Data Visualizing Westworld

This should be really fun for fans of the popular HBO series, Westworld, especially if you’re also a bit of a data wrangler.  Folks at Mode gather theories about characters and plot, turn them into data visualizations and display them at WESTWORLD IN DATA.  They also extract data from the shows themselves with findings, for instance, on which characters/genders speak the most.


Read more about the this project here, where they invite us to tune in weekly:

“We’ll be updating Westworld in Data with data from the most recent episode every Monday evening, so be sure to bookmark the site and check back. We’ll also be doing more Westworld analyses as the season progresses. Sign up for our weekly newsletter to keep up with our data adventures.”

Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet


Olga Goriunova gave a stunning presentation a few weeks ago at the PARGC 2016 Symposium, Convergence and Disjuncture in Global Digital Culture. It was called Idiot, Lurker, Troll: Conceptual Personae in Digital Media and it got me looking up her work. Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet (2012) does not disappoint. In it Goriunova provides a new way of looking at how cultural forms on the Internet are developed. To this end she deploys the concept of “art platforms” which does a lot of heaving lifting throughout the book. I’ve pulled a few excerpts from the Introduction that tease out what she means by it. This book is part of the  Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies which has a lot of other great titles though, sadly, they all have the same cover designs (less work for artists).

from INTRODUCTION: Departing from an Art Platform

“…Everyday digital objects, gestures, and the assemblages, such as file uploads and downloads, form filling, data handling, searches and postings, protocols, scripts, software structures, and modification parameters are all plugged in to contemporary aesthetics and coconstruct the ways in which the individual, cultural, and social spheres are produced, organized, and disrupted. Art platforms both conform to and are part of this overall development, but they also stand out from it in very striking ways.

…an art platform can be a stand-alone website that, together with other actors, forms an ecology of aesthetic production, but might also take place as a subconnection of a large platform, or even as a space between a corporate service, artists’ work, hacking, collaborative engagement, and a moment of aesthetic fecundity. An art platform engages with a specific current of technosocial creative practices and aims at the amplification of its aesthetic force.

…As a process of emergence, an art platform is an assemblage of structures, notes, codes, ideas, emails, decisions, projects, databases, excitement, humour, mundane work, and conflict. Here an art platform is best understood through the metaphor of a railway platform, as an element that unfolds in its arriving and departing trains, in tracks that cover vast spaces, in the forests those rails run through and the lakes they pass by, in the hills and sunsets forming the landscape, in the rain on the train’s window, in the mechanics of an engine, logistics of rolling stock, semaphores, encounters, but it is a resonance, a movement, an operation. The capillaries of aesthetic emergence in art platforms draw from the technical materiality of networks, databases, and software; from grass-roots, folklore creativity; from forces of repetition and sociality; from conflictual border zones and disjuctures between normality, capitalism, politics, quotidian labour and despair, escape, and creation.”  –pp. 1, 2, 3

February CommQuote

cliveMathew Ryan Smith in afterimage: THE JOURNAL OF MEDIA ARTS AND CULTURAL CRITICISM (Volume 45, Number 3) interviews Toronto-based artist Clive Holden, who creates digital paintings, web works, and videos by “combining new digital technologies with lo-fi analog formats.”  His latest project called Internet Mountains is ongoing (2014-present). In it he incorporates found digital objects from the World Wide Web with moving imagery to create surreal landscapes.  Here is a snippet from the issue’s feature piece, Climbing ‘Internet Mountains’: A Conversation with Clive Holden.” (pp. 8-9)

MRS: The video work INTERNET MOUNTAINS Video 3 (2015) is set against an opened book representing a mountainscape with a small cabin in the foreground. Rose-colored orbs, white sunspots, and blue arrows sometimes pulsate and at other times dart across the visual field. Can you talk about the relationship between these forms and the found imagery in your video works?

