Mac Slocum

Mac Slocum is director of online content at O'Reilly. He's been writing, editing and producing web content in various forms since the mid '90s. He also dabbles in video interviews from time to time.

From smartphones and continuous data comes the social MRI

Dr. Nadav Aharony used phone sensors to explore personal behaviors and community trends.

It’s clear at this point that the smartphone revolution has very little to do with the phone function in these devices. Rather, it’s the unique mix of sensors, always-on connectivity and mass consumer adoption that’s shaping business and culture.

Dr. Nadav Aharony (@nadavaha) tapped into this mix when he was working on a “social MRI” study in MIT’s Media Lab. Aharony, who recently joined us as part of our ongoing foo interview series, described his vision of the social MRI:

“If you think about it, the three things you take with you when you go out of your home are your keys, your wallet and your phone, so our phones are always with us. In aggregate, we can use the phones in many people’s pockets as a virtual imaging chamber. So, one aspect of the social MRI is this virtual imaging chamber that is collecting tens or hundreds of signals at the same time from members of the community.” [Discussed at 1:16]

Aharony’s work focused on 150 participants (about 75 families) that were given phones for 15 months. During that time, more than one million hours of “continuous sensing data” was gathered with the participants’ consent. The data was acquired and scrubbed under MIT’s ethics guidelines, and for extra measure, Aharony included his own data in the dataset.

Collecting the data was just the beginning. Parsing that information and creating experiments based on emerging signals is where the applications of a social MRI became significant.
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A lever is always better than a lone coder

Team Geek authors Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman on coding myths and collaboration.

If we accept that software development is a team activity (it is), the importance of collaboration and communication becomes clear. Team Geek authors Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman discuss the nuances of modern programming in this interview.

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Top Stories: July 2-6, 2012

Reevaluating criticism of visualizations, why websites still matter, Amazon as friend and foe.

This week on O'Reilly: Andy Kirk made the case for open-minded criticism of visualizations, Brett Slatkin explained why you still need to own a website, and Greenleaf Book Group CEO Clint Greenleaf discussed the complicated relationship between publishers and Amazon.

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You still need your own website

Brett Slatkin on the federated social web and why a website still matters.

Brett Slatkin's hope for a federated social web hasn't worked out as expected, so he's shifting perspective from infrastructure to user behavior. Here he explains why you shouldn't abandon your website for third-party platforms.

Comments: 2

Top Stories: June 25-29, 2012

William Gibson's apt predictions, why C matters, and a vote against lightweight DRM.

This week on O'Reilly: James Turner noted that the corporate dystopia predicted in "Neuromancer" has come to pass, author David Griffith discussed C's continued popularity, and Joe Wikert explained why lightweight ebook DRM isn't viable.

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Top Stories: June 18-22, 2012

Copyright and intellectual disobedience, improving health IT integration, and pushing the envelope on digital images.

This week on O'Reilly: Artist Nina Paley explained her "intellectual disobedience" stance on copyright, Shahid Shah looked at the future of health IT integration, and illustrator Laura Maaske discussed the next generation of digital imagery.

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Visualization of the Week: The story behind the U.S. power grid

"America Revealed" illustrates the complexity of the United States electric power grid.

The PBS TV series "America Revealed" visualizes the creation, use and fragility of the U.S. electric power grid. It's also an example of how data and context should always go together.

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Copyright and "intellectual disobedience"

Artist Nina Paley on pushing the boundaries of copyright.

"Sita Sings the Blues" creator Nina Paley explains her "intellectual disobedience" stance on copyright and notes that current copyright laws are "completely out of touch with human behavior."

Comments: 7

Top Stories: June 11-15, 2012

The future of desktops, ethics and big data, narrative vs spreadsheets.

This week on O'Reilly: Josh Marinacci predicted that 90% of computer users will rely on mobile, but 10% will still need desktops; the authors of "Ethics of Big Data" explored data's trickiest issues; and Narrative Science CTO Kris Hammond discussed narrative's role in data analytics.

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Visualization of the Week: A whole new way to look at the NBA Finals

A series of basketball visualizations reveal team and player tendencies.

The New York Times uses shot selection and completion data to break down the championship matchup between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.

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