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Nathan’s post on Coke machines got me thinking about food. Food, at least in the fast food sense, seems to be in the commodified imagination realm. It’s main purpose, as stated in its name, is to be fast, convenient, and appetizing enough to want to eat. I think its safe to say fast food has easily achieved each of these goals. As a society, we definitely want fast food to be a part of our lives even though, on the surface at least, it’s just about the most revolting thing around.

In the context of other commodified products, it is easy to call producers out on their shit. Have a [thing] that isn’t working? Take it back. Buy [another thing] that broke immediately? Buy one of their competitors. Affecting change here is comparatively easy compared to other commodified products.

Fast food presents a challenge that, perhaps, can be seen in the digital realm as well. To affect change, however, would mean admitting that we have a problem, that we have an addiction. That we’ve gone all this time eating this terrible food, believing whatever we’d want to believe while scarfing it down. We’d also have to admit to being wrong and not just “different.” This is a lot easier when our physical bodies, our pride, are not on the line and when we can decide that the utility of getting something done is more important than being the one who got it right (imagine if Sony stuck to Betamax or Microsoft to HD DVD).  I think, just as we are addicted to unhealthy food, we are also addicted to social media, video games or the like.

Even the justifications are the same: I have to eat, don’t I? And, I have to get on Facebook to keep up with what’s going around the cohort! But, what other kind of food that is as convenient? And, it’s where all of my notifications are!

It would be interesting to see if there is a framework that could affect change here. More interesting if a digital framework could inform the culinary.

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For the final paper, I am thinking working on Vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Miku is a computer voice synthesizer and a virtual singer. But she has live concerts of her own and people go crazy for her. I am thinking about looking at from the theoretical lens of posthumanism. Namely, how does it challenges humanity when we have a computer signer receiving all the worship we had for our old idols– the ultimate Romantic legacy of individualist expressions? Also, I will be using the semiotic method and look at the phenomenon from the cultural context of the idiosyncratic Japanese Anime culture.

This is a brand new project for me. Do people have any suggestion, resource, idea to share with me? Any idea is welcome!

Today’s class and readings focused on cinematic editing and the directorial voice. I thought this tied into some up-and-coming social media tools.

Vine is an app that allows users to create 6 second videos. The launch post from the company introduces their product as:

 

Posts on Vine are about abbreviation — the shortened form of something larger. They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life. They’re quirky, and we think that’s part of what makes them so special.

We’re also happy to share the news that Vine has been acquired by Twitter. Our companies share similar values and goals; like Twitter, we want to make it easier for people to come together to share and discover what’s happening in the world. We also believe constraint inspires creativity, whether it’s through a 140-character Tweet or a six-second video.

Other sites such as VinePeek (site disclaimer: This stream is coming straight from Vine and is unmoderated. You have been warned”. I have only seen one inappropriate video pop up). Create a stream of these 6-second videos.

With the constraint of only 6 seconds, how do themes and concepts for this weeks reading map to this app and the videos produced? Does the fact that it’s perpetuated by social media change any of that? Have you used this before? How and why did you edit videos the ways you did? I want to hear all about your thoughts on vine!

Seriously, I wasted way too much time on VinePeek the other day. It’s pretty cool.

In the paper Communities of Play and the Global Playground by Pearce and Artemesia, they include the definition of “play” as defined by Johan Huizinga:

 “Johan Huizinga, considered the father of “ludololgy” (a term used to describe the study of digital games), defines play as

a free activity standing quite consciously outside “ordinary” life as being “not serious,” but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly.  It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it.  It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules in an orderly manner.  It promotes the formation of social groupings which tend to surround themselves with secrecy and to stress their difference from the common world by disguise or other means.”

My first reaction is to call b.s. on parts of this definition – especially if it is relating to “play” outside of digital games.  The first part that bothers me is when he states that play is “not serious.”  In theory, play should not be serious, but in many instances – it is serious.  Have you ever been to a bar with intense fans watching a football or basketball game?  Some fans take the game incredibly seriously – granted, they are not “playing” while they watch the game.  Professional sports players are, in fact, playing the game though and take it incredibly seriously.  They are also getting paid money to play – which brings me to my second thought.  Huizinga’s definition states that play is “an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it.”

I realize I’ve just discussed play as it relates to sports rather than digital games, but I don’t know much about digital games – I’ve never played World of War Craft or Dungeons and Dragons, so I’m not quite sure how those games work.  In this paper, the author refers to these games as “Play Communities.”  The author states, “Yet in many other contexts, such ongoing play communities tend to be viewed as outside the norm.”  In my own opinion, the reason why these tend to be viewed as outside the norm is because players take the games so seriously.  Playing a computer game for hours on end and even sometimes being so wrapped up in the virtual world comes off as a little “strange” to people who don’t know much about the game.  People who play sports can’t physically play a game for hours on end (say 10-20 hours) because it’s just not physically possible.  People who play sports are also playing in the real world vs. a virtual world.

