Category Archives: Week 13

Final Research Project

Estefanía Tocado

Final Research Project Outline

Thesis: My thesis evolves around the question: What is more real to experience a virtual museum or to visit an institutional museum?  Therefore, I proposed that both spaces provide the visitor or the virtual user with a mediated reality in a hypermediated non-place (both the virtual and the physical museum).  None of them is more real than the other.  They are experienced in a different way.  I would use as case studies the Google Art Project and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Main Theoretical Framework: The concept of place and non-place by Marc Augé, the ideas of remediation, immediacy, and hypermediacy by Bolter and Grusin, and the theory of Simulacra and Simulation (hyperreal) by Baudrillard.

Secondary Theory:

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Reproducibility.” Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings 1938-1940. Vol. 4. Cambridge-MA, London-England: Belknap Harvard UP, 2003.251-283.

Bordieu, Pierre. “Forms of Capital.” Soziale Ungleichheiten. Ed. Reinhard Kreckel.  Trans. Richard Nice. Goettingen: Otto Schartz & Co., 1983. 183-98.

Ciolfi, Luigina and Liam J. Bannon. “Designing Hybrid Places: Merging Interpretation, Design, Ubiquitous Technologies and Geographies of the Museum Space.” CoDesign 3. 3 (2007): 159-180.

Debord, Guy. The Society of Spectacle. New York: Zone Books, 1994. Print.

Davis, Stuart. Writing and Heritage in Contemporary Spain: The Imaginary Museum of Literature. Woodbridge, UK-Rochester, NY: Tamesis Books, 2012. Print.

Maulraux, André. The Voices of Silence. New York: Doubleday, 1953. Print.

Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command: Extending the Language of New Media.London-New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013. Print.

MCKay, A. “Affective Communication: Towards the Personalization of a Museum Exhibition.” CoDesign 3.1 (2007): 167-173.

Murrey, Janet H. Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge-MA, London-UK: The MIT Press, 2012. Print.

Slovsky, Victor. “Art as a Tehcnique.” Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays. Trans. and ed. Lee T. Lemon and Maron J. Reis. Lincoln-Nebraska, 1995. 5-22.

Wyman, Bruce et al. “Digital Storytelling in Museums: Observations and Best Practices.” Digital 54.4 (2011): 461-468.

From the Web:






Is Fractal a Good Metaphor for Google Glass?

Tianyi Cheng


A fractal is a mathematical set that typically displays self-similar patterns (Gouyet, 1996). The concept of fractal includes the idea of a detailed pattern repeating itself (Mandelbrot, 1983). In Manovich’s The language of New Media, he points out that just as a fractal has the same structure on different scales, a new media object has the same modular structure throughout (Manovich, 2001).


However, is fractal a necessary metaphor? Can we just replace it with the simpler concept—layers? Because different layers don’t need to share self-similar patterns and can have parallel relations. Although Manovich provides us with some examples, none of them is detailed enough to show the fractal pattern on different scales of one object. If there exists fractal structure, what is the pattern that different scales share? I think Google Glass can be a dynamic case to deblackbox.

I assume Manovich’s use of fractal is accurate. The concept of fractal also contain two basic principles of technology: combination and recursiveness that Arthur brings up in his The Nature of Technology(Arthur, 2009). He also mentioned that a technology and its assembles should all supply a functionality and are executable (Arthur, 2009). In the General Definition of Information (GDI), information is also treated as reified entities and something that can be manipulated (Floridi, 2010). If we treat all elements of Google Glass as stuff constituting information, GUI can apply the primary framework to deblackbox.


