Blog 3

Blog assignment posts

LambdaMoo: Minimal, Interesting, and Very, Very Confusing.

By Anthony Rossi

For me, spending time on LambdaMoo was as confusing as it was interesting. At first I found it difficult to immerse myself in the online world because the format of the game was so different from what I am used to. The slow pacing of the single direction and response gameplay was odd because it felt as though I was speaking directly to the computer. As I tested out different commands and choices, I felt restricted by the lack of options. The fact that you have to structure your commands in a specific way for them to work threw me off. I was so frustrated that I barely wanted to continue playing, but eventually I started to figure out the gameplay and enjoy the experience of wandering around this online world. There were some strange moments (I got trapped in between barrels in the wine cellar for about twenty minutes) and some really cool ones (I played and won a text only version of Pac Man). The environments were described with such detail that I could picture everything that was going on even though I was only scrolling through text. At first I did not understand how to communicate, with other players in this environment, leading to some very awkward encounters. Most users seemed to ignore me if I did not approach them, but some reached out to me when they saw that I was logged in as a guest. Because the game is text based, it is up to each user to cultivate their own identity within the world and develop their own characters. It is clear that certain players take LambdaMoo very seriously, because their characters were detailed, believable, and well planned out. The users that wanted to chat with me were all very polite, which made it confusing how anything like our reading A Rape In Cyberspace occurred in this environment. I was expecting users to be much more abrasive because of the high level of anonymity provided by the text only game style. Without any photos or ways to track other users, it would be easy for trolls to log on simply to mess with people. Most of the other users I encountered, however, were just logging on to spend time exploring the environment, and interaction with other users seemed rather serious. Overall, I was impressed with the experience once I figured out what I was doing. I did not expect that such a basic style of gameplay could be so complicated and that it could create such a detailed virtual world.

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You-topia

Thinking back on the readings and class discussion, many things have turned out to be particularly negative. People thought that the coming of the internet was going to lead to amazing equality, sharing of ideas, and of each other. The advertisements about the internet did not seem to see any of the many negatives that we have today coming.

UtopiaNoExit

The internet is not the utopia that was promised. It is a platform that is unequal in many different ways… some people get more followers than others, some people can pay for faster internet connection while others can not afford it, and some people have access to a computer while others do not. The simple fact that some people do not event own a computer, for whatever reason (money, ethics, etc), is evidence that technology is not utopian. There are so many ways in which technology, specifically the internet, has caused things to become less equal and much less utopian.

I wanted to see how popular and important it was to asses one’s amount of twitter followers. I typed a simple search into Google: “the most twitter followers” and many pages came up. I looked at multiple Google pages and could still find numerous links on this subject. It is clear that the topic of high twitter followers is important to vast amounts of people.

Example of one link that came up: http://twitaholic.com/top100/followers

The reason I chose to focus on twitter for this portion of the analysis was because my friend recently asked me about starting a professional twitter. She was explaining to me that she did want to do this because her profile would essentially be worthless…She did not think that she would obtain “a lot of followers.” She is deciding how worthwhile her account would be based on the number of followers. This is a clear example of how different from utopia the internet is. According to the evidence, some people have more followers than others, which, in this day and age, means that they have more power and right to have the account. It’s interesting but sad.

written by: Katya Seitz

Architecture Big Data Tour

On saturday morning I took the walking tour around the loop and learned about data, how it was collected and how the information is used.  Some examples of how the government and other people are using this data was rather interesting, but others, not so much.  For instance, the depart of sanitation compiled all of the complaints about rodents on a day and noticed that they travel in packs.  Using this information they are able to predict movement of rodents and keep complaints to a minimum because they are able to deal with the issue.  On the other hand some of the information was less than impressive to say the least.  The city of Chicago looks through tweets trying to find hints of negative experiences at dining places to see if they should send a health inspector or to convince the tweeter to file a report.  While it is cool and interesting, I feel like putting out a message is why Twitter was created and that this is nothing huge. 

One thing that was mentioned that vastly reminded me of this utopian society is the facial recognition software that is now used through out the loop. This shared network of databases that map out the key features of our faces and then pick them out in a crowd of people. It’s not only just one camera either, it’s multiple ones at once working together to determine who a person is.  Back in June the first person was arrested using this facial recognition software in the loop, so it is relatively new, but is apparently very affective. 

Overall the tour was interesting but some of the things that were shared weren’t all that relative to big data in my opinion.  To be honest, I am not entirely sure why it was done through the architectural foundation, as it didn’t have a lot to do with architecture, but I did learn so much and had a good time.

