Life-Giving

This week’s study is a little foreign to me since I don’t have much experience with 3D modeling or anything of the like, but when reading Diane Favro’s essay that walks us through ancient Rome via various digital exhibitions and other projects, I noticed that the idea behind 3D might not be as foreign as I originally imagined. Of course, I believe, as well as most people, experiencing something holds much more value than merely reading about someone else’s experience. Although text gives life in a specific and exact way that has the possibility of appealing to many, I would argue, even as an English major, experience not only has more available appeal, meaning that often the level of understanding might be lower than text, but also, some experiences are not easily transcribed to text. A text describing the Grand Canyon cannot grasp the beauty of the sublime view that overlooks the grand carving in the earth’s surface. A picture can also capture much more of the view than words, although words have a unique power to enhance the experience.

Recently, my mom sent me a link that offers a visual tour of Niagra Falls with multiple perspectives created from panaromic pictures taken from a helicopter above the falls. Although it is not necessarily 3D, the experience it creates for the user is quite remarkable and I was reminded of it while reading Favro’s essay. Physically being there to really experience the sublime view and power of nature outweighs the visual tour and makes it appear somewhat trivial, but I definitely would say this offers a great peak into what it would be like, which words could not quite possibly offer.

Reading Favro’s essay, I was also reminded by something my brother did when we moved out of the house that we grew up in. Unfortunately, I was unable to see the house one last time before my family moved out because I was away at school, although my brother recorded a little less than one second of video in each of the rooms of the house, compiling them altogether so he would not forget what the house looked like. Not only am I reminded of the appearance of the house by watching my brother’s “walk-through” video, but I also remember all the memories that were made while living there.  I could be reminded by these memories simply by talking with my brother, but seeing the rooms really does place me right there, which words have a harder time doing.

The video: https://vine.co/v/bF1DbB6hMpA

Digital Complementing

Occasionally, I come across certain projects or public archives that really stand out to me in how they utilize digital capabilities to present the information in an organized, clear, and unique way. This week, I felt this way while taking a look at Evan Bissell and Eric Loyer’s Freedom Ring. The project focuses on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” and allows the user to explore this speech through audio, written text, images, and other related media. Not only is the focus interesting, but the way everything presented is very attractive standing alone; the website uses an auto-scroll, presenting drawings, posters, and other images, while playing the audio of King’s speech and giving the option for the written text to be displayed. This project, in my opinion, uses the digital in a captivating way to complement the element of humanities, which is how all digital humanities projects should approach presentation.

Although the interface is not quite the same, I was reminded of the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum while looking at Freedom Ring, mostly because I also really enjoyed the way the museum used the digital for their presentation. The LA Holocaust Museum revolves around storytelling, capturing an endless amount of stories of survivors as well as biographies of famous European-Jewish people alive during and affected by the Holocaust, including Sigmund Freud, Peter Lorre. Since the museum presents so much information for visitors to choose from, they use an interactive interface for easy accessibility and sorting. They also offer iPod Touches and headphones for free to aid this experience. Through the use of the iPods as well as the touch-screen interface of many parts of the exhibit, visitors can go through a wide variety of survival stories, biographies, and descriptions of historical artifacts pertaining to World War II, Judaism, and/or the Holocaust. What really attracted me to the way the museum presents the archives is how visitors can shape their experience, which is through the interactive interface that allows them to choose what they want to learn about. Personally, I listened to a lot of the biographies and stories because I already know quite a bit about the event itself, so I wanted to take advantage of all the new and personal information pertaining to the specific individuals included in the archive; although others’ experience could do nearly the opposite, which the interactive interface allows. The interactivity of the interface would not allow as much variability if the museum neglected digital capabilities.

