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Scratch That

Scratch is a useful tool for artistic individuals to create their own pieces of work. However, I honestly was not impressed with the quality of the program as portrayed in the video “Intro to Scratch.” The artwork looks like something one can produce with the program Paint, and I feel there are other programs which could develop clearer images. While Scratch has a good concept and many possibilities, I believe there is room for improvement for the project. Even the use of high definition pictures would give a better appearance to the program and would appear more professional.

The video “Intro to Scratch” used to promote the program does not intrigue the audience. There is poor use of advertising and depictions of the program. The video is filled with vague descriptions such as the following: “Scratch is used by all different kinds of people all over the world to make all different kinds of projects.” Not only is that description vague, but it sounds like a third grader wrote it. Using more advanced language would make the program appear more advanced and intriguing.

“I love drawing stuff. I especially liked drawing this picture because it was really fun.” Once again, a third grader could have written that statement. While the program is probably useful for making games, videos, and even presentations, the full extent of its possibilities are not demonstrated in this video. The use of little to no details and basic language leave the audience expecting more. Watching this poorly constructed video has definitely jaded my view of Scratch.

The Importance of Archiving Tragedy

Archives are an important asset to studying history and preserving the past because they provide more concrete samples of information to analyze. I like to think of archives as a physical version of notes, since they are the most legitimate form of original source material. Archiving tragic events of the past, such as the Virginia Tech shooting or September 11th are even more touching because they bring their audience back to these difficult times. However, I think are necessary in allowing for those who were affected to grieve and reflect, while allowing others to study the events and their impact on society. Therefore, they act as a memorial as well as a form of research.

While I was able to appreciate the archives dedicated to the Virginia Tech shooting and Hurricane Katrina, as an American and a New Yorker the September 11th Remembrance archive touched me on a more personal level. I’m from Long Island, New York, about and hour and a half outside of New York City, and I know several people who were directly affected by the attacks that day. For example, watching the interviews of those in Chinatown who were impacted by the attacks for some time after September 11th brought back memories of friends I knew whose families were not the same well after the tragedy. It also demonstrates the immensity of the attacks on the city of New York as a whole, as well as the surrounding area. Looking through the archive takes me back to that day, and I can only imagine what it does for those who were there or have lost loved ones. However, just as it is necessary to analyze tragedies of the past via discussion or readings books, archives serve as a solid source of analysis. They are more helpful in reinforcing the idea that history repeats itself. Through studying events such as these tragedies in a more direct form, future generations will not forget these horrors. Hopefully one day, they will learn to prevent them.

Exploring Through Data Mining

The term “data mining” is an accurate description of the process. It draws a good analogy between mining for coal and searching through data for key information. I personally feel that of the two methods discussed in Cohen’s article “From Babel to Knowledge: Data Mining Large Digital Collections,” the QA H-bot method is a more effective use of searching than using document classification through the syllabus finder. While the QA H-bot method is more challenging, I feel that it provides a more straight foward method of searching for information.

The QA is considered “a far greater challenge than document classification because it exercises almost all of the computational muscles,” according to Cohen. This makes sense, because asking a question requires a more direct a specific approach of data mining. However, I feel that if executed correctly it can be more useful and helpful. The information will be focused towards finding the answer to the question, rather than just information related to the topic. It may be more difficult to find data, but once it is found it will be more specific.

I feel one of the biggest benefits to this approach is that the entire web can be used to answer questions through text analysis and algorithims. The feature also has access to “trusted sources,” which enhances its credibility. While it may be easier to use a document classification approach, the H-bot method provides valuable sources in addition to a large variety of information.

Analyzing the “Point” in Powerpoint

Upon reading the title of Edward Tufte’s article “Powerpoint is Evil,” I was intially taken back. I am not the biggest fan of powerpoint presentations, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “evil.” However, after reading his article, Tufte does make a valid argument as to why they are corrupt and serve as a representation of our consumerist society. He argues that powerpoints contain less information and more glitz, for fear of losing the attention of the audience.

In certain settings, I agree with Tufte. For example, I do believe that less powerpoint presentations should be used for educational purposes. While they are a good tool to demonstrate to students which information is important, they leave out a lot of other information which could help them better understand why they are studying said material. I agree with Tufte’s statement that students would be more informed if “everyone went to the exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.” As a student, I know I learn more when I am required to do research and write a paper, as opposed to memorizing a bunch of information for an exam. In the future, I hope to eventually become a history professor, and I have began to think about the methods I would personally use to teach students. Especially after reading Tufte’s argument, I feel I would stay away from powerpoint presentations. The best teachers I have had (especially in history) have been the ones which tell the information like a story. If told in the right way, this grabs the attention of the students and forces them to listen attentively and take notes. I have learned much more from teachers who use this method than those who use the conventional powerpoints.

