Digital ID

This week in The Internet Course we will focus on digital identity. The panel of experts has pulled together an impressive array of research, some of which is below:

I’m interested to see where the discussion will go. There is overlap with last week’s topic of privacy and openness, especially where topics of hacking and identity theft are concerned.

I don’t want to rehash trodden ground, but I was intrigued by Alec Couros’ troubles with Facebook and identity misappropriation. He’s had problems with people borrowing his image or name or both for scammy purposes, but recently Facebook decided that he himself was not authentic, in spite of the volume of data he had provided them over the years. There are services that use things like Facebook, Twitter or Google+ for login identification. In essence, Facebook becomes a virtual ID card. What are the implications of outsourcing ID verification to commercial entities? Especially in light of the terms and conditions of our relationships with them? In real life we use government, which we supposedly control, for ID cards. What can happen when we turn to commercial providers for that?

As I was looking for an image to go with this post, I found this info graphic by Fred Cavazza on Flickr:


It might be a little outdated (2006), but maybe that says something about the shifting nature of digital identity. It’s an interesting way of breaking the topic down, and of showing its breadth.

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There’s never been a paper bag…

Inspired by the WaffleStomper, I thought I’d try remixing a song and some speech. Keeping with The Wire theme, I was also inspired by the speech that Major Colvin gave about the history of the paper bag. I decided to mix that with Blake Leyh’s closing theme, The Fall (YT). I used MPEG Streamclip to get the audio for both. When I put them together in Audacity, I saw that the speech was about twice as long as the music:


So I had to do some editing. I went at it on both fronts – shortening the speech and lengthening the music. If you look at the speech, you see a lot of flatline segments, the pauses between his words. Taking them out entirely would make it sound unnatural, but they can be edited aggressively. Every place I saw a length of silence, represented by the flat line in the waveform, I removed a large part of it.


This shortened the speech significantly, but it was still longer than the music. Editing that was trickier. I selected three passages and looped them by copying and pasting. The trick was to listen to the pattern in the music and figure out where it repeats. That way I could duplicate the sections without disturbing the flow of the music. I don’t think I did a really good job with getting the splices right – if you focus on the music you can hear where I edited it. On the positive side, it’s only jarring in a couple spots. I used the Amplify function to boost the voice and the mixer slider to bring down the volume of the music.

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Little Melvin

08deaconA minor character who makes his debut in this week’s episodes is the Deacon. I’m not sure if he has a name beyond that. He’s played by Melvin Williams, a former Baltimore drug kingpin who served as a partial template for Avon Barksdale. Simon wrote a series of articles about him for the Baltimore Sun. I couldn’t find them online, but did find a blog post discussing them. Many of the characters in The Wire are built from real people that Simon and his co-authors have encountered, or have been for that matter. The series takes that a step further by weaving real people into the story. Detective Ed Norris is played by Ed Norris, former Baltimore police chief. The character Omar was inspired by Donnie Andrews, who has a bit part in some episodes. Jay Landsman is based on Jay Landsman, who plays Colvin’s second-in-command. Felicia “Snoop” Pearson is portrayed by Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, who was a product of the environment seen in the series. Simon talks about the city of Baltimore as a character in the series, which we see in the photography and authentic settings, but I think the blurring of real and fictional characters also contributes to that.

UC Berkeley professor Linda Williams wrote (PDF) about these connections in studying the ethnography of The Wire. I’ll have to read that more closely.

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Set your poems to music

Melinda’s Wire poem is just awesome, both in the writing and the reading. The rhythm in the reading is so good that I thought I’d try to add a music track to it. Here’s what I came up with:

I recorded Melinda’s track using Audacity and Soundflower so I could have something to work with. I have the season 1 theme by The Blind Boys of Alabama(YT) in my iTunes (Spirit of the Century is a great album all the way through), so I imported that into Audacity. I edited out the verse sections, which was kind of tricky. When doing something like that, you want the beat to flow evenly through the edits. At first, I had a little stutter where the sections cam together, But I could see the spike in the waveform where the beat was, so I was able to trim it so the beats lined up. It was sheer luck that the instrumental sections that I kept more or less matched the length of the poem. There is a little overlap between the end of the poem and the part where the song’s vocals come back in, but I think that’s okay. It was also a happy coincidence that the rhythm of Melinda’s reading lined up with the beat of the music so well. I tweaked that in two or three places, either shortening or lengthening pauses to make the waveform spikes between the two tracks align.


I had to adjust the volume balance between the tracks too. I used the sliders on the left to boost the reading a little bit. It was okay over the intro music because there was not much instrumentation, but when the solos came in they started to compete. So I selected that portion, from the start of the lead break until the end of the reading, and used the Filter->Amplify function to reduce the volume of the music. I had to do it twice because the first attempt still left it too loud. You can see below where the waveform is squeezed.


