Sam’s Amazing List, a Thesis Project Proposal

Sam’s Amazing List is a web-based essay that, through expositions, interviews, videos and photographs, revisits and responds to an online journal I kept at age 14.Using web standards (HTML, CSS & JS), I will create an immersive online personal essay that uses archived websites, video, audio and other media (produced by me) to explore the role of the internet in adolescence through the lens of the original Sam’s Amazing List, a website I maintained on Geocities during my freshman year of high school.

The form of the story will use web tools old and new. I will conduct interviews with old friends. Readers will be able to log in to their old accounts on bygone websites in situ so our internet histories are entwined. I will create vignettes relating to people, places and events noted on the original Sam’s Amazing List and incorporate them into the essay. Ultimately, the essay will be presented as a single-page immersive web experience that embraces the internet as both subject and object.

In recent weeks, I’ve been researching topics relevant to this project:

  1. Analysis of the adolescent psyche, specifically the “imaginary audience” / “personal fable” theories and research specific to web-based self-expression in adolescence.
  2. Looking at internet history by conversing with peers about experiences on the web and performing exercises in which I document my initial reactions to my old websites.
  3. Exploring and prototyping new forms of online storytelling with sites like MetaFilter and tools like TouchCast as inspiration for ways to present rich annotation. I’ve also built prototypes to that end.

I’ll be posting updates here as I enter the production phase of the project.

Focusing In on Fungi

For Fungus Among Us, I’ve focused my research to lichen. Two aspects of lichen I find interesting are:

  • They are a composite organism, a fungus and a photosynthesizer (algae or cyanobacteria) living together as one. In Mycelium Running, Paul Stamets says “after hundreds of millions of years of evolution, fungal alliances have become part of nature’s body politic. It is time for our species to partake in this ancient mycological wisdom.” What does lichen look like if we substitute the photosynthesizer with a human? Could anything be gained from a living as massive colony of humans and fungi, each dependent on the other?
  • Lichen grows incredibly slowly. Lichenometry is the use of lichen to date exposed rock. This chart (source) says that 3cm of lichen grown on the Colorado Front Range implies a rock that has been exposed for about 500 years. What strategies can I employ to capture the beauty of lichen in a garden if I might not live to see it realized?

I’ve found a few lichenologists online that I will reach out to. I just need to figure out what to ask them! Mike and I have also decided to team up on this part of our research.

Using pip to Install Python Packages on the Arduino Yún

The Arduino Yún doesn’t come with SSL support, which means no pip and no Python packages. Myself, Adam and Xuedi lost about a day of work last semester trying to find the fix for this, until Google-master Brett saved the day by finding us this link. Clearly these instructions need spreading around the internet, so here they are.

SSH into your Yún and issue the following commands:

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opkg update
opkg install distribute
opkg install python-openssl
opkg install python-bzip2
easy_install pip

Then you can use pip install to install whatever packages you need.

Update, 2015-01-02: python-ssl seems to have been replaced (or superseded? I’m not exactly sure) by python-openssl. I updated the code above to reflect this change.

Making the World’s First Internet-Enabled Fantasy Football Trophy, Part 1: Fabrication

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The Trophy of the Future (TotF) is the world’s first internet-enabled fantasy football trophy. Being the second-ever and, at the time, reigning champion of my fantasy football league, I felt it would be appropriate to spend some time at ITP producing a trophy to share with the league, so I made it my final project for Peter Menderson’s Materials and Building Strategies class. This post will cover the fabrication of the trophy. To read about the technology behind it, check out part 2!

A few weeks in to the semester we started making molds, and after seeing how much fun that was I had the initial idea of casting a football in clear resin for the trophy. Inspired by this headphone amplifier Instructable and wanting to throw a tech twist into the project, I decided to also embed an LED matrix in the resin that, by way of an Arduino Yún, would display NFL news, scores, and my league’s champions. In this first part of documentation, I will show the steps that I took to fabricate the trophy.

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