Experiential Learning: We Live in Public

4 08 2011

We Live in Public is a documentary about the rise and collapse of Josh Harris’ internet empire.  In it, we see his early days of creating TV-like broadcasts on the internet, his experimental living scenarios, and his simpler life after bankruptcy.  It is genuinely a rags to riches (and back to rags) story.  The most incredible point the video made was that, as maniacal as his experiments seemed, they did make accurate predictions about the future of the internet.  His “We Live In Public” apartment complex was artistic madness.  The people living there were constantly intoxicated, having sex, firing guns; they were basically doing everything and anything that gave them immediate satisfaction.  His interrogations were creepy/intimidating as they mentally broke down the ‘citizens’ and showed what people are willing to do under extreme authoritative pressure.  He surveillanced a restriction-free adult playground; the citizens’ reactions to this environment paralleled how many people respond to internet interaction.  There was little intimacy, constant fun, and it built up to extreme conflicts; they became animalistic.  “Everything is free but the video” was a theme throughout the documentary and I believe it sums up a lot about how the internet today monitors our character and ‘sells’ to us.

     Though his ‘party’ was broken up, he  turned to his then-girlfriend, Tanya, to create a web version of the experiment.  In it, he and Tanya had a constant streaming feed  of their daily aparment life visible to the general public; it garnered thousands of viewers.  Like the aforementioned project, this one began with fun and excitement but led to inner conflict.  After a specifically bad fight in which Josh aggressively grabs her, the two separate and his downward spiral begins.  His audience diminishes and he sees it as a reflection of his self-worth; once a famous internet mogul, now a broke madman.  He appears almost schizophrenic in the videos following the split.  This demonstrates how the internet’s continuous feedback can create a serious amount of psychological pressure during an already distressful scenario.

     His life after these events was much simpler.  He avoided the public eye altogether and became an apple farmer (and eventually an Ethiopian basketball coach.)  I think it was a natural reaction; with so much external pressure ruling his life, he needed an escape.  It seems similar to celebrities who are constantly relocating to avoid the media circus that follows.  An example nearly identical to Josh’s was when Dave Chapelle became overwhelmingly famous and suddenly left to Africa without informing those closest to him.  Josh had gained the superficial commodities he thought he wanted: women, fame, money, drugs, parties, etc. but upon losing that, realized that he could live a more fulfilling life by helping others on a personal level.  Yes, part of his seclusion in Ethiopia was to avoid debt collection, but I at least like to think that at a deeper level he wanted to reform.  The moral of the documentary to me was that privacy is essential to a healthy lifestyle.  The internet encourages us to narcissistically believe that others are monitoring us more than we think.  Simultaneously, we have an innate desire for admiration or fame, but we may not totally understand its consequences and actually achieving it can become maddening.


Assignment 7: Narrative

2 08 2011

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Readings 13: Virtual Reality and Gaming

2 08 2011

Play the Game: Grand Theft Desire was especially interesting to me as an avid fan of the Grand Theft Auto series.  I actually remember the first time I saw a friend playing it and was actually horrified that a videogame allowed you to play the role of a cop-killing, car-stealing criminal.  He brings up a lot of great points about why we play it; mainly as an escape.  What worries me is that children who are exposed to so much violence may have a hard time making the distinciton of what is acceptable in a game vs. real-life.  On the other end of the spectrum,  New Girl Games showed a lot of awful games targeted towards teen girls.  Where GTA is encouraging macho-violent behavior in young males, these games are instilling lame morals in females.  Most of them were centered around being the most popular high-schooler, getting a boyfriend, or having the perfect prom; it is very superficial and stereotypically rewarding gender roles.

3D Avatars and Machinima reminded me of an extreme version of Second Life.  For anyone with a 3D avatar, they are creating a completely new identity/self-representative in a different world.  Machinimais creating a story via the graphics of a pre-existing game. 

IBM Study: Online multiplayer games build business leaders – This was interesting, but not very surprising; leadership roles in fictitious worlds definitely translate to confidence and other skills in the real world.  Team management, budgeting resources, etc. are all skills developed in massively multiplayer online role playing games.

