Where I had proposed to map a history of political knowledge over time not that long ago, I have decided to switch gears and go for a dataset that is more easily defined and quantifiable. So from Marx, Hegel, and Socrates, I go to Flamengo, Fluminense, and Vasco da Gama: I have decided to use the 38 rounds of the 2007 Brazilian National Club League Soccer Division 1 Championship.Here are a few beginning mockups…

an early version using a line graph and points obtained as the scale

an early version using a line graph and the relative ranking of the teams as the scale

the latest version which will be a bar graph of the rounds, added successively

the first version of the data mapped per team, per round

data mapped per team, per round – closer to the proper size

I found a game that utilizes the user’s webcam and microphone as controllers. Although I didn’t play it, houses a vintage-looking map of Europe and a motion and sound-controlled avatar (a plane). It asked me whether I wanted to enable web access of my webcam and mic, and I preferred not to authorize this channel just yet. But pretty cool, technologically speaking.

What started as an exercise in database sanitizing, wound up a stop animation movie done in photoshop. This project illustrates well the dangers of setting one’s goals beyond what is feasible. Originally I had intended to export an Excel database into XML so that I could put a Flash interface on it. That didn’t work out. Then I figured I would put the interface up on a dummy set of data. But when I found myself putting Actionscript on a button inside a movie clip inside a button, where there were going to be a trillion different combinations by the time I was going to be finished with it, I gave up and decided to go with something I could actually achieve by the deadline. More on what I was trying to do with this in a later post, for now, I give you, a (sigh) failed visualization.Mad MAD Project

This is my dialplan. It’s a start. 

;this first context is the SIP,  allows you to connect via Gizmo for free. yay. don’t erase this.

;conference room 212XXXXXXX

;the phone number is 212XXXXXXX

;yeah #227!



exten => s,1,Goto(redial_XXXXX_sip,1,1); can specify the context and priority of the context

exten => _X,1,Answer();

exten => _X,n,Goto(XXXXXXX,s,1);



exten => s,1,Answer();

exten => s,n,Goto(welcome_menu,s,1);



exten => s,1,Background(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/welcome); computer singing: WELCOME TO RHETORICALL

exten => s,n,Background(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/main_menu);

exten => s,n,Wait(2);

exten => s,n,Goto(welcome_menu,s,1);

exten => s,n,WaitExten(45); this seems to have no effect. place before loop back to main menu?

exten => 1,1,Goto(welcome_menu,s,1);

exten => 2,1,Goto(record_main,s,1);

exten => 3,1,Goto(listen_main,s,1);



exten => s,1,Background(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/record_main); press 1= backmain menu, three mins max, 20=begin, pound=stop.

exten => s,n,Wait(2);

exten => s,n,Goto(record_main,s,1); repeats this menu

exten => 1,1,Goto(welcome_menu,s,1); back to main menu

exten => 20,1,Goto(record_now,s,1); make a recording



exten => s,1,Background(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/record_now); tone will play, start now, press pound to save

exten => s,n,Record(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/user_recs/user_rec.gsm[5][180]);RECORD, inc filename +1, 5 secs silence, max 3 mins 

exten => 1,1,Goto(record_main,s,1); go back to main menu if 1 is presseed

exten => 21,1,Goto(record_options,s,1); go to recording options if 21 is pressed



exten => s,1,Background(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/record_options); thanks, saved, 22=hear_rec, 1=main menu

exten => 1,1,Goto(welcome_menu,s,1);

exten => 22,1,Goto(hear_myrec,s,1); goes to hear my recording

exten => 23,1,Goto(delete_confirm,s,1); goes to delete confirm



exten => s,1,Playback(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/hereisyourrec);

exten => s,n,Playback(${user_rec%d});

exten => s,n,Goto(record_options); goes back to record options



exten => s,1,Background(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/delete_confirm); u sure you wanna delete? 1=yes, playback message erased, 2 = no, 



exten => s,1,Background(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/listen_welcome); 1=mainmenu

exten => s,n,Wait(2);

exten => s,n,Goto(listen_main,s,1);

exten => 1,1,Goto(welcome_menu,s,1);

exten => 4,1,Goto(contemporary,s,1);

exten => 5,1,Goto(historic,s,1);



exten => s,1,Playback(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/speeches/speech_algore2006);

exten => s,n,Playback(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/speeches/speech_sjobs_stanford);



exten => s,1,ControlPlayback(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/speeches/speech_mountaintop_MLK[*[#[1[0]]]]);



