Robyn Gee on Tuesday, Oct. 30th
Zuhairah Scott Washington, 35, is combating relationship ruts with her mobile app, Kahnoodle.
The app targets couples who have been together for a while and are starting to take each other for granted. Washington said she wanted her app to utilize gamification “to actually help couples see each other anew and get excited about doing new things in their relationships.” (more…)
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Robyn Gee on Monday, Aug. 13th
The game of politics makes some people gag. But for others, it’s what they live for.
Meet DJ, Ben and Nick — the protagonists of the new documentary “Follow the Leader,” which just received a $27,000 boost on Kickstarter.
The film follows these young men from the age of 16 through their first year in college. At age 16, all three have political ambitions to be national leaders.
Director Jonathan Goodman Levitt calls it a “political coming of age story” — an accurate title since two of the boys go through a serious political transformation. The project was born out of Goodman-Levitt’s hypothesis that the 9/11 attacks drastically affected the political beliefs and mindset of an entire generation of young people. (more…)
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Robyn Gee on Friday, Jul. 20th
When I told Taylor Peck his election quiz website reminded me of a dating website, the political junkie and co-founder of www.isidewith.com said, “I’ll take that as a compliment — hopefully they’ve done as much work as we have to match you with someone else.” But instead of romantic partners, isidewith.com matches users with compatible political candidates.
Peck and co-founder Nick Boutelier created an online quiz that takes five minutes to complete, and after asking only 20 questions, spits out a “political profile” that tells you how well you match up with different political candidates. The site is quickly approaching one million quiz-takers, and averages over 100,000 unique views a day, since emerging from beta phase in April 2012.
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Robyn Gee on Wednesday, Jul. 18th
Youth might not be going to the polls in vast numbers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about making change in their communities, and in the national issues that affect their lives.
According to a recent study by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics, youth are actively expressing their opinions on social and political issues through blogs and other social media. (more…)
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Robyn Gee on Thursday, May. 31st
Attention starving musicians: a new way to perform and collect quick paychecks is available online.
Stageit is an online concert venue for musicians. Artists offer webcam performances to their fans that usually last 20 – 30 minutes and cost around $5 per ticket. The performance is not archived, so if you miss out, it’s your loss. While there’s no audio coming from the fan side, fans are able to chat questions and make requests via chat.
Evan Lowenstein, founder and CEO of Stageit.com, said it’s kind of like a hang-sesh with your favorite artist. “We’re a compliment to live touring….These are little bits, like a day in the artist’s life to share with their fans. From a fan’s perspective, we allow you to see three concerts in a night in an hour and a half…. To not have to deal with parking, dinner, or a babysitter – it’s a different experience,” he said in an interview with TurnstyleNews.
Stageit is not to be confused with a Ustream look-alike. Ustream is a free live video streaming site that uses an ad-based model, so the viewer is not paying the broadcaster for any content. Instead, Stageit tries to foster the relationship between the artist and the fan. “Their interest is to get as many eyeballs as possible. As an artist you might say, that’s a really good thing, but they’re getting money from Chevy. They’re not getting funding from the fans,” said Lowenstein. On Stageit, fans directly support and pay the artists they watch.
Stageit launched in March of 2011, and business is growing rapidly. In February of this year, they had 4,000 artists offering concerts, and now they have around 10,000. Artists include Jason Mraz, Jimmy Buffet, and Trey Songz, as well as several lesser-known and independent artists. And anyone can sign up. But if you’re one of the top-selling artists, or you’re already a big-name musician, you’ll appear on the Main Stage or the home page.
Jack Conte is a musician with the group Pomplamoose, an “Indie Rock Pop” duo that is known for their re-harmonizations of pop songs, and their video songs on YouTube — some of which have over 9 million views. Pamplamoose played their first concert on the Stageit Main Stage last week.
“[Stageit] comes very naturally to us, it feels like an extension of what we do, except live,” said Conte. “We asked during the stream for everybody to type in where they’re watching from. It was unreal. We had every continent represented and a lot of countries I didn’t know existed,” he laughed.
