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What Device Best Suits Me

Devices(LucasEdit)Lucas Müller & Joshua Kassab

Infographic Assessment

We realized early on that we wanted to create an infographic to inform our audience in a way that would help them accomplish tasks the average person is not capable of. For example, an infographic on how to build a computer would present a watered down guide that could point people in general directions, such as what type of processor to buy, or how much RAM is needed for specific functions.

After some browsing we landed on the idea of creating an interactive infographic to help those with little technical background make a decision about what type of device would best suit their needs. To address this type of audience, however, we had to assume that they knew nothing aside from what they desired their device for.

Our graphic is neatly broken into three parts, the eye-grabbing title, the flowchart that narrows down what the reader is looking for, and the table of information. As expected, the first item that the viewer should see is the title. We decided to use a solid oval instead of a hollow one to designate its purpose as a more important bubble. The flip-flop of the bubble/text color scheme that becomes standard throughout the rest of the graphic also serves that function. The lighter background pops out at the reader more, hopefully intriguing them enough to want to read on. The convenient aspect to the title, however, is that it directly feeds the reader into the middle part, our flowchart. The flowchart is intended as a robust ‘weed-out’ mechanism that isolates their preferences and expectations for a device and uses that information to guide them to a specific selection within the third block of the infographic. By bridging the gap between the title and the data, a task that we struggled with, the flowchart smoothly brings the reader to the final, and most complex portion of the infographic. This data-intensive table serves to give the reader a much more detailed description of each device. We designed this section to have one purpose: provide a visual representation of each category so that the reader can make trivial comparisons across columns at a glance, but also have the ability to read the text in each cell for more detailed information.

Originally, we had conflicting views about how much text we desired to see in the infographic. When one of us wanted images to convey generic ideas to the reader, the other wanted a more text-based and statistic-heavy section to show every detail about the devices. Our great compromise can be seen in the third block of the infographic, where a combination of icons and short texts are used to present the information. In doing this, the two styles can support each other by offering general concepts through images, and more specific details through short phrases. This, overall, balanced out the infographic and allowed it to present information in an engaging and informative way simultaneously.




How Big Events Shape the Novel World

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In his essay, “Graphs”, Moretti asks “What would happen if literary historians, too, decided to shift their gaze from the extraordinary to the everyday, from exceptional events to the large mass of facts?”. He shows how this is possible by using charts to display the rise and fall of novel production in Britain, Italy, France, India, Spain, and Japan from the 1700’s to 1900’s. After correlating trends with external factors of all magnitudes, however, he suggests an interesting theory to explain the volatility of the novel world.

Using data from numerous scholars, Moretti shows that British novelistic genres between 1740 and 1900 were segmented (page 17, Figure 9), and that the decline of one genre always coincided with the rise of another. He realized that there were 5 big shifts in the novelistic field during this time frame. This leads him to theorize that these shifts were caused by the birth of new generations that differed significantly from the preexisting ones. To appropriately addresses the question, “But since people are born every day, not every twenty-five years, on what basis can the biological continuum be segmented into discrete units?” he states that the birth of these generations were caused by large-scale, external events, such as war or natural disaster. For example, harsher living conditions in 19th century Britain created a generation that would find Gothic literature more appealing than Epistolary literature due to its darker subject and would hence explain its rise at the same time of the decline of epistolary subjects at this time.

There is a saying that we are a summation of our experiences. Moretti understood this and applied it to explain that the trends were being affected external influences applied over an entire country, resulting in new generations of people with personalities distinct from former ones.

Video Games in the Workplace


Concentrating for several hours on end without social interaction is a difficult task, and can seem like a mental marathon. Going through such conditions on a daily basis, employees find that the typical, segregated workplace not only discourages communication, but also makes them much more prone to distraction. After searching for a solution for decades, employers may have finally stumbled across the breakthrough they needed. Video games have always been looked down on by the older generation, and dismissed as a waste of time. However, when perceiving them from a new angle, one may recognize their potential use as a form of cognitive exercise.

