Responses to Readings – Week 7

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

UNIVERSAL INCOME GLOBAL INEQUALITY

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.

VISUALIZING AN INFORMAL SYSTEM

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

Title

Somnolent Listener – The hearing impaired note taker and visualizer

Introduction

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

Applications

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

Credits

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

TELEFONICA AND UNICEF

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.

DAVID CAMERON ON BLOCKCHAIN AND CORRUPTION

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

Team:

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.

 Approach:

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.

Climate and Religion – Project Proposal

Research is an ongoing process. The amount of research that I have conducted until this point based on lengthy readings, articles, news, discussions, religious texts, youtube videos and wikipedia pages has been extremely insightful. However, there are still many things that I need to understand and articulate. The research process has been overwhelming (also depressing to some extent), and I’ve attempted to articulate my process underneath:

PROJECT PROPOSAL

The question of ‘belief’. Do you believe in climate change? This is a resounding question that is found in abundance across the many social platforms and daily discussions. And I think using this terminology of belief is problematic. Climate change is not Santa Claus. If the entire human race stops believing in it, it won’t cease to exist. It would continue and only get worse if the humans don’t hold themselves responsible and do something about it.

This question of belief is also something closely related to God. And this is where it gets interesting. Religion wasn’t propagated through scientific facts and data. People are not very perceptive to such arguments. Consider the recent elections for instance. Religion was preached back in the dark ages when the times were barbaric and the human race needed a rulebook of moral obligations and good humane behavior. The central idea of my project is :

To draw parallels between religion and climate change. To change the narrative using the moral sense of obligation that religion attributes, perhaps climate change can be preached to the people. Making them believe that to work for the climate is to offer service to the Lord might have interesting implications that might not have been explored thus far.

INTRODUCTION – CLIMATE REFUGEE

My topic of concentration is climate refugees. I have discussed some basic definitions, numbers and significant cases of environmental migration in a previous blog post. Climate migration can be a consequence of many factors, broadly classified into three classes. Emergency migration, forced migration and motivated migration as elaborated in the aforementioned link. Regardless of the factors contributing to migration, it’s also necessary to consider the consequences of displacing large numbers of people from one geographical location. Systems thinking helped me consolidate all the contributing factors and consequences of climate migration into one page, as illustrated below:

The systems diagram is a very useful strategy to collect information in one place, look at the interrelated connections and act as a form of reference whenever in doubt or in search of ideas.

RELIGION

In my effort to draw analogies between religion and climate change, I have been studying the history associated with the popular religions in the United States, such as Judaism and Christianity. My earlier exposure to these religions and their mythologies was minimal. The mythologies are rich with stories about oppression of the poor, migration of people from one place to the other and development of a sense of morality around a set of rules. These are some things that can be resonated in the narrative surrounding climate change and climate refugees. Also, alternate narrative is something that interests me a lot and to view climate change through the lens of religion seems like something intriguing.

Two stories that have struck a chord with me are the Ten Plagues of Egypt, wherein Moses led the Israelites to move out of the domination exercised by the Egyptian pharaohs. Another interesting story is the Flight Into Egypt, in which Joseph was forced to migrate his homeland under the threat of losing his child to King Herod’s atrocities. I have attempted to use these stories as a basis for designing an advertisement for my project.

ADVERTISEMENT

The ideas used behind these images is:
1. Melancholy: To use melancholy as an indicator of the adversity of the current situation. To set some context in the viewer’s mind.
2. Sermon: To frame the language so as to sound like a sermon, rather than a promotion.
3. Meme: To use the meme format so that the image is ready for propagation on social media and to reach out more viewers.

OKAY, SO WHAT’S THE PROJECT GOING TO BE EXACTLY?

I don’t know yet, to be honest. But I’ll list down what I know:

1. Concept – The idea of the project is to develop an alternative narrative that uses analogies from existing religious stories. This narrative is centered around acting towards climate change as a moral obligation (well, most things religious do sound obligatory when preached).