 CH: That video shares a photo background with my digital painting INTERNET MOUNTAINS #18 (2014) – a scan of an open book from an online archive. The strong vertical of the book’s spine is important to both works, along with the reflected scanner shine. These show the nature of the book as an object, and the moment the new image was born during the scanner’s process. Both echo and subvert the strong illusion of depth in the original photo.  This illusion is extended by the graphic illustration objects that float throughout the skybox’s described 3-D space. The original photo is from the Rockies in Montana and visiting there at the time would have been a rare experience. Adding the digital graphic objects helps to highlight the strange beauty of that original landscape.

 MRS: These works have a surrealistic quality to them. They’re both here and otherworldly. Do you see these as surrealistic or is it something else entirely?

 CH: The protest and humor at the heart of Dada and surrealism still shows up in the dichotomy between the commodification of conservative art processes, and the always shifting forms that are striving to maintain artistic independence. A dichotomy at work in INTERNET MOUNTAINS also lies between the conservative nature of landscape art and the changing sight of digital, geometric forms engaging in mock battle. I’m glad you’ve used the term “otherworldly,” because while making INTERNET MOUNTAINS Video 3 I found myself adding multiple suns to the sky one day, and that term popped up. I did know that multiple suns was a science fiction trope. But I read recently that it’s been proven to be nonfictional – in fact, it might be more common than our single-sun solar system.

Local News Ecosystems in Three New Jersey Communities

njnewsA new report, Assessing the Health of Local Journalism Ecosystems: A Comparative Analysis of Three New Jersey Communities, prepared for the Democracy Fund, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, analyzes one week of online journalism output across three communities–Newark, New Brunswick, and Morristown. The researchers, Philip M. Napoli, Sarah Stonbely, Kathleen McCollough, and Bryce Renninger looked at both the home page content and social media (Facebook and Twitter) postings for all television, radio, print, and online journalism sources that could be located within these communities. Their findings “potentially point to a problem in local journalism, in which lower-income communities may be underserved relative to wealthier communities. The researchers intend to address this issue further by applying the methodology and performance metrics developed for this project to a larger sample of communities, an effort to better understand the factors related to the health of local journalism.”


The State of Broadband 2015

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Digital Development (launched by the ITU and UNESCO in 2010) has just released its The State of Broadband 2015. state_of_broadband_2015_chart

For anyone interested in global internet access and technology development issues, there is good cross-cultural, comparative data in this report.

“A large body of evidence has now been amassed that affordable and effective broadband connectivity is a vital enabler of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. Although global mobile cellular subscriptions will exceed 7 billion in 2015 (with nearly half of these subscriptions for mobile broadband), growth in mobile cellular subscriptions has slowed markedly. The total number of unique mobile subscribers is between 3.7-5 billion people (according to different sources), with some observers interpreting this as an indication that the digital divide may soon be bridged.

However, the digital divide is proving stubbornly persistent in terms of access to broadband Internet, including the challenge of extending last-mile access to infrastructure to remote and rural communities. According to ITU’s latest data, 43% of the world’s population is now online with some form of regular access to the Internet. This leaves 57% or some 4.2 billion of the world’s people who still do not enjoy regular access to the Internet. In the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), only one out of every ten people is online. The gender digital divide is also proving incredibly difficult to overcome, reflecting broader social gender inequalities.” –From the Introduction

January CommQuote

The Cobweb: Can the Internet Be Archived? by Jill Lepore writing in the The New Yorker (January 26, Annals of Technology series) is a fascinating and worrying must-reading for anyone whose research involves the internet; that’s a big group. It’s also mandatory reading for anyone who reads and quotes the internet, an even bigger group.  

