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MindMap#11: Neurobiology

Never thought I’d be typing the words Neurobiology. This week’s mind map was the easiest one for me. As I was doing the reading, I was thinking of connections. I imagined myself drawing lines from How Stuff Works to Dendrites and Axons and then drawing connections between Buses and Action Potential and Snapchat. I did […]

Reading Notes #10: Neurons and Networks

This week’s reading on Neurobiology reminded me why I am an English Major. I have no interest in science (beyond chemistry, which helps with cooking) and lack the ability to understand “sciencey” words. “A single cubic centimeter of the human brain may contain well over 50 million nerve cells, each of which may communicate with […]

Reading Notes #6: Let’s CHAT

What is Chat? The discussion of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) led me into a crazy game of connect the dots. I am not sure what the final image will be, but I am making connections. CHAT is a synthesis of concepts from a variety of different disciplines and sub-disciplines. The authors argue that “CHAT rejects […]

Case Study #1 Peer Reviews

For this assignment, I responded to case studies written by Daniel and Amy.

Case Study Icon

Daniel’s post applying Foucault’s discursive formation to Google Analytics was enlightening on several levels. Firstly, I wasn’t really aware of how Google Analytics work, so I now have a better understanding of how it works. Also, reading the way in which Daniel applied the theory to Google Analytic helped me gain a deeper understanding of Foucault’s theory. I used Foucault in my own case study, but reading Daniels analysis revealed some of the ways in which I could more effectively apply the theory. For instance, I could have focused on describing how the network of La Leche League is constantly in flux, and I could have explained that my map of the network was by no means an attempt to capture the constant state of the network. I did pose a few questions to Daniel seeking clarification on concepts he described. For example, it seemed to me that there is a possibility that the object of the discursive formation might change once the user of Google Analytics begins to examine the data. Perhaps the object is still the page, or is it the data? Another question I had was whether the archived data actually is not part of the flow. It seems to me that once the user begins to examine the data, the data might become part of the flow. One of the most fascinating things that Daniel discussed is the difference between the networked archive and the archived network. I found this a fascinating contrast. It seems, from what I understand, that the networked archive can be an active part of the network, while the archived network may not be, unless the archived network is networked.

I really enjoyed reading Amy’s discussion of MOOCs and the application of computer network theory to MOOCs in part because I have recently been attempting to make my in-person class more student-centered, and I read Friere’s discussion of the banking concept. I wasn’t that familiar with MOOCs, so this discussion was very enlightening in that regard. Amy discussed the flow of information in the course in terms of buses, and I found this very helpful for envisioning the way in which Friere’s analysis of traditional education (the banking theory) is similar to a “serial” bus, and the more student-centered approach is like a parallel bus. I did have a few questions for Amy, particularly about the issue of agency. I would like to have seen more discussion of the relationship between students and how information flows between students as nodes. Also, I was curious about how the flow back of information from student might impact the entirety of the network.

Suzanne’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Memory


This activity confirms my fear/dislike of the Cloud. I pretty much write down or print out everything. I refuse to allow others to have ownership of things that I need or create. I just cannot allow it to happen. To avoid this, I try to maintain control over “all the things.”

The majority of my files are on my Mac hard drives (I have two MacBooks) and on two back up drives. I have several giant binders filled with articles that I have read in classes, used as sources in papers, or plan to read for future research projects. I do not like any of the clouds. I even download and convert my ebooks to pdf, so I can have them saved on my computer and back up drives.

I think I may have trust issues.

Daniel How Stuff Works? Activity: Social Networks

Social Networks Popplet

This activity was an eye opener. I was surprised that I wasn’t a part of more social networks. I use Facebook (not as much as I used to) mostly because it keeps me connected to ODU friends and classmates. I remember joining Facebook in 2004. It was excellent back then. I don’t like it so much right now. I love Instagram. I use SnapChat a lot. I only use Twitter to follow trends and when watching shows that have a fan base that utilizes Twitter (Scandal, Walking Dead, Banshee). I also like to use Twitter when watching award shows (Grammy’s, MTV Video Music Awards, BET HIp Hop Awards).

I hardly ever use my academic social networks. They are not interesting to me at all. I probably should think about that more and explore why those networks aren’t utilized. I should be using those for building social and professional capital.

Maury’s How Stuff Works? Activity: IFTTT and Networking

Google Doc Response

Question #1: What did you think of IFTTT as a user? What about as a supra-network to “talk” and “do” things among your networks? How was writing your own protocol using their GUI (Graphic User Interface)?

Chvonne: I have had an account with IFTTT for about 2 years now. I have still not used it. Lifehacker recommended it as a way to increase productivity. Once I created an account and gained a better understanding of how it all works, I realized that I loved the idea, but have no idea what I would use it for. I think it is so cool. I wish I had more of a need for it. I often do not see the need to link things, so I was hesitant to allow access and to link to different networks to one another. I am not a big fan of making connections (mental connections but not many others). I finally decided on linking Facebook recipes shared with me to a Google Doc. I liked the idea of creating a recipe, so I let that guide me. Writing the protocol was straight forward. I think the software is very user friendly.