[miscellaneous extensions that might be brokenDISABLED] 

;exten => s,n,Record(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/user_recs/user_rec%d.gsm[5][180]);RECORD, inc filename +1, 5 secs silence to stop, max 3 mins

;exten => s,n,SetVariable(V=)

;removed from record_now, third line:

;exten => s,n,Background(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/record_thanks); thanks for sharing your thoughts. 1=main menu, 21= rec options

;exten => s,1,ControlPlayback(/home/XXXXX/asterisk_sounds/speeches/speech_mountaintop_MLK[*[#[1[0]]]]);


I decided to break this into two posts, rather than roll the midterm project into one giant post (or, God forbid, edit down  the entire entry into one succinct, concise, easy to read entry). I am going to map out more of the nuts and bolts of Rhetoricall here. Specifically, the objectives, the dialplan, a diagram of the menutree, and a featureset that I’d like to implement moving forward.   Objectives: –To create an audio interface for a political discussion website that is inviting and easy to use.–To tap into an existing source of great prime material (recorded speeches & debates) for people to react to–To get users comfortable with the idea of argumentation as a pastime (which means making it insightful, helpful, and meaningful).   The Dialplan & Phone Menutree:here is the bulk of the dialplanhere is a diagram of the menutreeThe dialplan did not quite keep up with the menutree, insofar as the functionality goes. A case of the talk exceeding the walk. Which reminds me:  Future Features: -methods of categorizing the posts beyond just large, clunky categories but by emotional response or time period (tagging by submitter, tagging by listener)-a voting feature, so people could access the highest rated original submissions as well as responses.-ways of getting audio visible on a website, maybe even mashup ability – copy and paste audio waveforms to create simulated discussions?-real time conference calling/live discussions??? 

Rhetoricall, Lots and Lots of Background 


What can I do with voice interaction? It took me a while to couple this question with the Advance Dialog Project that I am working on, but in hindsight it is a natural fit. The voice context is rich enough to spawn an independent project, in fact. 


Am I being vague?


Let’s back up. Advance Dialog is /may be/ my thesis project here at ITP. It currently consists of a set of assumptions about the power of design to create environments conducive to “optimal” dialectical, rational discourse. English to english translation? I want to build a kick-ass political discussion website. I’m tired of the low-signal, crap infested gibberish that passes for political discourse, both at the “official” realm of talking heads & politicians, as well as the message board/newsgroup world of online discussion. 


Yes, there are some exceptions to this. Usually these are invite-only gated communities, or listserves, or some other platform where the architecture of the space itself contributes to the signal by creating a barrier to entry and therefore a “garden”. Slashdot, in my opinion, has created one of the best moderation systems I have seen yet for a “public” environment.


At any rate, back to Redial and Asterisk. I sat in class for the first few weeks not really sure how I could take advantage of this incredibly powerful toolset.  For one thing, the cellphone is a giant device. I mean that in the sense that there are hundreds of connotations, uses, contexts, applications and implications for these increasingly smaller and more capable contraptions.  It is a phone, but can also be a still camera, a video camera, a voice recorder; it can handle text and texting, it can be a calendar, a contact manager, a safety device, a social artifact, an excuse, a liability, it is anonymous in the sense that it can connect you to anyone or anything with a phone number, yet it is also incredibly intimate – by using the communication, you are in effect allowing someone to whisper into your ear. It’s so mundane on the one hand — think of talking to a customer service rep about your bank account — but it is also incredibly direct -a disturbance of the eardrum, a membrane located inside your head. 


For me, the most salient quality of the cellphone is the richness of signal conveyed by the human voice. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they speak that is absent in the written word. I could be screaming this sentence, or whispering it, and NO MATTER HOW HARD I TRY {{{…there is no real way to convey in digital text…}}} this range of emotion and impact that is native to the human voice. 