2. Why can this narrative work? – When it comes to climate change, people are not very receptive to scientific facts and arguments. They question it’s existence, they demand proof and they try to evade a responsibility. In religion, they do none of the above. Religion is generally blindly consumed by the masses without question or doubt, and is held as a moral compass to define their day to day actions.

3. Implementation – I would prefer the implementation to be visual. Since, it’s capable of drawing attention and motivate the viewer for further exploration. I’m also planning to accompany the visual presentation with a manifesto or a rule system. Through drawing connections with mythologies and religious stories, these stories ought to bring out a religious instigation of some kind. An example is the advertisements above. ( I would ideally like to incorporate my own art however, my art has had a very cartoon based style thus far which I think might not work in this context )

4. Propagation – I’m considering using the social media as an avenue to spread these images and gain people’s reaction. Twitter has been a verified mechanism to propagate balderdash, anyway. So why not use it to spread something that can motivate people to act towards climate change!

5. Target Audience – This is the most befuddling decision for me. I have been having many discussions around it, and couldn’t reach a conclusion. I will be talking about this in detail below.

I’m quite definite about the conceptualization and motivation behind the project. The implementation and propagation is still open to discussion and subject to change.

TARGET AUDIENCE

A dialogue with Jennifer Jacquet from the Department of Environmental Studies gave me many things to rethink, reconsider and conduct further research on. Initially, I was poised to go for the religious conservatives as my target audience. Although, the discussion made me realize the problems that might occur if I select this target audience. It also opened me to other options that can be targeted.

Conservatives – Although conservatives being generally religious, are more receptive to religious arguments, they are also studied to be very individualistic. Do I want to motivate them to act against climate change? Do I want to motivate them to simply step out of the way of people who are already trying to act? How much of a change can they actually bring given that the main players of this game are the government, lobbyists and the producers.

Corporates – Of course, targeting the big players directly isn’t an option. They have been ignoring the issues of climate change for a long time, and shall continue to do so. The question is do I need to motivate people to act against these corporations? Or do I simply want to raise a general awareness and responsibility towards climate change and make them realize it’s adversity?

Rich or poor – It has been observed that the people who are directly under the threat of being impacted by climate change are the poor. They are already facing it and are trying to cope with it. And it is unfair. Because their carbon footprint on the planet is minimal. The people who are actually causing it, are also capable of fleeing the circumstances or adapting to a new world. The question is, through religion, can this issue be modulated to an issue of human rights instead of being an issue of the environment?

MORE QUESTIONS

1. Do I hypermotivate people who are already motivated? Or do I motivate people who are not motivated to step out of the way? Given the narrative that I’m using, I’m inclined on the second approach.
2. What kind of messages are motivating in the direction of climate change while not being too deterministic? Determinism has been observed to have strange effects. There have been deterministic statements made around how humans are a destructive force, and are not evolved enough to tackle climate change. This form of determinism might make the people accept the fate of the race as a whole, and rid them of a sense of responsibility to counter climate change and act towards minimizing it. They have to realize that the damage has been an ongoing process, but there is still time to exercise damage control.
3. The people suffering are not in a position of change. Can that be changed? Do we have a sense of fairness or a sense of social justice? Can the narrative be used to generate empathy for the poor who are directly under the threat of sea level rise, the refugees fleeing deserted lands and polluted coasts?

Link to the presentation : Drive

Responses to Readings – Week 4

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 4 / Logistics for the Social Good

THE DEATH OF CHARITIES : BITCOIN AND BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY TO REPLACE THEM?

The reading was very interesting because it points to how technological intervention can work towards a social issue. More so, because it utilizes technology to do something that it wasn’t designed to do in the first place. Plus, it’s doing good instead of doing bad. Generally, new methods and technologies are susceptible to corruption and utilization for individualistic purposes. However, blockchain offers a way to change how charities operate whilst being foolproof, transparent and effective.