Jenny’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Types of Networks

This activity was interesting because the network at my home isn’t very complex. My brother and I are the only ones who access the network at home. We use the same types of devices (laptop, cell phones, eReaders, and game systems. I noticed how complex my classmates’ networks were compared to mine (and Summer’s network). I can’t imagine that many people accessing the network. I don’t even know we have enough kbps to handle more than the two of us. I did find it interesting that some of these devices also communicate or connect one another. For example, I can access the media files on my laptop through the playstation. I can also access my nook and my brother’s kindle through my smartphone. Overall, I learned that things are more “networked” than I realized.

Summer’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Welcome to the Cloud

Summer’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Welcome to the Cloud

Completing Summer’s How Stuff Works? Activity helped me to visualize how many connections I make to others through different cloud services. I also realized that I need to remove myself from the cloud a bit. I dislike not having ownership of things. That is a big part of why I refuse to put my music into a Cloud. I imagine one day that I’ll have to pay for space or access to the cloud. I refuse to allow a corporation/organization to control my access to music. I still buy CDs because of this fear. Its a bit crazy, but this activity helped me to see how much of my writing, files, etc are in the cloud. I didn’t have to add many technologies to the mind map because I could connect to the technologies already established.

Leslie’s How Stuf Works? Activity: Buses

When I first read that Leslie had Buses, I was very confused. I immediately thought of an actual bus that transports people from one area to another. After reading her post, I realized that I know even less about computers than I thought. I knew that transfer data in a computer was a complex process, but I did not realize how complex. I took the quiz first, thinking that I knew enough about computers to make it through. After reading the blog post, I realized that I know nothing. Anyway, the most interesting part of this process for me was that Buses allow users to personalize their computers by adding peripherals. I am a big fan of Plug and Play devices. They are user friendly and allow me to make my computer fit my needs. Now I know that buses make this possible; buses make my computer adaptable.

Assignment: How Stuff Works Part 2 – Asynchronous Activities

Summer's Activity on Cloud Computing:
Maury's Activity of Networking:
Amy's Activity on Wifi:
Leslie's Activity on Buses:
Daniel's Activity on Social Networking:
  • Visual Map of Social Networks

    This was interesting for a few reasons. First, I had not previously considered the idea or ramifications of using one network to connect to another network. It connects spheres of my life in ways I superficially assumed were disparate entities. Second, Google controls my life. Everything stems from how I connect to the networks, which is through my Google browser. I assume this is why Facebook shows me ads from shopping sites I have recently been to. And these are not just ads, but pictures of the actual items I looked at. This kind of connectivity can leave me with a creepy feeling, a Big Brother-knows-all kind of feeling. Lastly, I have managed to completely segregate my guilty pleasure - Twitter. I have no followers from real life. I post and read about all my favorite celebrities and gossip and fashion and entertainment news. I am sharply satirical in ways I would not be in any other space. I don't want to share this space with anyone either. It's for me to revel in the guiltiest and basest of my escapes. I get to it from my phone and never connect through any other means than directly from the app on my phone. Maybe it's a delusion, and there really is someway for Google or Facebook to know who I am on twitter and make that public for all to know, but hopefully no one will shatter my belief in a little network privacy.

    Jenny's  Activity on Networking:
    Chvonne's Activity on WiFi:
    • Cell Phone Quiz: 4/10 (Well, I know how to work a cell phone even if I don't know how a cell phone works!)
      My Activity on Memory:

      I thought that creating a Venn Diagram would be a helpful way to show where there is overlap in our memory and storage systems. Unfortunately, the process was difficult for me to do digitally. I tried Google Drawings and some online Venn Diagram makers. None of these options were very easy to use because of the number of spheres I needed - work computer, laptop, Google Drive, work's provided network space for the writing center (S Drive), work's provided network space for personal use (M Drive), three flash drives (the sailboat shaped one, the Gaston College one from the HR fair, and the red one that flips open but that I have to jiggle just right to get the computer to recognize it), a portable hard drive from when the old laptop crashed, there's stuff saved on my phone like photos, and other photos are on a memory card in a digital camera, some photos are on CDs from before around 2011,and then my Outlook email, Yahoo email, and Gmail email where I might have sent stuff by attachment to myself...

      And if you want to count the stuff that isn't stored digitally, well there are some bookshelves. And boxes in a storage unit...

      Basically, a Venn Diagram can't contain this madness. I have stuff saved everywhere. I save willy-nilly. Helter-skelter. A devil-may-care attitude, if you will. My memory network makes grown men weep.

      I need help. Lots of help. Some sort of personal trainer to come in and shout at me through a bullhorn. Organize, collate, back-up, create some sort of regimen.