It was important to adjust the music to her voice rather than the other way around, because i wanted to keep the quality of the reading.

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POSSE and openness

In Tuesday’s class we looked at a trailer for the film Terms and Conditions May Apply. The film looks at all those end-user license agreements that are designed so end-users don’t read them. People generally don’t know what they’re agreeing to when they click the “I Accept” button, and it wouldn’t really matter if they did know, because many companies reserve the right change the terms and conditions without warning or notice.

This is problematic because people don’t know what they signing away, part of what makes it a privacy issue. It’s also a problem because people may unwittingly violate the terms, which can lead to harsh consequences. The Department of Justice has asserted that ToS violations can be prosecuted as felonies, and although Congress has made moves to address this, they haven’t seen them through. This can not only stifle but criminalize innovation.

A lot of the privacy and terms of service issues seem to be tied to what I consider closed environments, like Facebook. Access and use of our data is the toll we pay to get in. We also have the open web, and our own spaces on it, where we have more control. We can make that social with the POSSE model, pushing information from our own spaces out to other services like Twitter or Facebook. We’re experimenting with that using a platform called Known in our ds106 section.

Just as a coincidence, Tim Berners-Lee talked about data ownership yesterday in London. It sounds like he’s calling for a web that treats our personal data, which all those sites collect, as our intellectual property.

Berners-Lee argued that the burden of tracking should be moved from the typical web user to the individuals and organisations with access to our data.

That sort of flips the current situation on its head. I don’t know if it’s doable, but it’s an interesting idea.

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Wire106 audio ideas

Looking through past posts on the wire106 site, I found a bunch of ideas that people had posted, including Travis, Jeremy, Desa, Imran, Nicholas, IenMelinda, Danielle, and La Kisha. Most of them are already in groups. If you’re looking for a group and you like someone’s ideas, maybe you could ask if they can use some help. If you have some ideas and you’re looking for collaborators, put your ideas out there with a call for help. But let’s get this done today so everyone can get started.

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Wire106 Week 7

We’re up to week 7 in Wire106. Jim is out on assignment and tailed a suspect up to NYC, so we don’t have a video for you this time. Here are the details for this week:

Audio week 1

Everyone should be part of a group at this time. If you are not in a group, get in one. Or let us know and we’ll put you in one. You are going to write and record a 20-30 minute audio production which will be broadcast on ds106radio. You have two weeks to work on your radio show. They will be broadcast at a date to be determined.

Here is the group info we have thus far:
There are a lot of names missing from that list. Make sure your name is on it by the end of the day. There is a “Looking for a group” group for those who are looking for a group. If you have ideas for a show and don’t have a group yet, that’s a good place to find collaborators.

  • All group members should contribute. Suggestion: create a Google Doc for planning and collaboration. If you invite us to be part of it, we can offer advice and input. Blog about your process and progress.
  • Include radio bumpers and commercials – a couple of each
  • 20-30 minute time length
  • The project should relate in some way to The Wire. How you go about that is up to you.
  • Each group member needs to do at least one promo poster/bumper sticker/logo etc. for their show this week. A little splash of design.
  • Keep the instructors apprised of your progress.

As you found out during Intro to Audio week, audio editing is time consuming. Plan to be done early and you will probably be done on time.

Audio resources:

Andy Rush’s as a resource for producing, editing, and generally working with audio.

The UMW digital knowledge center is available for individual and group tutorials for audio editing. You can schedule a tutorials for assignments and the radio show here:

You can find additional audio resources in the Open Ds106 syllabus (

2 Daily Creates

Audio assignments – 10 stars

You can use your audio assignments to develop content for your radio show.


  • Season 2, episode 12
  • Season 2, episode 12 with commentary
  • Season 3, episode 1

The commentary on episode 12 comes from producer Karen Thorson and editor Thom Zimny. It’s a good behind-the-scenes companion piece to the Jen Ralston interview, discussing various storytelling techniques used in the episode and throughout the series.

I scheduled the commentary track for s2ep12 on at 9PM on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, although you really should be watching the episode as you listen to it. In keeping with the commentary theme, David Simon’s commentary on the opening episode of season three will be on Thursday at 9PM.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


I loved that western showdown scene between the police and the FBI. This part had GIF written all over it. I had the idea to put the three of them together, so I was careful to make all of them the same number of frames, with the same timing. Then I thought it would be better to do a rolling animation, like what I ended up with. It took me a while to think about how to do it. I started to write up the process, but the write-up was as tedious as doing it in the first place. If you want the details, let me know.

Once I had the GIF, I had to figure out what to do with it. I went looking for a design assignment and found Movies from Another Time and Animated Movie Posters. My image didn’t really fit either of them. I clicked the Remix It button and this came up:

Jump Shrimp
Find a completed assignment and create it’s oxymoron, something that is contradictory to what was made.

