The Frequency of Characters

In my observer post, I am doing something similar to what I did in my first observer post awhile back, but I think this observer post offers some different perspectives for a number of reasons, and with the unique class on Tuesday, comparisons that can be made. I counted the frequency of times that each character in The Circle was mentioned in the GoogleDocs for L-Z on Tuesday and then kept track of the number of times anyone said a character in class, whether Dr. Sample mentioned a character or a student mentioned a character.

On Tuesday, the frequency of characters followed the questions on the GoogleDocs, with Mae brought up frequently, not only because she is the main character but also because of the first question of her being a “stand-in.” Also, Alistair is remarked on because of his connection to Mae as she adjusts to the Circle and also because of the question on the “totally optional” activities.

On Thursday, Mae is once again featured prominently in our discussions but also since we read the section on Mae’s superficial action on the activities in Guatemala, Ana Maria and Tania were read aloud. Mercer was a part of our discussion as we talked about his perceptions versus Mae’s as well.

Overall, I think looking at names instead of topics as opposed to my last post allows us to examine the difference between discussing multiple articles and a novel. Discussing a novel definitely feels more personal and we can utilize examples that are, in some ways, more relatable. Tuesday’s class was online and was solely devoted to answering the questions, so the frequency of names of characters brought up focused on the questions while Thursday we were present in Studio D to discuss a variety of topics and characters.

Frequency of Names Brought Up on Tuesday

Mae 30
Alistair 7
Annie 3
Ty 1
Dan 1
Renata 1
Gina 1
Francis 1


Frequency of Names Brought Up on Thursday

Mae 32
Alistair 1
Tania 5
Ana Maria 9
Mercer 13
Eamon Bailey 3
Kalden 3


Physical Mourning and Online Mourning

In Joyce Walker’s article on narratives in the database, specifically focusing on memorializing September 11th on the Internet, she concludes by comparing how the process of mourning online and then through photographs she took when she visited the memorial site are similar and different, especially in regards to the passing of time. Her navigation of various websites allowed for the fluidity of time because of the sense of participation in viewing the expressions and thoughts of individuals and groups. A photograph, on the other hand, is a closed “emanation of past reality” that does not permit the viewer to experience an awareness of time passing.

Walker’s perception that looking through photographs while she was physically present and also viewing information and pictures online continuously shapes her memories of the experience reaffirms the belief in psychology that our memories are constantly changing. The very act of recalling a memory alters the memory itself, as over time we may emphasize certain scenes, forget details, or hindsight may create different perceptions. But, browsing online perhaps, to a greater extent, permits one to more accurately recollect the memory and recreate the narrative of the event because of the fluidity of time on the Internet. However, the Internet, more so than other modes of communication, enables people to only peruse sites and information that supports their points of view, and, as Walker explored in her article, wildly different viewpoints are accessible from Google searches from “Remembering 9/11 as a Queer Muslim” to U.S. government sources. Overall, mourning through physical presences and  online mourning offer opportunities to explore the greater identity of web users today.


What Dr. Sample Said

My observing this week consisted of tracking the number of times Dr. Sample used some particular words, related to our overall idea of “Data Culture”, while he was talking to the class. I was thinking about also tracking frequently used words that people said for people who answered questions in class, but I forgot to count a couple on Tuesday’s class starting out, so I decided to abandon that idea. It was surprisingly easy to forget to count particular words that Dr. Sample spoke to the class so I may be off by one or two words, and also because a few words I started counting when Dr. Sample said them two or three times, though I think I did a good time of remembering how many he said before I started counting.

The particular words I chose to count were related to topics in our class, and specifically for the topics we talked about in class on Tuesday and Thursday. I wrote down some words before class that would be relevant to count, such as Data, Visualization, Information, Powerpoint, Maps, etc., but then added some more as I noticed Dr. Sample used them frequently in class. Here are the two tables for Tuesday and Thursday.

Tuesday’s class

Word Number of times Dr. Sample said the specific word
Map(s) 75
Data 3
Visualization 6
Cartography/Cartographer 2
Information 6
Lie/Lying 8
Timelines 2
Graphically 1
Scale 8


Thursday’s class

Word Number of times Dr. Sample said the specific word
Data 10
Network 3
Visualization 13
Information 9
Powerpoint 9
Timeline 3
Maps 11
Timechart 1
History 13

A couple of patterns stand out. First off, the number of times Dr. Sample said map or maps on Tuesday’s class was sizable compared to other words he said in class on both days. On Tuesday, we focused on maps for almost the entire class, and the map exercise where we had to draw maps from Studio D to Nummit, the Davidson Pizza Co, and Chipotle, was one part of class where Dr. Sample used “map(s)” frequently while speaking. “Visualization(s)” was a common word across both class, as well as “information”, which makes sense since they are relevant to our broad idea in class, talking about data. Also, Dr. Sample spoke the word “history” frequently in class on Thursday, since we spent a part of class on the Chronozoom where “history,” such as human history, featured prominently, and Powerpoint,  because we read the article about Powerpoint and discussed Powerpoint towards the end of class.

Overall, counting particular words that Dr. Sample said in class is interesting because it can display the length of discussion we spent on topics for the most part. On Tuesday, almost the entire class we discussed maps, and therefore Dr. Sample used “map(s)” frequently. The words do not give any context behind the discussion, for example, words such as information, data, visualization(s), scale, etc., can be utilized in a variety of discussions, but they give a decent picture overall of the topic of discussion.  Words were frequently used together with one another, such as “data visualization” or “data bars,” but I decided to keep the words separate to make the collection of data easier and more clear.

Online Personas


One point that Lev Manovich makes in his chapter titled Trending: The Promises and Challenges of Big Social Data that I found particularly interesting was his second objection to the “collapse of the deep data/surface-data divide” regarding the authenticity of interactions in social networks and the image presented by people online. He states that what people post and their participation online may not be an accurate or exact portrayal of their true personality and behavior. That may seem fairly obvious on the surface; however, when choosing to analyze and explore the vast amounts of data that can be accumulated through tweets, Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram photos, social network posts, etc., Manovich suggests that we bear in mind the data should be considered an “interface people present to the world,” not a clear view into people’s ideas, thoughts, and actions, and analyze the data accordingly.

The extent to which people curate their public persona online varies depending on the site, from a likely large extent on dating sites to a smaller extent on Twitter. But modifying our public personas online to such a large extent in some cases, I believe, mitigates one main purpose of social media, which is, according to Alice Marwick’s article, saving and exploring data about ourselves and others. Presenting fictional or exaggerated images or posts does not create the same level of discovery and connection between yourself and others on social media as your real images and posts do. Also, we may still have control over what we post, like, tweet, and so on, but companies and the government can still glean useful data from our cultivated online personas.