Open City Apps aggregates data on issues important to Chicagoans like local business health, distribution of schools by tier, and crime rates, and puts them into these neat little apps. They’re totally free and updated very frequently. There’s even one that lets you track which streets have been plowed and when.
The project is part of a movement to encourage more transparency in government, and you can find more info here.
Still waiting to be welcomed into the 21st Century
I understand why professors don’t want us to bring electronics to class. Trust me, I’ve sat next to plenty of people who bring laptops or tablets and check Facebook, Tumblr, or re-organize their iTunes library in meticulous detail every morning for ten weeks (yes, really). I’ve seen people texting and texting and texting and not looking up once when there are notes or artworks we’re going to have to analyze on the board.
So I get it. Technology has infinite ability to distract us. But do you now whose fault that is? Not technology’s. We allow ourselves to be distracted when we sit in front of a computer. Some people cannot help it, and those people know their limitations and don’t exploit them as excuses for why they weren’t paying attention in class. Most people can help it and choose not to. But there are also a select few of us who can help it and do, and don’t allow ourselves to be sidetracked in the middle of a lecture by refreshing Tumblr.
It seems like professors understand the power of technology in the classroom. They put readings online for us. And yet they expect us to then print them out and bring them to class? Why not just hand them out in the first place, then? Why establish the pretense of living in the 21st century if you’re going to handicap all other aspects of technology? Because I don’t want to print shit, okay. It’s a waste of time, it’s a waste of space, and you know what? I study environmental politics, so it also just kind of makes me feel bad.
I take all my notes on a computer because I write horrendous physical notes that are totally illegible. Typing is also much faster, so I’m more likely to be able to take detailed notes and still listen to the lecture. I lose things like it’s going out of style, including syllabi after I’ve just received them. Keeping things on a computer is neater and makes my life a hell of a lot easier. I also am physically incapable of forgetting or “forgetting” my readings if I have them on my laptop or tablet. And if I forgot to download them, well, the university has WiFi across all of campus. (Also, those desks made for right-handed people? It’s very hard to write on those, but not to type. Just saying. You privileged bastards.)
People who use technology as a diversion from class to the extent that it needs to be taken away from them are going to be distracted anyway. They’ll probably just zone out instead. I’m not saying to give up on those people and their education. But there are also people who use technology to seriously help them study and learn and be attentive in class, and we shouldn’t be punished for the bad behavior of our peers. I thought we were all a little more mature and trusting than that.
I see your point, you know. I really do. Sometimes it feels like everyone’s forgotten how to have normal, decent interaction with each other and your train ride or afternoon in a café suddenly becomes very lonely. But I don’t see vilifying technology as a solution. A lot of people have pointed out that headphones are often used as a defense mechanism for noise-induced anxiety. If someone has sensitive hearing, the person standing next to them can push them into a downward spiral ending in a panicked rush to get away. And another person mentioned that women can block out catcalls and other unwanted comments with headphones. I don’t know if that means women don’t live in reality as fully as men, if they wear headphones as a shield against harassment, but if given a choice between the comfort of not being demeaned and cheapened for their bodies and “living in reality”, I doubt it’s a question which one they would choose.
Listening to music when you’re out of the house can even be beneficial beyond simple protection or enjoyment. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I’m walking down certain streets at certain times of day, I choose my music carefully to fit the mood I’m in. If I’m skateboarding, I have particular music. A morning commute always sounds different from an evening commute. And this careful selection of reality-blocking noise imbues the most ordinary events with an almost cinematic loveliness that makes an otherwise crowded, sweaty, miserable commute romantic. With headphones on, suddenly the two people you see walking in front of you have a story, and you think of them whenever you play that song. There are songs I listen to that propel me into memory, to a specific time I was sitting outside of class, surrounded by conversations I couldn’t hear, reveling in the new sun of a tentative spring. And okay, maybe we shouldn’t feel the need to make every moment special by adding sound effects wherever we go, but what’s wrong with going a little over the top? Maybe we should be content to experience happiness in our walk to the grocery store with out auditory aids. But what’s wrong with laying it on a little thick, if it makes you really happy?
so i commented on that article
99% Invisible is a “tiny radio show about design”, which takes about 5-10 minutes to tell you about some element of design that doesn’t get nearly enough appreciation. Topics range from the clicks of a computer keyboard to the sounds of DC’s Metro station escalator.
99% Invisible’s Kickstarter is here, and its website (on Tumblr!) is here, and here is the article where I learned about it.
IKEA has updated their catalog to an interesting augmented reality hybrid of digital and print after deciding that scrapping the print catalog entirely made no sense because of its large circulation. Instead, they created a digital layer so you can use your smartphone or tablet to scan certain pages and see possible decorating ideas, video, or the interiors of furniture.
I’m telling you, augmented reality is not just the future—it is the fucking awesome future.