Petabyte Visualization

We are producing and consuming such massive amounts of data that it exceeds our ability to understand it through everyday human perception. Visualizing such large numbers in ways that we can immediately grasp them has been the driving force behind the rising field of information visualization. As Tom Corby has argued, “[These forms of visualization] are able to capitalize on humans’ natural ability to spot patterns and relationships in visual fields (cognition). This enables an intuitive identification of structures, which would not be available if presented in purely numeric form.”

For this assignment, you will design a visualization of what a petabyte is so that an everyday public can get a strong visual sense of the scale of this amount of digital information. Begin by asking yourself some of the following questions: What kind of insight do I hope my audience will get out of this visualization? What sorts of comparisons would be impactful for an audience to truly comprehend the scale of a petabyte? In what ways can I concretize the size of a petabyte for the everyday computer user?

You may use any appropriate tool to create your visualization such as Photoshop, visualization software, or even draft your visualization by hand. (If you do your visualization by hand, be sure to scan your final product so it can be emailed to your section leader.) Regardless of what tools you use to create your visualization, it must be accurately visualized to scale. While you may draw inspiration from existing visualizations  (see THIS and THIS), you may not simply replicate them. You must come up with your own approach for this project.

In addition to your final visualization, you must turn in a short paragraph (~250 words) describing your rationale and justifications for your design. How did you come to this final product and how does it effectively communicate the size of a petabyte to a general audience?

Your visualization and short write-up must be emailed to your section leader by 4:00pm on Monday, February 17 (before the start of lecture). No late work will be accepted for this project. Your petabyte visualization is worth 10% of your final grade.

Grading Rubric:

  • Thoughtfully designed visualization
  • Visualization offers insightful perspectives and comparisons
  • Visualization can be immediately understood by a broad audience (i.e., it “makes sense” to everyday computer users)
  • Visualization presents data accurately
  • Visualization is impactful in its visual presentation
  • Final product demonstrates effort
  • Final product is well-edited with no mistakes
  • Write-up clearly communicates process, rationale, and justifications for how it effectively communicates scale.
  • Write-up is well written and edited with no mistakes.
  • All aspects have been turned in correctly and on time.

Digital Divide Assessment

In the course thus far, we have discussed the complex issue of the digital divide. The causes, effects, and solutions of access to the internet and digital media are not clear cut but they are, undoubtedly, issues we have to confront with the rise of digital society. For this assignment, you will write a paper assessing the impact of digital media on two communities, one of which has easy and abundant access and the other of which does not have ease of access.

You will begin by interviewing one person from each of these communities. You must identify someone who has abundant and easy access to a wide range of digital media (e.g. a student at UMD, someone in the tech industry, etc.) and someone for whom access is more difficult (e.g. a grandparent, someone below the poverty line in our area, a student who is working their way through UMD in a low-wage job, etc.). You must craft a set of questions for each interview that gets to the heart of how their access or lack of access has impacted their lives. Your interview must get your interviewees to identify how their access/lack of access impacts areas such as his or her relationship to a community, to content that is important to them, to tools for success, and to a broadened sense of interaction with the world.

After conducting these interviews, you will write a short 3-5 page report about your findings. Addressing key areas brought up by Andy Carvin (community, content, literacy, and pedagogy), how does access or a lack of access impact the demographics represented by your interviewees? How are their everyday lives characterized in relationship to technology? Does the “digital divide,” in your assessment, pose a real threat to those who do not have easy and abundant access in our area? Be sure to directly and concretely reference your interviews (I would strongly recommend that you quote them directly in the essay). Extrapolating from your observations, what are some possible solutions to this problem?

Your paper must be 3-5 pages in length, typed in 12-point Times New Roman font, and double spaced. Your paper should have a strong introduction with a well-worded thesis statement. You must also have well-supported ideas throughout and a strong conclusion. You must email a Word document or PDF of your paper to your section leader by 4:00pm on Monday, April 7th (before lecture). No late work will be accepted for this assignment. Your Digital Divide Assessment is worth 15% of your grade.

Grading Rubric:

  • Has a strong introductory paragraph.
  • Has a strong and well-developed thesis statement.
  • Uses clear examples from interviews.
  • Clearly and convincingly ties interviews to ideas from class and readings.
  • Offers insights in the impact of digital media on interviewees and the demographics they represent.
  • Persuasively argues for a stance on the threat (or lack of) posed by the digital divide.
  • Persuasively argues for solutions to the digital divide.
  • All ideas are clear and fully developed.
  • Has a strong concluding paragraph.
  • All elements have been turned in correctly and on time.

Self-Evaluation Paper

Some researchers have suggested that students will likely only retain about 5% of the material covered in a course after several years have passed. This assignment is geared to help you identify the topics covered in this course that have impacted you and are ideas that you would like to carry with you well after the completion of this course.

This written assignment will be a self-evaluation reflecting on the topics studied in this course. You must pick two ideas, terms, or concepts covered at some point in this course and discuss how your ideas about these concepts have changed throughout the semester. You must also connect these topics to your larger interests, major, or career goals. The objective is to trace how an idea evolves through analysis and how that idea can have an impact on areas of your life that are important. Questions you should consider include:

  1. How has the course lectures, readings, and discussions (you must cover all three) influenced the ways that you think about your chosen terms/concepts?
  2. How have the assignments from the course  influenced the ways that you put these ideas into practice?
  3. How can you use the knowledge gained about these terms and incorporate these ideas into your majors or your possible career paths?

The final paper must be 3-5 pages in length, doubled spaced, in Times New Roman 12 point font. You will need to cite the course readings that have impacted the ways you think about your chosen ideas/terms/concepts. These must be cited in text and in a Works Cited/References page that conforms to MLA or APA citation style. You must email the assignment to your discussion leader as a Word document or PDF by 4:00pm on May 12th (before lecture). No late work will be accepted. This final self-evaluation is worth 10% of your grade.

Grading Rubric:

  • Has a strong introductory paragraph.
  • Has well-chosen and clearly defined ideas, terms, or concepts drawn from the course (minimum of 2).
  • Demonstrates how your ideas have changed throughout the duration of the semester.
  • Offers clear examples from class lectures, readings, and discussions.
  • Offers thoughtful connections between course material and your major, your areas of interest, and/or your possible career path.
  • All ideas are cohesive and fully developed.
  • Well-written essay: few spelling or grammatical errors, no awkward sentences.
  • Has a strong concluding paragraph.
  • Citations are done correctly.
  • Meets all minimum requirements (page length, font size, etc).