“Beauty walks a razor’s edge; someday I’ll make it mine.”

Dusting off the old blog? Not really, but I figured it was time for a post, even a minimal one.

Posted in Fun, Music, Random | Leave a comment

Oh look, I can blog in LaTeX now

Thanks to the marvelous WordPress plugin Jetpack, I can now use LaTeX to typeset math on my blog. How does it look? Like this: x^n + y^n = z^n. Or this:

\displaystyle\sum_{n = 1}^\infty \frac{1}{n^2} = \frac{\pi^2}{6}.

Pretty cool, no?

Posted in Fun, Geek, Math, Random | 3 Comments

“I’ve got pi here, and I’ve got pi there; I’m pi-winning!”

Yes, that’s a Charlie Sheen reference which will almost certainly be lost on any future readers of this post. Oh well, such is life. And this post is not actually about Charlie Sheen; it’s about math! On Pi Day 2011, the ever ardent Vi Hart posted a video explaining why pi is wrong, and why we should all be using a new constant—tau, equal to two pi—instead. The argument, alluded to by Vi and elaborated on in Michael Hartl’s Tau Manifesto, is surprisingly convincing, and it’s one which I—a math major who has yet to develop a good intuitive understanding of trigonometry—find rather interesting. Of course, pi has long been deeply entrenched in mathematics, and it seems unlikely that Pi Day will give way to the less mnemonic Half Tau Day any time soon; however, all change must begin somewhere, and that beginning cannot come until people understand what’s wrong with the current situation. Watch the video, read the manifesto, and decide for yourself.

Continue reading

Posted in Fun, Geek, Math | Leave a comment

Thus ends Introduction to New Media.

Well, I just finished up my final exam for Prof. Macek’s Intro to New Media class about half an hour ago. This term has been quite interesting—to say the least—and blogging has proven to be surprisingly fun (most of the time). I think I’ll continue blogging now and then, though my future blog posts will probably be more personal and/or technical, and less media-oriented.

Anyway, I figured I should make note of the conclusion of my “new media” blogging. All good things must come to an end, and this end should always involve a Johnny Cash song. Enjoy:

Peace out, y’all. :)

Posted in Fun, Intro to New Media, Music, School | Leave a comment

Check out Ben Gura’s site.

Ben’s a student in the Computer Science II class I’m precepting this term, and he is also taking Web development. He was lamenting the fact that no one links to his site, and thus that it isn’t in Google. I offered to link to him from my blog that no one reads. :) Here you go.

P.S. I’ll have to talk to him about those JavaScript links….

Posted in Intro to New Media, Random, School | Leave a comment

My final project for Intro to New Media

One of my classmates in Prof. Macek’s new media course requested I post a link to my final paper on my blog, so here you go: “Captioning & accessible video on the Web”.

I was also asked about whether or not any progress had been made towards a useful, automatic captioning system based on speech recognition. I’m too sure about developments in this area, but I did find a short paper by Trmal, et al. describing an automatic speech recognition–based system for captioning parliamentary meetings in the Czech Republic. The system appears to be reasonably successful; however, the paper notes that captioning parliamentary sessions is, in some ways, unusually easy due to the carefully enforced rules of procedure which ensure that a speaker’s voice is generally unimpeded by the voices of others and by background noise.

Posted in Intro to New Media, School, Web, Writing | 1 Comment

Why is the recording industry so blind to the obvious?

[This is a response to Prof. Macek’s fourth blog prompt.]

As part of my Introduction to New Media class, I recently read a Freakonomics Quorum article on the present and future of the music industry. The five commentators Freakonomics surveyed touch on many different aspects of the industry situation, but they all seem to agree on three things:

  1. The rise of digital audio is radically altering people’s music consumption habits.
  2. The recording industry refuses to acknowledge these inevitable changes.
  3. The recording industry is suffering due to its stubbornness.

I’ve honestly had a lot of trouble writing a response to this article, and I think I’ve finally discovered why: All the points I just mentioned seem like common sense! Every popular new technology brings with it changes in the social order, and the companies that can adapt to these changes will continue to thrive, while the companies that cannot adapt—or that could adapt, but refuse to do so—will slowly fade away.

But why, if these facts are so mind-numbingly obvious, has the recording industry paid so little attention to them? I don’t have a good answer to give. I suppose it’s human nature to be wary of change, and I can understand why many label executives would prefer it if MP3s, iPods, and file sharing services had never been born. What I cannot understand is why it has taking industry members so long to realize that digital music is here to stay, and that the traditional, plastic disc–based model is likely fated to a slow but inevitable decline.

I realize this is not the most insightful post on the music industry, but the behavior of industry members seems to make drawing any insight rather difficult. It’s hard to develop a reasonable explanation of actions that do not appear to be reasonable in the least. I’m certain that people more informed about the issues than I can provide more interesting commentary on the recording industry’s actions and motives; meanwhile, I’ll be over here scratching my head.

Posted in Intro to New Media, Music | Leave a comment

Citizen protests… in North Korea?!

Man, I’ve really been neglecting this blog lately, and, in accordance with the First Rule of Blogging, I must go out of my way to point this out. :) In my defense, the past week has been pretty hectic, with real analysis homework, a project due and a test to take in my operating systems class, and final preparation for the ACCA programming competition today.