When you think about the purpose, or “point,” or powerpoints, it really is to highlight certain information. For this reason, I see how this feature can be effective in business presentations, especially for advertising or marketing. I disagree with the idea of ditching powerpoints all together, because businesses can greatly benefit from using this feature to promote their assets. However, I feel students could learn better through different means which cover more material. Essentially, there is a time and a place for powerpoint presentations. I feel the classroom is not one of them.

A Virtual Diary

Not much changes from day to day. But when you look back on your life after some time has passed, things seem completely different. For this reason, I think it’s cool idea to document your life as time progresses. The Feltron reports are an innovative way of documenting one’s life over the course of a year. I honestly wish I had thought of doing the same thing! It’s a creative and easy way to organize different chapters of your life. I definitely don’t have the time or patience to record events on a daily basis, but by recording small things which strike a cord, you can remember all the important parts of your life over year.

I recently jumped on the bandwagon and joined the “instagram” fad. I realize that it’s just another method of social networking, however I like the simplicity of using pictures as a form of documentation for your experiences. Similar to the Feltron reports, I had the idea of printing out all of the pictures I have taken on instagram over the course of a year and making a collage. While this is a much more simple and less time-consuming task, the idea behind it is similar to Felton’s. For this reason, I truly admire Felton’s work. A lot of time, patience, and attention to detail has gone into compiling these reports, and it’s something that not every person would be willing to complete. I applaud him for the creativity and effort of each report. In particular, I also liked how in the 2009 report Felton had others record their encounters with him. This adds more perspectives to the documentation of his year and gives an interesting twist.

Different Shades of Slavery

Two Different Dimensions

While analyzing the institution of slavery in the United States, it is apparent that its development varied throughout the nation. By focusing on two different communities– one in the North and one in the South– we can get an idea of how its implications were subject to change. The processes behind slavery were relatively universal, however characteristics of different communities changed factors such as living conditions for slaves in each area. By examening the differences between Franklin County, Pennsylvania and Augusta County, Virgina, we are able to see the resulting differences in the process of slavery in these areas. Of all the ways it can differ, I found the methods of information and communition through newspapers to be the most interesting.

Franklin County

Franklin County provided two major newspapers, the Republican Frankline Repository and Transcript, as well as the Democratic Valley Spirit, giving their readers a choice of viewpoints. Due to its location, the county often turned to New York or the Upper South for information. That being said, editors very rarely turned to cities in the Lower South as a source for information. This presents a distinction and a divide in communication. The focus of newspapers distributed in this area was often centered on economic prosperity through agricultural production, and the advertisements were targeted towards basic needs. Slavery did not seem to be a major focal point.

Augusta County

Common among newspapers in Augusta were advertisements for runaway slaves, slave agents, and slave sales. These were not present in newspapers in the North, which presents more of an emphasis on slavery in a Southern community. We can see there is a divide in viewpoints, especially since many papers published in Augusta Country retrieved their information from Richmond. While they did obtain some information from New York, it was probably more convenient to stay in the South.

Distance causes Difference

By studying something as simple as the production of newspapers, we can see how differences between regions can form. I believe that distance was the main factor which contributed to the divide in ideology between the North and South. By recieving their information for newspapers from different regions, different opinions will eventually circulate and stick in certain areas. This can be noted through the inclusion of slave ads in a Southern newspaper, as opposed to a Northern one. I personally feel that an accumulation of details such as these are ultimately what created such a divide in American views towards slavery, and these details were caused by distance and a lack of a unifying force.

The Many Branches of Google

Google is one of the most widely used search engines, to the point that it has become a part of today’s vocabulary. Telling someone to “google it” is common, and one would not think twice after hearing that statement. They simply would visit Google and type in a term, phrase, or question, only to be directed to a plethora of options which could hold the answer. This asset is extremely helpful when doing homework or writing papers; I almost can’t imagine having to perform a research assignment without it.

In addition to Google, several branches of the website have been made to facilitate searches in specific areas. If you look at the top bar of the page slightly under the address bar, you will see various links to other branches of google, such as images, maps, Gmail, documents, and calendar. Google maps, for example, is particularly useful in acting as a GPS. A similar feature also offered through google is Google Earth, which allows the user to physically see a particular address via a satellite. While technology such as this is innovative and useful, it can be considered an infringement of privacy. Both of these features, however, make the process of driving to an unknown location much easier.