The first time an artist plays a concert on Stageit, according to Lowenstein, is priceless. “Every artist that does it kind of makes the same joke, ‘Hey, I’m not wearing any pants!’ It’s a different vibe for the artist, it’s a hybrid between sitting still in a recording studio in front of a microphone and performing live where people are actually watching you,” he said.
Conte said Pomplamoose had tried to stream concerts using other platforms. ”There are a lot of websites and start-ups that are devoted to helping musicians mobilize their fan base, but few of them offer legitimate revenue streams,” said Conte. “[With Stageit] you take musicians and have them do what they do best, and out the other end of the machine comes money. That’s such a wonderful idea for a website. It helps artists make a living,” he added.
Conte said that Pomplamoose hopes to offer a monthly concert on Stageit, since their first one went so well. In the future, Stageit will include a “Side Stage” feature with more options for connecting fans to each other and to the performing artist.
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Robyn Gee on Monday, May. 21st
Peter Thiel, prominent venture capitalist and founder of PayPal, recently claimed on 60 Minutes that plumbers make more money than doctors. So why bother with higher education? It’s expensive, and you can get an equally well-paying job without it, goes the rationale.
Turnstyle previously reported on the Peter Thiel Foundation’s gifts of $100,000 grants to young people under the age of 20, to drop out of college and pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors.
But is it really true that plumbers can out-earn doctors?
Vivek Wadhwa, writing in the Washington Post, offered a critique of Thiel’s message. Wadhwa checked in with the economist who made that claim in 2011, Laurence Kotlikoff. While progressive taxes, opportunity costs and Social Security work in a plumber’s favor, Kotlifoff’s calculations actually presupposed several things to arrive at these conclusions:
…That the doctors went to elite institutions for undergraduate and graduate degrees and then worked in a lower-paying medical specialty such as pediatrics or general practice. And he assumed the doctors financed their entire education without scholarships or other assistance. The calculations also did not take into account the far greater likelihood that a plumber could be unemployed or injured on the job, either of which could prove catastrophic to his or her earning power.
Thiel also makes the argument that the cost of college leaves students with debt that seriously depletes their earnings after graduating.
However, I recently interviewed Lauren Asher, director of the Project on Student Debt, who said less than one percent of college students graduate with more than $100,000 of debt, and a third graduate with no debt at all. According to Asher, a four-year college education is still the best investment a young person can make, even if they have to take out some federal loans. Wadhwa agrees, saying college is one big R&D lab to help you figure out how to navigate life afterwards.
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Robyn Gee on Friday, May. 11th
Women are twice as likely to consult Google for a health diagnosis as opposed to a real doctor — but apparently one in four women end up misdiagnosing themselves from the information they get on the Internet.
Citing a recent study in Britain, an article in Week Magazine explains that women are consulting “Dr. Google” about their health symptoms. Perhaps women are simply plugging their symptoms into a Google search engine to see what pops up. But it’s possible that women are actually going to the following site: http://fffff.at/dr-google/ for E-diagnoses.
It looks just like the Google homepage with a couple of differences.
To try and figure out how this works, we typed in “sore throat” to the above site and received a diagnosis for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — a “progressive, FATAL, neurodegenerative disease,” often called Lou Gherig’s disease.
When we typed in “Headache” — the diagnosis was Alzheimer’s Disease.
Thankfully, clicking on “Second Opinions” directs you to WebMD and a list of other resources where one can research the stated symptoms. Yet it’s not so surprising that people looking to play doctor often miss the mark.
According to experts in the article, women are using the Internet over live doctors because the information is free and immediate. Women also tend to be embarrassed about talking about their symptoms, according to the article.
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Robyn Gee on Thursday, May. 10th
“Be data driven, not data drowning,” is the slogan for Kickboard for Teachers – an educational software, designed to help teachers and administrators collect data regarding their students’ academic and behavioral performance in one place.
Data is the name of the game in American education today — in fact, Jennifer Medbery, the creator of Kickboard, was named a “Champion of Change” by the White House. She is a former high school math teacher and Teach for America corps member. Many of the people on the Kickboard team are former teachers as well. The software was introduced in 2009, and is currently in a closed beta phase for individual teachers.
The software allows teachers to record academic and behavior-related data in one place, and share it with other teachers and administrators who have a stake in student performance. Teachers and school leaders can keep track of good and bad behaviors like being tardy, not wearing a uniform, answering a difficult question and turning in homework. It functions as an online gradebook as well.
