Class Participation

Similar to Emily’s observations for this week, I tracked the classes’ participation throughout the time spent on the Google Doc and in class on Thursday.  I used a  a lot less efficient method of collecting data during the Google Doc session and every 5 minutes I counted the number of sentences in the document.  It’s only a rough estimate of the progress of the document, it would take me up to two or three minutes to count the sentences that were being added simultaneously.  On the graph, the total number of sentences is divided by 10 for scaling purposes. The second line is the approximate rate sentences were added each minute throughout the session.  There is a spike at the 65 minute mark after I added the post-question discussion.

Google Doc Participation

Throughout Thursday’s class, I kept track of the comments or questions made by Dr. Sample or a student within 5 minute time periods.


Constraints on the Narrative

One issue Joyce Walker discusses in Narratives in the Database involves the constraints society places on the information available on the Internet. Walker states:

“In spite of the seemingly endless diversity of the elements contained within the network of the Internet, we are nevertheless constrained by the norms of our society as to what is created and what elements are recombined.”

Walker illustrates this using the powerful, but extreme, example of how the memorial photographs of the victims of 9/11 where contrasted against the ‘mugshots’ of the terrorists involved in the attacks on the website. The pictures chosen to represent and juxtapose the two different groups illustrate how the author of the webpage has limited the narrative of 9/11 to our cultural experience of the attacks. Walker attempted to find similar memorial sites for the terrorists of the attacks, sites that could have easily been formed by any religious extremist with access to the Internet, but she could not find such a site. The Internet and its search methods have presented this story in a way that reflects the cultural norms of society.

This idea can be worrisome when considering other stories or narratives of the past that we create from our Internet sources. Are we building these narratives, or have they already been formed by the authors of webpages, culture, or even by the database-hyperlink structure of the Internet? It is interesting to consider how our knowledge of past experiences is formed by following the hyperlinks presented by others, especially when using a search engine such as Google.

Augmented Memory of Today

From the wearable technology movement discussed in Peterson’s article, to the utopian idea of “total recall” presented in Penderson’s book chapter, the storage of human experience is presented as a new movement initiated by new technologies. While we have discussed augmented memory as a possibly worrisome experience that lacks creativity and human emotion, how do we feel about photographs today?

What makes a picture meaningful?
What makes a picture meaningful?

Isn’t documenting our daily lives and experiences through IPhone pictures, Facebook or Instagram forms of augmented memory? I would say it is a way to store our experience at that moment of time. Although a photograph only captures a snapshot of that experience, most of the time it is the experience behind a picture that makes it meaningful. When looking at your favorite photo, does it bring back positive memories as well as emotion? In this case, a form of augmented memory has possibly succeeded in capturing and storing a human experience.

However, augmented memory is less successful when the experience behind the picture is less meaningful than the picture itself. If your phone was out of memory and you needed to clear some space, which pictures would you consider deleting first? You would probably delete the pictures that mean the least to you. Even though a picture is a record of your past, it’s not worth keeping if theres no emotion to back it up.

Are we remembering our experiences or just the pictures we take?
Are we remembering our experiences or just the pictures we take?

A movement towards complete augmented memory should not be feared because it is a possibility, but feared if used improperly. Augmented memory can still capture emotion, as long as emotion was present in the experience in the first place. What we must avoid is reliance on these forms of memory as the only experience of the world around us. How often do we see tourists more focused on their camera lens than the scenery around them? A photograph, or any other form of augmented memory cannot be used to replace memories and experiences if we hope for them to have any meaning to us in the future.

February Class Attendance and Weather

Through tracking class attendance this week, collecting attendance from prior observer posts and looking up weather reports from this past month, I was able to create graphs that looked at the percentage of students present in class through the month of February with respect to the day’s weather and and high temperature.

There were 4 different descriptions of the weather on days we had classes.  Clear, Scattered Clouds, Rain, or Snow.  I averaged the percentage of students present on each type of weather days.




Educating Digital Humanists

starterThe digital humanities face a variety of challenges as Big Data becomes more essential to the field. One of these difficulties is the broad skill set that a digital humanist must acquire to organize and analyze these large data sets. Lev Manovich states in his chapter Trending: The Promises and the Challenges of Big Social Data, that most social and humanities researchers do not have the skills in computer science, statistics and data mining needed to take advantage of Big Data. There is a divide between those interested in the social implications of Big Data and those who can properly analyze it.

Typically when one thinks of a humanities or anthropology student, they do not associate computer science or statistics classes within their course schedule. A math or computer science student is typically not required to ask humanities questions in their studies. Although I know little about the humanities program at Davidson, I’ve found that there are two course sequences offered, The Western Tradition, and Cultures and Civilizations. These courses “encourage and reward clear thinking, speaking and writing.” Perhaps they could also benefit from computer science and data analysis skills that will be important for future social science discoveries.

From our conversations with Micki Kaufman, we learned she took a very non-traditional route to gain the skills see needed to become a digital humanist. Many of the skills she acquired over time through practice and experience with computer programs came not from her History studies at Columbia, but from the necessity to learn these skills so she could pursue her interests. The changing experiences of humanities with the advance of Big Data may require a rethinking of how students interested in these fields are educated.

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