With Flick of Finger, a Dumb House Gets Smart

Here a open source means to home automate:


A video from AP Mobile:

With Flick of Finger, a Dumb House Gets Smart

thumbnailIn this interconnected world, the next big thing may be a fully-wired house. With everything from door locks to coffee makers to pet feeders controllable from an app on your smart phone. The AP’s Lee Powell enters the smart house. (May 16)

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Smart Homes: A Bright New Future for Residential Security

Nowadays, it can be difficult for the average consumer to keep up with the rapid pace of technological development. Most businesses share the same challenge. In fact, the most successful companies gain a competitive edge by continuing to evolve and adapt to these incessant changes.

Home security is one industry that is undergoing wholesale changes in response to technological innovation. The business was born in when Boston inventor was issued the first patent on electromagnetic burglar alarms in 1853. Over a century and a half later, high-tech wireless alarm systems are replacing traditional hard-wired systems as the industry standard. But here’s the kicker: the home security business is beginning to branch outside of – well – home security. In addition to catching burglars and detecting fires, modern security systems are now also being designed to manage energy consumption, control electronic appliances – and much more.

This new and exciting technology is called home automation.

What is home automation

We are now living in a gadget-dominated world. Tablets, smartphones, 3D televisions and other gizmos play an integral role in our everyday lives – and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The future is exciting, daunting and confusing all at once. As technology continues to advance and give birth to new innovations, it can become extremely challenging to keep up with all of this innovation.

But what if you can make all of this technology work together?

A connected, or “smart home” was once considered a fantasy that could only be seen in futuristic Hollywood movies and TV shows. But now, this technology is not only a reality, but also affordable for the masses.

A home automation system allows you to integrate the various technological devices work together into one simple-to-use application – accessible through a remote control. These systems can be managed within the home, or remotely, using a smartphone, computer or other web-enabled device. Listed below are some of the things a home automation system can do:

  • Control your thermostat and lights
  • Watch real-time surveillance video of your home
  • Play music in any room with connected speakers
  • Control your home theater system
  • Arm and disarm your home security system
  • Remotely lock and unlock doors

Home security adopts home automation

Many high-profile residential security companies have already begun offering these services to their customers. For example ADT (check out http://www.securitychoice.com/), released ADT Pulse in October 2010 – giving their customers the ability to manage nearly every aspect of their home from a smartphone application.

The future of home automation

The shocking part of home automation technology – it’s just in its infancy. Today’s smart devices don’t all run on the same technology (X10, Insteon, ZigBee, etc.), making many devices or systems incompatible with one another.

While it’s hard to know what home automation technology will look like down the road, its future as a valuable commodity is anything but uncertain. According to international industrial company Ingersoll Rand, the smart home industry will reach $2.5 billion in just two years – a 30 percent increase in the number of households with such home automation systems.

CES 2013 Highlights from Cali Lewis

Cali Lewis has been interested in home automation for as long as I’ve beeen following her video blog.  In her highlights from CES 2013 she mentions a few items and her new cohost did an entire segment on one product but I was actually hoping for a more thorough investigation of this subject.  Maybe next year.

Her latest post back at GeekBeat.TV is on home gardening


The ‘Scrogging’ of Khan: Putting Geneticists in their Place


Finally, the genetics nerds have been put in their place!!  Michael Scroggins fills the role of Kirk with Razib Khan as Khan.  Read on directly at ethnography.com .  I’ve seen Michael take people apart in person, but never before via the pen.

