Digital Studies 101

A common resource for Digital Studies at UMW.

Tag: culture

Cyborgs, Transhumans, and Wearable Technologies

Digital technology is no longer limited to the desktop computer. In fact, we can now wear on or embed digital technologies within bodies. Devices such as  smartwatches to activity trackers to the latest VR headsets are all examples of wearable technologies. Their applications range from health monitoring and modification to entertainment.

Wearable technologies are simultaneously part of the Internet of Things, while also raising questions about what it means to be a human with digital modification or mediation.

 

Goals

  • Learn about cyborgs, transhumanism, and how these terms may or may not intersect with digital wearable technologies
  • Experience wearable technology.
  • Think critically about wearable technologies in regards to data collection and usage impacts.

 

Suggested Readings

 

Suggested Tasks

  • Consider what differences there are, if any, between cyborgs, transhumans, and users of wearable technologies. What term would you apply to yourself and why?
  • What wearable devices do you use? Your friends? How do these devices reflect historical technologies? How do they represent new technology? How do these wearables interact with other technologies you use?
  • Try out a wearable device (Oculus, GoPro, Pokemon Go Plus, FitBit). What do you notice about the wearable: What does it offer? How does it generate and store data (with you or others)? How does it impact your lifestyle?
  • Investigate the history of wearable devices, or perhaps one device in particular.

 

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the increasing number of devices that can connect to the Internet and communicate with each other. While the Internet began as a series of computers connecting to other computers, it expanded to connect smartphones and has continued to connect increasing numbers of devices beyond dedicated computing machinery.The IoT encompasses such connected devices as smart refrigerators, thermostats, lights, interactive speakers, and security systems in our homes, as well as manufacturing robots, automated inventory trackers, and remote sensors, to personal wearables and vehicles.

These devices offer new capabilities and raise new and on-going questions about privacy and security: Who has access to the data these devices generate?  Who should have access? How can these devices offer security benefits to users without risking attacks by unauthorized users?

 

Readings

What is the Internet of Things?

Defining the internet of things – time to focus on the data

8 Ways the Internet of Things Will Change the Way We Live and Work

Five nightmarish attacks that show the risks of IoT security

IoT attacks are getting worse — and no one’s listening

The Strava Heat Map and the End of Secrets

 

Suggested Tasks

  • Take an inventory–or create a map–of all the items that can connect to the Internet in your day
  • Consider what the Internet of Things is now. Describe how it affects daily living, security, and work, among other areas. Consider what the IoT will be like in the future. How might it affect daily living, security, and work, among other areas?

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a digital medium that presents information about users’ surroundings on devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smartglasses. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines AR as both “an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (such as a smartphone camera),” as well as the technology for creating AR.

Although Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have similar names, the two media are generally distinguished from one another based on the user experience. While Virtual Reality creates an immersive reality that replaces the user’s surroundings with digital data, Augmented Reality lets the user see and/or hear digital content about the surrounding environment while still perceiving that environment. Not everyone, however, agrees on how to define Augmented Reality, particularly in comparison with other forms of digital representations.

To determine when to deliver AR content to a user, AR software relies on triggers such as visual targets (or “markers”) and geographical locations. Some AR software require the user to point a device camera at an image marker, then the software displays an “overlay” with the AR content. Location-based AR, such as Pokémon GO, uses a player’s phone or tablet GPS location to determine when and where to display AR content, such as Pokémon and other features.

Although Augmented Reality technology has existed for decades, it has increased in recent years as a result of hardware improvements in cameras and displays, and the rise of mobile technologies, like smartphones and tablets, as well as Global Positioning Satellites. With millions of users, Pokémon Go! is probably the most popular AR app to date. With evolving software and hardware, it’s interesting to consider where AR will go next.

Goals

  • Learn about Augmented Reality as a medium and technology, AR’s uses, and AR’s potential future uses
  • Differentiate between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
  • Experience Augmented Reality by using various AR apps
  • Understand how you might create your own Augmented Reality content
  • Think critically about layered representation of content through AR

Readings

Definitions

Uses

Tools and Resources

Suggested Tasks

Personal Data Tracking

Our phones track our location and habits. Our watches measure our heart rates and how many steps we take. Do we know what happens to that data? How do we measure issues of privacy versus issues of public health and safety? What are thing maybe we would want to track but don’t? And how do we represent that data in meaningful (and even creative) ways?

