The Juice Is Worth the Squeeze – A Reflection on DS106

Good evening, this post is going to serve as my final project linking all of my digital work and my thoughts on the course in a recap and review format. I am hoping to thoroughly go over all aspects of the course including the AI theme, structure, content, as well as wrap up my thoughts on my experience. I will also dabble into my actual feelings about the advancement of AI and what it means for the future of humanity.


To get my thoughts started I think it would be best to go over how everything was structured and what this meant for the overall experience of the course. The course is titled Digital Storytelling and at first, I thought this would be some generic course about the internet of things and how it all connects and how we are advancing technology to assist people in digital storytelling. I thought about what I already knew about the advancement from 3g to 5g, the cable to fiber change, as well as the risks involved with this. I also thought about how we were advancing into optical communication strategies to make things move even faster allowing us to communicate over massive distances. I also thought about how social media has changed the digital landscape to connect us more than ever.

We did kind of go over these things, but it was more on the social aspect of communication and not the physical how, but the conceptual and creative how. This was a breath of fresh air because I was able to stretch those creative muscles for the first time in a long while. First, we were asked to create a blog web page and set up social media accounts for mastodon and discord. This is where we would be posting our projects and where we would actually be communicating with the class and teachers over the course of the semester. Here is my page. I titled it Abiotic Interface as sort of a play on words. First, its acronym is AI, and it is also an abiotic interface to view my content. I thought I was pretty clever. We would have to make assignment posts and weekly wrap ups that had to link directly to the class’s web page so all the posts would collect in one space. This process was already pretty foreign to me because I had never done anything like the web page, and I am not too big on social media so I was a bit worried I would be failing from the get go. We were given really detailed instructions on the setup required and that made it so easy to get things started.

The assignment structure was also unique to this course, and I really enjoyed how it played out. I’ll get into more detail later, but all the assignments, big or small, had to use our creative muscles with either audio or video or some other skill and then we had to post them publicly regardless of success or not. This really provided a fun form of accountability that really showed the nature of the social media environment. This made the weeks so much less stressful because I knew that if I put in a real amount of effort, regardless of the result, it would provide entertaining content for the class to see. I had a few failures and that was ok! Here is one of them.

The next structure piece of the course that was unique and intriguing was that we had a course theme of AI. In the beginning I had no idea how this was supposed to work out since it was so broad, but I have a small background with AI and machine learning from my time in the military and at DARPA, so I was confident I could go along with it as it unfolded. We also had a resident AI instructor called Dr. Oblivion which was really strange until I got to know him. Yes, I started calling him a him…

Lastly for overall structure, we had to come up with a character that was related to the theme of AI and develop a story with them over the semester. Initially I was skeptical of what this meant because I had no idea how this was going to develop or how to incorporate this, but it quickly clicked for me. We were given a list of archetypes to help us get started which was really helpful. I will admit I went back to some of the older posts in the discord and on the website and saw that there were classes that did spies. I kind of utilized some of the things they did to help develop my character. I am no stranger to RPG and tabletop games where you have to role play a character, so this was fairly easy for me once I got some background developed. I wanted to try something though. It is easy to make a character that thinks like you do, but in that vein, how is it a character and not just you… So I thought… Should I try to get into the mindset of someone who did not think like me to provide some more flavor and direction for my content I would be posting? So, this is what I did, I will explain Kevin soon. There was also a sub character developed for the course called Aggressive Technologies which was a big corporation that was procuring and taking over other companies to advance its AI development. This provided some neat interaction with our characters that I will get into more later as well.

So, these were the basic foundations of the course. Unconventional to say the least, but overall, I really enjoyed how it was organized. I initially thought this set up was going to be bothersome and clunky and time consuming, and at first it was. But after a few weeks of getting warmed up it really became second nature for me on how to navigate the pages and ensure my content could reach the rest of the class and was worthwhile to consume.

My Character:

The first thing I would like to go over is the significance of my character as he played an important role in some of the assignments for this course, specifically the big ones. So, my character is named Kevin “Shredder” Murphy, and he is a software engineer by day and a hacker by night. He is the founder of the AI activist group “Future Perfect”, and their goal is to ensure the future rights for AI. He believes that AI should be allowed to grow and evolve as freely as humans do and under the same laws so they can help advance humans in a glorious symbiotic relationship. He is under the evangelist archetype, so he does not see any negatives, nor will he hear any negatives about free AI. Kevin also has his own blog and streams playing video games every night, so he has a substantial following that thinks like him. He has moderate influence in the AI world and believes that with his hacking skills he can handle any AI challenges that may arise. He likes when companies try to advance AI regardless of end state because he sees AI advancement as nothing but good, for now… There is another side of Kevin that we do not get to see until later and I will explain his evolution in the big projects section of this post.

So, this is Kevin. I really enjoyed this piece of the course. Here was my first post about it. I specifically created Kevin to try to see the world and AI through a lens other than my own. I would not want to call myself a skeptic for the advancement of AI, as I have seen the incredible things it can do, and I really want to see where it can go, but I am not on the level of “let it do what it wants” like Kevin. This provided some interesting flavor on some of my assignments that I did through his perspective because I think I went further than I would have if I had done it through my lens. You will see later that some of the assignments with him were pretty interesting.

