changing world

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We hear a lot about the bad things people are doing using internet technology. Identity theft, internet porn, harassment, and phishing are only a few types of internet crimes that are reported on a daily basis. But while access to the World Wide Web may have opened new doors for criminals, few would argue with the assertion that it is also having a positive impact on the world that we live in. The ability to share information has empowered individuals and groups as never before, particularly in areas such as communication, commerce, and healthcare.

When I was ill some years back, I read about a new drug on the internet that was being studied at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. It was being compounded at a small pharmacy near the hospital and the more I learned about it the more I thought it might help me. I eventually spoke to the pharmacist in Maryland, convinced my doctor to write me a prescription, and after one month of therapy my health improved enormously. That medication is now FDA approved and is widely available.

I have also found great sources for gluten-free food on the Web, learned new photography techniques, researched products and prices before making purchases, discovered wonderful authors, artists, and musicians, had fun with Web gadgets like flickr leech (I used it to make the illustration above, click on the photo to see it larger) and I’ve met a bunch of really nice fellow bloggers from all over the world. Some believe that the internet will bring about the biggest change in human social structure in history. So the question of the day is: How has the internet impacted, enhanced, or changed your life?

feelin’ it

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How do you feel today? Artist and computer scientist Jonathon Harris, along with Stanford math whiz Sep Kamvar, launched a unique project in 2005 called We Feel Fine . We Feel Fine is a database that harvests human feelings from weblogs. From their mission statement: Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.)… At its core, We Feel Fine is an artwork authored by everyone. It will grow and change as we grow and change, reflecting what’s on our blogs, what’s in our hearts, what’s in our minds. We hope it makes the world seem a little smaller, and we hope it helps people see beauty in the everyday ups and downs of life.

Click on the We Feel Fine logo above. When you open the program the first screen you see is a starry field of flying colored shapes, each one is a feeling being expressed somewhere on a blog. Click on one and it gives you a sentence, click on the sentence and it takes you to the blog. You can sort the feelings by gender, age, weather, location, etc. In the lower left hand corner you can change how you see the field, for instance montage gives you the photographs blogged with the feelings. It’s very cool.