Live Web: WebRTC

Our homework assignment was to augment a previous homework using webRTC to send either video, images or files in real time to other users.  I decided to pursue something I had seen using the google streetview API and a library called headtrackr.  True to its name, headtrackr tracks your head. By mapping the head positions to variables controlling the heading and pitch of streetview, you can control google street view by moving your head.  I’ve had a hard time adapting this to actually use webRTC.  I’m still working on it, but at the moment that part just doesn’t work.  I would like to adapt this to maybe have people set the locations for other people to look around to show them their favorite areas on Earth.



Social Data Analysis update

Update from Social Data Analysis.  Below are three graphs produced in Gephi, of network relationships from twitter data extracted using python.  The first graph shows the community of twitter users who tweet about Arduino.  Communities of users based on following are grouped by color, with the main cluster centering in the blue and green around the company Arduino, and things like Make magazine.  Smaller fringe communities lie on the outside.



Next is a graph of users tweeting about the flooding in Kashmir, India.  Certain figures like Swadeshi Vichar or Vinay Kumar Sahu proved to be influential nodes in the network.  Also of note is a small cluster of government twitter bots to the right of the main cluster.  All the profiles appear to be using randomly chosen profile pictures, only follow each other, and only retweet news articles from a government-run source.





The last is a graph of word co-occurrence with the hashtag #genderequity, sparked by Emma Watson’s speech at the UN on womens rights.  Emma’s twitter handle easily had the highest factor of co-occurrence.  The hashtag #HeForShe, which is a movement her speech sought to launch, is also featured on the right. You can see a lot of other terms which fit the mold: understand, campaign, try, love, #humanist, someday.  The graph has 92 nodes and 182 edges, and needed to be run through a word stoplist which I didn’t get to unfortunately.gender2



Concealing Truth Map



“Create a map that conceals a relevant truth.”

I mapped New York City as a national park.  Following color scheme and layout from park maps, I wanted to play off the “urban jungle” idea, and imagine New York as a literal jungle, where you take a trip, hike, backpack, camp, etc.  The boundaries of the “park” and the water are accurate, but infrastructure of any kind is hidden.  I mapped a few short trails, using data collected from my OpenPaths account this past week. Routes and points of interest lie in two main sections of the park, separated by river.  Maybe there’s a bridge across, or tunnel underneath, or maybe you need to canoe.  The visitor will have to uncover those surprises for themselves.

Deceiving Maps

“Find three existing maps:  One that shows an example of a lie told about space; Another that lies buy the author probably didn’t realize that it did; A third that is a clear distortion of the truth.”


A lie told about space:

A map of Queenstown, NZ from a tourist guide, purportedly showing the steepness of the streets in the city.  The legend shows the streets are divided into three categories: gently sloped, steeper, and very steep.  They are color coded, and appear to have an arbitrary angle associated with each.  While images of the city show it on a hillside with varying degrees of steepness, it’s pretty evident this map is inaccurate.  The streets clearly have more than 3 grades, and the grades shows on the map don’t appear to be matched to real life.


Unrealized lie by author:

This is a map showing the size of the United States relative to the moon.  I’m going to guess the author looked up the circumference of the moon and got a map of the contiguous United States, and tried to drag and scale it before photoshopping it onto the moon surface.  In their effort to get the effect of the states wrapping around the curved surface of the moon, their photoshop got sloppy and they clearly distorted the US, which is very noticeable when looking at Texas.  I doubt it was intentional or malicious; rather the work of an amateur mapmaker trying to make a graphic to put online.  It gets it’s point across, but does lie about the exact dimensions.

Clear distortion of the truth:

This map was famously featured on the front cover of the New Yorker, intending to show the way New Yorkers view the rest of the world.  It’s meant to say that people from New York don’t care about the rest of the world.  Anything past the Hudson river is basically viewed as insignificant, with 3000 miles represented as the same size as a city block.  China, Japan and Russia were somewhat laid out correctly, but again no scale or size is very accurate.  While it’s clearly satire, it’s still a map, and is still representing blatant lies about space.

