Blog Essay 12 - Tianbao Li (Tom)

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The case I found for Workshop 12 of this week is an article called Man vs. Algorithms posted in 2013 that relates to the topic Algorithms that we have read from Tarleton Gillespie's article.

According to Gillespie, algorithms are now a key logic governing the flows of information on which we depend, managing how information is perceived by users, the 'distribution of the sensible.' (p. 1) In this online article, the author at first discussed the important role algorithm plays nowadays in many media services such as Amazon, Netflix and Pandora, they rely on algorithms to personalize the user experience and many journalism outlets now use algorithms to recommend stories, organize the homepage and even generate original content. However, that doesn't mean real editors and curators have completely lost out. Sometimes the gorgeous messiness of flesh and blood does prevail.

This article generally talks about the human power which also plays a very important role that algorithm can't do.

For example, like the author says, "One thing they can't do is delight and surprise a listener: you want to throw a curve ball every once in a while."

Then I would like to talk about my teammate Hannah Mocol's case. The case she brought in is Pandora, a site that allows users to choose a song they like and the algorithm in it will find a song that is similar, then let the users decide if they like this option, if yes the program will throw the data into its algorithm and keep doing this the way people like.

During the workshop, Hannah says that Pandora uses 400 attributes to describe a song which shows that it uses patterns of inclusion, she quotes "The choices behind what makes it into an index in the first place, what is excluded and how data is made algorithm ready" (Gillespie 168).

After Hannah shared her case, I came up with some new ideas, I totally agree with her about how algorithm works to help people finding music, however, I still believe that this work can be better done by real people, especially people who are experts of music.

Finally by combining our cases, our group came up with the conclusion that, algorithms are efficient and helpful but they are not perfect, algorithms are created by people meaning that every algorithm will not fit with every single person. In this way, we can benefit from algorithms by saving time and human resource while we can still keep upgrading them.

Work Cited

Gillespie, T. (2014). The relevance of algorithms. In T. Gillespie, P.J. Boczkowski, & K.A. Foot (Eds.), Media technologies: Essays on communication, materiality, and society (pp. 167-193). Cambridge: MIT Press

Blog Essay 11 for Workshop 11

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The case I found for Workshop 11 is a blog essay that talks about social media trends at Middle East. Based on the working experience in this region, the author is trying to make a summary of the booming popularity of social media use and the rise of business interactions based on social media, especially mobile platforms.

According to the author, the new platforms is a great boost that fuels visual storytelling through Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. As well as platforms that focus on ephemeral content like Snapchat and Vine. Although she is not able to have the actual figures on these platforms hin the Middle East, she says that early adopters will certainly be trialling these platforms if those companies want to experiment with bespoke, targeted communications to a young audience.

This case exemplifies the statistic data from the report by NU-Q and also relates to the guest speaker Everette E. Dennis's discussion towards the growing and prosperous online media content at Middle East.

Based on my case, I believed that the use of the Internet at the Middle East in this case, has been embraced. Then my teammate Tim's case helped me extend my field of vision towards other regions .

Tim's case took us to social media use in Brazil. Tim's suggested to look at Brazil for predicting the future of social media, instead of the U.S. According to Tim, Brazil is the most populated country in South America and has over 78 million internet uses. Besides, Brazil is also has 65 million Facebook users and 31.2 million Twitter users. To my surprise, Brazil has become the largest market for YouTube apart from the US.

Based on the data above and the research he did, Tim shares his ideas about his conclusion that Brazil is attempting to refurbish its image due to 2014 Brazil World Cup. Most importantly, Brazil needs to be prepared for the 2016 Olympic Games. Besides, Tim mentioned that the Internet users in Brazil increased by over 208 percent last year while the world actually decreased by 2 percent.

All in all, Tim's case is a great enforcement for my case and based on our cases, we came up with the idea towards out topic of the workshop that social media is a way for a country to show who they are and what culture they have. And it is true that the development of social media is different all over the world.


Linaker, Ema. "Top Five 2014 Middle East Social Media Trends." Web log post. Social@Ogilvy.
N.p., 20 Jan. 2014. Web. 01 May 2014.

Blog Essay 10 for Workshop 10

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The case I found for Workshop 10 is an website called Cupid Radar. It is a online dating website from LA, and what makes it special is that it offers both a traditional log-in site and mobile apps in order to provide both active and passive dating experiences.Users can search and find matching results and prioritize by location and criteria - the staple method of online dating. For the passive experience, users set up their profiles and the mobile app monitors their surroundings - and like a concierge for romance, notifications are delivered while the user works, reads, or drink coffee in the background.

The way Cupid Radar works is an example of engineering serendipity and since their target users are living in the cities, Cupid Radar's city-based setting is because cities are where we are easier to experience serendipity just like what Zuckerman has mentioned in his Rewire that "putting a diverse set of people and things together in a confined place, we increase the chance that we're going to strumble onto the unexpected." (Zuckerman, p. 211).

