Sorry I forgot to post a link to my project on our blog… Here it is!
My cyberpunk character TY-04 acts like a ninja. She sneaks around the Internet and into people’s computers, looking for what she considers the most valuable asset in the digital world: Photoshop brushes.
Indeed she is obssessed with these design tools, as each brush reflects a designer’s unique style and personality. TY-04 loves to paint, and so she is always on the lookout for more to add to her collection. In a black V-neck wrap tee and a pair of black pants, she tries to be subtle during the gathering process. Sometimes, especially when she gets inspired by some of the brushes, she would use the brushes to create artworks on computer desktops. She claims her works are masterpieces that everyone should appreciate, but normally computer owners are not very pleased when they see additional colors and decorative designs appear all of a sudden.
TY-04 dwells in a MacBook Pro from Taiwan. She likes to nap on the eraser tool in the laptop’s Photoshop CS4 because of its soft texture. If you can’t find her in the matrix, she is either dashing through the Internet or chilling in another computer. To TY-04, the matrix only provides her shelter; it does not limit her in any way.
The brushes that are taken away by TY-04 cannot be recovered in the computers. Users have to download the brushes again to get them back. TY-04 does not see this as a problem, however. She refutes the accusation of theft, because most of the Photoshop brushes are free and availible to everyone online. She says she just obtains the brushes through different channels, and that after all, everything should be forgivable for the sake of art.
Orange County, Calif. has always been a place with special meanings to me. I still remember the tall peach tree my parents planted in the backyard of our house, the turtle shaped sandbox my cousin and I used to play in and the community swimming pool where my grandma often practiced the freestyle stroke. 14 years later, I have returned to the neighborhood I lived in as a child. This time via Google Earth.
Typing the address of our old house in the search bar, I see the screen zoom in on the deep blue sphere that represents Earth. The screen continues to zoom in, and soon I can no longer see the entirety of the globe. When I arrive at my old home address, everything appears two-D, so flat and deformed that I barely recognize the place. If not because of the high contrast in lighting caused by the sun, I would not even know my current location is California. Thankfully, a few seconds later the street scene and buildings become three-D, and during their two-D to three-D transformation process, memories stream through my mind.
The neighborhood my parents and I lived in is called Granada Park, located in a small, quiet community and with gates in the front and back. Starting from the back side of our old house, I moved along the brick walls that separate Granada Park from the rest of the community. The walls are in slightly different shades of yellowish brown, which reflect the neighborhood’s age. After all, it’s been 14 years since I left here, and Google Earth indicates that these pictures of Granada Park were taken in 2009. But even after such a long time, Granada Park’s beauty is still perceivable. Following the brown walls, I come to the entrance gates. The thin tree on the right of the gates catches my attention with the purple blossoms on its swirly twigs right away. It is not the most breathtaking beauty, yet it sure is something a person would appreciate. The tree stood next to the wooden sign saying “Granada Park,” as if it is greeting anyone who visits.
Google Earth shows a blue mid-size sedan entering Grenada Park through the front gates. It reminds me of a familiar scene. Back when I was six or seven years old, I saw my parent wave at the security guard from our car many times per day, asking for permission to enter or leave the neighborhood. Security is highly prioritized, so there are watchmen on both sides of the neighborhood. I try to take a look inside Granada Park by clicking on one of the houses. However, Google Earth wouldn’t zoom in, perhaps because it did not have access to the interior view of the neighborhood.
Since Google Earth lacks information about the actual houses, I used Google Images to complement the information I’ve already gathered via the software. Among the countless pictures, a photo of a house in Granada Park looks fairly similar to my old home, with a huge garage and a small wrought iron fence gate on its left. This discovery makes me believe that I have arrived at the last stop of my journey. This was my house, my home. If viewable in Google Earth, there would be a marker placed on the red brick roof indicating my old home address.
Digital media have allowed me to complete this traveling in a short span of time. The experience is positive for sure. I don’t need to spend any money, just some clicking and typing, to get to a place on the other side of the country. Like what Amber Case said, the shortest distance between two points in today’s world is not a straight line, but the overlap of the two points made possible by advanced technology. Digital media have finally transformed us all into cyborgs.
