Participation vs Time


I observed class participation as a function of time to see whether or not we are more active at certains times of class. I believe that someone else may have done this before. I thought it would be interesting, however, to compare the trends of our participation in class with our participation in the google doc session. Using the revision history of the google doc, I had a perfect record of the number of edits per minute. I am unsure, however, of what counts as a revision. As you can see from the graph, the number of edits of the google doc is much greater than the number of class participations. This is expected because on the google doc everyone can revise simultaneously and disjointedly instead of following the progression of class. The graph indicates that for the most part, the number of comments and edits is pretty stagnant throughout the class period. There is one major dip in the middle of the revisions history of the google doc. I assume that this is when everyone had finished major edits or paragraphs and took some time to catch up on what everyone else had written before adding to other peoples’ thoughts.

Foundations of Virtual Interaction

Joyce Walker examines the increasing inclination to incorporate “real world” interactions and events into the virtual world by studying the attempts to mourn the attacks of 9/11 in online communities and memorials. This idea of renegotiating physical connection by redefining the way we interact with time and space begs the question of: what constitutes a social connection or relationship? Walker would argue that, today, connection does not necessitate  a face to face conversation. While I understand the social transition of community from the physical to the virtual, I would urge us to examine how this transition changes the way we percieve the purpose of human interaction and what this adds to (or takes away from) our collective memory and communities.

My first recollection of a physical custom’s transition to online was with Neopets. When I was in elementary and middle school, everyone had a Neopet. This was an online, fantastical breed of a pet which you could feed, pet, play with, send on play dates, build houses for and so much more. I loved Neopets, but I remember thinking even then: “This is a game, it isn’t like having a real pet.” It was meant, however, to constitute the relationship between a person and their pet.

What I questioned about Neopets then reflects my questions about Walker’s analysis of 9/11 online mourning and Jonathan Harris’s The Whale Hunt. As I interacted with the The Whale Hunt, I discovered the customizability of the experience using the various filters and the heartbeat monitor. This concept of conveying memory is fascinating, however, what would it be without our preconcieved understanding of the physical? Without having pet our own dogs, we would not understand the concept of petting our neopets. Without grasping what it feels like to have our heartbeat speed up, we would not be able to effectively interact with Harris’s interface. Our virtual interactions are fundamentally build upon our understanding of the physical. The question society must now wrestle with is: In our negotiation of relationships and memory, can we move past the physical or will it always form the basis for our concept of connection? If we can indeed move past it, what comes next? What is the step of human interaction that is beyond the virtual?

The Human Condition without the Humanity

In Augmented Memory, Digital Life, and Computers that Promise to Remember Everything, Isabel Peterson examines the implications of self-tracking to the point where you are able to recall everything that you see, hear, read write or feel. Her analysis suggests that this new form of the quantified self negates the fundamental purpose of human memory.

If we expect that human memory exists to store rather than generate reality, then humans are for information and not the other way round, a rheto­ric that ultimately betrays posthuman conditions in these subtle as­sumptions.

Humanists would suggest that information is for humans to learn, use and wrestle with. What happens to our humanity when we exist and experience simply to recall? Is an emotion still an emotion when we only remember having it, not the way it actually felt? As this idea progresses, the functionality of the human brain diminishes and we approach a robotic society where we do rather than feel and analyze.

This begs the question that we asked at the end of class: do we need a computer to tell us how we feel? As one student asked, do I need my tinder app to tell me if I am having a good time on a date? I would argue that if we do not already know these things, then ultimately, how we feel does not matter. The readings highlight the argument that there is intrinsic value in the existence of the record for posterity. However, at this point the human condition is no longer worth reflecting on. What is the human condition without the humanity that is evident in our emotions, conflicts and questions?

Focus as a Function of Time



In class today and Tuesday, I attempted to plot the overall class attention in relation to time, using a variety of indicators. Every 10 minutes, I recorded the number of students who were making eye contact with Dr. Sample, or with the student speaking, and the number of students making eye contact with either their computer or the class screen.