Plankton Update Pt. 2

Plankton research continues.  This week I received some freeze-dried zooplankton and liquid phytoplankton in the mail.  I’m still deciding exactly how and what to cook with them, and I also want to make sure this random plankton I ordered off Amazon isn’t going to make me sick.  The zooplankton is certainly pungent.  I also have a few other experiments in the works.  I’m doing some sketching and modeling of plankton, and am researching the nets used to harvest plankton.  I’m not sure if that’s something I’ll be able to accurately recreate, but I’ll find out.  I’ve also been researching MREs and their makeup, from army recipes to the DIY meals that doomsday preppers make.  I want to get an idea about where plankton would fit in these meals nutritionally.  Would they be able to hold up to their role as an entree, or is it more likely they’re relegated to snack bars as a more supplementary food?  I have an actual MRE on the way, which I’ll be eating, as well as some extra heating packets to cook up my own MRE.

I’ve been in touch with some people whose work has involved plankton.  I’m currently in email correspondence with Adam Greer, a postdoc candidate studying the population and reproduction of zooplankton in coastal environments, as well as their interaction with fish larvae – all very important considerations should large-scale plankton farming take place.  Adam will be a great resource for scientific questions about plankton.  But what about eating them?  The restaurant Aponiente in Spain is one of the only establishments in the world serving plankton, and doing it at a sophisticated level.  I am waiting on responses concerning response and attitudes from people eating plankton, preparation techniques and nutritional content, and sustainability considerations.  I also asked them about how they would approach designing a plankton meal for the masses vs an expensive, Michelin-minded dish.  I hope they answer that.

Aponiente (as far as I can tell) get their algae from Easy Algae, an industrial plankton-growing operation also in Spain.  They responded telling me they would put me in touch with the right department, but I am waiting on that confirmation.  I will reach out tomorrow if I still haven’t heard back.  I also contacted Kevin Gianni of Renegade Health after seeing the linked article.  He’s a new-age health promoter (which will have it’s pluses and minuses here I suppose) but he clearly has experience eating phytoplankton, so he should be a great person to talk to (assuming he writes back, but I am confident of that).

The one person I have yet to hear from is Prof. Geoffrey Moore, who discovered the old research where UK scientists made plans to potentially feed the population on plankton during WWII.  He is the person I’d like to speak to most, but it’s been hard to track him down.  I found an email that may or may not be active, as well as a profile on ResearchGate (where I contacted Adam).  Time will tell if I hear back.


But, that’s some progress. Some photos:

6B1A0038 6B1A0042 6B1A0043 6B1A0047 6B1A0049 6B1A0051

Node servers & web sockets

Live Web homework this week was focused on running web sockets on a remote node server.  I made a little canvas drawing tool, which displays a different color for different user who is drawing on the canvas (the circles I drew in my active window were blue, but showed up orange in the other).  It’s fine and I think I understand sockets a little better but I’m not too happy with it.  I wasted A LOT of time trying to get the node server and sockets up and running on my Yun, with the hopes of either streaming data from the Yun to the web or vice versa.  After a lot of frustration, I realized I needed to go back and just try to understand sockets from the beginning, and had to spend a good deal of time on that.  Lesson learned – don’t start with the most complicated thing you can think of.  Screenshot and code below:

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 8.46.54 AM


Plankton Update

Research has begin into my first Temporary Expert topic, plankton.  One new fact I quickly learned was that plankton are not taxonomically classified, they are ecologically classified.  Plankton can be animalsprotistsarchaeaalgae, or bacteria that inhait the pelagic zone, a zone that is neither near the bottom or shore of any body of water (plankton inhabit salt and freshwater).  They live in the water column, but have no control over their horizontal movement.  While some can move themselves vertically, like jellyfish, they are completely at the mercy of the current.

In doing some thought exercises, I realized plankton itself is a metonymy.  People say plankton meaning any number of things, but typically thinking of something like krill or corepods (zooplankton) – tiny, aimless drifters in the sea.  But there are phytoplankton, single celled organisms turning light and oxygen into energy, for zooplankton to eat.  Small but irreplaceable links in an incredible food chain.  There are also organisms like salp, which chain tens to hundreds of themselves together to form long floating strings in the open ocean.

