5 Suggestions for New Badges on Foursquare

Since TECH 621, I have become addicted to Foursquare and the apps surrounding it. I’ve been on it for roughly 9 months now, and I wouldn’t mind unlocking more badges. Not to mention, I also appreciate the snarky taglines that the badges have. The badges make Foursquare fun and exciting, and I sometimes wish there were more. So here’s my 5 suggestions:

1. The Roadside Warrior.

This badge would be intended for those who travel to roadside attractions. I think it would be really cool to have a badge that would include small attractions on the side of the highway. We know that during the summer people tend to travel, and visit these tourist traps. Traveling is something that I like to show off to friends, and there’s no better way than with my Foursquare Badges. Perhaps the tagline for this badge would have some reference from Mad Max?

2. The Brewmaster’s Quest

Microbreweries have become increasingly popular in the past few years. Although there are badges for the amount of time you’ve been out to bars, I think it would be interesting to have a badge that recognizes when a user checks-in to 5 different breweries. As the number of micro-brewers increase, it might be a way for Foursquare to give the industry a hat-tip.

3. The Boiler Up Badge

I go to Purdue University, and we definitely have a community of people who use Foursquare. Although I have not checked-in to a swarm here on campus, I have definitely seen buildings that have around 30 people checked in. It would be nice to have some type of Block-P or hammer badge that I could display to my friends.

It might also be nice to mention that IU already has a badge, and who wants to be one-upped by a rival?

4. Mr. Smith’s Goes to the Bureaucracy Badge

It’s a fact of life in most governments that there are places you must go to that are government bureaucracies: the BMV, the Social Security Administration, et al. What would make you happier than just having what you need done within 5 minutes? A Foursquare badge to show everyone that you survived government bureaucracy on multiple occasions.

5. The Mega American

I think there needs to be a badge for people that visit all 50 states in the USA. Granted I’ve only been to roughly 10 while I’ve been on Foursquare, I still want to work towards something. If you can unlock a badge that shows I’ve been to all 50 states, that is something that clearly can be bragged about. How about a bonus of having a Mayorship in each state? It might be nearly impossible, but I think someone could do it.

Posted in Commentary, Humor, Social Media Tools, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Potential of SNS Use in Government 2.0: RAA #4


Wills, David and Stuart Reeves (2009). “Facebook as a Political Weapon: Information in Social Networks.” British Politics 4 (2): 265-281.  DOI: 10.1057/bp.2009.3


(Also Available at Purdue)

Purpose of the Research

In today’s political environment in the US and UK, it seems as if every candidate has some semblance of a social media presence. This article primarily focuses on the UK and their politics with respect to data gathering and surveillance in Information Technology. With the rise of web 2.0 and government interest in endeavors using IT, it would be important to evaluate the political relevance and relative “strength” of an SNS as a tool.


The study is done as a case study of Facebook. It is evaluated on the basis of how it is implemented. Facebook was also selected due to the ease of data-mining. Users do not use pseudonyms, and the site uses specifics about political preferences about users that can be publicized. Social Network Analysis was also employed to look at the networks of the users. The data analysis is informed by the literature surrouding surveillance studies and human-computer interaction (HCI).

Main Findings

The paper finds that the information that can be gathered from Facebook and other SNS is likely valuable and relevant. Government IT projects, campaigns, and other political functions that are seeping into SNS may want to evaluate privacy and learn the SNS that they are looking to use, before implementing anything.

The study also identifies explicit and implicit information and how they can be extracted. Explicit information is information that users volunteer and publish on their profiles. Because SNS participation is not mandatory, it is important to note that not all users post information about their political views. Sometimes these views may not even be correct. Reasons for disclosure vary from user to user and sometimes SNS to SNS.

Implicit data can also be gleaned from SNS. The friends that users have can maybe give insight to the political views of certain users who do not disclose information. These analyses can be inaccurate due to the use of heuristics and inductive reasoning.


I think that Wills and Reeves have identified a lot of important points about SNS in politics. I think that they are absolutely right about the fact that there are two types of information that can be gleaned from Facebook and other SNS. I think a lot of what Wills and Reeves find is very important about the implementation of Government 2.0 and other SNS uses within politics.

I do think that Wills and Reeves are correct in maybe looking at the thought of implicit data mining from SNS. It has been found that spousal (Nickerson 2008) as well as social networks of friends (Parker, Parker, and McCann 2008) can be highly influential when it comes to political opinion. Although using Social Network Analysis to find this information is a heuristic (according to Wills and Reeves), it’s likely valuable regardless.