“The Web dwells in a never-ending present. It is—elementally—ethereal, ephemeral, unstable, and unreliable. Sometimes when you try to visit a Web page what you see is an error message: “Page Not Found.” This is known as “link rot,” and it’s a drag, but it’s better than the alternative. More often, you see an updated Web page; most likely the original has been overwritten. (To overwrite, in computing, means to destroy old data by storing new data in their place; overwriting is an artifact of an era when computer storage was very expensive.) Or maybe the page has been moved and something else is where it used to be. This is known as “content drift,” and it’s more pernicious than an error message, because it’s impossible to tell that what you’re seeing isn’t what you went to look for: the overwriting, erasure, or moving of the original is invisible. For the law and for the courts, link rot and content drift, which are collectively known as “reference rot,” have been disastrous. In providing evidence, legal scholars, lawyers, and judges often cite Web pages in their footnotes; they expect that evidence to remain where they found it as their proof, the way that evidence on paper—in court records and books and law journals—remains where they found it, in libraries and courthouses. But a 2013 survey of law- and policy-related publications found that, at the end of six years, nearly fifty per cent of the URLs cited in those publications no longer worked. According to a 2014 study conducted at Harvard Law School, “more than 70% of the URLs within the Harvard Law Review and other journals, and 50% of the URLs within United States Supreme Court opinions, do not link to the originally cited information.” The overwriting, drifting, and rotting of the Web is no less catastrophic for engineers, scientists, and doctors. Last month, a team of digital library researchers based at Los Alamos National Laboratory reported the results of an exacting study of three and a half million scholarly articles published in science, technology, and medical journals between 1997 and 2012: one in five links provided in the notes suffers from reference rot. It’s like trying to stand on quicksand.

The footnote, a landmark in the history of civilization, took centuries to invent and to spread. It has taken mere years nearly to destroy. A footnote used to say, “Here is how I know this and where I found it.” A footnote that’s a link says, “Here is what I used to know and where I once found it, but chances are it’s not there anymore.” It doesn’t matter whether footnotes are your stock-in-trade. Everybody’s in a pinch. Citing a Web page as the source for something you know—using a URL as evidence—is ubiquitous. Many people find themselves doing it three or four times before breakfast and five times more before lunch. What happens when your evidence vanishes by dinnertime?”


Meme Database

If you’re interested in internet meme culture—how images, websites, links, video, words, catchphrases, and hasthtags circulate the web to a viral extent— your research will likely include some visits to the Know Your Meme database. meme

Know Your Meme is a dotcom site that can be initially overwhelming because there are so many moving parts to it–forums, episodes, and blogs, not to mention ads. Started in December of 2008, the site’s purpose is to catalog and track trending memes on the web. Any meme that is registered (they can be uploaded by anyone but there is a research and evaluation process that follows) will be archived and findable through the website’s search engine. Even memes that are rejected by the editorial staff have a place in the “Deadpool” (how about that for a dissertation). To date there are 1,959 confirmed meme entries.

The look of the site varies, depending on the quality of the deposited memes; if the images or videos are pixilated or on the small size that’s how they remain in the database.

For some solid grounding on the subject (and no ads), check out Memes in Digital Culture by Limor Shifman (MIT Press, 2013).


Journal Feature: Children, Youths and Internet, in COMMUNICATIONS

s16134087kThe latest issue of COMMUNICATIONS: The European Journal of Communication Research (Volume 39, Number 3, 2014) is devoted to children, youth, and the internet from qualitative perspectives.  Furthermore, this theme is focused on problematic issues of children and youth online.  Guest editors for the issue are the authors of the introductory editorial.


Intro Editorial: Contextualizing children’s problematic situations online, Green, Lelia / Smahel, David / Barbovschi, Monica

Classification of online problematic situations in the context of youths’ development, Smahel, David / Wright, Michelle F. / Cernikova, Martina       

Ways to avoid problematic situations and negative experiences: Children’s preventive measures online, Vandoninck, Sofie / d’Haenens, Leen

Developing social media literacy: How children learn to interpret risky opportunities on social network sites, Livingstone, Sonia

Dealing with misuse of personal information online – Coping measures of children in the EU Kids Online III project, Barbovschi, Monica

Meeting online strangers offline: The nature of upsetting experiences of adolescent girls, Dedkova, Lenka / Cerna, Alena / Janasova, Katerina / Daneback, Kristian

“I would never post that”: Children, moral sensitivity and online disclosure, Mostmans, Lien / Bauwens, Joke / Pierson, Jo