Are You a TingleHead? The wonderful world of ASMR

 

The world is divided into two types of people:

those that experience ASMR, and those that don’t!

 

Maybe it was the voice of your first grade teacher that initially triggered a similar sensation in you? Perhaps you go to get a haircut more often than others because you feel the tingly sensation spreading all over your body, when the attentive stylist gently washes your hair.

 

ASMR-triggers

Figure 1 ASMR Triggers (Via Jesus Gonzalez Fonseca Blog)

Via Jesus Gonzalez Fonseca Blog

 

But all this is old news, isn’t it? Because one night, anxious and unable to sleep, you hopped on YouTube and landed on a whisper video…. And just like that you’ve discovered that others also respond in a similar way to head massages and certain voices because just like you they have ASMR.

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It’s not a scientific name because at this time there are no studies conducted on the effects of ASMT triggers on the brain. And it makes it harder to quantify because not everyone responds to ASMR. According to Novella (2012):

“What we need at this point,” writes Steven Novella, Director of General Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine, on his Neuroscience blog, “are functional MRI and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies that look at what is happening in the brains of people while experiencing ASMR versus typical controls. Are their brains really different, and in what way? I also wonder if the same or similar experience can be artificially induced in typical (non-ASMR) people.“

Jeff Thomson (2013), the creator of a popular ASMR website, The ASMR Lab, mentions seven common triggers ASMRtists use in their films:

(1) Whispering;

(2) Scratching and tapping;

(3) Blowing;

(4) Turning pages;

(5) Personal attention;

(6) Touching head (for instance, head massage or hair brushing);

And

PBS Remix-Happy Painter

(7) Bob Ross! — a painter, and a star of The Joy of Painting, an American PBS program, who apparently has induced virginal ASMR responses in tingleheads across the world. Bob’s tantalizing paint-smearing technique, and his calming and positive narration that is often centers on trivialities (such as squirrels or cherry tomatoes), keeps Ross’ videos popular among tingle-hunters even after his death.

 

Image via FiveThirtyEight.com

And here’s an example of one of the coolest, in my opinion, ASMR videos out there:

 

Via ASMR Requests YouTube channel

 

(This blog post is modified version of a White Paper written previously by the author)

 

 

References

Novella, S. (2012, March 12). NeuroLogica Blog » ASMR. Retrieved July 22, 2014, from http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/asmr/

Thomson, J. (n.d.). ASMR Triggers – Common ASMR triggers that cause tingles | The ASMR Lab. Retrieved July 22, 2014, from http://www.asmrlab.com/common-asmr-triggers/

 

 

 

Take a Bow Siri: LinkedIn’s new app predicts the future, and then some

Today, Tuesday, July 15th, LinkedIn, a professional social networking site with 300 million international members from over 200 countries, is launching their new application, Connected that attempts to keep individuals on top of their business tasks by predicting various criteria of details one might need to keep in mind for optimum performance in a meeting. (Olson, 2014)

According to LinkedIn, by providing “access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights” they are connecting “the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Certainly, the new app, which is a significant upgrade from the previous version called Contacts. It “uses a card-like interface to show users updates on what’s happening with people in the network. The app is also smarter than its predecessor in a few ways: it can integrate with a smartphone calendar, to learn about forthcoming appointments.” For instance, if you have an upcoming meeting, and it is recorded on LinkedIn, Connected — whether the application is turned On or Off — is made to ping its owner a ‘talking points’ summary relating to individuals s/he is about to encounter. This summary would include the other party’s recent developments; including photos and updates they’ve posted on LinkedIn. Moreover, just like the screenshot (courtesy of LinkedIn) proves, the app goes as far at to suggest: “Remember to ask about her two kids, Holly and Matt.” (Olson, 2014)

LinkedIn-Connected-Screenshots-e1404966183802

LinkedIn’s new Connected app

The app is actually made of six different applications that include a flagship app. This setup allows Connected to analyze and rank an individual’s LinkedIn network; prioritizing who is important, and to what degree. The app would work often with a network spanning over 500 connections per individual.

In addition, to help Connected hone its familiarity with a person’s network, “LinkedIn has built a contextual learning platform called Ropod.” The idea behind this platform is using pre-meeting intelligence, so that the application is proactive and truly helpful and its reactions.