      Perhaps I am doomed to exist in a chaotic network of nodes and connections? Perhaps it will be one of those summer break projects that always seem to get completed before the rush of Fall semester, right?

      Sigh. Que sera, sera.

      NO! I'm going to do something. Be pro-active! Make a list of what gets saved where! Make folders! Move and copy files and delete...

      But wait... that phrase from before reminded me of something.

      Yeah... I'm going to get right on that project, but first I should check out that video...

      HowStuffWorks: Connectivity

      This entry on connectivity has a starting point here for your handy reference.

      Connectivity is at its core a discussion of how the actual connections between devices happen, in other words how does data get from A to B, C, D, E and back again? The groups of articles including some connections to things like High Speed Dial-up and the like, but this discussion will focus either on technologies that are present or are possible waves of the future.
      Current Technologies


      Photo Credit: BryanAlexander via Compfight cc

      Photo Credit: BryanAlexander via Compfight cc

      Ah, modems, without which you cannot connect to the internet unless you are somewhere that has a hardline (T1, T3) infrastructure.  Modem is actually a contraction of the word “modulator-demodulator.”  As you likely know, it sends data over phone, fiber optic, or cable lines.  The modulator end of things codes the data into a signal that works with whatever line you are utilizing. The demodulator turns the signal back into data. Wireless signals do this in the form of radio signals. Early modems used gradual degradation to test phone lines and ratchet their speeds back a notice if the line couldn’t handle the faster speeds. ADSL (or asymmetric digital subscriber lines) became popular in 1999 and were asymmetric because they sent data faster in one direction, taking advantage of dedicated copper wires used by the phone company. Current modem technology used by our ISPs (internet service providers) send packets of information between you and your ISP using PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol).

      Cable Modems

      Perhaps the most oft used in the U.S. for broadband connectivity, the cable modem is available over your coaxial cable that brings you hundreds of channels with nothing to watch. The coaxial cable is capable of carrying far more megahertz of signals than your cable provider currently uses for providing you with television programing. Thus, the extra signal space can be used to transfer data packets. Often the wiring prior to your household wiring is fiber optic, increasing the amount of carrying capacity available (depending upon where you live or it might be coaxial all the way down). The signal being send (downstream if into your home device) and received (upstream send from your device) require a cable modem on your end and a  Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) on the ISP end. Much like the old school dial up modems, cable modems have modulators and demodulators internally to handle encoding and decoding duties. They also include a turner which splits tv signal from data signal; a MAC which handles the interface with hardware and software bits of the internet protocols for handling the signals, the MAC is often connected with or integrated with a Central  Processing Unit (CPU) because the coding processes are relatively complex because of all of the splitting up of data, and finally there is the connection into the device (router or pc). How well your cable connection can provide data may depend upon how close you are to being the first user to connect through a particular assigned cable channel. Therefore, speeds may not be as advertised.

      Fiber Optics are lovely,

      Photo Credit: kainet via Compfight cc

      Photo Credit: kainet via Compfight cc

      optically pure glass that we talk about when we discuss cable or updated phone based connectivity. They are about a hair-width and are bundled by the hundreds or thousands. They have 3 basic parts – the core through which the light carrying the signal runs, the cladding which is an “outer optical (or mirror-like) material that reflects light back to the core, ” and a protective buffer coating.The fibers must be pure so that as the light bounces along between the core and the cladding, minimal degradation occurs. Fiber optic transmission systems include the transmitter (producer and sender of signals) the fiber itself, an optical regenerator (used to boost signals) and and optical receiver (which receives and decodes).  Advantages of this system are lower cost, smaller size, higher carrying capacity and less signal degradation than wire, lower power needs,  non-flammable, lightweight, and flexibility.

      Satellite Internet

      An option for those who live in rural areas who aren’t connected or have less than optimal connections to traditional communication infrastructures. It functions through a dish-to-dish broadcast. It is slower than either cable or fiberoptic connections. The satellite system sometimes requires you to have a modem to handle the coding work and like all satellite systems is susceptible to issues with signal loss due to poor weather conditions, improper placement, and interference from blocking structures.  A more full description and history can be found here.


      Powerline Based Broadband or BPL

      This has a fascinating potential to reach far more people than fiber optic lines or cable lines because power lines are already a near-ubiquitous infrastructure already in place. Essentially using the same technologies power companies already use to monitor power grid function via radio frequencies, this technology would use similar frequencies to connect users to the internet. The frequencies would need to be shielded (as cable and fiberoptic lines are) because the fluctuating power current would cause disruptions. Developers claim that this has been dealt with. They have also created specialized silicon modems to separate out the data from the power current. Currently the technology is being vetted by the FCC, but both FEMA and ham radio operators have series questions about how this technology will be implemented. FEMA is working on a compromise with the FCC, but the ARRL (ham radio folks) believe that ham and shortwave radio will be greatly interfered with. So the technology is currently in bureaucratic limbo.

