Taking Charge of Your Own Healthcare – Wearable Technology & Health Apps of Today & Tomorrow

— Originally posted at Fashioning Circuits

The greatest improvements in medicine in the last few decades have been made possible by advances in technology. Today new personal and mobile technologies are just beginning to allow us to take charge of our own health and medicine. Smartphone apps compile data and provide solutions, and wearable technology such as fitness bands track movement, heart rate, and more. But this is just the start of a new wave of tech gadgets and apps that will revolutionize how we care for our bodies.

The sophistication and widespread availability of mobile technology for all aspects of healthcare are about to take off, and this advanced tech will help us to take responsibility for our own health. Mobile apps that help you count calories, lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, track your alcohol intake, or manage a specific health condition are already available and in use.

Babylon welcome screenshot

Babylon consult screenshot Images via Babylon on Google Play

Health apps of the very near future will include the likes of Babylon, an app that books virtual appointments, tracks symptoms, and receives your prescriptions with no wait time. Or you might use WellDoc, which could be prescribed by your doctor to support chronic disease management “by integrating clinical, behavioral, and motivational applications with everyday technologies, like the internet and cell phone, to engage patients and healthcare providers in ways that dramatically improve outcomes and significantly reduce healthcare costs.”

“During the next five years, health apps will empower consumers to make improved and informed lifestyle choices leading to better health and reducing the risk of chronic disease,” says Damon Lightley, managing director at Genetic Apps, an app developer for the health, sports, medical, and pharma markets. “They’ll also enable healthcare professionals to detect diseases earlier and reduce care costs.”

Current wearable technology for healthcare includes fitness bands that track steps like Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex, the Withings Pulse O2 which combines a pedometer with a heart rate and blood oxygen monitor, and Google Glass—which, among its myriad of uses, helps doctors to see more patient data in real time, hands free, and allows surgeons to better perform minimally invasive operations requiring reliance on imagery.

Some of the new and upcoming wearable technologies that are focused on improving health sound strange, but are currently under development: a shirt that detects irregular blood sugar levels, contact lenses that monitor changes in the retina, and intelligent fibers in clothing that keep track of your pulse, breathing, and heart rate. Other developments on the way include a smart sock that keeps track of people with Alzheimer’s disease, a skin patch that provides hypodermic injections throughout the day, and Digitsole—an insole that connects to a mobile device allowing you to adjust the temperature of your shoes, track activity, and also help adjust your posture.


Codecademy Javascript – My Undying Hatred

Posted in Media by impressonion on April 22, 2014
Tags: , ,

Remember what I said about how great Codecademy was when I first tried it back in February?


Maybe it’s the website, or maybe it’s the coding language, or maybe it’s just me, but this was the worst, most unbelievably frustrating thing I have had to do for this class. And this class has not been a cake walk!

Some of the JavaScript lessons were fine. Some I figured out ok. But many others left me wanting to scream. Code was missing. Code wasn’t processing correctly. Code was being interfered with by my browser. Half the time, I had to find ways to cheat the code just to get through a lesson so I could finish the damn course! (And believe me, I did finish it. Even if somewhat incorrectly.)

All I know is, if I never have to touch JavaScript again it will be JUST FINE.

I’m sorry Codecademy, but I hate you. Take your stupid JavaScript lessons and jump off a cliff.

JavaScript Insanity Plea

JavaScript Insanity Plea

Google Glass – Case Study

Posted in Media by impressonion on April 15, 2014
Tags: , ,

Fighting the Wildfire that is the War on Internet Freedoms

This week’s reading and video assignments—the book “Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom” by Rebecca MacKinnon, and the video “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” directed by Alex Gibney—raise a lot of troublesome topics that have the potential to affect every single person on the planet. Though the issues are centered on the internet and mostly online worlds, the effects of decisions made therein have the power to reverberate across any digital divide and disturb every individual in every country. That is because we are not just talking about online freedoms—they may start online, but they have real-world implications that affect the physical freedoms of even those who are unable to access the internet. For these reasons, the issues discussed in the book and video are greater in magnitude than may first seem.