Virtual Hunting is horrible, but after seeing the way the U.S. military uses drones to kill enemy soldiers, it loses some shock value.  There are already laws in existence that prohibit certain methods of hunting because of the unfair advantage it gives the hunter (i.e. fishing with dynamite.)  I don’t understand how the same logic could not convert to this idea.  Killing animals unfairly is unfortunately a huge part of the American food industry, but something about allowing a human to remotely fire the gun makes it much more personable.  What worries me most is that I think the idea would sell; I hope there is some sort of intervention before his website takes off.

Virtual Iraq and PTSD  – We’ve basically turned war into a video-game, and now soldiers suffering from real-life combat are using videogames to help recover.  Different therapies work for different people, so if emulating the war-environment is somehow helpful to soldiers just returning from that environment, I’d encourage it.  It does confuse me, though, how putting someone back into the environment that traumatized them is supposed to help them recover.

Chinese Goldfarmers – I agree that the brokers are to blame for this awful situation.  Goldfarmers are spending countless hours harvesting/selling virtual currency for real money while the middleman reaps the majority of the benefits.  It’s also sad that the farmer’s accounts are being blocked so that only the gaming corporations can reap the profits of selling virtual items.  Greed is ruining their industry!

Avatar Portrait – Very cool! 3D avatars on actual canvasses is a creative mesh of new artforms with old.

Gaming Can Make a Better World  – Jane McGonigal provided a thought-provoking speech.  When you consider the hours, number of people, and amount of dedication that gamers utilize, there can be a huge game-changer in the way the world solves problems.  The ‘10,000 hour rule’ was also intriguing.  My biggest question about this is if gamers are willing to dedicate the same time to a greater communal cause when most of the gaming now is primarily self-absorbed entertainment.  Can we legitimately construct a system that makes people not only care about big issues, but actively and aggressively try to solve them?  The potential is definitely there.

Readings 12: Narrative

2 08 2011

The internet has contributed to numerous new ways to tell a story.  Tone Language showed how some of Japan’s highest selling fiction author’s are writing via text messages.  The series of texts are then turned into published books; it is unbelievable that these stories are becoming so popular.  It also prompts the idea of Cross-Platform Storytelling in that there are creative new ways to write and distribute stories.  This article explains examples from the show Heroes in which elements of the show are brought into different platforms (i.e. a website on a business card in the show.)  It reminds me of an old episode of The Simpsons where Lisa visits whatbadgerseat.com; the joke being that there’s a website for everything.  They then created the website, which included more humor, but more recently just redirects to the Simpsons homepage.  Clearly a story can be more entertaining if told through many different media.  I like how the article explains the importance of making the audience feel like part of the performance and telling, not ‘selling’, a story.  The “We Tell Stories” projectwas also very intereseting; it utilized a lot of elements of online interaction that you don’t usually see in stories.  Watching it progress in an instant-message type of conversation was innovative and captivating.  Lastly, the Hamlet on Facebook and other historical events in a facebook template was quite funny.  It’s creative to have an old story retold in a more modern format.

Readings 11: Photography and Lying

29 07 2011

“Picturing Texts” – I think it is acceptable for universities to edit photos to make their campuses seem more diverse.  On a brochure, website, etc. it is the school’s depiction of “This is how great our campus could look.”  So even if it’s falsified, it is an honest attempt to encourage diversity.  Suppose Ramapo had plans to build a new library and wanted to include, on a brochure, a CGI version of what the library would look like when it was finished.  To potential students, it would be an accurate portrayal of how the school would look in the future, perhaps when they would attend it.  This would be a different story if Ramapo just photoshopped an extra library in with no intentions of building it.  If the school intends on attracting a more diverse group of incoming students, then I don’t see a problem with advertising what the campus could potentially look like.

“I was there. Just ask Photoshop” – In the article, there is a daughter who had no pictures with her father so she had one created; subsequently, the photo means a lot to her.  I think her story is a great example of how photoshopping a person into a picture can be tasteful and add meaning.  To me, it’s conditional; it really depends on the intent of the creator.