This applications is employing two recent trends in the world of technology:

(1)  Data sharing and ‘talking’ between applications. For instance, the Connected app will have an ongoing dialogue with iCal and Google.

(2)  Anticipatory computing.

Finally, Connected follows the process known as ‘implicit personalization.’ “A sophisticated program learns about a person behind the scenes, for instance by noticing how they refer to certain people in their contacts list as their ‘sister’ or ‘boss,’ and then making decisions about who’s most relevant.” (Olson, 2014)

 

References:

About Us. (2003, January 1). World’s Largest Professional Network. Retrieved July 14, 2014, from https://www.linkedin.com/about-us?trk=hb_rr_ft_about

Olson, P. (2014, July 10). LinkedIn’s New App Predicts What You Need To Know Before A Meeting. Forbes. Retrieved July 14, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/07/10/linkedin-connected-app-predictive/

 

 

Emotional Engineering: Has Facebook been messing with my mind?

Yes, I admit, I am a fan of conspiracy theories. In a nutshell, I prefer to watch over Big Brother, than letting Big Brother watch over me. Recently I viewed a Vice episode about Brazil’s Retaliation of FIFA, World Cup 2014, and the upcoming Olympics. A very surprising example of Digital Eyes of Mordor is the multitude cameras installed by the government in a few of most notoriously troublesome slums surrounding the World Cup stadium. The show argues that the cameras have been installed to spy on the population, as opposed to using these constantly live streams to respond quickly to gang activities and other extremely dangerous situations occurring in the slums daily.

But do we really need to go as far as Brazil to find some concrete reasons for concern relating to our freedom of opportunity? Not really! Although in its core, the Internet is supposed to allow us all to connect freely. Certainly, the “freely” aspect has been rapidly challenged in recent years. Concerns relating to Net Neutrality, for example, are on the forefront of many social media scholars.

There’s really no need going that far, though. Even if you are not a conspiracy theorist, I am sure you have also noticed how your personal information, Google searches, and location coordinates are being constantly pinging away all manners of personal data from your digital devices. Where does it all go? Some black cloud or the Death Star? I sure don’t know.

One of the creepiest things I have been noticing in the past year or so, is how Facebook “nonchalantly” reorganizes my feed, grouping certain updates together. Most of the time they are harmless, border-lining ridiculous. Nonetheless, the scrutiny over MY private info is disturbing. And I have often wondered about who makes the decisions regarding what I see on my wall, and what is it that I don’t get on my feed?

But it gets even worst! Apparently, in January 2012 “Facebook identified 689,003 English speaking users to run a psychological experiment on, for the duration of a week. They began to manipulate the newsfeed of a group of these users to remove posts with a negative emotion attached to them, and removed all posts with a positive emotion for the other group. The objective of the study – can we be emotionally influenced by what we see in our Facebook newsfeed? And if so, how much?” (Singh, 2014)

This tale gets even creepier. What Facebook has done is performing A/B testing-type experiment. Even though the ethics of such approach are certainly questionable, all the legal concerns are ironed perfectly in the company’s Terms of Service document all Facebook users must sign prior to starting socializing.

Sadly, Facebook isn’t the only social networking platform to use us as guenea pigs. On the Contrary!

“In fact – this is true for most (if not all) social networks. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest – all of these websites are designed and engineered to influence us to click more, engage more and interact more with them. The nature of their algorithms is never revealed, but one thing is always made clear – they’re doing all they can to give us as much relevant content as possible.” (Singh, 2014)

 Emotional Engineering

Photo courtesy Social Media Today website

   Yet the most disturbing aspect of such hidden, but ongoing experiments are focused on emotional engineering — which has been Facebook’s business model from the very start. (Singh, 20134)

In a way, Facebook proved that “by taking a group of close to 700,000 – proved that if push comes to shove, sway the opinion of the 1.3+ billion people that use the service.” So what happens if a “political candidate that’s backed by a network like Facebook essentially be able to get more votes?” (Singh, 2014)

Scary, isn’t it?

But are you really surprised?