But the data go a level deeper than grades, according to Stew Stout, the Marketing Outreach Manager for Kickboard, also a former teacher.
“One of the things I always struggled with as a teacher was, ‘What does a grade mean?’ So if I’m looking at a test and a student got a 75 or an 80, that doesn’t really tell me a lot. But in Kickboard we take the data one level deeper. Every question that a student answers that’s been recorded in Kickboard is based on a skill or a standard that a teacher is teaching… When you put that level of granularity you can really plan effectively. My students did well on this standard, and didn’t do well on this one. I’m going to prioritize what they didn’t do well on,” said Stout.
Kickboard claims that it can improve school culture, which seems like a trickier thing to prove. Stout says because Kickboard data allows all teachers to keep track of the same behaviors, school leaders can ideally identify and address the behaviors that happen most frequently.
“Maybe this student is acting out in three classes, but doing really well in one class. You can’t see that trend unless you have data. … School leaders can plan really purposeful professional development. ‘In this class I’m really seeing a lot of students talking out. In this other class I’m not. I’m going to connect these two teachers so they can help each other,’” said Stout.
Because Kickboard lets teachers update data in real time, and the data is attached to a particular student — not a classroom or teacher — school leaders and counselors using Kickboard can monitor student behavior around the school during the school day. If a student is having a particularly bad day, and three teachers in a row record concerning behavior for that student in their classrooms, a counselor who sees this on Kickboard could pull this student out of class and intervene. “You can intervene before a trend becomes a problem,” said Stout.
The software raises some interesting questions. Is there such thing as collecting too much data? Is a classroom still a classroom if teachers are more concerned with recording each student’s behavior than engaging with the students?
“If people are entering information, and they’re not doing anything with it, then the information is worthless. But if the data has value and it’s being used, then I think that’s great,” said Stout.
According to Stout, each teacher uses the tool differently. Kindergarten teachers that Stout has worked with do not enter behavior information until the end of the day, since their hands are full all the time. Some high school teachers who use Kickboard have iPad holsters attached to their hips, and are constantly recording behaviors. One school records over 120 specific behaviors that teachers can monitor in Kickboard.
For new teachers, or for teachers starting work at a new school, Kickboard is the equivalent of having the school handbook at your fingertips. “When a teacher signs into kickboard for the first time, the discipline logic is set up, all the consequences are there, all the behaviors are there and those behaviors that a teacher is recording — those are the same from class to class,” said Stout.
But Stout says they’re not pushing any one particular management system. “When a school signs up, they’re not choosing from a menu of behaviors they want to record, or a menu of consequences they could assign, or a menu of incentives they could give. Instead we’re giving them a tool, a framework that they can use to execute their vision,” he said.
So far, Kickboard is not sharing any quantitative results about how the program has affected student performance.
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Robyn Gee on Tuesday, May. 1st
It may be an old-school brand, but the Volkswagon Beetle was one of the winners of the still-new-feeling Webby Awards, the 16th annual results of which were announced today. The awards recognize excellence on the Internet and are sponsored by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
In addition to website categories, there are also some special categories. The Webby Person of the Year was Louis C.K., the Webby Artist of the Year was Bjork, and the Webby Breakout of the Year was Instagram.
Check out some of the other surprising website winners below, including Visitor Norway for the best Welcome / Home Page.
Beauty and Cosmetics:
YSL Experience: http://yslexperience.com/en-GB/explore-ysl
Home / Welcome page:
Visitor Norway: http://www.visitnorway.com/360/geiranger/
Best use of animation / graphics:
Draw A Stick Man: http://www.drawastickman.com/
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Robyn Gee on Tuesday, May. 1st
At first glance, you might simply recognize David Wicks’ artwork as maps, but on further inspection, a data set embedded in the art becomes visible. Wicks writes software to generate art.
For example, in the series below, Drawing Water
, each line in the images corresponds to a daily rainfall measurement. Wicks told Turnstyle the length of the line and its initial placement are determined by the amount of rainfall measured and where it fell.
David Wicks first learned about interactive software art in college. Over time, he learned to write programs to start collecting and transforming environmental data. We spoke with Wicks about Drawing Water.
