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Soundwalk and Week 1 Readings

The Gaits: A High Line Soundwalk

A Soundwalk is a directed walk with a focus on listening to sounds instead of viewing sights. I went on The Gaits Soundwalk, a soundwalk commissioned by the High Line park in NYC. This is an above-ground park built on raised railway tracks abandoned years ago.

The Gaits Soundwalk is experienced with a phone app that only functions when the user's phone is actually on the High Line. I actually thought the app was broken when I arrived at the beginning of the High Line on Gansevoort St. It began making bell noises when I started to ascend the stairs.

For the first five minutes or so the Soundwalk consisted of only intermittent bell noises that would slow down or stop when I stopped walking. As I moved along, the walk got more interesting. The bells sped up, and then an organ was added. I heard water churning at several locations, and while at sections of the walk with seating for viewing parades or other city activity, I heard applause. There were also birds chirping in the section of the walk with a lot of trees. Unfortunately there was construction and scaffolding covering everything so there were no actual birds to be seen. Still, I do appreciate the synchronicity to the environment.

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What is Interaction?

The Art of Interactive Design

In Chris Crawford’s book, The Art of Interactive Design, Crawford defines interactivity in terms of a conversation. Specifically, interactivity is a cyclical process of two actors taking turns listening, thinking, and speaking.

Unfortunately, the word "Interactive" is often explained or defined poorly, and as a result is poorly understood by our culture. The term gets added to products as a buzzword to make them sound better, but often the objects don’t really "interact" in a way as described by Crawford’s definition. There is no "conversation" or cyclical process.

A literal conversation between two people fits this definition literally, but when the interaction is between a human and an electronic device, the steps become input, process, and output. Key point though is that there are two actors, not one. Each actor is some kind of "purposeful creature," so a wall or a rug cannot be interactive.

It isn’t always clear if something is interactive or not. Rather than being a boolean thing, there are different degrees of interactivity. We can evaluate high or low levels of interactivity by evaluating the quality of the listening, thinking, and speaking steps. Excelling in one area does not compensate for failures in another. A common design error when building interactive products is to fail to appreciate this idea.

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Physical Computing

Physical Computing, taught by Tom Igoe.

Class blog posts:

Video & Sound

Video & Sound, taught by Gabe Barcia-Colombo.

Class blog posts:

Nocturne #1

Here's a somewhat clumsy rendition of Erik Satie's Nocturne #1. I botched one measure towards the end but besides that I hit all the right notes.

I put together my own version of the sheet music in MuseScore because I couldn't find a version I liked without notation errors. Also, I wanted to learn MuseScore.

First Jupyter Notebook Post

This is a blog post created in Jupyter notebook.

The goal is to see how well this feature works. I'd like to be able to post Python code to my blog. Happily, Nikola supports that seamlessly.

Normally Nikola preserves the width of each notebook cell. It makes sense that it does this but that doesn't work so well with this template because of the navigation bar on the left side of the screen. That's OK, I can override it by changing the notebook styling with this if I need to:

#notebook-container {
  width: 800px;
}

And here is some Python code:

In [1]:
def square(x):
    return x**2

for i in range(10):
    print(square(i))
0
1
4
9
16
25
36
49
64
81

And a plot:

In [2]:
%matplotlib inline
import matplotlib

import pandas as pd
import pandas.util.testing as pd_testing
In [3]:
df = pd_testing.makeTimeDataFrame(20)
df.index = pd.date_range(start=pd.Timestamp.now().floor('D'), periods=df.shape[0])

df.plot(figsize=(10, 5))
Out[3]:
<matplotlib.axes._subplots.AxesSubplot at 0x7f57609a2fd0>

Magnificent!

Networked Media Final Project

My Networked Media class has come to a close. I enjoyed it very much am am grateful for the experience. Shawn van Every is a great professor who who taught us a lot about building websites with node.js and express.

My final project is currently hosted on Digital Ocean and uses a new subdomain I created, apps.ixora.io. I intend to use this domain to permanently host this project and other projects I create in the future.

My final project is a continuation of my midterm project. I achieved my goals of building an easy to use interface for qualitatively exploring the drawings. You can find it here: http://apps.ixora.io/drawings. The source code is available on github.

I put a lot of work into organizing the code in a way that scaled and matched the best practices of node developers. There are still some issues in that area and I will continue to improve it so my next project will have less frustrations. I am also going to work on the front-end to learn more about css and user interface design.

There's still more to learn about these pictures. The most exciting thing about it is that there are so many more hidden gems to discover in this dataset. I'd like to use data science techniques to explore the similarities and differences between countries. Allison Parrish told me about some work done by other researchers on this dataset that I will learn from and build off of. They seem to involve tensorflow which I've been wanting to learn about anyway. I have time to devote to this between now and the fall semester.

And finally, my favorite drawing. I may use this as my Facebook profile picture.

Connected but Alone, Program or Be Programmed, We are all Cyborgs Now

Connected, but Alone

Sherry Turkle is a science and technology professor at MIT who studies the psychology of human relationships with technology. She gave a TED talk in 1996 about how the Internet would teach us about ourselves and help us to live better lives in the real world. In 2012 she gave another TED talk, also about the Internet, but argued that it is changing our lives in ways that we don’t want.

Turkle says that our phones are changing who we are. Behaviors that would have been considered crazy 20 years ago are now commonplace. For example, texting during meetings or conversations. We end up alone when we are with other people. When we are with other people we are also connected to multiple other places.

The sum of many little communications does not add up to one real conversation. Our technologies give us a illusion of friendship and companionship without the burden of actual friendship. We need to learn to be comfortable being alone, [technologically] disconnected from other people. Only when we are alone will we be in touch with ourselves and be able to form real connections with others.

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Breitbart, Web We Lost, Harassment, Sluts and Network Cards

Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda

After the 2016 election the Columbia Journalism Review published a study of social media sharing patterns for Facebook and Twitter. They wanted to understand how different media outlets informed or misinformed voters on the right and left. Instead of finding people to be in self-reinforcing “filter bubbles” or “echo chambers” that reinforce what people already believe, they found that there were asymmetries in how users on left and right were embracing technology. There was a new right-wing media ecosystem that was much more insular and detached from traditional media sources. On the left there were partisan sites but there were stronger connections to mainstream media.

Going forward journalists need to think about how to build (or rebuild) a basis for the public to form a shared belief about what is happening. A common set of facts is a necessary precursor for civil society to have a constructive debate about public policy issues.

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