Some questions that I have are: How does blockchain actually work technologically? This is something that I need to find out myself. Another question is that if this technology possesses the capability to replace third party systems and middlemen, isn’t it facing threats or opposition from the said parties? And since it is operated by the users themselves, what kind of impact can it have on employment opportunities for people already working for these third parties or non-profit organizations?

M-PESA AND THE RISE OF THE GLOBAL MOBILE MONEY MARKET

The recent demonetization effort by the Indian Government was a disaster. Extreme lack of preparation by the government, shortage of currency in the market and people generally struggling to gain access to bank accounts or bank officials were some of the consequences that this ill-managed effort brought. However, mobile money intervened in this situation and helped out many people to find an easier way to transfer money. It also elevated India’s leading mobile money company PayTM into the limelight. Over time PayTM has evolved into a medium to pay telephone bills, electricity bills and even lending friends money and is not solely a transaction system anymore.

This reading helps me affirm to this idea that how technological innovation can help a developing country become independent and stand on it’s feet. Cheaper transfer charges, more widespread accessibility and dissociation from the corrupt banking systems are some of the benefits that the mobile market has introduced. It’s definitely pleasing to see the effect that this market has had on the Kenyan economy. My question is, if the market has become so accessible by every faction of the population in a developing country, can it be used for the redistribution of wealth in that economy? Can the rich be charged higher rates compared to people living below the poverty line, who should be able to use it for free? Another question is that if this system expands into a place where one can open accounts and get loans sanctioned, how can one avoid corruption, hoarding of money and reliability?

USIZO PROJECT

Continuing from my previous question around the redistribution of wealth to help places or people in actual need, this article provides a good example.

Question is, that the bitcoin payment maybe powered the school for three weeks  but how to sustain that payment system? How does one ensure that the a person/party/organization is accountable if the payment isn’t made and the power goes out again? How can the government utilize this payment system and make it more accessible to the public sector in order to supplement education, telecom and electricity?

PROVENANCE: TRACKING TUNA ON THE BLOCKCHAIN

Continuing from the earlier reading on bitcoin and the death of charities, this reading was insightful. The other reading is speculative and doesn’t dive into the specifics of the conception and implementation of blockchain technology. This experiment puts across an extensive effort towards collaborating with the first mile, producers, manufacturers and testing in the market. It’s a great example of beta testing a product, so that one can realize the challenges, loopholes and understand the associated parties better.

My questions are, how easily can this be adopted into the everyday setting? Will the people welcome such a change? Will they be willing to check the fair trade policies while making such transactions? What are some of the challenges that third party organizations such as PayPal etc cause? Will it be possible to get these organizations onboard and if so, can they reap profits out of this effort as well, can this be misused despite the transparency and trust ?

Ragamala

Interactive Music / Week 2 / Score as Code, Code as Score

This is a tentative concept for the visualization of a score and probably the final project that I wish to work towards. However, I’ll need a certain amount of research and testing the capabilities of the available softwares before knowing whether this project is feasible or not within the given timeframe.

Preface

The entire concept of musical notations, scores, composition, pitch, timbre, et cetera were alien to me. They still are, but I have gained some understanding of it over the past couple of weeks. After copious hours of being confused, contemplation and apprehension, I arrived at an idea that’s both personal to me and something that is new and unique.

Objective

I’m thinking about attempting to design a visualization for Indian Classical Music. Despite of having a rich history and being immensely influential to Western Music, I haven’t found any interpretations of classical Indian music on computers or computer generated visualizations for Indian music. At a time when this form is losing popularity and significance in India, I’m considering reinventing it so as to find relevance in the contemporary culture.

Research Involved

Indian music is complex and has many forms. Two broad classifications of this form of music are Carnatic and Hindustani. Plus, there’s an entirely different language for composing it, scoring it and playing it. My area of focus would be Hindustani music. Instruments typically used in Hindustani sangeet (music) are sitar, sarod, surbahar, esraj, veena, tanpura, bansuri, shehnai, sarangi, violin, santoor, pakhavaj and tabla. There’s still a lot of research and learning that I need to undertake before I can claim to have an understanding of this form of music. However, this is a start.