In the realm of reasearch, features such as Google documents, Google Scholar, and Google charts all enable the user to easily find sources. They also open the door to using documents which originally only exisited in hard copy. As historians, features such as these are extremely helpful, as it is difficult to find the time and means to obtain hard copies of sources. Looking at these branches of Google, we can appreciate how the website has facilitated many areas of our life. However, I can’t help but notice how the company is expanding and entering more aspects of everyday life. Google plus, for example, is an increasinly popular social network site. Google now has the ability to impact our lives in a useful, scholarly, and social sense. It will be very interesting to watch the progression of this website and its many facilities.

The Vulnerability of Digital Living

Our lives are a lot more convenient with the plethora of ways to digitally store information. E-mails save time, money, and paper, however if there is no hard copy they can be lost. The vulnerability of the digital world mirrors the uncertainty of the future. Technological advances make our lives easier but can also be the cause of great distress, as was the case for Mat Honan, victim of digital hacking. His story can be found here.

The most frustrating part, I feel, about his experience with a 19-year-old hacker was that there was no reason behind the hacking. In the aim conversation Honan had with the “Phobia,” the hacker, Phobia claimed “idk my goal is to get it out there to other people so eventually every1 can over come hackers.” If I were in Honan’s shoes I would find that to be the most frustrating and disappointing aspect of the whole experience. Much of our important information exists digtially, and the fact that a tecnologically-savvy 19-year-old can erase all of it on a whim is unsettling.

Honan claims he is mostly angry with himself for not backing up all of his data- which I completely understand. I would be disappointed in myself too if I had encountered such a situation. But there is something to be said about the security provided by Apple for allowing a hacking such as this to occur. I personally would be equally frusrtated with myself, Apple, “Phobia,” and the fragitility of the digital world. Occurances such as this make me realize I will probably be considered a luddite when I’m older.

Borrowing from the Past

Do Copyright laws matter?

The evolution of The Winstons’ groundbreaking “Amen break,” as discussed in the youtube video, is an ideal example of how at this point in time, very few innovations are actually “new.” Innovations are often built off of other ideas, making it hard and nearly impossible to develop something original. This lack of original material raises the question – do copyright laws make a difference? By studying the adaptations of the Amen break, one can see that, had The Winstons copyrighted this drum loop, the musical adaptations of the future could have drastically changed. However, it is likely that another artist could have developed a similar drum loop. As stated in the video, “Culture is impossible without a rich public domain” (17:38). Copyright laws therefore do not prevent something from entering the public domain, which will then find its way into the culture of a society.

Building off of History

While copyright laws do promote more originality among individual works, people will always find their inspiration from somewhere. Part of what makes our society so liberal is freedom of speech– speech which can evolve from someone else’s words. The words of Stanford Law Professor and Copyright Reform Advocate Lawrence Lessig effectively summarize this idea: “A society free to borrow and build from the past is culturally richer than a controlled one” (15:27). It is therefore crucial to allow individuals to observe and take note of the ideas of others. These observations will allow people to borrow from and build off of an original idea, adapting it into something different. Everything in the present is built off of the past; anything can potentially inspire a new idea.

Validating a Wikipedia Article

For my research topic I have decided to explore how the increase of technology within the past twenty years has promoted globalization. Throughout this discussion I also plan on naming the pros and cons of the globalization process. One of the cons I would like to expand on is the lack of privacy people have in today’s society. A prime example would be google earth. This is an outstanding breakthrough in technology, yet can undoubtedly be considered an invasion of privacy. The wikipedia page for google earth can be found here.

Sources

Much of the sources on this page included pages from different links on the google home page. Since google earth is a component of google, much of the information can be retrieved from google.com. A lot of the sources include statistics, such as this one. Statistics are concrete proof and are a good source of reliability. Other sources include screenshots of google earth as a good example for someone who has never used the website before. Including sources such as these also brings more pros to the picture rather than cons.

Discussion

The discussion concerning this wikipedia page offers different opinions on google earth itself, as well as the wikipedia page. For example, one user feels that google earth should include a “sun path” feature, which would state the sun’s path of travel throughout the day in relation to one’s location. Having this feauture on the page allows people to express their opinions while also taking into account those of other users. This is good and bad for the web page, depending on the opinons of the users.

History

This history section is useful because it gives those interested in the webpage an idea of who is interested in the web page, and what type of discussions are occuring. This is also adds to the validity of the web page by stating when exactly the web page was edited and what changes were made. Having this can assure users that the editing of the web page is legitimate. Having the dates also helps the users and assures them that the page is valid, while also giving them an idea of how up-to-date the information is.