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Wikimapia

As of this year, since I am living further from campus, I have started riding my bicycle to school, which means sticking to designated bicycle riding areas (i.e., not Bruin Walk) if I don’t want to get a ticket, but also finding spots to lock up my bike. Surprisingly, this can be difficult, especially when you are not thinking clearly because this will be the third time you are late to work this week or because you slept through your alarm and want to catch at least the last five minutes of discussion so you can get marked for attendance. Not that either of those have ever happened to me. While reading “Anatomy of a Web Map” and Jim Detwiler’s “Introduction to Web Mapping,” I was dying to see if there would be any online interactive maps that would revolutionize my life completely introduced. Well, this isn’t completely true, but I checked out OpenStreetMap and was thoroughly impressed with the site. OpenStreetMap allows users full control, much like Wikipedia, to edit the content on the site. I registered with the site (which is for free), and allowed the site to find my location (hopefully you all are okay with this too), and boom. Of course at first it just looks like your average web map, but it is user friendly, not only in navigation, but also in the data that it presents. Different landmarks, buildings, and fields are labeled with appropriate symbols; pedestrian walkways are also distinct from roads. Sure, most of this information can be shown on other web maps, but then I saw the bicycle symbol for bicycle parking. Victory! Finally, a resource where I can locate bicycle parking spots for my convenience so I never have to worry about finding a spot to lock my bike when I only have five minutes to get to class or work and waiting for the elevator always takes at least four. What this really means is that a map like this is open to possibilities. Take a look at Wikipedia. You can find information you never even knew existed in a simple search and click of a button. Professors may not like it when you cite Wikipedia, but it definitely more often than not points you in a great direction, whether this is by providing resources or simply making you think in a certain way. Just like Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap has the same possibilities since it is ran by the users. Unlike other public API maps, this map can be some personalized and humanized that it could even help you find the nearest toilet. This would require a smart phone app, which probably already exists, but this is not the point, it is the principle. This map could be a great tool for tourism: tourists would be able to know all the hidden gems and lore of where ever they go, as long as users took time to contribute. I will take stand and do my part, starting with bicycle parking spots. Will you?

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Take a look here at an ATM point; also notice the bike symbols, and how many people have edited it (bottom left corner)

 

The Power of Metadata!

Metadata, if used correctly, can gather together a wide array of information through connections and assumptions. By reading Kieran Healy’s article “Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere,” I realized how powerful metadata can be, even without specific data. I feel a sense of security seeing how our country’s government uses techniques similar to the ones in Healy’s article to protect the people from terrorist groups or potential terrorist attacks. I also recognize the alarming authority they potentially hold over the lives of the people by generating data on them through metadata assumptions. One of the articles that Healy provides in her own article (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/06/why-metadata-matters) highlights how much can be revealed through the metadata that the government collects from everyone’s phone calls. Although the assumptions made might be incorrect or based of off coincidence, the possibility and potential of this metadata is nonetheless unnerving.

I have noticed that other sites use a similar strategy of using users metadata to target them by advertisements, related news, etc. I always see links to articles or product advertisements on the side of Facebook that I am generally interested in, which might make some people react in a positive, “Wow, Facebook! You know me so well! You really shouldn’t have!” type of way, but I get a much more uncanny feeling instead. How does Facebook do this? What data are they analyzing? Are they only making these assumptions through metadata? What level of privacy do I have? ASking questions about privacy actually do not make much sense when users like myself are trusting people who have created an online social networking service with endless information about ourselves that could be sold for identity theft purposes, or even worse, given to the government. I found this article online, and although it is over a year old, it answers the question of how the government can gather information on citizens, but questions the privacy of Facebook as well: http://www.propublica.org/article/nsa-data-collection-faq. Facebook revealed private data, or rather metadata (the same kind of information shown in examples of “Why Metadata Matters” by Kurt Opshal–see link above), of many users. Answers concerning privacy aren’t necessarily given through articles or this type of research, but more or less initiates more questioning. My biggest question I’ve had doing this post is: Why Does the Internet Know Me Better than I Do?

Graphical Display of Text Messages

While reading Drucker’s article “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display,” I tried to think of various ways how certain data, although always sharing direct meaning, can be misinterpreted by slight changes in the appearance and presentation of the data. I was reminded how earlier this quarter in a class I am taking, the professor broke down the purpose of text messages by stating that they simply are tiny units of data sent from person to person via mobile data collector. From first-hand experience, I can also testify that these tiny units of data are constantly being misinterpreted by slight changes of appearance. I think we can all agree that the following two messages, although spoken exactly the same, elicit different interpretations and responses because of their presentation:

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Both words mean exactly the same thing: OK. And they are also displaying the same data/message from recipient to sender: Whatever was previously said by the recipient of the message is okay with the sender. But there are slight obvious differences that completely change the expected interpretation and response. First of all, the first text “Ok” requires much less effort to type out than the second. Secondly, the second message includes a smiley face, which expresses positive emotions from the sender to the recipient without any extra words. Because the first message is just “Ok,” it is less likely for the recipient to respond to it because there is less to respond to. The message with the smiley face, although no more words are used, is more likely to receive a response, maybe even a smiley face from the recipient. Stated in the article, all data must be seen as capta. Taking a look at these text messages as capta rather than data explores the source of each message. The message with the smiley face not only captures the response, but also the emotion from the sender, which in turn provides more information to be presented and observed.

This example relates to the way data visualization graphs, timelines, etc. can be misinterpreted because of the presentation. There can be a lot lost in translation if data is merely an “expression of the subjective” rather than a “subjective expression of perceived phenomena,” which were both differentiated descriptions mentioned in the Ducker article. Visualizations really must be specific with what they are presenting, not only to present the correct data, but also so that viewers can understand exactly what this data means. The interpretation of the data by collectors must be allowed to be interpreted exactly the same way by the viewers of the collection.

