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Part 1- Readings and Reflections

Please choose 2 of the following articles to read and comment on:

1. Wolf, Gary. “The Data-Driven Life.” The New York Times, April 28, 2010,sec. Magazine.


Stephanie: This article, speaks about the recent paradigm shift that optimized the ability to self-monitor and track our behaviours, from the pencil and paper technique, to digital summaries, tables and graphs provided by ubiquitous mobile devices.

"Four things changed. First, electronic sensors got smaller and better. Second, people started carrying powerful computing devices, typically disguised as mobile phones. Third, social media made it seem normal to share everything. And fourth, we began to get an inkling of the rise of a global superintelligence known as the cloud" (p. 2).

This shift is responsible for the emergence of new tracking devices and innovations that allow individuals to use technology to do everything from balancing their bank accounts to counting calories to monitoring shifts in their mood and collecting biometric data  Interestingly enough, the article notes that "pioneer trackers struggle with feelings of being both aided and tormented by the very systems they have built" in what they describe as a miserable experience (p 7)

Jim:  INteresting article - noticed its from 2010...  a time when people - including people in this class - were really excited about quantified self, with fit bit just coming out, and Wii Fit.  I notice his summary:  "Then four things changed. First, electronic sensors got smaller and better. Second, people started carrying powerful computing devices, typically disguised as mobile phones. Third, social media made it seem normal to share everything. And fourth, we began to get an inkling of the rise of a global superintelligence known as the cloud" TO me, this is quite prescient, and makes me think highly of Gary Wolf.  But I wonder what he would have to say today, 5 years later.  The example of the coffee experiment is interesting but - speaking as a psychologist - it has a major problem of confirmation bias, meaning that the guy Barooah sortof wanted to see his bar graphs get thicker as coffee went down.  Doesn't mean much.  Basically, could have gone the other way.  Its like trying to tickle ourselves - we probably can't really measure ourselves in such a way that we get real information.  A heisenberg uncertainly principle of self quantification.  Now - if someone ELSE quantifies me - Wii Fit, comparing my progress against others, etc - that is a different story.  Its an interesting article about an interesting movement.

2. Ratliff, Evan. “Writer Evan Ratliff Tried to Vanish: Here’s What Happened.” Wired, November 20, 2009.


Tiffany: Great read, thank you for suggesting this. This article reminded me of a modern day, where's Waldo hunt. It's crazy to imagine just how difficult it is to live without a (digital) paper trail. While reading through Ratliff's adventure, it becomes readily apparent how powerfulcrowd-sourcingcan be, and how efforts to conceal/protect one's privacy in both the online (e.g. Twitter) and offline (e.g.meetingpeople are restaurants) world can easily be intercepted. It would be interesting is Ratliff conducted another experiment where this time he uses his real name but does not reveal any digital/print footprints ( statements, ATM receipts) online. This time, I think people searching him would have to turn to classic private investigator tactics.

Cynthia: Very interesting article/ project.  The psychologicalaffectsof being chased constantly seemed extremely taxing, especially the paranoia he felt from knowing how many people were tracking him and how they were doing it. Makes me think about awkward times in my life when I've seen someone on the street that I don't really know but have seen in a Facebook picture or somewhere on the internet. Also, I wonder how long it would take for people to find him had he not announced it like a game with a prize, would people still be as motivated? 

Alisa:  I wonder how long he could have gone on without those extra bonus challenges… Between those, the Twitter page he started for his new identity (reporting his location), and some of the “look I’m here!” emails/messages he sent, it seems like he became a bit cocky/overconfident... (Though after hiding for nearly a month, it certainly seemed like he was (mentally) ready to be found...)  Building on Cynthia’s comment concerning the psychological effects/paranoia of being chased, I was intrigued by the author’s comments about the loneliness associated with digitally ‘hiding.’ This was one of my favourite quotes from the article:  "I’d always prided myself on being comfortable with solitude, but this wasn’t normal solitude. It was everyone-is-out-to-get-me isolation. What to the hunters felt like an intricate puzzle felt real enough to me — and there was no one around to laugh and tell me otherwise. Instead there was just me, staring into my laptop all day, wondering if it was safe to go out and get the paper.”  I was also curious about the line between legal vs. illegal activity (e.g. how would his success have changed if he had started in a different country or hitch-hiked across a border?) Or, alternatively, if he flew to Alaska and ‘unplugged’ for good somewhere in the wilderness.  Other comments:  Citizen collaboration, diversity of expertise, and a platform for knowledge exchange was key;  I want to know more about the (hovering) helicopter story!