Kids Down the Stairs, the game I wrote my second narrative on, is a PC game I used to play as a child. The rules of the game are simple. One just has to keep on jumping from stone steps to stone steps in a downward direction, avoiding iron thorns on the ceiling and on certain steps. Once the player gets stabbed by the thorns, his energy decreases, and when the energy bar turns to zero, he dies (figuratively, of course). The player also loses if he falls down the step while jumping. There are two ways to play the game, either in one-player mode or two-player mode, and the focusing elements of the game changes as the player switches his mode.
Not all four elements can be seen in Kids Down the Stairs. Among the four, which are killing, socializing, achieving and exploring, the socializing aspect seems the least obvious. When played in one-player mode, the game has an emphasis on mostly achieving and a bit of exploring and killing. This is because what the player would like to achieve in this mode is to jump on as many stone steps as possible to break his own record. While the player could explore the area by moving around in different directions, it is not the main focus of the game. The player eventually dies, but that is just how the game ends and no actual killing is involved. Neither exploring nor killing is stressed in one-player mode. However, in two-player mode, the players become killers as whoever dies first loses the game. Like one-player mode, achieving and exploring are also noticeable, but not socializing, since players can’t communicate via the game when they play.
In light of the five aspects of morality, fairness is weighed most heavily. Take the two-player mode as an example, where neither of the players has an advantage over the other. Even their characters look exactly the same besides shirt colors. The game encourages fair competition, yet it at the same time discourages care, authority and loyalty because according to the rules the two players are supposed to harm each other to achieve victory. They do not respect or care for each other, and are only loyal to themselves.
I enjoy playing games with simple rules and a clear goal, so Kids Down the Stairs is a perfect match. Although I played games like The Sims before, its lack of emphasis on achieving soon made me lose interest. Nevertheless, if Kids Down the Stairs was made into a more complex game where you can form groups for competition, it may be interesting.
I used Wordle to generate a word cloud for my narrative “Kids Down the Stairs 2P.” With the maximum number of words changed to 50, the cloud has certain nouns and verbs bigger than others, which indicates higher frequency of some of the words.
The resulting image looks similar to what I expected. I was aware of the words I used more often while writing, so when the image has “step” as the biggest, it does not surprise me at all. Based on the word cloud, I would say my story emphasizes actions and contains several descriptive words such as “disdainful,” “arrogant” and “relief.” A reader who sees the word cloud before reading my story could get a sense of what the actual story is like due to such words.
I always consider generating word clouds a way to check for repetitiveness. My narrative is only 498-word-long, so I was able to keep track of word frequency. But if one is writing a novel or anything more than 1000 words, he or she might want to use a word cloud to examine the first draft and replace certain words with synonyms accordingly.
Nevertheless, this was my first time using Wordle, and while making the word cloud I learned that I can change the font color and style, as well as the appearance of the entire word cloud. I realized I could reveal more aspects of my story by doing so. For instance, I selected gray as the font color to represent stone steps, and I made the words go “any which way” to symbolize the movement of the characters from one step to another. These minor changes allowed me to tell a portion of my story in the word cloud, which I’ve found interesting.
A word cloud does not contain statistics, however. It is more of a form of art than a tool for scientific calculation. Looking at word clouds, people can only tell certain words have higher frequency but can’t tell what exactly is the frequency. Therefore, if I were to improve Wordle, I would include the number of times each word has appeared in the text, perhaps in the form of a small Arabic numeral placed within the first letter of a word.
Another distant reading tool I would like to create if possible is a story generator. A person pastes the literary text in a box. Then the computer generates a new story by taking out words with high frequency and recomposing them. Such a tool not only helps identify repetitiveness and the main theme, it also reveals possibilities of telling a story differently, like the remixed Disney film clips explaining copyright law.
Monica’s class notes don’t seem like class notes to me. There is some text on the paper, but who knows if it’s relevant to class or not? None of us can read Arabic.