 

Database: Set of Relationships

It stated in the reading for this week that a database can be thought as a set of relations. This automatically made me think of how a database could be applied to a set of relationships, which made me think of my large Italian family and how we could be broken up for storage in a database; although, in a way, we already have been. One of my grandmother’s sisters created a book in the past decade or so that documents the up-to-date history of the Gagliardini family, beginning from the days of poverty in Cupramontana, covering the years of migration, from Italy to Ellis Island to Madera, California, and eventually, even mentioning all the great-great-grandchildren, like myself. The original reason for the creation of this “database,” much like others, is for the storage and retrieval of information about my family. Essentially, it has helped family members keep track of each other as well as appreciate the difficult journey our family went through for us to be here right now; in addition, it also has acted as a treasure chest for all the stories told throughout the years, and many photographs as well. For practical reasons, all the “data” has been designed and split up into categories and specific order; family history comes first, starting chronologically, but also focusing on certain aspects, such as food. There is another section that purely focuses on family records. There are documents for each family, starting with my great-great-grandparents’ family, then a page for each of their children’s family, then so on, and so forth. These documents have actually helped me very much to put a name to certain faces that I might have seen at a family reunion, although could not keep track of. There is also detailed information, like date of birth, which helps the family keep track  of birthdays easily. Although this book is not digitized like most databases, it still acts as a database in the way it stores information; and although there is no form of searching like in digitized databases, the table of contents aids in the search, but the way it is split up also allows easy retrieval of information.

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“Gargliardini Family Reunion ’14”

Netflix Recommendations – Netflix + Scandinavian Folklore

Everyone who watches Netflix knows how easy it is to be physically unable to stop watching Netflix. This is partly because of the solid recommendations it provides, but also due to how awesome it is streaming movie after movie via Xbox on a Saturday night accompanied with Lay’s potato chips and Diet Coke. Personally, I also noticed the strange genres that Netflix would come up with to classify the movie I just watched and a potentially compatible movie that is one click away. Users, like myself, really do take for granted all the work and effort put into creating the metadata for the classification of all the movies simply so they can watch one just like it in a matter of seconds. I also want to know where I can get a job that requires you to watch movies all day.

This recommendation feature on Netflix is very convenient for users, which made me think of the idea of how it could be applied to different media or resources even. I was reminded of the program that is used in Scandinavian C171, a class I am taking about Scandinavian folk narrative. The professor actually spent many years writing a book (Danish Folktales, Legends, and Other Stories) that includes a CD that has access to a created digital database of thousands of mostly Danish folktales. This program uses metadata to classify the stories and each have a call number (e.g. DS_VII_505) that resememble those used in libraries. Metadata is also used for recommending other tales, much like how Netflix recommends, except without the goofy genre titles.

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As seen in the screenshots of the program above, the stories’ pages provide as vast amount of information. Not only do the pages provide original manuscript transcription and translate, a map to show the origin, and dates of when it was told, but also sections dedicated to associated keywords (blue), story indices (green), and recommended stories (red). These recommended stories, much like Netflix recommendations, are for the user to continue reading without stopping, which is complete possibly because the recommended stories have different recommended stories which have different recommended stories etc. Since this use of metadata for recommendation, as seen on Netflix, also can be applied to Scandinavian folktales, there is no limit to how other media can also be grouped together and recommended at this time.

Example keywords: mound dweller, troll, ghosts, mares, coins, bottle, toad

What happens to a dream deferred?

“Digital Harlem” documents the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood of Harlem between the years of 1915 and 1930, as a part of a collaborative project by historians at the University of Sydney. The main focus of the project is to capture the lives of “ordinary” African Americans living in Harlem, rather than the majority of studies on Harlem at this time that focus on the “unordinary,” black artists and the middle class. Ordinary life is captured through an interactive map on the website. The site allows users to search by events, people, and places through a vast record of information collected through legal records, newspapers, and archives. I noticed at first, when searching the database, how the majority of the events documented are crimes, which prompted me to figure out why this was the case. By searching through the website even further, I found out that Harlem at this time had such high crime rates because many citizens in the neighborhood struggled with poverty and desperation. This reminded me of a Langston Hughes poem I have read before titled “Harlem” (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175884) which addresses the limitation of the American Dream concerning African Americans. Like “Digital Harlem,” which avoids the common, positive study on the art and success that came out of Harlem at the time, this poem disregards the success of many African Americans and focuses on the issues during this time. This unusual perspective gives the reader/user much more to think about since it is not generally focused on in society. By looking at the problems at this time, it helps us understand and acknowledges the achievements at this time.

Harlem
by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?