In the Star Trek episode “Space Seed”, Khan was a genetically engineered human who, in the wake of the eugenic wars, was exiled to a distant planet. This Khan is a sensitive observer of the human condition, who at one point, asks Kirk if he has ever read Milton. Kirk, in turn, laments, “Yes, I understand.” Khan, of course, was a sensitive and wise commentator on the perils and potential of genetics. There exists a second Khan, however, and his vengeful wrath has been visited upon me. This post concerns that second Khan who, unlike the first Khan, is neither sensitive nor wise. The first Khan expounds on the terrible responsibility his position has left him in. The second Khan expounds ondating and eugenics.  A few samples of this second Khan’s “science” in action follow. Excerpts taken from the links above: Khan on dating:

A few points need to be made clear: males do not exhibit statistically significant racial preferences by and large. That’s somewhat shocking to me. I’m not surprised that older subjects have weaker biases, I suspect frankly they’re more realistic and don’t want to narrow their options anymore than they have to. Finally, I’m totally confused as to why hotties would be less race conscious; you would figure if hybrid vigor is real that the marginal returns would be greatest for the fuglies (specifically, assuming that fugitude correlates with individual mutational load and hybridization would be better at masking that load). But the most relevant demographic point is that these are Columbia University graduate students. In other words, a cognitively & socially elite sample.

This selection makes me smile a bit as I am a member of the “elite” population he is writing about. Which is a nice compliment, if a bit at odds with his contention that I am a “Left Creationist”, but then who I am I to judge? I won’t say much here, except that the second Khan’s interpretation of the phenomena of dating among “elite” graduate student bears no resemblance to actual facts on the ground. Which, when it comes to his interpretations of human behavior is par for the course. This is actually one of his better efforts, much worse follows:

Read the rest of this great post here: http://www.ethnography.com/2013/03/gene-promoters-2-the-wrath-of-khan/

I cannot wait for the next two parts of this tale.

Ethnography Matters

WendyHsu_pineconeEditor’s Note: Can ethnographers use software programs? Last month’s guest contributor, Wendy Hsu @WendyFHsu, says YES! In Part 1 of On Digital Ethnography, What do computers have to do with ethnography?, Wendy introduced her process of using computer programming software to collect quantitative data in her ethnographic research. She received a lot of great comments and suggestions from readers. 

Part 2 of of Wendy’s Digital Ethnography series focuses on the processing and interpreting part. In fascinating detail, Wendy discusses mapping as a mode of discovery. We learn how using a customized spatial “algorithm that balances point density and readability” can reveal patterns that inform the physical spread of musicians’ fans and friends globally. Geo-location data clarified her qualitative data. We are already in great anticipation for Part 3! 

Check out past posts from guest bloggers


In my last post, I introduced the idea of using…

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Mom, I am now a big league blogger on Ethnography.com

Dear Followers of TheAnthroGeek.

Take note that I am blogging on the wildly popular blog Ethnography.com. I was recently deeply honored to have been invited to blog on Ethnography.com, considered by most to be one of the top anthropology blogs in the universe.

Here is a link to my inaugural post:


My hope is to report on notable references to ethnography on a weekly basis.  This effort began with an project I attempted when I was the managing editor of the NAPA website.  I tagged that effort as “TWIAN” or  “This Week in Anthropology”. TWIAN focused on issues of anthropological practice that were of interest to the NAPA Anthro membership.  It never really took off and has been laying dorment for some time.  Anthropology may be too broad of a topic whereas Ethnography is just the right size!   So now I am starting TWIE or This Week in Ethnography.  If it generates interest (hint hint), I’ll continue doing it.

What is a true bit of kismet and a prescient confirmation of my decision to start focusing my efforts on Ethnography.com is that one of my final TWIAN posts was sourcing Ethnography.com as you can see at the following link.

TWAIN: Learning Foreign Languages (Ethnography.com)

Cultural Ecology and Neo-Evolutionary Thought

Julian Steward Studied anthropology at Berkley under A.L. Kroeber. He first started in archeology and then moved to ethnography and worked with the Shoshoni, Pueblo, and later the Carrier Indians in British Columbia. He investigated the parallel developmental sequences in the evolution of civilizations in the New and Old Worlds. He proposed that cultures in similar environments would tend to follow the same developmental sequences and formulate similar responses to their environmental challenges. Steward did not believe that cultures followed a single universal sequence of development; he proposed instead that cultures could evolve in any number of distinct patterns depending on their environmental circumstances. He called this theory multilinear evolution to distinguish it from unilineal evolutionary theory. He then created the field of study called Cultural Ecology (the examination of the cultural adaptations formulated by human beings to meet the challenges posed by their environments).

