As I was doing my reading for tomorrow's Method's in HCI class, I realized that I've never quite been able to figure out the translation of local culture to online culture. I understand that the internet connects the world and gives us memes and makes us all feel like we're part of one big thing. I understand that we're concerned about national/global movements and behaviors. I just can't shake the suspicion that we're missing something if we don't start asking more about how where we're from and who we spend our time with IRL affects the way we use social media.
Are there pocket communities that go against the grain? Are regional stereotypes upheld on the internet? Do they manifest in the obvious ways (the content we share) or in internet specific ways (the amount we share, the kinds of Facebook stickers we use, the ratio of leet speak to grammatically correct English)? How do different communities react to posts? Does it all depend on the person or on the community?
I acknowledge that I haven't done extensive work to investigate these questions. I hope to readdress this topic sometime when I'm not scrambling towards an Iron Blog deadline. I just feel flooded with knowledge about the ways that our internet likes and sharing and language connects us back to our real world selves, but what of our community? I guess what I'm trying to say is... I didn't hear about Pizza Rat until last week, and that seems really unfair. Is it because I'm not from New York? Is it because I usually hate rats? Shouldn't my love of pizza counter balance that? What's the deal?
School has started! This week I began my second year as a graduate student, so hopefully my last year taking classes. One of them I’m especially excited about is taught by GroupLens Professor Loren Terveen and will be all about research methods in HCI. I’m looking forward to this opportunity for me to both learn a lot as a young researcher, but also, take some time to reinforce the lessons I’ve learned already over the last year. Anyway, the class meetings will be primarily seminar style, and on Wednesday I’ll be leading a discussion on a paper by Mor Naaman, Jeffery Boase, and Chi-Hui Lai called Is it Really About Me? Message Content in Social Awareness Streams. So I figure the best way to talk about this post will be to practice in my blog.
This study examined 350 Twitter users to learn more about the social awareness streams. Social awareness streams are defined as content feeds with brief posts that are generally from a personal account to a well articulated and connected public space. While they acknowledge that the social awareness streams on social networks like Facebook and Twitter are often evaluated as Micro-blogs, this perspective forgets the important details that make the shared content more than just shorter blogs. The researchers did a lot of work hand coding tweets and user information all to find out, that (surprise, surprise) people talk about themselves on Twitter. However, they also found that there is a small set of users that use Twitter in an informative and conversational style, that gains a lot of followers. This paper was released in 2010, so I suppose I'll need to do some digging to figure out what has become of this knowledge since the work was published.
I’m looking forward to discussing this paper with my class next week, and learning what my classmates have to say about it. There are a few questions I’m especially hoping will be fun to talk about. Do we think the conclusions of the paper would translate to Facebook? How would we compare the users studied to those that keep their profiles private? Do others believe in the idea of “social awareness streams” as characterized by the paper, or is this just a long way to say “Twitter?” How does Vine or Instagram relate to any of this?
Mostly though, this paper makes me think of the ever sarcastic @ProBirdRights' great post-
During my undergrad at Luther College, I was a Resident Assistant for 3 years in a building specifically for first year students. This has defined the way that I feel about back to school time. Everybody who’s been to college remembers moving up the first time, but it’s the Resident Assistants there that relive it every fall, like some drawn out version of Groundhog Day. Then last year I got the experience of being a first year student again. Even though grad school is very different, it still kind of felt like something I had been preparing for, after watching first year students year after year. I was ready to be a rookie. Ready to embrace my n00bie image. Ready to say with pride, “I don’t know where that building is.”
Now that school is about to start again, I’m reminded of this feeling. As students slowly return I’ve noticed the energy pick back up around campus, but it isn’t my energy anymore. I look forward to growing into my big-girl-research-shoes this year and the years to come, but I wonder where I’ll find that feeling of anticipation now. I’m lucky to be starting and continuing exciting research this fall, so I suppose I don't have anything to worry about. This year will still be different from the last, and I will find new things to try for the first time. This year will probably be the first year for something (this blog at the very least), and I will be so ready to look like a fool as I grow with each new project. I will improve at finding fresh moments in daily and weekly life. I will rediscover what builds my anticipation. I will learn to like adulthood, and maybe someday I'll even be good at it.