I’ll try and get back in the swing of things over the next week, but right now I just wanted to share a couple of news stories I was just reading about. More protests against abusive regimes have broken out, this time in North Korea. North Korean citizens have long suffered under the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il, and the Asian press is reporting that fear of Kim Jong-il’s son and potential successor, together with still worsening economic conditions, may have sparked the protests—the first of their kind in the secretive totalitarian state.

It remains to be seen what effect, if any, these protests will have on the broader North Korean population. On one hand, many international relations scholars share the opinion of Chinese professor Liu Jiangyong, who feels that there is “not a big chance for North Korea” due to the extreme isolation of the country’s population. On the other hand, even small, sporadic protests represented a marked chance in the North Korean social atmosphere. Moreover, the Asia News Network reports that news of the Egyptian protests has reached some North Korean citizens through Chinese television broadcasts and clandestine phone calls.

Making an already tense situation even tenser, South Korea has begun a “psychological campaign” of its own, dropping leaflets about the recent Egyptian democracy protests to its troubled northern neighbor. The North Korean government, in turn, has responded as it usually does: by threatening military action if the South continues its leaflet campaign.

Such posturing on the part of the North is hardly new, of course, but it does reflect on how seriously the North fears any attempt to assail its official state worldview. The citizen protests of the past few days and the South’s attempt to inform North Koreans of similar dissent elsewhere face tremendous hurdles, but they also appear to have left the North Korean government slightly uneasy, and such efforts might play a decisive role in the eventual democratization of North Korea.

Posted in Intro to New Media, News, Politics | 4 Comments

Social media: users write; media companies profit.

I recently read an article (via Dave Winer) by New York Times media columnist David Carr on one of the most curious defining characteristics of the new media—that media companies can turn a tidy profit on content that user contribute for free. Social networks and social news sites are generally free to use, but they ask something in return: the right to publish user-generated content, often accompanied by paid advertising, without paying the content authors. This seemed fair enough when the social Web was young and no one really knew what it was worth in economic terms; however, social networks are now developing into successful businesses, and commentators are beginning to question whether or not these sites should compensate their users, and how they might do so.

Consider the Huffington Post, a popular social news site which AOL just agreed to purchase for $315 million. With this sale, the nature of the game for HuffPo users has changed. It is quite no longer so easy to sell the story that the site can’t afford to pay its contributers for their content. The Huffington Post has grown tremendously, and analysts are starting to call on Arianna Huffington to give something back, if not to everyone, then at least to her site’s most prolific blogger-journalists.

Still, HuffPo editor Nico Pitney counters, despite their own successes, Facebook and Twitter don’t pay their users, to post original content; instead, people write on social networking sites because they want an open, public forum to share their views. As journalist Anna Tarkov says, no one is forced to write for free. Ultimately, not even the charismatic Arianna Huffington can make writers part with their work unless they feel they’ll receive some kind of compensation. In the HuffPo’s case, Tarkov posits, the site’s volunteer bloggers are “paid” not with money but with exposure—the free publicity that comes with having one’s work published on a widely-read news blog.

Not everyone agrees, of course. As blogger Emily Zanotti says, “In the Internet age, once you write for free, everyone expects you to continue.” While it’s easy to say that disenfranchised Huffington Post bloggers can simply stop writing, there’s no guarantee that such a choice will do anything to help their cause. While the HuffPo and other social sites exist only because of user-generated content, the sheer number of contributers at these sites ensures that they can afford to lose a significant portion of their user base without suffering any serious consequences. It does seem to set up a losing proposition for many online writers: “either write for free, or not write at all”.

Is there some legitimacy in the claim that new media Web sites are turning us into “a nation of serfs”, as Carr alleges? Or, on the contrary, are these sites committing no wrongs when they build profitable businesses on content which users have willingly given up for free? In all honesty, I don’t know. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Posted in Intro to New Media, Web, Writing | Leave a comment

Youth and the Internet—no cause for alarm

[This is a response to Prof. Macek’s third blog prompt.]

Well, my online ethnography is done, my math assignment is turned in, and another week of classes is over. I guess it’s about time I got back to some media blogging. :)

A good portion of our class time and assignment reading for the past week has touched on the many issues surrounding kids and the new media, particularly the Internet. While the increasing pervasiveness of fast net connections in the home and on mobile devices brings with it many clear benefits to American society, some worry that this new, “born to be wired” generation are beginning to suffer the consequences of constant exposure to online content. Privacy watchdogs, parent groups, and censorship advocates have expressed and continue to express concern that about the content that young people can easily access on the Internet.

As discussed at length by Kathryn Montgomery in her book Generation Digital, lobbying efforts by these groups have met with some success, with Congress successfully passing legislation prohibiting many forms of online marketing and data collection targeted at young child. On the other hand, efforts by conservative activists to introduce a “V-chip for the Internet” to protect kids from online pornography and other inappropriate content have been largely fruitless, facing seemingly insurmountable legal and technical hurdles.

Still, though people often claim that the Internet is making American youth immoral, antisocial, and stupid, all the evidence I’ve seen seems to indicate that exposure to online content has a net positive effect on children and teens. The Internet isn’t perfect, and it certainly poses risks to impressionable children, tweens, and teens; however, I think proper parental involvement in children’s lives can more than make up for any harm which access to online resources can cause to children. If parents are so worried about their kids’ safety, privacy, and morality, I think the responsibility should fall on the parents directly—not on the government or the various activist groups—to properly educate their children about the risks they might have online.

Posted in Intro to New Media, Politics, Web | Leave a comment