Leslie White  White studied at the University of Chicago under Edward Sapir, a student of Boas. He read the works of Morgan, and argued that much of what Morgan wrote was correct. .He agreed that cross-cultural comparison showed that cultural evolution did exist and that this evolution was in the direction of increasing complexity.  He argued that the nineteenth century thinkers failed to develop a non-ethnocentric, scientific method of accurately assessing cultural complexity.  In White’s “Energy and the Evolution of Culture”, White proposed that the control of energy was a key factor in cultural evolution and could serve as the standard by which to measure evolutionary progress.  White understood culture as the means by which humans adapted to nature. White separated culture into three analytical levels: technological, sociological and idealogical. Like Marx, he believed that all the institutions of society contributed to the evolution of culture; however, technology played the primary role in social evolution and changes in technology affected a society’s institutions and value system.

George Peter Murdock George Murdock was greatly influenced by the work of Spencer and Morgan. He graduated from Yale and taught there for 32 years. Murdock was interested in the statistical testing of cross-cultural hypotheses, in direct opposition to Boas’ avoidance of cross-cultural generalizations. In 1937 the Human Relations Areas Files, a bank of ethnographic data on more than one thousand societies indexed according to standardized categories. Using this information, one can conduct cross-cultural quantitative analysis and test cultural hypotheses in a wide variety of societies. In 1949 his book “Social Structure”, he believed that a universal set of principles governed the relationship between family structure, kinship, and marriage practices.  Murdock attempted to determine these principles through quantitative analysis and, using comparative data from 250 societies, he was able to demonstrate the utility of the HRAF. Murdock recognized that Morgan’s study of kinship was instrumental in shaping the quantitative-comparative approach he developed in Social Structure.



Chair: Michael Scroggins (Teachers College Columbia University)
Discussant: Raymond P McDermott (Stanford University)

Session Abstract: A pertinent legacy of the educational historian Lawrence Cremin for anthropology is to be found within Traditions of American Education (New York: Basic Books, 1977). In this broad work Cremin stakes out an interactionalist position, “From this interactionist view stems the definition of education as purposeful, the conception of the configuration as a patterning of institutions, the view of personality as a biosocial emergence, and the idea of the educative process as a continuum of contemporaneous and successive transactions. (162)” Cremin’s oft quoted definition of education flows directly from this position. Elaborating upon Cremin’s interactionalist definition of education is beneficial for two related reasons. First, as Cremin noted elsewhere, his definition of education is narrower than definitions of enculturation or socialization. An immediate consequence of this narrowed perspective is to focus attention on the purposeful activity of participants and away from hidden process occurring with bounded minds. Second, Cremin’s definition of education lacks a sense of inevitability. Education cannot be automatic, nor can an outcome be pre-determined. Educative interactions are, rather, contingent upon, and open to unforeseen improvisations, interventions and resistance. Interactions are both formed by and forming of activity and must be considered within the moorings of a particular context and a particular purpose. The papers in this panel explore the interaction between unexpected events encountered during the ordinary business of living and the purposefully educative reactions to them. The explanatory power of Cremin’s approach to education throughout the lives of people is clearly illustrated in the wide array of contexts included in this panel. The first three papers focus upon aspects of career development both in the U.S. and abroad. Scroggins describes the applied work of engineers as they navigate the unknown waters of their future livelihood as engineers. Bang focuses on the work of South Korean high school students and their parents as they work to improve their chances at success in university. Santana’s paper illustrates the ongoing work of Mexican wrestlers as they build and maintain their careers in the public domain of Mexican popular culture. The last three papers focus on issues that are more peripheral to career building but are no less important. Van Tiem describes the work of psychotherapists who work with the unpredictable behavior of horses as a means to educating patients about themselves. Wessler’s paper illustrates the educative power that reactions to urban violence can have for children in Harlem. Finally, Mullooly’s paper focuses on unexpected moments in the formative years of students and the significance such moments bring to these students’ future career choices. The session will conclude with a discussion by Raymond McDermott who will link all the papers together through a discussion of Cremin’s theoretical frame.


