The internet! It’s free! You can do anything, it’s a global village of connected information! Free! Free!

Well that was some people saw it in the early days. There is a cost for running all the pipes and servers and content creators. Without paying for it directly with fees, we pay for it with our information- where we go, what we do. Some of this we do so knowingly, much is done underneath the hood.

It’s not all evil; the internet would be a much less convenient experience without some bits of shared data. But this convenience bears a cost. This week we look at and ask questions about the tracks and tracking done online.

The Opener

How well do you manage your time in technology? Is it time well spent? Are you driven by a need to check updates? Is there a way forward? Or is it not a problem?

“Bird Tracks” National Park Service image shared into the public domain as a US Government work

Our Own Twitter Tracks

Before going down the dark side of surveillance, let’s first look at what our activity, tracked in twitter, might afford us (we will get to the negatives later). We are using Twitter in this course as a means of connecting between participants and beyond, sharing ideas.

Who are we in this network?

To explore this over the time of this course, we are going to take a snapshot of our own twitter presence. Some of you will have extensive tracks already, a few maybe just have their first footprints in the digital sand. We are doing this to create a comparison to do at the end of the course.

We will use the Twitter Account Analysis tool created by Luca Hammer. When you go to the site, click the Sign in With Twitter button.

This may be a familiar process for you; often we use our accounts with Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn to log into other sites. Be doing so we grant permission to the site we want to use, to use certain aspects of our accounts on these host sites. For the most part, these are reasonable. But do you ever stop to think what is happening?

Nope, I don’t usually think about that. But this one is ok.

Once you have given permission to this site, you can see an account of your own twitter account. One the first screen you can see data on your activity, when and how much you tweet.

I tweet more in the mornings and more on weekdays. What does your activity indicate?

Make a screenshot of your own activity like I did above (if you need help saving a screenshot as an image file on your device, refer to Save this file and use it in your blog post.

Scrolling down the page, you will find more data on the ways you access twitter and details on specific activity in twitter

You can see I tweet most from Tweetdeck but a fair bit using Echofon (mobile app). My activity is almost equal tweets and replies, and you can see whom I interact with and the hashtags I use.

As an individual, this is rather useful as insight into my activity. You may notice you can look at the activities of any other twitter user. And you may wonder about what all this data means in aggregate.

Twitter Tracks Within #Netnarr

Our use of a twitter hashtag means we can create a loose community within the much larger general one of twitter. And we can find our own presence within that network via a tool called Twitter TAGS.

This makes an archive of all activity in a Google Spreadsheet– for example, you can see a summary of activity for anyone who has used the #netnarr hashtag or mentioned the @netnarr account.

But more interestingly this tool creates an interactive, dynamic map of the conversations, go explore it.

Snapshot of #netnarr conversations as of January 22, 2018. Try clicking and dragging nodes to re-arrange

Each node is a person, the size of it’s label is proportional to the number of #netnarr tweets, and lines represent a relationship of mentioning or retweeting someone else. What does this shape say about the community.

But there is more! Try to find your own node, when you click it, you can see all the data associated with any individual’s activity.

One person’s #netnarr twitter activity. You can see the tweets they have posted, and how often replies or mentions happen. Can you find yourself?

Find your own node and date, and save this too as a screenshot.

But do not stop, there is one more piece of magic. Click Replay Tweets to see ab animation of the person’s activity and connections over time; you can visualize the building of their own network inside another (inside another).

The playback of twitter activity within this hashtag shows how one’s network grows over time.

At our own level and within our network, this tracking seems rather useful. What do you think?

Studio Visit With Brett Gaylor

This week we have our first NetNarr Studio Visit. These are times when we have arranged to visit, through Google Hangout video, practitioners in Digital Alchemy. This week, we have a visit with Brett Gaylor, producer of the Do Not Track documentary. That’s why we asked you to watch an episode or two before class.

For those that missed this session, we have an archive for you!