      Also fascinating reading is the link on How an Interplanetary Internet might work. Check it out. It could be our future.

      Why is this all so interesting? 

      The above forms of physical hardware are the stuff of the interwebs. Without them data cannot be packaged, sent, and processed by our laptops, desktops, tablets, or phones. Understanding some of the basics also helps us ask questions about access. For example, the old 56.K baud modems that operated over phone lines were slow, granted, but as infrastructure they were significantly cheaper. Did they perpetuate greater access than expensive cable modems because they relied upon infrastructure that the U.S. Government helped put into place and backed decades ago?  What are the possibilities of internet satellite? People who argue against net neutrality point to them as ways of creating greater access but the subscription price per month is higher than cable, which is costly, and the reliability is questioned by some.

      The choices we are able to make about modems, connection types, purchase/renting of hardware will affect our abilities to connect to the network.


      Brain, Marshall. “How Modems Work.” <> 21 Jan 2014.

      Franklin, Curt. “How Cable Modems Work.” <> 20 Jan 2014.

      Freundenrich, Craig. “How Fiber Optics Work.” How Stuff <> 21 Jan 2014

      “How does satellite Internet operate?.” <> 20 Jan 2014.

      Valdes, Robert. “How Broadband Over Powerlines Works.” <> 21 Jan 2014

      Assignment: How Stuff Works Part 1 – Memory

      How Stuff Works: Memory

      Image by

      Some Basics:

      Memory refers simply to any form of electronic data storage; however, it typically means storage that is quickly accessible and temporary. Anytime you operate your computer, it uses memory to run faster. Since information stored on the hard drive can take a long time for the computer to access, the computer places information in temporary storage that is more readily accessible so the processor works more quickly. 

      RAM stands for Random Access Memory and is the most common type of temporary storage used by a computer. The way it works is when the computer user starts the computer and runs applications, the information needed to do those tasks is placed in RAM to make it more easily accessible. Instead of going to the hard drive to get that information, the processor can just go into the RAM and get it faster (Tyson, "How Computer"). 

      But RAM alone is not enough memory for all the applications a computer-user typically wants to run. Other types of memory need to be used to keep operations open and running. This is where cache memory - or caching - can help. A cache will help your computer run faster by keeping the most frequently used information in a special separate storage area on the chip of the processor, or CPU (Provost). This special area can be accessed more quickly than RAM. Several caches can be put in place to speed processing overall.

      Once you no longer need that information or data - say from an application like an internet browser - the RAM will purge that information to make room for something else. If the user wants to access the information at a later date, the data must be saved in long-term, permanent memory - like a hard disk.

      Hard Disk

      Hard disks uses magnetic recording techniques - much like a cassette tape - that can easily write and rewrite data onto the disk. It lives inside the computer attached to the motherboard, usually housed in an aluminum case like the one pictured above. So unlike RAM, the information on a hard disk will not be purged until the user removes it (Brain).

      Taking Memory with Us:

      Sometimes, we want to take our data with us. That is where removable storage - or portable memory - can help.  Portable memory takes the form of different media - a floppy disk, flash drive, digital memory cards, or CD are common media forms of portable memory. They work when the user inserts or connects the media to the computer and selects data from the computer to be stored on it. Disks use magnetic recording like hard drives while CDs use lasers to write, erase, and rewrite data (Tyson, "How Removable"). Flash storage and memory cards are completely electronic with no moving parts like disks. Instead, they use transistors and an electrical charge to excite electrons to "write" data on an embedded chip (Tyson, "How Flash").

      Memory as Technology Changes:

      I think in my desk drawer right now I still have some old 3.5 inch floppy disks with undergraduate papers and an old Power Point or two on them. What treasures of my past would they reveal if only I had the technology still needed to access them? 

      The nature of memory is that as technology changes and improves, we can fine ever smaller, ever more powerful storage tools to hold our data. If we aren't vigilant, then it is possible that our stored information will become lost in the heap of out-dated technology - right along side my floppies, which are next to my cassettes, next to someone's laser disc, and someone else's eight-tracks.

      So what does the future of memory look like? Some indicate that like printers, the future of memory is 3D, specifically 3D holographic memory. Like CDs, holographic memory is a type of optical memory, using laser light to write data onto the recording medium. however, where CDs can only store data on the surface, holographic memory would be able to record bits throughout the volume of the device. This would allow for greater storage and faster speeds when calling forth data. By some estimates, a holographic device would be able to store 1 terabyte of data in a one centimeter cube (Bonser). A terabyte equals 1,000 gigabytes. The potential for speed and space is significant.

