Information problems: Connectivity in Somalia

This week’s focus was on information problems in conflicts: How do actors establish ground truth and assess biases in sampling and among sources when there are competing narratives? Conflicts in Somalia and Hawaii served as case studies, although our solution is specific to Somalia. Slides after slide 12 demonstrate some of our thinking before further refining.

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Mapping political representation

Link to map.

The democratic primary seems to have sparked a debate about who, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, is the more feminist candidate. Given the focus on the presidential election, I thought it apt to point out the dearth of women in political positions across the board. The percent of women in the national as well as state legislators hovers around 19-20% on average, which is a pretty abysmal proportion for a demographic that constitutes roughly half of the population.

These percentages represent the percent of women in state legislators (single or lower houses as well as state senates) as of December 2015 according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Designing a data collection form

For this week’s assignment I designed a form to collect data on people’s sense of personal control, their political leanings, and their faith in institutions. The idea occurred to me as I reflected on Ethan Zuckerman’s talk at ITP where he introduced us to an institutionalist vs. anti-institutionalist schema and discussed how to bring about change in a socio-political climate dominated by this dichotomy. He has also written a related blog post.

I started to wonder how or whether people’s beliefs about how much control they have over their lives related to their belief that they could enact broader change, and whether they desired or expected to do so. One of Zuckerman’s points is that in the U.S., our collective trust in institutions has been declining for decades, and I wondered if people’s place on these spectrums is related to their perceived ability to affect them.

Creating reliable survey items is a complicated process, so I thought I should use questions that came from vetted and tested sources to the extent possible. I used several locus of control questions to understand the extent to which respondents believe individuals can control events that affect them versus being externally controlled, as well as some of the Gallup panel questions on trust in institutions, and a question on political ideology from Survey Monkey’s question bank.

The next step would be testing!

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Mobile Counting

I created a mobile application version of my desktop counter.

Final mock-up created with Balsamiq

I created an initial version and tested with my co-worker. I envisioned a home screen that would include everything you are counting and icons that indicated accomplishment as well as status bars. Then you could enter each item to increment in the direction that you chose, reset the counter, or delete the item entirely. On each count, you would press down for an animation and when it was complete you’d return to the item’s page where you’d see a change.

New mockup2
First mock-up

The animation and buttons were inspired by a mobile game I enjoy to play a lot, called Spaceteam. To play, you communicate instructions verbally to 1-3 other players, in order to keep your ship safe on its journey. For a simple counting application, I thought something like the button you press in the waiting room might be effective–it lights up and your player beams a laser into the air. To start the game, all the players must be holding down the button at the same time.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 12.26.26 AM  Spaceteam

I created progress bar animations to further demonstrate the idea. One goes forward, for incrementing up, and the other goes backwards, for incrementing down (code on github).

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Maps: Troubleshooting

For this week’s assignment I added a layer of US State data to a Stamen base map and after a lot of compromising, simply added markers for landmarks I associate with voting and politics near my parent’s house. Even as I simplified my map goal, I kept running into issues. At 3am, maki markers don’t work. At the least this theme of personal reference points carries over from last week’s assignment? I’m consistent! And I think learning to make things look better.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 9.10.08 AM
No errors but the code isn’t doing what I asked

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Desktop Counting

This week’s assignment was to create a device that can sit on a desktop and account for single increments of change, counting either up or down. Our clients are people with desk jobs, who want a physical reminder of their progress. Having a full-time desk job, I am fully cognizant of the despair of an office environment, so I also considered what might be fun, pleasant, and satisfying, while also somewhat conservative to suit different office environments.

abracazebra’s favorite mug
This instagrammer reminded me of perpetual calendars, which I love because their aesthetic as well as their cleverness












My coworker’s desk: snacks, succulents, photos, a mug, among other “office supplies”
Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.31.44 PM
Perpetual calendar from wikipedia









I looked around my office, went on instagram, I surveyed my coworkers, and googled to gather data on what people’s favorite desk-things are. I found that people love their plants and mugs. I also found that the hashtags #desk#mydesk, and their variations have a surprisingly large number of posts. And I found out what Marissa Meyer and Mark Zuckerberg keep on their desks. I personally do not have a favorite desk item, although my favorite thing in my vicinity used to be my polar bear calendar (cute, bleak, and functional, like me).

Inspired by the simplicity and cleverness of perpetual calendars and hourglasses, I tried to come up with counting devices that might mimic this kind of interaction while serving a counting function. I also liked the idea that the device could stay analog, requiring no batteries or any other annoying maintenance.

Could it work like a roladex or hourglass?
Perhaps the device could flip to cue counting up or down, or twist to increment











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