Read my post about joining the MIT Media Lab here.

Week Notes 1836 - Crit Day & Thanksgiving Lull

Last Monday, the second year masters students at the media lab all gave short presentations about their thesis projects. It’s an opportunity for them to formally propose their research ideas to the entire lab community - faculty, fellow students, etc - to generate critique and feedback.

Week Notes 1831-1835 - Major Projects LEGO & Silos

Trying to catch up on a month of very intense activity is a really daunting task. I have a (small) breather before Thanksgiving, so figured it’d be good to squeeze this out before the real end-of-semester crunch begins. I’ve been keeping pretty detailed time logs, though, showing what’s been going on every day (indeed, every minute) these past months; these are coming in handy as I reflect.

So here we go. An attempt to recap and summarize briefly the last month or so.

Week Notes 1830 - Short Week

This is a short blog post for a short week, last week. It was a bit of a recharge / reset week; when people have been asking me, lately, “how are things going?” I noticed I’ve been responding with rather draining, “they’re going fast” and “can you believe it’s already October.” That’s a pretty large red flag, I think. The “woe is me” rhetoric doesn’t really do justice the things which are exciting to me.

For example, I met with Ethan Zuckerman, my mentor/coach for the Data Centric Project class I am taking to help craft a data story about the Ethiopia tablet project. Here’s a snippet of a follow up email I sent about what we discussed re: general scope of data:

We have too much data. It may likely hold lots of compelling answers, but I haven’t asked even basic questions, yet.

There is still a bit of work to do on gathering up data, logistically – it exists across a few different servers in multiple formats. It’s not normalized and much of the data is noisy/dirty (won’t try to solve that yet).

…and about the research questions:

Ultimately, I am trying to tell the story of how tablets get used by kids (and possibly their families) and see if usage patterns emerge in an instructive way. As a beginning question, I’m going to look at the “who, what, when” for one tablet. I hope to visualize the “usage trajectory” over the course of a week for a tablet – when was the screen on and off and then what apps were open over the course of the timeline.

Next, I will attempt to associate users, via photos, on this timeline.

I hope a pattern of usage will appear, but multiple tablets will need to be investigated to see if there are some generalizations we can start to build (or unexpected, novel usage patterns)

If usage patterns appear, I will see if these can be grouped or generalized by “category” or “nature” of interaction. (unclear what how this might actually manifest… the hope is that I can review a brand new set of data from a tablet and “fit” it to a usage pattern I’ve seen before) – This baseline will be valuable, especially if we hope to scaffold or direct learning activity in any interesting way

I will look at how usage patterns change over time for a given tablet (ex. do users start their use by “sampling apps” and then hone in on single apps?)

I’m also excited about starting to formulate some interesting project ideas for ‘side’ work.

New ideas are awesome, but as the “do-acracy” of the lab (and, let’s face it, the world) dictates, ideas are much, much less respected than actually shipping projects; I have a few things in motion, now, so really want to put down the fiinishing strokes.

There is an event that happens every semester at the Media Lab where members (i.e. “sponsors”) of the lab come to visit and see the current work of students. There is some lore around these events as crunch times – people are pushed to desparately make something new.

I, however, kind of wanted the stretch goal. I wanted to force myself to make something crazy, in a hurry, for this largely artificial deadline. So I’m, a bit secretly, working on a small project for me to present to satisfy this urge.

A very dangerous devleopment: I discovered I can get cable tv delivered to my computer while in the lab. Yay for watching football, boo for productivity.

An equally dangerous discovery: I have a newfound love of soup dumplings (Xioa Long Bao). I had them twice last week. If this keeps up, I’ll turn into a dumpling!