Singularity. Closer than We Think?

Tablet Accessory? A woman wears an EEG cap for a Sandia National Laboratories experiment. To use the mind-reading tablet below, people must wear an EEG cap, though a slightly different one that doesn’t require gel on the scalp. Photo by Randy Montoya from PopSci Magazine















As funny as this woman looks, she taking steps towards singularity as she is using this EEG cap to control her tablet with her thoughts.  Even though this contraption is not at the level of perfection required to be on the market, Samsung and its collaborating researchers are working hard to improve this technology.

Not only would this be an amazing and liberating tool for people who struggle with motor skills, but it will also allow for more ways of multitasking that we can probably fathom at this point. Here is MIT’s Technology Review on the product and the process.




Robots are our friends!

My initial exposure to robots and AI left me feeling nervous, skeptical, and uncomfortable. That was until I came across this adorable Beta Testing DARwIn-OP  video on YouTube. The Beta testing of DARwin, our beloved robot that we see in many of Virginia Tech’s promotional videos, provides some insight on the role robots may play in the lives of future generations.

This video shows Dr. Dennis Hong’s son playing with this cute robot. It is clear that Ethan feels some level of connection to the robot as he interacts with the robot as he would interact with a playmate.

Watching this video makes me wonder whether future generations that grow up playing with robots, that will inevitably be more sophisticated, will be more willing to accept human-like robots that people of our generation may be quick to reject.

Taking Steps Closer to Singularity

Benefits of an advanced prosthetic hand

This article on iPhone-controlled prosthetic hands caught my eye after our class conversation on singularity a couple of weeks ago. In 2008, Jason Koger ran into a downed power line and lost both his hands. Five years later, Touch Bionic’s i-limb ultra revolution has provided him with prosthetic hands that finally allow him to reclaim the use of his hands.

When accompanied by a smartphone app, this prosthetic hand can configure itself into 24 preset grip patterns that allow its owner to carry out tasks such as writing with a pen or typing on a keyboard.

Technology like this bionic hand is in sync with its users and allows them to reach beyond their human limits while using technology as a part of themselves. From this perspective, singularity does not seem as outlandish or threatening as it did in other contexts. So then, is there a way to keep technologies like this advanced prosthetic hand separate from other technologies that we are so quick to reject? And if there isn’t a way to keep them separate, is it worth sacrificing one because of the other?

LinkedIn Adopting “Mentioning” from Twitter

Renee and I are really excited to share with the class our knowledge of LinkedIn. In our attempt to prepare for our presentation, we have planned an information workshop on LinkedIn for Building Construction students. During this workshop, we will also observe how the students are successfully utilizing this tool.

While having LinkedIn on my mind, I came across this short article “LinkedIn Adds Twitter-Like Mention Feature To Boost Engagement” on FastCompany, which revealed that LinkedIn added a feature that allows users to mention connections and companies on the LinkedIn homepage. Christina Chaey, the author of the article, states that, “it’s likely the new mention feature will help LinkedIn expand its push to become the premiere content creation and sharing platform for professionals.”

This provides another example of how social networking sites are benefiting from user-generated information and publicity.


Twitter it up

Following professionals in our field for our Online Identity Analysis was interesting but I thought it would be cool to see the content people outside of our discipline Tweet about. Here is TIME magazine’s list of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds in 2013, which according to the article are “feeds that inspire us to laugh, learn or shake our heads in wonderment.” Enjoy!

Social Media Contributes to Work Productivity

Similar to what we discussed in class a few weeks back, here is another article that shows that using social media does not detract from people’s productivity at work. Kit Eaton’s article Tweet This: Social Media Use Improves Employee Productivity on Fast Company reports the findings of a study by Warwick University in the UK that addresses and assuages the fear that social media leads to unproductivity at work.

The study shows that, “by using social media and other online comms channels, staff were able to conclude sales more quickly and get more customer service tasks out of the way speedily.” This shows that the practice we get with Tweeting and Blogging helps build our assets and contributes to our employability upon graduation.

Here is another related article, When Social Media at Work Don’t Create Productivity-Killing Distractions, from the Bloomberg Businessweek.

