Tag Archives: Information

Your Brain on Data


After Georgia Tech, I plan on attending medical school to become a doctor, preferably a neurosurgeon. I truly enjoy the brain and its features. It always astounds me to see how interconnected the vast regions of the cerebrum can be. This structure is the creation of something absolutely awe-striking and is a testament to our never-ending search for a higher power. It is not a question of who came first, the human or the brain, because humanity is in tandem with the brain. Without our neurological capabilities, civilization itself could have never occurred, and the modernism we live in today would literally never have been considered.
My presentation in class felt rushed in that I had too much to say for specific slides. I rehearsed several times, but the words did not flow as well during the actual presentation. For the recorded version, I tried to eliminate this issue by shaving a sentence or two off of problem slides.
Due to the immensity of this subject, narrowing down my topic was rather difficult, and I still chose a rather broad subject that contributed to the lengthiness of my slide information; however, engaging images that correlated directly to my argument were rather scarce and required some tinkering in order to construe the correct message.
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This image portrayed the separation of left and right hemispheres. I had to monochrome the Spock section of the image because it was originally colorful which clouded the point of true separation of function. Visualizing the split between hemispheres can be redundant, so I incorporated two pictures that require the audience to think and thereby truly grasp the concept.
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The memory card here is almost satirical because during this slide I mention how the brain has infinite long-term storage. It pokes fun at technology by implying that the brain can already do what an SD card can. Technology definitely has its advantages like following directions perfectly every time and predetermined functions that take milliseconds to complete, but the brain still wins out for me due to its origin, organic components, and ability to “produce” consciousness.

There’s More than Meets the Eye

Big Data Inforgraphic

This is a link to the Infographic

        This infographic shows a number of statistics related to the collection and transfer of data on the internet, giving the audience an idea of how massive “The World of Data” really is. This information is presented in such a way that the audience believes the information, instead of questioning the sources of the data. The viewers, including myself, get attached to the point that this infographic is trying to make by honing in on specific facts such as: Google collects 24 Petabytes of data per day, 20 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute, and 2.9 million emails are sent every second, which causes us to trust the information in this random image. However, how can we trust the sources of this information and where do they come from? To find out, we will take a look at the specific piece of data: “Google collects 24 petabytes of data per day.” By analyzing the source of information in this image, we can determine the reliability and value of the infographic itself.

Big Data Infographic

 

The claim that “Google processes 24 petabytes of data per day” must have come from some research or information that Google presented themselves. To find this research, I began by searching the web for “Google’s Data Consumption” (I actually used Bing as a search engine, just in case Google was not willing to freely release this information to the public). I got redirected a couple of times to new websites, but it didn’t take long before I found an article about MapReduce, which is the software Google uses to sort and process their large quantities of data. In this article, a photo was shown comparing the amount of data Google has processed from August 2004 to September 2007. If you look at the numbers for 2007, and add up the amount of input data with the amount of machines used, it does indeed come out to over 20 petabytes.

Google MapReduce Satistics

 

Here’s the link to the magazine

        This article was published in 2008, in the “Communications of the ACM” magazine. “ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, and they deliver resources that advance computing as a science and a profession.” The fact that this source was researched by a reliable Association, reviewed by a publishing company, and published, I believe it establishes itself as highly credible. The original infographic also mentioned MapReduce as one of its sources, therefore I think this Infographic uses reliable information and can be trusted.

ACM’s website is here

Big Data Infographic 2

        This infographic uses the reliable information that “Google collects 24 petabytes of data per day,” and puts it in context to make a strong claim about “How Big the World of Data” really is. This is how most infographics are, therefore the source of information is usually irrelevant, because the strong claims and visual evidence allows the audience to believe and consider the claim being made. However, the sources of information really matter, especially when being made in other contexts, such as a lawsuit against Google, or a scientific study about how information is collected online. Therefore, it’s important to understand the reliability and value of a piece of information by knowing the source. There’s a reason you cite all of your sources in a research paper, or any other academic paper for that matter. It’s not just so you can sound smarter, it proves that your work is credible and your facts come from actual data and is not made up. This infographic may have turned out to be reliable, however not all infographics are. Depending on the context the information is being used in, most infographics should not be trusted without a little bit of background research.

Facebook’s Critical Number: 140.3 Billion

Facebook-infographic-1-billion

Link: http://mashable.com/2012/10/05/the-most-important-facebook-number-140-billion/

Note: I was encountering problems scaling the picture to the screen, so you’ll probably have to go to the link to see the infographic in full size. In addition, this blog post tackles infographics in general.

I’ve found this infographic in several Internet blogs, and in several entries on Imgur and Pinterest, but I dug deep as possible to find the closest to original source from which this image comes. Seeing as how it is a Facebook infographic, and its source (Facebook Newsroom) is pointed out in the bottom left, as the reader I safely assume that these statistics were acquired from Facebook itself, and not just made up; I trust Facebook as being the credited source of the data. However, despite the credit I give to this infographic, it took over an hour of digging through the Web to find a source I felt was authentic, or the most trustworthy. Considering the length of time I spent searching, and the dozens of sources I checked for authenticity, I hold the conviction that infographics are unreliable display cases of information until an original source can be found.

For infographics in general, not just the aforementioned Facebook statistics, I feel they are an effective means of organizing and displaying data, but they themselves cannot quantify an argument; they require a blog poster, a web editor, or some other outside entity to bend the information held within towards a specific argument, goal, objective, or what have you. Furthermore, I lose trust in a website or blog that sporadically uses infographics without citing their source, as the creator/editor of the post may have just carelessly slapped the image into the text to make it more visually appealing, doing little to nothing good for the structure of the post or its argument.