Picture Perfect – It’s true that we’ve created an impossible standard of beauty.  The ideal body is outside of human range.  As a result, young girls are idolizing anorexics; boys are looking up to larger-than-life body-builders, many of whom are using drugs to achieve such monstrous size.  I think it discourages people who are trying to live healthier lifestyles and contributes to the obesity epidemic in the United States.  We spend ~30 billion dollars a year on diet and exercise products, but continue to get fatter as a nation.  I personally have had a lot of self-image issues, but more recently have been able to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  I highly recommend the free e-book Brain Over Brawn, (or the paperback edition if you’re willing to pay for it.)  Everyone I know who has read it in its entirety has made an incredible transformation.  I have suggested it to everyone who has ever asked me for any sort of fitness advice; those who read it begin happier healthier lives, those who don’t continue to live happy, but unhealthier lives.  It’s about 90 pages and covers every basic aspect of fitness in an easy-to-read manner.  It’s absolutely free.  It explains everything. EVERYTHING.  Please, someone read it, it would legitimately mean a lot to me.  Everyone looks for that ‘magic pill’ that ensures health, beauty, and youth; this is that pill if you can just somehow force yourself to read through it.

France Mulls Health Warning for Fashion Photos – This would be a fantastic law if put into motion and I wish the United States would follow a similar path (though unlikely.)  I don’t think it would have an immediate effect, but it’s a step in the right direction.  Ideally, advertisers would be prohibited completely from displaying these impossible physiques in public, but I’m 100% on-board for any sort of law that brings awareness to the problematic nature of these ads.

Adbusting Britney – Very clever!  I really enjoy the creativity of graffiti artists and this is a great example.  It’s funny, original, and  great social commentary.

Photoshop Forensics: Victoria’s Secret – Not only are they bad at photoshop, but they’re racist, too.  I can’t believe they actually adjusted her skin tone.  It demonstrates to me that their company advocates the notion that white skin is more beautiful than any other.  Maybe it appeals more to their target audience (?), but it is blatantly racist.

No boo boos or cow licks – This was actually used in my high school senior portrait.  As far as history will ever tell, everyone in my graduating class was acne, pimple, and scar-free.  It does, though, encourage the idea to younger kids that looking a certain way isn’t acceptable.  There are burn victims, amputees, and other people out there who have faced catastrophic/permanent injury; it doesn’t make them less human or less beautiful.

The Photoshop Effect – The video demonstrated exactly how much re-touching goes into a single photoshop.  It reminded me of an X-Men ad that featured Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.  They photoshopped his muscle size, definition, etc. to the point that they accidentally added a muscle on his shoulder that doesn’t exist.  The ‘impossible standard’ is legitimately impossible.  The photo editor in the video claims that with perfect diet and exercise, a person could come close to looking like the ideal magazine model; but I believe that too is an overstatement.


Readings 10: Technology and Body

28 07 2011

A Soft Spot for CircuitryParo, a personal robot designed to respond to specific human emotions, is gaining popularity as a companion for elderly people coping with dementia.  The same technology has been applied to helping dieters, drug addicts, etc. but I don’t think it will be as effective in these other areas.  I think it works for the elderly because they are more likely to have a void to be filled; sadly, many of the people who were close to them are probably now dead (friends, relatives, spouses, etc.)  In their case, they need a sense of companionship.  For dieters and addicts, I think they need to turn to themselves before resorting to others for help.  There is a very low success rate for making substantial lifestyle changes, so I genuinely believe that self-discipline is a much greater factor in making healthy life decisions than the support of others.  That’s not to say that the support of others isn’t important; it is, but the ‘turn-around’ starts at a personal level.  That being said, I think robots would probably do a better job of providing emotional support for a dieter/addict than a human.  The robot is programmed to give support and offer help unconditionally; a human may have ulterior motives.  For example, a fat person begins dieting and her fat friends initially support her efforts; to their surprise, she actually begins to successfully lose weight. The fat friends stop supporting her out of jealousy or hoping that she puts the weight back on so that things ‘return to normal.’  The same would hold true for drug addicts who are surrounded by enablers.

Is this Man Cheating on his Wife? – The quote from the disgruntled wife at the end of the article sums up a lot of what the article explained.  She explains, “This other life is so wonderful; it’s better than real life. Nobody gets fat, nobody gets gray. The person that’s left can’t compete with that.”  I think this mentality is centered in the desire to live the life we know we can’t.  Guys go to action movies because the idea of being James Bond is exciting, though impossible.  Gangsta rap appeals to suburban white kids because they know they can’t live that dangerous lifestyle; the music makes them feel like part of it though.  In Second Life, there are husbands who know they can’t cheat on their wives, so they do it in a separate digital world.  To them, they feel it is better to indulge in fantasy realm than to embrace real life.  They’re clinging to the idea that they can never grow old and die in Second Life, but in reality, they are slowly deteriorating.  I’m obviously talking about the people in the article who play upwards of 10 hrs./day; for most it’s just a recreational escape from day-to-day drudgery.

