Staying Anonymous Means More Creativity

This past Tuesday’s class we did a collaborative essay on “the Circle”, a book that we had been reading for the last week of class. It was the first time that I had been introduced to something of this nature. It was an interesting to watch the interactions that went on. For example, have the class stayed anonymous when they logged in to Google Docs, whole the other half had their names visible for everyone. I noticed for the most part that the people that stayed anonymous on the essay were more inclined to write more and throw out more thoughts than the people that were logged in. I think this is because they felt that since they were anonymous and nobody knew who was contributing what information, they were more likely to put out more creative thoughts. This was interesting to look at because it kind of dealt with the TruYou aspect of the book, in that in the book your anonymity was taken away when you went to a website and it caused things to be more civil and in a way less creative. Thinking back on the task of the collaborative essay, I wonder how it would be different, or if it would’ve been different if everyone had been told to stay anonymous as opposed to logging in, and vice versa. In my opinion based on my observations, I believe that everyone staying anonymous would have led to more free flowing ideas than there already were because people would not have been worried about the opinions of their peers.

A Circle of Anonymous Ferrets

Anonymouse Hippo

Our class’ recent collaborative effort to answer the essay prompt posed some new interesting angles on Dave Eggers’ The Circle. We have recently discussed how the fictional events of the novel reveal some eerily familiar truths about the future path of society. Some readers take Eggers’ novel as playful satire while others cringe at its potentially prophetic nature. With the new construction plans for the Google headquarters in California, the events, products, interactions, and overall concept of The Circle suddenly don’t seem as farfetched. In a more local sense, the collaborative essay revealed a lot about online identities and anonymity, both prevalent concepts from the Circle.

It was interesting to note how many classmates used anonymous profiles to answer the questions. This was likely for a number of reasons. The first being that they did not want the pressure of posting an inadequate response or grammatical error and having it tied to their name. As a signed-in user, with their name on the profile, other users could see the user’s exact typing as it occurred. This put signed-in users in a more vulnerable state than the rest of the responders.

For other anonymous users, “Anonymous Ferret” was just a façade that could be hidden behind either actively or passively. Anonymity allowed for responders to say anything they wanted without consequence, or they could remain idle without anyone knowing their lack of participation. I wasn’t an observer this week, but I did notice that there were zero idle profiles where students were logged in using their actual names. On the other hand, there were numerous users in each document whose cursor remained in the same location for the entirety of the class. This trend is similar to that of modern-day internet with “Catfishing” and trolling. Ironically enough, our class engages in the same behavior we frown upon and blog about.

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.


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.


Response to the Virtual Class Essay

While I have worked on Google Docs for class projects and assignments in the past, yesterday’s exercise of a completely crowd-sourced, virtual essay was a first for me. Initially I was skeptical about how the process would work, and thought that it would either result in utter chaos or with individuals answering unrelated questions without any true collaboration. Despite being slightly overwhelming at times, I thought that overall the exercise was a positive one, and that contrary to what I thought would happen, there was a fair amount of virtual collaboration between individuals in crafting responses that naturally fit together. Additionally, at least in the A-K document, there was little interaction using Google Docs’ chat feature, and most of the edits seemed to occur somewhat organically. The overall exercise made me think of a virtual discussion based class, where a professor’s questions would be answered online and in real-time, with students able to comment on others’ posts and give other types of feedback remotely. Maybe this is the next step in eliminating the fear of speaking up in public that continues to be an issue for students. Another aspect of the crowd-sourced essay that I found interesting was the discussion that the A-K document group started below our responses. Those comments noted some similarities between the exercise and The Circle, namely the fact that everyone could observe and potentially monitor the other members’ level of participation. The discussion drew similarities between Google Docs and The Circle’s PartiRank program, but it also expanded further and highlighted the potential for other uses of individual’s data, much like how Eggers presents some of the innovations in the novel. Specifically, someone brought up the point that Google could analyze one’s writing style and sell it to colleges and hiring agencies, presumably to build a more comprehensive profile for an applicant. Although these comments were extraneous to the overall objective of the assignment, it was interesting to get some realtime feedback from other participants. While the group was very aware of the connections between the exercise and Eggers’ novel, such an experiment would be interesting to conduct with people who are unfamiliar with The Circle and some of its major social implications.

Observations: Eye contact with Dr. Sample by table

Tuesday March 31

Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6 Table 7 Table 8
1:45 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1
1:50 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0
1:55 1 1 0 1 2 0 0 2
2:00 0 2 2 1 1 0 0 0
2:05 0 1 1 2 0 0 2 0
2:10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2:15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
2:20 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2:25 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
2:30 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2:40 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2:45 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2:50 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 5 5 5 6 3 1 2 4


Thursday April 1

Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6 Table 7 Table 8
1:45 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
1:50 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1:55 2 0 3 0 3 1 0 0
2:00 1 1 0 2 1 0 0 0
2:05 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
2:10 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 1
2:15 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
2:20 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
2:25 3 2 2 1 1 2 3 4
2:30 1 1 2 0 2 0 0 0
2:40 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2:45 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2:50 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 8 7 8 3 7 4 7 6

For my observations I separated the tables into groups and measured how many students at each table were making eye contact with Dr. Sample at 5 minute intervals. The Table Guide shows what number correlates to each table in the classroom. The purpose of these observations was to measure attentiveness to Dr. Sample and the lecture. I should have recorded more intervals if I wanted to get a true reading on which table pays the most attention to Dr. Sample because recording every five minutes does not provide enough data. In addition this is a flawed methodology because I am measuring attentiveness based on eye contact, so this method assumes that if you aren’t making eye contact than you are not paying attention to the lecture, which isn’t necessarily true. From the observations, I can’t reach any substantial conclusions on which table focused the most and least on the lectures of March 31 and April 1.