      Pyramid depicting relationship between various types of memory.
      Image by How Stuff Works

      Implications for Network Theory:

      If you're anything like me, you have a laptop at home, a desk top computer in your office, a smart phone, and a tablet. You have files saved on your lap top, some at that work computer, others attached to emails or stashed in email folders, content may live on Blackboard or another website, there are photos on an SD card in a digital camera, perhaps some saved in a Google Drive, while others live in the network drive assigned to you from ODU or your job, and then there are the countless others saved on a drawer-full of flash drives and memory sticks. It's harder and harder to remember where we put our memory!

      If we think about memory and our ability to store information as a network, we can see how these different spaces act as nodes. There is certainly connections between them as most of us have the same - or similar versions - saved in multiple spaces. Perhaps we have some loose guidelines about what we save where - course work in a Google Drive but files for work on the laptop - but what is it like to try to function within this memory network?

      And as the previous section suggests, sometimes these nodes of memory become outdated - thus disconnected from the network altogether, information lost and forgotten or frustratingly unreachable.

      Technology brings with it many conveniences, but we also rely on its memory. Do you know the phone numbers of your loved ones, or do you have to look it up in your phone? If your laptop crashed, would you lose important files that exist nowhere else?

      To participate in all areas of our lives - home lives, work lives, school lives - we rely of stored data, on memory, but when nodes and connections break down and cut us off from that memory we are unable to participate. Ever have that frustrating experience of being at work but needing that file from your laptop? Or be logged into a computer in the classroom and have access to the shared network, but have the file you need saved on your desk top back in the office?

      Fluid participation in life requires fluid movement through the network of memory that we have all created in our many spaces.



      1. Take a few minutes to brainstorm/freewrite a list of all the places where you have data stored in memory - all the types of memory you use and access. 
      2. Think about the different types of data you store in these various places. Are there clear distinctions between the locations, or do you store files in whatever memory system is most readily available? Do you save in multiple locations as back-up or for convenience? Are you ever frustrated by the breadth of your memory?
      3. Using Google Drawings (or draw by hand) to create a Venn Diagram showing the network of your memory systems. Label the spheres with the different places where you have stored data - lap top, work computer, Google Drive, flash drive, etc. Overlap the  spheres where we have stored the same data. Write the type of data (lesson plan, essay, photos) on the overlapping area of the sphere to show what you keep where.
      4. Post to your blog (embed or scan and upload) with the tag "Memory Network" and maybe write a comment or two about anything interesting you learned.

      Works Cited:

      Bonser, Kevin. "How HolographicMemory Will Work." How Stuff Works. 08 Nov. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      Brain, Marshall. "How Hard DisksWork." How Stuff Works. 01 Apr. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      Provost, Guy. "How Caching Works.How Stuff Works. 01 Apr. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      Tyson, Jeff.  "HowComputer Memory Works." How Stuff Works. 23 Aug. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      ---. "How Flash Memory Works." How Stuff Works. 30 Aug. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      ---. "How Removable Memory Works." How Stuff Works. 28 May 2001.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      How Stuff Works: Computer Networking

      Well, since this entire class is about networking, I sure did get a doozy of a first topic to try to read, understand, and explain. It’s far too dense to fully get into, but I’ll give an overview, some key terms (here’s a link to a handy glossary), and an analogy. Let’s start with this short (3:27) video I found that does a nice job with the general idea.  Apparently it’s also trying to sell Netgear routers and switches, but the advertising isn’t too annoying:  How Computer Networks Connect and Work 

      Next, if you have 13:01, you’ll really understand what happens inside the network by watching this video: How Packets Travel in the Network (3d animation) Plus, you’ll get to see a network visualized as a sort of campy sci-fi movie, starring “Router” as a very close cousin of an Imperial Probe Droid from Star Wars and “Switch” as a cackling Pinball Wizard. Look for the Windows 3.1 screen shot with the Netscape Browser — a blast from the past! Seriously, the video really does a great job with making this make sense for people who aren’t computer scientists. It’s also a good laugh for some of the rhetorical choices they made. Engineers. :-)

      So, basically, a network consists of a MEDIUM (something that provides a path for the signals/information to travel, such as copper coaxial cable or fiber optic cable, which is preferred because it consists of a twisted pair of wires, one for sending, one for receiving), that is broken into SEGMENTS (also known as “collision domains”; a piece or instance of the medium) which contains one or more NODES or STATIONS, each with its own address. Information moving along the medium, is organized into FRAMES (like a sentence) which consist of PACKETS (like words). A network is governed by a PROTOCOL (rules for constructing the frames and organizing the information; TCP/IP is one protocol, Ethernet {or 802.3 IEEE} is another, token ring is a third, bitcoin is a new one). A network is subject to certain LIMITATIONS, such as the length of the cable, the number of devices, etc. SWITCHES connect nodes to a network segment and direct traffic to various nodes with it.  Using ALGORITHMS, a ROUTER acts as the boundary for a particular network, transferring information from one network to the next (or not, depending on the results of the algorithm). Routers talk to each other (using their own protocol), and can connect networks using different protocols (e.g. from ethernet to TCP/IP). Routers and switches (using their protocols) ensure that the information gets where it is intended and doesn’t have a COLLISION with other packets of information; routers attempt to LOAD BALANCE, much like packing a semi so that there is no wasted space and it doesn’t tip, a network is efficient when traffic moves smoothly, without a bottleneck or a single area working harder than another. The router constantly makes decisions in real-time to facilitate this balance. There exists the ability on any given network to send information from one node to only a single other node, or to send information from one node to ALL nodes (Broadcast). There are various ways to connect to a network, physically (via a cable — a WIRED network) or WIRELESSly (e.g. bluetooth) or a HYBRID, but even if the medium is not visible or known to each node or user, there exists a physicality to every network. You can have networks inside of another network (a LAN, inside a WAN, for example), and the INTER-Net is the connection of many networks that choose to be connected.