Engineering Opportunities: Tactics and Appropriation In the Ordinary Business of Selling Yourself
Michael Scroggins (Teachers College Columbia University)
Paper Abstract: In his essay Public Education (1976), Cremin brought attention to those non-school institutions which play a pedagogic role. To condense and restate Cremin’s argument, legion are the institutions which educate while few are the institutions we recognize as educative. Engineering pedagogy is, at its core, based on applied work. This has two immediate consequences, a) within engineering, experience is prized over academic qualifications and b) engineers have an easier time than most professionals slipping between the worlds of private enterprise and the academe. This is another way of saying that engineering, more than most disciplines, has one foot firmly in the business of ordinary life and the other tepidly in the realm of theory. As such, the training of engineers is a productive place to find those institutions which are rarely thought of as educative. I will argue through a case study of an engineering project at a middle tier public university in California that the interaction between two unexpected events a) a change in California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, which has caused a contraction in the variety of lab classes and academic activities available to engineering students and b) the ongoing and persistent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have caused a change in the technical skills required by engineering firms, have together caused a change in the experiences engineering students deem necessary to attract an employer.

Lucha Libre: Constraining “Free Struggle” In Contemporary Mexico
Adela L Santana (Independent Researcher)
Paper Abstract: Lucha libre (which translates as “free struggle”) is a spectacle located at the crossroads of combat sports, popular theater and circus. Yet in spite of its comedic element, lucha libre requires an end to each match where winners and losers are clearly distinguished. Additionally, the committed interaction and performance of the public is essential to the ongoing, culturally productive value of lucha libre as a defining spectacle in contemporary Mexico. Even if every spectator knows the rules of the game almost as a religious mantra, these rules are voiced very loudly at the beginning of each match: “these luchadores will fight 2 out of 3 falls without a time limit”. What follows is a spectacle based as much upon the meticulous gym training whereby grapples, falls and conditioning drills are learned as it is on the rigorous mental discipline that is worked by a luchador in order to develop ring knowledge, his/her own particular charisma and an understanding of the audience and how to interact with it. The improvisations, interventions and acts of resistance that occur within this highly bounded space require a complex conceptualization of education that will engage with the intensely malleable significations that are put forth in every match. I will utilize Lawrence Cremin’s theoretical frame to approach the wide spectrum of unpredictable outcomes that incorporate the public as well as the luchadores into a vortex of strenuous physical action, cultural symbolism, gender and body politics as well as inventive conceptions of self and body.

Pedagogical Objects: Education In the Context of Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy
Jennifer Margaret Van Tiem (Teachers College)
Paper Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explore moments and processes of education about the self as an object made available to pedagogical surveillance. In this context, it is imperative that education be “contingent, and open to unforseen improvisations, interventions and resistance,” in order to vivify a kind of symmetry between the work process (therapy) and the object being worked upon (the self). In the context of equine-assisted psychotherapy, a horse mediates this symmetry between therapy and the self. Networks of context-specific artifacts, people, and horses offer a somatic and emotional context and it is through activating aspects of these elements, in a particular order, that therapy is intended to occur. That which brought individuals to the therapy session is rarely pointed to and whatever encouraged attendance is exercised (or exorcised) by a curriculum of lessons made up of particular work that specifically entails practicing seemingly-extravagant techniques with one’s body. At the same time, therapy sessions almost never conform to the planned curriculum and, yet, the work of the therapy is not compromised. Given these observations, equine-assisted psychotherapy offers a revealing context in which to explore and expand upon Cremin’s notion of “the educative process as a continuum of contemporaneous and successive transactions,” as the potential asymmetries offered by the horse raises questions about what qualifies as an educative transaction and process, while also forces attention to that which is “empirically available” in order to be responsible to the uniqueness of the horse.

