Lab Notebook – November 24, 2013

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Lab Notebook – November 10, 2013

  • Disabled Athlete Tatyana McFadden Completes Marathon Grand Slam – The Takeaway 110713
    On Sunday at the New York City Marathon, Tatyana McFadden sped across the finish line a full 3 minutes and 41 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. She also rolled her way to an unprecedented victory, becoming the first athlete to ever win a marathon Grand Slam—winning races in Boston, London, Chicago and New York in the same year. | McFadden remained unphased as she navigated her wheelchair over the uneven streets of New York—they are nothing compared to what else she has had to overcome. | The 24-year-old Maryland resident was born in Russia with a condition called spina bifida, which left her paralyzed from the waist down. She spent the first six years of her life in an orphanage before being adopted by an American family. | Outfitted with her first wheelchair, McFadden quickly became interested in racing. But when she encountered resistance from her high school track coach, she sued the state of Maryland, arguing for equal access to school athletics for people with disabilities. | The suit resulted in the passing of country’s first ever law allowing and encouraging students with disabilities to participate in school sports programs. | At 15, McFadden was the youngest member of the USA track and field team at the Athens Paralympic Games. She has since gone on to win 10 Paralympic metals and six world championships, in addition to her marathon wins. | After her win on Sunday, McFadden doesn’t have much time to catch her breath. She’s already preparing for her next race—the Paralympics cross-country skiing World Cup, with the hope that she will qualify for the U.S Paralympic Team in Sochi this winter.
  • Senate Considers Extending Americans with Disabilities Act – The Takeaway
    The United States already has a set of laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities. It set the gold standard on this issue when it passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. | Now, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is considering the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty which would put American support behind a broader international effort to ensure the rights of the disabled. | Some Republicans are fiercely opposed to it, saying it would make the United States subject to United Nations laws. | Judith E. Heumann, Special Adviser for International Disability Rights at the U.S. State Department, lives with a disability herself. She joins The Takeaway to explain why the treaty is being held up in Senate.
  • The Roaring Twenties
    Sound archive of Manhattan in the 1920s.
  • Emily Thompson - Princeton University History Department
    Emily Thompson is a historian of technology who studies late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. Her research explores the cultural history of sound, music, noise, and listening, and focuses on how these phenomena and activities intersect with technologies like the phonograph, motion pictures, and architecture.
  • Why We’re Shutting Off Our Comments | Popular Science 092413
    Comments can be bad for science. That’s why, here at, we’re shutting them off. | It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.
  • Open Annotation Community Group | W3C
    The purpose of the Open Annotation Community Group is to work towards a common, RDF-based, specification for annotating digital resources. The effort will start by working towards a reconciliation of two proposals that have emerged over the past two years: the Annotation Ontology [1] and the Open Annotation Model [2].
  • Imagine |
    We think simple tools can help us all improve the quality of information on the Internet and in the greater world around us. | will be an open platform for the collaborative evaluation of knowledge. It will combine sentence-level critique with community peer-review to provide commentary, references, and insight on top of news, blogs, scientific articles, books, terms of service, ballot initiatives, legislation and regulations, software code and more. | We are a non-profit organization, funded through the generosity of the Sloan, Shuttleworth and Mellon Foundations– and through the support of hundreds of individuals like yourself that want to see this idea come to fruition.
  • Will robots make us sexist? – 082713
    Soraya Chemaly: “As technologists frequently remind us, the singularity, a time when the realization of smarter-than-human computers irrevocably alters our future, is nearer every day. Futurists take this prospect very seriously. They gather to discuss what it means at the annual Singularity Summit, a meeting hosted by the Singularity University, dedicated to exploring the “disruptive implications and opportunities” of the evolution of artificial technology. But, crucially, most of those doing the exploring are men. | We don’t have to wait for data-like robots to think about how discriminatory norms manifest themselves through technology. Google Instant’s predictive search capability, which saves users 2-5 seconds by making the most likely suggestions “based on popular queries typed by other users,” is a good illustration. Earlier this year, a study conducted by Lancaster University concluded that Google Instant’s autocomplete function creates an echo chamber for negative stereotypes regarding race, ethnicity and gender. When you type the words, “Are women …” into Google it predicts you want one of the following: “… a minority,” “… evil,” “… allowed in combat,” or, last but not least, “… attracted to money.” A similar anecdotal exercise by BuzzFeed’s Alanna Okun concluded that anyone curious about women would end up with the impression that they are “crazy, money-grubbing, submissive, unfunny, beautiful, ugly, smart, stupid, and physically ill-equipped to do most things. And please, whatever you do, don’t offer them equality.” In effect, algorithms learn negative stereotypes and then teach them to people who consume and use the information uncritically.” [what if disability is the criterion/stereotype?]
  • 230: Robot Gender Stereotypes. Facebook Relationship Analysis. Open Annotation. The History of Marginalia. How Noise Annoys. | Spark with Nora Young | CBC Radio 110113
    In her article “Will Robots Make Us Sexist?” Soraya Chemaly argues that the male-dominated tech sector is affecting the way we design artificial intelligence. | Spark producer Dan Misener with what your Facebook profile could be saying about your romantic relationship. | Dan Whaley is the founder of, a company that promises an open annotation web experience where anyone can comment on anything. | Heather Jackson with an historical look at the practice of marginal notes in books, and how it compares to writing in the margins of the web. | Emily Thompson has co-created a very cool website called The Roaring Twenties, an acoustical trip back in time to Manhattan in the late ’20s.
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Lab Notebook – October 20, 2013