I see the text as some sort of documentation of the mysterious creatures Monica drew, since all the text was written around the drawings. I can recognize three distinct creatures. They are not creatures that exist on Earth, but more like ones that exist in the virtual world, perhaps in computer games since I saw Monica game a lot when we roomed together.
Instead of taking class notes, Monica was actually taking notes of fictional monsters in a computer game. She described them in the upper area of the paper, drew them in the order of their sizes and strength in the middle and listed down their weak points at the bottom.
She did so to seek easier ways to defeat them, and she wrote in Arabic so that those who don’t read Arabic can not figure out her attempt.
If you take a closer look at Amanda’s white MITH mug, you will notice one difference between hers and ours—yes, the words printed on Amanda’s mug go from right to left rather than left to right. Although every other feature of the mug, including its ceramic luster, its half oval-shaped handle and the bold black text “MITH MARYLAND INSTITUTE FOR TECHNOLOGY IN THE HUMANITIES,” remains the same, the reversed text makes Amanda’s mug unique.
She might have had a talk with Kirsten Keister during the design process, asking Ms. Keister to make her mug look slightly different, but not completely different so that people would not notice the change and request for the same favor. Ms. Keister agreed to help, apparently, and since the mugs were plain white, changing the color of Amanda’s mug to red or blue would be too extreme, the only element left appropriate for Ms. Keister to play around with was the text.
So that’s the secret behind Amanda’s unique mug. She seems to like it a lot, as you can see in the photo that she put it with delicious “MITH-working-time chocolate.”
CNN from 8:50 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on Sept. 11 and Sept. 17
On Sept. 11 at 8:50 a.m., the hijackers had just flew a plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center minutes ago. No one had time to react; no one knew what happened. Therefore, CNN’s coverage of the situation at that time was rather vague and repetitive. The only image shown on television was the World Trade Center with smoke billowing out from where the plane hit, and the anchor and reporter kept repeating the same line: A passenger jet crashed into the World Trade Center. Since journalists could not enter the area, they held little information regarding the incident. They didn’t even know which tower the plane had hit, nor if there were any casualties. However, they tried to make up for the lack of information by interviewing witnesses in New York City, asking the people what they saw and felt. Connection failed during one of the interviews, but overall, the witnesses’ words helped give those watching the television a better sense of what was going on. Six days later, Americans knew the complete story, and thus CNN’s focus changed from piecing up the actual situation to analyzing the aftermath: whether there would be a war or not. At 8:50 a.m., CNN presented questions to the viewers and discussed the questions in depth with professionals. Backgrounds during the interviews included the White House and places near the World Trade Center; natural sounds during the interviews included the ambulance siren and people consoling each other. Before 9 a.m., CNN showed a text on the screen with an image of the American flag in the background, saying “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of this tragedy.” I thought the words were very powerful.
NHK (Tokyo) from 9 a.m. to 9:10 a.m. on Sept. 11 and Sept. 17
I don’t understand Japanese, but digital images shown by NHK shared similarities with the images on CNN. On Sept. 11, NHK started reporting the news a bit later than CNN. However, the reporter was on a helicopter in New York City, so while the video only contained the World Trade Center, the reporter managed to move around and zoom in and out, capturing different angles of the twin towers. He captured the moment when another plane crashed into the towers, as well as the explosion and the debris falling from the building. At the same time on Sept. 17, NHK stopped showing pictures of New York City, and instead focused those who were behind this terrorist attack. They shot tanks and soldiers in Iraq, and revealed an image of Osama bin Laden. In the end, the news anchors presented a map of the Middle East to the audience. I assume they were speculating possible consequences of this attack.
Both stations offered additional perspectives to the incident as time passed. They did so with more diverse texts, graphics and broadcast. Such use of digital technology to document Sept. 11 proves the point made in the article “September 11: A story told in pixels,” that the event demonstrates how the media spread news rapidly and how photographic skills become a common way to tell stories.
