Week 9 was another grueling but fun week. In some ways the Web assignment group is my favorite category. The work wasn’t as hard as some past work, and it didn’t require as much of a challenge to my creative thinking as I have had before in this class, but it was mostly the time-consuming parts of the work that seemed to make it drag on. I really did appreciate the simplicity of most of the assignments and how many different places I could have gone with most of them. Listening to the radio shows was also a lot of fun. I was really impressed with the work and creativity my classmates put into the shows, and I of course appreciated the positive feedback about Cloak and Dagger. You can read my review of Agents on Air here. The web assignments I did – a history themed Buzzfeed personality quiz, the Google Drawing AI, and a Pinterest Dream Vacation – were a lot of fun despite the challenge. Editing code on a website using the X-Ray Goggles tool was also something I’d never done before, but I really liked the end product I came up with. Finally, my Daily Create story about a time-traveling physicist, if a little contrived, was fun to write and really challenged my creatively. Here’s hoping future classes get to do more great web assignments.
The year was 1900. Max Planck had just discovered black body radiation, opening the door to the wild and mysterious world of quantum physics.
— Daniel Hawkins (@Hawkins10000) March 22, 2017
Little did Planck know that his discovery would literally change the course of history.
Not long after Planck made his discovery, physicists all over the world began working on applying his theories. One scientist living in the 1950s, John Crow, actually used Planck’s theories to invent a time machine.
John Crow used the machine to travel back and forth in time. But, instead of solving the world’s problems, he mostly just had fun. He traveled to 18th century France, where he went by the name Joseph Ducreux and took up painting. He was known for making odd references to movies, songs, and phrases from far ahead of his time, but instead translating them into his own (what we would call archaic) style of speaking in an attempt to become a comedic sensation.
— Daniel Hawkins (@Hawkins10000) March 24, 2017
John Crow also travelled forward in time, where he discovered the invention of the Internet. There he found he had become a meme! Not the famous painter and comedian that he wished, but he still found immortality of a kind. He left after being disgusted by the volatile and derisive nature of modern online exchanges, but not before offering timeless advice for everyone.
— Daniel Hawkins (@Hawkins10000) March 25, 2017
People all around Crow/Ducreux thought he was crazy, or at least very eccentric, throughout his life. Whether making jokes no one got or referring to tiny moving pictures one could hold in one’s hand and speak to, he did not belong to any one time or another, but to the ages.
For the X-Ray Goggles assignment, I decided to make a new version of the NSA website (the original can be found here). I probably went a little risky with using a government website, and a very important one, but a little satire never hurt anyone. Before starting the assignment, I had to brainstorm what site to edit, which took some time. I wanted to find a fairly simple site while at the same time making it interesting. Lucky for me, a lot of very high-profile government websites are actually very simple, and the NSA site seemed easy enough. My goal was to do a sort of Onion-eque satirical version of it. You’ll see I came up with a new slogan (instead of “Defending our Nation. Securing the Future.” I replaced it with “We Listen to the People”) and added a new tagline and content to their online periodical preview. The learning curve with the X-Ray Goggles tool took a little time, but it wasn’t long before I got used to it. By the end I was still learning more ways to edit the page, but I didn’t want to go too far, and keeping the layout and fonts the same as the original helped to add the fake authenticity that makes satire effective. What struck me most is how very easy it would be to present a false version of a page. You could potentially use this tool with Twitter and (even though there’s basically a disclaimer of the live site at the top telling you it’s been edited and isn’t the real site) take screenshots of fake tweets, etc. The subject itself is close to my heart, and I had a lot of fun with this.
This week I listened to and got a chance to take some notes on the Agents on Air ds106 radio show. From the beginning, I could tell the group put a lot of work into the show. There were good sound effects throughout, some adding to the mysteriousness of the show, some funny. Some of the bumpers were a little loud and could have used a little more fading between them and the main music, but I could tell they looked for unusual types of bumpers, and it definitely kept my attention. The commercials were also really well-incorporated. One of the later commercials connected with the main talk show, and the first commercial (for AquaLiving) used sound effects and voice effects (as well as a hilariously realistic reading of terms and conditions) to make it realistic. I also thought it was an interesting choice to include a spy gossip section that referenced other agents in the class. The writing of the talk show was also well done. I liked how in one part of the talk show, the host suggested making one of the spies’ fellow mafia members into a patsy to keep her cover. That really revealed some of the research and writing that went into it. Overall, even though certain parts could have flowed together easier, the show kept my attention throughout and showcased some great creativity.