You Are Cyborg – This article made me think of Tiger Woods’ eye surgery.  He now has vision that is better than 20/20, something a human can’t be born with.  In the sports world, athletes are constantly under scrutiny for giving themselves unfair advantages (steroids, cheating, new supplements, new training methods, etc.) and this adds a whole new dimension to those debates.  Usually the human ‘cyborg’ is created out of a repaired handicap like artificial hips, cochlear implants, etc. but now it’s part of the most elite level of competitive athleticism.  Cosmetic surgeries are also becoming increasingly popular, so the idea of ‘human cyborgs’ is really more commonplace than it is farfetched.

Better Vision, With an Implanted Telescope – Healing the blind, something once considered ‘miraculous’ or impossible is now a legitimate medical surgery.  I mentioned Tiger Woods’ eye surgery in the previous article, but it’s astounding that beyond enhancing a functioning eye, doctors can repair some forms of blindness to a functional level.  Might this technology progress in the same direction for other types of blindness (or even deafness, touch sensitivity, etc.)?

Filmmaker plans to shoot with tiny camera in eye – It’s like Justin.tv on a whole new level!  The idea is obviously unconventional and groundbreaking, but I think the effect will be similar to any ‘point of view’ film style.  If the average person had access to this technology, it could change the validity of eye-witness evidence; in a sense, everyone would have a ‘photographic memory.’

Wearable computing/ 6th sense – Well that was probably the coolest gadget I’ve ever seen.  Everything was ingenious: the projection; dialing a phone on your palm; drawing a watch on your wrist; analyzing books/products through photo recognition; even getting information about people by looking at them.  I couldn’t believe the video was 2 years old; I haven’t seen anything like this.  It really adds a whole new definition to the ‘human cyborg’ we’ve been discussing.

Twitter Telepathy: Researchers Turn Thoughts Into Tweets – At first I thought that the computer was recognizing what letter the person was making eye contact with, but apparently it’s actually reading the thoughts of the person ‘typing.’  It’s astonishing; will this be the ‘norm’ in the future?  The image of a person on a Bluetooth seemingly talking to himself might disappear because everyone will be able to communicate via thought!  Will we stop speaking altogether out of convenience? Scary!

In Korea, A Boot Camp Cure for Web Obsession – Perhaps this would be effective treatment for the Second Life users spending 10+ hours/day online.  I think it’s a good idea in theory, but in practice, I think most of the people who attend the camp will probably go back to their old ways when they return home.  To want to give up an addiction is something a person has to decide for him/herself.  The Korean gaming addicts are entering the camps, thinking that a change of pace/environment will have a lasting effect.  It’s definitely a good start, but history would show that people fall back into the same habits when the pressure to change disappears.  Simultaneously, some boot camps are more effective than others depending on the style;  I think a treatment centered on the consequences of addictive behavior would be much more beneficial than a boot camp that only forces them into physical activity.  The boot camp in the article seemed to focus on teamwork, too, which I think is an excellent method to aid in the recovery of an addiction.

Digital Nation – Chapters 6, 7, and 8 covered the ugly side of how we use advanced technology.  I don’t want to be insensitive, but World of Warcraft addicts make me cringe.  I understand that for many, it is a hobby, but for the obsessed,  it is a dangerous lifestyle.  It encourages countless hours of inactivity; lack of movement/exercise leads to obesity which causes heart disease and is the leading cause of death in the United States.  So it may be fun to take on a new identity in a fantasy world, but it should not be prioritized over real life.  The last chapter on military use of technology made me miserable.  I hate war.  It’s hard for me to discuss it as it makes me doubt the progress of humanity.  It is obviously wrong to kill people by pressing a button, even if you think they’re the “bad guys.”  In any discussion of war, I like to refer to Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. The Reflections of Sagan quote towards the end of the wiki page is one of my all-time favorite pieces of literature.

