All posts by JeremyCai

Culture Is Influenced by Natural Selection

“If you take the long view, the question of why we say drove and not drived becomes a scientific quest for the forces that shape evolution of human culture. For a long time, we had no idea how to even begin to uncover those forces.” (Problem Child) By addressing this question that has been frequently asked by children, the authors (Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel) of the reading incorporate phenomena from different disciplines we acknowledge in order to understand the reason behind it. By solving the question, we may find the force that shapes the evolution of our cultures.

Aiden and Michel believe that the selection for the words we use follows a rule similar to the Biology theorem established by Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago. “The reason we still say drove – whereas we’ve abandoned other irregular forms, like thrive, in droves – is that drive is far more frequent than thrive.” (The Once and Future Past) According to many linguists nowadays, the regularization of words is refer to the process where the transformation of words that is less frequently used will be forgotten by people and those words will be used based on the most popular transformation in the society. Just as the language evolution, our culture evolution follows the rules of natural selection. The selection based on the frequency of encounter implies the selection maximizing the possibility to survive. In our daily life, people adopt the most popular use of language so that the communication with the others will provoke fewer conflicts. As a result, we use different slangs or jargons to get recognized by a certain group of people. For the similar reason, it is our nature to remove the memory of the things that we do not use frequently in order to reserve the capacity to store something more important in our brain. For example, we will not try to memorize all the mathematical formulae we need to use if they will be easily accessible online.

Culture represents the different ways of life a certain group a people adopted based on their experiences, and it changes whenever people learn from trails and errors. Since the language we are using has never stopped changing, our culture will never cease to change as well.

Jeremy Cai: Journalists Were Not Guilty

As Wikileaks exposed thousands of secret documents of government and revealed the surveillance or government on our private information, people panicked and started to think about the tradeoff between privacy and national security. There has been a fervent discussion over whether Edward Snowden is a traitor or a hero. However, some people put the blames on the journalists who wrote about the events and disseminate the confidential information. The existence of free press enables journalists to write about truths and facts without considering about the inconvenience caused to the subject of the press. Journalists should only be responsible for their own ethics and deliver the information that people otherwise would not know about. In a country hailing the importance of democracy, should we charge journalists of impeding the national security?

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Jeremy: Pecha Kucha Reflection

Being able to make a good presentation is definitely one of the most important skills that we have to possess in our life. However, in order to do that, making a good presentation that can help us deliver ideas is essential.

The challenge that I had during the preparation for Pecha Kucha was that I could not easily construct my script because I decided to find all the pictures needed before I thought about what I wanted to talk about in the presentation. After the workshop during the class I received many useful tips from my classmates and then I restarted the process and constructed my script first. Another challenge for me was that it was really hard for me to find a specific topic to talk about, because the topics I came up with were all too broad to be covered in a two minutes and thirty seconds presentation. Making the topic small and digging deeper into one specific subject is going to make a presentation more enjoyable and in-depth.

JR is one of my favorite artists because of his unique way of expression. I first knew about him by seeing him in one of the movies I watched on a flight. By posting huge portraits of human faces on different walls, or even roofs, he was able to deliver his claims implicitly that we should stand up for what we care for. The use of internet and information technology have definitely helped him share his arts with the world because internet serves as a medium where people would comment on and share different art pieces.

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In order to make a good presentation, I think we should minimize the information available on the slide because we want audiences to focus on the things the speaker is talking about. If too much information is shown on the slide, audiences will tend to read what appears on the screen instead of paying enough attention, or audiences will just lose their interests. On this picture, I chose the photo which has huge eyes as the main focus, while on the top of them the word “Shocks” were typed in white in order to emphasize one of the rhetorical strategies the artist used. The best way to show audiences what kind of effects art will have is to visually show them what the art looks like in real life. This picture enables the audiences to know more about the effects of visual arts without me elaborating ineffectively about its effects.