Goals:

  • Understand data tracking and privacy
  • Think critically about representation and visualization of data
  • Understand your own limits and data tracking habits

Suggested Readings:

Suggested Tasks

  • Track Yourself! Choose one thing to track of the course of a week and then find ways to visualize the data in a meaningful way (see Dear Data Project or Dear (My) Data)
  • Tracking Inventory: Inventory all the apps and sites that track your data and where that data goes
  • Visualize all your data that is collected
  • Learn about limiting data tracking online

 

YouTubing

YouTube.com was founded in 2005 and quickly became a leading force in the surge of so-called “Web 2.0” culture that hit a peak with Time Magazine naming “You” the 2006 person of the year. YouTube has gone on to provide endless memes, cultural references, and launched the careers of an army of “YouTubers”. But how does YouTube keep a constant stream of videos in your feed, deciding what you should see? And what about the ads that are fed to you during those videos?

Suggested Reading

Suggested Tasks

Make Some Videos

  • Parody video mimicking the style of a sub-genre of YouTubers
  • Learn how to set up a channel
  • Try different styles and cliches

Analyze your Youtube Use

  • Experiment with Youtube’s algorithms by creating multiple new accounts and tracking how Youtube’s recommendations shift based on those accounts’ viewing history and demographic profile
  • Monitor and critically examine the algorithms these suggestions, and use screen-capture software to record these in action
  • Monitor and critically examine the ads you receive
  • Find a youtube community based on a hobby, fandom, or other affinity, and create a profile of that community that identifies key influencers, outliers, and events

Memes

A “meme” is a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. But what is it about memes that leads to the level of virality? Why are we so attracted to making and sharing (and sharing and sharing and sharing) memes?

Suggested Readings

Suggested Tasks

  • Make a meme and share it on the UMW memes Facebook or some other context
  • Create a new meme template
  • Analyze a meme, focusing on how it uses visual rhetoric
  • Track a meme’s popularity over time, and analyze its circulation through different communities

Digital Privacy

Privacy is increasingly important in a digital environment, not just because of the risk of what we consciously put online, but because of the digital traces of ourselves we leave without even knowing it.

Goals

  • Understand digital privacy and how to be proactive in protecting yours.

Suggested Readings

Suggested Tasks

Online Hate and Harassment: The Trouble with Trolling

“Don’t Feed the Trolls.” But why? And who gets trolled and why?

Goals:

  • Understand the politics around gender and race regarding being attacked online
  • Protect and defend your digital identity

Suggested Readings:

Suggested Tasks:

  • Track a trolling hashtag using TAGS and analyze those tweets’ textual content
  • Or use NodeXL to analyze relationships among users of a trolling hashtag
  • Investigate how different social media platforms and websites address, limit, or enable trolling
  • Investigate how trolling has evolved with the Internet
  • Practice spotting bots and reporting them
  • 10 Ways to Get Started Fighting Internet Propaganda

 

Working for the Web

We use our phones and our devices for social media purposes, but do we ever think about the work that goes into producing our hardware, coding our software, or supporting the networks that make this all possible? From the mines where the metals are retrieved, to the factories that put the phones together, to all of the likes and shares we do each day, do we know how much of our labor goes into our social media and who does it?

It is often said that on the web, if you’re not paying for it, you are the product. Why is Facebook free? How is Facebook encouraging us to use their platform in ways that support their business model?

Goals:

  • Learn about invisible labor issues around technology, particularly around race and gender
  • Share an awareness to others

Suggested Readings:

Suggested Tasks:

  • Simplified Map My Device
  • I Work for The Web activity
  • Track Your Work on Social Media

 

Black Boxes and Invisible Fences: Understanding Algorithmic Influence

How we experience the web generally, and social media more specifically, is largely mediated through algorithms. Algorithms are computer programs that make thousands of decisions for us every day, but we don’t often critically examine what is happening under the hood of the web to understand what we see and why. In this module, learn more about how algorithms work and what you can do about it.

Goals:

  • Begin to understand algorithmic underpinnings of the web
  • Apply that understanding for your own digital identity and literacy

Suggested Readings:

Suggested Tasks:

 

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