There was one aspect of the article I think that Wills and Reeves did not explore very well, and that is groups on Facebook. When voting (in the US), individuals with higher levels of group and community affiliation are also more likely to vote (Mutz 2006; Putnam 2000). Perhaps the evaluations of Facebook in academic research should also use Facebook Groups to analyze affiliations. This data is mostly available to data-mining and may also be helpful, especially if researchers are regarding SNS as a form of online community.

Additional Sources Cited

Nickerson, David W. 2008. “Is Voting Contagious? Evidence from Two Field Experiments.” American Political Science Review  102 (1): 49-57.

Mutz, Diane C. 2006. Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Parker, Suzanne L., Glenn R. Parker, and James A. McCann. 2008. “Opinion Taking Within Friendship Networks.” American Journal of Political Science  52 (2): 412-420.

Putnam, Robert. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Revival and Collapse of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Posted in Commentary, Research Article Analysis, Social Sciences, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Tumblr Account of the Moment II: Garfield Minus Garfield

On this edition of the Tumblr Account of the Moment, we’ll take a look at a surreal concept of comics and memes. Jim Davis’ cartoon Garfield has been running for over 30 years. It’s a cartoon that some love, and some actually loathe. The criticism of Garfield comics are that they are 1-dimensional: the same fat joke or overeating joke. A lot of critics also say that the humor is repeated:

Now what if Garfield could be read in a different way that might make those critics happy? This is where Garfield Minus Garfield comes in. These are the Garfield comic strips, completely without the Garfield character:

G-G the book.

Taking Garfield out of the comic, changes the comic completely. Instead of being a comic about an obese cat, it’s now about a paranoid Jon Arbuckle. Some of them are just depressing, others are pretty funny, but what is odd about it is that it works as a comic (most of the time). Not all of these are gems, much like the original comic. The fun part is that all that is changed is one character, and the people who don’t like the Garfield character get their wish.

Posted in Humor, Links | 2 Comments

Does Internet Use Affect Political Engagement? RAA #3


Boulianne, Shelley. 2009. “Does Internet Use Affect Engagement? A Meta-Analysis of Research.” Political Communication 26 (2): 193-211. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10584600902854363

Purpose of the Research

In the previous Research Article Analysis, I looked at Schlozman, Verba, and Brady (2010) and their take on the role of the Internet in political engagement. They overwhelmingly felt that the digital divide is too great for the Internet to have any real effect on political engagement. In the literature, scholars disagree on the impacts of the Internet in political engagement and behavior. In this study, Boulianne tries to analyze whether there is evidence of Internet use influencing civic engagement.


Boulianne analyzes 38 of the most cited articles and books about US Internet use with respect to civic and political engagement. Through a meta-analysis, Boulianne analyzes which studies show positive effects, negative effects, and non-directional effects.

Main Findings

Boulianne finds that there is strong evidence to suggest that overall the effect of Internet use on political and civic engagement are positive. What this study does not find is how substantial this claim can be. There seems to be a likelihood of finding positive claims moving forward as trends for news gathering moves to the Internet. Future research should evaluate this phenomena as a two-way causal process, due to the advent of online news.


I think this article is correct about a few things. I think that as we progress the Internet will have more of a central role for news gathering, so we are naturally going to find that the Internet will have more of an effect on the way news and information is being gathered. Government agencies are moving to the Internet, and traditional barriers to entry for politics are being blurred. Literacy and education are no longer a hindrance to finding political information (Prior 2007).

However, I don’t see this article ending this debate about the effect of the Internet on engagement. There are still concerns of a digital divide and echo-chamber that occurs on the Internet. This is mostly due to the nature of the people who are using the Internet. Those who have the most access will be most influential, and that may be a very important aspect that this literature has not uncovered. I think there is more to be said, and many of these studies that were in Boulianne’s data set that I’ve read, were pre-Web 2.0. I think a lot of these studies, if repeated may yield different results since the structure of the Internet has changed. Part of this debate seems more settled, while this article may have brought out some of the complications that maybe are ignored in some of these studies.

Other Sources

-Prior, Markus. 2007. Post-Broadcast Democracy: How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Posted in Commentary, Research Article Analysis, Social Sciences, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Webinar: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Internet

Last night for Tech 621 we had a webinar about the Dark Side of the Internet. We spoke about topics about social implications, international security, and minors among other topics. Everyone’s topic and talk was fantastic, and some of them were very sobering (especially Quincy’s talk on online sexual predators). I spoke briefly about the concept of the digital divide.

