ReCode: Newscape Mirror

Aspire Mirror Reimagined…

How does your media exposure and news diet impact your external and internal perceptions? Is there a way to reflect on your “newscape” that can support a range of goals aimed at consuming or producing a specified palette of news.

In the future, I believe half-silvered mirrors can be combined with digital surfaces and ccd sensors to enable individuals to analyze their newscapes in a way that evokes more empathy and reveals the perceptual impact of their news diet.


I have started this exploration with the creation of the Aspire Mirror. The Aspire Mirror is a device  that enables you to look at yourself and see a reflection on your face based on what inspires you or what you hope to empathize with.

The Aspire Mirror currently works by presenting an inspiration panel that offers six lenses. At present, these lenses are set to evoke reflection on

  • Oneness with nature
  • Dedication
  • Humility
  • Self Actualization
  • Harmony
  • Faith


By using similar underlying physical components and changing the software, I am interested in how the mirror can become a platform in the participatory news space. What news lenses can be created? How can we shape the way in which we experience the news or interact with media?


Screenshot 2016-02-10 06.56.46

Let’s imagine the mirror as platform and create new lenses and filters through which we can experience and experiment with news. One immediate exploration we can do is incorporate evocative art that then points observers to more information about a topic.

For example, the singer Usher released Chains on Tidal. The site with your permission tracks your eyes and only plays if you stare into the eyes of victims of violence. In a very literal way, Usher asks us not to look away. When you do look away or go to another tab in your browser, the music stops.

Since the website uses a black background, it offers a perfect backdrop for an Aspire Mirror. Anything that is black behind a half-silvered mirror does not shine through, hence black space translates to an unaltered reflective surface. The result of adding Chains as a lens to an Aspire Mirror is that the face of victims now can be reflected on to you. How does this change your experience of the song or method?

Inclusion in Tech: (Tangental, yet related note)

Screenshot 2016-02-10 06.52.14

Programmed Tech Exclusion? Message on the screen reads, we are struggling to detect your face. Keep trying or click for the non-interactive experience.

Since my undergraduate days at Georgia Tech, I have been working with computer vision and using  open-sources libraries like OpenCV. The algorithms at times reflect the lack of inclusion in the tech space in non obvious but important ways. Commonly used face detection algorithms are trained by providing a set of images that are described as human faces. The faces that are chosen impact what the software recognizes as a face.  A lack of diversity in the training set arises to an inability to easily characterize faces that do not fit the normative derived from the training set.

As a result when I work on projects like the Aspire Mirror, I am reminded that the training sets were not tuned for faces like mine. However, we can do something about it. We can use the power of the crowd to create training sets that reflect more diversity. While there are overfit problems to contend with since training set size and accuracy do not have a perfectly linear relationship, we can create new methods that can better handle diversity in human faces. We can recode the system. And as the founder of @Code4Rights, I would be more than happy to explore this further.

**Is being coded out a benefit when considering issues of privacy?**

Smart Mirror Space:

The materials to create smart mirrors are widely accessible, and internet tutorials on how to make one have been around for a couple of years. One dad made a fantasy magical mirror for his daughter. The smart mirrors of the past tend to focus on sartorial uses, cosmetic application(Augmented Reality) or health monitoring (Wize Mirror) of some kind. More recently, a Google engineer has incorporated a news feed into a DIY smart mirror.

The question is no longer “can it be done?”, the question is “what now shall we build?”. How do we build inclusively?


Anyone who wants to explore the mirror as a platform or recoding face detection should let me know. Tweet me @jovialjoy




News as Experience: In-class Assignment


News as Experience playing cards



Goal: To create a “Profile of a News Experience” that explores the values, affordances and affective impacts of a particular way of delivering the news

Students will divide into groups of 3-4 people. Each group will randomly choose 5 news experience cards.

From the 5 news experience cards, the group will discuss and choose one to work with in the exercise. Your goal is to create a “Profile” of that news experience based on the questions below.

One or more people from the group should be synthesizing the conversation into a short blog post or infographic that can be posted on the blog.

Profile of a News Experience: Easier Questions

  1. Method of attraction – how does the form attract and sustain attention in an attention scarce world?
  2. How did you find this news? Did you subscribe, link from a friend, turn on the TV, etc?
  3. Did you have to choose it (by searching, clicking)? Or did it find you (like radio, push notification)?
  4. When do you experience news in this way (time of day, during what types of activities)? What were you doing immediately before and immediately after experiencing the news in this way?
  5. Are you doing other things while experiencing the news in this way?
  6. Who else was experiencing the same news? Was it co-present, remote, asychronous?
  7. How did you feel while experiencing the news like this? e.g. Intellectually stimulated, guilty pleasure, obligated to read it, riveted until the end, interrupted but kept coming back, bored, occasionally annoyed, took you out of everyday life, etc.
  8. Did you “do anything” based on the news – for example, share it, talk about it with someone, log it somewhere, remember it later, cite it?

Profile of a News Experience: Harder Questions

  1. What kinds of values are embedded in this news experience?
  2. What is this experience’s “theory of the user”? Who do they imagine you are? Does the experience also have a “theory of change”?
  3. What is this experience’s end goal? Virality & eyeballs? Deep listening? Exposé for action?
  4. How are you empowered through this experience? Disempowered?
  5. What kinds of stories is this method good for? bad for? underutilized for?
  6. What other form could you mash up with this for to create a new product that delivers the news?