What I can take away from finding this example is that the particular relationship between physical world and cyber world. It seems like if we want better engineering serendipity of the internet, we need to find out more about the mechanism of serendipity in our real world first. Like what Zuckerman suggested that "If we want to create online sapces to encourage serendipity, we might take some lessons from cities." (Zuckerman, p. 218).

During the workshop of our group 5 led by me, I found my teammate Tim's case very valuable. The case Tim brought in an interactive social media site called livehoods that defines the character of an urban area through the types of places there, and by the people who live theirs daily routine. According to Tim's description, the site is now using millions of foursquare check-ins people are tracked to which places the visit then put into groups with characteristics, livehoods. Besides, the interactive maps let us see where the same groups of people hang out and visit most frequently and also where in that city the same types of people are. Tim uses a group of college students for example, they may come up in multiple parts of the city which they could use to help explore what else is out there. Like Tim said, this is just like what Zuckerman said about Structured Wandering, which are designed paths for people to find serendipity (Zuckerman, p. 229).

During the discussion of the cases my teammates brought in, I realize that most of the websites or apps designed for serendipity depend on the setting of urban areas. Tim's case is, as a matter of fact, is a great enforcement to my idea that serendipity is more likely to be encountered in cities.

However, by discussing an app called Cloak which is also an app based on cities, we learned that not everyone likes serendipity since this app helps people to avoid to meet friends from social networks in real life.

All in all, apps like Cupid Radar and Livehoods are the tools that are engineered for serendipity and let us find stuff we don't know we are looking for.


Ethan Zuckerman (2013). Rewire. W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393082838.

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Blog Essay 6 for Workshop 6

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The case I found is an article from The Enemies of Internet which talks about how different government agencies work together and build so called the Great Firewall of China to apply censorship, propaganda, and surveillance. Then I found this graph that illustrates the relations of the government agencies.

This case is a good example that well illustrates this weels's topic which is the trinity of authoritarianism: propaganda, surveillance, and censorship according to Morozov's discussion about authoritarian in The Net Delusion that authoritarian governments are those governments that use censorship, propaganda, and surveillance all together to control their citizens (Morozov, p. 82). Chinese government.png

In this article we can see that in an authoritarian country, there is not a guarantee for the rights and freedom of individuals. However, after I read this article which is all about criticizing China about Internet freedom, individual rights and privacy, I realized that maybe I can see this case from another aspect which is the technology. Then I was looking at this article and read Morozov's book again and I asked myself two questions: any examples that can illustrate the benefits of using internet technology and why China chose to use Internet to apply the trinity of propaganda, surveillance, and censorship.

As I read the book again, I found an example of how Chinese government take advantage of the internet and technology today. Morozov mentioned a software developed by China called GreenDam. As part of the great fire wall of China, Chinese government set up this app on personal computers in citizen's home for censorship the content the Chinese uses are trying to explore. According to Morozov, the GreenDam was not considered a success but it was pretty effective overall, like he said GreenDam is still a extremely powerful and dangerous concept (Morozov, p. 99). As we can see from this case, Chinese government tried to have the aid of the technology to help achieve the goal for surveillance, and censorship and it has proved to be working.

On the other hand, why Chinese government chose to use digital technology and internet? It reminds of the benefit of digital surveillance today in Chapter 6 of The Net Delusion (Morozov, p. 150). Like Morozov says, the government surveillance has come to a digital era, and many governments started to use digital surveillance is because the cost to censor is lowered significantly. The technology today make government surveillance more efficient and can censor more by doing less work.

Besides, Morozov also mentioned that it is the fact that with the aid of new technological capabilities, the government can even make those skillful users fearful. (Morozov, p. 98).

These examples help me to see Chinese government and its censorship from another perspective and it is not only criticizing, but more comprehensive and analytic.

Next I want to discuss my teammate Amanda's case. The case she found is an article entitled The Internet, the perfect tool for the surveillance state? This article is related to Chapter 6 by Morozov regarding the idea of "security by obscurity" (Morozov 163). In this chapter, he mainly talks about authoritarian regimes and how the idea of people from country of Internet freedom are safe because they are far away from these regimes that are using technologies to their advantage to control citizens and activists.

This case made Amanda has second thought about her own country the U.S and other countries without those authoritarian regimes. More specifically, how to consider the internet surveillance in these countries. She thinks that although internet and surveillance is playing a huge role in authoritarian governments, what role surveillance is playing in our own country and not just those regimes. And the U.S are watching the citizen just like authoritarian governments but doesn't do as much.