      Once you’re on a network, you can do various things, such as share, and connect, and allow others to use your computer or your software applications (desktop sharing) or information. The concept of ownership and autonomy become problematized on a network. Someday soon, if Ubiquitous Networking is enacted, then any computer or device within range of you and your smartphone/PDA will become “yours” for as long as you need it. That paradigm shift may just break your brain. It won’t be YOUR brain or YOUR computer;  your autonomy and your hardware is part of the collective.

      Phew. So here’s my analogy. See if this helps:

      Imagine you are in a restaurant. This restaurant is a network of its own, defined by the boundaries of the restaurant. This restaurant network is part of a larger network of restaurants, but today, you are inside just this one. The floor of the restaurant is divided into sections, each one governed by a waiter (I’m using this word deliberately even though it is somewhat gendered, bc the word “server” is confusing in this context; however I intend the waiter to be gender neutral :-) who travels back and forth between each table and the kitchen. The waiter’s section is a network segment.  Inside each server’s section are individual tables, which we will call nodes. A node talks to a waiter, but not to other nodes (tables in the restaurant). The waiter is like the switch, s/he directs information from the nodes to a server (e.g. the kitchen, which serves up  packets, errr, plates, of food/information) and can talk to other waiters. The tables are connected through the waiters, but not directly to each other. The host/hostess is like the router, controlling who comes into the network (restaurant) and the flow of traffic to the various sections (network segments) and tables (nodes).  The host ensures that the guests are supposed to be there, are the right protocol (e.g. have a reservation, are wearing a shirt and shoes, or a tie as needed) and ensures that a single waiter (switch) isn’t given two or more tables in a row (overloading him/her) or causing a collision or logjam in the kitchen (at the server).  If everything runs smoothly, the correct food is made, on time, and delivered to the correct table, and all enjoy the food they ordered and have a positive experience with the network.

      Does that help, any? Well, maybe it made you hungry.

      So, your activity to help you think a bit about networking and the nested nature of them (networks inside of networks, connections between networks, communications across networks, the language of networks):

      1. Go to
      2. Click Join IFTTT with whatever email and password suits you
      3. Browse the explanations on the site. IFTTT allows you to create Protocols for how to connect your own networks, and what actions should be taken. In effect, it acts as a router between your networks, according to the commands you give it.
      4. Create one or more “recipes” using the site’s graphical interface (for example, I created a recipe that sends me a text message every time a Job ad for an astronaut is posted on Craigslist in Charlottesville. No,  I don’t expect to get many texts. Think about which of your networks you might want to connect, when, how, and why. “Share” your recipe if you like.
      5. Then go to this Google Doc and answer the quick reflection question about your experience with IFTTT and how it relates to networking. Identify yourself before you type and put your text in its own color in order to differentiate. Comment on other peoples’ answers using the comment feature.


      How computer networks connect and work. (2013). Retrieved from
      How Packet Travels in Network ( 3D Animation ). (2012). Retrieved from
      Networking Terms Glossary | Definitions of Network Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2014, from
      Pidgeon, Nick.  “How Ethernet Works”  01 April 2000. <>  19 January 2014.

      Razavi, Roozbeh.  “How Routing Algorithms Work”  19 November 2002. <>  18 January 2014.

      Roos, Dave.  “How Desktop Sharing Works”  13 November 2007. <>  18 January 2014.


      Presentation Notes: “How Stuff Works: WiFi & Mobile”


      Wifi! By Florian Boyd/flickr. Creative Commons license.

      The range of selected articles (articles 1, 3, 5, 9, and 11) chosen as the subject of this blog entry come from the site “How Stuff Works?”

