All posts by mbarnes43

The Cyclical Nature of Novels and Culture

In his essay, “Graphs, Maps, Trees”, Franco Moretti comes to the conclusion that, due to the cyclical nature of the graphing of literature and genres, there is never a definite winner in regards to the trends that occur in writing over periods of time. When debating on the topic of Male or Female dominance of British novels, he states:

“…No victory is ever definitive, neither men nor women writers ‘occupy’ the British novel once and for all, and the form oscillates back and forth between the two groups.”

This conclusion got me thinking. He makes a very valid point: the trends involving novels tend to be very cyclical. When thinking about this, I realized that not only can the trend in novels be in a sort of cycle, but our culture as a whole. Sometimes I talk to my mother about clothes and what is, for lack of better words, “in” or “out” at the time. I tell her that guys now wear shorts that sit only above their knees and sunglasses that have larger lenses (such as Aviators) whereas girls have been wearing higher wasted shorts/pants in the summer and high boots in the colder times of the year. After she processes everything, she almost always says, “Those types of clothes have made a comeback?! I remember your father and I always wearing those types of clothes when were together back in high school and college.” Even music nowadays tends to follow old school rules, with artists such as Justin Timberlake creating jazzy and retro beats; even setting up his concert stages to represent the classiness of the earlier decades of the 90’s. There has never been a certain culture or trend that has thrived and dominated America, but several cultures that come and go and then repeat themselves in later years.
In regards to what Moretti states, I think he is correct when he says that human culture, or in this case, novels, has a cyclical nature.

Cancer and Society

I struggled in the beginning to create an idea to make my Pecha Kucha on. Mr. Rettberg kept telling us to find something that really interested us or was a part of our lives, but I still couldn’t think of anything that would have enough content to do a whole presentation. I kept delving into my personal life and I realized that cancer has played a pretty big role in my family, so I decided to stick with the idea. Connecting it to our class subject of “Data, Culture, and Information” was not too bad because there are several statistics, articles, and research  out there that I could use for my purpose. Now, I did not want to just lecture the class about cancer and its effects; I wanted to give them my own opinion on how it affects our culture and society.

I was hesitant at first to follow through with my conclusion, that cancer has a positive effect on society, because the last thing I wanted to do was offend anybody in the audience if they had had a rough personal struggle with cancer. So I built my argument up slowly and tried to never say anything that might have made someone angry. To give background info on cancer, I used a few diagrams to show how the cells develop. In particular, I like the picture of our social circles and how we can all be connected. It starts off with one person in the middle who, in this case has cancer or knows someone that has cancer. That news spreads to a close group of people, just one or two other people. But those people end up telling others and eventually more and more people are affected by the news of cancer. It helped me make my point that we probably all know someone who has been touched by cancer, proving that cancer really is something that we all have in common.Six Degrees of Separation


Another of my favorite pictures from my PK is the tree made up of people, all supporting each other.People Tree

I though this image did a great job of supporting my argument when it came to the definition of society. A community works together as a whole, almost as a singe unit, but that’s only if each individual works together. Notice how each person is holding up another, representing the dependence we have on other people in our lives. I made the point that Cancer brings us together and gives us a sense of compassion and drive throughout our society, and I believe this picture helped the audience make sense of what I was trying to say.

Overall, the process of creating the PK was pretty interesting. At first it sounded difficult to line up the slides with my words, but after several edits of my script and a dozen trial runs, I finally got my timing down and achieved almost a seamless transition between slides that kept my thoughts and points in order and not all over the place or rushed.

Video Games vs. Violence


Due to the increase in the popularity of video games over the past two decades, they are present in almost every household throughout the United States. But the new ability to create whatever designers want in a game has led to an increase in violence-based games. Due to more and more gruesome releases, people assume that the players that enjoy these games become more prone to violent lifestyles. However there are several different positions taken by researchers based on their findings.

Continue reading Video Games vs. Violence

60 Minutes: Inside the NSA

60 Minutes

In this fifteen minute excerpt, 60 Minutes interviews a few of the leading generals in the National Security Agency about the latest procedures and data collection techniques used to promote our homeland security. Lately, due to the recent leaks released by the now infamous Edward Snowden, the NSA has been in the spotlight, being criticized for its pervasiveness and lack of restraints on its tracking abilities. Over the course of these interviews, the NSA explains itself in an attempt to prove to the public that it does not use invasive procedures to gather its information and data; a misconception that has gone viral since the Snowden incident.

Like almost every citizen in America, I have never been directly affected by the processes the NSA uses to obtain information. As explained in the video, the Agency collects personal data from all citizens, yet all sources are anonymous and noninvasive. Several people still feel like they are being spied on mostly due to their misunderstanding/lack of understanding of the NSA’s procedures and exaggerations of the truth. Much speculation has come from only a few, extremely rare, instances where Agency employees have broken their on rules and snooped on their subjects. However, matters dealing with privacy were in the hot seat due to the extremely large number of leaks released by Edward Snowden. A considerable amount of people see Snowden as a man of the people, releasing top-secret government files that reveal the truth about government actions to the people. On the other hand, the NSA views him as a traitor to the American people because he has the ability to reveal several faults in the safety precautions and procedures that could lead to countless problems for the USA’s safety in the future. Although he can sometimes be titled as a “hero” of the people, Snowden sees himself only as an average American exercising his rights.