For the Pinterest Dream Vacation assignment, I decided to find a few places that I’ve always wanted to visit and treat the trip as if money was no object. My board includes locations in Italy, Croatia, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Russia. A lot of people talk about wanting to visit countries in western Europe like France or Britain or Spain, and I would love to visit there as well, but in addition to visiting Italy and Germany (which are also pretty typical dream destinations), I definitely want to see some places in Central and Eastern Europe that don’t get as many tourists but are just as amazing. None of the countries I pinned speak English as their primary language, but there are English speakers and translators all around, and I speak enough Italian and a little German to get by. Visas and shots will also be required. Most of the countries are Schengen Treaty countries, meaning it’s much easier to cross borders from one to the other, but countries like Russia have more closed borders. In addition, I’d definitely have to learn a lot of the social customs of the countries so as not to come off as rude and to avoid confusion. Overall, though, I think it would be a perfect vacation.
The Google Draw Something assignment was definitely one of my favorites so far. I love messing around with neural networks, especially Google’s experiments (like their dream image generator). It’s actually a really cool feeling to have fun and mess around while actually contributing to science and technology. It didn’t get all of them right, but it was really hilarious to see all of the weird suggestions Google had for what I was drawing (multiple times it guessed a potato or the Great Wall of China). It couldn’t guess that I drew a bench, though. It’s still really interesting how Google will let you see others’ drawings of benches that it bases its guesses on and what it thought your drawing was. It thought my bench could have been a couch, which is amazing, because any person might have guessed that too. I could go on. This reminded me a lot of Vsauce’s DONGs (stuff to Do Online Now, Guys), and it was really cool.
For one of the Web assignments this week, I created a Buzzfeed personality quiz about some of the weirdest rulers from Early Modern Europe. This assignment definitely warranted its star rating. I’ve taken a ton of Buzzfeed personality quizzes, and despite how much crap they get, this gave me a new appreciation for how hard these quizzes are to make. First, I had to read about how to make one. The first step, according to their guide, is to think of the answers to the quiz first. Makes sense, but it’s still a bit of work. I’m a huge history geek, of course, so that was my go-to. But I had to think of an area of history where I had a lot of knowledge. Unfortunately, even though I specialize in a few periods, I’m not an expert on the biographies of some historical figures, so I went with some of the more eccentric figures from the Early Modern era: King Henry VIII, Vlad the Impaler, Peter the Great, and Elizabeth Bathory. The real ground work was in finding some (mostly) accurate biographical info about them and finding images to accompany the questions. I had a lot of fun coming up with the answers. Check it out here!
So we made a radio show! Finally. I have a HUGE amount of respect for podcasters now (not that I didn’t already), especially ones like Limetown and the Truth who put a lot of work into their production quality. As part of the group, it was my job to also find sound effects, write most of the script, and (as a matter of last-minute necessity due to technical difficulties) to stitch together the final product and edit the scenes of our narrative portion together with our mini segments.
— Daniel Hawkins (@Hawkins10000) March 17, 2017
— Daniel Hawkins (@Hawkins10000) March 17, 2017
After meeting on Google Hangouts and in person and assigning different roles, everything went fairly smoothly, for a little. I think the biggest thing for me personally was that I underestimated how hard it would be to write the script to include multiple characters. Overall, it was very difficult, but I had a lot of fun. I love podcasts of all kinds (and I’m a sucker for early 20th century and mid-20th century media of all kinds, so the nostalgia is there), so this was a really cool chance to create something that I already like to experience. Enjoy the show:
Week 2 was grueling, to say the very least. Our group got together as soon as we possibly good through Google Hangouts and then together in person. Daniel Z came up with the idea for the show (mass surveillance), and we just used that as a springboard. I thought it would be interesting to follow a character who works inside a government operation conducting mass-surveillance who somehow gets involved in a spy ring (which would be our chance to showcase some old-school spying techniques). Samantha and Sarah both had ideas of other mini-shows we could place between the longer narrative to break it up. While in person, the group recorded those mini-shows. Meanwhile I added more to the script, building on input from the rest of the group (e.g., if we should stick with a narrator or just dialogue; if the narrator should be first-person or third-person, etc.). We hit quite a bit of hiccups. Megan edited most of the show together, including the recorded dialogue for the narrative part of the show (which we all uploaded to a shared Google Drive along with the mini-shows–a trivia show and an “Ask Nancy” call-in show). Unfortunately, time got crunchier, and Megan experienced some technical difficulties. I was able to stitch most of the show together in the end using the edited “scenes” of the narrative show and the mini-shows and bumpers together into the final radio show. Hope you enjoy!
This week was, again, pretty challenging. Creating a week’s worth of assignments on top of collaborating with a group and coming up with ideas for a show was definitely pretty hard. Another challenge on top of all that was trying to make the assignments related to our show/our spy characters. I think I did a pretty good job of that, though. Having already worked on design and audio assignments was an advantage and made everything work a little smoother, but I did have technical hiccups, as usual, especially in trying to find out how to make my voice sound like it was being recorded over the phone (Audacity’s new update makes it more difficult than it was in the past), and dafont.com’s site went down a couple of (inopportune) times for maintenance. Overall, the week wasn’t too hard, and I’m pretty happy with what I made.