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In order to make a smooth transition from his art and the effects of using Internet, I created a connection between two transition slides by including the same art project for the second time in the second slides. That presents the abrupt transition between different topics and visually demonstrates the relationship between JR’s arts and the use of Internet. From the perspective of audiences, we could better understand the influence Internet would have because the screenshot is very similar to the normal webpage we would see from day to day.


Even though the preparation for this project was really time-consuming, I’m really happy that I eventually understood the importance of being specific on one topic and overcame the fear to present in front of a crowd. If I were to do this presentation again, I would try not to use script and practice even more to be confident on the stage.



Should those journalists be indicted too?

As we all know that Daniel Ellsberg exposed the top secrets of government about Vietnam War to the world in 1971. Even though Mr. Ellsberg gave the New York Times a large number of the Pentagon Papers in1971, he decided to keep 4 volumes confidential because those were closely related to the diplomatic endeavors the US government had done to try to resolve the war by negotiating with other nations. His action was accepted as “good” while, on the other hand, Wikileaks was mostly doubted and considered as “bad” in 2010.

Different from the information revealed about the Pentagon Papers, the confidential information revealed on Wikileaks was not tailored to either prevent the uproar of people or the diplomatic concern of the nation. It simply showed the disdain of Wikileaks on the facts that government was keeping its dirty secrets from people.

Ironically, Assange could still escape from the legal punishment and the journalists helping disseminating and analyzing the sensitive information could be indicted as “willfully” communicating the information “relating to the national defense” according to Section 793 of the Espionage Act. However, no journalist was indicted under the circumstances.

The author Floyd Abrams (who is also a lawyer considered an authoritative figure in the area related to the First Amendment) clearly stated that “under that reading of the legislation, if Mr. Assange were found to have communicated and retained the secret information with the intent to harm the United States—some of his statements can be so read—a conviction might be obtained. But if Mr. Assange were viewed as simply following his deeply held view that the secrets of government should be bared, notwithstanding the consequences, he might escape legal punishment.” Because of the conflicting contents in the First Amendment and in the Section 793 of the Espionage Act, whether Mr. Assange should be convict for his “conspiratorial” action is called into question again.

The Unstoppable Change

“Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of that truly private life is already an illusion,” (written by Emily Nussbaum in New York magazine) quoted by the author of The Googlization of Everything. Emily wrote about a young girl named Kitty Ostapowicz and many others who posed many photos and videos that might be criticized by the older on social networking sites such as “nonuglies” and LiveJournal. “Young people who behave as if privacy doesn’t exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones,” wrote Emily. After she got to know those girls she found out that those girls were warm and humble as any other girls growing up without any major influences from the internet. Using internet was the way they chose to identify themselves and express something suppressed deep inside.


Siva Vaidhyanathan, however, used the quotation to raised questions about privacy and the conventional belief that we could still have our privacy even though we were constantly under surveillance. She put the common understanding of privacy in to question. The nature of the privacy is not the nature of the information we share, but the control over the information we have. Different from the people who were born in the era of drastic change in information technologies, some people are not able to face the truth that the privacy does not actually exist. Still, people rebel to any action that may impede the “privacy” people had. That’s why the Beacon program, which posts the things people buy online, resulted in a great Facebook revolt in 2010.


Nowadays, people cannot live without information technologies and social networking sites because they have become one of the most important parts in our lives. Sacrificing some of our control over our personal information will give us the benefits outweighing the drawbacks. This is the tradeoff that we have in the twenty-first century, and we will have to get used to these changes just as we accepted the use of television when it first came out.

Say Everything , New York magazine:

“Give up, young man.”



The reason why this image catches my eyes is that, as an advertisement, the image is different from the TV advertisement and commercials targeting the vast majority we see every day. In contrast, the targeted audiences of the advertisement are the people who are interested in rock music, Punk culture and the instrument guitar. More importantly, the advertisement aptly shows that Colins Guitar Repair will be a good place to go for people to fix their guitars.

The artist who made the drawing appeals to people’s emotion (pathos) using its unique style of drawing. When I first look at it, the image gives me an overall feeling of gloominess and depression. The person standing in the center and swinging a guitar lowers his head and puts all of his strength onto both his arms. When audiences imagine that the guitar gets broken and smashed into pieces, they will have a sense of relief and satisfaction. However, the Colins Guitar Repair, presented as the pillow on the ground, protects the guitar from breaking. Selecting the black, gray and white colors, the artist sets a depressing tone for the image. In addition, the use of jagged line and the zigzag shadow coming down to our direction gives a feeling of anxiety and pressure. Although we cannot see the face of the person, his movement and his posture reveal that he is probably enduring great anger and mental struggle. The texture of the background has its unique influence on our visual experience too. The wrinkled background conveys a feeling of struggle and rebellion, which helps maximize the overall tone of the image. All of these features describe the feeling the punk are


It’s not hard to find out that the audiences targeted by the image are the people who love Punk culture, guitar and rock music. When we look at the clothing of the person in the image, the leather gauntlet, the leather boots and the studded vest are all implicitly connecting to the Punk culture. A sense of rebellion, the catharsis of unsatisfaction and the outburst of anger are all magnified by looking at what the person is trying to do. However, since the purpose of the image is to advertise for the Colins Guitar Repair, an instrument maintanence company, the attention of audiences are naturally drawn down to the pillow, highlighted by a circle of “white” color around it. In order to emphasize the words on the pillow, the artist prints the black bold words with the contrasting white on the pillow. Also, the name of the company and the address are the only words in the image, the image successfully grabs people’s attention.


When I look into the details an try to figure out what’s the purpose and idea of this advertisement, I start to realize rhetoric is involved in every aspect of our life and this advertisement has done a great job in many different aspects.

Balance in Our Life



Because of the rapid development of technology, humans have experienced a big bang of information. Although admittedly it brings a lot of data we can accumulate, analyze and then utilize, we need to keep a balance between its downsides and benefits. From printing press to computer and some other medias that consistently blow an significant amount of information to us, the development of information technology has gone a long way that our daily life is inevitably intertwined with social networking and medias. Even though technology has caused our concerns in many different ways, we should not ignore the benefits and privilege it gives us.



Cameras and camcorders grant us the privilege to look back into our childhood, recall those important moments in our life and imagine what we would do if we could take the time machine and go through those moments with a much more mature and experienced mind. I love watching the videos taken in the past, because they show what happened with sound, motion and people’s expression. Watching the video of my grandfather and I collecting shells and catching crabs on the beach in my hometown, I always longed for the curiosity I had towards the endless possibilities of nature. I had lost the pure appreciation of life as I grew up and found out the brutal sides of the reality. The video was like an intangible string which linked me back to the past and reminded me to remain thankful for the good things we have. When my grandfather passed away, I was confused and angry about his leaving. He went to a place where I had no clue and nobody would ever share the pure happiness with me of simply finding a shell that has never been seen before again. Life is all about balance. The more time we spend on and love we attach to someone, the more painful it would be to lose him or her. However, as a kid who had no idea about what life is, I had more confusion than sorrow. Without the video, I wouldn’t have been able to revisit my childhood and see my growth throughout these years.


Technology gives me the opportunity to keep my childhood memories and those precious moments. Yes, we cannot ignore the downsides and technology, but as long as we are not abusing the power of technology and become more aware of the things happening around us, we can still keep a balance between technology and our life.


JeremyCai_Reflection on TFTF


When I first started to read the story, I was confused about intention of author. I didn’t understand the purpose of writing two separate stories holding the opposite values. However, two stories eventually boiled down to the idea that there is no exact right or wrong because everyone has their own standards about what’s the right and the appropriate things to do.

One of the major challenges I faced was to speak English in front of the camera and convey my ideas accurately and fluently. Even though sometimes I can type down my ideas in the computer, I couldn’t explain it correctly while speaking.

If I had more time to complete my video, I would definitely make a skit instead of a plain speech because stories and musics will help deliver my ideas and it would be more fun to watch the video. In my opinion, the most important thing that makes a video a video is that we need to have a theme in the video and  an effective way to enfold it before people’s eyes.