 

 

References

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now. (n.d.). Free Press. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from http://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now

Singh, A. R. (2014, July 1). Facebook’s Been Running Psychological Experiments On You. RSS. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from http://socialmediatoday.com/avtar-ram-singh/2564701/facebooks-been-running-psychological-experiments-you

WatsApp & Facebook: A modern love affair

In the age of social media, we all desire one thing — to connect! Whether you are a single, middle aged motorcyclist, who is looking for love; or maybe you are a hip and upcoming high-tech company seeking fast and free promotion; and, of course, if you are a teenager who can type the address of their Facebook profile faster than I can type Jon Koum — who happens to be the founder of the world’s fastest growing social network, WhatsApp that will likely “eclipse all SMS traffic across the globe.” (Olson, 2014)

Last month I traveled to Chile to film a documentary. I traveled with my iPhone, though it wasn’t connected to a cellular network — when you are a starving grad school documentarian, you try to cut as many corners as humanly possible to save money — but I still could connect to WiFi for free. After a few days in the country, I was surprised to discover that while I would go to Starbucks to check what’s new on my Facebook page, my Chilean colleagues couldn’t take their fingers off of WhatsApp. I found it intriguing because I haven’t noticed it being much used in the US, specifically in the Chicagoland area.

WatsApp is a “cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia and yes, those phones can all message each other! Because WhatsApp Messenger uses the same internet data plan that you use for email and web browsing, there is no cost to message and stay in touch with your friends.” (WhatsApp website)

Another cool feature of WhatsApp is that it allows users to “create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages”. And all this is FREE!

At least for the first year. And after a free year of service WhatsApp would charge a ridiculously low fee of $ 0.99 USD per year. But this is not even the best part! WhatsApp is golden because they DO NOT sell ads! (Koum, 2012)

On the company’s blog, Jon Koum writes: “When we sat down to start our own thing together three years ago we wanted to make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse. We wanted to spend our time building a service people wanted to use because it worked and saved them money and made their lives better in a small way. We knew that we could charge people directly if we could do all those things. We knew we could do what most people aim to do every day: avoid ads.” (WhatsApp website)

 

Image

Image courtesy www.Forbes.com

My Chilean friends are a small drop in the 470 Million sea of worldwide WhatsApp users. As Olson reports in her Forbes article from March, 2014, “Pretty much everyone in Hong Kong with a smartphone uses WhatsApp. In United Arab Emirates you can watch WhatsApp Academy on TV. In the Netherlands, where 9.5 million people (more than half the population) actively use it, “Whatsappen” is now a verb in the Dutch dictionary, meaning to send a WhatsApp message. Brazil’s professional soccer players use its group-chat feature to organize labor strikes during games.” 

The Funny thing is that the company has only 56 employees, and they don’t even have a sign on the door of its headquarters in Mountain View,” yet they are “one of the world’s most commonly used communication utilities after e-mail and the telephone and will introduce voice calling later this year.” (Olson, 2014)

So it’s no wonder that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg spent the past two years courting Koum in attempts to acquire WhatsApp, which has finally happened in February this year. No one is really surprised Zuckerberg was so head over heels for WhatsApp. After all, it “has been signing up a million new users per day since Dec. 1, 2013.” (Olson, 2014)

 I guess Zuck was so up for WhatsApp that he didn’t even care Koum’s interruption during Zuckerberg’s “Valentine’s dinner with his wife, Priscilla.” Koum came by the Mark;s house, saying he agrees to the deal, and “The two hammered out pricing and terms over chocolate covered strawberries.” (Carlson, 2014)

 

References:

Koum, J. (2012, June 18). WhatsApp. Why we don’t sell ads. Retrieved June 24, 2014,

from http://blog.whatsapp.com/245/Why-we-dont-sell-ads

 

Carlson, N. (2014, February 19). The Inside Story Of How Facebook Bought WhatsApp

For $19 Billion. Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-story-of-facebooks-whatsapp-buy-2014-2#ixzz35a17enm8. . Retrieved June 24, 2014, from http://www.whatsapp.comhttp://www.businessinsider.com/the-story-of-facebooks-whatsapp-buy-2014-2

 

Olson, P. (2014, March 4). Inside The Facebook-WhatsApp Megadeal: The Courtship,

The Secret Meetings, The $19 Billion Poker Game. Forbes. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/03/04/inside-the-facebook-whatsapp-megadeal-the-courtship-the-secret-meetings-the-19-billion-poker-game/2/

 

Self-Exploratorium — Or why I take selfies

Last night I had the rare opportunity of seeing the sun setting over Lake Michigan, in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. Even though I live about 45 minutes from the city, and travel to Chicago 4 times a week, this was the first time I set so close to the lake in Chicagoland. Although to many it might seem as a banal and insignificant event — for me it was an important and moving experience.

