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Assignment 2: BrainStream

For our group project, we created a product called BrainStream, which was meant to take your thoughts and post them to the social media platform of your choosing.  We chose to focus on tweets and being able to tweet your thoughts to a twitter account.

My input for the project was the video.  We recorded the shots during our class time and I then took them to final cut pro to edit them together and put in the voice over, spoken by yours truly, and the music in the background.  It was a really fun process.  To figure out exactly how we wanted to go about displaying this product, we turned to kickstarter to see how some other people went about advertising their products that they were looking to get funded.  That definitely helped a lot with how we wanted to display the BrainStream prototype.  After cutting the video together in final cut, I then took it into after effects to finish off some final touches, adding some tweets from the BrainStream twitter account as if to show what these users were thinking.  I think it came out really well and really showed what the product was intended to do with a cute ‘kickstarter’ theme and feeling.  The final video is up on my vimeo here:

BrainStream from Alex Zahn on Vimeo.

Siera came up with the final design for the prototype, which we decided to keep it very simple and elegant, an elastic headband, to keep simplicity and for style purposes.  It is discrete enough to wear on a daily basis and just enough to stand out and make it pleasing to wear.

We ended up having a blast putting this all together.  Anthony created a wonderful talk to tweet program using processing, which turned out lovely and very functional.

All in all this project was a success.  We all had a really good time putting it all together and being able to collaborate with these amazing, hardworking, and talented people with so many ideas was so fluid.  All our ideas seemed to mesh together really well and we ended up creating something even I didn’t know could be accomplished in a group.

Assignment 2 Brief

What ideas, themes, or issues do you want to address?  What is the purpose or intention of your project?

The original idea for the assignment was to focus on how much we think about social media outside of using social media, for example talking about what you posted on Facebook or twitter.  I wanted to bring awareness to the fact that a lot of everyones every day conversations include discussions about their activity on social media.  It started as an idea of a think or a talk to tweet mechanism that just expanded from there when we started working in groups.

Who is it targeted at?

I would say it is targeted at over users of social media platforms, and basically just marketing it as a ‘new toy’ for people to have will get people spending money on it.

How will it work?

Basically, you just think about what you want to be tweeting, posting, whatever-ing to whatever social media platform you want to talk to.  What made it fun was that even unintentional thoughts will end up being posted by people if they were just thinking about it and that would eventually end up showing too much of peoples lives making them aware of their actions. 

How will you make it?  What materials do you need to get?

Unfortunately, there are no current technologies available for us to acquire to make a thought to tweet program.  However, we will be creating a talk to tweet program and incorporating as much as we can ideally into the concept of our prototype aimed at thought to tweet.

How does your idea relate to what you have learned so far in Social Software?

Basically it is just bringing to light what we as social beings use these social networking platforms for.  People use these platforms in all different ways and it would be really interesting to accidentally see what people are thinking about when they are just arbitrarily just thinking about social media.  It could be a very dangerous tool, but it could also be a very interesting and thought provoking project. 

What additional research do you need to do?

We are going to have to do research on some of the different programming API’s as well as Twitter’s to make sure we are making this project work as effectively as possible.

Exercise 2: The Physical Post

For this exercise I decided to take the idea of texting and messaging and turn it into an experimental physical posting exercise.  Rather than sending texts or messages to people I took post-its and wrote messages and posted them in places for these people to see them.

My original idea was to write letters to people physically and just delivering them in person as a form of physical texting, but I realized I did not have that much to say to people.  I tried all different size lines and paper types and nothing seemed right.  So I had to figure out a way to modify it so that it could be visually appealing as well as functional for the purpose I needed it for.

I decided to go with post-its mostly because of the functionality of them and because they are just the right size to send a small message on.  Functionally, they were perfect for what I was trying to do and it kind of helped shape my experiment even more.  The functionality of them is even in the name: “Post-its” because you are posting a little message for yourself or others, and it worked well for this because I was able to shape this exercise to bring awareness to the messages we send and how private they actually are.  Though there is a difference between posting something per say on Facebook rather than messaging them, but the idea that we spend so much time posting anything publicly like we do is a very interesting concept in the animal kingdom because it can turn something purely informational into a competition.

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As you can see these notes worked pretty well, though they were only a one way street, I was not able to incorporate a response mechanism for them but some of them I was able to leave without a response and, breaking the use of this communication method even more, someone I left a message for me responded over Facebook, and without even taking a second to think about it, I responded to him via Facebook as well.  That just goes to show how normal it is for people to just conveniently be able to communicate with one another.


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Assignment 3: WeedFeed

For my bot I decided to make a collection of sorts of as many articles and posts on the internet about Medical Marijuana.  I started with multiple recipes from IFTTT to find, collect and archive articles on multiple news websites.  I created an account on a website called Instapaper which allows me to save articles I find on the internet to read at a later date.