To be blunt, infographics should not be trusted UNTIL a primary source can be identified and drawn upon. Simply finding one on the web and thinking to oneself “Hmm, this looks trustworthy” without bothering to look into the source(s) may prove to majorly mislead the reader.

The Sunny Side of Knowledge

The-Sun-Diagram

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).

The Importance of Googlization

Google is the biggest company that specializes in collecting information, with billions of consumers each year. Using this information, Google creates tools and programs that greatly improve our lives, at least in most people’s perspective. In Siva Vaidhyanathan’s: “The Googlization of Us”, he argues that we should worry more about the information that Google collects from us, because it’s not always what is seems to be. Google takes our private information and can do whatever they please with it, which could cause that information to be exposed dangerously online. In theory, you could stop Google from collecting your information, but that would completely hinder your online experience, which is why Google set it up that way. I agree with Vaidhyanathan, that Google does not necessarily have the right to collect all this private information from people, however just like people adapted to the printing press and the automobile, we will learn to live with this accumulation of information. While we must adapt and accumulate to the “Googlization” of everything, it is becoming more and more important in our lives. In the reading by James Gleick: “The Information”, Gleick gives us a historical representation of the growth and importance of information. However, I believe that he also constantly argues that information is pushing mankind to a new level of thinking and globalization. Gleick states: “We are a half century further along now and can begin to see how vast the scale and how strong the effects of connectedness.” The “information age” that Gleick talks about is allowing humans to connect and grow more rapidly than ever before, and while we are still becoming accustomed to this new age, it will continue to increase and affect our lives every day. “Googliziation” may take away some of our privacy, like Vaidhyanathan argues, however it is also leading the way in the expansion of information, which will push our society to new levels of thinking and innovation.

 

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.

Sources:

http://lifehacker.com/5994380/how-facebook-uses-your-data-to-target-ads-even-offline

How your “Digital Life” will Affect your Future

I’ve provided a lot more information online than I think I have. Every picture, every post, every search, and every video you post is recorded to a database and can be accessed. Over time, you create a “digital life log” of yourself, which contains a history of your interactions online. This life log can be harmful if it falls into the wrong hands, however it can also have a positive effect on ones life. The ability to look back on your previous actions can provide an incentive to change and improve your life.

Facebook Timeline

(Facebook‘s Timeline)

An example of a common digital life log is Facebook’s new timeline feature, which allows users to look back to certain dates and see what they’ve posted.  This timeline creates a life log of pictures, status updates, and events that are specific to that user’s life. I have posts on my Facebook that date back to 2008.  I can look back on these posts and see how I was acting or what I was doing on certain days. Just by looking at my Facebook, I can see how much I’ve changed over the past couple of years. By looking back on how dumb I was in middle school, I can see how much I’ve matured since then.

I also enjoy being able to look back on all the great memories I have from high school on Facebook’s timeline. You can relive moments, and interact with friends and family who shared those moments with you. Researchers at UC San Diego and the University of Warwick found that Facebook updates are one and a half times more memorable than reading a book, and two and a half times more memorable than faces. This shows that Facebook users remember a lot of their posts and interactions on the timeline, which enhances their memory in the future. So instead of just looking back on updates and moments, Facebook is actually helping me to remember those great moments.

Digital life logs such as Facebook are becoming a reality in our everyday lives. These life logs help individuals gain a better understanding of their lives and even remember the moments they cherish. People should realize how valuable these technologies are in our lives, and use them to interact and grow.

 

Resources

https://www.facebook.com

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3757-facebook-effect-memory.html

“THE INFORMATION” Reading Response

“And a year after that—still a full decade before most people heard the word—a Swedish computer scientist named Jacob Palme at the QZ Computer Center in Stockholm issued a prescient warning—as simple, accurate, and thorough as any that followed in the next decades. Palme began: ‘Electronic mail system can, if used by many people, cause severe information overload problems. The cause of this problem is that it is so easy to send a message to a large number of people, and that systems are often designed to give the sender too much control of the communication process and the receiver too little control…. People get too many messages, which they do not have time to read. This also means that the really important messages are difficult to find in a large flow of less important messages. In the future, when we get larger and larger message systems, and these systems get more and more interconnected, this will be a problem for almost all users of these systems.’ He had statistics from his local network: the average message took 2 minutes, 36 seconds to write and just 28 seconds to read. Which would have been fine, except that people could so easily send many copies of the same message” (Gleick 404)

Gleick describes email as one of the electronic tools in which we use to learn information but at the same time email provides us with almost too much information. As Palme said, email can cause severe information overload problems. In an age where information is so easily obtained, email is just one of the many things that can distract us from our daily lives. Other than that, email is just one of those things that can be taken for granted nowadays. We get so many emails that we mark most of them as spam to disregard all types of information, either for better or for worse. Just as how Gleick compared a piece of filed information to a shelved book, an email is just a personal electronic memo that we choose to file, store, and possibly delete without any second thought.

What was especially interesting to me was that this was all predicted by Palme in the 80’s when most of the general public had not even heard of the word “email” or “electronic mail” and had absolutely no sense of what the implications of having such a system may be. Nevertheless, Palme’s predictions still hold true today as we receive useless “spam” mail from countless sites by the hour, all filtered in some fashion by various digital algorithms. Filtering information out until the perfect balance is achieved is an ongoing challenge and remains crucial to proper information delivery. Without filtering, we may either miss out on key memos or experience “information overload” which has been proven to be ultimately inefficient to the end user. In our modern daily lives, information is so easily accessible that it all must be properly filtered to optimize our productivity and our livelihood.