All posts by nishadhirenshah

Relationships Over Time

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Humans will always be interacting with each other in different ways. Man is a social animal and by nature, humans need relationships to be happy and content. I was curious to see how more intimate types of relationships have changed and become more or less prominent over time. For this reason, I decided to search the words “marriage”, “sex”, and “friendship” on Google Ngram to see if there have been any significant changes in the past two hundred years.

It was interesting to see that marriage has stayed relatively consistent, with the exception of a time period around the 1920s. The 20s marked a period of time of independence. It was a time for young people to let go and enjoy themselves. Young women were especially less interested in marriage because of this newfound freedom.

On the other hand, sex and friendship have seen dramatic changes in usage over time. You can see a large and gradual increase in “sex”, but an equivalent decrease in “friendship”. This change reflects how American culture has gone from relatively conservative to very liberal in this sense. Sex has become more and more casual, while less and less importance has been placed on friendship. In this age of social media and smart phones, people more than often converse through chatting and text messaging. This perhaps is weakening the average person’s ability to socially interact with people face-to-face. As a result, people have most likely become more introverted and are less capable of developing and sustaining friendships.


MyFitnessPal: The Datafication of Nutrition

When I was initially choosing my topic, I had it narrowed down to the datafication of nutrition. From there, I initially thought of nutritional apps, but struggled to find a clear direction from there. I had trouble deciding how specific was too specific, so I began my research and decided to let my topic emerge on its own.

For me, the argument came before the topic. As I was doing research, I tried to be open-minded to all sides of the problem at hand – people having difficulty managing their health and diet. Once I decided that I strongly felt the apps were helping people become more healthy, I gained more direction. From there, I saw that there are many different kids of nutritional apps, so it would be best to choose which one I thought was the most effective, and talk about why and how.

When I am presented with information, I like being able to visualize it clearly. Data and information alone can often feel intangible or unimaginable. For this reason, I tried to choose images that put whatever I was saying into perspective. After I was done giving the presentation, I wanted people to be able to go back, see the image, and immediately recall the main concepts I talked about during that slide.

One example is that of the image of one serving of ice cream.

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During this section, I talked about how low calorie counts and percentages on nutrition labels are often deceiving. This image clearly puts what I said into perspective because it allows the audience to relate the portion size to how much ice cream they personally eat. Without this image, they might not have realized how small 1/2 cup actually is because “1/2” can be used to describe something from as small as a cookie to as large as an entire cake.

The image of the shocked girl also puts the text into perspective.

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During this slide, I talked about the benefits of receiving instant feedback. While I spoke, I provided the audience with the proper knowledge needed to know what is going on in the image. Because the audience is provided with some creative freedom, the audience can better understand why immediate feedback is helpful because they themselves make the connection between the feedback and the girl’s expression. They can imagine what she saw, what may have caused her to have that expression, and what she might be feeling.

One of my weaknesses during the in-class presentation had to do with connecting with the audience. I felt more at peace with a script at hand because I knew it helped me articulate myself greatly. Still, if I had memorized it, I may have been able to make more eye-contact and better engage my audience. I found doing so on the web easier because there was less pressure, so I could have a more conversational tone of voice. Over all, I enjoyed the experience and will use this style of presentation in the future.

Classical Music, the Brain, and Education Intertwined


Classical music has not only been listened to but has been widely studied by researchers and scientists across the world. Research suggests classical musical can lead to increased cognitive thinking and therefore foster learning. The research is based on neurological studies and personal accounts assessing the relationship between music and the brain. Studies of the brain, surveys of students, analysis of music, and teacher-student interaction have provided credible information to draw certain conclusions that there is a beneficial correlation between classical music and the learning capabilities of a student. These studies should provide enough evidence to start the implementation of classical music in the classroom.
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Government Secrecy: Bad or Bad?

Greenwald uses a quote from a Washington Post article claiming (in the context of No Place to Hide) that “much of our government’s business [is] so large, so unwieldy, that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work”. By Google searching the quote, I was readily able to locate the original source, an article entitled “A hidden world, growing beyond control”, at the very first link.

In Greenwald’s context, the quote supports the claim that too much government business is “conducted in secret”. In the original source, Greenwald interestingly chose to leave out a few words when he quoted this evidence (found in the first paragraph). The original source says that the government’s business is “so large, so unwieldy, and so secretive”. Greenwald may have done this in order to hide the fact that the quote as a whole is not about government being conducted in secrecy, but it is merely a portion of the claim being made in the original piece. Leaving that part out creates the illusion that the entire quote is about government secrecy. The Washington Post article does not, in fact, talk about individual privacy being an issue whatsoever. It instead focuses on the claim that the government and its individual departments and agencies are growing so much that it is becoming counterproductive. Priest and Arkin, authors of the Post article, claim that this is occurring because the government is too secretive. If it was more transparent, its abundant wastefulness would be exposed, and it could be made more efficient. It does not claim that the NSA is too invasive; it claims that it collects unnecessarily copious amounts information that clog the inlet that useful information comes through. It claims “secrecy within the intelligence world hampers effectiveness”.

