food prices to rise. Millions of vulnerable people around the world now do not have enough to eat. 

It is to no one's surprise that there is a decline in jewelry sales this past buying season as families have reined in gift buying sprees due to strained budgets.  However, there are myriad other reasons which could affect how jewelry designers do, not just the situation today. See Becky of Nunn Design's post 22 Reasons for Declining and Thriving Jewelry Sales in 2022

One of the wisest things anyone said to me is, "This too shall pass". Life is never static and while it might take a while, the situation will change. I hope there are good changes looking ahead for each and every one of you.


And thank you for reading if you made it this far down my anniversary post! As always, please share your comments!


Happy New Year!  Keep on creating!  

Before You Go :

Disclosure 

This blog may contain affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation. 
 ______________________________ 
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM 


19 comments:

  1. Long yes, but contained so much valuable information. I'll probably have to read it again. Thanks Pearl ❤️❤️❤️

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  2. To Pearl, with deep admiration and great thanks. You are a true gem!
    🥂

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  3. Your blog is excellent & it has held my interest these many years - thank you for your dedication!

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  4. After 16 years of daily blogging, you never cease to amaze me, Pearl! This post was fascinating to read, from beginning to end, with so many topics, carefully researched, relevant links and all beautifully linked with your superb writing style. I knew back when I found your blog that I had indeed found a gem and now, sixteen years later, I am even more convinced. Wishing you countless more years of discovering, creating, writing and sharing.
    Nahed Squires

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  5. Happy Blogiversary, Pearl! I am so glad I found your blog early in my jewelry making journey, I've learned so much thanks to your mission! Today I was contemplating on blogging vs. more dynamic and superficial media but your analysis is much deeper. Also, you seem more optimistic about people asking questions before sharing whatever info - I hope you are right, it's for the good of mankind :) Keep blogging and inspiring us!

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  6. Wow! lots of food-for-thought there, I'll have to digest it. thank you, and happy anniversary!!

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  7. Happy Anniversary, Pearl! Here's to many more years of your wonderful blog. 🍾🥂

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  8. Thank you, Pearl, for another wonderful post!

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  9. Another blogversary Pearl?! How time is just zipping along! And - as you say - the Overton Window is shifting constantly. Some days I hide from the way the world is because of all the negativity online. I'm a twitter user/fan and these days it's simply too much to take all the hate.
    This red head who is married to a left-hander just asked him the other day if he was forced to write with his right hand when he was young. As there is a huge discrepancy in our ages he told me no. However I remember quite clearly watching the teacher admonish with a hard slap of the ruler any poor soul in my classroom who was writing with his natural hand! Times indeed are a changing!
    As does your blog.
    Thank you for being open about what our society is struggling with. Misinformation and hate circle the world at the push of a button. Influencers push lies and expect to get everything free. Our Chief Medical Officers of Health have sided with the ruling parties and lied to us about a virus that kills indiscriminately and cruelly. The people in power tried to force us to believe that they knew more about a deadly virus than the scientists and forced us to follow their point of view and often with major deaths and long -term disasters.
    Just yesterday I was confronted by someone trying to push their conspiracy theories on me. My new job is to block the liars - but first I must poke some holes in their lies before tapping the block button.
    We have all changed since the pandemic began. Some of us are more home bodies now due to being highly immumosuppressed - raising my hand - while others are sticking their bare chins out and growling at the world that this is a hoax as they watch millions and millions die. In America you might make it through but be totally bankrupted due to having long-Covid.
    Change is what we've always done as a society and what we always will do. It's part of growing up isn't it?
    Thanks again my friend. My coffee went cold but it was worth the read!

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  10. Happy Anniversary Pearl. I still miss the little online jewelry group we were in.

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  11. Wonderful, and informative read. Many things you've mentioned in this post has given me things to think about. Thank you.

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  12. My son is left-handed, red headed, and freckled. I have a unicorn over here for a child.

    Oh and PREACH SISTER! Love you Gem! I actually read your whole blogs. ;)

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  13.  Just a quick note to let you know how much I appreciate what you do. I look so forward to seeing your email in my inbox every day. It is always interesting and of great value to me as a jewelry artist. I have been not working for 3 years and your emails helped keep those creative thoughts going. Thank you!Judy Parnell TommeFromme jewelry

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  14. Pearl, you have been such a blessing to me for so many years. I have learned so many new jewelry designers and techniques, as well as world history from reading your blog! Looking forward to many more years of this journey with you!

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  15. This post was a pleasant and informative surprise! Congrats on 16 years of blogging.

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  16. Pearl thank you for the time you've put in to your blog. Your blog is the only that I have followed since I found you. I lost interest with all the others. You really take pride in your blog and its content ,which in turn has kept your followers interested. I will continue to follow as long as you have this blog. You are truly a gem!!

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  17. Pearl Happy Anniversary!! I thoroughly enjoy your blog!! I look forward to receiving each & every one of them.

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  18. Happy Blog Anniversary Pearl. You were my inspiration to start blogging and 16 years later you are still an inspiration. This is a fantastic article. I think that a portion of it could be elaborated, titled "Zeitgeist and the Overton window" and published as a scholarly article. I am going to recommend it to my trend studies students and discuss it with them.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks everyone for your kind words! And I am humbled by readers like Divya who have read my blog for years. My little anniversary post is so not worthy of a scholarly article but I am pleased to be able to share a range of worldly issues that will provide some food for thought.

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