According to GDI, information is made of well-formed data that is meaningful. Or information is equal to data or symbols plus the syntax, and should comply the semantics of chosen system (Floridi, 2010). I think another advantage of GDI is that it doesn’t strip information and symbols from its material carrier. In a general term, the following definition of symbol is proposed: A symbol is an energy evoking, and directing, agent (Campbell, 2002). In this term, Google Glass can be analyzed as symbols that are composited by syntax at different levels. Symbols on different levels are packaged as objects and manipulated by new syntax. Elements are assembled into larger-scale objects but they continue to maintain their separate identity (Manovich, 2001).Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 3.30.09 AM

“The Stack” shows different layers between users and the physical materials of network. The interface simulates the way human view the world. However, when the layers go deeper, things are presented in a way that more distant from natural language.

When applying the model of “stack” to analyze Google Glass. I met some problems. I feel the “stacks” seem not reflect the fractal structure. They are all layers that look relatively independent. And this mode separates the hardware and software. Also, I am confused about the position of “network”. If the network means the connection system made of many different computers, it should exist at all the levels of hardware, OS and applications, not only at the bottom of material level. But I think this conflict can be solved if we rebuild the “stack” into a fractal mode. By applying new level of syntax, we can see how actors on different scales create the network. I try further merging the “stack” into the fractal structure. Hardware should also be de-blackboxed and correspond the functions that are shown through software. Applications can obviously be viewed as objects, and can be treated as symbols. I am not sure about the OS, it might can be either treated as objects or syntax (as a programing language) depend on the definition. I feel interface is more than a metaphor rather than objects or syntax. It reflects an interactive relationship between two objects.

The technology is not something largely self-sufficient and fixed structure, but subject to occasional innovations. So the next question is, how the fractal pattern inside Google Glass grows? How do cultural and social concepts are built into the syntax to manipulate symbols on different levels to create Google Glass? Conversely, how does its function and the conventions of HCI transcode our concepts? I will further consider these questions in my final project, borrowing more concepts from this semester, such as remediation, hypermedia, Actor-Network Theory, augmented reality, affordance, etc.

Works Cited

Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. MIT press.

Gouyet, J (1996). Physics and fractal structures. Paris/New York: Masson Springer.

Mandelbrot, B.B. (1983). The fractal geometry of nature. Macmillan. Retrieved 1 February 2012.

Campbell, J.(2002). Flight of the Wild Gander:- The Symbol without Meaning. California: New World Library. p. 143.

Womack, M. (2005) Symbols and Meaning: A Concise Introduction. California: AltaMira Press.

Arthur, W. B. (2009). The nature of technology: What it is and how it evolves. Simon and Schuster.

Floridi, L.(2010) Information: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.



Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. MIT press

This book provides me with the main topic for the final project. In this book, Manovich talks about five principles of new media, and introduces a metaphor, fractal, to describe the principle of modularity. He also emphasizes the importance of software studies rather than media studies. The former is a method to study new media while considering its material base and combining knowledge of computer. My final project will approach Google Glass from this perspective.

Floridi, L.(2010) Information: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.

This book provides basic concepts in information theory, such as the elements of information, the flow of information. I will use some of these concepts as base in my final project. In this book, Information is talked from several different perspectives, including mathematics and science. It also discusses the philosophy of information and information ethics, by considering the broader social background. I think those discussion can offer me a good starting point to consider Human Computer Interaction.

Harnad, S. (1990). The symbol grounding problem. Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 42(1), 335-346.

This is a profound article, which talked about important social and cognitive problem of symbol grounding. I will not dig too deep toward the question related to epistemology. But this article provides me a framework of symbol systems.

White, R., & Downs, T. (2007). How computers work. Que Corp.

It is a definitive guide to the basic knowledge of computer science. It introduces almost every last component of hardware found inside PCs, from transistors to processor. It also has in-depth explanations about home networking, the Internet, PC security, how networks of mobile device operate, etc. Equipped with this knowledge, I gained a clearer approach to deblackbox the Google Glass.

Other Sources

Kindberg, T., Barton, J., Morgan, J., Becker, G., Caswell, D., Debaty, P., … & Spasojevic, M. (2002). People, places, things: Web presence for the real world. Mobile Networks and Applications, 7(5), 365-376.

Zook, M. (2009). How does software make space? Exploring some geographical dimensions of pervasive computing and software studies.