  • Genetic Testing Anxiety – On The Media 101813
    Brooke and OTM producer PJ Vogt prepare to send their saliva off to 23andMe, a company that analyzes DNA information. Before they prepare their samples, Brooke and PJ talk with OTM senior producer Katya Rogers, and former OTM producer Jamie York about what they hope to find out from their genetic testing, what they’re concerned about discovering, and the value of having their genetic information online.
  • Lost, Then Found – On The Media 101813
    While PJ and Brooke wait for the genetic test results to come in, WNYC reporter Mary Harris brings us a cautionary tale about a family of sorts, reunited by a gene data bank.
  • The Results Are In – On The Media 101813f
    Brooke and OTM producer PJ Vogt get their genetic tests back and reveal the results to each other. Then, to help them understand what their results really mean, Brooke and PJ speak to geneticist Greg Lennon, co-founder of SNPedia, a wiki-pedia for genetic information that aims to make “DNA stuff” real. Lennon answers some of Brooke and PJ’s pressing questions about their results. Among other things, Brooke finds out she doesn’t have as much Neanderthal in her genes as she hoped.
  • 23andMe – Genetic Testing for Health, Disease & Ancestry; DNA Test
    "The leading health and ancestry DNA service" – just $99… order now!
  • Promethease On Demand
    Promethease understands the data provided by all known consumer genetics companies (23andMe, Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, and more). Do not attempt to convert between formats as many of the conversion tools do not work very well. Just upload your original data. Even zip files are fine.
  • SNPedia
    SNPedia is a wiki investigating human genetics. We share information about the effects of variations in DNA, citing peer-reviewed scientific publications. It is used by Promethease to analyze and help explain your DNA.
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Lab Notebook – October 13, 2013

  • Molly Crabapple on Art in the Age of the Ubiquitous Image | MediaBerkman 100113
    Two hundred years ago, artists had the monopoly on image making. Now, every parade or disaster is accompanied by ten thousand twitpics. In a world where mobile technology has made images instantaneous and ubiquitous, what does visual art have left to say? Drawing on her experiences doing illustrated journalism around Guantanamo Bay and the Greek economic crisis, Molly Crabapple — called “Occupy’s greatest artist” by Rolling Stone — speaks about the role of art in a world captured by a million cameras.
  • metaLAB on Collections, Data, & Platforms for Participation in Museums & Other Institutions [AUDIO] | MediaBerkman » Blog Archive » metaLAB on Collections, Data, & Platforms for Participation in Museums & Other Institutions [AUDIO] 091413
    [accessibility potential for this new platform?] Curarium is a collection of collections, an “animated archive,” designed to serve as a model for crowdsourcing annotation, curation, and augmentation of works within and beyond their respective collections. Curarium aims to construct sharable, media-rich stories and elaborate arguments about individual items as well as groups of items within a corpora. The metaLab’s Jeffrey Schnapp, Matthew Battles, and Pablo Barría Urenda describe the Curarium, and its first project to ingest Villa I Tatti’s Homeless Paintings of the Italian Renaissance collection, and build engagement with a wider audience to identify, classify, describe, and analyze the objects in the collection.
  • The Reality in Disability – The Takeaway 100913
    The disabled are a convenient metaphor for the movies and storytellers, often portrayed as little puddles of misery and misfortune, or as childlike god creatures full of wisdom. But there is reality in disability. Author Susan Nussbaum joins The Takeaway to explain how she successfully turns disability into a much more powerful metaphor for the world’s struggles with oppression and intolerance in her book Good Kings and Bad Kings.
  • Science Fields Still an All Boys Club – The Takeaway 100913
    The recipients of the Noble Prizes this week—from physics, medicine and chemistry—are all men. Last summer, researchers at Yale University found that young male scientists are viewed more favorably than a female one. Eileen Pollack is now a professor of creative writing at University of Michigan, but she was one of the first two women to earn a bachelor of science in physics from Yale. She joins The Takeaway to talk about why she didn’t continue her studies in the sciences, and what today’s culture has to do with it.
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FDR and the Hidden Work of Disability

Photo of Franklin Delano roosevelt on Inauguration Day wearing a formal top hat. With him in the back seat of an open touring car is wife Eleanor Roosevelt and President Herbert Hoover. [Source: American Heritage]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt wearing a formal top hat on Inauguration Day in 1933. With him in the back seat of an open touring car is wife Eleanor Roosevelt and former President Herbert Hoover. [Source: American Heritage]

Disabled Americans today must negotiate for the kinds of accommodations made for FDR, and the caveat “reasonable accommodation” is built into the law. President Franklin Roosevelt did not have to negotiate. He could summon vast resources of the federal government – money as well as brains – to accomplish the work of disability. And it was accomplished with such thoroughness and efficiency that its scale could be called the Accessibility-Industrial Complex had it been directed toward public accommodations and not solely the needs of a single man. Read FDR and the Hidden Work of Disability  (presented at Media in Transition 8 at M.I.T., May 2013).

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