Responses to Readings – Week 7

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 7 / Data Analysis Workshop


The article tries to take a resistant and unwilling stance on the concept of global basic income. I disagree with some of the points presented in the article and believe that such a model might be helpful in the long run. Simply seen, the money is being transferred from the rich to the people who need it. How they spend it is upon them, of course. Moreover, a foreign organization or a charity shouldn’t readily assume the immediate needs of a poverty stricken family in a remote village. I think their needs are best understood by them and their community. The article is titled The Future of Not Working, which sounds flawed. A basic income wouldn’t necessarily imply that people will stop working. There is a human tendency of wanting more, and to keep doing. Once a person is empowered with some money, he or she would be willing to explore the possibilities of what they could do with it besides satisfying their primal needs. And even if they don’t utilize it appropriately, they should have a means to get treatment for diseases or to help another community member. In terms of the greater good of the village, community or country, political economist Gar Alperovitz says

“Once people have the freedom to elect to work less, their capacity to engage in the work of rebuilding community and democracy can increase far beyond what is possible in today’s precariously overworked society.”

My understanding is that a basic income can empower the people to create jobs, to supply goods and to contribute to their surroundings. Of course, charities and other organizations still need to work with governments to look at issues at a larger scale. But I think that basic global income can be a divisive solution for addressing the immediate needs of families living under the reigns of poverty.


System diagrams are extremely helpful with planning anything. Systems thinking has thus far helped me with many projects regardless of their association with the arts or technology or both. The piece gives an instance of the same, which is useful.

Somnolent Listener

Nature of Code / Week 4-7 / Final Project


Somnolent Listener – The hearing impaired note taker and visualizer


Somnolent Listener is a speech recognition system that listens to speech, interprets it and produces results in various forms. It is prone to making some mistakes while listening, and hence has been titled using the adjective ‘somnolent’.

The entire idea is centered around making speeches and lectures more interactive. The listener records the data producing real time subtitles, maintains a transcript of the entire recording and also takes notes. There are three associated visualizations that can be switched using the arrow keys or the number keys. Visualizations one and two are particle systems that change based on the volume level of the input. Visualization three uses the recorded transcript to generate keywords. Each keyword has a weight based on the number of times it is repeated. And each keyword also has associations with other keywords based on how close together they were spoken in time. It basically acts as an automatic note-taking system for the student/listener.

Video Demo


1. The system acts as an automatic note making device for a student or listener. This would ensure that a person can focus undivided attention to the speaker or lecturer and not worry about capturing everything that’s spoken.
2. For a person whose first language isn’t English, it can often become difficult to follow what is being spoken. The subtitles assist such an audience member to understand the words.
3. The transcript can be used to look back at the lecture and use references. Or perhaps, if one is sleepy or inattentive in class, they could use it to know what had been spoken.
4. The visualizations provide information around the amplitude levels. They can also be changed to represent frequencies, wavelength et cetera. This is not really something new, but it looks cool haha. And perhaps, can make a speech more interesting.

Future Steps

I’d like to add more visualizations and more capabilities to this system. I also intend on making the listener more sophisticated. Plus, the keyword selection and matching algorithm requires further work. I’m interested in classifying keywords and generating different methods to group words together.

I’m also interested in using this project in an installation context wherein, the listener listens to an input, records it and then reiterates it with the mistakes. In different ways. Perhaps representing what a computer listens and what it understands.

Source Code

The entire code directory can be found here : link


Thanks to
Daniel Shiffman, instructor and mentor for Nature of Code
Luke DuBois, for p5.speech library
Jason Sigal, for p5.sound library


Responses to Readings – Week 6

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 6 / Challenge Presentations


The reading tells us that Telefonica is working on a partnership with UNICEF. It also uses some trending terms such as big data, real-time data, social good et cetera. However, it’s unclear what they are doing exactly. The article does point out that they are working on creating a system that collects real time data using mobile services, so as to plan emergency response better in countries that are vulnerable to the consequences of global warming. But how? The article doesn’t go into details around the beta tests, and the operations of the service itself which left me with questions instead of answers.