I quickly realized that these were poor groupings, with the potential to limit the data, as some of the readings discussed. I may have imposed my own demonstrations of attention on the entire class, who may have various learning styles. Further the data may be tainted due to both the non-traditional nature of the class, in which we are often working in groups or working alone, or if a person is staring into space in Dr. Sample’s direction, or staring at their phone. It further does not take into account people leaving, having their own conversations or falling asleep at their desks, which could be other indicators of attention in class.

That being said, it is clear from the graph from today’s class when we are working on activities involving screens, 1:50, 2:20 and 2:40. Focus also appears to be more inconsistent on Thursdays, as would be expected. It is more continuous, and decreases with time on Tuesday.

The Consent of the Networked

Politically, “consent of the governed” refers to the idea that a government’s power derives from the people that legitimize it. In practice, this means that a democratic system can only stand with the support of the people. In today’s technologically centered and ever-progressing society, “consent of the governed” must retain its motivation, but take on new interpretation in the context of data-mining and social media. In “How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined,” Alice Marwick examines the consequences of modern data culture in terms of personal privacy and the impossibility of living a life “off the record,” so to speak. With the reality that data brokering is becoming more invasive and less transparent, Marwick ends her discussion by highlighting that, “Those of us concerned with privacy must continue to demand that checks and balances be applied to these private corporations.”

In her book, Consent of the Networked, Rebecca McKinnon emphasizes this idea. She argues that we, as consumers, must require the same regulations and rights in the digital context that we require in the physical context. This suggests that as society and technology evolve innovatively, so must our laws. This will be even more important as artificial intelligence progresses indefinitely. Matthew Gold, in Trending: The Promises and the Challenges of Big Social Data states that as technology progresses it will, “Combine the human ability to understand and interpret­ which computers can’t completely match yet-and the computer’s ability to analyze massive data sets using algorithms we create.” As computers progress to the point that they have the cognitive ability of humans, and data-mining increases exponentially, we have a responsibility to demand the same regulation of computers as we would of humans. Further, in order to maintain the consent of the networked,  governments must produce internet policies regarding data as innovative as the technology itself. Only then will it protect the peoples’ civil liberties in the digital world.

The Customer Service of Data Visualization

Both Klein and Kaufman wrestle with the idea of transforming archives into information that is quantifiable, visual and meaningful. This approach to interpreting the data available in their respective archives serves to illuminate the nuances of the information that otherwise goes missed.  For Klein, this was the significance of the relationship between Jefferson and James Hemings. She accomplishes this through a novel arc-graph depicting Jefferson’s communications with those closest to him and distantly connected to him. Kaufman, comparatively, illustrates the big topics, timeline and the players that made up Kissinger’s foreign policy through various force-directed diagrams and line and bar graphs. Both strategies, however, beg the question: How can these tools be of use to us if they are not “user friendly” or easily interpreted?

Upon first look, these visualizations have the potential to be detrimentally misinterpreted, even insofar as to negate their purpose. This is especially the case when the conclusions illustrated by the visualizations are not well conveyed or illustrated. In the case of Klein’s arc graph, one could see the person farthest connected to Jefferson, with the “widest” arc diameter, as the person with whom Jefferson most frequently corresponded regarding Hemings. Similarly, without understanding the meanings of the groupings, distances, lines and colors in Kaufman’s force-directed diagrams, the information provided by the visualization is rendered as meaningless as the overwhelming archive itself.

Even if these clarifications cannot be made apparent endogenously, they merit a key or an explanation outside of the visualization. While both Klein’s and Kaufman’s work serves to make large archives more user-friendly and meaningful, they have not gone far enough. Their insights are only as meaningful as they are accessible. We interacted with this idea in ‘The Library of Babel,” where information was existent albeit useless due to its disorganization and lack of availability. Data historians to come will have to discover new ways to not only visualize data but make the user experience as clear, aesthetic and evocative as possible.