Plankton are everything – single celled, complex, plant, bacteria, animal, drifters, propulsionists, carnivores, cannibals, vegetarian, autotrophs, microscopic, extremophile… it almost doesn’t seem like a scientific classification at all.

While plankton make up a crucial link in the food chain, providing sustenance for everything from fish larvae to the largest mammals in the world, they are a relatively unexplored food source for humans.  Plankton exist in the same model as insects, but even less popular: an easily producible source of food, low on required resources, where hundreds or thousands of organisms are consumed instead of a part of a larger, extremely resource intensive food.  I’ve been interested in the idea of bugs as a source of food for humans for a while now, so it’s not wholly surprising I’m going in that direction.  But one finding in particular drove home this desire.

In 1940s era England, in the throngs of WWII, plans were made and trials conducted by several academics to feed the population on plankton harvested from the Scottish sea lochs should food supplies be cut off.  Most people scoff and the notion of eating plankton in good times, but we all know it would get eaten under more dire circumstances.  It’s a viable food – can we convince people to eat it now?  Do we need to?  Meal, Ready to Eat, or “MREs” are individual food packets used by the military to feed soldiers in environments where regular cooking isn’t possible.  What happens if, due to human action, traditional cooking and eating habits are no longer possible?  Us land dwellers are in the minority on Earth, and for all of our supposed familiarity, the sea is a mostly unexplored resource.  More dire circumstances may force us to turn to resources we currently shy away from.  Maybe this near-dystopian future requires we survive on an MRE based heavily around plankton, harvested from our seas by government-manned trawlers. It’s a topic I intend on exploring.  Contact Geoffrey Moore, British scientist who discovered those long-lost plans, is a great first step.  I also need to contact people well-versed in the nutrition content of plankton, as well as current MREs.

Experiments may include but are not limited to: Modeling and printing larg(er) scale plankton, buying growing dried plankton, crafting a meal out of plankton, making my own MRE to try to live off, making baleen to filter plankton from water, etc.  Some note pages and sketches are below.  I’m really excited about this project.


IMG_3881 IMG_3882 IMG_3883

Websocket + Node chat

Week 2 for Live web, we learned about creating a live chat service using websockets and node js.  We created a basic example in class, and were supposed to see if we could expand on it at all.  Fortunately, we had some leeway since we barely got the topic covered in class.  I spent about 8 hours trying to be able to send picture urls and have the photo appear on the other client, but I could never quite get it to work.

I did manage to modify the chat application to send and receive JSON objects.  I’m not sure what exactly that’s useful for in the context of live chat, but it’s something different.

In this image, the user typed “hey!” and the resulting JSON object showing type, text, id and time is visible in the console.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 12.25.35 AM

On the other side, the user gets the full JSON object, with a very clarifying “they said: ” in the console, as well as the time parsed to your local time.  The id of the sender is hidden from the recipient.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 12.25.53 AM



Overall this was pretty frustrating as I couldn’t get what I wanted to work, but I think with a little more time on this I’ll be more comfortable and capable of better realizing my project ideas.

Chat Experience

Tonight I spent a few minutes on ICQ chat.  I filtered to the most popular chat room, “20-somethings” and joined.  There were roughly 250 people online at the time.  Aside from the waves of people signing in and out of the room clogging the feed, there were probably only 5-7 people regularly talking.  Instead of telling them about a recent personal experience, I regaled them with quotes from the Cormac McCarthy book “Blood Meridian.”  Quotes included: “When the lamb is lost in the mountain, they is cry.  Sometime come the mother.  Sometime the wolf.” and “War endures.  As well ask men what they think of stone.  War was always here.  before man, war waited for him.”  They’re slightly biblical in nature, and I was curious if people would respond to that at all.  One guy played along, telling me that he had once been the lamb, as well as that “war is a dick.”

It seems difficult to have much real conversation on a random chat, especially with the notification mid-feed of every time someone signed in or out.  Most people wanted to talk about their favorite video game or make up incredibly vulgar nicknames for other people in the chat, which I guess is something an anonymous chat service facilitates.  The medium forces rapid fire conversation, often pointless in nature.  This probably has to do with the fact that it’s an anonymous general forum vs one more focused on a given topic.  I think that would go a long way towards having a more enjoyable and refined experience.