It’s encouraging to read about prominent political leaders talking about blockchain and thinking about remediating problems of corruption around the world. Blockchain has a lot of potential to shift ways in which countries function, and to disrupt the way finance is handled across the world. The question is, how long can it take for it to take effect on a larger scale. True that blockchain is decentralized in many ways, but wouldn’t the infrastructure for establishing blockchain be centralized to certain countries? Also, the article mentions blockchain and banks in the same context. I’m not sure how that will work since I remember Prof Yermack talking elaborately about how blockchain can potentially disempower banks around the world.

7 Day Practice

Temporary Expert / Week 6 / Food Soil Water

Religion is complicated. It holds many forms, many texts, many interpretations and a varied range of practitioners. What’s common though is the religious texts which kind of act as the foundation or the justification system for most of the religions that exist in the world. To get started on working towards my problem statement, I figured that I must acquaint myself with religion first, more specifically the religions that are practiced in the United States. In order to construct a language that is religious and uses warning/fear as a mechanism, I started looking up sermons from one of the most notorious churches in America, Westboro Baptist Church. I started modifying the sermons so as to fit my narrative. The results look as follows:

Polar Roses

Nature of Code / Week 3 / Oscillations and Particle Systems

I wanted to explore oscillations for my third assignment, particularly set in a circular motion. Polar roses gave me a lot of ideas, and I tried to experiment with their values. The results were really in accordance with what I had in mind. But it looked cool regardless (haha).

Source code link.

Challenge – Emergency and Response

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 5 / Group Challenge


Danni Huang, Jaycee Holmes, Utsav Chadha

Problem Statement :

A natural disaster wiped out the entire infrastructure of the borough except your city block. You must figure out what resources you have access to. Then map out the areas of greatest need and who is most vulnerable and should be provided relief first. How would you prioritize where aid should be delivered? Document your process.


While discussing the problem, we realized that before prioritizing areas of relief or resources needed, it’s important to figure out a safe place with storage capacity for people as well as supplies. Next step is to organize all the individuals and divide them into teams with specific responsibilities. Thereafter, an assessment of the available resources and rescue operations can be made. Our model was a three part approach – Identify, Survive and Assess. We conducted an incremental study of the block in terms of the range. Starting with the NYU Tisch building itself, we moved on to the surrounding block and then to the city of NYC as a whole. The entire process has been documented in the following slides:
Link to the slides : Disaster Response

 Challenges Encountered:

1. One of the major challenges with disaster preparedness and response is the uncertainty associated with the time and intensity of the disaster. For disasters such as a blizzard or hurricanes, fortunately predictions can be made. However, for situations such as earthquakes and tsunamis it’s difficult to be prepared and respond accordingly. For our particular assignment, we stuck to the situation of a hurricane hitting Lower Manhattan.
2. Although Identify, Survive and Assess seem like logical order of steps. However, in the situation of an emergency people would try to survive first and do everything else later. It’s important to keep in mind that there can be a widespread panic situation and one should be prepared to handle such a situation.
3. There are many different resources with a similar listed process when it comes to disaster management and relief. There is not one centralized system that is in place and is responsible for emergency situations.

 Lessons Learned:

1. Initially, while starting on the problem we were inclined to look at it as a problem of disaster preparedness and not disaster response. Because prevention is always better than cure. However, Benedetta and Tanya pointed this out in time that a first hand experience of the situation always helps in evaluating the kind of preparations that need to be in order. This also brought us back to the design thinking workshop, wherein to put oneself in the user’s shoes as the first step of assessing a problem and developing a solution. In terms of a disaster, the user is the responder. It was a helpful exercise to view ourselves as the responders first and then thinking about preparedness. There were many things that we were missing out and overall, it gave us a very good perspective into how we should approach a solution.
2. Don’t think big. It’s always better to tackle the problem at a smaller scale before going for bigger and university-wide or city-wide solutions.
3. Keep in mind the panic a disaster can create. Perhaps, survive, identify and survive should be the starting steps for disaster response.