All posts by andrewdai

Experiential Blog Post: Google NGrams

I decided to look at the relative frequency of words that apply to women and their roles in society over the course of time to find insights about their status or recognized importance.

All Comparisions
All Comparisons

For my experiment I compared “women”, “mother”, “wife”, “girl”, “female” and “lady”. It’s clear from the outset that the occurrence of “women” is far higher than the other words that were compared and really spikes in the late 1900’s especially in the early 90’s. I realized now (far after the fact) that I forgot “woman” from the initial analysis but including it doesn’t change the trends that much. Oddly enough its not quite as pronounced as “women” and doesn’t spike up as significantly either.

"Women" vs "Woman"
“Women” vs “Woman”

Ignoring whatever is the cause of the difference, the two words still trend together fairly well. The occurrence of “female” also tracks pretty well.

"Women" vs "Wife"
“Women” vs “Wife”

On the other hand, over the past 300 years, the word “wife” stays fairly stable and unchanged. I think this points to a difference between the traditional role women play (in the household) and the emphasis on the actual women themselves. While traditional roles and words describing those (like “wife” and “mother”) stay relatively constant throughout recent history, words describing the people themselves occur more as importance and attention is directed at them.

Looking at the early half of the seventeenth century and even up to the year 1900, the word “women” actually occurs less than “mother”. I think this really points to the difference and culture shift that is indicated in the written English language.

The Unconstitutionality of Warrantless GPS Tracking: Missteps in US v. Jones

Rapid advances in technology often leave the written law behind, allowing for unprotected rights, and freedoms temporarily trespassed. GPS has enabled law enforcement agencies to track movement of suspects remotely. In US v. Jones, the FBI placed a GPS tracking device in the defendant’s vehicle without a warrant. Although the Court overturned the conviction, it was based the on act of physical trespass, not the act of GPS tracking itself. This is problematic. Continue reading The Unconstitutionality of Warrantless GPS Tracking: Missteps in US v. Jones

Pecha Kucha Reflection

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During this slide I introduced US v Jones which judged the use of warrantless GPS tracking. The image depicts one of these devices and shows the audience something they’d normally never be familiar with. Having a person hold the tracker in their hands makes gives the picture a sense of scale. Illustrating something that is normally completely foreign really helps viewers place a kind of “face” on the device.

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I tried to use the picture of Steve Jobs to drive home the point of how fast technology has evolved. I talked about the implications of the loopholes in the Supreme Court decision during this slide. The consequences of this case are far scarier when placed in context of rapidly evolving technology and the adoption of smartphones in our daily lives. The picture of Steve Jobs introducing the first iPhone really dates the events of 2005 that were the core of this case. It doesn’t seem obviously old until closer inspection. The design of the first iPhone really stands out as dated compared to the new design trends of recent iPhones and smartphones.

I was considering doing a presentation on NSA surveillence as a whole but it seemed like an overdone topic. But I still wanted to do something related to that field because its something that I find really important to me personally as well as to the functioning of society. I found this topic when I read an article on Stingray Trackers on WIRED and Ars Technica. The completely unregulated nature of the devices and their blatent disregard for personal privacy really caught my attention and drove me to read more about the topic. My research on this topic actually extended far beyond the actual Stingray Tracker itself and led to US v. Jones as well. It was really fortunate that the two examples tied together nicely because I thought that it’d be two somewhat unrelated topics. It was awesome to realize that the implications of US v. Jones were directly related to and somewhat enabled the usage of Stingray Trackers.

The first thing that I did to make my Pecha Kucha presentation was make an outline and then write a script. Rather than talk off a sheet of talking points I decided to craft a carefully written script so that when I presented I had nothing to worry about than reading. Personally I find it hard to think and talk at the same time when presenting so I spent a lot of time fleshing out the script. I practiced a couple times as well but I think the most helpful strategy was carefully writing and timing the what I was going to say for each slide. The 20 second per slide pacing prevented me from writing any long rambling rants and kept the script a a steady (hopefully not boring) pace, driving one point after another home.

Experiential Post: Self Healing Asphalt

Erik Schlangen presents a new design for “self healing asphalt”. His lab sought out to reformulate asphalt roadways to address many of the issues that currently exist. In current roadways, the binder that holds together the rocks breakdown from exposure to UV rays and usage. When that happens the rocks at the top get stripped off of the surface (raveling). Raveling can cause damage to windshield and paint jobs especially on highways when cars in front kick up the loose gravel. It also can lead to potholes. There are also issues with noise (roadways are loud and bounce back noise from cars driving) and puddles.

3:00 – 3:20

Schlangen’s approached involved creating a more porous roadway, ironically with less rather than more binder. The extra spaces and hollow areas that are left allow water and noise to pass through the surface rather and gather or bounce back out.

To address the fundamental problem of ravelling, they embedded the asphalt with small pieces of steel wool and used an induction machine to heat up the steel, thus heating the binder, and “healing” the roadway.

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At the 3 minute mark he introduces the concept and problem of raveling. Schlangen uses not only the slides and speaking but also has a handful of aggregate (rocks) that he sprinkles on the ground. As silly as that seems I think its actually really helpful to educating the audience really quickly. Even though they probably never heard of the term raveling or been conscious of different states of roadway damage, the little rocks and images and raveled roadway are all things we’ve seen in our own lives. By actually having little samples and showing what it looks like, Schlangen manages to convey his point extremely quickly by linking it to the things we already know.

He also grabs the audiences attention by pretending to throw some into the crowd. That part brings some comedy and interest to a topic otherwise extremely dry and boring.

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Schlangen again captures the audience’s attention by showing a funny image and immediately tying it back into his previous point on the risks and dangers of raveling.