Check out some examples of Wicks’ work below this interview.
Turnstyle: Could you give us a little background information — how you became interested in the kind of art you do, and what you’re currently working on.
Wicks: I think a lot of art is about observation, and the way I approach it is to write software to record observations and transform them into visuals and experiental systems.
I’m currently working on an installation for the Northern Spark festival with Lauren McCarthy, who I met during my graduate studies at UCLA, and my brother Christopher. We are constructing a realtime portrait of the festival night in Minneapolis. To do that, we are visualizing and sonifying a handful of data streams relevant to the city. Lauren has coordinated with different groups in Minneapolis to help us get interesting data and we are all working on the software to try to get things looking and sounding great.
Turnstyle: Explain what each line represents, and the process of creating the actual images.
Wicks: The final placement and color of each line are determined by the influence of urban water consumers. The more water a city uses, the stronger its pull on the rainfall. As rainfall is pulled farther from where it fell, it becomes desaturated, turning from blue to black in print and to white in the projected installation.
The process is iterative, and I spent a lot of time making things to find out whether they were interesting. Explorations include a folding-map version and an animation where each state looked like a puddle with raindrops rippling their surfaces. I also tried some very science-visualization approaches with the color. Ultimately, I chose the form of the software that you see.
I used Cinder to speed the process of writing software. It is one of many code frameworks now available that help artists and designers focus on writing the unique parts of their application without worrying as much about how the computer puts pixels on the screen. The Processing community keeps a good list of frameworks.
Turnstyle: We’re really interested in the Drawing Water project. What was the inspiration for this?
Wicks: When I moved to Los Angeles for graduate school, I became really interested in the ecology of the place. It has such a bad reputation environmentally that I needed to find out more about what things are really like. I read a lot of books like Salt Dreams, Cadillac Desert, and Land of Little Rain to try to understand more of the area’s history. I wanted to continue to explore water politics in my work, so I spent time thinking through ideas of resource manipulation and distribution by making visuals about it.
Turnstyle: Did you envision the final product beforehand, or did the images morph into something unexpected after you played around with the data?
Wicks: I knew that I wanted to play with some of the ideas around water politics, but where it has gone differs pretty dramatically from my initial explorations. I started with much more literal studies, and also maps where there wasn’t interaction between the data sets. There was rainfall that was actually consumption and a terrain with height based on consumption, but eventually I found the forms you’re seeing.
Turnstyle: Why water as opposed to another resource?
Wicks: Water is so fundamental, and it has been manipulated so dramatically in the last century. We depend on water for so much that I felt I needed to understand something about it better. That’s true for other resources, too, but water is simultaneously an abstraction and the concrete thing we use in a way that other resources are not. We pipe gas to homes for cooking and heating and wire electricity to power our computers and lights, but we pipe water to our homes for water.
Turnstyle: I like the idea of looking at a piece of art — but actually seeing data trends without knowing it. What do you hope for in terms of the viewer’s experience?
Wicks: Foremost, I hope people enjoy looking at the structures that emerge. There is much to marvel at in the way our world is constructed and what we construct within it. I hope that it might encourage people to take joy in looking at the world, to try to understand how different things are related to each other. Of course I have serious concerns about how we use resources, and that discourse is embedded in the work. The images exist only when there is rain. The final structure is shaped by people, but without rain, there is nothing to shape.
Turnstyle: Explain the interactive part of the show and how that works.
Wicks: The interactive component of Drawing Water is a map for navigation. The touchscreen allows a viewer to define a window onto the part of the United Stated they care about. Viewers could look at the past few days of rainfall or a handful of preselected time periods that I found interesting.
Turnstyle: Where is the series installed currently?
Wicks: Drawing Water was installed at UCLA in the New Wight Gallery in May 2011. It currently lies dormant on my computer (and backed up in a few places).
Turnstyle: Do you have plans to do more series along the same lines?
Wicks: I very much intend to keep working with data as a source medium and our relationship to our environment as a subject. I’m excited about making more partially-subjective maps in the future. Anyone interested in those should check out Dennis Wood’s Maps for a Narrative Atlas and Rebeca Solnit’s Infinite City.
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