Readings 9: Mobile Devices

26 07 2011

Always-on/ Always-on-you: The Tethered Self was a great read.  Turkle illustrates our dependence on media from an unbiased perspective.  She gives a lot of clever examples of how drastically things have changed.  She mentions how if her cell phone rings during a meeting, she knows that it is her young daughter trying to contact her; her co-workers, affiliates, clients, etc. now see her as both a businesswoman and a mother.  Before the digital age, a person could maintain a specific identity for certain groups of people; this is no longer possible.  She also mentions allowing her daughter to go on a New York City field trip and how they are ‘tethered’ together.  If the bus broke down, she explains, she’s a phone call away from help.  They would never have to resort to subway transportation, and there isn’t a sense of autonomy.  I don’t think this is really a bad thing, as children should be introduced to independence in a slow and controlled manner, not by frightening and overwhelming chance occurrences.  “The home as a media center” was also an interesting concept Turkle explores.  A current Verizon commercial advertises that the average household has 4 internet devices, which is legitimately incredible.  The American home is no longer a constant interaction with one another, but rather each family member distracted in their own individual web-world.  The image of dad on the laptop, sister texting, brother playing Xbox Live is now normalcy.  Lastly, the 72-year old woman with a companion robot and ELIZA, the robot therapist each demonstrated the deep connections humans have with machines.  The abandoned elderly lady is able to comfort herself through comforting her companion-bot and ELIZA gives feedback to our emotional issues.  Both cases exemplify the innate desire we have of feeling accepted, whether it is from others, ourselves, or something man-made.  In these instances, the artificial intelligence (or artificial emotion) is a reflection of how we want to be treated.  I now understand why the caption said that many students enjoy this article the most; eye-opening and easy to relate to.

A World of Witnesses showed the potential power of mobile phones.  Using them to conduct a legitimate and official vote for a country is a radical change.  Voting would no longer depend on those who ‘care enough’ to go out an vote, but rather everyone’s voice can be heard.  In the Philippines, huge protests were organized via cell phone and they overthrew their leader.  It gives people a chance to demonstrate their ‘power in numbers.  The other uses mentioned for mobile devices were also intriguing.  Detecting lead paint in toys or polio in poor countries is a huge advancement, especially when it can be immediately addressed.  “Autodetecting” radiation to not only recognize that there is a threat, but to also use GPS technology to locate it could be lifesaving in the future.

China Deputizes Smart Phones to Spy on Residents says a lot about how the Chinese feel about their strict government.  Having their information, location, etc. tracked by their mobile devices makes it virtually impossible for an uprising (like the on in the Philippines in the World of Witnesses article.)  I don’t know if there would be any reason for one, but taking away that possibility is equally suppressive.  People can’t even think of going against the government (1984!)

Your Apps Are Watching You – Applications on smartphones are not as safe as one might assume.  Most share info with third party companies that want to know more about their consumers.  It is disheartening that the average owner is unaware of the fact that they are being taken advantage of for the profit of a random corporation.

Multitasking Can Make You Lose … Um … Focus and The Benefits of Distraction showed two sides of the multi-tasking debate.  One on side, we are obviously unable to focus on multiple activities at once and as a result, we’re unable to focus very well at all.  The other side of the argument is that the human brain is quite malleable and that it has the potential to adapt to a new way of processing information.  The argument about Socrates fearing written word destroying oral communication has showed up again in this article and definitely reassures me that we aren’t all just getting dumber and dumber.  Each new system has a new set of pros, cons, risks and benefits.

Video: Driven to Distraction and Video: Texting While Driving had a pretty clear message: driving and texting kills.  It is virtually equivalent to driving drunk in terms of how much it increases the risk of an accident.  I’m pretty familiar with this idea and never text while driving.  I have gotten the occasional honk because of texting at a red light, though.

