Archive | April, 2013

Interpretations of Visualisations #Visible

25 Apr

When I went to a friend’s birthday party a couple of years ago everyone had to dress up as something beginning with “P,” so I decided to cover my whole body in post-it notes.  I got into a conversation with a few people at the party I didn’t know and they were having a debate about the ways in which someone’s costume reflected their personality. One of them said to me, “I reckon you must be a super-organised person with all those post-it notes!” and the other one said, “no way! She must be completely disorganised and chaotic!” It’s interesting to reflect on how people interpret different things depending on their background and experiences.

Look at this image..

Some people may see it as just a glass of milk…some may see it as a glass half full and some half empty. What does each interpretation represent? Images and visualisations will always be interpreted differently by different people, even as something as simple as a glass of milk and post-it notes.

Now, taking a look at this visualisation:

Looking at it for the first time I thought it was pretty boring…just lines and grooves. But when I read the background information and applied it, my whole perception of it changed. It became, as Andrew said in the lecture, a “network of data visualisation.” Very complex and fascinating – every single line, groove and colour that is visible in the visual has a different meaning and contributes to the network as a whole.

“Each arc represents a unique person, where the yellow color denotes how long they lived before being shot, and the white color how long they could have lived. Each arc is clickable and reveals more detailed information about that casualty.”

It is quite shocking how much of an impact a visualisation can have once the facts behind it are applied. It is also amazing to think that you can invent a very complex network visualisation or very simple one out of the same information. For example, you could make a scientific graph to represent what 200 calories look like, or you could simply use two photos:

So next time you look at a visualisation, don’t judge it until you have read up on the background info, and think about the endless ways you could create another visualisation to represent exactly the same thing.


Why the “Cyber Commons” could never be conquered #Commons

18 Apr

There is a lot of debate about the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet as a global ‘common ground,’ and whether it has the potential to be destroyed.

Unlike (as Andrew addressed at the start of lecture 6) the ‘traditional’ commons of the 17th, 18th and 19th Century like pasture, piscary, turbary and pannage..the ‘cyber commons’ is a much wider and diverse creative use of space that is essentially ‘unlimited.’ It can be argued that because it is such a wide common ground, it is much more open to abuse that cannot easily be regulated. It’s not just a case of poisoning or throwing some of your pigs off the common land because you’ve got too many and they’re eating all the grass, it’s a case much more subtle that can have personally damaging effects. The cyber commons can unfortunately be place for bullying, child porn, piracy, “trolling,” “astroturfing,” and just cruel amusement. George MonBiot, an environmental activist who has worked as radio producer of BBC wildlife programs, a current affairs producer for World Service, is an author of several books and currently a writer for the Guardian addresses the issue of “astroturfing” on his website; Monbiot believes these people/entities take advantage of the Internet’s ‘common ground,’ and as a result destroy the quality of work produced by both respected individuals and large corporations. He speaks of the effects of ‘austroturfing’ by a particular PR company.

“I first came across online astroturfing in 2002, when the investigators Andy Rowell and Jonathan Matthews looked into a series of comments made by two people calling themselves Mary Murphy and Andura Smetacek. They had launched ferocious attacks, across several Internet forums, against a scientist whose research suggested that Mexican corn had been widely contaminated by GM pollen.”

He also speaks about his concern that abusive comments and discussions only tend to come up when there’s money at stake.

“..discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions: such as climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance. These are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.”

Although the “cyber commons” may be taken advantage of by certain users, certain laws have been formed to help regulate this abuse such as the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010 and Australian Copyright Act 1968. With these regulations in mind, Monbiot firmly still believes that “We’re in danger of losing this global commons as it comes under assault from an army of trolls and flacks, many of them covertly organised or trained.” Now, I think Mobiot’s argument is completely out of proportion. Unlike 18th Century commons, the Internet is a resource that is not scarce. The commons of the Internet is so huge, so diverse, and forever growing through different networks that we could never be in danger of losing it completely.

The digital commons has the authority of giving any ordinary person a chance to have their profiles, opinions, books, artworks, movies, photos, essentially any creative works published. Yes, there is a chance of abusive comments, trolling or copyright, but these issues can both be ignored or dealt with legally is necessary. Quality work that is viewed, shared, and appreciated by thousands globally cannot be crushed by ‘an army of trolls’ or ‘abusive opinions,’ as they are just not strong enough to hold their ground.

Take a look at the creative commons formed by Kickstarter. This is a network that has clear creative and legal authority, and this is forever expanding globally.