Tess Yeh, born March 29, 1991, in Pasadena, California, is the only child of Gary Yeh and Shinyi Lee. She studied at Zhong Zheng, a Taiwanese local high school for a year, taking art classes in a specialized program. She then transferred to Dominican International School in 2009 and graduated in 2011. A current journalism major and Chinese minor at the University of Maryland, College Park, Yeh now writes for The PublicAsian and MTR Media. She also does photography in her spare time.
- Hyperlinks to parents’ biographies, schools and publications.
- Photos of Yeh at different ages in chronological order.
- Artworks and stories Yeh has written.
- A link to Yeh’s blog and Facebook page.
- A list of achievements.
I can still recall pieces of memories of the tragedy that occurred four days ago. The weather was pleasant. There were no signs of a tornado, and sunlight sprinkled on my eyelashes like golden teardrops. It was such a nice day that I did not expect anything as unfortunate to happen.
Four days ago, I was living the normal, simple life, herding farm animals and traveling along the Oregon Trail with my family. Our final destination was the Salt Lake Valley, and following the path of Brigham Young, we were already miles away from our home in St. Louis. My wife Kailyn and I believed that a better future awaits us in the West, which was why we chose to bring our children with us on this long, long journey.
August 17 was like any other day. My family, as well as many other Mormon families, woke up in the early morning to continue our trek. Packing and setting up a tent were no longer difficult for me, since I had been repeating these processes numerous times along the way. Everything seemed repetitive, but at least everything went well—until the afternoon, when I noticed something different than usual.
At first I thought it was just me fighting against my ordinary life and wishing for a change in daily routines. You’re faking a dilemma just to satisfy your thirst for adventure. I told myself. However, I soon realized that that was a lie. Something was different; something was not right. The next minute I almost shouted my panic out loud: A cow is missing!
Sharp iron thorns shine in the dark, drawing nearer and nearer as the ceiling continues to move downward, or perhaps it is everything but the ceiling that continues to move upward. Either way, we’re in a life-threatening situation.
I hold my line of vision back from what’s on top and turn to the guy next to me. His yellow shirt is so bright that even a glance at it makes my eyes ache, yet I tell myself now is not the time to think about his inappropriate choice of clothing.
Just when I am about to talk, he forestalls my attempt by spitting out a full sentence first: “Victory is mine.”
“Why…” I want to interrupt, but his disdainful attitude make me swallow my words, which decompose and turn sour in my stomach.
“I refuse to listen. You will die and I will triumph. It’s simple as that.”
He takes a leap downward. My eyes follow his movement and see him landing perfectly onto a rectangular stone step beneath the one we originally stood on together. Then he continues to jump from one step to another, avoiding the ones made of iron thorns.
I know I must take action too, or the thorns on the ceiling will soon pierce hundreds of holes in my body. According to my estimation, the closest stone step is three meters below where I am. This is not good, but again I don’t have a choice.
A deep breath. A run-up. Then one, two…! I jump. Oh, God bless, it is a successful jump. I bend down on my knees to rest for a few seconds, and after that I move on, trying to catch up with the guy in yellow. Fear motivates me to keep track of my progress, so I begin counting, “Two, three, four, five…” Step after step.
When I re-encounter the man on my 32nd stone step, both of us are panting like dogs. I have this feeling mixed with relief and disappointment the minute I see him, for he’s still alive. The guy stares back at me with the same arrogant look he had earlier, so I suppose he isn’t pleased to see me again either.
As I turn around to look for my next stone step, through the corner of my eyes I notice a vicious smile spreading on the guy’s face. No. No. I turn back to defend myself but find it too late, for he runs toward me with a speed so fast that I have no time to react. He pushes me down the opposite side of the step, where no other steps are built underneath, and he jumps onto the one I planned to jump on.
”Ahhhhhhh!” I hear the man scream during my fall. Perhaps he’s landed on a step with thorns by accident, haha. What a fool. I’ve gone unconscious before I can have any further thoughts about his stupidity, nor am I able to smile with satisfaction in the end.