Knowing the Knowers

We have a few weeks of discussions and concepts before venturing into the waters of data and surveillance, and hope to keep things above a level of paranoia.

But I would like everyone to at least go about their internet daily routines and just pause sometime and ask some simple questions. And in line with this week, where/how we “pay” with our attention.

Thus this week I introduced a site to explore that aims to create a sense of wonder about generated narrative / poetry. The OpenStreetMap Haiku generator draws information about property and buildings in proximity of the map location. And yes, it is fascinating as you move around the map.

A first question might be- why when entering the site are we looking in Manhattan? Is it because it’s just the most interesting place with a variety of places?

Anf maybe wonder about the algorithm that does not seem to do good at the 5-7-5 syllable formula for Haikus. But things get even more interesting when you click that Locate Me! link in the bottom left.

Wow, you are transported to a map of where you are! And then you start moving around familiar locations and seeing what pops up.


Did you consider what it meant when the web site was able to know your location? Or do we get lost in the curiosity (not a bad thing)? What does it mean for a web site to sense where the geographic locations are of its visitors? And you gave it permission by clicking that link.

A next question should be- who is behind this site? How does it work? How do we feel about them collecting your location?

This happens so much we don’t pay it much attention. Sure a mapping app needs to know your location to show you a map and give you walking directions to the museum.

When Ivy Tech wants to know your location, why allow? Do you always allow?

Maybe you attend Ivy Tech- their web page about location where this image came from just offers:

Location sharing allows your web browser to learn your physical location, which is used by certain features of a web site. For example, the Ivy Tech web site uses your location to tell you what the nearest Ivy Tech campus is.

Do you really need a web site to do this?

Always ask questions of the web.

If you use Uber, than yes, it needs to know where you are. But when I went to look up some information on how it uses geolocation data, why does my web browser need to tell Uber my geographic location?

Question this.

Where You Are in the Twitterness

We are making some use of twitter in class, we leave it to each participant how to participate- share links, comment out on class readings activities, make fun of their professors in Memes (okay by us). Hopefully do more- we want you to understand both the potential of twitter for being a connected educator as well as it’s problems (speaking of location, do you let twitter know yours? I don’t).

A nice overview is provided by The Teachers Talk series of videos from the University of Windsor (see that #UWinToolParade hashtag, that’s worth a few clicks of attention). Their newwest one is about 6 minutes of information for teachers/educators using twitter.

And yes, you should follow the #netnarr hashtag (and contribute to it).

But the typical view of tweets is weighted towards newest content and the way their mystery algorithm sorts tweets. We have another tool that can give a better visual perspective on what conversations in our #netnarr tweets look like:

#netnarr Conversation Explorer displayed with Martin Hawksey’s Twitter Tags.

The larger the size of the name, th emore tweets that person has contributed (@Amistralis is actually a bot from a previous student, we cannot get her to stop it, or maybe that’s okay). The lines connect tweets that replied to others, so you can see many people are isolated but others are more highly connected. Explore the other type of connections via he links in the bottom right that show connections that are mentions or retweets.

Can you find your own node in there? What happens when you click it?

We have a URL “trick” for you. You can add a bit to the end of the web address for this view

if you add &name=twittername you can have it display the node of one person in the mix; for me, that would be

showing something like this

Finding myself in the #netnarr conversation

It centers the map on my red dot and shows my activity,with numbers if tweets, replies, and mentions. The really neat thing happens when you click “replay tweets”.

Can you find yourself in the space? What does your presence say? It might be relatively small since we are just getting started. Save a screenshot to compare later how your network evolves. Or explore the patterns of others. Why do some nodes have so many lines?

And here is something really neat… this is easy for any of you to do for any kind of twitter search; you can create this as an archive of tweets by hashtag or twitter names. It runs completely in a Google Spreadsheet and keeps all tweets it collects as an archive.

See or see Archive, Analyze and Visualize Tweets with Your Own Twitter TAGS Worksheet.

In this way, doesn’t the “tracking” of twitter seems to be quite useful?

Or does it raise more questions? That’s always good.

Looking forward to your thoughts this week in blog and our next discussion on networked / connected learning.

Featured Image: Astronomer Asaph Hall Jr at the US Naval Observatory in 1924. Library of Congress

By Prof Alan

An early 90s builder of the web and blogging, Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling, photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He has been a part of NetNarr since 2017.

2 replies on “Knowing the Knowers”

I will be perfectly honest. I block location services on my phone, iPad, etc. & whenever a website asks to know my location. Yet, I know the ominous “they” know where I am. It makes me uncomfortable. I think it is important to protect your PII (personally identifiable info) whenever you can. I try to leave as small a digital footprint as possible, however, I I know the print is a lot bigger than I want it to be. #netnarr

No need to preface that with the honesty disclaimer, it’s very smart of you to weigh the decision of granting access to disclosing your location. It’s actually a bit more than just seeing yourself as a dot on map that some nefarious entity is watching; it’s the way that information is also cross correlated with other data.

And we do not even see what kind of data our devices send. They are also bouncing signals off of data transmission towers. What’s in that stream? And wait until we look at browser fingerprinting!

The flip side is there are very beneficial uses of using your location, so it gets even muddier than dirt soup.

Being aware, asking the questions, is going to be helpful.

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