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From that I made a bunch of different recipes to do all sorts of different things with that service.  Some of these connected and and saved articles using the keyword ‘medical marijuana’ as a search query:

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After I got that set up I was able to figure out how to get some of these websites to post directly to twitter rather than going through Instapaper.  And with that I was finally making some ground and was able to get this bot going!

I decided to branch out a little bit from my original idea and I went as far as to connect to SoundCloud, Instagram, Ebay, and Etsy and find people posting with the keywords ‘medical marijuana’ and post a tweet about those things up to this twitter account.

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I was also able to look on twitter itself and retweet posts that had the hashtag #medicalmarijuana.  I couldn’t really find a way to constrict the amount of times it would post to this twitter account through just that so it posts a lot, but so far it hasn’t gone over the limit of how many times I can tweet in a day so that is pretty good.

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So far, in the 8 or so hours the bot has been functional it has tweeted 474 times, I followed 108 people, (I am hoping to figure out how to add the followbot javascript ability to it as well), and it gained a surprising 20 followers! Hopefully this bot stays operational and it gains speed and followers in the days/weeks/months to come. I will definitely be checking up on it now and again. It will definitely be informing me as much as it would other people.

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The Tale of the Successful Week Without Google

Yes, I made it a week without Google and it really wasn’t hard at all.  Here was how I did it so I made no mistakes:

Youtube – Didn’t partake in short funny videos, just stuck to Netflix that week. Whatever, still wasn’t bored.

Chrome – On a regular basis I use both Safari and Chrome interchangeably, so for a week I just used Safari, and for weeks after I kept just using Safari.  I feel there are some sites that run better on Safari and others on Chrome, so that really didn’t make too much of a difference in my life.

Search – Changed the automatic search on my computer AND phone from Google to DuckDuckGo, which I really didn’t like too much but it was only for a week.

Maps – deleted the app on my phone and when I needed to use a map I unfortunately had to use apple maps but fortunately I don’t usually have that many important places to go to seeing that I live on campus and pretty much everything I need is either here or I know how to get to them.

Docs – Just used pages for the week.  Not a big deal.

Gmail – I only really use my Purchase email account anyway on a daily basis so even though I have a personal Gmail account it didn’t really affect me in any good or bad way.

I don’t really use anything else Google owns.

When other people used Google things around me – I just looked away.  I would ask my friends to try to refrain from using it in front of me but obviously I can’t control other people, so I just would not partake in them using it.

Yes, I depend on Google for some things and I do sometimes prefer to use Google services over others, but I feel that even if Google were to totally blow up and shut down I would really still be okay.  It is convenient but definitely not necessary.

Exercise 3 – Interview with Scott Pilgrim

For this exercise decided to interview the fictional character Scott Pilgrim, who is the main character of a graphic novel book series written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, which from that a movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and a video game, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, have been created since.  He is just your average slacker who falls in love with the “wrong” girl and to date her he must defeat her seven evil exes.  O’Malley created his own real time world in a video game like world.  Here are some screenshots of the interview:

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From this interview, I created some fictional circumstances to use an IFTTT recipe, but was unable to actually accomplish them.  They were as follows:

  • IF: Ramona gets a new boyfriend ~ THEN: The League gets an email.
  • IF: The League reassembles ~ THEN: The last boyfriend gets an invite to the league


Exercise 1 (Assignment 1)

For this experiment, I decided to go to public places and pretend to cry.  This created a stirring of reactions from people.  Some stared in concern and other walked past just trying to ignore me.  I attempted to take a video recording of it but I couldn’t capture it well, so I will do my best to describe my experience.

One example was going into a Starbucks and started to cry.  Just small tears at first but eventually escalated to covering my face and trying to not loudly sob.  Most people just looked at me, probably wondering why I was sitting crying in public.  Others would casually look the other direction.  A few people asked if I was okay, which I responded saying I was fine and not to worry about it, and we both moved on with our day.

The next place I went was a bathroom.  I started by looking in the mirror and wiping tears off my face.  I did this for a little while.  No one really approached me.  In this setting, most people did ask me if I was okay and I responded with the same thing that I was fine.  Though instead of just moving on, in the bathroom setting more people showed a lot more sympathy toward me, asking follow up questions to make sure I was really okay.  It was a pretty different experience overall.

The next one I did was not a place but I walked around campus crying to myself.  I was crying obviously enough to bring attention to myself.  Pretty much everyone looked away.  There was maybe one person (who is a friend of mine) who stopped me to ask if I was okay.  While walking outside most people are walking because they have some place to be, and because it is cold no one is really looking to stop and have a little chat with a stranger they don’t know.  It was a very different experience than the other two places I went to.

All in all this experiment for me was enlightening for me because it showed that social interactions with strangers is challenging when just approaching someone, but throwing a curve ball at them is just as challenging if not more.  It also made me more aware of my surroundings by bringing to light the struggles in social interactions that people have every day, not just during a breach.  It definitely showed that people breach social rules every day without even knowing it.