Web-Art: Box Model Self-Portraits (fall 2017)

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Data Culture- Observers group 1

Using survey monkey, our group asked a series of questions about music preferences.  These questions included- 1) What type of music do you listen to?  2) How many songs do you think you listen to in one day?  3) Do you play any instruments?  and 4) Which medium do you usually use to listen to songs?  We found that the most popular genre of music in the class was hip-hop- 53.33% of the class responded that they listen to hip-hop.  In addition, the most popular response to question two, how many songs do you listen to in one day, was 0-10.  40% of students responded this way.  80% of our classmates do not play an instrument, and lastly, the most popular medium for listening to songs was Spotify, with 60% of the class using Spotify to listen to music.

 

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DIG245 Group 4: Response

This week’s readings focused on the issue of technological convenience and how it affects basic human functions – namely our behavior and ability to think critically. In the current climate, most people have access to the internet through their phones at any given time, and we are virtually always connected online. This makes it incredibly easy for us to simply look something up rather than try and work through any given problem ourselves to try and arrive at our own conclusion. To make matters worse, the increased presence of corporations and their associated opinions on social media makes it even easier for us to stop thinking for ourselves. Why bother read the transcript of the latest G20 when you can simply spend 10 minutes reading what Buzzfeed thinks about it? The way in which social media allows information to spread is not necessarily the cause of widespread misinformation, but rather it highlights the issue. It’s no doubt that “fake news” existed before social media (tabloids and basic rumors and gossip), but a lack of education about reliable versus unreliable sources has caused social media to exacerbate the issue.

 

The current state of technological pervasiveness is both a good and a bad thing. On one hand, it makes learning new skills incredibly easy, and allows us to complete both large and small scale tasks (think factory production vs making a shopping list) much more efficiently. It allows us to stop worrying about the easy things and start focusing on the important things. For example, once a physicist knows how to make basic calculations for experiments, they can let the computers do the calculating and they can focus on applying their results to research new areas. On the other hand, it has started to become an almost necessary piece of almost every aspect of our lives. The amount of power and influence certain conglomerates have is quite scary: it is getting to the point where our whole opinions of things are molded by the information sources we choose to read. The current state of technology has created a sort of impatient atmosphere. We are so used to having instant gratification, be it instant access to information, or instant replies to text messages.

The Amish approach to selective introduction of technology is very interesting. They recognize the immense usefulness of various technologies, but are careful to implement and take advantage of them only in certain situations, such that they do not compromise their values as a community. This allows them to have successful factories that make use of computers, but also allows them to remain a grounded, close community. Snapchat is a good example of an aspect of technology that the Amish community has avoided, to their benefit. It’s pretty common in today’s world that someone shares a picture online of someone in public without their consent. This can often lead to conflicts if the subject of the image gets wind of what’s going on. This is a problem the Amish simply don’t encounter.

 

We think that an approach such as the Amish’s could benefit everyone when it comes to reclaiming our ability to think freely. The Amish community foresaw what we are experiencing today: technology is too invasive and is beginning to take over every aspect of our lives, right down to the very way that we behave. A healthy balance of technology-assisted life and “normal” life is sorely needed: if we continue on the current path, it likely won’t be long before, as Carr mentioned, technology replaces our innate ability to express ourselves.

Data Culture Group 4 — Surveillance: the Double-Edged Sword

Group three wrote about how Finn argues, “that the progress in forensic science over the years has helped law enforcement identification, but emphasizes that the mold of identification could manipulate how the country views law enforcement at the local, state, and national levels.”  Data surveillance innovations and advancements present a double-edged sword.  With improvements come more accurate targeted insights into your sample size to deduce trends rather than having to rely on speculation.  One such example is reverting back to the notorious Jack the Ripper case where technology and forensic science was virtually obsolete.  There was very little to go off on because surveillance technology was basically in the dark ages: little to no DNA matching, security footage, or other data that could pair down the suspects.  To bring it back into the 21st century and into Davidson, NC, every time we swipe our catcards into a building or dorm a time log is created with our name and ID number.  If a crime in or around the building you swiped into occurs the police would reach out to investigate.  In this way, data surveillance technology advancement offer positive benefits to society as resources for law enforcement to use to solve crime. 

On the other hand, capturing and analyzing large data sets to find trends could lead to precarious territory such as the ethical dilemma the US is facing now with racial profiling.  It seems that the trend is with more data, stereotypes have a greater chance of succumbing to being upheld with “substantiated evidence,” even though the data could be subvert to subjectivity from a myriad of selective practices.  We agree with group 3’s assertion that, “these advances need to be checked by academics, professionals, and common citizens to inspire trust in law enforcement officials and new technology.”

DIG 245: WEEK 4 , GROUP 3-READERS

Look Who’s Talking (1999):

In this article, Howard Rheingold explores the development of humans that has come with the development of technology. Doing so, he analyzed the Amish people, who continually add “rules for new tools,” and their use of phones. The Amish have adopted the use of the phone among much debate, however the phone is used as a community, in that they mainly use the phone to return calls rather than answer calls. The reason is that the Amish are concerned with how a piece of technology such as the phone can change their person. The Amish’s practices offer a very unique perspective of the effects of phones on a society. The technology that they allow is judged by whether it can bring the community closer together or not. Rheingold poses some interesting questions about how phones are changing the way people are, how they act, and what is important to them. His concluding question deals with our value of community in light of the usage of phones. While this case study of the Amish and their practices was somewhat interesting, it was not necessary to make the observation that phones are changing the way we are. It is obvious that the technology we use today is changing the way we think and interact with other people. Nevertheless, it seems that Rheingold’s purpose was to make a point that we also as a society should have ongoing conversations about the tools that we use in light of our values. This is a reasonable point, however one could make this generalization about many things that shape our society and ideology; we should have ongoing conversations about all the important aspects of our lives.