We encourage you to tweet along, too. Always. Review the event page for more information about Brett and his work. Come ready with questions for him.

In-Class Activities


After our studio visit we will review and answer your questions about blogging in this course, including embedding media, hyperlinks, organizing your posts with tags and categories, and finding your blogging voice.

Set up your blog to organize your work with at least these categories/tags/labels (there is a networked reason to use the same names…)

  • Weeklies for your weekly reflections
  • Gold for your best of favorite things created.
  • One for each of our topics/genres:
    • Digital Life
    • Digital Art
    • Games
    • Elit

Learn how to embed media in your posts (this is from the NetNarr Blogging Guide):

WordPress makes embedding media really simple; simply by putting a URL to the place on the web you found it (YouTube or vimeo page, flickr page, etc)– see WordPress guides for uploading media and embedding content.

In the Blogger visual interface, you can add or upload media to embed pretty easy. Tumblr also offers a variety of post types intended to include media in a page.

With almost any blogging platform, you can also manually insert what you might find on media sites as “embed codes”– snippets of HTML that you copy and paste into your blog editor– just note that to have these codes work, you must be using the HTML editor mode of your platform.

For additional references:

First Web Annotation “Jam”

Next, we will get some practice in using the web annotation tool. Make sure you know how to login to your account (Note: the tool works best on Chrome or Firefox browsers as well as iOS and Android mobile devices).

There are multiple ways to activate the annotation tool. Here on the NetNarr web site, all of our pages automatically load the Hypothesis tools, whether you have an account or not (meaning your annotations are publically viewable).

For our first annotation together we are going to add some commentary to the event page for the Brett Gaylor studio visit.

Look for the annotation tools in the top right corner of your browser

If you are not logged into you can do so right here. When you go to the page we will annotate, click the top < button which opens the annotation tool.

When the tool opens, check to see if you are logged in.

Unlike comments which are attached to an entire document, web annotation are connected to a phrase or sentence within a document or web page. While reading, when you feel like you’d like to comment or add additional information, highlight the phrase or sentence you wish to attach your remarks to.

Click the annotate icon. The highlight tool is also very useful, just like a yellow marker in a book. All your highlights are visible to just you and are saved to your account.

When you annotate, use the composition pane to write your remarks. You might notice you can do basic formatting and include hyperlinks.

Note there is a space for a tag… can you guess what tags we suggest you use? Yes, try to use netnarr on everything you annotate in our reading that you think is worth sharing with our network– all tagged annotations can be seen at

If you see someone else’s remarks, you can also write a reply. This is very conversational.

So our task is to as much commentary based on our studio visit with Brett and also add extra information to this page.

Another powerful thing to note is that every annotation has a unique web address, so you can share a direct link that will open the web page that was annotated with the tool and the annotation open. Try this one.

And finally, note how each one of you is building a track of your annotation and highlight activity. Maybe you can see how this can work as a note taking tool for your web reading activity.

My activity, each one is linked to the source and my annotation there.

Annotate Anything

Empowered with this tool you can annotate almost any web content. We recommend installing the browser extension. This adds an icon to your browser tool that can let you summon the tool on any web page you are reading.

You can also use the Link tool – this lets you generate a link to your desired page that will open the tool. For example, your next assignment will be to read and provide commentary on an article in The Guardian – try it using this link to see how it loads the annotation tool.

For more on using see:

Wikimedia Commons image by David Liff shared under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA

The Referencium

In this course you will be reading from many online sources, looking at numerous resources. How do you keep track of your own wanderings of the internet?

We are going to collectively build something from all the different resources we come across individually, a resource guide for the course theme of “This Digital Life” as well as one each for the three genres of Digital Art, Gaming and Game Mechanics, and Electronic Literature.

This week we introduce the place and method we will do this, the Referencium. All this means is we will all contribute one or more reading, reference, video on the web into a a Google Doc that will eventually be edited into a published web article on this site.