Jim: How did I miss this, in 2009?  This wold be even more relevant and interesting in 2015 I think.  Like Alisa, I resonated to his noting the difference between being alone or private, and being alone or private when you feel like you need to keep walls up.  Wonder how Snowden feels, or Assange...

Stef: Great article, I'm glad that I read it. Also everyone's comments above were very thoughtful. In terms of what Alisa said about him becoming cocky it reminds me of (eek sorry to turn to something negative) when we hear about serial killers being caught for that exact reason...too cocky and letting their guard down and leaving too much of a trail. I wonder about the psychology behind that, maybe it has something to do with subconsciously realizing you don't want to/can't run forever, exhaustion, alienation, or maybe just that time is up in some way. On a much lighter note, I couldn't help but think about whether anything good came for that band he hitchhiked with, seeing as the mentioned their name twice and I'm assuming this article got lots of reads. Finally, this makes me think about advertising and how much it has changed/it is changing. What a clever way to get so many people interested in one man, one magazine, one "stunt". I'm not suggesting that was Wired's main reason behind it, but just the different tools smart companies use now to advertise to us that are a lot more stealthy! It seems like it's going full circle back to a new version of word of mouth. 

Robin: Yay! I'm glad you guys found the article. Jim, it is idefinitely nteresting comparing the experiences of Evan (who self-selected to be hunted) and those like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange who found themselves in the cross hairs through their own actions. How would a story like this play out differently without the advanced planning - or - conversely, if you have greater powers of deception on your side. As someone who is very much on the lacking side of understanding where to begin the hacking process, I would be really interested to see how these private individuals manouvered and sourced all this information about him. Where do you go to get video feeds and bank records? How might you be able to get so close to someone's data as to see the signature on the deed of their house? That already fills me with a certain anxiety that, if compounded over time fleeing for my life, might leave me suspicious of every helicopter that flies over me.

3. Weiser, Mark. “The Computer for the 21st Century.” Scientific American 265, no. 3 (1991): 94–104.


Mari: The idea of "embodied virtuality" is somehow scary yet so fascinating. I am not sure if it is possible to fully draw computers out of their electronic boxes and screens in near future, but if that achieved, computers would directly affect the unconscious mind of individuals. They would become an individual's body part in such way that they are a necessity yet not noticeable unless taken away. The article also reminded me of something I have read before on how TV commercial makers used to add exotic photo frames in between their videos in a way that human eyes are not able to catch the images in a blink, however our unconscious mind would view and record the images. Meaning that, although we are not able to view the image, it reflects our behaviour and activates our emotional sensors in evaluating the product, creating a sense of pleasantness. 

 4. Coupland, Douglas. “Douglas Coupland: ‘I Miss My Pre-Internet Brain,’” September 14, 2014.


Tiffany: "I’m discombobulated this morning: I forgot my iPhone, so have that homesick, disconnected feeling you get when you realise you’re phoneless." This line really resonated with me and made me think back to iDisorders from the smart health theme. Right away, Coupland sets the tone for the chapter suggesting that we've become coupled to technology or rather that technology is a natural extension of our daily routines. Other lines that I enjoyed was "A network is not something you buy in a box. It is a sprawling, messy, planetary machine with countless interdependent parts...The network needs millions of people to define it, build it, maintain it, manage it and adapt it to meet the ever-morphing demands of seven billion human beings – a number that is only growing.". I like how this relates to Coupland wondering if there was free Wi-Fi at the Bell Labs building, as this is one way to communicate and support networks. This train of thought reminds me of the app IFTTT, which works based on a "if this, then that" logic. Since Coupland was visiting a new location, he automatically wanted to find out if there was free wifi. This seems to be a habit/routine that most people do whenever they move to a new location (e.g. checking if a coffee shop or classroom has wifi). Moreover, I liked how Coupland ended off by saying that a city designed by population x, will be x-like. This draws back to the idea of a smart cities, and the discussion of who smart cities are built for and who they benefit. For those that are interested, there’s a Coupland exhibit at the ROM ( and MOCCA.