Is Google Making Us Stupid? (2008):

Throughout this article, Nicholas Carr, discusses the development of the human thought process in relation to the developments in technology; most specifically the technological advancement we’re all intimately familiar with in Google. The paradigm shift that concerns Carr the most is his ability to read, not that he is becoming illiterate but that his and his peers way of reading and processing information is changing. While clearly lamenting this newfound inability, he brings up a historical discussion of innovations in technology and the how they changed history while also bringing up interesting points about human psychology and physiology. In human psychology, he points out that we as a race have a tendency to take on attributes of our tools. HIs key example of this was the writing of Nietzsche after he got his typewriter. Ultimately, Carr’s fear stems from a scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey with a robot who seems more emotional than his human peers. I think that Carr’s worries are well founded and researched, and throughout my life I’ve noticed the shift in conversations going from speculation and discussion based off prior knowledge being transformed into the statement “Google it.” The correlation between technology and stupidity seems to be memory retention, during most of the time periods examined. However, with this level of technology I feel that Carr’s unstated fear is the human ability to even think. He fears that technology will progress to the point where even the most basic human capability such as expressing emotion is compromised. Eventually, this article seems to raise the question of when technologies start to hinder us more as people than help.

Facebook is eating the world, Columbia Journalism Review (2016):

Emily Bell makes the observation that social media platforms, and big tech companies in general, are now in control of a huge amount of news media. Social media is so popular, that news organizations benefit from publishing their content straight to these platforms. They reach more people, and they can make more money off of ads. Facebook and other platforms have effectively become something they never intended to–news organizations. They may get the content from many sources, but a lot of people, particularly younger people, rely on these companies to provide them with the news. This isn’t always a good thing though. For example, during the last presidential election, many people were worried that Facebook and other social media platforms had a significant effect on the election. The presence of “fake news” on these platforms became a real issue, and it was because just about anyone can post onto these platforms. Also, social media tends to filter what you see based on what it thinks you want to see. So when people read the news on these platforms, they might only be seeing a very one-sided version of the news. This is obviously quite problematic and can end up having a very tangible impact on the world.

Data Culture — Observers Group 4

Using Survey Monkey, our group surveyed the class asking for their honest answers pertaining to what website they spend the most time on, and how much time they spend on that site per day.  Facebook was the most popular website for our class by 26% with the average time being 1.2 hours.  We then compared our class’ preferences with the same questions Alexa.com gathered for their statistical breakdown of the 65 million active Amazon Prime users.  Alexa.com reports that Google is the most used website, at 3,560,046 linked sites and people spend an average of 7:50 minutes on Google, but the length of observation (ie measured per visit, per day, per month, etc) remains omitted.  On Alexa.com, Facebook came in at number three with 7,600,185 linked sites and an average of 10:09 minutes spent on the site, again we are unsure about the specifics in regards to time measurement.

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From our class observation, we can deduce that social media occupies our peers’ website traffic, followed by Youtube (1:40 hours) and then Netflix (1:20 hours).  We are skeptical about these results because students hypothetically should be doing research or completing homework which usually requires Googling something.  We have concluded that people often disregard Google as a site itself and think of it as just a passageway to other content.  If content is being reached through Google, at what point is Google excluded from the usage equation? Furthermore, college students are 18-22 years old on average, representing a cross section of the population.  Complicit with other research, it makes sense that social media and entertainment websites are occupying our time the most.  Interestingly, Facebook is still very popular among Davidson students even though it was ranked third on Alexa.com and has been decreasing in popularity for some time, much to Zuckerberg’s chagrin.

DIG 210 Group 3 Readers

      The central theme in this week’s reading is the use of data to distill the human condition to a few data points. In Capturing the Criminal Image: From Mug Shot to Surveillance Society, we are presented with the history of collecting crime statistics. Here, Finn argues that the progress in forensic science over the years has helped law enforcement identification, but emphasizes that the mold of identification could manipulate how the country views law enforcement at the local, state, and national levels. Though Finn does not believe that we have reached the point of no return. He concludes that the advances in crime-based data representation are a necessary evolution from the limited criminal investigation tactics utilized in the 19th and 20th centuries. At the same time, Finn stresses that these advances need to be checked by academics, professionals, and common citizens to inspire trust in law enforcement officials and new technology. If this data collection continues unchecked, a sense of mistrust might develop between the people and law enforcement agencies.

 

   In the Lyon reading, we see how societal anxieties against the super-panopticon, the ability to asymmetrically survey large numbers of people (essentially the entire populace), in novels like George Orwell’s 1984, and The Handmaid’s Tale. If you can think of a dystopian novel, it likely resembles Foucault’s version of a super-panopticon. In these dystopian societies, the powerful creates an environment where a person believes they are constantly surveilled, and therefore must comply with the hegemony in every decision. To us, this anxiety is quite obvious: we are not perfect beings, and therefore we are bound to make a mistake that will put us in the cross hairs of the powerful. Like our fictional counterparts, do we feel the cold stare of the government on our necks at all moments? Or do we truly feel free to do whatever we deem right?