Rebecca MacKinnon

Rebecca MacKinnon

MacKinnon highlights numerous examples of companies who deal in digital realms that control major portions of the internet and major websites used by massive user groups for all manner of reasons—Google, Facebook, Twitter—whose influence includes real-world consequences. She also discusses situations in which governments around the world make decisions to alter their citizens’ online access, resulting in changes in the physical world. Because these organizations have such an enormous level of impact on people’s daily lives, they must be held to a higher standard than is currently in place. “The reality is that the corporations and governments that build, operate, and govern cyberspace are not being held sufficiently accountable for their exercise of power over the lives and identities of people who use digital networks. They are sovereigns operating without the consent of the networked.”

Protestors demonstrate against the dictatorship of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunis, January 14, 2011 (Photo: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

Protestors demonstrate against the dictatorship of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali,
Tunis, January 14, 2011 (Photo: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

I would say that MacKinnon’s claim should go one step further. She references “the networked” but even those who are not a part of the digital network are affected. When protests, revolutions, and civil wars are fought both online and offline, those who are not networked are still a part of the fight. When information is restricted on the internet, those who get their information secondhand, by word-of-mouth, get even less than before. So the “sovereigns” who govern cyberspace should not only consider how their actions affect the networked, they should also consider the greater worldwide effects that may reach everyone on earth.

Even though there are still wide gulfs where the digital divide shows proof of stark inequalities between the connected and the disconnected, the need for global “netizen” rights that MacKinnon calls for could effectively help those on both sides. “It is now up to the world’s netizens to figure out how to build a sustainable civilization within the new digital rain forest—in which we find sustenance and shelter amid the poisonous plants and deadly predators.” If these goals are achieved, they can provide a framework to extend out into the far reaches of the un-networked as well.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

I find myself sounding a little uncharacteristically optimistic. Let me be a little more real. MacKinnon’s goals are extremely lofty, just as were those of the fallen WikiLeaks god, Julian Assange. They will not come without the long and arduous toil of the “netizens,” an endless tug-of-war between concerned individuals and groups and the vested interests of the companies and governments who are far more interested in improving their bottom line. As MacKinnon says,

Solutions that adequately protect netizen rights will come about, however, only if netizens of the world participate actively in devising them. The more we actively use the Internet to exercise our rights as citizens and to improve our societies, the harder it will be for governments and corporations to chip away at our freedoms, arguing as they so often do that we do not deserve them, and treating us like reprobates.

I get a kind of Smokey the Bear vibe from MacKinnon’s call to action. I can imagine some authoritative bear figure standing in front of a forest fire that represents the chaos of the internet freedom war. He points an accusatory furry finger at the viewer and proclaims, “Only YOU can prevent the loss of your own internet freedoms!” And if you don’t listen to that bear, you have only yourself to blame.

Smokey the Bear

Why McLuhan Matters: Intent and Significance of “The Medium is the Message”

Posted in Media by impressonion on March 25, 2014
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

As required for class, I have attached my take-home midterm exam to this blog post. Not that I expect anyone other than my professor to read it, but if you do, feel free to share your impressonions!

The essay is written on a topic that is essential to understanding the technological media of today. Earlier this semester, when I first started reading the sources cited within, I struggled to grasp the concepts. But once I understood them, I realized just how important they are to our technologically advanced world and the future.

Thanks for reading!

Brooks Take Home Midterm Exam – Why McLuhan Matters

Research Proposal: Evolution of Digital Books vs. Physical Books

Posted in Media by impressonion on March 18, 2014

Below is my research proposal for my EMAC 6300 class. It is not the same as my original ideas, which I found to be a bit difficult to research. I have also attached my proposal in a pdf file here:

Research Paper Proposal

Evolution of Digital Books vs. Physical Books

The history of the printed word—and thus physical book publishing—is rich with intrigue and vital cultural relevance. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, society began to undergo a fundamental change in the way people communicated and even their very thought processes. According to McLuhan, we live under a “typographic spell,” instituted by the creation of the printing press and the subsequent inundation of modern society with physical books and the ability to read them. Today it would be hard to imagine a world without books and all the vast and entangled changes that they have brought to society—many of which we may not even recognize.

Now we face a new chapter in the history of books in which they are being transformed into various digital formats for consumption by both readers who are long familiar with physical books, and new generations who are much more comfortable with all things digital. The printed book industry is facing major upheavals as the media transitions to digital formats. These changes will likely affect society in a similar way to the original printed word.