The evidence is reliable because its from a credible news source like the Washington Post. The quote is misleading in the Greenwald piece, however, because it leads the reader to believe that the Washington Post supports Greenwald’s claim. This is not necessarily true because the Washington Post never addresses that claim and goes about the issue of government secrecy in an entirely different direction. Therefore, the quote’s reliability is compromised because Greenwald evidently manipulates it to fit his claim, which is not the purpose it was originally intended to serve.

Does Design Really Matter?

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Because most of the text is too small to read, here is a link to the infographic online.

This specific infographic jumped out at me as I was scrolling through Google because of its visual appeal. After visiting the website that posted it, I discovered that it was merely used as an example of how an infographic can present survey data. The infographic says at the top that a company called 99designs had conducted the study and created this graphic. In search of further information, I googled “99designs does design matter study” and then found the original source of data.

The link that I initially came across presented the infographic as just an example of a certain type of infographic. Therefore, the actual data was used in a more shallow manner, just to show that it can make survey data easy to interpret. To provide insight on how insignificant the actual data was, only a portion of the actual infographic was posted on the website. On the original source of data, however, the substance of the data is much more significant. I did some research by visiting the 99designs company website and learned that they specialize in providing graphic designs to small businesses. This infographic was perhaps published to make their product seem more important and essential to other small businesses. It also shows that small businesses are willing to spend more money on this, perhaps to show that “other people are doing it”. Each of the two uses of this infographic serve their purposes, and the infographic is reliable. The survey information displayed comes directly from the 99designs study and is posted on the official 99designs blog. This company is also well-established globally and provides all contact information. In general, one should attempt to trace an infographic back to its original source because context can change meaning. One should also research the affiliated company or organization to see if it is credible. After doing so, a decision can be made.


A Meaningful Life at a Glance



This image was taken from an article posted on a positive living website called “How to Live a Meaningful Life” by Susan K. Minarik. This image is both inspiring and empowering for many reasons. The use of earth, sun, and sky establish authority because they are much greater, more powerful, and more vast than humans. Firstly, the human hands create pathos because they allow the audience to relate to the person in the image. The hands serve many functions. Their position, pointing outward in the sky, resembles wings, which suggests flight. Flying often symbolizes freedom, detachment, and free-spiritedness, while reaching into the sky suggests  striving for success. The hands also seem to be cradling the sun, which suggests that one should be connected to and care for the earth and other people. It could also be argued that the hands are holding the sun in their palms, suggesting power or using the world’s resources, perhaps to make an impact on it. The sun’s brightness could symbolize brilliance and greatness, suggesting that one should emulate those qualities. Lastly, there is a plain open field that stretches into the horizon with nothing else in sight. This could suggest that one can write his or her own destiny because the world is like a blank page.

The article focuses on many of these points, so the image encapsulates the gist of it well, purely through its rhetoric. All of the different factors of the image discussed are all tied into the ideal that they contribute to what a meaningful life consists of. The words on the image give it a clear direction.


Big Data: The Clay of the Universe

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Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor, and Kenneth Cukier. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 7. Print.

Big Data has opened my eyes to the inherent power of data and information. I have always thought of data and information as just numbers or facts – items with no true depth or importance. However, I have come to realize that data is like clay; it will lay idly and remain unimpressive until it is molded into something beautiful. One example is that of our Buzzcards. Data is constantly recorded about which buildings I enter and exit, which dining halls I eat at, and much more. Initially, this information seems unimportant. Who cares if I went to Woodies at 7PM? Datafication involves gathering very large samples of data, however. When data is drawn from every GT student’s Buzzcard, suddenly one can determine which dining hall is the most popular, so that the least popular one can be inspected and improved. One can also determine what time students are generally returning to their dorms, and perhaps campus police can be notified what time they need to be the most alert. Instances such as these shed light on how present datafication is in even everyday life and how it can make people’s lives better.

Although datafication is useful in many ways, I am skeptical about the validity of its usefulness on smaller scales. One such example is social media; I do not feel it is worth allowing these medias to track my every move simply so that I can be provided with relevant advertisements.

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Collecting such an intense amount of data seems to be superfluous as per its use. It is ultimately left up to the individual to decide how much clay he or she would like to add to the pot. Though I feel that datafication is not ideal in every situation, I find it difficult to deny that using data and information in this way as a whole is revolutionary. Understanding “data and how it can be used” will help us understand the world in ways we never have before.


Ted Chiang Video Response

What does the story tell me about my own relationship with technology?

In my video, I focused on talking about whatever I could relate to in my life today. I decided to have an office setting with technology in the background to make me look more credible and knowledgable about the topic. I thought a lot about how I would present myself; thought the text was important, I realized that presentation can make a significant difference after taking a look at the two videos we analyzed in class. If I had more time to complete my video, I would think about filming different sections of it in different settings to enhance the individual effect of each section and transition better. Although a video is much more personal than a blog post and makes it much easier to target the audience emotionally, subtle aspects such as facial expressions and body language can alter the way the audience interprets the text altogether, which makes filming more difficult.