I had been thinking of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly anyway, what with the western theme, and the contradictory aspect made everything fall into place. Prez is good at some things, but in general he strikes me as a bad cop in the Martin Short sense, i.e. less than competent. Lester, on the other hand is good police. Bunk was born in a three piece suit, (almost) always dressed to the nines, so he could be the opposite of ugly.

For the text, I put together characters from The Wire and characters Leone’s movie, and used some of the behind the scenes names from The Wire. I did all the text in Garamond because it’s on Vignelli’s approved typeface list – actually it’s a versatile classic font.

I should note that my entire process here is pretty much the opposite of good design. Instead of designing something to fit the assignment, I’m trying to bend an assignment to fit my image. But so what.

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This week in The Internet Course we’re covering privacy & openness. The readings the class came up with in the research process mostly deal with privacy and related issues: hacking, cybercrime, identity theft, anonymity and surveillance. Zuckerberg has said the people don’t care about privacy, and people prove him right every day. Yet these articles, and many others like them, also prove him wrong. Maybe people are of mixed opinion. Maybe people are un- or under-informed. Maybe people don’t think things through. Most likely it’s all of the above.

But the openness side of the equation is just as important, if not more so. So I thought I’d take a look at it.

Open can have many meanings and implications. With regards the the web and the internet, there’s open source, open standards and protocols, open architecture … Open access is an issue much discussed in my field. Openness is baked into the DNA of the internet – connectivity and interoperability require it. And the openness of the internet enables an open sharing of thoughts, ideas and information on a whole new level. What can be accomplished through humanity’s collective creativity remains to be seen, but if history is any guide it will be profoundly transformative.

I made a little Cmap of openness as seen through three articles:


The Internet Society published a position paper last year on openness and sustainability. They visualize a virtuous circle of openness, with universal benefits for everyone derived from four principles:

Open global standards for innovation
Open communications for everyone
Open for economic progress through innovation
Open and multi-stakeholder governance for inclusion


They further discussed openness as an enabler of innovation

Sir Tim Berners-Lee did not have to ask a central authority whether or not he could write a client-server hypertext system. He wrote it; others who found the possibilities interesting downloaded clients and servers and started using it.

The article recognizes that there are IP issues that need to be negotiated with regards to an open environment. We touched on that issue this past week with the Lessig video.

There are down sides to openness, however. Allowing people to say and do things anonymously lets some people get away with putting their worst sides forward. Bullying, harassment and threats are unfortunately common online.

Astra Taylor’s article discusses the hostility that women face in the online environment and in tech culture. That makes for a vicious circle, inhibiting the diversity which could counteract the hostility. In a way, that’s opposed to openness, as it pushes people out. But it’s a result of being open to certain types of speech and behavior that are less than acceptable.

The internet lets people call out that kind of misbehavior, but there can be costs to that. Real costs, in fact. In my world, libraryland, two people called out an individual for repeated and persistent sexually aggressive behavior and were hit with a defamation lawsuit as a result. But it has served to bring the issue to the attention of many who would otherwise be unaware.

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Wired Book Room

Lauren brought up the Weird Book Room assignment and I thought it really ought to be called Wired Book Room. So here’s my entry: Accessorizing Your Waterfowl.

I had a few title ideas, like Duck Bling or Pimp My Duck, but I thought they were too slang for that classy necklace. I wanted to make the image more graphic or illustrative or whatever. I duplicated the background layer so I could mess around without messing it up. Then I went into Image->Adjustments->Levels and played around with the sliders to boost the contrast and brighten it up a bit. I duplicated the layer again and tried Filter->Stylize->Find Edges, which made this weird sort of tracing of the image. I didn’t know if I could use it or not, so I clicked the layer visibility button to hide it for now. I went back to my other copy of the layer and tried the Image->Adjustments->Posterize function and changed the levels to 3 or 4. I didn’t like the top of the bar in the picture so blacked it out. I turned on my weird tracing layer and changed the layer blending mode to Darken, and I kind of liked the effect. I needed a better image of the diamond necklace though, so I went back to my original layer, without all the distortions, and carefully selected around the necklace and copied and pasted it. I played with the levels to brighten it and put some sharpening on it, and thought I had a good image to work with.

Accessorizing your waterfowlWith waterfowl in the title, I figured it should be a Penguin Book. They’ve been acquired by Random House, so I used the Random Penguin name. I googled penguin books to find the logos.

I went with a condensed typeface due to the kind of space I had – more of a functional decision than an aesthetic one. I let Stephen L. Miles be the author, playing off that little inside joke from the episode. I thought the cover should have some more copy so I asked my wife what it should say. She was on to the bling thing too.

Accessorizing your waterfowl2

I thought about it some more, and that posterize effect was too busy. I went back and filled the duck outline with white, then I brought the eye back in. I think that’s a little more essence of duck.

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