The Essay as transition, and our ability to feel emotions

The combined essay was anew experience for me, for I had never utilized google docs with that many people logged in at the same time. It was an interesting experience seeing people correct grammar and other mistakes made by students. One of the things that stuck out to me was the final product. We began with a document that had questions and instructions, and ended with one that had multiple paragraphs for a single question. I viewed this transition as being similar to our society’s development in technology. We began with instructions telling us to do something (e.g. create a social media site, make friends more accessible) and a blank page. From there our society took many different inputs (representing students)and fixed errors where there were any. We may have begun with different paragraphs about to deal with technology, but we end up with a more polished version of what we started. Our essay was not perfect , I doubt any were, and neither is technology. It is all a process of writing, checking the writing, and either keeping it or changing it.

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One of the comments that stuck out to me the most would definitely have to be a student ,mentioning a Buzzfeed article, stating  that “sometimes we don’t need data to tell us when we are happy, or full, or slept well. We just know when those things happen to us.” While I do agree with this statement, I would like to propose the viewpoint that this “knowing” is under appreciated and will soon cease to exist. I’m certain that there are biological ways to explain the emotions that we feel, but I think our mentality is perhaps the most important indicator of such feeling. If we value the ability to feel happy and know that we are happy, then we will continue to experience this. However, if we do not value it then it does not become useful to us. Many modern day humans are beginning to value the numbers more than the experience, and thus will lose the ability to “know” their emotions. Numbers are increasingly becoming such a big aspect of our lives, and the quantified self has aided this process. People want to see numbers. The number is a sort of validation of their existence and gives them feelings of certainty. Any person could easily say that they are happy, or that they are not, and this can be disputed. If there are numbers that tell us “heart rate increasing, you are happy/excited” then this feeling cannot be disputed. My argument goes back to the saying “use it or lose it.” Sadly, I feel that people are no longer valuing the ability to feel emotion as often and will lose it. Yes, we can feel emotion, but for how long? Will there be a point where data is the only source of feeling? The near future will reveal the answer.

 

Dr. Sample Moves People

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For my observations this week, I decided to record the amount of attention given directly to Dr. Sample based on his movement. For those who are constantly in class, we see that Dr. Sample has a preferred area of movement and does not venture out far from this area and its surroundings. I noticed particularly that his movements were varied in our Tuesday class. I sat on the far end left side, and he came over to my side and began writing on the white board, something which is not very common. When the class began, about 16 people were looking directly at him when he spoke from his usual speaking location. Once he ventured out farther from this circle of speaking, more students began to actively look at him. Granted some people still looked at their laptops wile Dr. Sample spoke, but there was a wider range of students paying attention when he moved. From what I could see, his number jumped from 16 to 21 once he began to move around the classroom. I later compared these numbers to the eye contact people gave him at the end of class when most of the class, except for 1 or 2 people, were looking at him. The numbers fluctuated according to Dr. Sample’s position throughout the class. When he stayed in his area, the numbers ranged from 15-19 at one time to 21-24 when he moved. From these observations, one can tell that the movement Dr. Sample employed was effective in gathering mass student attention. This also leads one to wonder why more people pay attention when there is greater movement than usual. Perhaps we as humans are so accustomed to having objects stay in place (due to technology such as phones and televisions), that we are more alerted by moving images. This observation definitely raises points about actions Dr. Sample could take if he wants to maximize the amount of student eyes on him.

Transforming Experience Into Statistics

 

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Ann Helen Petersen , in her article “Big Mother Is Watching You”, describes the prominence that wearable tracking devices has gained, and the reasons behind this sudden change. She discusses the fact that companies are attempting to gather data about people in order to “improve” their lives. This improvement will be bought on by the fact that users wearing the devices will be able to analyze themselves in ways that they could not before. These people now have the power to dissect their own lives, and in a certain way have more control over their experiences. While I agree that the new wave of wearable technology does empower the user to a certain extent, I would like to propose the viewpoint that this technology is a two-sided sword.

The good comes from the empowerment. It is a great thing to be able to self test your urine to make sure that you are healthy, or to check up on your hear rate to make sure that you are not in danger of a heart attack. These are benefits that wearable technology provide. Our lives are made easier through the MimoBaby that allows the parents to maximize their child caring methods, while allowing the more tired parent to sleep more. It is beneficial to measure bodily food intakes and monitor weight among things, if one wishes to keep a healthy lifestyle. The purpose of wearable technology is good. The negative aspects come into play when one talks about the specific numbers themselves rather than their purposes.