The paper of the week is “FugaciousFilm: Exploring Attentive Interaction with Ephemeral Material” by Hyosun Kwon and six other collaborators (published at CHI 2015). This paper surprised me when it came up in Google Scholar digging about ephemeral media, and I thought it would make for a fun blog post. FugaciousFilm (pronounced - fyo͞oˈɡāSHəs and meaning “fleeting” to save you from opening up another tab) is a soap film based touch display (think of the bubble solution in the circle opening of the wand before you blow bubbles). As it says in the first paragraph of the Intro, the intention was to “investigate how ephemerality can be deliberately harnessed to encourage a heightened state of close attention involving suspense, tension, anticipation and excitement.” In other words, they're using a modified bubble to explore the fact that bubbles are fun and that bubbles can easily pop. These two facts can combine to make technology that is more exciting and that holds our attention. The scientists set up a display with interchangeable frames (for different activities like tic-tac-toe or a general phone-sized screen) with a projector and Leap Motion device. The soap mixture had to be fine-tuned to be projected on and to enable people to not just pop but touch, pull and push the screen. These affordances added a layer of excitement as participants competed in a tic-tac-toe tournament. Players in the tournament would have to play with the tension of the film by physically pulling and pushing it with their fingers. If none of this makes any sense, still, I have the video from the study included below.
The energy in the participant quotations was infectious, and made me think about intention and innovation. I could imagine others looking to study ephemeral work with the lens of replicating Snapchat and focusing on that sort of industry standard. Experimental programs might explicitly have a counter and data that will delete itself, but there is something organic or back-to-basics about using a delicate soap-film screen to bring a user to the present. Experimenting with bubble displays seems about as ingenious as it does foolish, which I think is a wonderful way to stay adventurous in what is stereotyped as a stingy world of Computer Science. It was fun to poke around this paper just to look at the creativity, but I also get excited thinking about the potential for applications to children’s interfaces, meditation, and slow computing. This paper made for some really fun day dreams, and I’m glad I got to share it with you.
Is Sarah cheating on her blog already? ... Maybe. but last week I accidentally posted an old draft of my blog without realizing what was going on. I kept yelling at people to read my whole post because coming up through the editor, I saw my final draft, with no indication that something else was the live post. Anyway, now I'm going to mess with this entry to better understand and also I'll leave it up in case anybody wondered why my last post seemed so... cliff hangery.
What you should see below is a picture of my sister's cat (he's exactly as fluffy and awesome as he looks). I'm going to post this and then add a picture of a dog and then see what I have to do to have both pictures up. When you see two pictures, the test will be over.
Ta-dah! I guess it's just a matter of vigilance and pressing the update button. Anyway, I had fun messing with design options. Also I'm just going to write my blog drafts in Google Docs/MS Office from here on out. ... Probably. Anyway...
This summer I started up a writing group. My advisor suggested I make opportunities for myself to practice writing. Like other pack animals, the best way for me to make a habit for myself is to be responsible for other people making that habit, so that's what I did. I bought a book with exercises to become a better academic writer and started meeting once a week with other GroupLens students. The book I got was full of great suggestions, but the main one was to... just write more, and often. ...Ugh, how could the author do that to us? Why can't I just perform a sacrifice and magically become a better human? Why can't I go to Starbucks, order something with caffeine levels that make the baristas cringe, lock myself in a room, and wait until I think of the perfect things to say and turn into the smartest, most interesting person that thinks in essays? Whatever. The end of the story is now I have to blog and I'm gonna say dumb things and nobody's gonna read. ...Waait. If nobody reads my posts then it won't even matter when I say the wrong thing. ...This will do.
Onward, friends, onward.