Digital Nation showed the solid evidence behind the inefficiency of multitasking.  People who claim to be great multi-taskers are actually quite bad at it and are even more likely to have lower analytical reasoning skills (though it’s important to note that it is correlation and not causation.)  America is, arguably, psychologically addicted to the internet; a good argument supporting this is Asia’s common concern of their teens being ‘addicted’ to video games.  The brain scan that pictured reading vs. googling was interesting; I originally assumed that it meant that google requires us to think more, but actually it is just triggering different parts of the brain.  Where reading is a calm and steady brain activity, googling is an overload that the brain may not optimally process.  He compares it to golf;  a lower ‘score’ is better.  The ‘paragraph’ style of writing that they discuss is obviously something I can relate to; I noticed that all of my reading responses were done in this format.  These are responding to specific articles, though; and usually when I write in essay format, I outline beforehand and try my best to keep it a fluent organized work.  The ultimate point of the chapters we watched was that there are ‘gains and losses.’  Our brains are going to be different, but not necessarily better or worse.

Readings 8: Privacy, Surveillance + Exhibitionism

26 07 2011

“On the Record, All the Time”  – Lifelogging presents a lot of thought provoking questions.  If everyone’s daily life was recorded and public, it would create a completely honest society.  Lies, manipulation, etc. would vanish; anything we don’t like to think about or deem embarassing would be in the open.  It’s a scary thought, but I think, from a long-term perspective, that it would be for the best.  Really, the things we keep private are our inner struggles, quirks, and secrets; things that are very ‘human.’  Putting all of that into the public arena would erase the facade we create when interacting with others. 

Jennifer Ringley created a site that documented her daily life through a webcam.  She shattered boundaries of privacy and I can appreciate the artistic nature of such a bold experiment.  I think an underlying principle of American culture is that human nature/the human body is ugly, so I think her courage to defy that is admirable.  Similarly, Justin.tv allowed viewers to follow someone’s life via webcam, but he actually brought the webcam into the public.  This is much more intrusive as strangers become part of the show and, unlike Ringley’s project, the camera follows Justin outside of the house. 

The Web Means the End of Forgetting was a good follow-up to On the Record, All the Time in that it showed a number of examples of how ‘lifelogging’ has become a burden.  Basically, people are ‘lifelogging’ as second nature now; social media sites are so common that virtually everyone has a distinct online identity.  The problem the article discusses is the persecution of people who have posted something that conflicts with another part of their life (Stacy Snyder not being allowed to finish her pursuit of becoming a teacher because of an online picture of her drinking.)  I think the article defends her, appropriately; as social norms change, people will have to learn to become more accepting of others’ varying identities.  I liked the example of seeing pictures of your accountant drinking or at a clown convention.  It doesn’t take away from his/her ability of being an accountant, but rather shows another side of his/her life.  The most surprising thing I learned from the article was that the media is permitted by law the release the identity of rape victims; I think there should be a boundary on this, as it may discourage other rape victims from reporting a rape.  I understand it’s a freedom of press argument, but this is one of the very rare cases that I believe information should be withheld from certain people.

HTML 5 May Weaken Privacy – HTML5 seems like it will fulfill its tremendous potential, but simultaneously, it draws some risks.  The biggest concern of mine that the article mentioned was the inability to keep track of items in a shopping cart before they are bought.  I feel that, with aggressive online marketing, people will be making many more compulsive purchases.  On top of this, I can see many people buying things without knowing that they are doing so; when your bank account is directly attached to your computer, it’s a legitimate problem.  The “evercookie”, a new cookie that stores and shares information in more places on your computer, sounds like it will be more annoying than beneficial.  Personally, I’m particular about things like saved passwords, or ‘keep me logged in’ buttons, so HTML5 does scare me a little bit.  Like most advances on the internet, though, I’m sure I’ll be on the bandwagon when it provides me with more mindless entertainment.

Google Debates Face Recognition Technology – I agree with the critics.  It’s an incredible technology that can make tagging much more dynamic and convenient, but it’s at the cost of safety.  Stalkers and identity thieves can use it for the wrong reasons and I think the current tagging system is convenient enough.  A few bad apples spoil the barrel.

Quiz: What Do Facebook Quizzes Really Know About You? illustrated a number of points I was actually already somewhat familiar with.  Every time you take a quiz or start using a certain application, the developer can collect a lot of information about you/friends and use it for pretty much anything.  Technically, it’s only supposed to be used within facebook related things, but I don’t really see how a developer can get caught selling/sharing the information.  I’ve been pretty safe about this in the past and only allow respected developers access to my profile; even still, I’m sure my information is being shared with a lot of 3rd party affiliates.

