Are We Happy?

For my observations, I attempted to gauge the class happiness, by tracking and analyzing smiles. I chose to observe the class in 15 minute intervals, and count the number of people that were smiling during each of these checkpoints. I also noted what the class activity currently was, to see if I could find any trends in my data.

Smiles on Tuesday, March 31

1:40- 3 (Lecture)

1:55- 0 (Lecture)

2:10-1 (Lecture)

2:25-9 (group work)

2:40-0 (death discussion)

2:55- 4 (legos)

Total- 17

Smiles on Thursday, April 2

1:40-0 (Lecture)

1:55- 3 (Lecture)

2:10- 7 (group work)

2:25- 3 (Lecture)

2:40- 4 (group work)

2:55-2 (presentation)

Total- 19

After analyzing my data, it was apparent that there were slightly more smiles on Thursday. However, there were trends that existed in my observed data. First, it became clear that there were more recorded smiles during group work periods than lecture periods. Given that we have no assigned seats, most people sit with there friends. Group work gives students a chance to interact with there friends, leading to more smiles occurring. We had more extensive group work time on Thursday, so this could be a reason for more Thursday smiles.  Also, during a tuesday lecture, we spoke about the media mourning and death for about a twenty minute period. Given this somber subject, nobody smiled during this time interval, another reason that Tuesday smile counts were down. It is very evident that class activity and content affects smile count and potential happiness.

Data about Ourselves


John Foreman’s article about data surveillance and machine learning as a means of gaining information about consumers took a unique approach to a topic in which we have previously discussed in depth. I personally really liked the article and the approach hat Foreman took, and his perspective on the issue.

When he started out with the example of the Disney World tracking device, it seemed as if he was trying to ease in to his argument with a somewhat funny and more lighthearted example. However, it divulges into one of his main points of corporations using data for profit. When Disney can track the different time and places that people do activities, it allows them to use this data to best attempt to maximize their profit and work to the needs of the consumers.

I also really liked how he differentiated between businesses using and NSA using personal data, and how he argued that we should prefer the NSA’s use, as he views the NSA of giving citizens more credit than the businesses. This was an interesting perspective, as the NSA spying my seem less obtrusive than simply tracking shopping habits at first glance.

Overall, I believe that extreme use of machine learning will begin to threaten humanities creativity. Speaking for myself, I am a creature of habit. I tend to frequent the same restaurants, vacation spots, and am a very routine oriented person. Will machine learning tracking everyone habits to the T, it will even lower the probability that people will branch out and push their creative boundaries. Although this can be very useful for company market campaigns, I believe that humanity must continue to evolve in a natural way.

Hashtags and Tagging


This response will pay particular attention to the blog post “Harnessing the Power of #Hashtag”. This post was a very interesting and straightforward response to Mejia’s chapter on “Computers as Socializing Tools”. This post focusses on the implications of Hashtags in modern social media, paying particular attention to Twitter. This post describes various benefits that hashtags offer social media users.

I really enjoyed how the post divulged into how hashtags served as a “beautifully simple way to sort through and classify information on a particular topic”. I strongly agree with this, as hashtags truly make information on a certain topic easily accessible to everyone, as they organize the information into particular categories. Also, I agree that the small percentage of mistypes in hashtags are a small price to pay for all of the benefits that tagging can create. In my opinion, when most people use hashtags, they are careful to use the exact wording as the original hashtag.

The argument that hashtags help to bridge the gap between celebrity and “regular folks”is another intriguing point. Although this is true that hashtags enable everyone to have their tweets or posts categorized in the same place, it is very hard for a hashtag about a non-celebrity function to get much traction. So in my eyes, hashtags do not strongly help the celebrity/regular folk divide.

Also, I believe that photo tagging is a very important topic in the field of social media information exchange. The ability to make oneself known and tagged in someone else’s photo is a very helpful resource enabling people to widen their net of people who can view their photos.

The world of tagging and hashtags truly do serve as simple and efficient resources that enable information to be effectively categorized and spread.

People’s Ticks

While observing the class this week, I chose to pay attention to people in the class’s “Ticks” or gestural habits. The two main areas I analyzed were upper body ticks (i.e., fiddling with their hands) and lower body ticks (i.e., heal tapping or knee jiggling). I also observed if people partook in both upper and lower body ticks.

Tuesday- 20 students in class

Lower Body Tick- 11

Upper Body Ticks-5


Probability of Lower Body Tick- 55%

Probability of Upper Body Tick- 25%

Probability of Both- 25%

Thursday-21 Students in Class

Lower Body Tick- 7

Upper Body Tick- 5


Probability of Lower Body Tick-33.3%

Probability of Upper Body Tick-23.8%

Probability of Both-14.2%


These findings were interesting to me because it became clear that many more students tend to have lower body ticks. Also, that people who had upper body ticks were very likely to have a lower body tick in addition to their upper body tick.

My estimation for their being less students with ticks on Thursday is because we did more group work than we did on Tuesday. I believe that group work makes for a more relaxed atmosphere, leading to less reasoning for students to engage in nervous ticks.





Is The NSA Wrong?


Edward Snowden leaking the NSA surveillance information has clearly caused both a media and social uproar. At this point in time, when American citizens perception of the government is very poor due to extreme partisanship and a recent government shutdown, this scandal only enhanced the publics lack of trust in the United States Government.

However, even though there clearly are multiple  opinions on the the constitutionality and morality of the NSA surveillance, this situation does differ from other similar situations. One relational situation is the IRS targeting scandal. Both of these situations involve the government taking surveillance of persons without them being away of this fact. Both of these situations also raise the questions of if the government is over-reaching its bounds and infringing upon privacy rights by partaking in such actions. However, the clear difference in these situations are that with the IRS, it was a matter of targeting a group of people based on political beliefs. With the NSA, it does not appear that their is any targeting that is not permitted within the “three hops” rule. Although this does allow for a vast amount of people to have surveillance taken upon them, it is still thought that their is probable cause for such surveillance to occur.

Even though the reported number of incidents prevented due to NSA the surveillance went from 54 to 1, it raises the obvious question, is one enough? Although it may be very unnerving to think of how much the NSA knows about you, if this information truly did prevent American lives from being lost, isn’t it worth it? Due to Snowden’s leakage, this debate has begun and will continue for many years, especially given the current political climate.


Are We Trapped?


During our class discussion and activities, we payed particular attention to a simple phrase from our reading, “From Big Brother to the Electronic Panopticon” by George Lyon. This phrase was “made visibility a trap” (Lyon, 66). As the various groups dissected this phrase to modernize the meaning, many themes came up throughout our various re-wording of this phrase. The general meanings of these re-wordings were along the lines of  “Invisibility is impossible” or ” Digital convenience/efficiency takes away privacy”.

Although these ideas resonated with me, during our discussion the word “traceable” kept popping into my head as an over-arching theme or problem with constant dataveillance. Although this word can be closely tied and related to visibility, I believe that there are differences between the meanings and implications of these words. Although it is true that with the technological age almost everything we do can be visible to a government, website, or company, it is the implications of this visibility that make it a trap. This visibility leads to a vast amount of information about ourselves being able to be traced  by virtually anyone. From every google search, credit card purchase, magazine subscription, or song downloaded; technological advances make these everyday activities traceable to people who wish to seek this information. As someone in class said, this can be seen as a positive to gain information on people to gauge their loyalty or potential, I personally view this as an unnerving reality. People can gain absurd amounts of insight on virtually anyone, and the intentions of this curiosity can be for be both positive or negative reasons. The idea that people can trace such vast amounts of information about a persons life leads me to believe that visibility is a trap because it leads to the traceability of a personal information.