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While people are able to monitor their lives and check all the statistics of their day, they begin to pay more attention to these numbers, than the actions that they are doing. In our high-tech society , many people are constantly on their phones, and data-tracking gives them more of a reason to check their screens. I believe that we as a society will get to a certain point where we no longer perform activity simply for the pleasure of it/because we want to, rather because we feel the need to live up to the numbers that we are being shown. It is a possibility that parents will feed their child simply because a machine is telling them to, not because the parent has developed a bond that allows them to predict baby needs. Some may run and have a great time running, but will not get the full experience if they are solely worried about the numbers of the run. These statistics have the power to put the user in a certain mindset where numbers are the only important thing. I do not wish to sound apocalyptic in any way, but it is imperative that we consider how full disclosure of our life experience will affect our overall life experience . We need uncertainty in our lives; that is how we learn best. If one knew exactly what was going to happen in one’s life, would it be as much fun? This question can be applied here. Petersen agrees that the ability to rely on ourselves for better life improvement makes us feel more alive than relying on an app. Wearable technology does have benefits, but we must not let statistics distract us from living.

The Role of the Cartographer and the daily map user

In response to cabard’s post, I believe that he has a very good logical standpoint on who gets to decide what goes on maps, but I feel like he downplays the role of the user. He states that it is up to cartographer to decide what goes on maps, and how truthful that information is. I believe that while the cartographer does have this power, those who utilize the services have power as well. If a particular person wishes to have something on a map, then they should be able to suggest this to the cartographer. Since this information is for the users, then the users should be the people kept in mind when creating maps. These people can band together to get a say in what they believe to be most important for representation purposes.  Regarding the point made about getting the bigger picture but losing the details, I believe that this does not always have to be true. While the little bits of information can be lost, this can be prevented if we decided what the little bits information are. If a map wishes to have information regarding the local area, then the little information will not be relevant as the overall purpose  is to graph a small area. Once again, the user should decide what the purpose is, so if they wish to have a big area mapped then they must be conscious that certain details will be left out. If they want small, details should not be left out. Finally, I agree with the point that we can have either distances or shapes, but i do not believe that this will be a problem for much longer. With the increasing amount of technology in our surroundings, soon we will be able to bridge the gap that has been established. It would be crazy to think that this issue regarding maps will be a problem in the future.

Colors and Moods, More participation = More Confidence?

As this was my first time being an observer of the group, I was unsure as to what I would need to record. One of my primary observations was the color of shirts/ jackets/ upper body clothing that people wore to class on both days. The dominating colors for Tuesday were:

  • Black = 7 people
  • Grey= 6 people
  • Blue = 4 people
  • The rest were scattered.

The dominating colors for Thursday were:

  • Black= 5
  • Grey= 3
  • Rest of colors were scattered.

It is interesting to see that the number of dark colors decreased from one day to another, although one could say that this was due to the weather. I would like to propose the idea that perhaps this change occurred because the Thursday class was much closer to friday and the weekend. Subconsciously people may associate the days after Monday with darker colors/moods and latter days with more color and life. While this may be a trivial observation with a more-trivial analysis, it is interesting to see the change.

Another observation made was the participation of the class with the new “everyone raise your hands” policy implemented. This technique was invented so there would be more class discussion without the awkward silence in between Dr. Sample’s questions. Out of everyone who raised their hands, only 19 people form the entire class talked in Tuesday’s class. After the policy had been implemented and the fishbowl constructed, there was a rise in participation. For each question asked there an average rotation of 3 people in the seats, along with 5 people in the fishbowl being the highest number at any given time. This was more participation than had been seen before, but there were few questions asked by the students themselves. On Thursday’s class, there was more active questioning on behalf of the class. While talking about fit bits, mostly the entire class was engaged in the video chat, and more questions were asked than was the norm seen in Tuesday’s class. Firstly, 5 people asked questions about the functionality, durability, and overall advantage if the device, indicating that they were highly interested in the subject. Even more people were researching the fit bits on laptops, as every table had every person on a laptop with the exception of 1. One can potentially draw the conclusion that since the installment of the new “hands up” policy more people have gained confidence in speaking their minds and becoming involved, since everyone has a chance of being call upon.

Digital Humanities and a New Definition of Knowing

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Klein proposes the viewpoint that digital humanities requires one to sit back and analyze the extent to which we are knowledgeable about certain information. A deeper analysis of Jefferson’s slave James Emmings whose true identity is no fully known leads her to issue a call to action for digital humanity practitioners to go out into the world and uncover the information that has yet to be found. She believes that no longer can we be satisfied with knowing, but now we must also ponder how we know things to be true, their origins.

While Klein does bring up a very good point, I believe that one must question the completeness of her claims. Why is now the time for digital humanities to theorize their claims? Yes we have more technology that can aid in deeper research of how we know information, but if this practice was as necessary as she deems it to be, would it not have begun earlier? We are able to find out trivial things, such as Hemmings being educated, but this does not do much to help mankind as a whole in the future.

I would agree to the statement that digital humanities will reveal much information, but I cannot help but wonder how that information will be put to use. If we as of now do not fully “know” certain subjects well, when will we get to that point as a collective society? Is it worth it to swim in unclear waters in search of how we know information if we do not know what fully “knowing” consists of? It seems somewhat pointless that Klein would state our inability to fully have understanding of a certain subject, without defining full understanding. Eventually a limit on how much we know will be set, but until that time, the concrete purpose and usefulness of digital humanities will remain incomplete.

Klein, Laura.”The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings.” Duke University Press, 2013.Print