Month: November 2010

Digital Cultures Project Day I

Here’s the assignment prompt, courtesy of Professor Max Dawson:

“For your final project, your task is to create a work that exploits the unique capabilities of digital media to make an original statement on digital culture. Your project will revisit and engage with the questions of determination addressed at the start of the class, making reference to a specific contemporary debate. The debate you choose to focus on is up to you – the only topics excluded are the ones you have already written on for previous assignments. Similarly, you will choose the medium or media in which you will work (e.g., video, website, photo essay, game, etc.). Your project should not be a traditional research essay, yet it should demonstrate the same critical rigor that characterizes academic writing.”

After some mind-wracking, as specified in the preface, I decided to look into how I was wasting my time on the Internet day by day in the hopes that I’ll find out what URLs I really need to limit my time on/stay away from.

Without further ado, here are the results from Day I of this little pseudo-experiment. The results were supposed to have been posted yesterday and are also a little fudged due to the Great External Harddrive Crash and Laptop Boot Failure of 2010.

Ah yes, by the way, thank you RescueTime app for Chrome.

I didn’t post Rescue Time’s calculations about my efficiency, because I couldn’t figure out their algorithm too well, and from what little I could figure out, it looked like total bullshit. Sites seem to be graded based on “productivity” numbers on a scale between -2.0 to 2.0; the more positive the number, the more productive the site. The grading is somewhat arbitrary. The NYTimes is labeled as a -2.0, a productivity black hole, while Wikipedia is rated at a 2.0. (I’m sure we all know that Wikipedia can make a plenty nice black hole itself.) Numbers are then summed together based on the amount of time spent on each site to get this quotient. The assignment of productivity was just too arbitrary for my taste.

Initial round of data reveals that I spent 2 hours and 24 minutes on the 28th. The cumulative time is a bit misleading, because it only features the browsing that I did on my main laptop. I spent a lot of time on my secondary netbook while attempting to resuscitate my laptop from its boot failure.

I’m not surprised that I Wikipedia came in at numero uno in terms of usage. For crying out loud, Wikipedia’s Random Page function is my homepage. I do a significant amount of link-hopping every day on that site. But I am additionally frequently compelled to Wiki to gather information for assignments (like this one). It’s a place for pleasure and work; makes sense that it eats a lot of time.

I’m also not surprised that GMail is a close number two. I check my e-mail fanatically (like everyone else) to make sure I never miss anything.

Meh on being ranked so high. I deluded myself into thinking that I don’t visit sports sites so often. Guess I’m just another one of the bros. Here’s a place that I definitely need to try and cut down on.

Yea to the New York Times. RescueTime may call the Times a waste of time, but RescueTime also deems visiting to be “amazingly productive.”

Boo on the significant proportion of time spent on my own website. This reeks of narcissism. Though to cut myself some slack, I was on here to work on this assignment.

Anyhow, some pretty expected, if somewhat inaccurate results. Day II graphs should be more comprehensive and encompassing. I’m somewhat scared about seeing a more accurate time counter.

A Preface to my RTVF 341 Digital Cultures Project — Learning Time Management from Aleksey Veyner

Before he died, Captain Obvious croaked out these last words: “The Internet has been one hell of a game-changer.” For sure, the adoption of digital technologies and the Internet into common mainstream usage has significantly altered aspects of human communication, culture, and development, though the exact effects the Internet has had are still hard to gauge at this point. Research into the how Digital has influenced the Real remains controversial, biased, and inconclusive. And that’s to be expected. There are just too many variables, and far too many numbers to manipulate when investigating.

But, that there has been an influence needs no debate. We see broad, public discussions (many of them often negative) ranging in topic from how the extensive digital involvement detrimentally influences brain wiring to how social networking is making it easier for partners to cheat on each other. The steps of this 800 pound Digital gorilla are very clearly being felt by a public concerned with the consequences of all aspects of its development.

I myself also find this hairy gorilla impossible to ignore, and though I’ve long given up on a naïve attempt to categorize the Internet’s grand effects on populations, I’ve since taken to determining how I’ve been personally affected by the Digital. I’ve had a lot of thoughts and have come to a lot of epiphanies – there are a lot of things I would love to ramble on about. Unfortunately, given the limited scope of this project, I’ve had to narrow things down more specifically to a single topic.

It just happens that over the past few weeks, one subject has grown especially pertinent to my interests – the Internet as a productivity killer. As my schedule grows ever more packed and hectic, efficient time management has become more of a priority and a concern. My historically inefficient usage of time makes for lost sleep, which isn’t healthy over the long run.

I’ve always suspected that I could gain back at least a couple of hours on sleep every night if I just cut down on my casual web browsing. I used to be in denial, but I’ve come to terms with the facts that not everything I look up online is constructively adding to my base of knowledge. The Northwestern Greek community gossip I read on CollegeACB will not help me make a better film project. My research into the life and egotism of Aleksey Vayner will not make me a better student of Neurobiology. But in my laziness, I never bothered to closely scrutinize or change my surfing habits. It’s only now, with things coming to a stressful head, that I’ve really been compelled to take a closer look at things. How many hours am I spending online on a day-to-day basis? How long am I spending on the sites that I visit most often? How shot is my attention span? I will seek to answer those questions, among others, and learn how the Internet has affected my productivity in this personal exploration. For three days, my aim is to track how I’m spending my time. And on the fourth day, I want to implement adjustments to see how they impact my schedule.

The Fallacies of Technology

A self-portrait of what I look like right now.

Whew. Well that was a stressful, up-and-down, 9-G-of-a-roller-coaster 8 hour diversion.

Started when I plugged in external hard drive. Somehow, there was some conflict with my iPod, also plugged into my computer, which caused all the files on the HD to disappear. The files disappeared, yet the same amount of space remained occupied on the HD. Hmm. Strange. I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t see those files, but the fact that the space was still taken up led me to logically believe that the files would be easy to recover. They’d probably just been hidden by accident.

Oh ho ho, oh ho oh ho oh, little did I know. Tried revealing all files to no avail. However, I still didn’t panic too much at this point — after all — the fucking space was still being occupied. Downloaded some recovery tools, including Recuva and TestDisk. TestDisk couldn’t find anything. Recuva said that it couldn’t read the sector.

Couldn’t read the sector. Shit.

Only now did I start coming to terms with the fact that perhaps the drive had become corrupted, or had fallen into some other techno-netherworld purgatory that I can’t comprehend with my files. Started biting my lips at this point. My HD had some old writings that I’d done through my brief years, random images, random TV series, a random movie (I think it was Okuribito). Most importantly, my music. Irreplaceable, out-of-print, un-torrentable obscure music. I’d found, gathered (and also purchased many — I’m only a part-time pirate) all of these files starting from my sophomore year in high-school. I wouldn’t  be surprised if a whopping 2% of my life (~150 days) was spent accumulating these files. They were my sweat and blood.

And luckily, most of my music was located on my main internal laptop hard drive, as well. Some losses here and there, a pity about the embarrassingly crappy high-school writings, manga from way back when, and foreign TV series. But Neutral Milk Hotel, Björk, Rachel’s, Explosions in the Sky, Mayumi Kojima, my favorite, aurally-artistically-endowed buddies were still there. So yeah, I had no need to panic. Because my laptop was safe. Right. RIGHT?

Well, I’ve learned that if there’s a way to fuck things up, I can probably do it. Because I while tweaking with the external HD, I proceeded to accidentally make it my primary OS booting drive. I restarted my computer.

It couldn’t start up. Error message some X388293004 or whatever bullshit that prevent my computer from booting — I was asked to insert the Windows 7 Installation/Repair disc. One of  those didn’t even come with my laptop. Yet another fucking reason not to buy an HP/Dell laptop. They are so cheap they make this deal with Windows where you only get to burn your own set of “System Restore” discs. HP System Restore discs (not sure about Dell) basically do a blunt reformat without room for attempted repair to salvage your files. Bam, all files are gone. So that wasn’t an option. Plus, the discs are in California, which was probably the greater factor in ruling out that option.

This was a punch in the gut. Not only was the backup gone, the main thing was potentially gone as well. As embarrassing as this sounds, I puked a tiny bit. I hope you’ll excuse me. There was just too much important information on the comp. Essays, presentations that I did not want to rewrite/redo. And more importantly again, the music. I did not/could not afford to rebuy a lot of that shit. It would be impossible to restore my 122 GB music collection. Had no way of remembering where the purchases ended and the downloads began. The torrents for a lot of music that I actually torrented were long dead.

In desperation, I called my mom and dad for moral support. I knew they couldn’t help me solve the problem. I forgot there is no such thing as moral victories. I started sinking into more despair and nauseous exasperation. With my netbook, I G-chatted all of my friends who were online. One told me to reset my BIOS. Didn’t work. I was still prompted to insert some discs.

Didn’t think anything was going to fucking work at this point. Which is why I’m glad I encountered Neo Smart. And the guy who runs it, whose name is Mahmoud Al-Qudsi. This is going to sound like an advertisement. It is. On his site, he posted links to Windows 7 System Repair disc images that Microsoft has graciously made available — things that the cheap major manufacturer fucks did not bother to include to maximize their profit margins slightly more. My gracious friend lended me his Mac so that I could ironically torrent those ISOs and burn them onto a disc. I was too stupid to grasp on how those repair discs worked, but Mahmoud politely pointed me to his easy step-by-step walkthrough that I’d been too blind to stumble across after I sent him a series desperate, raving e-mails.

After a few hiccups, the system repair worked. An obligatory fuck you HP. I’ve tried to cut down on swearing, especially Internet swearing, but I’m letting loose for this occasion.

Moral of the story–

-Mahmoud is the man. Man is the Mahmoud.

-Murphy’s Law.

-No matter how convenient digital technologies are, they can clusterfuck you in ways that real things cannot. Data is still inherently unreliable, ephemeral in ways that physical things are not — unless you happen to preside over Google’s Empire of Servers. This debacle made me take another look at getting physical copies of my favorite albums. It’s costly, takes up space, and is not environmentally friendly, but knowing that you can’t losing something so easily is a good feeling.

-Who will watch the Watchmen? Who will back the Backup?

Backups need backups need backups.

-And finally, Wally, for the last time, don’t fuck with options/settings when you don’t know what you’re deciding between.