Category: DataViz Turned-In Assignments

Sensor Journalism -Tamara Abujaber

I can see sensor journalism being used in a number of different fields, varying from sports journalism, weather and natural disasters to gaming. The sensor I selected is the NeuroSky MindWave Mobile+. The headset measures data-waves through Bluetooth technologies and sends the data wirelessly to your computer or smartphone. The headset is used to monitor attention and relaxation. The technology is quite simple, as it consists of a headset, earpiece and a sensor arm which lays right over the eye to collect the data.

I would like to see a sensor as such used to monitor babies’ reactions to different noises and visuals, including music and television. Given that babies and infants are unable to fully verbalize their emotions (Other than through crying, laughing and facial expressions, etc.), it would be fascinating to get a true understanding of what goes on inside their minds and how they react to different sights and sound. This would be somewhat of an experiment that could be documented in a journal rather than reported as a story.

Another idea would be to use the headsets to report on the increased concern of teenage violence caused by video games. It is said that the increased exposure to gore and violence has created a huge impact on teenager’s mentalities. The American Psychological Association stated in 2015 that research showed a link between violent video game use and increased aggression and decreased moral engagement and empathy. If researchers and journalists could monitor behavior and spikes in teenager’s attention and nerves, we could find out what in specific triggers their minds and what grasps their attention. Reporting on these behavioral revelations would raise awareness to the general public about what has the most impact on youth’s brains and what can be done to reduce the negative impact that these games have on their minds and actions.

Assignment4-Sensor Journalism

An assumption from a sensor that is watering my plants to the agriculture use

Looking through the Sparkfun and combing my experience of Spring break that when I traveled and nobody to water the plants at my apartment. I am thinking about finding a sensor to monitor the soil level and can connect to my phone to indicate me that it’s time to water my flowers. So, I found a sensor that can be plug into the soil. When connect to the Wi-Fi and opening their app, we can monitor the situation of the plants and it can even send a tweet when it’s time to water our plants.

This is only a simple and individual use of this sensor.

So, What if the farmers want to water the whole farm when they are not in their places and don’t want to cause lots of money to buy large automatic machine. I am thinking about there could be a drip irrigation project to water the farm or garden in a slow way. And they may need this kind of sensor to put into a larger area to monitor the soil level and weather. And they might have control system to control the drip flow, keeping them flowing in a certain speed according to current surroundings. People can use Wi-Fi to connect to an app, to monitor their farm.

There are so many traditional agriculture countries in the world. And there are also unpredictable natural disasters occurring all the time. If the principle of this small sensor can be used in texting the local temperature and collecting the data of this area to predict climate change in advance. It would be much helpful to the farmers when they are not in the farm.

Assignment 4: Sensor Array

Learning about sensor technology opened my eyes up to what is possible with all of the technology I have never taken the time to learn about. My favorite sensor from class was the sensor that allowed you to see brain wave patterns. The example on the site said that you could see how your brain responds to different songs. From a personal standpoint, I would love to see how my brain responds to the music I listen to as I am studying to the music I listen to as I exercise, and see if it is actually making a contribution to what I am doing. From an advertisers standpoint, brands could use this type of technology to see how people really view their brand, and this could lead to all different types of insights as to how to position a product in the consumers mind.

From a more journalistic standpoint, I think that these sensors could aid in the fight against climate change. I found a weather sensor on the SparkFun site. This sensor measures wind speed, wind direction and rainfall. This device assists people in detecting weather patterns. However, I thought if there could be a device that takes that a step further and detects irregular weather patterns over time. For instance, the irregularity of polar vortexes, or extreme heat spells. This type of device could further prove the changing climate, and help fight some issues that stem from climate change in the Arctic and for agriculturalists.


The science behind climate change has been the ultimate tool in the fight against those who deny climate change, however sensory journalism could also perpetuate the facts that there are serious future consequences if nothing is done about the crisis.

Sensor Journalism-Assignment 4

When thinking about this assignment I thought back to watching the winter Olympics where America sits in front of the screen seeing a magnitude of different sports and learning about the athlete’s trials and tribulations on what it takes to win a gold medal. With this idea, I began to wonder how sensor journalism could advance sports storytelling in both audience and coaching possibilities. Looking at three different sensors: the NeuroSky MindWave Mobile+, SparkFun Single Lead Heart Rate Monitor, and MyoWare Muscle Sensor I realized these could be combined to add additional story advancements to sporting events. By taking this technology and placing it into wearable accessory athletes, coaches and viewers can monitor the physical parameters of players bodies.