In this presentation I spoke about the social dangers that the digital divide could imply. From Internet access to divides in who gets information can be very important to note. Also when public programs are finding their way to the Internet for people who may not have a lot of access to the Internet, may be causing a problem in how public goods are actually delivered.

So here’s what I thought about the webinar in general.

Public Speaking Behind a Webcam

It was very awkward. I felt like I was talking to myself the whole time. I knew I had an audience, but not seeing this audience was not helpful. I felt like my presentation would have been much better if I had an opportunity to give the same presentation in front of an audience, I think it would have been better. I think overall, I like public speaking in front of a physical audience a lot better. I don’t mind the webcam, but in the format we had last night it was difficult.

The Forum of a Webinar

The idea of the webinar is awesome. You can talk about really interesting stuff with people all over the world (in our case all over Lafayette, IN) without leaving home. This is an exciting prospect. However, I realized in the middle of it, that I missed that basement room in Potter library. It’s something about having people in the same physical room that is helpful about a learning environment. I just felt very lonely, but all my Tech 621 classmates were there. It was an odd dynamic

Adobe Connect

I didn’t like Adobe Connect. In fact, I know Xin said multiple times that she’d rather use Google Hangout. I completely agree. There were 2 problems: Google Hangout only allows 10 people to chat at once, and we wouldn’t be able to easily share the slides in a consistent manner. I realize that this was my first time using this software, which was also true many of the other students. So I bet if we had used the software more often, it may have run smoother.

Closing Thoughts

I wasn’t a huge fan of this webinar format. The presentations were awesome, but I missed the physical aspect of this seminar. I also think the length of the webinar was a problem. If the webinar was 1-2 hours I think it may have worked better. I know I was starting to get distracted toward the end with other things I wanted to accomplish that evening. I think the material was great, but

I do think this webinar did shed some light on an interested unmentioned topic: is this what online classrooms are like. If so, how is it conducive to learning, and do students actually learn in this format? I think these are serious concerns that we should consider about the future of education. In Indiana, it was proposed at one point that high schoolers be required to complete a class online to graduate. I think this is detrimental to education. What’s stopping the kids from muting the lecture and just Facebooking or doing something else the whole time? It seems like there’s nothing better than “in-person learning” for a classroom setting.

I think the presentations were fantastic. I love the Internet as a topic of study, but I’m not convinced with webinars as a great format for learning. I’m willing to give it another chance, but maybe one that is a little shorter. I’d also be curious to see how non-Internet savvy people like these webinars.

Posted in Personal Reflections, Social Media Tools, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Research Update 2

This week has been fairly slow on my research progress. I am still in the data analysis stage where I am going through all of the Tweets I have collected and extracting data. I’ve moved further along with the data analysis, but not as fast as I would like. I’m about 80% done analyzing the data, and I hope that by the end of the weekend I will be finished.

There is some good news though. I have my data analysis methodology written down, but not in the form needed for the draft due in 2 weeks. I will hopefully have some assistance from a fellow political science grad student or two so I can see if they can reproduce the results I come up with and help me work out the kinks. On the surface, the methodology is looking sound, but may need some minor refinement as I have my colleagues help me.

Overall, I think things are coming along, but I’m not quite ready to continue writing the paper just yet. Hopefully I can to it by early next week when I have my data completely analyzed.

Posted in Personal Reflections, Social Sciences | 1 Comment

Devo Explains Attention Grabbing in the Internet Age

This week we’ve been reading about intelligence and attention. We are talking about concepts like: is Google making us dumber, and forms of multitasking. As I’ve been reflecting on what I had read, I had a connected yet really distracted thought: “Devo was right about something.” I should probably explain this.

Devo is a band that is well known for their 1980 single “Whip it”. Unknown to American Pop Culture, they’ve recorded a lot more than that single. A lot of their music was very distinctly from the 1980s, but much of it was also social commentary and predictions of where the music industry may be headed. One example is the song “Uncontrollable Urge”. I think they captured the spirit of Twitter to the untrained eye in the song :

Yes Twitter is more complicated than Tweeting what your “urges”. However if you have a Twitter habit, you do find that you are reporting back a lot of the things you’re doing. It also seems to hit on the point that beyond the silliness, there is a point. People are using it to connect with each other and collaborate, but when if you remember back to when you started Twitter, you probably had a similar thought. However this song is a little more related to this week:

The song “Fresh” is on a more recent Devo album, and I think it really illustrates more of the urges people have. A lot of electronic entertainment, anymore, is geared for the short-attention span. If you can see in this video, there’s a lot of messages being conveyed, but I’ll just address one: multitasking. There’s a lot going on in this video, and there seems to be more than one thing going on at once. Is it a commercial about fruit? Is it about new technologies? Hard to tell, and that’s the point.