My Thoughts on the Digital Self 2013-03-25 16:44:47

Apparently, utilizing social media for civic engagement is an ongoing conversation from the past . The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Presidential Learning Center at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation reached out to high school students in May of 2011 to promote civic engagement through social media. The organization held an hour and a half long conference at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. According to the website, “Panelists examine[d] the many positive uses of social media, especially as a tool to promote civic engagement,” and “look[ed] at the role of social media in politics, social entrepreneurship, voluntarism, and activism.”

Speakers also iterated the social media’s power to reach large audiences and provided students with insight on participating in civic engagement and becoming active members of their communities. The conference is now available on YouTube.

Haptic technology– A Parterner for Artificial Intelligence

Along with the development of artificial intelligence is the improvement in haptic technology, or technology that registers sensory input. Not only can these mechanical devices register tactical stimuli, but they can also relay these sensory details to a person.

The article in Slate Magazine titled The Sensitive Robot: How Haptic Technology is Closing the Mechanical Gap by Erik Sofge indicates that the “promising” improvement of haptic technology with “new sensors and feedback systems” paired with the mechanical technologies of contemporary robotics will improve the usefulness and accuracy of current robots when carrying out tasks that are, or were, mostly performed by humans, such as performing complicated surgeries or detonating bombs.

Later in the article, Sofge mentions that “haptic technology may ultimately give stronger sense of “self,” which brings up the question of whether robots that contain both haptic technology and artificial intelligence could someday hold the same value we give animals, if not other humans.

Blurb on ‘Using Technology and Data for Social Impact’

From crowd sourced information during natural disasters to funding direct personal loans to entrepreneurs in Kenya, people are utilizing social media and data generated from it to contribute to the good of society. Studies have also shown links between the use of social media and the likelihood of entrepreneurial success. The article Using Technology and Data for Social Impact by Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, will be Tweeting and regularly updating her findings.

Technology for more good than evil.

The Uchek app lets users take urine samples with their smartphones. (Credit: Uchek)

Here’s an interesting article I found while browsing through the news today. A urine sample app developed by a MIT entrepreneur lets users detect diseases with iPhones. Yes, it can potentially cost $20.99 but it’s saves people a trip to the doctors and lets them test for up to 25 diseases in the comforts of their homes.

In relations to the conversation from yesterday’s class, hopefully, paying the price of $29.99 will ensure users privacy and control over their information on this App.




My Digital Selves (or the lack thereof)

Upon completing my Online Identity Analysis paper, I have realized that I do not have much of a “professional” online persona. Yes, I do have a LinkedIn but this seems like the bare minimum after following seniors in the field for a few weeks. Even thought I have a professional website from my undergrad, I now realize the importance of having an up-to-date site, which makes me want to make one very badly. This is one of my many moments where I think to myself, “Jeez, I need to listen to my adviser more!”



Lacking the Ability to Control our Online Identities

Although many people would agree that we dictate the content of our online profiles through the information that we reveal on our bios, the friends we add, and the statuses that we post, “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics” by danah boyd brings our attention to the reality that we do not have full rein on our online profiles, such as Facebook.

Putting aside technicalities, it is difficult and tedious to control and tailor our profiles to make them appropriate to all of our “friends” let alone our secondary, unintended, and invisible audiences. We also cannot control the wall posts and pictures that we are tagged in, even though we can delete posts and ask the original poster to remove tags. If we have high privacy settings and require all tags to be approved, these pictures are still available on the Internet without our permission and can be traced back to us.

We also cannot always control who sees our profile and its contents. Even with high privacy settings, friends of friends can see our posts, tags, and pictures. Disabling this feature in a way defeats a major purpose of social networking– sharing our lives with an audience. Future employers also have access to our “private” information, which many of us forget.

The lack of social, spatial, and temporal boundaries make way for collapsed texts, which makes it easy for people, such as employers, to take information out of context. This can be detrimental in many ways as messages and comments can be misinterpreted in unintended ways. Anachronistic communication also contributes to this problem as conversations can be drawn out for extended periods of time, which makes it likely that the audience, intended or not, only sees pieces of an ongoing conversation, which can result in them “seeing the wrong things at the wrong time.”

Overall, this article brought my attention to the extent of which our friends and peers contribute to our overall digital identities. This combined with the blurring of the public and private makes it necessary for us to be hyper aware of potential contributors to our online identities, and conversely, think of the various groups of audiences of our social profiles so that we are not caught off guard in crucial moments, such as during our job hunt.