One last note I’d like to make is that the article states that “Cosplay, the practice of dressing up in costume, has gained widespread acceptance in Japan.”  With no evidence supporting that statement, I’d be the first person to want to argue that statement.  I think culturally, Japanese people will not outright show their disapproval or true feelings to people’s faces.  I think this can sometimes be mistaken with “acceptance.”  Just because they don’t voice their opinion as loudly doesn’t mean that they accept it.

While going over the readings for this week, there were a few passages in the Reynold’s introduction for The Great Gatsby that really stuck out to me. Although the book takes place in 1922 and this reading in 1993 (guys, that was 20 years ago?!) some of the concepts matched up well with some from HCI and the technological culture of today.

I want to share a few of these with you and my thoughts, just for fun and maybe for some discussion:

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As an active user of Pinterest, I thought it is nothing more than a tool to organize images, which should be gender neutral. However, demographic data shows in 2012, 83% of the US users were women. I was surprised at first but suddenly thought of all those wedding dresses, jewelries I saw during my daily update. And here’s my closer look.

I’m not sure whether female are more of visual creatures than guys, but it’s so easy to hear “oh this is pretty”, “it’s really cute” from a female. They are also enthusiastic shoppers and home decorators: sometimes satisfied by just looking around without buying anything. While guys more often do their shopping with a clear goal and looking more into functionality. It’s also women who tend to care more about whether they look good in photos and check their current “image” from mirrors, just like Cleo. Some study shows as early as four months old, baby girls can distinguish facial features and are able to distinguish between photos of people they know versus strangers. Baby boys are not able to do that. Even a brief look into the default categories Pinterest provides for people’s collection boards, seem to give us some hints: there are 32 categories in total, in a quick tag I did, there are 11 categories which are more “female” such as DIY & crafts, gardening, hair & beauty, while 7 are more “male”, such as cars & motorcycles, geek, science & nature. Female also “wins” on the Popular page of Pinterest, where you may see babies, panda sushis, women’s apparel and cute pancakes.

a screenshot of the popular page on Pinterest

The popular page of Pinterest, accessed on April 16. Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard, where people create “boards” (collections) and put “pins” (images) on it.

In the feminism chapter from the shoe book, Barnard mentioned “Feminism points out that there are gender differences and argues that the gendered position of the understanding subject has a part to play in, and makes a difference to, the understanding of understanding.” To some extent, the user of Pinterest is also creating their understanding of certain words (usually the title of their collection board), e.g. on User A’s board “Spring”, she not only put what people would normally put: flowers, but also pictures of Easter and St. Patrick’s Day, which shows she might be a religious person. The Spring collection might have influence in the following way (1) to other viewers, who has never thought from a holiday or religious perspective about spring, they may have more insights about the season now (2) shape the author’s own understanding of spring by consistent interaction with the board. It’s like the part and whole relationship we covered in previous class: the author’s “horizon” affects what she puts on the board named Spring, and what she put on the board (sometimes may be a random or suddenly inspired choice) will also cast influence on her understandings.

screenshot of a board named spring

A collection named “Spring” (the St.Patrick Day picture is not shown in this screenshot)

When talking about the weakness of feminist is a gender-based approach to understanding visual culture is reductive. I randomly looked into 5 male and 5 female’s collections. There seems to be no big difference in quantity. But very “gender-biased” is the content, even under the same category they might have totally different pictures. For example, under “Travelling”, female users usually have pictures of flowers, landscape, but rarely boats; under “Architectures”, rarely do they post high-tech buildings as some guys do. It does appear to me gender-based understanding is reductive, because the filter of a woman’s eyes might keep the softer, more emotional staff, while the guy’s might retain the harder, more rational things. However, I don’t think it’s a weakness. Actually different individuals, groups, organizations, classes, should have distinct understanding towards the same thing. Feminist might look at the subject from a cultural perspective while scientist are studying the scientific formation or structure. It is such and such reductive understanding that come together to make it more holistic.

a screenshot of a male user's "home home home" board

a screenshot of a female user's "home home home" board

A male user’s (up) and a female user’s (down) collections with the same title “Home Home Home”

Shaowen’s paper pointed out “The interaction design process takes place independent of gender considerations, and even today the central concept of the whole field—the user—remains genderless.” I am curious whether the designers of Pinterest have thought about gender but I will not be surprised that the content of the default categories might have been changed according to what the users are putting up on their boards. If so, then it is a participatory process where the first release of the product can still be counted as part of the design phase. This is similar to the user-centered lane building process where people walk across a big lawn and stepped out a path, then the workers build the lanes accordingly. In that case, if more passers-by are female, the final lane should is more likely to be a female route (if there’s difference btw male and female about path picking).

a picture of the lawn in Stanford

A lawn in Stanford. The walking paths were built according to the people’s walking route on the original lawn (with out any path).