I will not go into full foreclosure here, besides noting that it took me almost 4 years to start driving again, after a traumatic experience that has changed my life in 2009; and, as a result, moving to this area in June of 2010. In any event, going to places like Edgewater, on MY OWN, and taking a moment to ponder the importance of such occasion is, in my book, a remarkable accomplishment.

So I sit by the lake, it’s sunset, and I find it all deeply moving and beautiful. After a little while I pull out my iPhone 5, and begin shooting short bits of video — between 45 and 90 seconds in length. Removed one step from the scenery, I realize that I can observe the clouds even better via the cell phone screen than through a naked eyes. Comically, the clouds looked like Felix the Cat that was lying on his back, with his round head and triangular ears pointing southward. “It has been a long time since I’ve had the time to see the clouds,” I whisper to the camera, as I pan slowly along Felix’s imaginary, to the right. And then BOOM! Something amazing happens. A bright lightning strikes like a match through the blue enmeshment of clouds, lake, and sky, and — I get it on camera, candid and glorious!

I immediately check the footage. Yes! It has really happened. I have this on camera! And I know exactly what I’m going to do about it: I will trim it to a 15-second selfie, and post it on my Instagram.

 

 

Although some consider this phenomenon to be a form of narcissism, as does Esquire’s Stephen Marche, who refers to it as “the masturbation of self-image.” Yet others, coming from a socio-psychological angle, “read serious meaning into the selfie, seeing it as a positive mode of identity formation and an important way of presenting and reinforcing a personal image on the Web’s vast social stage.” (Keller, 2014)

It doesn’t really matter on which side of the digital fence you fancy yourself because the selfie, without a doubt, is huge! For starters, the Oxford Dictionary deemd selfie the word of the year 2013. In addition, more and more research is invested into analyzing the meaning and implication of this phenomenon. For instance, SelfieCity — a remarkable research initiative, led by Lev Manovich, a Professor of Computer Science, and the author of Software Takes Command — established to analyze two important questions: “How can history of photography help to better understand selfies phenomena? How can we approach theoretically social media images in general?” SelfieCitty’s remarkable research, based on examining selfies from 5 world capitols, surprisingly proves that “People take less selfies than often assumed.”

Image

SelfieCity: Research and Analysis

 

For me, as an individual and a filmmaker, there are three main drives selie production and sharing:

(1)  I Selfie, Therefore I Exist:

In his Essay on the Theory of Painting (1715), Jonathan Richardson writes: “In Picture we never die, never decay, or grow older. Painting has another Advantage over Words, and that is, it Pours Ideas in our Minds, Words only Drop them, The whole Scene opens at one View, whereas the other way lifts up the curtain little by little.” (National Portrait Gallery).

Selfies allow me to document my personal history, and to anchor my view, experience, and even existence in a concrete point in time — compiling a personal narrative. (Baker & Bloustain, 2003)

 

(2) Immediacy, Creation, & Criticism:

As a filmmaker and visual artist, my interest is in production of visual images. Since I am my own subject — I can be available for myself as all times. Just like a self-portrait, a selfie then is “a way to experiment with pose and technique using a readily available model.” (Self-Portraiture, an Introduction)

And it is immediate! And time, as we all know, is such a precious commodity these days. On the other hand, it also increases the opportunities to exercise critical thinking and evaluation, which is an integral part of all creative process.

 

(3)A Virtually Social Animal:

Due to personal circumstances, my family and friends are located everywhere, but the U.S. So sharing my life online with people I care about is the optimal solution for me. Moreover, as shown in various researches, taking, publishing, and sharing selfies is a need to connect and belong to community. (Keller, 2014)

 

Although I am eons away from Dürer, who “is recognised by art historians as being the first artist to regularly paint self-portraits,” the regular practice of documenting my physical self, as well as my mood and experience in multiple points in time, satisfies significant socio-psychological and artistic needs.

 

And what about you? Do you selfie too?