Remixed with apologies to Magritte

Woah What’s At the Bottom Here? Stuff to Do!

Here’s your checklist for NetNarr Week 2, this items due before end of day Sunday. But why wait until Sunday? Get ahead of the alchemy!

The Weekly Summary

Summary of the Week

There is a lot to digest this week! We are not looking for you to write academic essay, but share your thoughts, ideas on the issues we looked at this week.

First of all, please organize your post with a Weeklies tag, label or category. This does two things, it organizes them in one place on your blog, but also, we get our own network effect to connect and see everyone’s weekly reflections.

As you practice and refine your blog writing alchemy (refer to How to Blog Like an Alchemy Champion), remember the levels of performance from the grade contract. Your blog posts should not only share what you did, but also how and why behind the work.

When you share your work such as your tweets for Daily Digital Alchemies or your annotations, an Alchemy Champion post will include some additional thoughts about how you came up with your responses, and if they at all connect to other topics we are discussing or people in the network.

Mostly, share what you learned or what thoughts, worries, ideas came out of our readings and discussions on Data Tracking. What caught your attention? What generates a reaction? What worries, scares, excites you? Yes, it’s scary perhaps, and worrisome, but as we discussed in class, is there really nothing we can do about data tracking? What does it mean if we resign ourselves to accept this.

What did you learn about tracking this week from our conversation with Brett Gaylor and the Do Not Track documentary? Are you considering changing any habits? What is your impression of the web documentary format?

Here is one more bit of Alchemy magic for you; you can link directly to a specific moment in the archive of the hangout to reference a specific part of the conversation:

Linking to a specific part of a video, via the share button in Youtube

While watching the video from the YouTube page, using the Share button you can create a link that launches the video at that moment, for example when Brett answers a student’s question about the reshaping of identity in disaggregated environment. Using these specific links in your blog post about the discussion will make your post even more Champion-like.

For more material and some other account analysis tools related to the issues of data tracking, you might want to explore (this are not assigned but can help you generate ideas to write about):

Consider the impact of time and attention given to mobile apps and internet web sites, both from an individual perspective and as a society. What was you reaction to the Is This Panda Dancing video? Did you go to the YouTube page and follow information from there?

What did your analysis of your twitter account reveal to you, both individually and within #netnarr? Do you have any sense of how this can work to connect to peers outside of our class? Did you interact with any of them? Do they worry you (like the weird cow)? What does the shape and form of the #netnarr conversation explorer indicate about this community? Is it a community at all? How can you make your label bigger and more connected? Is there value in this or are you doing it because it’s part of a class assignment?

How did it work for you to use to read online and engage in discussions? A good annotation is one that adds information or discussion to the original content, more than “I agree” or “this is right” (for suggestions see Annotation Tips for Students). Include links to your own or other’s annotations in your reflection. Might you use this readings outside of class?

For Next Week

Next week we are starting our segment of the course on Digital Art. Before class review the introduction to New Media Art by Mark Tribe and Reena Traba, new-media-art-tribe-jana-intro.

It’s a book from 2006 but it does provide a practical and historical guide to digital art and early web-based art.

Try out your on this PDF. You will need to have the browser extension installed (Chrome is suggested for a browser) — get your browser tools from You can download the PDF link, and load it into your web browser by dragging and dropping the file from your computer into an open window.

Click the icon on your toolbar to turn on the tools. If you get stuck, don’t panic. This might be a good time to try asking for help on twitter, or contact your instructor.

What is digital art? Hmmm.

Featured Image: A photo I took this morning and have yet to upload to flickr. When I do, you can bet a paycheck it will be a public domain shared photo using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Profile Picture for Alan Levine
Alan Levine feels weird writing about himself in the third person. A 1990s pioneer on the web and early proponent of blogging, he shares his ideas at His interests include web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), mocking MOOCs, daily photography, bending WordPress, and randomly dipping into the infinite river of the internet.


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