Cynthia: Very interesting to think that the digital era will create lives that are not necessarily linear. This might be something to consider in futureeducation research, since current print out era teachers will have to teach students who have been born digital.  Teaching and learning cannot remain as step by step as cooking instructions or born digital students will find the “information slightly boring”. 

Stef: Hmm Ithink I was expecting something more from this reading. Maybe because I know who Douglas Coupland is...but maybe it's the fact that it's an edited extract that something is missing. I'm trying to reflect on something new that I learned or something that resonated with me and I'm having a hard time. It's like that Onion Ted Talks video where the guys just saying "social media" and everyone stands up and claps Okay to be positive...the part about knowing too much is something I think about. We can now know the answer to any question. Is this good, bad, disruptive to a conversation? Maybe a bit of everything. 

Ming: I believe in Hofmann's idea that “We need deep, solid foundations and deep thinking to reach our next human level... Yet time is now the ultimate consideration". If interested, you can check another article here:, with the title "How Technology Is Warping Your Memory", where the writer exam the problems the modern technology, Google, in particular bring to the human being.  Personally, I see all such comments as a natural human reaction when facing a earth-shaking change to happen. As the article called it "Google Effect", which is a representative of the internet, ubiquitous computing, significant enhanced human capacity, known as the human brain's external hard drive, free human beings from the memorization of simple facts, enables us to build connection to wider topics, concepts, and deeper understanding. It is happening and no complaints would stop it.



When reading this article, the first thing that came into my mind was that almost all of us are addicted to the technology, “I’m discombobulated this morning: I forgot my iPhone, so have that homesick”. As the author said, the way we had interacted with the world was very different than the technology born children. However, regardless of the advantage or disadvantage of this global network, I do believe we cannot go back to 1970; the way we have passed is not a loop, is a one way road. So we need to be prepared for even a more complicated world. We need to prepare our kids and our students to live in smart cities. Teachers and educators should prepare students to take active roles in the very technology dependent world; they should be planners, not being “planned”. To achieve this goal, “We needdeep, solid foundations and deep thinking”.


Part 2- Choose one of the following smart lifestyle apps to use until Thursday

    Share your personal experience on using one of them on this Google sheet

  • 1 Second Everyday

    This app makes it easy to create a lifelong with a one-second a day video. 

    It creates a film of your life journey.

    The app will remind users to record video clips every day and make it easy to stitch them together into a movie. 


    Quantified Mind is a tool that comprehensively measures your basic cognitive abilities.

    This web-app structures quantified self-experiments for you. 

    There are adapted tests used by psychologists for a practical web application that you can use whenever, wherever, and as often as you want.

    You are encouraged to try things and measure the results and to see whether something improves cognition. With enough data, the effects are clear. 

  • Moves

    Moves automatically records any walking, cycling, and running you do.

    You can view the distance, duration, steps, and calories burned for each activity. 

    The app is always on, so there’s no need to start and stop it. It will give you a picture of your movement and travels throughout the day.

    Moves can also sync with many other smart lifestyle apps.

  • Saga

    Saga automatically records your real life story, as told by the places you visited and the things you've done. With Saga, you can reciew and checked out anytime later the places that you've been to and easily find out the places that you want. However, even though the Saga company claims that this software does not kill the battery, the battery is consumed enormously. 

  • IF by IFTTT

    IF lets you create powerful connections with one simple statement — if this then that.

    Activate and connect your Channels — services like Facebook, Dropbox, and Gmail, as well as devices like Nest Thermostat, Fitbit, and Philips Hue

    For limitless ways to automate and empower your life.


Your In-class Design Activities

Computational: The Life Patch

Culture: The Mood Necklace

Commodification: The Bank of Progress

Connectivity:  TMI-Team Meta Intelligence   

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