I want to explore the new forms that books are taking, and discover how readers are reacting to these forms. I hope to find out which formats are being favored, or if readers still prefer physical books on the whole. To narrow the focus of this paper, I will research several websites and digital book subscription offerings to discover what options are available and how they compare to one another. I expect that my findings will help me select a single media object, or maybe two or three for comparison, on which I can focus more carefully. I will also briefly review the history of book publishing and the relevant effects it has caused, to emphasize the magnitude of these new changes and provide background for the current status of the industry.

 Potential questions:

  1. How do new digital formats for books compare to each other and to physical books?
  2. What trends are emerging for digital book use vs. physical book use?
  3. Do book readers want to engage with literature the way they engage with magazines?
  4. Can they afford to do so? Will people sign up for yet another monthly charge?
  5. Will digital book subscribers have the intellectual bandwidth to consume what they bought? Does that matter?
  6. Will they come to trust or despise the online studios pushing books onto their phones and iPads any more or less than current physical book publishers?

Potential sources from outside of class:

Tate, R. (2014). The Future of Books Looks a Lot Like Netflix. Retrieved from

Peterson, P. (2014) Love libraries? Then you’re probably ahead of the technological curve. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Open Library. Retrieved from

Nawotka, E. Bexar County’s Library on a Cloud. Texas Monthly. Retrieved from

Allen, D. (2014). How Complexity Theory Affects Social Media, Streaming and Musicians. Retrieved from*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1&trk=nus-cha-roll-art-title

Potential sources from class readings:

Drahos and Braithwaite, Information Feudalism: Who Owns the Knowledge Economy?

McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message”

The problem with collectivism – Wading through Jaron Lanier’s “Digital Maoism”

Maoism, formally known as Mao Zedong Thought, is a political theory derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong… Maoism sees the agrarian peasantry, rather than the working class, as the key revolutionary force which can fundamentally transform capitalist society towards socialism. Holding that ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,’ Maoist organizations mainly draw upon Mao’s ideology of the People’s War, mobilizing large parts of rural populations to revolt against established institutions by engaging in guerrilla warfare. Maoism views the industrial-rural divide as a major division exploited by capitalism, identifying capitalism as involving industrial urban developed ‘First World’ societies ruling over rural developing ‘Third World’ societies.”

Mao's official portrait at Tiananmen gate

Mao’s official portrait at Tiananmen gate

“Although Maoism is critical of urban industrial capitalist powers, it views urban industrialization as a required prerequisite to expand economic development and socialist reorganization to the countryside, with the goal being the achievement of rural industrialization that would abolish the distinction between town and countryside.”

“Maoism can also refer to the egalitarianism that was seen during Mao’s era as opposed to the free-market ideology of Deng Xiaoping…”

Egalitarianism… is a trend of thought that favors equality for all people. Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status… the term has two distinct definitions in modern English. It is defined either as a political doctrine that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people or the decentralisation of power.”

…I took these definitions, amusingly, from Wikipedia. I needed something more to ground my understanding of the essay by Jaron Lanier, “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism,” as it has been some time since I studied world history.

When I first read through the essay, it seemed to make a lot of sense to me. I was surprised, therefore, to find that a number of other forward-thinking authorities on the subject appeared to disagree with Lanier, at least in some respect. The featured comments following Lanier’s essay offered a broader range of thoughts relating to the subject and Lanier’s chosen descriptive term, Digital Maoism. Reading through these prompted me to question whether I fully understood the concepts and his argument, and if I really agreed with what he was saying.

Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier

If Lanier’s basic points were these:

  • Wikipedia is troublesome because, “A core belief of the wiki world is that whatever problems exist in the wiki will be incrementally corrected as the process unfolds,” but unfortunately, “Sometimes loosely structured collective activities yield continuous improvements and sometimes they don’t.”
  • Online collectivism is hazardous because, “In the last year or two the trend has been to remove the scent of people, so as to come as close as possible to simulating the appearance of content emerging out of the Web as if it were speaking to us as a supernatural oracle. This is where the use of the Internet crosses the line into delusion.”
  • He also says, “The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in the other people. If we start to believe the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we’re devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots.”
  • But collectivism can be useful when, “The reason the collective can be valuable is precisely that its peaks of intelligence and stupidity are not the same as the ones usually displayed by individuals. Both kinds of intelligence are essential.”
  • And also, “If the code that ran the Wikipedia user interface were as open as the contents of the entries, it would churn itself into impenetrable muck almost immediately. The collective is good at solving problems which demand results that can be evaluated by uncontroversial performance parameters, but bad when taste and judgment matter.”
  • Lanier concludes with, “The hive mind should be thought of as a tool. Empowering the collective does not empower individuals — just the reverse is true. There can be useful feedback loops set up between individuals and the hive mind, but the hive mind is too chaotic to be fed back into itself.”
  • And, “The illusion that what we already have is close to good enough, or that it is alive and will fix itself, is the most dangerous illusion of all. By avoiding that nonsense, it ought to be possible to find a humanistic and practical way to maximize value of the collective on the Web without turning ourselves into idiots. The best guiding principle is to always cherish individuals first.”