From “Merit” to “Merit(s)”: Unintended Outcomes In South Korean University Admissions
Yookyung Bang (Teachers College Columbia University)
Paper Abstract: In 2007, ten South Korean universities began to implement alternative criteria for student evaluation, and more universities followed the trend soon thereafter. Instead of relying exclusively on standardized test scores and high school grades, these institutions adopted a holistic approach, citing prestigious U.S. universities as their models, in order to “qualitatively” evaluate each student’s “potentials and individual characteristics” and to reduce pressure on students and parents spending much money and time to prepare for the high-stake national standardized test for university entrance. This research explores how South Korean high school students and families navigate the recent changes in university admission policies and how they “informally” educate themselves about the new system in order to gain access to “formal” higher education. During the nine-week study, students and families were observed to attend information sessions held by for-profit private educational institutes and universities and participate in online forums in order to educate themselves about the new definition of “merit.” As Cremin’s notion of education points out, in such educative moments, the produced outcomes may be intended or unintended, and the unintended outcomes “may be more significant than the intended.” As the students and other stakeholders explore and contest the new admission system, a specific and relative notion of individual “merit” emerges in the process.

“Ordinary Violence”:Harlem Youth and Everyday Education
Sarah Wessler (Teachers College Columbia University)
Paper Abstract: This research explores how adolescents acquire safety information in informal settings outside of education institutions, clinics and community programs. Homicide is the leading cause of death among youth aged 15 to 19 in New York City and Harlem has one of the highest preventable mortality rates in the United States. Harlem teens report frequent exposure to violence in schools and neighborhoods and have high school dropout rates above the national average. Preliminary research findings explore strategies used by youth to make sense of ordinary violence: one young woman describes the annual ritual practice to honor a murdered loved one, another young man reveals his methods to prevent harassment by local police, and a third teen reads an online news report to separate fact and fiction of a brutal neighborhood shooting that resulted in the death of an ex-boyfriend. During this three-month pilot study, adolescents living in Harlem were observed at home watching television, hanging out with friends, and communicating with one another via social networking tools and websites. Youth shared anecdotes and discourses about neighborhood violence and constantly developed strategies to ensure health and safety. Findings from this research will provide educators, administrators and policymakers with a clearer understanding of how safety information among urban youth is learned and disseminated informally. Through these everyday conversations and practices we can more adequately bridge discourses between safety and disparity to address the complex needs of urban adolescents.

Unexpected Education: Understanding the STEM Pipeline In California’s Central Valley
Paper Abstract: There has been considerable focus on the current underrepresentation of U.S. citizens – and minorities in particular – in STEM fields (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). In response to this trend, a number of efforts have been designed to encourage U.S. students of all ages, classes and ethnicities to become more interested in STEM areas. The current study illustrates how Lawrence Cremin’s approach to education sheds light on an improved understanding of this problem. Cremin’s definition of education “recognizes that there is often conflict between what educators are trying to teach and what is learned from the ordinary business of living” (1976). Cremin’s implicit dichotomy between “other phenomena” and “ordinary phenomena” moves away from the classic dichotomies of formal/informal education, school/home, best/worst practices by shifting the emphasis from approaches entrapped in “opportunities to learn” methodologies to approaches which are open to the unknown and how to prepare students for such unknowns. The presentation reports on two ethnographic investigations of the sorts of “unexpected educations” Cremin’s work accommodates. The first looks at the efforts of one engineering students’ work at organizing a team of poor, rural Latino middle school students to compete in a large robotics competition in their region. The second looks at the routine activities of teachers and students at an urban public high school that is incorporating a focus on “unexpected educations” through the implementation of a novel pedagogical model that offers a variety of career pathways to students.