When I think about my own and my friend’s experiences with the Internet’s ‘commons,’ it has always been positive (apart from the odd spam mail my email sometimes sends out..) I am a member of ‘the loop’ website which enables members to create an online profile (publishing a CV, interests, and hobbies) as well as ongoing creative works/portfolios. I am also able to surf the loop as a common ground to look at other people’s profiles, as-well-as apply for jobs. I managed to score an Internship last summer by applying to PR companies that were able to instantly access my profile and see my qualifications, skills, interests, and contact details. I also use the Internet as a common ground to look at restaurant, bar and movie ratings. From websites like Timeout and IMDb I have hardly ever been let down on their ratings and reviews. the “cyber commons” really in danger of being destroyed by the minority “army of trolls and flacks”… I think not. I think it will continue to grow as a common ground that will be shared, regulated and enjoyed by the majority of users.


Monbiot, George (2010) ‘Reclaim the Cyber-Commons’,, accessed 17th April 2013, <http://;

Wikimedia Foundation (2013), ‘Copyright law of Australia,’ accessed 18th April 2013, <;


The Unhealthy Realities of Digital Distractions #Infotention

11 Apr

Click on the link and take a look at the image..

This woman has devoted her complete attention to this challenging yoga position. Her brain is tuned into every muscle in her body to make this position possible. There is clearly no room for mind wandering or multitasking otherwise she may fall. For most people, holding a heightened attention like this for a certain amount of time proves almost impossible..

We live in an age with many distractions, as James Temple remarks in his blog, “the modern world bombards us with stimuli, a nonstop stream of e-mails, chats, texts, tweets, status updates and video links to piano playing cats.” Putting your mind to one task and shutting everything else out is a lot easier than it sounds. I started yoga a couple of weeks ago as I thought it would help me relax and wind down after a stressful day a uni. Although I found the physical elements of it relatively simple, getting my mind to focus on just my body movements and breathing was extremely tricky. Every time I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my breathing (while posing as a dog) my mind would wander to thinking about my dog Tigger…and how I had to feed her when I got home…then what I might cook myself for dinner that will be quick and easy and how many ARTS2090 readings I needed to get through after dinner…and that I had a law assignment due in three days which led me to remember that that I was going to get a fine for not returning my law textbook back to the library…which led me to think about how I spent way too much money last weekend and that I really needed to start saving if I had a hope of going away next year…and that the lady in front of me (who looks like a yoga dog-posing expert) looks just like my friend’s Mum who is going through an awful divorce the moment and so on and so on..

SO…didn’t quite pan out to be quite so relaxing as I thought. As a result from not being able to divert my attention to relaxing my muscles and posing like a dog I was a lot more stressed leaving the class than before it began.

Now, why the heck couldn’t I just stop my mind from racing? I blame technology. In particular social media – I’m a little addicted.  So many Gen-Y’s are addicted, James Temple pointed out that a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (released in January 2010) concluded that 8- to 18-year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media per day. But because they dedicate so much of that time using more than one medium at once – say, scanning Facebook as they listen to music and chat with friends – they actually pack in about 10 hours and 45 minutes of content in that period. Not only do I see this as unhealthy, but also it is a great challenge for digital authors, producers and publishers as their potential audiences have such limited attention spans.

Digital publishers have to tackle two main issues:

  1. An constant growing global competition and,
  2. Creating a publishing entity that actually holds the attention of an online audience.

In order for publishers to tackle these two issues they MUST make the assemblage of their website elements attention-worthy and easy to access. David Rock discusses the notion of our minds working as a “default network” when not much is happening around us. “It’s the network involved in planning, daydreaming and ruminating.” Digital publishers, in order to be successful, must pull people away from this state of mind. They have to find a way to use the concept ‘infotention’ to their advantage. Infotention is the concept of being able to filter through the huge amounts of information that we are bombarded with on the Internet. For example, infotention is applied to the network of my email – certain emails are filtered into my junk, and I have the option of using a search engine to find older emails, or organise them alphabetically. Infotention is essential to the digital online publishers as digital audiences have such low attention spans and subject to the distractions of other digital platforms. A publisher must find a way that grabs an audience’s full attention.

YouTube has carried out this concept very successfully. Although it has it downfalls of advertisement distractions, YouTube has cleverly organised its archives so that if you watch a video of ‘dancing dog,’ down the side panel will be very similar videos that grab your attention, which may then bring you to a dancing cat, that may even aspire you to subscribe so you can make a video of your own pet dancing. YouTube is a publishing entity so organised, so diverse, and so hands on that that it has authority over your minds ‘default network.’


Michael H. Goldhaber (1997) ‘Attention Shoppers!’, Wired, accessed 11 April 2013, < wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html>

Temple, James (2011) ‘All those tweets, apps, updates may drain brain’ San Fransciso Chronicle, April 17, accessed 11 April 2013,  < BUTO1J0S2P.DTL>

Rock, David (2010) ‘New study shows humans are on auto pilot nearly half the time’, Psychology Today, accessed 11 April 2013,  < humans-are-auto-pilot-nearly-half-the-time>