Starner, T., Mann, S., Rhodes, B., Levine, J., Healey, J., Kirsch, D., … & Pentland, A. (1997). Augmented reality through wearable computing. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 6(4), 386-398.

Google Glass. (2014, April 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:46, April 22, 2014, from

Google Glass and the Ethics of Information

Tianyi Cheng

Google Glass is finally for sale to the public. It is a good timing to take a look at what we can see with it. Google Glass is sending us new package of information. However, by unpacking it, I don’t think the information is largely different from what we received before on the levels of symbols, syntax and message.


Combination might be a key to figuring out realistic mechanisms of invention and evolution of technology (Arthur, 2009). If we took apart Google Glass, we would find assemblies and subassemblies that can be found somewhere else. The chips consisted of innumerous transistors, run Boolean Logic that presents the sign system, or symbols, as what computers started presenting more than half a century ago. Chips are just becoming more tightly packed, which complies with Moore’s Law. This observation can explain half of the reason that why this smart glasses couldn’t appear decades earlier although humans already had this idea. Codes were written as rules for assembling symbols at syntax level. It helps the Glass to make information in fixed formats and transfer data with established protocols. The ambient sensor, proximity sensor, motion sensor were around us long before. Touchpad, small-sized camera and voice commands are not strange too. These and other feedback devices work with Internet and satellites, receiving and generating messages that combined symbols and syntax. These messages accord with the existing measures from authorities, industrial pacts or social traditions. Google Glass was locked into the standardized world.

But it is still a new technology. It makes change on the semantics level by re-arranging many human and non-human actors and relinking the networks. Google Glass shows us an augmented reality, and is also intertwined into the ethic problem in reality. One main reason that Google Glass started controversial discussion is about the ethics of the augmented information, which can be viewed from the semantics level. I think morality can be a topic related to distributed cognition, which also influenced by external cognitive artifacts and activities in concrete situations (Zhang & Patel, 2006). The book, Information, A Very Short Introduction provides an interesting mode to de-blackboxing Google Glass from the perspectives of ethics. As a human actor existing in the infosphere, the Glass brings us more immediate relationship with the once-hidden information.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.20.57 AM

Considering information-as-a resource ethics, the previously mentioned censors, GPS systems and Internet connection remediate information that gathered in the past and present to us together with the new information in time. It has the potential to let us see a department’s information outside the school buildings. Socrates argued that a well-informed agent is more likely to do the right thing (Floridi, 2010). However, more information doesn’t necessarily mean that we deal with them justly. A better prediction might also let us pursue more self-interest goals. And we might even make more prejudiced judgments by seeing others’ public profiles. Also, Socrates lived in an era that people weren’t aware of infoglut. Google Glass might let second-hand information largely influence our direct experience. It is worthy to consider that how to create more effective filters to only provide certain types of information.

From the perspective of information-as-a-product ethics, people wear Google Glass can also produce information with cameras and voice command devices. The information can be sent via Bluetooth (connecting to some other devices) or WiFi (connecting to the Internet). As an information producer, we may be subject to constraints while being able to take advantage of opportunities (Floridi, 2010). With the constraints of current technology, we can’t edit video or pictures before sending them away directly from Google Glass. So, one interesting topic can be “can we lie with Google Glass?”. Does it force us to tell the truths? Will Google Glass become an important information source on social media or courts, and be considered to own better accountability and liability than information sent from iPhones or PCs?

The third aspect is information-as-a-target ethics, it includes a human actor’s respect for, or breach of someone’s information privacy or confidentiality, for example, hacking (Floridi, 2010). However, I don’t think Google Glass have very good capacity to get unauthorized access to private information systems. Of course, it can take pictures without consents, but this activity is at a visible level, which can be more easily regulated then hacking with codes. Conversely, it can be harder to notice that the camera on your Google Glass has been hacked. Currently, the Glass can’t be used in a very personalized way and can only execute certain applications, unless it is linked to other devices. In this term, I think Google Glass owners are more likely to be victims rather than victimizers.