In the hyper-competitive world of sports, for instance, the Olympics, the smallest mistake can cost you Gold. By placing this unique sensor into their gear, athletes can quantify not only heart rate and respiration but also muscle activity and mental exertion. With this level of detailed information, athletes and coaches can identify very precise areas for improvement during the game.

First, looking at what these sensors can provide in terms of the audience viewing, this data could be seen in real-time on the screen providing viewers knowledge with how athletes are responding while playing. This can add more elements to sports commentating, giving the reporters second by second knowledge of the athlete’s performance analysis measuring the amounts of physical as well as the mental activity the athlete is exercising during in the game.

In terms of coaching, this can provide the coaches’ the opportunity to distinguish between physiological factors and psychological factors of their athletes. Amongst the mental factors, the MindWave sensors can provide data on the issue of fatigue and its emergence during gameplay. With physical information from the muscle and heart sensors, coaches can assess the efficiency of their tactical behavior and decide if changes are necessary switching playing positions or even assessing a potential injury before it occurs.

With the idea that all these sensors can provide real-time monitoring, being able to see how a player is responding while competing can change the whole game.



Assignment 4: Sensor Journalism

The case study I read through was on the Public Lab and the efforts on environmental impacts such as the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon. It was interesting to see that some of the people involved with the Public Lab were also some of the people that were at the Gulf Coast, helping with clean up and were holding BP accountable for the destruction that had occurred. They all came from various backgrounds and didn’t consider themselves journalist, but with sharing the knowledge that were obtaining, they became as such. There goal now is to impact how people see the world in environment, social and political terms.

The received a large grant from the Knight Foundation, in the section of journalism and innovation, even though they aren’t really considered to be journalist and mainly reach out to environmental activists, engineers, scientists, and teachers. They received this because they fall into a new category of journalism, being that the news-like information flows through multiple channels to reach various audiences. They also have received funding from the Schmidt Family Foundation to work with Wisconsin residents and monitor the air quality around frac-sand mining.

An interesting take on how Public Lab was able to use technology to help in their efforts was how they used weather balloons and kites to hang digital cameras off of them to capture images and the coastline and to see where the damage was occurring. They then used a tool called Mapknitter to piece the photos together to create the landscape.

They then went on to looking at the source of the spill. Public Lab wanted to collect the build up of oil found on the beach and compare it to oil from the oil spill. This would be able to show liability, since BP was saying that the left over oil was from small spills throughout the Gulf Coast. This would be achieved through spectrometry, which is the idea that different substances absorb different amounts of colored light. Public Lab produced various versions of a low cost spectrometer.

Public Lab works with those in the maker movement. These are people that want to use their electronic skills and abilities and focus them towards the common good and the environment.

Something that was interesting when looking through the eyes of someone in media is that journalist should make sure that they resources are reliable. When looking at this case study, they had to create their own methods in order to make sure it was all reliable and accurate.

When looking at various different equipment on the on sparkfun, a lot of different stories came up in my mind. When looking at this case study and the work with the environment, I thought about a story that not many people hear about and now many people can see: the dying coral reefs. One could take one of the sensor found on this website, that was waterproof or could be, to test the life span or damages that the coral reef is facing and how to improve it. It could also determine the reasoning behind the sickness, whether it being and invasive species, water quality, human interaction, or others. It would be an interesting story to tell.

Another story that could be shown would be to follow the development processes of a prosthetic. One could take a sensor from this website that reads the pressure and energy that is exerted in the body part. This could showcase the likelihood of the prosthetic working, the changes that would need to be made in order to work efficiently and be comfortable for the person.

Independent Learning—Rudimentary Data Collection Using Python

For my final project I wanted to create a word cloud of the made up words that Jack Vance used across all of his works. This proved to be a very daunting task, and so I decided to narrow my project to just a single book, The Dying Earth. I really thought that this would be a simple task, and that there would be a tool that existed already that could help me harvest these non-english words from his work. Boy was I wrong.

I knew that Python would be the best way to do this, but I really wasn’t sure how to go about it. I ended up having to do a lot of research, and draw upon the superior intellects of some of the coders that I’ve known. In the end I was able to come up with a very simple script that will hopefully prove infinitely useful to me. What it does is check any text against any other text, outputting the words that appear in one but do not appear in the other. The first text, which was the source of my words was obviously The Dying Earth, which I checked against a plaintext copy of every known word in the English language. I came up with a whopping 663 words and names that don’t exist in the English language. Not bad, right?

Doing this made me realize that original data journalism more or less requires code. I love doing stories that involve data, but I have little interest in using other people’s data. My plan is to create more scripts like this to get more of my own data, the kind that nobody else would bother to scrape.

It looks like I’ll be spending my summer cramming Python.