The power of apps

Why death is not the end of your social media life introduces an app that allows “you” to update your Twitter from beyond the grave. This app uses algorithms to extract your writing style and interests and essentially creates a primitive rendition your thought process;  then, this app Tweets and posts from your account, which is supposed to help loved ones cope with your passing. Interesting, yet freaky and unnatural.

The next article, Sealed with a Thumb-Kiss? introduces social networking apps on the market that exist to give your technology-mediated relationships a personal touch, to help kindle your love life, or even connect with friends. Some of the apps mentioned include Avocado (for sharing calendars and agendas, compiling photos, and sharing thumb “hugs”),  Duet (for proposing activities to your lover and friends– more personal than a chat because you make requests using video. This app claims to store your cherished memories forever), and Couple (a combo of Snapchat and texting). All of the descriptions for the apps on iTunes emphasize their ability to help you connect with your loved ones on a deeper level, through your phone.

Although it is nice that, with these apps, couples can show affection to one another without encroaching on public spaces of the online world, such as Facebook and Instagram. Allowing users to incorporate visuals may even help them feel closer to the ones they are communicating with, but I am not completely sold on the effectiveness of these apps. Simultaneously, I can see their appeal, especially for couples in long distance relationships.

Overall, these apps are all attempting to fill voids created by physical space, large or small. They really make you realize how important it is to enjoy and cherish the face-to-face time with your significant other because no technology can recreate the “real thing.” At the same time, because we’re not joined at the hip with our loved ones, these apps may make the technology-mediated interactions more personal and meaningful.


My Workflow

About me

My name is Sanglin Lee and I am a first year masters student in English at Virginia Tech. Although my academic background is in English, which many people seem to associate with being technologically challenged, my personal relationships and academic interests in professional writing have exposed me to a wide array of technologies. This has led me to change my digital identity from a tech-savvy digital immigrant to a born again digital native.


My MacBook, iPad, and iPhone are at the center of my life. I use them to do everything from getting news and watching TV to doing homework and creating lesson plans for my freshman composition class. I have at least one of these devices within reach at any given moment in the day. This gives me the power to stay connected with my networks and allows me to access any information and entertainment I need, wherever I go.


Prezies are the main teaching tool I use as a freshman composition instructor. I consider them to be a more engaging and effective teaching tool than PowerPoint, solely based on my personal experiences. Prezi has also showed me the convenience of cloud technology as it allowed me to access and project my teaching materials using another computer when I left my the VGA adapter at home.

I also use programs in Adobe Creative Suite (PhotoShop, InDesign, and Illustrator) and Microsoft Office regularly as a writer for Virginia Tech’s Department of Building Construction. Microsoft Publisher is on my list of programs I hope to master in the future.

My limited knowledge of HTML and CSS allowed me to format and publish an article online called ‘Trees and Water’ that I wrote for print during my internship at the Virginia Water Resources Center. My knowledge of HTML and CSS was also enough to create my own personal website as an undergrad. I hope to continue honing and expanding my computer skills during my free time.

Dream set up

Although my 3G network has been a lifesaver on the road and in my own home, during the many internet outages, I would like to have a constant, reliable, and fast connection to the web everywhere I go. I would also love a device that is small enough to carry around everywhere, like my phone, but is as convenient to work on as my laptop.

I have tried taking notes on my phone and have experimented with many reminder and list making apps but have not found one that works with my lifestyle of organized chaos. Many days, I wish that one of my devices could read my mind, take notes, and organize them rather than me scribbling them down on random scraps of paper.

Is Privacy…History?

Research for The Digital Self Online Identity Analysis project brings concreteness to the warning, “everything you post online lasts forever.”  Having the ability to trace back multiple years worth of Tweets to see who said what, when, and to whom with a single click is fascinating, yet terrifying.

Tools such as All My Tweets and Twitter Archiving Google Spreadsheet, aka TAGS has allowed me to locate and analyze the Twitter activity of two professionals in the rhetoric and writing field for the last three years. These programs have given me information on each person’s top Tweeters and virtually link me to everyone in each of the two professional’s Twitter networks. The programs have expedited my data mining process, yet, it is disconcerting that everyone has such easy access to this information. Moreover, it is a bit disturbing that the people whose activities we track and examine have no idea of what is going on.