In my point of view, Amanda's case her idea give me a whole new perspective regarding Internet surveillance, and her idea about the role technology plays is also a good supplement of my own idea. By learning from Amanda's case, I came up with a new conclusion. As we know that countries like China and their regimes have been heavily targeted for criticizing Internet surveillance and censorship, however, at the same time, the surveillance in the countries like the States are kind of underestimated or ignored. Besides, the use of technology in digital surveillance actually plays important role in many countries, not only authoritarian regimes.
It is much better to see the case from other perspectives.


Morozov, E. (2011). The net delusion: The dark side of internet freedom. New York:

May, Kate Torgovnick. "TED Blog." TED Blog The Internet the Perfect Tool for the Surveillance
State Further Reading and Watching on the State of Digitalprivacy Comments. N.p., 7 Nov.
2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.

"The Enemies of Internet." The Enemies of Internet. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.

Blog Essay 2 for Workshop 2

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I found this case from a blog site called The author Greenwood (2013) talks about an interesting statistic data by China Internet Network Information Center that more Chinese Internet users are cellphone users, which means Chinese people prefer to use the Internet by cellphones, rather than using computers. Besides, 50% of new Chinese Internet users were from rural areas. The reason why is because the cheaper smartphones are allowing people in relatively remote areas to get online.

This example illustrates both topics of Internet Revolution and Mobile Revolution, more specifically, the rapid and far-ranging adoption of the mobile phones world-wide, especially smartphones, which also relates to the and the shifting towards portability including wireless, laptops, mobiles.

Then why Chinese adopted Internet and smartphones so rapid and widespread? First, the Chinese government has introduced new policies that broaden the development of the Chinese Internet construction. Second, there is booming early adopters for both high speed Internet and smartphones. Then according to Rainie & Wellman (2012), the development of current technology has become a worldwide situation (p. 64). And according to Moore's Law, the performance of devices has been doubled by every specific short period of time. Obviously, China has got involved in this trend and Moore's Law can be applies in China also. Last, the increasing bandwidth and the popular adoption of apps are also very important reason to let it happen in China.

Based on this case, something new that came to me is that I think the Internet Revolution and Mobile Revolution are deeply connected, in other words, they rely on each other. According Rainie & Wellman (2012), Internet Revolution and Mobile Revolution are discussed respectively(p. 59). Rainie & Wellman did mention "smartphones" in Internet Revolution, but this factor was not emphasized enough to become a statement (p. 64).

In my opinion, the booming adoption of smartphones and the Internet rely on each other, and benefit from each other. For example, the popularization of public WiFi hot spots and the increasing bandwidth are both beneficial to the development and the hot sale of smartphones.

Then I want to discuss a case shared by my teammate Amanda from our Team 5. Amanda presented the case for Mobile Revolution. She talks about the mobile revolution from the perspective of phone apps. Amanda mentions that mobile revolution can entrust us new abilities and new identities including consumers and professionals. She emphasized using frictionless payment systems through dedicated smartphone apps.
In order to explore more towards this payment system, I found this article from a blogging site called Inside Facebook. article (2010) introduces a new frictionless and virtual payment system for trading goods developed by PayPal and this business will include social networks like Facebook. This new payment product is designed for virtual products. It allows developers to sell virtual products within video games by simply clicking instead of going to another web page. Actually, this technology has been widely applied now. And it's called In-App Purchase now according to this website. I have used it for several times by buying goods for my virtual character in my iPhone game and it is pretty convenient for both customers and developers to make money and enjoy the

According to Rainie & Wellman (2012), the section of smartphones in Chapter 4, apps is a very important function of smartphones, can they have given smartphones the capability beyond only texting and making phone calls. Just like the author says, "easy-to-use apps are leading to vastly increased and diversified mobile phone use" (p. 92). I believe that with the development of various apps for different uses, people's life will be richer and will benefit more from the apps, healthcare for example.

I think Amanda's case is a good example of the benefit of Mobile Revolution and it helps me to understand Mobile Revolution deeper by pointing out a very specific direction for me to study and her case really a good case for applying what we learned from the reading and the lecture. I think her case doesn't contradiction my case at all and it is a great supplement of my ideas. First, phone apps is a very important function of smartphones and it helps a lot to increase the adoption of both smartphones and the Internet. Both of our cases illustrate the changes of our life that Mobile Revolution and Internet Revolution has brought us and explain the reason why the rapid and far-ranging adoption of the mobile phones and Internet world-wide happened.

Eldon, Eric. "PayPal Introduces More Frictionless Virtual Goods Payment System, Facebook
Included." Inside Facebook. N.p., Oct.-Nov. 2010. Web. 12 Feb. 2014.
Greenwood, Faine. "More Chinese Use Internet on Mobile Phones than on Computers."
GlobalPost. N.p., 19 July 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2014.
Janssen, Cory. "In-App Purchasing." N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
Lee Rainie & Barry Wellman, (2012). Networked: The New Social Operating System.
Boston, MA: The MIT Press.