Twitter on The Daily Show – I think I watched this for the Week 1 Readings, but it may have been on the recommended/non-mandatory list.  The Daily Show is great satire and I remember staying up late through middle-school and high-school to watch.  Jon Stewart is obviously always funny and Samantha Bee’s skit was good, too.  I liked the way she juxtaposed the media’s obsession with twitter with the obsessive habits of twitter users/followers. 

I Know What You Did Last Math Class – Any parent who thinks that being able to track his/her child’s grades is a bad thing clearly has their priorities in the wrong place.  The side effects are “exacerbated stress about daily grades and increased family tension.”  Parents are responsible more than anything else for a child’s academic success and reviewing daily grades should be a given, not a burden of stress.  Increased family tension? Like putting pressure on your kid to do well?  Sometimes you have to pick your battles. The article GPS Technology Helps Parents Track Teens is a similar concept, but isn’t about academics.  Being able to trust your children to not go places they shouldn’t is important, but knowing when they do is more important.  Safety should be a parent’s biggest priority and I don’t see anything wrong with keeping a constant eye on one’s child.

Watch this brief “howcast” for FourSquare – Now the article about MTV and Foursquare teaming up for STD awareness makes sense!  I recently got an iPhone and will have to try this out.  Seems like a great way to find new restaurants, cafes, hangouts, etc.  Seems like a perfect way to ruin my On Location Privacy.  I understand that there’s evidence of everywhere that I’ve been but I haven’t robbed any banks or hidden any bodies, so it doesn’t really bother me.  It does have a creepy 1984 aura, but if you don’t want there being records of you being at a certain place, don’t go to that place!

Watch this 8 minute video was great, and Bruce Schneier has great speaking skills.  I was engaged for the whole speech.  Security really is the control of information, and now with social networking sites, humans have to define ‘privacy.’  The boundaries of what we want others to know and in what context have to be solidified and enforced.  The fact that privacy has a different meaning to everyone makes it difficult to create a sound security system.  His explanation of the generation gap caused by the internet also made sense; my generation is fluent in how to use the internet, but mostly clueless as to how it works.  I think his prediction is accurate; that his generation will be remembered by their ability to securely process information.

Readings 7: Suggestions, Recommendations, and Algorithmic Culture

21 07 2011

Hitting it Off, Thanks to the Algorithms of Love explained the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of certain online dating sites.  Most of the sites are based off of matching personality traits, which is a huge factor in the success of long-term romantic relationships.  I think the romanticized idea that you have to run into your ‘soulmate’ on some chance occurance and then go through the long process of getting to know each other to decide if it’s a good match is going to become outdated soon.  The idea that love is based off of intangible things like fate might be overshadowed by statistics that demonstrate what usually determines a successful relationship.  There may be hesitation to accepting that, but I think it would be more logical to find a partner through what science tells us usually works than the traditional way of finding a significant other.  Also, it was disheartening to read that some sites didn’t allow homosexual matches to be made because the algorithms were designed from heterosexual data.  I think the same algorithms would work for any kind of relationship.

Artifacts from the Future: Online Dating in 2020 was kind of surreal; it’s not hard to imagine a world where our geneteic make-up could determine our most successful partners.  The idea would bring a completely new meaning to the classification of people.  I’ve also heard, though, that appearance is 20% genetic and 80% nutrition; if physical attraction plays a role in the success of a relationship, then this DNAmatch.com might not work as effectively as I immediately thought.

Roommates Who Click would have been a lifesaver a few years ago.  I’ve had some awful roommates in the past and if I knew there was software that could match me with someone ‘normal’ by my standards, it would have been a godsend.  When you’re potentially living with someone for 4 years, it’s best to have similar personalities and habits.

Search Takes a Social Turn brought up a lot of different sites that work as filters to accomodate your taste in various forms of entertainment.  They were based off of what was trending within your ‘social loop.’  S0 a site like TunerFish collects data from what your friends are watching and suggests it to you; a neat idea when you consider that you’ll probably later meet up with friends and discuss what you’ve all been watching.  It’s incredible that these sites suggest things you’ll like on such a specific level.  I personally like to explore different shows, music, movies, etc. to develop my own taste and maybe stumble upon something unfamiliar that I like, but the aforementioned filters are definitely a great way to follow media.