In addition, I don’t think this mode represents the whole story. For example, GPS microchip allows Google Glass to determine its location via satellite signals. The location is not merely product or resource, but information shared in the infosphere.

Google glass is not widely used currently, and the innovation of technology is socially and culturally rooted, so its mediation functions need further observations. Although it is matured to go to market, it might be still at a new starting point on its recursive process.

  Works Cited

Arthur, Brian. The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves. NY: Free Press, 2009.

Floridi, Luciano. (2010). Information: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.

Google glass. (2013, March 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:35, April 15, 2014, from

Zhang, J., & Patel, V. L. (2006). Distributed cognition, representation, and affordance. Pragmatics & Cognition14(2).

Understanding Google Art Project

Estefanía Tocado

As Brian Arthur asserts, an invention is a new combination of prior art (9).  By implementing and hybridizing existing software and relying on combinatorial modes and systems of relations such as Google Street View, Picassa, and Giga-pixel high resolution photographs, the Google Art project launched its portal in 2011.  The technical architecture was based on existing software which had been implemented with specific purposes, such as in the artwork view service Google Scholar and YouTube, to allow the user to find further information on a specific artist, collection, or paintings of a given time period (Wikipedia).  Amid Sood, the head of the Google Art Project, said that the idea of granting the opportunity to millions of people to have access to a large number of prestigious museums in the world was what first motivated him.  As he has asserted, growing up in India made it difficult to be able to visit institutional museums if you were not living close to a cultural center or city.

The project first relied on a virtual gallery tour, a strategy long used by institutional museums to attract visitors to their home pages.  Second, the project created the artwork view, another idea already proposed by Malraux and his imaginary museum.  These high resolution pictures of pieces of art which allow the viewer to see magnified details has also been promoted by respected museums that sold collections of such pictures at the museum stores or other locations.  Third, the virtual user was given the chance to create its own artwork collection, replacing the curating work done by the institutional museum.  In this way Google Art Project has become a meta-museum and interface that remediates the symbolic value attributed to the piece of art to exclusively adjust to the personal needs of a virtual visitor.  By promoting digital reproducibility and eradicating the idea of the aura attributed by Walter Benjamin to the piece of art, Google Art project also dispossesses it, to some extent, of the cultural and national embedded value (this last would be in conflict with Malraux’s view of the museum as a space for promoting national identity).

A second stage of the project has the goal of becoming an educational instrument, creating videos and resources for teachers and students as well as video and audio content for their virtual tours (Wikipedia).  The user can make more restricted and detailed searches and filter more information than when it was first started thanks to the slideshow format, the table of contents divided by collections, artists, and artworks, and the customized user gallery.  The main table of contents also allows the user to tweet, post on Facebook, email, or share on Google+ any of the works of art instantly promoting a vision of the Google Art Project as a social interface.  Other improvements made recently are a major redesign with faster navigation and new search features that make it easier to filter data, artworks, and related events.  Also, the project has bought together new partners adding up to 40,000 pieces of art and about 250 museums in more than 40 countries (Lardinois).  Many of the previous complaints regarding the difficulties in searching artwork or artists have been addressed in this last makeover.  However, other concerns that still exist are the content selection, the intended audience, or security risks for worldwide museums (Wikipedia).  The project team continues to find solutions for these issues and implements further processes to contribute to the networking of their platform.  By hybridizing and granting access to a wider interrelated network of systems, the project seeks to improve and expand the Google Art Project experience and the users authority over the use of the museum not only as a educational ground but also as a social interface.

   Works Cited

Arthur, Brian. The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves. NY: Free Press, 2009.

Lardinois, Frederic. “Google Art Project Gets a Redesign With Improved Navigation And Search Tools.” Technical Crunch. 10 June 2013. Web. 13 April 2014.

