Why does dating have to be so awkward?There’s so much anxiety surrounding meeting someone for the first time. There’s what to wear, obviously. Then, what to talk about? How much do we reveal about ourselves? And what about those dreaded uncomfortable silences?In an attempt to circumnavigate or subvert this modern dilemma, Lauren McCarthy discovered that dating doesn’t have to be the hive-inducing stressor we make it out to be. Not with the help of the virtual world to back you up.For a month, McCarthy went on a series of dates with suitors from the popular dating site OkCupid. She surreptitiously live-streamed the entirety of the dates, seeking the feedback of strangers paid to watch and offer their input.“Tell him a secret,” one viewer wrote. “Have a bit more excitement and interest,” said another.If this sounds weird, or perhaps perfectly normal, that’s the point.McCarthy is an artist and programmer, and life’s uncomfortable moments fascinate her, she admitted, partly because she’s a bit uncomfortable herself.McCarthy studied computer science and art at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and said she was fine in that inner circle of academia and … nerdishness. “But in the real world I didn’t have any social skills,” she said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I can hack my way out of a situation.’ ”One early project involved designing a hat that detected if McCarthy was smiling — and delivered pain to her if she wasn’t. But more recently, McCarthy’s work has toyed with identity and social interactions and the ways those converge with our dependence on technology.In a Tuesday lunchtime talk at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, McCarthy discussed her work with center co-founder and director Jonathan Zittrain and confessed that while her projects deal with larger, dystopian issues, they’re also personal.“The dates got confusing because I was being myself,” she said of the crowdsourced dating experiment. “But I was also getting these instructions.”And why not?“What responsibility do we have to maintain an acceptable model of behavior?” McCarthy wondered, clarifying that her seemingly outrageous ideas all stemmed from “me thinking about what I didn’t do well.”In 2010, McCarthy created Conversacube, a box that prompts each user with “directions or lines to keep the conversation running seamlessly with minimal awkward or uncomfortable moments.”“I’d started to think about getting feedback on conversation,” she said. “We do this all the time in other ways — liking, favoriting, retweeting — but shifted into physical space.”Then in 2013 came us+, a Google Hangout app “that analyzes speech and facial expression to improve conversation.”“It’s kind of terrifying to think about,” said McCarthy, “because what if it actually works?”Her latest endeavor is Crowdpilot, a downloadable app that allows friends, Facebook friends, or strangers to eavesdrop on your activities — be it on a date or a phone call — and send you their feedback.While her work has been interpreted as humorous and at times invasive, there’s something poignant about her tools, which are focused on creating meaningful connections.“I’m always trying to make something serious, and earnest, and optimistic,” McCarthy said. But ever the self-conscious MIT grad, she added, “Basically, I’m trying to create my own personal hell with these projects and seeing if I can survive.”
October 22, 2009Poll shows growing flu concern, uncertainty about vaccineAmericans are more concerned about pandemic H1N1 flu than they were a couple of months ago, with about 52% saying they are greatly or somewhat worried, according to the latest Washington Post–ABC poll. The number is up 13 percentage points from August. However, only about a third say they’ll get the vaccine, though half said they’ll have their kids vaccinated. Those saying they’ll pass on the vaccine listed side-effect worries and perceived lack of testing as influencing their decision.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/postpoll_101909.htmlOct 15-18 Washington Post–ABC News PollSingle dose of Chinese H1N1 vaccine found effectiveIn a clinical trial, a single 15-microgram dose of a nonadjuvanted H1N1 vaccine recently licensed in China was found to induce a probably protective immune response in volunteers between the ages of 12 and 60, according to an report published yesterday by the New England Journal of Medicine. Lesser immune responses were seen with a single dose in younger and older people. The vaccine is made by Hualan Biological Bacterin Co.http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/NEJMoa0908535Oct 21 NEJM reportCanada’s pandemic vaccine campaign will have an unadjuvanted optionCanada has purchased 1.8 million doses of unadjuvanted pandemic H1N1 vaccine to use in the youngest children as well as pregnant women and others who might want an alternative to the adjuvanted version, the Canadian Press reported yesterday. Canada’s adjuvanted vaccine was approved on Oct 16. Officials predict that the unadjuvanted vaccine will be cleared in early November, but they don’t want people to wait for it even though experts say it may produce a more robust response in children under age 3.Doctors report rhabdomyolysis in pandemic flu patientAustralian physicians have documented a rare complication in a patient with pandemic H1N1 flu, myositis, and rhabdomyolysis. They reported their findings in an early online edition of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. According to a news report today about the study, the 16-year-old boy experienced intense muscle pain and nearly black urine 3 days after his flu symptoms began in June when the first wave of the pandemic hit Australia. He recovered after 8 days in the hospital.http://journals.lww.com/pidj/Abstract/publishahead/Melting_Muscles__Novel_H1N1_Influenza_A_Associated.99512.aspxOct 16 PIDJ abstractTamiflu treatment spawned resistance in Taiwan H1N1 caseTaiwan reported this week that the pandemic H1N1 virus became resistant to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) after a patient was treated with the drug. Oseltamivir-sensitive H1N1 was isolated from a 20-year-old man before treatment, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said. Three days later, after treatment began, an isolate from the man showed the resistance mutation. The man recovered, and there was no evidence that the virus spread to others. His case marked Taiwan’s first report of H1N1 resistance to the agent.http://www.cdc.