So let’s bring this back to the idea about political discourse. Back in the days of Socrates, arguably the zenith of public discussion, people would gather on the streets and pursue philosophical questions as a group. It was personal, face to face, and, judging by the documentation provided by Plato, deep and rich political inquiry. What can we learn from these epic political discussions that could be relevant to designing the optimal discussion website today?


When you make the transition from the real world to the virtual you lose the personal (familiar) aspect (at least until a new setting & participants become familiar), the face to face aspect of visual cues, body language, and eye contact also disappear (and cannot be said to be recaptured by videochatting in any meaningful way, IMHO), but the voice component – perhaps the singularly most rich, happens to be also well suited to make the transition.


Political Argumentation has a very important voice component. Much is lost in the conversion to text (the current dominant mode of political discussion online), and I think there is a direct correlation to the loss of signal in political arguments online (chat rooms, bulletin boards, blogs, etc) due to the fact that we can’t HEAR each other’s voice while advocating a given position. If sincerity is the first benchmark towards people wanting to engage one another in earnest discussion, then the voice aspect is a sure way to get this crucial degree of signal.



What I have spent the last thousand or so words saying is that for an online interaction designer who is interested in augmenting things like trust, robustness of identity, and channels for meaningful social interaction, the human voice is an incredibly rich source of inspiration and will serve as my focus for a political discussion website that aims to encourage users to speak their beliefs using their own voice.  


While this web-based voice-capable site would have a significant textual and graphic component (i.e. conversation mapping/conversation visualization research), the audio interface should be robust enough to be able to stand on its own strength. In other words, the audio content should be accessible from a phone menutree without having to resort to a website with an associated map. Why? Because I like the idea that the discussion site can be “portable”, i.e. fully accessible from a cellphone.


Rhetoricall, an Introduction


To this end, I will design the phone menu tree independently of the web component. The basic functions will be to post audio to a given category, and to access audio from given categories. Bonus functionality would be for users to be able to pick up where they left off (assuming the system can store the cellphone which would entail a database…), be able to pause, fast forward and rewind a given audio file, and to receive a copy of their submitted audio by voicemail.


I just had the idea for a website name – That is already registered, so I grabbed The beginnings?










For the second week of class, we were meant to bring in an example of a visualization that we think works, and one that perhaps does not work so well, and be prepared to critique both. I’ll start with the successful example: Human Trafficking Worldwide.

Human Traffic Visualization Medium

(full image:1745 X 2049)


The horizontal line across the middle of the image serves as the key: it informs you of many variables at once: the nation name, the inner ring (incidence of smuggling into the country), and the outer ring (incidence of smuggling out of the country)


1) Nations & Continents: nations are arranged by continent (labels are the large CAPITALS on the outside of the image) and organized alphabetically therein; nations are represented by each individual spike and labeled in the dark ring separating the inner area from the outer area.

2) Extent of Export Smuggling Occuring: This variable ranges on a 5-point scale (Very Low, Low, Medium, High, Very High), depicted both in color (deep blue = very low), as well as length of the spike (the longer the protrusion away from the black ring in the middle, the higher the incidence of trafficking)

3) Extent of Import Smuggling Occuring: This variable also ranges on a 5-point scale (Very Low, Low, Medium, High, Very High), also depicted both in color (deep blue = very low), as well as length of the spike (albeit the direction of the protrusion is reversed, ie the higher the incidence of trafficking into the country, the bigger the spike pointing towards the middle of the circle)

Less Successful Data Visualization:

This is a graphic I found on a productivity website. It is a thorough attempt to decipher which communications platform (email, instant messaging, video conferencing, etc) is best suited for which set of constraints (employees located in the same space, response required, etc). Here it is:

Communication Decision Tree

The virtue of this diagram is that it manages to pin down into a series of binaries (yes/no questions) whether one course of action is appropriate over another, so it avoids excessive branching.

The major drawback of this diagram is that there is no clear definition of the logic of the arrangement of the relative technologies. Specifically, it might make more sense to render it in such a manner that the end points were oriented to one side, with the continuations off to another, such that one can more readily observe the a pattern in the increasing specificity.

just to make sure that the categories will display like they’re sposed to.

© 2011 'Tis Educational Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha