CAL 103 Final Blog Post

  • What has your group – and you individually – done so far?

We all did our research pretty quickly, at least getting preliminary sources and identifying the direction we wanted to lead our research in. We spend a lot of our time going through our research and identifying what we were going to keep and what to throw out. Specifically, I spent a lot of time doing this: figuring out what sources I wanted to use and what were good sources, and what sources didn’t quite pertain to my topic.

  • What remains to be done, both for you individually and your group?

We still have yet to really chisel down our thesis statement into something definitive, though we have a pretty good idea where we’re going with classroom efficiency. I assume we all have to work on our portion of the research paper as well as draft the introduction and conclusion.

  • What is your action plan?

We seem to have a pretty good pace, so I’m confident we’ll have everything done on time. If we just keep on getting work done at a steady pace, I think we should be fine. A few more out of class meetings to draft the introduction, the conclusion and to tie up any loose ends respectively seems like a good plan of action.

  • What problems have you run into and what, if anything, can I do to help?

Other than the thesis statement problem, we haven’t run into much problems. Our presentation came together pretty easily actually, which was a pleasant surprise. We got work done on the presentation outside of class and independently so that when we did meet up, we polished up the presentation.

Nietzsche: Morality as Anti-Nature


An important concept to grasp is that Nietzche is not referring to morality as a whole, but the concept of morality that is taught, mostly through religions but also through other sources. He says that mankind does not need morality other than what morals we innately posses. I agree with him for the most part, except there’s some outliers that I’m not sure whether warrant disagreement. Take, for example, a case of a mentally ill person. They might have a skewed concept of natural morals and could be a threat to society (as we have seen in past years)- but does teaching them (or attempting to teach them) morals help the situation or prolong an outburst?

I believe that Nietzsche holds these ideas about “Anti-natural morality” — morals that are created by man after “thought” and often in a limited point of view — to be unhealthy to the human condition because more and more often in recent years, religions persons have fallen back on the teachings of their faith to condemn others that before they “sinned” they had been close to. In the case that the last sentence makes no sense; I’m frustrated that people can have relationships with others and once they find out that they’re homosexual or some other “sin”, they cast them aside. I’d make a personal tirade about how homosexuality isn’t even a cardinal sin but it is probably the most “detested” thing for many christians, but this post is about Nietzsche and the 20 seconds it takes me to write his name.

I’d also stand with Nietzsche on his views on the “war against passions”. At the time, the church (collectively) was more stuffy, conservative and reserved, and indulging in passion was considered to be too human and good christians were supposed to strive to be like god. Or jesus… but jesus wasn’t even a christian.

Murdoch: Morality and Religion


I’d like to argue or agree with Murdoch, but throughout most of “Morality and Religion”, she makes no claims or assertions, the work is mostly discussion. Many times she mentions questions of life and questions in the “background of […] arguments” and fails to come up with a concrete answer regarding these questions. Though, when dealing with morality and many/all religions, there is not a concrete answer to be had, as morality is a complex subject as the human psyche since they are intertwined and religious convictions are clung to so tightly, any opposition must dance carefully around the core texts and beliefs. Her real only claim lies at the end of the work, which is the notion that morality cannot exist without wrong-doing or evil of some kind, which I agree. If there was no bad, how would anyone going about quantifying the good?

In paragraph 4, she addresses the concept that morality is not necessarily dependent on religious beliefs, to which I steadfastly agree. Singer Angela Gossow once said that non-religious individuals “cannot hold […] religious tradition responsible for their [own] horrible deeds against mankind. We are fully responsible for everything we do.” which can apply to several elements and expressions of morality. A non-religious person would typically hold themselves to a certain standard because they hold no beliefs that their past transgressions can be absolved by “confession” or “redemption”. I do not believe that you can claim that “Religion symbolizes high moral ideas”; though there are certainly certain portions of holy texts that have decent moral standards, such as the ten commandments, there are many more instances of the immorality of religions such as Duteronomy 22:28-29 (rape victims are forced to marry their rapists as long as he compensates her father) and Rajm (stoning) though not mentioned directly in the Quran, it was at one point before a goat ate it.

I also take opposition to her stance in paragraph 5 about her interpretation of exhibiting “God’s love for the world.” I would assert that finding a small, smoothed stone which had probably been weathered and eroded by a river or stream is no proof of “God’s love” more than it is proof that the Poseidon liked that particular rock.

Discussion of “Toward a Universal Ethics”


First and foremost, I agree with Gazzaniga when he says that “modern knowledge is on a collision course with[…] personal spiritual belief systems. I understand it as that modern knowledge- what he talks about later as advances in the neurological field- is shedding new information on the origins and conditions of human morality. Previously, morality was thought to be derived from religious beliefs (and for some part still is) and not from anything that could be scientifically verifiable. As more information is gathered about brain-based morality, the claim of many religions- that their religion is the singular path to morality- is rendered false. For if both sides claim to be where morality comes from, thus rendering a conflict, only one can be correct, or neither.