Sood, Amit. “Building a Museum of Museums on the Web.” TED. March 2011.Web. 13 April 2014.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Google Art Project.”Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.Web. 14 April 2014.

De-blackboxing Netflix: Make every room your movie room


Not so long ago, if we wanted to enjoy a movie in the comfort of our homes we would probably go to a video rental store.  There we would choose from aisles filled with different options and maybe ask one of the employees what was a good option to take home.

Now, we consume home entertainment in a whole different way.  Netflix is an North American company established in 1997, It started its subscription-based digital distribution service in 1999 and by 2009 it was offering a collection of 100,000 titles on DVD and had surpassed 10 million subscribers.

In his book  Streaming: movies, media, and instant access,   Dixon Wheeler states that  Netflix is responsible for the largest portion of internet traffic in North America.  Netflix movie and TV show streaming accounts for  22% of all North American Internet Traffic. [143]

Netflix is just a remediation of the video rental store, nobody has opened this black box and analyzed what makes Netflix work as well as it’s doing.


Netflix uses it’s own IP address space for the hostname  This server primarily handles two key functions  1.- Registration of new user accounts and capture payment information (credit card or Paypal Account) and (b) redirects users to or based on whether the user is logged in or not respectively. [Unreeling Netflix, 1621]

Netflix Architecture from: “Unreeling Netflix”.


After signing up or registering as a new user.  Netflix’s system usually will tell the user to download Microsoft Silverlight a player/browser used for download, decoding and playing movies and TV shows on a desktop computer.  Mobile users need to download the Netflix App in order to start watching content.

What really surprised me and probably most people don’t know is that stated by the article “Unreeling Netflix: Understanding and Improving Multi-CDN Movie Delivery”   Most of the other Netflix servers such as and are served off the Amazon cloud which indicates that Netflix uses various Amazon cloud services.

So, a movie with outsourced resources and a limited movie catalog has risen to fame because it sells us immediacy and comfort.  Audience consumption patterns have changed from driving to the movie rental store to just a few clicks on a website, it gets more interesting as we dig deeper into the service’s content delivery method.

When requesting some content, a user would probably think all content is downloaded from a single server.  The truth is that Netflix’s content is distributed by multiple CDN’s (Content Delivery Networks) a collection of “servers” in different points that transfer content to the computer that made that request.

That’s when the next part of the architecture comes in.  The “Dash” protocol used by the company divides the content into small chunks of video segments.  The subscriber’s system will request one of the chunks at a time,  with each request the Dash protocol will run a rate “determination algorithm” to determine the quality of the next chunk to request.

Silverlight and the Dash protocol will work together, sending information about the user’s bandwidth capacity as well as point of consumption; adapting the content’s streaming.  So the data transferred to a mobile user will be very different  from the data transferred to a desktop user.

This is an amazing process.  For us users may it seem as only some clicks or buttons away, but all of this happens “behind the scenes” every time we make a request to the Netflix server.  This is why Netflix has claimed the throne of  home entertainment consumption.

But one can only wonder…   Are we willing to sacrifice the social experience of movie consumption in order to get immediacy?   How will the big Hollywood Studios adapt to this new consumption trend?.

The truth is that Netflix has completely changed how we consume media. Seeing movies on the run or on different locations has made us see the movie industry with different eyes.


Rao, A., Legout, A., Lim, Y. S., Towsley, D., Barakat, C., & Dabbous, W. (2011, December). Network characteristics of video streaming traffic. In Proceedings of the Seventh Conference on emerging Networking EXperiments and Technologies (p. 25). ACM.

Adhikari, V. K., Guo, Y., Hao, F., Varvello, M., Hilt, V., Steiner, M., & Zhang, Z. L. (2012, March). Unreeling netflix: Understanding and improving multi-CDN movie delivery. In INFOCOM, 2012 Proceedings IEEE (pp. 1620-1628). IEEE

Dixon, Wheeler W. 2013. Streaming: movies, media, and instant access. (pp. 143-150)

Wikipedia: “Netflix”