This leads to the question, whose privacy is more important: the person publishing the information, often for a private audience, or those who are seeking out and surveying other people’s online activities? Is there a mutual understanding between the two parties that those posting things online accept that everything they post can fall into the hands of an unintended audience and those who mine agree not to use the information maliciously? Then, what happens when there is a breach in trust?

I do not think there is much harm in people having access to online information that is posted on the web. Simultaneously, the reality that our privacy and the absence of separation between our private and professional lives are at stake is unsettling. Are people entitled to knowing what and how much other people know about them or is ignorance bliss in this situation?

Reshaping our identities

A question that has been lingering on my mind since last week is, how great of an influence do our networks have on our personal identities? Although I have not come to a definitive conclusion, it seems that my networks have a stronger impact my identity than I initially envisioned. The influence of my networks is also magnified by the internet and social media.

At this point in my life, the network that shapes my identity the most is the Hokie Nation. Most of the significant figures in my life are Hokies. My sister is a Hokie. My younger brother is waiting to be a Hokie. And by default, my parents are Hokies. Then, there is my boyfriend, many of my close friends from high school and college, and the professors who have significantly impacted my life. We are all Hokies and we are all a part of Hokie Nation.

Since coming to orientation freshman year, I have been trained to respond to the question, “What is a Hokie?” with “I am!” Even then, I mostly associated this identity with football and extreme school pride. It wasn’t until my experience with networking through LinkedIn that I really understood the magnitude of the connections and solidarity within this community.

As a freshman composition instructor, I recognized the value in my students understanding the importance and necessity for strong writing and communication skills. For a major assignment, I assigned them to interview professionals in their fields to discover the significance of writing and communication in professions they were interested in. Feeling partially responsible for helping them find people to interview, I posted a request on a few of the Virginia Tech Alumni groups on LinkedIn seeking volunteers to be interviewed. To my surprise, sixteen more-than-willing alumni messaged me within the next few days. The amount of support and feedback I received and everyone’s willingness to take time out of their busy lives to help in any way the could was so inspirational as a young alum.

Just through this one network, I was able to connect with people across all age groups and disciplines. This network provides us with the opportunity to share our experiences for my freshmen as they learn from the experiences of their elders. Through this experience, I witnessed first hand that the significance of brotherhood and Ut Prosim, principle ideas within our network and community, lasts a lifetime and that traditions and legacies are enough to overcome the limits of physical space.

The frustrations of unreliable internet

I was impatiently waiting for responses from my students. I assumed that at least a few of them would reply to my emails answering their questions and providing feedback on their first major assignment. Being on Prezi, a site that apparently allows me to edit my presentations without being connected, and having my computer on mute kept me from noticing, for a long time, that the internet service had crashed, again.

In a digital age where the internet is somewhat of an umbilical cord for digital natives and immigrants alike, it is unacceptable that the internet goes out as often as a few times a day, especially in a college town. My frustrations with my internet provider has been growing as losing internet inhibits me from completing homework assignments for my own classes as well as preparing lesson plans for the class that I teach.

This experience makes me wonder, in a world where we expect people to be connected at all times, is “sorry my Internet was down” an acceptable excuse for anyone? If it is not, is it fair to give unreliable internet providers a monopoly over an area? I am sitting here, in front of my computer, reminiscing the few late-night phone calls I have made to the company in the past few years and the absurdity of the conversations make me laugh.

I wonder, does this happen because we are in a relatively rural area? How would people in NYC or Northern Virginia respond if this should happen to them? Am I exaggerating when I say that I feel like my world stops spinning once the internet shuts off? Am I an ingrate and a brat for feeling this way? I am trying to think of simpler time where I couldn’t get on the web whenever I needed to and I can’t, probably because that memory does not exist.

I am eager to see whether this experience is something that I will cherish as a piece of history that others will fantasize about in a few years or whether it is  a nuisance that I will never have to think about in the future.

In moments like this, I am beyond grateful that my phone has the capability of connecting me to the web, which leads me to the epiphany of why it is desirable for phones to have big screens.