In Shaowen’s paper she also mentioned some qualities of feminist interaction:

Pluralism, which refers to “design artifacts that resist any single, totalizing, or universal point of view”, is well practiced in Pinterest. Though the functions are the same and quite limited, people turn to be creative and everyone’s boards are different.

Advocacy, which encourages designers to “question their own position to assert what an ’improved society’ is and how to achieve it”. I’m not sure if the designers have thought about the “good society” but though what people put up for topics like home, wedding, life, dream, it’s not hard to have a glimpse of at least a small group of people’s image of “good society”.

Self-disclosure, which refers to “the extent to which the software renders visible the ways in which it effects us as subjects”, is carried out by the function that the user can follow the whole collection of a person or a specific board.

I feel just by looking at what each individual has put up there can help me easily create a mood board about gender differences. Those collections cast light on things that women and men like respectively and would probably each be willing to spend effort on. It might face some harsh critique but I think it will be very interesting if we can filter the search result for a certain topic by gender. So far, it’s really hard to pick out males from random users because there are too few…

Csicsery-Ronay talks about the concept of science-fictionality:

“This widespread normalization of what is essentially a style of estrangement and dislocation has stimulated the development of science-fictional habits of mind, so that we no longer treat sf as purely a genre engine producing formulaic events, rather as a kind of awareness we might call science-fictionality, a mode of response that frames and tests experiences as if they were aspects of a work of science fiction.”

I tried to think of a few places in interaction design where the user is called upon to use science-fictionality in their experience with a design. Many video games that require problem solving skills do this, by setting up a set of rules in a reality that doesn’t necessarily mirror ours precisely, and asking us to solve problems by following the alternate reality’s rules. I know there must be other examples, maybe in our day to day life.

<I posted this on my tumblr account, and decided to post it here for a couple of reasons (in addition to just being lazy.) For one, I’m probably ripping this idea off from Jeff and Shaowen and not even realizing it. Other reason, this is a sort of critique of the social context in which we use and view live-action role playing.>

I spent some time today with a student in one of my labs. We talked about an upcoming project in which the student will need to compare a digital and analogue version of some thing in society. He wanted to focus on the RPG “Second Life” for his digital component, but did not know what would appropriately compare to it in analogue.

I introduced him to Live-Action Role Playing, or LARPing, as a comparable social exercise. Found a couple of videos online, such as this gem:

It’s a quick and dirty way to spell out the differences between just living life in analogue and living a second life in analogue, so I used it with the student so he could understand what I was talking about. However, even though we laughed (pretty hard) at this example, it’s important to remember that we’re possibly less removed from this type of behavior than we’ve ever been in the past (facebook, twitter, etc.) The feeling I have is that we have all moved into a era where we deliberately construct an external representation of ourselves which highlights what we choose to highlight, and subdues that which we wish to suppress.

One could say that this is just the same as it’s always been, and I’d be inclined to agree. However, this tendency to exhibit a certain perspective of ourselves has evolved into a representation which is completely physically separate from physical bodies. I believe this separation is significant.

This separate form of ourselves is a living thing. It lives and breathes. It interacts with other beings like it. It speaks its own language (ever try saying LMAO to someone in person?) If this separate form stops functioning, the community moves on without it. It essentially dies, like my myspace profile. There are times when some of us have “friended” or “followed” someone we’ve never met (in “real” life,) and they’ve done it back, in turn. At this point, this is one external representation of ourselves accepting another, and choosing to interact with it. How different is this from “Second Life?”

I personally believe that we are in a stage of era in which external representations of ourselves are not only accepted, but considered a social norm. I believe that while these external representations (avatars) only slightly deviate from what we consider our “real” selves now, they will deviate more as we continue into this era. We will be just as attached to these future representations of ourselves as we are to our current ones.

So as I was saying before: when we laugh at LARPers throwing lightning bolts at ogres, we’re essentially laughing at our own behavior. Which is awesome, as long as we know that’s what we’re doing.

This is a beast of a post (although not as long as some others).  I am attempting to make some sense of my argument for my paper, so I am being thorough in the hope that I can get some good feedback.  Thanks in advance if you read all this. 🙂  Enjoy the journey: Read the rest of this entry »

In class Jeff was talking about how self is defined by the discourse and that there is no “puppeteer” real version of self that exists inside of us.

Wow.

I know Semiotics is not supposed to be looked at like religion and its a tool and it has holes, but I’m loving it. Call bullshit if you want, but think about how that changes everything when we design. I mean look at how we use personnas or scenarios. We build these tools up to work with a given circumstance. The specific ones are typically the ones that help us the most.

My question is about concurrent discourses (think ubiquitous computing or group interaction). Jeff used the example that he acts differently around his mother than other situations. We act a certain way given the context, but what about overlapping contexts. What about when you’re married to a co-worker. Or drinking with a professor. Is this a whole new discourse, or would you consider that a combination of discourses, and if so what changes?

I may be way off here, but before I was only thinking about a single discourse. That makes sense. But when we have a lot going on (as we often do) what does that mean for semiotics?