Continue reading Video Games in the Workplace

Conscious Robots – Pecha Kucha Self-Assessment

Selecting a topic was my most challenging hurdle. Initially, I chose to research robotics and how competition can drive technology. However, the deeper I went into my research the more I realized that I could not find a way to make an argument. As a result I decided to seek help.  As I shared my research and held conversations about robotics with family and friends it occurred to me that each of them was referring to robots as tools rather than beings. So I then started asking them “Do you believe that robots are going to become as smart as humans?”, and as those conversations developed the question became, “Do you believe that robots will ever develop a consciousness?”. I spent roughly a week researching this topic and collected a vast reserve of factual and opinionated information. I knew that I wanted to highlight all the main points of what I had learned so I initially created a presentation filled with facts and data. When structuring this I wanted to strategically introduce the main counterarguments presented by  friends, family, and online resources. I took all of the doubts obstructing people from believing in robotic consciousness and tried to eliminate them by breaking down the human brain in a logical fashion and then relating it to functions of artificially intelligent programs. As I created my script I found images to help stimulate my thoughts and then chose my favorite ones for the final PowerPoint presentation. I feel satisfied with the way I used counter-arguments to bolster my own position, but would have liked to have narrowed down my topic a little bit more and perhaps mentioned more factual details.


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My argument hinged on the idea that our minds are a summation of the functional parts of our brain, and nothing more. It is natural for humans to believe that their ability to think and have consciousness is unexplainable and special. To change this mindset I explained how science is beginning to discover that our consciousness is derived from many functions of our minds. However, this is difficult to understand so I feel that these pictures were instrumental in that, while one related our minds to the sections of an iceberg, the other took that and put it in a human head to represent the functional parts of the brain.


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This picture was important in hammering home my final message. I had constructed a defense against the counter-arguments presented earlier, and so the only thing remaining was to let the audience take the information I supplied them and use it to envision the future. Words by themselves do not stick, so I chose a classic image of human evolution to represent the evolution of robots, a blue vortex to show a progression towards something while maintaining a thoughtful mindset (blue), and a question mark to instill a sense of wonderment and what could happen. By relating the evolution of mankind to robots I encouraged each person to think about the future of artificial intelligence given its new abilities to develop on its own.


A New Purpose for Robots


“Robots with “Soul”” is a TED talk given by Guy Hoffman in which he questions current human interaction with robots, while sharing insight that he found in the world of acting and animation.

Between 15:17 and 15:38 Hoffman progresses from a revelation to a final product that would sum up the entirety of his presentation.

During the entire sixteen minutes Hoffman uses images and videos to convey information and maintain an engaging atmosphere. However, in this segment he deliberately projects an empty black slide that would not distract viewers in order to highlight his verbal speech as much as possible. To further attract his audience he includes a couple humorous remarks that keep the mood light and bring more attention to his speech. Through gesturing with his arms and hands he enhances the humor of his statements. For example, when Hoffman initially remarks that people “liked that the robot was enjoying the music” he raises his arms in plain disbelief to emphasize the unexpected discovery, hence adding to the humor of the comment.

As he begins to describe his idea of applying what he had learned in a final robot, the black screen begins to seem like a curtain hiding something important. This serves to create a sense of anticipation throughout the audience.

To satisfy this anticipation Hoffman finally displays his final product in the form of an animation. As opposed to a still image, the animation allows him to project multiple things to the audience at once in a non-verbal fashion such as the physical appearance, the purpose, and the graceful dynamics of the robot.

Hoffman controls his audience by presenting information in a series of steps. He uses subtle verbal and nonverbal techniques to progress his ideas in such a way that shifts the entire focus of the audience between him and his displays.



The Future of News in the World of Tablets


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Captioned “The Tablet Revolution & the Future of News” this piece attempts to inform the reader of the new trend towards digitalization of news. To analyze the validity of the statistics shown I first visited the Pew Data Source (PDS) (link) website listed as the primary resource, and discovered that the PDS is a nonpartisan “fact tank” that conducts research projects to inform the public about the issues and trends shaping America. After scrolling through thirteen, in-depth, pages of analysis I found one titled “Methodology” (link2) where the site listed Princeton Data Source (link3), as the group that had collected the data. A thorough examination of their data collection methodology yielded the origin of the statistics. The Princeton Data Source uses random digit dialing and scientific sampling to create a pool of potential sources to be surveyed.

On its own, random digit dialing is generally looked down upon as a poor method of representing the population’s interests, specifically when samples as low as the ones used in this study are selected. However, combined with scientific sampling methods, the Princeton Data Source can select their applicant pool with algorithms that allow them to accurately represent the total population.

This info-graphic draws on sophisticated, non-partisan organizations that try to inform the public about a technological trend in America. For the reasons shown above, I believe it is a reliable resource.