The most bothersome clip throughout this segment begins around the 10:15  mark, when John Miller asks the leading general of the Agency of the amount of power and the breadth of knowledge that is contained within the millions of files stolen by Snowden. He admits that there are several files that were taken that could lead to several problems for American security, containing information about the weaknesses in the the country’s defense system and its lack of knowledge regarding other nations around the world, such as China, North Korea, and Russia. Fortunately, those files have not been released to the public but the General understands that their release would cause several problems for homeland security.

Like I stated earlier, I have never been bothered by the way the NSA performs is job, but the chance that a revelation could come in the near future is quite nerve-racking and could lead to several more problems for the NSA and the nation’s defense as a whole. Although some leaders in the NSA would like to bargain or correspond with Snowden in order to receive the lost information, others wish to grant him no mercy and to not let him get away with such a huge incident. Although there has been no deal made between the two parties, I feel like it is safe to assume that the NSA is working to retrieve the files and make the best of the Edward Snowden situation.

The Sunny Side of Knowledge


This picture could be classified as an infographic, but, in my opinion, a diagram is a much simpler name. Although the diagram centers the most around the actual image of the sun, almost all of the information comes from the words and figures surrounding the sun itself. The detail, whether talking about the textures used to represent the surface or the interior, are not the most exquisite. This leads me to believe that this picture could have been used in a textbook oriented around a middle school student level science class because it seems like it is too advanced for an elementary student but not detailed enough for a high school or college level. The black text used for the arrows, symbols, and words seems like the best possible choice, although the placement of some of the words makes them a little difficult to read due to the lack of contrast with the background image. The artist also used arrows that were not rigid and straight, but some of them were curved and even made them squiggly. This technique could have been used to appeal more to the eye but it was most likely used to show directions of motion, maybe even to explain the natural behavior of the heat and light the sun emits. In my opinion it was poor choice for the artist to put the sun on a light blue background. It makes sense because we always see the sun in the blue sky (hopefully that is what he was thinking) but the sun is a massive ball of hydrogen and helium floating in the middle of space, and I therefore it would have been more effective for the background to have been black (and possibly some other stars glimmering in the distance). Other than a few flaws, I feel like this diagram completes its objectives of teaching the viewer more about the nature and physical aspects of the suns by using (for the most part) contrasting text and arrows and a simple model, forcing the audience to focus more on the information at hand than just staring at the picture (which I am sure all of us have been guilty of in some point of our educational career).

Propaganda for the Ministry



Propaganda has been used as a tool in the political world for centuries and continues to be used to share the perspectives and ideas of its creator. The artist first modeled his image after one of the most traditional propaganda images in American history– the Uncle Sam “I Want You” format– allowing the audience to feel more accustomed to the underlying message. However, this drawing is not actually being used to spread a positive attitude, but instead to criticize the United States Department of Homeland Security. Nowadays citizens across the country are consistently paranoid about the NSA as they are about terrorism and therefore can easily capture the attention of any normal passerby. At first glance, almost immediately the poster makes the viewer uncomfortable because it commands him to suppress his 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. It’s unreasonable for any person to not be able to ask a question and/or speak his/her mind and, since the demand is clearly “a message from the Ministry of Homeland Security,” the artist is relating a feeling of irrationality with the Department. The artist is also criticizing the Department for their over-extension into citizens’ lives and accuses those that disagree with them of siding with the terrorists; a claim that is overly radical and unjustifiable. As a last punch, he also labels the Department as a “Ministry,” implying that it only wishes to help and works to better the lives of those it protects. All in all, the political message behind the image was one of criticism and satire towards the Department of Homeland Security while inherently aiming to gain support for the artist’s own perspective.

Strangely Connected

Until now, I’ve never really thought about all the information about myself that I have put on the internet: where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with, and even what my goals in life are. If a random person were to dedicatedly follow all three of my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, they’d have quite a detailed lifelog of the past few years of my life. Yet these social networks aren’t the only services that have kept track of my life. Google has all my history, my favorite places to visit, and where I’ve been and what I’ve searched while I’m at those places. My favorite exercise application Strava tracks where, when, and how fast I walk and run throughout my day. Through all these services I’ve inadvertently created a lifelog of my own, which, at the moment, doesn’t seem too interesting or helpful. But I feel like if I were to sign back in on my accounts in twenty or thirty years, these services would actually be of use to me. I’d have pictures and statuses from this period of my life that I most likely would have forgotten about without these programs. They’ll allow me to more easily reminisce on these years of my life without the struggle of solely using my memory.

In my opinion, I think these technologies help our lives. Yes, in the moment they may be distracting us from homework and also as a kind of popularity contest, but posting these pictures and statuses over time begins a lifelog that can be useful to us in the future where we can learn from our well-documented pasts. Not only will it help us remember the good times in our life, but also learn from the mistakes that we made in order to not recreate them as an adult. And who doesn’t want a picture with hundreds of likes!?