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=26002&ctNode=960&mp=5Oct 20 Taiwan CDC reportFlu control measures seem to reduce other diseases in BoliviaHealth officials in Bolivia say a massive campaign to promote handwashing to prevent H1N1 flu seems to have reduced the spread of other common diseases, according to a Time magazine report. Dr. Rene Lenis, Bolivia’s director of epidemiology, reported a 10% to 15% drop in incidence of acute diarrheal diseases in all age-groups this year compared with last year. Public health agencies began promoting handwashing when the virus emerged in April.http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1931223,00.html?xid=rss-topstoriesOct 22 Time reportEgyptian capital cuts class sizes to curb flu spreadEgypt’s health and education ministries have ordered schools in Cairo to halve class sizes to slow the spread of the pandemic virus, IRIN News, a United Nations publication, reported today. Children will attend school on 3 alternate days instead of 6 double-shift days, a variation on a long-standing system to reduce crowding. The World Health Organization has said school closures can be disruptive and has recommended that schools take other preventive measures, such as easing crowding.http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=86695Oct 22 IRIN story
It is a great time to be a USC football fan. Looking back at the first couple weeks of the season, I would have never thought I would be saying that right now. The growth and maturity that this team has shown through the season, along with their ability to battle back, are why it’s such a great time to be a part of Trojan Nation. Of course, it is probably amazing to be a student while your team is regarded as one of the top teams in the nation and has a legitimate chance at playing in the playoff, but to me, there is something just as gratifying being a student while your team is building the foundation for an eventual championship run. The talk surrounding the program was predominantly about firing head coach Clay Helton, whether that be during the season while the team was losing or at the eventual end of the season. In addition to that, the general mood for a lot of USC fans was disappointment and anger. USC didn’t let that get to them, though. After the loss to Utah, a different USC has taken the field every Saturday since that game in Salt Lake City. It’s a team with a renewed confidence. A team with swagger. A team that actually knows how to take advantage of their talent and pick apart their opponent’s weaknesses. Frankly, it’s been some of the most fun I’ve had as a sports fan. There’s something exhilarating about watching a team grow and continue to improve week-to-week. There’s nothing stagnant about watching this Trojan team extend their win streak to seven games. As the season has moved forward, each week has presented something new about the already well-known, talented team. Against the Bruins, I’m sure no one would’ve predicted that senior wide receiver De’Quan Hampton would have such an impact on the game. Hampton had two touchdowns for 51 yards on three catches. He was the only receiver to record a touchdown in the 36-14 rout against UCLA. In this foundational period of the team growing back to the prominence of a national powerhouse, it’s exciting to hear USC tossed around in national discussion of top college football teams. That’s a discussion that’s been largely absent over the last couple of seasons. When USC was talked about, it was usually with some coaching situation or off-the-field drama, which isn’t what you want to be known for as a team. It’s refreshing to finally be talked about once again as the team that no one, outside of Alabama, would want to play at the end of the season. For lifelong Trojan fans that are now students, it’s what we grew up accustomed to hearing. To finally hear it as a student, it’s a refreshing reminder of what the USC football team used to be. Even if Colorado wins on Saturday night, which would keep USC out of the Pac-12 Championship game, this will still be a positive season for the Trojans. While it would be amazing to get to play up at Levi’s Stadium for the second season in a row, if the Trojans don’t make it up there, it won’t entirely be a disappointment. Yes, it will sting for a bit, but it’s important to focus on what’s in the future for this program.The building blocks for success are here. It’s apparent as the Trojans have learned to dominate on all sides of the ball. The maturity this team has gained throughout the season is evident in their ability to push mistakes out of their minds during a game along with adapting a fluid game plan to consistently outperform their opponents. Both the Washington upset and the UCLA rout are examples of this. The Trojans made a number of mistakes, some costly ones that led to their opponents scoring, but they didn’t dwell on them. A perfect example of this is junior cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. In both games, miscues or mishaps during a play led to the other team scoring; however, Jackson didn’t let his mistakes define his play that game. He merely brushed them off and then played shutdown defense to finish the game. This season for USC started out bleak with a demoralizing loss to Alabama. The Stanford game was embarrassing as well. What’s important though, is where the team is now and where they’re headed. With the Trojans’ current state, there’s no better feeling than being a USC fan. Jodee Storm Sullivan is a junior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. Her column, “The Storm Report,” runs Tuesdays.