      First, let’s see what we already know about the “behind the scenes” considerations of WiFi and Mobile technology. Start by taking these two quizzes:

      Quiz 1: WiFi –

      Quiz 2: Routers –




      All of these articles make me think of the structural requirements inherent to any network. There must be some system or series of structural conduits through which the connections are made, whether mechanical or organic. The exercise this week emphasizes the reality that we must face when discussing networks – to really analyze or discuss the nature of the network and all of its constituent parts and processes, we must have a fundamental working knowledge of the structure…the “how it works.” Could this be related to what Foucault says about the need to examine discourse by first “freeing them of all the groupings that purport to be … universal unities” in order to reveal or foreground those that are “invisible” (29)? This passage on p. 29 where he describes his reasoning reminded me of an astronomical phenomenon called a “black hole,” the existence of which can only be substantiated by examining relationships, their “reciprocal determination” with regard to other visible spatial bodies, in order to best understand the functioning of said cosmos. Those areas of “difference” (Biesecker) are prime “nodes” for analysis and examination because the action there disrupts the status quo of the established means of interpretation (what we might call a rhetorical canon of practice, perhaps). As WiFi and mobile communication technologies are overtly characterized as network-based means of connectivity, these examples of practical applications of such connections offer us “objects of study” to which we might begin applying our emerging theories.

      Here, then, is a brief summary of the articles’ contents, including key terms and definitions drawn from the sources, along with brief observations making connections to our other readings / discussions.

      1.  “How Are Point-of-Sale Systems Going Mobile?”  barcode

      A point-of-sale system is, quite simply, that mechanism by which payment is transferred between consumer and sales representative. The article points to the evolution of such systems, from cash transactions to barcodes to  SmartPhone apps. The author outlines ways that mobile technology “is altering the way we shop.” Advancements in wireless technology developed in the 1990s allowed data to be transferred even more rapidly, and via mobile devices. Proposed benefits of this technology — factors mentioned in all of these articles — include increased productivity and lower operational costs. Restaurants are the primary node in this development; from mobile card readers to iPhone apps the clients can use to place orders and transfer funds (see the preceding link to a Wall Street Journal article). But questions of security are key.  Another device is called “contactless payment,” from computer chips embedded in cards to phone apps, all designed to ultimately speed check out. A white paper published in 2010 highlights this “vanishing checkout lane” phenomenon.

      3.  “How In-Flight Mobile Phone Services Work.”

      Given the recent news stories about banning in-flight cell use, this more recent article (2008) of the set seems particularly interesting. The history of this dates back to 1980s (“the Airfone service…based on radio technology”). The provided explanation begins with a comparison to how cell phones work on the ground, equating cell phone technology to, at most basic, “a two-way radio,” switching frequencies to allow simultaneous back and forth communication. (But it doesn’t go much deeper than that.) However, when airborne, the system relies on different technology: “The service provider, OnAir, uses special equipment to route calls and messages through a satellite network, which patches it into the ground-based network. The airplane crew controls the system and can limit or disable its use.” This again demonstrates a network comprised of several layers of structural networks to allow multiple methods of use.

      The article points out safety concerns, especially when the ground-based technology is used when airborne (article refers to this as “traditional ‘terrestrial’ cell phones”). The trouble is based on radio signals, raising the concern that the overlap with airplane navigation signals can cause dangerous disruptions, a concern that seems to be justified given British research reports cited by the Telegraph. But the article also points to a Mythbusters’ episode that challenges this conclusion.

      Here’s the technical explanation: “The FCC bans the use of cell phones using the common 800 megahertz frequency, as well as other wireless devices, because of potential interference with the wireless network on the ground. This interference happens as the planes, traveling several hundred miles per hour, leave one “cell” of mobile phone towers and enter a new one quickly.”

      5.  “How Mobile Broadband Services Work.”

      The article begins with an overview of the ravenous appetite we have brought to bear on the internet industry, driving the development of faster & more. Especially significant is the demand for mobile access. A succinct definition of the technology: “Mobile broadband is powered by the same technology that makes cell phones work. It’s all about radio waves and frequencies. Cell phones and cell-phone radio towers send packets of digital information back and forth to each other via radio waves.”

      The article describes the two cell network technologies: GSM & CDMA (more common to the US) – “both GSM and CDMA use different algorithms that allow multiple cell phone users to share the same radio frequency without interfering with each other.”  MOBILE broadband = labeled as 3G and now 4G (g=generation). CDMA creates separate transmission channels, one for voice, one for data. Access depends on the type of integrated technology owned. GSM uses a network allows for both types, making it more efficient by giving higher priority to download data. Again, special hardware is required to use this type of system, as well as be in range of a signal tower…so there are physical ties to ground-based network mechanics that must be observed.

      Here’s a fascinating difference between the time of this article and today: “Cellular providers generally package their mobile broadband services for cell phone users.” With the growth of SmartPhones, this has been reversed (see this 2012 WSJ article ).

      9.  “How the Airborne Internet Will Work.”