Visualization

The source of inspiration for generating visualizations for the score would be Ragamala. Ragamala is a series of illustrative paintings from medieval India dating back to early 17th century. Ragamala translates to “Garland of Ragas”, depicting various Indian musical modes called Ragas. ( link for further information )

I have been going through a research paper written by Dr. Nameeta Shah on Indian music and it’s visualization strategies for the computer medium ( link ).

Problems and Grey Areas

However before delving into this subject and actually initiating work on this project, I wanted to understand how tone.js works and whether it will be able to emulate the sounds of Indian instruments. If not, will it be able to use pre-recorded sounds and give me the freedom to play with it.

Response to Readings – Week 3

Doing Good is Good Business / Week 3 / Data Science and Research

Designing Field Trial Protocols in Ethiopia for Pneumonia Diagnostic Devices

The reading was informative to give me a general sense of what UNICEF has planned to do for tackling pneumonia deaths in Ethiopia (and other countries). The idea of ‘timely and accurate diagnosis being critical to preventing pneumonia deaths’ was insightful. The reading does provide an overview on what UNICEF plans to do, however, I could gain no sense of how they are going to do it. I visited their website and gained an understanding of the devices and protocols surrounding ARIDA. There are some questions that I have:
1. Diagnosis is the first step, true. But are all families aware about the condition of pneumonia? Is this knowledge commonplace? If not, is UNICEF taking any measures to advertise the hazards of pneumonia and informing them about the associated symptoms?
2. My understanding is that the diagnosis, advice and care provided by community healthcare workers is free. Is it? Do they also equip families with the necessary information about the contagious nature of the condition, the kind of care that should be provided after recovery et cetera?

The Economics of Drone Delivery

The reading raises many interesting points regarding the complications involved with drone deliveries, backed by quotes and data. The comparison between drone deliveries in a consumerist setting versus drone deliveries in an underserved remote setting was intriguing. While, I think that investments should be made towards drone deliveries in places inaccessible regions for medical purposes or emergency use cases, the world is also seeing drones being used to exercise control in a region (also taking lives in the process – link ). So, it’s tricky to acknowledge that legitimizing drones would only be beneficial, and not harmful.

In terms of the big corporates targeting drone deliveries, I believe that the drones will indeed see the daylight soon. Such companies put a lot of study to figure out the economics associated with such undertakings, and I don’t think economics is something that they’re worried about. The only thing obstructing them would be to reach negotiations and formulation of regulations with the Government and other involved parties.

Aerial Assessments After Sandy

The link is not working.

What is Driving Uber’s Global Impact?

Uber’s impact across the world is undeniable. My personal experiences from India resonate what the article emphasizes i.e. how Uber is changing the way transportation was once construed. Back in India, auto-rickshaws or taxis were two popular modes of transportation. Singular companies/organizations which were running these services across cities had monopolized the business, with bad infrastructure, no reliability and a steady unaccounted increase in their pricing each year. There was mistreatment of the customer, hooliganism and also cases of sexual harassment towards women. People were gradually forfeiting the idea of resorting to these modes of transportation and were striving to put together enough money to be able to buy a vehicle of their own. Uber changed the game. Not only did they provide a dependable means of transportation, they also provided vehicles in good condition and at much lower prices. More than the economic impact, the cultural impact of the company amazes me.

The article gives a nice outlook into how Uber has been making waves across the globe, and also raises a few questions that I ask myself. Data collection is central to the way Uber works. The question is, how are they going to leverage this data to solve bigger issues such as pollution and road congestion? (UberPool is there of course, and as Chris mentioned they are also putting in a lot of research towards flying cars which is befuddling!). So far, Uber has been a private initiative wherever it has operated. How can the company work with the Government to address issues in the public sector and issues being faced by the poor, rather than only catering to those with smart phones in their pockets?