Observations for 3/24 & 3/26: Participation by Outfit

Building off of previous observations from Drew Gill, I decided to track class participation based on outfit. I recorded what each person in class wore for their shirt and their pants. Shirts were divided into four categories: Short-sleeve/T-shirt, Polo, Button-Down,  and Long-Sleeve/Sweatshirt. Pants were also divided into four categories: Shorts/Skirts, Khakis, Jeans/Other, and Sweatpants. These categories were designed to be a bit vague, mainly because men’s and women’s apparel can vary quite a bit in certain situations.


Proportions seem to align, more or less. The largest percentage disparities have been bolded and changed to red. On Thursday, March 26th, Jeans/Other underperformed when it came to participation in class, accounting for 25% of the number of people in class, but only 9% of the participation. There were other large disparities as well, but that specific one was the largest.

Dr. Sample Moves People


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.

Observations for March 10th

Since the weather has been warming up, and all other observation options that I could think of had been exhausted, I decided to use the same set of observations I used last time. I.e. What people were wearing, laptops out, etc.…The fact that I was sick on Thursday and could not get all of the data didn’t help much either. Anyway, the things that I found were what I figured. There was a spike in the amount of shorts that were worn on Tuesday and the number of boat shoes such as Sperry’s increased from 0 to a little over a third of the class. These findings were what were expected, but like I said there weren’t many options for observations that have not been used. The full list of observations that I made can be found below.


February 10, 2015

Temp: 61

People in class: 28

Drinks: 7

Sweat shirts/Jackets on in class: 4

Collared shirts: 5

Long Sleeves: 3

Short Sleeves: 15

Glasses: 5

Hats: 0

Nike shoes: 10

Boat shoes/Sperrys: 10

Laptops: 21

Things Written on board: 5

Khakis: 3

Sweatpants: 1

Shorts: 20

Jeans: 3

Leggings: 1

Davidson Apparel: 5



Is Yawning Contagious?

For my observations post this week, I decided to track the frequency of yawns throughout Tuesday’s and Thursday’s class. Everyone has heard at one point or another that yawning is contagious, and my aim was to see if this held true for our class. While I am certain that I missed a few yawns here and there, I counted 31 yawns during Tuesday’s class and 16 yawns on Thursday. Going into the week, I thought that I would record more yawns during Thursday’s class because people may be generally more tired in the latter half of the week. This hypothesis proved to be wrong, suggesting that maybe students are more fatigued in the first part of the week, as they transition from a relaxed weekend setting back to the daily grind of classes, homework, and extra-curricular activities.

Another reason for choosing to examine in-class yawning was to attempt to see how one person’s yawning influenced their peers. Throughout the two classes, however, I didn’t observe many instances of one individual’s yawning directly causing another person to yawn. What I did notice, however, was that based on my data collection, I was the class’s most frequent yawner. On Tuesday, I was responsible for 8 of the class’s 32 yawns (25%) and on Thursday I accounted for 4 of the 16 total yawns (25%). Additionally, on both days, the table I sat at had the highest total number of yawns. I believe these two observations support the idea that yawning is contagious. First of all, I was the most frequent yawner because I was actively thinking about yawning for the entirety of both class periods. Additionally,  because of my high yawning instances, the people nearest to me also yawned more than any other table in the class. While I don’t have enough evidence to conclude this with absolute certainty, I will say that scavenging the room for yawns is a more tiring process than I originally thought. Finally, to accurately gauge in-class yawning, one would need to enlist the help of an independent recorder who was far enough away from the class so as not to skew the data collection.

New Wave of Technology

​The next wave of technology to hit the market and takeover the materialist minds of America has a slightly terrifying side. As the Apple Watch hits the market in the next month or so, there will be an influx of data on every person wearing an Apple Watch that Apple has access to. Apple will be able to monitor all of the wearers and have a personal look into all of their lives. This simple fact begs the question, “Is this an invasion of privacy?”
​Other devices that are in their infant stages of release and popularity include the Whistle, a dog tracker, and the “Smart Nursery” from Mimo Baby that monitors an infant’s room in order to determine if its healthy, hungry, and happy. As awesome and useful that all of these new devices are, they still make me wonder whether or not they will remove part of the human element from living life. When you don’t have to ever check on your baby, because there’s a computer to do it, will you lose part of the child-parent relationship that so many people cherish today? Will we lose part of our humanity because of the advancement of these technologies?
​So as awed and blown away as I am by these astounding technologies, which truly are amazing and seemingly out of the movies, I am utterly terrified of the power which they give to the companies selling them and the government, who could take advantage of them. Also I do not want to slowly lose our grip on what we have left of our humanity due to dependence on computers and gadgets.