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He again explains the phenomenon extremely clearly by using a good visual. The diagram makes it very easy to understand the problem itself and how it causes the aggregate to release from the asphalt.

Experiential Response: Infographics are not always what they seem



data source:



We hear it all the time, “you can’t trust everything you see on the internet,” and at this point no one is naive enough to blindly trust anything they see online. But people still make mistakes and this applies to people working for reputable organizations as well.

The image I chose was actually posted in response to an infographic that I remember seeing a couple weeks ago. It was posted on a well known and established news site and worked to point out the disparity and almost-hypocrisy of the American public. It pointed out the difference in fundraising for disease research and the diseases that actually kill the most people in the United States and accompanied an article about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

The infographic was well sourced but discerning readers discovered that the graphic artists behind the graphic broke the Area Principle. People notice and view the relative values by looking at the area of each circle (its “size). The graphic was scaled by diameter and because of that, the differences were vastly exaggerated (as you can see above).

The story’s point doesn’t really change (there is still a discussion to be had about the the disparity between funding) but it isn’t nearly as extreme as the original infographic made it seem.

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Looking at the raw data I think that infographic was crucial to the presentation of the information. Aside from visually representing the numbers, the colored circles allow the connections to be made between the two charts. It sounds remarkably simple-minded but looking at the two mediums, I see the graphic to be infinitely more valuable than the charts. To make the connections, most of your attention is put into shifting your eyes back and forth to link the spending to deaths and that detracts completely from the bigger picture. Besides the visually ‘larger’ number (257.85 takes up more space than 3.20), the raw data tables convey almost none of the effects of the infographic.

Reading Response

I think the point Malcolm Gladwell makes in “Small Change” is very intriguing and I’m tempted to agree. It’s a welcome change from the usual opinions that people share about social media and technology. Typically people either talk about the revolutionary magic of social media or (seemingly without legitimate reasoning) its detrimental and dumbing effect on society. Reading Gladwell’s well informed and reasoned opinion was a welcome alternative.

Technology and social media have really infiltrated our modern lives very throughly. I think technology’s rapid growth and transformative nature makes it really easy to unabashedly praise its impact or even overstate it like Gleick does in his piece about information. Personally I’m torn between the two viewpoints (especially since I am a computer science major). As I said in my video response to the Chiang reading, I think a conscience dependence and use of technology is most important and allows for a good relationship. Mindlessly depending on technology to solve greater problems doesn’t help anyone and only hurts those really in need. It allows those who could help to have a false sense of security and become complacent.

As Gladwell says in “Small Change”, social media proliferates weak ties but strong personal ties are the ones that get things done in real life. The information overload that Gleick almost gleefully promotes allows a sort of “out of sight, out of mind” effect to happen for the regular citizen and keep them from engaging in meaningful contributions to society.

The ALS Ice bucket challenge is a direct example in our everyday lives that this topic also applies to. While people dumping ice on themselves isn’t helpful for people suffering ALS, there is a valid point to be made about raising awareness and the money that has been raised.

Experiential Response

The idea of a lifelog intrigues me. By preserving a digital record of my life it opens the possibility of revisiting it later or even “traveling back in time.” Although the lifelog takes place in the ambiguously distant future (at least one generation), our current reality already has a similar albeit fragmented version. Facebook has pictures from day to day life. Google has all my emails and calendar events and Dropbox has all my documents.

Recently I got a smartphone and I was rudely awakened to the fact that Google recorded all of my location history for the past couple months. Google Location History had all of my movements whenever my GPS unit was on for Google Maps. It was both really creepy and really cool. Seeing my movements step by step throughout town and flying across the country (coming to Georgia Tech!) both fascinated and disturbed me. Just like how the lifelog records the character’s everyday life moments, Google Location History has recorded all of my physical locations. Seeing road trips unfurl step by step brings back good memories and gives me a sense of accomplishment. Rather than having to keep a diary with all my own notes and records, technology (with or without my knowledge) has done it for me.

Even without the all encompassing nature of the lifelog, today’s life log equivalents already have a ton of really interesting uses. Computers and programs can trawl through and present us insights that other wise would be hidden in the monotony and function of daily life by looking at trends or connections that span multiple people/groups.

Big data and data mining have recently become a huge trend in computer science and is being applied in all different fields. By tracking our daily lives with something like a lifelog, those methods could be applied to our behaviors and even help us diagnose social issues.

Hopping from service to service I can recreate any major events in my life in pictures, words and other data. Technology keeps a record of my life so I don’t have to. It allows me to enjoy the memories and share them with others. An argument can be made for the loss of “real life” and “in the moment” experiences with the advent of technology and everyone taking pictures of life around them. But I think that as long as a conscious balance between technology and life can be made, the two complement each other and enhance our understanding of underlying causes.

TFTF response

I chose my prompt (What does the story tell you about your relationship with technology) because it jumped out at me the most. Personally I love technology and integrating it into my life (I am a CS major).  Because of that, the story as a whole seemed very relevant.

The details from my life that I included were simply the ones that came to mind first. They were the aspects of my relationship to technology that are strongest and most relevant.

I shot the video on my laptop’s webcam and I put some effort into positioning the camera a bit higher and adjusting the lighting. I also typed up my response and positioned the text editor to be as close to the top of my screen (and to the webcam) as possible to reduce the effect of my eyes reading the script.

Given more time to finish the video I would’ve polished the script a bit more and shot the video with a better camera and more lighting. Brighter lighting and a smaller depth of field on the camera would produce a nicer and less distracting image. Any kind of external microphone would be better than the built in microphone on my laptop.

When writing my script for the video I purposely thought to “dumb down” my language to better resemble conversational English. The video aspect of the assignment required a different mindset and really showed the difference between verbal and written language.