I stumbled across this article the other day, which seemed like something that would be of interest to the class. It also brought me back to the workshop on User Experience with Samantha Raddatz, which I attended a few weeks ago. In her workshop, she explained a few different methods for testing programs (focus groups, randomly approaching people in coffee shops, etc.) and the way that program/site/app designers often miss the most glaring issues with their own interface, how integral it is to test everything and to be open to the possibility of having to reorganize the information architecture of the site/app/etc. in order to best serve the people using the interface. It is necessary to go through a rigorous and diverse testing phase (although the best results do actually come from the first 5 people who test an app), in order to ascertain that the interface supports user expectation, and enables a positive, simple user experience.
The linked article looks at the user experience, and questions what drives user experience—not just the experience of using an app or site, but the experience of wanting to check it, wanting to be constantly connected. Apparently the concept of internet addiction has been discussed by psychologists since the advent of the first mainstream web browser, but as our technology becomes more and more streamlined and is streaming into the palms of our hands it has become a serious issue.
Is intuitive information architecture partially to blame for this? Does the ease of use create the sort of dependence we see when, on a Friday night, half the people in a bar are on their phones rather than interacting with other people in the bar? Does the ease of use and the resulting expectation of constant accessibility cause the frustration or anxiety many people feel when they don’t have service or wifi to quickly check their social media accounts on a smartphone?
For my data project, I have changed my mind so many times I can’t even begin to tell you where I started in terms of concept…but one idea branched off into another and finally I’m left with the idea of creating the beginnings of a thick map of terrorist activity in the US, with the intention of visualizing how our approach and classification of “terrorism” has changed in the wake of major incidents. For a final/next semester project, I think it would be interesting to focus specifically on creating a map that includes the events and that draws in the media conversations surrounding that event—for instance, mapping the Planned Parenthood shooting that occurred in Colorado last night, including the different ways people reacted to it on twitter, facebook, and in the news (if you look at #PPshooting or #PlannedParenthood on twitter, you’ll see some VERY revealing and diverse reactions to the event). I’m interested in the way that the idea of terrorism has infiltrated American culture and media, especially with relation to Islamophobia but also more generally for the scope of this project.
I really wanted to use the VisualEyes tool from University of Virginia and the NEH, however after much exploration I was not really able to learn how to use it. I like the final presentation of the data with this format, the sample projects on the visualeyes site seemed like exactly the kind of mapping I was looking for, and it is something I would like to really learn and explore in the future.
The point of my visualization, in the larger, more complex project scheme, is to map the way that terrorism and our reactions to it has changed.
I’ve been thinking all week about our discussion in class last Monday, regarding the usefulness of topic modeling software, and how the results can be pretty misleading depending on what your aiming is in using it. I’ve been thinking about turning this plot mapping software on essentially chaotic or even “plotless” novels (specifically the works of Thomas Pynchon)—what would that look like? Would it actually illuminate anything? What would turning any of these mapping or modeling tools on Pynchon, a writer who doesn’t esteem plot as an important element of his writing, do for our understanding of his work? Would topic modeling help make his abstract work more accessible? Would “word bag” approach help us understand more abstract literature that doesn’t rely on standard elements we’ve come to expect (such as a linear plot)?