 

  

 Sources:

Keller, J. K. (2014, April 7). What do your selfies say about you? | Al Jazeera

America. What do your selfies say about you? | Al Jazeera America. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/7/selfie-psychologydata.html

 

Self image: making a self-portrait (3) | National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from

http://www.npg.org.uk/learning/digital/portraiture/self-image/making-self-portrait-page-3.php

 

Baker, S., & Bloustien, G. (2003). On Not Talking to Strangers: Researching the

Micro Worlds of Girls through Visual Auto-ethnographic Practices. Academia.edu. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from http://www.academia.edu/200148/On_Not_Talking_to_Strangers_Researching_the_Micro_Worlds_of_Girls_through_Visual_Auto-ethnographic_Practices

 

 Self-Portreture — An Introduction. (n.d.). The Learning Hub. Retrieved June 17, 2014,

from http://blogs.yis.ac.jp/visualart/files/2013/09/self-portraiture-_-an-introduction-_-2012-w7iyhg.pdf

 

 

The Roots of Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is a hot term, used so frequently in the media, over social networking, and even in the classroom nowadays. However, even 10 years ago, digital storytelling was not a term many were familiar with. 

My personal introduction to the notion of Digital Storytelling occurred in the early summer of 2005. With a dandy Suma Cum Laude BA in Cinema from the San Francisco State University, but no green card at hand (i.e. bye, bye paid position), I was desperate to find an internship that would further my knowledge of filmmaking. Luckily, my knowledge of digital editing in Final Cut Pro got me an intern position with the Center for Digital Storytelling, in Berkeley California. 

The name of the organization made some sense to me at the time. Logically, I could grasp the meaning of the words Digital and Storytelling, but logistically I didn’t really get what it meant. Little I knew that the technique of digital storytelling will influence the way I made my own film from then on. 

The Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) is a non-profit organization, established by Joe Lambert, and the late, Dana Atchley, in 1994 (Lambert, p. 10). the CDS offers workshops locally, nationally, and internationally; teaching people of all walks of life how to produce meaningful and professionally-put 3-5 minute digital stories, created over  a period of 3-5 days (Lambert, p 39). The motivation behind the work of both Atchley and Lambert, is the notion that everyone has a story to tell. Fundamentally, this type of storytelling evolves from cultural activism of 1960s (Lambert, P. 2). While the experience of storytelling is not only validating, authenticating, and profound, but also absolutely integral for healthy leaving. “We can live better as celebrated contributors,” says Lambert. “And we can easily die from our perceived lack of significance to others, to our community, and our society.” (p. 3)

The ability to produce stories by each and everyone of us results from the technological revolution we’ve been experiencing since the early 1990s, to which Lambert refers as “Digital Tsunami of 1992.” (p. 8) This was an exiting time of initial collaboration between visual artists and computer engineers, discovering the frontiers of multimedia. Certainly, the rapid technological developments of the past two and half decades gave us a multitude of digital tools to produce short stories that we can write, develop, digitize, edit, and distribute — without going a step away from our personal computers. Furthermore, the vast benefits of digital storytelling are valued and eagerly promoted within educational circles. For example, today’s educators can create digital stories supporting the material taught in the classroom, and expose their students to creating such media, by using internet-based, free tools, like Zimmer Twins

Nonetheless, digital storytelling holds even bigger potential for personal transformation. It is not only the relative ease with which a digital story is manufactured that is enticing to folks. According to Lambert, “a tremendous play space” is made by fusing digital photography with non-linear. It not only “enlivens” people’s relationship to objects, but even transcends their experience. (Lambert, p. 9). 

I can attest to this statement personally. As part of my internship with the CDS I was lucky to participate in all aspects of their work, including joining on and supporting ongoing workshops. Indeed, the stories produced in only  3-5 days — often by folks who have no previous knowledge of digital editing — were astonishingly professional, and incredibly profound. 

Here’s moving and very early example, by Monte Hallis from 1993, produced in a digital storytelling workshop.  

In fact, CDS’ approach to, and their socio-political view of storytelling has majorly influenced the way I use digital media and make films. 

Other incredible films produced by CDS workshop participants can be viewed on their YouTube channel

 

References:

Lambert, J. (2009). A Road Traveled. Digital storytelling: capturing lives, creating community (3rd ed., ). New York: Routledge.

Lambert, J. (2009). Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling. Digital storytelling: capturing lives, creating community (3rd ed., ). New York:      

       Routledge.