On the other hand, not all info-graphics have such extensive research to back their statistics. A big influence in advertising today is money. Unfortunately, the most powerful groups in this respect are politically polarized or technologically competitive. As a result, many today can be misleading and may provide factually inaccurate claims as well as opinionated judgments.


The Hostility of Our Words

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My first reaction to this image is one of hopelessness. The image conveys the boy’s pain so well that I begin to feel it myself.

The image conveys a scene in which a young boy is seemingly being choked by an arm constructed of words. Upon closer inspection, though, there are a number of subtle elements that affect the way the audience feels about the image. The hopeless feeling, for example is exaggerated with several features. Among these are the darkened edges of the picture, the pale and flawless skin of the child, and the tilted gaze. The darkened edges provide a sense of constriction and imminent darkness. Meanwhile, the color and smooth texture of the skin suggest a sense of purity and innocence; to see this swallowed by darkness triggers an subconscious bell in the mind of the audience, further playing with their emotions. In addition to all this, the inclined line of sight suggests that the boy is being abused by someone larger and older than he, perhaps a parent or another adult. By placing the viewer at the same level of the child the artists allows all of these characteristics to be viewed from the his perspective.

After the assault of emotions, one’s eye would be drawn to the writing on the arm; derogatory words such as “moron” and “fool” are used to construct the skin. One may also note that the color of the ink (black) also suggests a tainted, or corrupt soul. It can be inferred that the artist is attempting to show the equal harm that words can cause.

This image immediately lets the viewer know that the subject is child abuse, but it uses subtler elements such as slant, color, and perspective to effectively compromise their emotions. Once having achieved this the viewer may go on to realize that verbal abuse can be just as harmful to children as physical abuse.

The Datafication of Our Lives (Lucas Muller)

“Datafied location across time is most notably being applied to people. For years wireless operators have collected and analyzed information to improve the service level of their networks. But the data is increasingly being used for other purposes and collected by third parties for new services. Some smartphone applications, for example, gather location information regardless of whether the app itself a location-based feature. In other cases, the whole point of an app is to build a business around knowing the users’ locations. An example is Foursquare, which lets people “check in” at their favorite locations. It earns income from loyalty programs, restaurant recommendations, and other location-related services” – Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier’s Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. 

The rise of “Big Data” has been swift, and the data collected on us today is often sensitive as well as private. Data like this can turn into harmful information when in the wrong hands and, for this reason, people should be wary of the technological advances in data collection today that have been utilized by large smartphone corporations.

The technological race that brought portable devices into the vast majority of pockets throughout the 21st century came so rapidly that most people did not realize how much more their phones had become capable of in recent years. I have often seen the look of incredulity as someone I know discovers a feature on their smartphone they were formerly oblivious to. Google, for example, now has the ability to collect data from every smartphone in the form of location, browsing history, and app preferences to provide smarter services to enhance the user experience with their products. However, they also store this data in massive quantities and utilize it for “company research”. Google has data to show where each of their customers has been, what they have searched on the internet, and what pictures they have taken on their phones.

The “datafication” of our lives is a highly sensitive movement; it gives corporations the means to collects data from the privacy of anyone’s life, such as the whereabouts their honeymoons, and makes it accessible to companies like Google who may assess it for “research”. Although it is true that massive data collection helps Google provide a number of conveniences to its users, such as GPS, smarter browsing, and more relevant advertising, the frequent reports of cyber-attacks that occur across the globe remind us of the dangers involved with placing information in the Cloud where it can be accessed by hackers.  For this reason, people have every right to feel hesitant about the rise of “Big Data” today.

Truth of Fact/Feeling, Ted Chiang

Lucas Muller’s response video



I chose to speak about the ways in which this article influenced my reflections about technology largely due to my technology-centered upbringing by a father who devoted his life to the study of engineering. Having observed the positive and negative effects that modernization has had on people, I found Ted Chiang’s article represented of the way in which I draw my own boundaries in the matter. In the video I wanted to convey my beliefs that technology should be wielded as a tool for our betterment rather than have technology actually replace some of our human functions. However, to truly go into the matter I would have needed more time. I should have condensed my facts to account for this, and feel as though my speech were a little drawn out and un-specific. In addition to this, I feel as though I under-exploited the visual and nonverbal techniques offered in speeches. On the positive side, I did try to provide an example of a controversial issue in modern society to connect my stance to the hesitant one taken by Ted Chiang in his article.