1984?

Whenever a new security camera or red light camera pops up in the city, people quote George Orwell’s 1984 and start joking about “Big Brother” watching over us. The exhibit, Chicago: City of Big Data, and the walking tour, both hosted by the Chicago Architectural Foundation, showed me that Big Brother is not only watching, he’s listening.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 2.32.41 PM

From tracking tweets about food poisoning to keeping tabs on how its citizens move around, Chicago is using data in many different ways. Most of them seem productive, highlighting health problems and alerting proper city officials about residents’ concerns. The process for investigating foodborne illness transmission can be expedited. Rodent-infested areas can be targeted. Potholes can be discovered and patched up. For major metropolitan areas, where residences can stretch across 234 square miles, this helps keep the approximately 2.7 million residents happy.

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Data has always been important to urban areas, even smaller towns and villages. The architectural tour commented on how Daniel Burnham used to send letters back and forth with request after request for information, all to help in his urban planning design process. He wanted to create an effective and efficient city, which meant actually listen to what the city was trying to tell him that it needed.

Isn’t that the point of city officials? Isn’t Rahm Emanuel supposed to be in the mayor’s office listening to what his city wants and helping make those wants possible? Data helps the overwhelming amount of voices in this city get heard by the right people who can have a solution.

It’s only when the city starts labeling areas, by determining the demographics, where I feel the utopia starts to fall away. Sitegeist is a mobile application, available for download in the Google Play Store and the App Store, using publicly available information to show the user demographics for their current location. It seems as if the application was meant to help users get to know the neighborhoods more, including recommendations for local hangouts and restaurants, but the app includes more data than that. The app goes deep enough into public information as to show political contributions residents in the area have made. This reminded me of Eli Pariser’s TEDTalk on “filter bubbles” and how his Facebook feed slowly changed to include only liberal article posts rather than conservative. Sitegeist allows the filter bubble boundaries to include your neighborhood. Advertisements and the types of stores that open up can be screened to fit with the demographic profile. As convenient as that may seem, it also limits what you see and keeps you at a one-dimensional view.

There are a lot more Big Data projects happening in Chicago. Array of Things, an Urban Center for Computation and Data project, reminds me of the high frequency sonar detector from The Dark Knight. In the film, Lucius Fox reluctantly allows Batman to use a sonar device, which uses mobile phones to create a real-time map of Gotham City. It has been a couple of years since I saw the movie, but I remember the phones were used as a means to hear and see everything that is going on simply from accessing the audio capabilities (speakers, etc). The Array of Things uses sensor boxes to collect data, in real-time, about the surrounding area. One category of data collected is pedestrian traffic flow, where the sensor boxes recognize the presence of mobile devices from their signal emissions.

Check out these other Big Data sites:

Open City Apps

Urban Center for Computation and Data

WBEZ: Chicago Public Data

City of Chicago: Data Portal

Which programs do you find interesting? Which would you use?

Which programs could you do without?

Is there any you see as an invasion of privacy? As a filter bubble generator?

Are you surprised that Chicago is this involved with data?

Big Data with an Old Person

On Saturday, September 27th, I went with several friends to the Big Data exhibit and walking tour. I had never been to the Chicago Architectural Foundation, or seen the scale model of Chicago before. Being able to look at the city from a birds-eye view was an insightful look into how organized, massive, and sprawling the city of Chicago actually is. Photo Sep 27, 11 20 54 AMPhoto Sep 27, 11 20 49 AM

After several minutes of observing the model, and trying to find the exact locations of Loyola’s buildings, it was time for the tour. We suited up with Ipads, touristy headphone attachments, and went on our way. Our guide, Lisa, a 60-something Loop resident, was clearly passionate about architecture. Data and technology? Not so much.

The tour was interesting, and but was more of a basic overview than an in-depth exploration of the way Chicago uses Big Data. For example, Lisa could tell us that there are 3,000 Divvy bikes and 300 stations in Chicago, and that more than 12.5 million miles have been ridden since Divvy came to the city, but that was where the knowledge stopped. When I asked what Divvy was doing with that information, she didn’t know. This was the theme of the tour. Lisa noted that traffic is calmer (think slower) due to increased bike lanes in the Loop and on Dearborn street. That makes sense.

However, when the question “Does the increase in bike traffic reduce car traffic enough to offset the longer traffic time?” Lisa had no answer.

Photo Sep 27, 11 30 28 AM  The key takeaway from the tour and the exhibit, at least to me, is that Chicago and the various departments and companies within it are gathering massive amounts of data, but they don’t communicate with each other to be able to efficiently and effectively use it (this was the impression I received). Additionally, where does all this data go? Is it in some hard drive in a dark room in City Hall? Do you have to “know a guy who knows a guy?” Information on this scale, about the people in the city, should be available to those people, not only due to privacy concerns, but also because someone out there might have a better, cheaper, more innovative solution to any problem, or a creative idea to address a previously unforeseen issue.

The idea behind the exhibit, and the data behind the exhibit, were incredibly interesting and thought-provoking. The implementation, not so much. I will pay attention to the way Chicago uses Big Data, but not through a basic overview.

Pros and Cons of Social media: Do They Balance Each Other Out?

Everyday, technology and the new media outputs they include continue to grow and continue to surprise us with the vast amount of opportunities they offer. The utopian viewpoint on new technology is that new technology will allow us to grow as a society. According to Turner’s article, How Digital Technologies Found Utopian Ideology, “scholars have pointed out that new technologies as diverse as telephones and airplanes have always generated utopian hopes.” However, there is also the dystopian idea that new technology has caused more negative than positive and has caused our society to become completely dependent on a virtual world rather than a real one.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jan/28/social-networking-benefits-validated/?page=all

“Texting, blogs, Facebook, gaming and instant messages might seem, to some, to be just more reasons to stare at a computer screen….” This article explains how social media offers much more than that.

At first, people dreamed that technology would solve the world’s social problem, but it seems that when it comes to technology, the notion that our society is too attached to it, always seems to be brought up.

Through my Media Diet Project, I have really begun to notice how disconnected I am to the world around me. I’m sure my other classmates have noticed this too. It seems as though people in our society would rather check their twitter feed, than respond to the person standing in front of them. But was this always the case?

As a child, social media was a foreign concept to me. I had absolutely no knowledge of twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. In fact, I’m not even sure whether all of these social media outlets existed when I was younger. I didn’t need a cellphone, because I had no apps to post pictures, statuses or posts onto. My two little cousins, ages 8 and 10, both have iPhone 5’s and have over 1,000 followers on Instagram. At first, I was a little embarrassed that an 8-year-old girl was more popular than me on the Internet. But I soon realized that it was normal for young girls to have thousands of Instagram followers, and that most of the time they had no idea who was even following them anyway. This is just the way children and teens are in this generation. They spend more time filtering their Instagram picture or answering online surveys and less time doing what I did as a kid; playing outside, enjoying the company of their friends, and imagining what the future would be like.

I can definitely see how our societies extreme dependency on posting every move made on social media can be seen as following the dystopian viewpoint of new media. Although social media and the ability to instantly talk to someone through a computer screen seems impossible to live without, it is something that has significantly reduced face to face communication. It has allowed our society to become overly dependent on what technology has to offer and has turned us lazy.

However, unlike many, who fail to realize that the growing world of technology and social media also has many advantages, I feel that social media and its growing popularity among our generation expresses utopian ideas. Social media has allowed us to find information more quickly, talk to people who may not have any other way to communicate with us, as well as contributes in the reason we meet a lot of the people in our lives.

Do you think the pros and cons of social media really balance each other out? What do you think society would be like without social media there to cure ‘boredum’?

Insta-Topia

There is nothing I find more complicated than picking the right filter for an Instagram photo. I, along with many of my peers, find this decision to be a lot more difficult than necessary. In the grand scheme of things, it seems very frivolous to spend 5 minutes debating between Walden and Lo-Fi, however, it has become a large part of our social media culture.

In a way, Instagram is a great resource to quickly and easily connect with others. Most celebrities, stores, companies, etc. have Instagram accounts, which makes it an effortless line of communication. Users enjoy scrolling through their feeds and seeing what others post. While I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, I follow most of the Kardshian clan on Instagram and I love that I get a glimpse into their worlds every time they post a photo.

Although this is one of the benefits of Instagram, many users become obsessed with how their online presence is perceived. Oftentimes, Instagram-ers feel a certain level of gratification when they reach X number of likes or when they get a few new followers. In my own friend group, for example, we always tell one another to “like” our pictures and consult one another when finding the right captions. Although that seems like a shallow thing to do, it is not uncommon among my generation, because naturally, most people care at least a tiny bit about what others think of them.

Relating to the readings, I definitely see how Instagram has altered what is valued in American culture. People have started using Instagram likes and followers to gauge their self-worth, which can be very destructive. So, although Instagram is a utopia in that it’s an easy way to connect with others, it’s also very much a dystopia because it makes people so reliant on and obsessed with Instagram posts instead of the real world.