Then some of the points and counterpoints from responders that I found most valuable were these:

  • Lanier’s piece hits a nerve because human life always exists in tension between our individual and group identities, inseparable and incommensurable. For ten years now, it’s been apparent that the rise of the digital was providing enormous new powers for the individual. It’s now apparent that the world’s networks are providing enormous new opportunities for group action. Understanding how these cohabiting and competing revolutions connect to deep patterns of intellectual and social work is one of the great challenges of our age. — Clay Shirky
  • The bottom-up hive mind will always take us much further that seems possible. It keeps surprising us. In this regard, the Wikipedia truly is exhibit A, impure as it is, because it is something that is impossible in theory, and only possible in practice. It proves the dumb thing is smarter than we think. At that same time, the bottom-up hive mind will never take us to our end goal. We are too impatient. So we add design and top down control to get where we want to go. — Kevin Kelly
  • This rich context, attached to many Wikipedia articles, is known as a “talk page.” The talk page is where the writers for an article hash out their differences, plan future edits, and come to agreement about tricky rhetorical points. This kind of debate doubtless happens in the New York Times and Britannica as well, but behind the scenes. Wikipedia readers can see it all, and understand how choices were made. — Fernanda Viegas & Matthew Wattenberg
  • My response is quite simple: this alleged “core belief” is not one which is held by me, nor as far as I know, by any important or prominent Wikipedians. Nor do we have any particular faith in collectives or collectivism as a mode of writing. Authoring at Wikipedia, as everywhere, is done by individuals exercising the judgment of their own minds. — Jimmy Wales
  • The debate does demonstrate how much we need to update our media literacy in a digital, distributed era. Our internal BS meters already work, but they’ve fallen into a low and sad level of use in the Big Media world. Many people tend to believe what they read. Others tend to disbelieve everything. Too few apply appropriate skepticism and do the additional work that true media literacy requires. — Dan Gillmor
  • …collective action is not the same as collectivism. Commons-based peer production in Wikipedia, open source software, and prediction markets is collective action, not collectivism. Collective action involves freely chosen self-election (which is almost always coincident with self-interest) and distributed coordination; collectivism involves coercion and centralized control; treating the Internet as a commons doesn’t mean it is… — Howard Rheingold

And best of all, I felt, was the response by Esther Dyson. It seemed to me to be an argument slightly in disagreement with Lanier, and one where I can see both his points and hers, and agree with some of each.

I think the real argument is between voting or aggregating — where anonymous people raise or lower things in esteem by the weight of sheer numbers — vs. arguments by recognizable, individuals that answer the arguments of other individuals… Arguments may win or lose and a consensus argument or belief may arise, but it is structured, and emerges more finely shaped than what mere voting or “collectivism” would have produced.

That’s why we have representative government — in theory at least. Certain people — designated “experts” — sit together to design something that is supposed to be coherent. (That’s the vision, anyway.) You can easily vote both for lower taxes and more services, but you can’t design a consistent system that will deliver that.

So, to get the best results, we have people sharpening their ideas against one another rather than simply editing someone’s contribution and replacing it with another. We also have a world where the contributors have identities (real or fake, but consistent and persistent) and are accountable for their words. — Esther Dyson

I think just reading Lanier’s essay is a way to get an intelligent, but one-sided opinion. There are definitely multiple views on these issues, and the other writers here offer those quite eloquently. If I had just read the first part, I probably wouldn’t have fully understood the discussion.

It seems that the problem with collectives OR collectivism can be quite real, but that perhaps Lanier did a disservice to his argument by not fully recognizing the extent of his examples. I agree with his ultimate conclusion, but I also agree with the other writers here who suggest that Wikipedia isn’t such a murky collectivism as Lanier perceives it to be, and that it and similar sites that offer “collective action” are more coordinated and intelligently designed than they might appear.


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