As we have been reading this week multi-tasking makes it hard to retain information. With the Internet and other technologies, it’s become a commonplace. It’s hard for us (me at least) to sit down and read a novel without feeling like there needs to be music or something else going on to keep things from being too quiet. In essence reading with the music on is synonymous to college students going to a large lecture and using Facebook instead of taking notes. The problem is that we are multi-tasking too much, and I think that’s what Devo has predicted: the technology, along with its applications and distributions, may be conditioning us to be this way.

Posted in Commentary, Humor, Personal Reflections, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Research Update: Data Collection

For my Tech 621 final project, I am researching Congressional Tweeting habits. My progress has been slower than I would like, but I think I’m finally getting through much of the data collection.

I’m content analyzing the Tweets of 4 Senators: Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Kerry (D-MA), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on a 4-month time period. I’m trying to categorize each Tweet into 3 keywords: What the Tweet addresses, an issue area, and why the Tweet was sent.  For example a Tweet could be about Congress, more specifically about Economics, and it was about a piece of legislation being discussed.

Because of the nature of the social sciences, I’d like to keep the rest confidential for right now. For those of you who are not understanding what I mean, social scientists have a tendency to steal ideas from each other. Because this is online and a potentially revolutionary idea, I’m not going to delve too much further into specifics. I will tell you that I’m probably 30-40% of the way through my data analysis. I may be slightly behind schedule on the data, but I’ll have a draft done in time for the Dec. 1 deadline.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Internet and US Voter Participation: RAA #2


Schlozman, Key Lehman, Sidney Verba, and Henry E. Brady. (2010). “Weapon of the Strong? Participatory Inequality and the Internet.” Perspectives on Politics 8 (2): 487-510. Accessed at http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=7804317. DOI: 10.1017/S1537592710001210

NOTE: This article is available at Purdue!

Purpose of the Research

The Internet has become an integral part of elections and campaigns. Since this is the case, social scientists have been attempting to understand its effects. The big question being posed in this article is about whether the effect of the Internet on political participation is consistent with older literature with respect to participatory inequality. Participatory inequality, is the idea that people who are more wealthy and have more time to research political information are more likely to vote. Also, does the hypothesized “digital divide” exist? The digital divide is the concept that those who use the Internet are distinctly different than those who are not, and that the move to these technologies leaves certain groups of people who do have access to these technologies are left behind.


The article is mostly explanatory, and evaluates the prospects of the Internet within the context of political participation. Schlozman, Verba, and Brady evaluate socioeconomic status, political financial contributions, and political engagements. Most of the analysis and statistical methods are trend analysis from surveys and prior public opinion research from Pew. In a similar context that has been seen in other political science work that has evaluated public opinion and public attitudes over time.

Main Findings

There is perhaps a digital divide due to who is using the Internet and that the engagement of political information is growing on the Internet. Despite this fact, they find there is little evidence to show that SES and political activity are any different on the Internet.


I sincerely and respectfully disagree with this study to an extent, however I think that Schlozman, Verba, and Brady have findings that merit consideration moving forward. The big point that I think Schlozman, Verba, and Brady that merits consideration is on the fact of the digital divide. There have been a plethora of studies that show there is a divide in who is using the Internet and who is not. In political science literature, younger individuals tend to hold more liberal opinions, which tend to become more conservative over time (Page and Shapiro 1992). There could be ideologically biases to the Internet as well.

Where I disagree is the effect the Internet has on voting. I think that the Internet helps voter turnout, because it lowers information gathering costs (Baek 2009). Because the Internet allows us to access information very quickly, learning about the issues is not as difficult as it may have been 30-40 years ago. Voting is economically costly. It has been long theorized that someone with low information gathering costs will be more likely to vote (Downs 1957). The only issue with this theory is that we should see increased voter turnout, and that has not quite happened. Despite this, it’s likely that the electorate is in fact more informed. This is a phenomena that is difficult to measure, and we may not be able to understand until there is more data-points available.

Other Sources.

Baek, Miejong. 2009. “A Comparative Analysis of Political Communication Systems and Voter Turnout.” The American Journal of Political Science 53 (2): 376-393.

Downs, Anthony. (1957). An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper & Row.

Page, Benjamin I. and Robert Y. Shapiro. (1992). The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans’ Policy Preferences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Posted in Commentary, Research Article Analysis, Social Sciences | 2 Comments