The Song Decoders at Pandora – I’ve been a huge fan of Pandora and the way it filters music has always been astonishing.  The article really delves into what creates the ‘magic’ of its inner workings.  I’m a music major, so I’m familiar with looking at music on many different levels, but the detail that Pandora goes into is astonoshing.  Countless pieces of data are being compared and contrasted to define the ‘feel’ of a song which truly amazes me.  It almost worries me that music will soon be so systematically created that the ‘blood sweat and tears’ behind making great music will disappear and ruin ‘authenticity.’  I realize though that it’s just another tool advancing the pace of creativity; I don’t want to sound like the guy who called record players “infernal machines.”

Recommender System entry on Wikipedia gives a nice clear-cut description of what a lot of the aforementioned systems are really doing.  This is a much more generalized picture of what is going on, but I think it’s good to look at how they work at a basic level.  I didn’t understand some of the jargon in the previous articles, but this helped clarify what the recommender systems were doing to create suggestions.

How to Have Culture in an Algorithmic Age is basically telling us to not totally trust the algorithms.  Though they are great and helpful, they can never factor in every aspect of the context in which a song, movie, passage, book, etc. can be graded.  And in the case of Amazon, the dynamic of the algorithm is hidden, so it is impossible to tell exactly how it is interpreting the data we send it.  In the example they mention with tracking Kindles, one person may highlight a sentence because it’s inspiring, while another may highlight it because of a grammar mistake.  I think the author is recognizing the validity of recommender systems and at the same time acknowledging that culture will persevere with these algorithms.

Readings 6: Digital Marketing and Viral Media

21 07 2011

Youtube ads turn Videos into Revenue showed Youtube’s new model of advertising.  Youtube is able to identify copyrighted material, but with permission of the owner, will leave the material up and link to an ad that may generate revenue which they then split.  For example, if an Eminem video is put up by another user, there will be a link to purchase the song from iTunes within the video.  I think this new method is a win-win for both the copyright owner and the consumer.  The owner’s are making money and the buyers are happy to shell out the extra dollar to have access to the song without having to go to Youtube.

Retargeting ads follow surfers to other sites illustrated how marketers are using new ways to sell a product.  I have firsthand experience with this as I once ordered from GNC.com and weeks later, there were ads on an unrelated website suggesting that I re-order the same product.  It was almost eerie since it was the same day I had ran out of the suggested product.  Though I didn’t buy it the moment I saw the ad, I did end up re-ordering within a few days, so maybe there is some merit to this strategy.  The biggest problem I see with this is that it may prohibit a buyer from exploring new (and possibly better) products if the one they are accustomed to is constantly being pushed towards him/her.

For the Love of Google: Landing a Job with a Search was pretty funny.  It’s cool to see that someone’s creative approach to getting a job  like that actually worked.  When you’re trying to stand out against many other applicants, something as ingenious as a google ad definitely puts you a cut above the rest.

How the Old Spice Videos are Being Made was an intersting inside look at the construction of their advertising campaign.  To me it seems somewhat extraneous to be creating videos on that prolific of a level, but it seems that they are reaching a broad audience by doing so.  Obviously the ads are very successful as demonstrated in Old Spice Campaign Generated 35 million video views in 7 days.  I’d also like to mention that some of the previous Old Spice TV ads were directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, a comedy duo known for their work on Adult Swim (the later hours of Cartoon Network.)

FourSquare and MTV Team up for first ever cause-related badge: STD Testing showed an innovative way of using the web to encourage philanthropy.  MTV has always made a public stance about sexually transmitted diseases.  I think it’s a great utilization of new technology to increase awareness of this epidemic.  It’s legitimately plaguing society and any motivation to get people into testing centers is applaudable.

Social Media Marketing demonstrated that small businesses are much more likely to benefit from social media sites than big corporations are.  They mention a few examples of restaurants becoming successful because of twitter and how it allows an individual (or small group) to keep an audience engaged.  The fact that all of these new media are free makes it a perfect tool for keeping people updated.  I also like how Solis says that he ‘wears many hats’ when becoming part of these social networking sites; I had never totally realized that each system has its own set of rules, boundaries, etc. whether tacit or explicit.  Having the utilities is pointless without knowing how to properly use them so acting appropriately within the sites becomes a big determinant of its success.  This video, above the other articles, I think will help most with our upcoming assignment.