The Many Words and Many Worlds of Jack Vance

Jack Vance is the most influential author you’ve never heard of. In his 96 years he wrote approximately 47 novels and countless short stories. A private man, Vance was perhaps best known for The Dying Earth, a collection of short stories about a far distant future where the sun has been reduced to a dim red flicker. The Dying Earth has inspired the likes of George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman, who in 2009 collaborated along with other sci-fi heavy hitters on a volume of short stories about the setting. Additionally, the way that magic works in just about every modern fiction is adapted from his setting. “Vancian Spellcasting” is a term coined by Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax to honor Vance for his contributions to the genre.

Here’s a zoomable map of The Dying Earth courtesy of Spatterlight Press, the publishing house (which is named after a Vance book) that currently handles his works among other things.

One of the most incredible things about Vance is his ability to create names and words out of nowhere. In The Dying Earth, Vance invents 663 names and words. Approximately 4% of the words that appear in the book do not appear anywhere else in the English language.

Some of these words and names are reused throughout his books, though the meaning is rarely the same across settings. ‘Shierl,’ for instance, is a name in The Dying Earth, whereas in his Gaean Reach setting the term is used to refer to any young maiden who participates in the imaginary sport of Hussade.

Really though, what Vance is best known for is his prose, which is about as good as it gets. Below is a graphic I made of just a few of his quotes. Vance’s language has at times been described as wooden, though an obituary around the time of his death subverts this claim. Yes, it is baroque and inflexible, but it’s more than wooden. It’s carved.

Final Project: The American Incarceration Problem

As Americans, it’s hard to watch the news and not notice the alarming rate of arrests and trials that occur daily. The United States is undoubtedly a world power, but when comparing its incarceration rates to those of other world powers and top incarceration rate-filled countries, it is unbearable.

The United States controls about 4% of the world’s population with its population of about 325 million. But when it comes to its incarceration rate, the country takes up 25% of the world’s total population of incarcerated prisoners with more than 2.1 million prisoners in state and federal prisons. The closest incarceration rate is that of China with about 1.65 million prisoners, but China’s population takes up nearly 20% of the world’s population.

Below is a chart showing the top five countries in the world based on incarceration rates, according to the World Prison Brief, Institute for Criminal Policy Research.

Although incarceration rates have shown a slight overall decrease in the United States over the past few years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the incarceration rate is still a large problem that is not addressed as much as it needs to be. The 1990s really led the charge in the the growing prison population, and this leads to separated families and people with prisoner records suffering to find jobs.

The three states with the largest incarceration rates in 2016 were Texas, California and Florida. Below is a map detailing the incarceration rates by each state based on data collected by the U.S. Department of Justice in its Prisoners in 2016 report released earlier this year.

When diving further into seeing who is incarcerated in the United States based on ethnicities, there is a great disparity. The populations of the white, black and hispanic ethnicities largely differ from the percentages of those ethnicities of the American prisoners.

Legal scholar Michelle Alexander published her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” detailing how America prisons are the new containment of Black Americans. White Americans take up about 61% of the total population, but only 30.2% of the incarcerated population. Black Americans only take up about 13.3% of the population but fill about 33.4% of the prison population, just under three times the percentage of the Black American population.

Below are pie graphs detailing the differences in total American population percentages based on race compared to the percentages of ethnicities of prisoners.


World Prison Brief, Institute for Criminal Policy Research

U.S. Department of Justice

United States Census Bureau 

Learning JavaScript

This class posed as a challenge for me altogether. There was no one unit that was harder than the others, because I was SUCH a beginner. That is why for my independent learning I chose to watch a Lynda video on Javascript, as it seemed to be a good place to start:


This video made everything we learned kind of come together. Before watching, I had been blindly filling in different words where I thought they were meant to go, based on tutorials and demos. I learned that there are actually different types of functions, first class, array and callbacks. This video showed me step by step how to declare each function, what they will do, and when to use them. It taught me what different function arguments were, and how to reduce or combine them.


I wish I had thought to watch a video like this in the very beginning of the semester!

Mass Shootings in the United States of America

In light of recent events, gun reform is a hot topic in the US. However, I have noticed that this is a trend that happens every time there is a new mass shooting. The shooting occurs, the conversation turns to gun reform, nothing happens, repeat. I made a timeline of mass shootings in the U.S. from 1982-Today to show just how long this has been a problem for (I intentionally left out graphics, as showing these may be upsetting, as is searching for them):

Out of all of these, the deadliest have actually occurred in the 2000’s. It seems as though gun violence is becoming more and more of an issue:

Why is this such a problem in the US? I compared the number of privately owned firearms to that of other countries, and I think the answer is pretty clear: