Lab 11 – Big Data

“Big Data” is the term for the collection and analysis of our internet footprint. Our online interactions can be quantified, from where we click, what ads we see longest, page interaction, pages clicked before, pages clicked after, the location of the users IP address, how many times hes come to this site, etc. etc. This information is collected through web architecture, separate programs running on the sites, cookies, and is generally freely given by the end user through some sort of user licensing agreement posted by the site itself. This information contributes individual data points that are then connected and utilized by the sites to try and improve the efficacy of their online presence, or to keep an eye on the customer base to identify growing needs / markets.

NSA Utah Data Center opening

This information can be used to paint a vivid picture of someones life. For this reason, the government also engages with big data, scooping up metadata and content from most major applications and telecom company, including but not limited to Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Verizon, AT&T. Most of this information is collected by the National Security Agency and is stored and stored at the Utah Data Center, pictured above. This facility boasts a super computer that can operate at 100 petaflops, or 100,000 billion calculations a second, with a storage capacity of one yottabite, or 10^24 bytes of information, and acts as the tool which the NSA uses towards its express goal of collecting it all. For me, this center is at the crux of what Big Data symbolizes: the congregation of information under one roof, and with information comes power, and with power comes corruption and abuse.

Lab 8- Video Games

Video games are rhetorical objects that rely on an inversion of the first person perspective, whereas the player naturally assumes an ostensibly different perspective and is faced with unique choices. Often, the players agency is extended, even magnified by the in game mechanics (IE slowing time in Prince of Persia, being a Jedi in Knights in the Old Republic), and the player goes on to affect great change in the natural world.

With this extended agency, players are then placed in scenarios in which they have varying amounts of freedom to act, and are often pushed towards one choice or the other by the scenario itself. It is in this manner that the video game designers create rhetorical scenarios, and can easily convince you through the in game atmosphere to act in a certain way. These decisions are made by the player just as in real life: by weighing the current situation against their value set. However, within the game lies different exigencies and value systems, often causing the player to act in a way inconsistent with his real life.

While this new found agency nor the value system inherently transfers from game to real life, it speaks to what we would do in these situations given the chance, and as such speaks to what we personally might accept. Since the game designers drew upon their own experiences and their own understandings of the world, then the scenarios, in some sense, reflect how the designers see the world and how the culture sees itself.

Lab 7 – Fake News

Image result for fake news cartoon          “Fake News” is any and all news articles and stories that fail to adequately verify its claims. This allows for a wide range of opportunities for fake news fester: from willing misinformation coming from the quoted or anonymous source of the information, blatant or subtle biases, varying amounts of interpretation/speculation on actual events, and the creation of aspects of stories to whole narratives. Often the goal of Fake News is satire, but Fake News can be far more insidious, created to further ideologies and isolate groups of people with like thoughts.

Consider the Center for Medical Progress’ claim that Planned Parenthood was involved in the sale of aborted fetus parts. The story ran after the group published documentary style footage featuring senior management members of Planned Parenthood discussing their sale of, again, fetus parts. The Prolife movement, understandably, were incensed by these stories, and as an inciting piece of news, it was highly and profitably circulated. However, it was soon revealed that the footage had been heavily edited, placing multiple comments out of a context and splicing words together. So while the only outright lie was told by the Center for Medical Progress, other sites paraded around unverified information as truth, falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of something heinous and using it as fuel for the political movement to unfund them.

The responsibility to prevent is not the government, but the journalistic entities themselves. Journalism should seek to be apolitical and a mouthpiece for truth, as opposed to a profit driven endeavor. Government oversight leads to politicization which could very easily act to infringe upon the first amendment freedoms of the press. In general, what passes editorial muster should be sourced by a named source, or the stories verified with documentation of the reported upon phenomenon. This at minimum, phases out a good chunk of the insidious fake news, while still allowing for journalistic freedom.

Lab 5 – Instagram

Image result for instagramSocial Media branding is, in a sense, creating a shrine for pilgrims to view and subsequently develop ideas about the subject and producer of the posts. Every photo, video, and .GIF contribute to the outside worlds perception of who the subject is, and, in turn, helps place them in a certain place within the culture. These acts are both representative of the individuals life and of their own idea of where they fit in, and in what culture they belong.

My criterion for my photographs were fairly simple. I wanted to choose pictures that detailed some of my hobbies and values that best translate into pictures, as well as pictures that showed me in professional wear. From these, you can assume that I love sports and music, that I have some leadership experience, and that my family is important to me.

I tried to project an image of a well adjusted and mature young adult, ready for the next step in life. I wasn’t able to include photographs of all my hobbies and day to day activities, but I was able to show that I am a family man, and that I value experiences over material concerns.

I hope to later include pictures that demonstrate my love of reading, along with more action photos. These photos of me engaged will help lend my image an air of motion and competence, thus increasing my perceived value.

Blog 4 – Adventures in Video Editing

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Video editing with Camtasia was surprisingly easy and accessible, even to us novice editors. The insert tool, the drag and drop interface, and the timeline ruler on the bottom of the page made the tool easy to use. In fact, editing the video was almost as easy as capturing the shots themselves. Our group easily approached people on the street to interview, and we had plenty of ideas for the B roll. The IPhone actually proved to be surprisingly adept at capturing what we needed it to, and the quality of the shot was consistent enough to render an acceptable final product. The microphone, however, left a little to be desired.

However, I am glad that our project required a very basic use and understanding of the software project as a whole . It seemed as if we barely scratched the surface of its editing abilities, and yet it was still enough to accomplish what we needed it to. While it probably shouldn’t be used to edit Hollywood features, it seemed fine for Youtube stars and students alike.

I was proud of our final product. The end work was amateur, sure, but after all we ourselves are amateurs using the materials we simply had on hand. The cinematography was consistent, we used similar shots without them becoming repetitive, and our audio was at appropriate volumes at all time. The subject matter could have been a bit more developed, but doing interviews off the streets doesn’t typically lend very good answers anyways.

Blog 3 – Podcasting

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Today I listened to Episode 163 of A Partially Examined Life, which focused on the idea of Natural Kinds and natural philosophy. Dylan, the host, interviews Stephen Umphrey, a prominent contemporary philosopher about his most recent book that defends an antiquated, experienced understanding as the world as we know it. These ideas seek to refute advanced ideas of natural philosophy and solipsism, while seeking to explain such ideas such as continuants (objects persisting through time) and natural kinds (very similar to Platonic forms).

I chose this podcast because I am fascinated by the study of philosophy, and this podcast came highly recommended. The podcast relied solely on the interview, there were no musical cues or audio effects. This made the podcast seem very professional, and sought to mirror its serious subject matter. Along these same lines, there were no commercials included in this long form podcast. The podcast was shaped by the interview, and as such it flowed very smoothly. The simple question/answer format was smoothly executed through the podcast.