      The date for this is particularly problematic, as it now reads like past history, but a search of the internet did reveal more current resources:

      The author refers to “broadband” or a larger bandwidth for transferring as a “new” means to transmit the heavy loads of data Internet users have come to expect, as a means of replacing the lowly mechanical network hub, the modem, including cable modems, DSL (digital subscriber lines), and now, new options that are airborne. How it works: aircraft-mediated hubs (“High Altitude Long Operation” or HALO) flying in set patterns to accommodate (primarily) business needs for fast transmissions. Other options: blimps or NASA “sub-space” plane (unmanned). Built on the premise that land connections are limited by physics – mechanical restrictions of cables, etc. — the airborne will accelerate transmission time because it isn’t limited by physics of structurality or by physics of space (distance adds time of response).

      Here’s where “networks” come into play: the airplanes will exist in numbers, but don’t replace satellites or land lines – rather they are designed to work as part of a system. The “airborne-network hub” that is the airplane itself is designed “to relay data signals from ground stations to your workplace and home computer.”

      11. “How Unified Communications Works.”

      Defined as tech that allows “messages and data to be rerouted to reach the recipient as quickly as possible,” UC began first with messaging (email, and “other text-based message systems”). UC relies on various “products and tools” that can be made to work together to funnel messages to users when they are away from their computer stations, or, “Communications integrated to optimize business processes” [source: Unified Communications Strategies].”

      airborne-internet-halo-overview Businesses rely on UC to reduce costs, increase productivity, and streamline usage. The tech keeps messages from sitting idle on a server somewhere. But there are problems and complications. Some VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services don’t translate seamlessly to consumer’s expectations (based on their experiences with land lines). Another type of communications platform technology used for UC is the SmartPhone. But then there’s the line blurring between the personal and the business uses, including security of data. Still another arena in UC is the cloud – data management. The primary example of successful UC is social media, still “blur[ring] the line[s] between our personal and professional contacts.” This medium advances even more the network potential of UC.

      13.  “How WiFi Works.”

      There’s an interesting lapse in the publication date revealed in the opening paragraph, which refers to an enthusiastic prediction that “in the near future, wireless networking may become so widespread that you can access the Internet just about anywhere at any time, without using wires.” Given the WiFi hotspots signs that appear everywhere from Starbucks, to McDonalds, to some gas stations, the dated nature of the article seems almost comical.

      From article at

      From article at

      The article describes WiFi as “technology that allows information to travel over the air” using radio waves, comparable in function to “two-way radio communication.” I find it interesting that the article refers to a computer’s capability to “translate” data, akin to the mental processes we take to sift incoming information and produce a version suitable to the purpose and audience (how’s that for rhetorical?).

      The router = the node, but not just a center of organization; that node actually “decodes” the input (the language / “signal”), then passes on that info through a physical means (from air to wire). This type of interpretation depends on the mechanical; think of p. 24 Foucault, when he writes that unities of discourse – the accepted methods or systems that comprise a tradition or historical context – are “the result of an operation…[which] is interpretive (since it deciphers, in the text, the transcription of something that it both conceals and manifests” (24).

      The reference to “frequencies” makes me wonder if there is a connection to discourses (thinking of Foucault’s comments in Chapter 2). The higher the frequency, the higher the capacity for data. The frequency is described according to “standards” – or accepted nodes – that are described in terms of “coding technique.” It’s all about how much data can be carried. Description of “hotspot” as public nodes of access – seems this terminology may have the potential to be metaphorically useful moving forward in our discussions. (Is that what theory is? A metaphoric framework whereby we take an existing accepted structural system and treat it as an analogy-based means of translating knowledge or data?)

      Connections within a network depend on adaptors, computer gear like internal transmitters, and capability to tap into the “standard” transmission lines/radio waves. The computer itself “informs you that [a]…network exists” and requires we exercise intentionality (“ask whether you want to connect to it”). Accessibility depends on identifying / knowledge of the network identification (SSID) – naming that community – access points or channel used by a router, and security (public vs. private) – privileged vs. subversive? One of the authors adds a post script to the article, in which she acknowledges the changes made recently. Of considerable interest are the following comments: “I remember the days when most mere mortals didn’t have modems and couldn’t get on the net, even if they had computers. Perhaps I’m projecting my experiences onto everyone else, but when I was a kid, our computer was this tool we used in isolation.”

      Works Cited:

      Bonsor, Kevin.  “How the Airborne Internet Will Work.”  30 April 2001. <>  18 January 2014.

      Brain, Marshall, Tracy V. Wilson, and Bernadette Johnson.  “How WiFi Works.”  30 April 2001. <>  18 January 2014.

      Crosby, Tim.  “How In-flight Mobile Phone Services Work.”  3 March 2008. <>  18 January 2014.

      Kelly, John.  “How are point-of-sale systems going mobile?”  8 March 2010. <>  17 January 2014.

      LaPine, Cherise.  “How Unified Communications Works.”  9 March 2010. <>  17 January 2014.

      Roos, Dave.  “How Mobile Broadband Services Work.”  2 April 2008. <>  18 January 2014.