The importance of Gazzaniga’s remark that we are “big animals” seems to be small, since he only uses the phrase sparingly. Yet, when he does use the phrase it is never under- or overstated. The phrase later on in the work seems to be shorthand for the entire phrase: “We are big animals, and only five thousand generations ago there were just ten thousand of us”. Even among these ten thousand, gene differentiation had to be slim enough for us to be the same species, yet large enough to have genetic differences. From this time in history, Gazzaniga asserts that we have been “busy cooking up cultures”. Even though the cultures progressed in different directions, we can find similar stories and fables (comparing the Jesus of Christian fame to earlier Egyptian legends) in relation to their morals, implying that a system of morality may have possibly predated religious practices and texts. This is the basis of Gazzaniga’s argument, and all discussion of current neurological advancements in the understandings of morality stem from this notion of “big animals”, so misunderstanding or misinterpreting his argument would lead to a misreading of the text, likely.

Discussion of Appiah’s “The Case Against Character”


I’m not sure where to start, this post is probably going to be a mess because I disagree with nearly the same amount of Appiah I agree with. I’m not sure where I stand on the issue on virtue ethics, though I suppose I could be called somewhat of a Situationalist.

I agree on the points that Appiah makes against what philosopher John Doris calls “globalist”s and globalism, that no one has these consistencies of virtue. To this, I think- as well as Appiah suggests that many people are in fact situationalists, Appiah cites Oskar Shindler (film character) as having many conflicting traits yet over all the character is remembered as being mostly compassionate. I would have to agree when he beings up the situationalist claim that people are best explained by “systematic human tendencies to respond to features of their situations”.

Another point is that compassion is not truly a character trait, which I am on the fence about agreeing with. While I do agree with the assessment that humans are “so sensitive to circumstances and so unaware of the fact”, I am unsure of whether this renders compassion not a character trait. If anything, I think the fact that humans are unaware of our extreme sensitivity to circumstances that it would provide an apt opportunity to change how we (as humans, psychologists, or writers) view character traits. If situationalists are truly what humans are, rather than globalists, than should character traits not be an insightful tool on how a person is likely to react to a given set of circumstances. When Appiah references the Princeton seminarians who do not stop to render aid if they are late, I would not say that they are not compassionate, I would propose that they instead value their appointment more than they did compassion. They are compassionate to some degree, which would add to the complexity of compassion as a character trait, not eliminate it. Could I not say that I am compassionate, but not as much as I value my character trait of punctuality? According to Appiah, I could not- I could not have compassion as a character trait if it was not fully realized (though in most people it is not, which I suppose is why Appiah argues this point). My disagreement stems from Appiah’s reluctance to admit that character traits can be as complex as the people who possess them.

Ramblings over “the Balinese Cockfight” by Geertz


How do Balinese Cockfighters (rooster fighters in Indonesia for anyone not in my CAL103 class) qualify as a discourse community? Well, if we just look at the six criteria for being a discourse community, as presented by Swales, we’ll see:

  • share a common language/vocabulary:

The Balinese cockfighters already speak a language not spoken by other cockfighters around the world, and then there is the vocabulary specific to the cockfights as well as the vocabulary of the gambles.

  • share common behaviors, practices, and/or procedures

Though Geertz discusses that each handler has specific and individualized practices and rituals, all handlers attempt to do the same things during the fights. If their bird is injured they all try to breathe life into their birds, figuratively and literally in hope that their injured bird can somehow injure the other and remain standing long enough to win. There is also the interesting aspect (to me at least) of the coconut that is submerged, which acts as a timer/clock and it seems that the Balinese have mastered this act down to a science.

  • share common goals, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions

I believe the common goals would be most easily identified when there are cockfights between members of different towns. Men who would normally be elated if their rival lost now root intensely for their rival and against the other town. Commonly held beliefs have to do with the “Powers of Darkness”, with their animalistic demons. Normally in the Balinese culture, these demons are apparently abhorred but the rituals of the cockfight are the exception.

  • share common ways of communicating with one another

Geertz identifies, through the system of gambling how the Balinese cockfighters speak amongst each other. Though it expected to a certain degree- especially within the kingroups- a bet signifies who the better has respect for, as well as does betting against or abstaining from betting.

  • master a common set of genres

Though only a handful of men in the community master the written rules of the cockfight, the cockfighters respect the umpire and never dispute rulings. The interpretation and understand of the rules by the umpire is ultimate and never in question; he is the master of that genre.

  • have a threshold for membership, or a means of recognizing who does and does not belong to the community

When Geertz first arrived in the Balinese community he noted he felt as if the community stared through him, he was an outsider. It isn’t clear if he ever got to experience more than the one cockfight (though he does say it was the third match)  as an outsider before the police interrupted. Without becoming accepted after the police chase, I would be interested to see how he would learn about the cockfighting culture.

Final Submisson


So, this will be the last blog post for this Digital Media project. When I left off last week, I was essentially recreating most of the project from scratch. Specifically, recreating the randomizing circles abstraction and making that abstraction more accessible by the part of the project that switches the circles RGB values between the original randomized values, and the average RGB value of the camera-fed videofeed.

This picture is what it looked like last week:


I spent the better part of last weekend scrapping the project and building from scratch. Some elements I kept, such as the random generation of the five values used in the circles, size, opacity(alpha), red, green and blue; while I discarded what elements I felt were not working well or at all, or those that seemed to be the source of my frustration, such as the delivery of the randomized values into the object that handled the circle’s RGB values. This is what it looks like now:


Now that the circles work, generate the randomized values and grow when you move in that direction, the project is complete. I have fixed the initialization problems. Now, the circles begin with the randomized values rather than grayscale, move to the [pix_mean_color] values when the right arrow key is pressed, and back to the random values when the key is pressed again. In practice rather than theory, means it looks like going from this:


to this:Image

Closing Statements


Oh no, it seems I’ve forgotten to post so far this week!

Well, let me start out by saying the patch is under construction. The randomized circles were missing a feature I thought would help with the user interaction, but in an attempt to realize this feature resulted in some weaknesses in the design of the randomized circles, and I’m now starting from scratch with those.

What I wanted to do was be able to switch between the RGB values from the video feed and the randomized RGB values that are/were generated along with the circles to begin with. As I tried to implement that, the circles would generate and begin with grayscale values, switch to the video feed values and then switch to the randomized colour values that they were supposed to have from the beginning.

My professor and I sat down on Wednesday this week and tried for about an hour, with success coming after many, MANY times when we thought it was fixed. We said “It should work this time”, but it didn’t. The code made sense, but wouldn’t work. Eventually, we created a work-around that would generate one set of randomized colours, then switch to the video feed, and be able to switch back to a different set of randomized colour values, but the patch could switch back and forth between the video feed and the second set of randomized values.

But that wasn’t good enough for me.

I suppose I should also say that my presentation went well, though I have changed the background to white, due to lighting issues that arose and presented a conflict between having enough light for the camera to detect and being dark enough for the black background.

Sorry for the lack of screenshots, but other than showing you the mess that resulted from the work-around, I don’t have much to show. Just a bit to say.

Week 3


Almost done. I’m scheduled to present my project on the 26th (November 2013), get feedback from the class and the professor and then fix up the patch over the next two weeks.

Today, after class I hit a big milestone when I finally got the circles to react to the motion of the user.

For about a week and a half I’ve been trying to figure out how to interact with the circles. Originally, I was going to have the circles always be moving, but they would move more the closer you got to them and move only slightly if you were further away. I attempted to do this by exponentially manipulating the values of the user’s position, but I as only able to move in either positive or negative directions at one time, not in any direction. Then, I set out to see if I could have the circles animate, but this would require more code, time and skills than I presently have. So, I decided that if the user gets close enough to the circles, they will increase in size. I spent just over an hour and a half manipulating values and then it finally clicked.
I had a brief (okay, not really) moment of elation when the circles finally responded to the user interaction. I was ALMOST DONE with my project. Such a good feeling. I had only one more planned part of the project left, colouring the circles to match the video.

I spent a few minutes with [pix_mean_color], and very easily got it to work in one of my scratch patches. However, when I attempt to put it into the main patch (the project), it refuses to take the average of the values generated from the camera feed and attribute them to the circles, even though the objects are connected in the same manner that they are on the scratch patch.

Such is life. I’ll keep plugging ahead and see if I can’t figure something out.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 3.38.37 PM

Week 2


Last week, I had only the randomizing circles, which was a nice achievement in-and-of-itself. My project can be divided into three phases of sorts, the circles, the audio and the visual aspects. They also just so happen to be in order from easiest to hardest.

I’ve realized that through this project I’m exploring how very different sounds and images can have the same relaxing effects. The non bubbled sound coupled with the randomized circles is relaxing and calm while the grating sound still has a sense of relaxation and calmness, though it is in the chaos of the sound and image.

This week my main goal was to figure out how to track the light manipulated by the users movement and be able to use the data from that in order to manipulate the way the sound is bubbled.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 10.10.39 AM

Bubbler is a PD patch (and separate VST) available from soundhack, and manipulates the sound in “grains”, small samples of the sound itself that are stretched, shrunk reversed and manipulated in other ways. With the alpha values, I’m manipulating the sound something like this:

Here’s what the sound will eventually sound like, with the alpha values adding and subtracting from the previous values that load in from when the patch is loaded.

Here’s a screenshot of the randomized circles in action:

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 11.37.46 AM