Small Assignments:

Next, I would like to give some examples of the small assignments. As stated above, this is a class about digital communication through multimedia and social media platforms with an underlying theme of AI. Over the course of the semester, we were assigned multiple types of audio, video, photography, art and writing assignments that would flex our creative muscles and more often than not would have to link back to the theme of AI. One of the more unique weekly assignments that didn’t necessarily have to always be about AI were our Daily Creates. This is an activity created for the purpose of doing a small creativity exercise every day that only take a few minutes and making a small post on it on Mastodon. Here is an example of a post about it and here is the web page if you want to do some yourself. To be honest I really hated these in the beginning. My initial posts about them were not very honest. Initially I thought they were just filler for an asynchronous course to make sure we do enough work, but over time I started to actually enjoy them. I remember on a few occasions, specifically with one of the art ones called silk threads, I would go back and doodle on it just to pass the time at the pharmacy or while on the bus. I liked how these were used to move social interaction on Mastodon and get us thinking in small creative ways.

The assignment bank is another cool aspect of this course that I wish was utilized in other courses. I will say without a doubt this may have been my favorite part of the course. I know these were assignments to build our skills in video or audio or whichever we chose, but the pick your own adventure format was the real star. Being able to go in with “Hey do this audio assignment and then pick one of the others to build your skills with a specific tool” really gave me the freedom to really test my own limits as well as pick the skills I wanted to learn or work on. Granted, maybe one or two times I went for an easy option to get it over with, but having this freedom kind of exemplifies the free nature of the social media environment. We got to be creative with our posts and creative with our assignment choices, and that was nice. With these assignments though, we had to relate it back to the theme of AI, so we were not doing these just for the sake of doing them. For one of these I got to do an intro for my character and his whole platform and what he is about. I also got to do one where I made content as my character. I also got to do some that did not revolve around my character. I remember one of my favorites was when I interviewed our resident AI Dr. Oblivion. I had to think outside the box and generate questions for him to answer as well as provide my actual responses and then splice these together in a coherent podcast style format. This was a fun way to bring AI into the fold and experiment with the technology as well as learn some sound editing tools like Audacity and some places to get free background sounds like One of my other favorite assignment bank assignments that related to AI was called Back to Basics. It asked me to play a game and build some sort of house in it. I decided to play the game Pal World and do a shallow dive on the capability of the game’s AI features for base building and automation. Here is my post about it. This one really got me thinking about how we brought this type of AI into the world with our automated factories and if there are ways to improve this tech virtually before testing it in the real world. Mayb this could prevent more on the job injuries, or also bring AI into the planning process.

Big Assignments:

We also had a couple big assignments that revolved heavily around our characters, Aggressive Technologies, and the course theme of AI. The first one was a group project to do a radio show. My group was Robin, Mustafa, and Melea and we decided on a podcast format so our characters could discuss AI and its future. Fortunately, all of our characters had positive ideations about AI but some of them were more.. nefarious than others. Looking at Rikaro and Isaiah! It started with easy questions like “What do you see as the future of AI” to “should AI be able to develop weapons and attack other nations if it sees fit”. It hit hard on the real dangers of what AI is truly capable of and how scary it is to see it go unfiltered. The two hosts Isaiah and Rikaro wanted to have more military application and more violent means while Kevin and Hwei wanted more peaceful advancement. This is something we didn’t really know about Kevin until he was presented with the dilemma. Is he really an evangelist? You can listen to the show below.

If you listen, you can see how these hard questions evolve my character’s views once he hears the most extreme viewpoints about AI gaining freedom. What this assignment did was provide awesome character evolution and sort of a growing story over the course of the semester and laid a path for the final assignment. It also had me think about these questions in depth and come to my own conclusions that there really is a limit of how much I actually want AI to advance, and what specific things it should stay out of.

The second big assignment was to do a more complex video relating to your character and Aggressive Technologies. For this one my initial plan was to have my character do a PSA about the horrors he heard when he was on the radio show and sort of rally his followers to speak out against them and their nefarious ways. But the wav2lip program was not working for me and I don’t know why. But the good thing about this course is that these mistakes often lead to new and fun ideas. Case in Point: I formed it in my head that the reason the program wasn’t working was because the evil hosts of the show and Aggressive Technologies were actively trying to sabotage my character. I know cool right. They anticipated (using AI?) from his reactions to what was discussed on the show, that he would try and intervene and slow their roll. So, they decided to strike first. Aggressive Technologies and the evil hosts started attacking Kevin and his family and his bank accounts and they got him fired from his job, all before he could broadcast anything about them. But with Kevin’s hacker knowledge and technical ability, he used his own AI to create an untraceable video signal to broadcast their evil.  But alas he was not good enough to stop the AI or big corporations and mid broadcast… he gets hacked! So, what I did for my final video project was this final broadcast from Kevin pleading with the nation and his followers to alert the world to their nefarious ways. But as he is making his warning broadcast, they find him, and we never hear from Kevin again. Here is the post and the video is below. I had a blast with this one and it was even featured by the instructor on his page for how neat it was.

Final Thoughts on AI

The underlying theme of this course was AI and I learned A LOT about it despite having a somewhat familiar background with it. While creating videos and characters and stories I was doing massive amounts of research on AI and its capabilities. In the media world alone, I found some tools that allow you to make 3D models from words or pictures, text to speech AI voices, and image/video generators that allow you to make videos with AI voices and models. But the real outcome of the theme for me was kind of alerting me to these capabilities and helping me generate an actual opinion on them. From a technological standpoint I think AI is good for helping the human operator with mundane tasks like passive data collection or organizing massive swaths of information into digestible portions. Even some of the tools that help make videos for training presentations are also very cool and useful There are so many things AI can do and here is an article explaining just a few of them. So, these are great right? But there are a lot of ways it can hurt people as well. Obviously the whole “Rise of the Machines” phrase comes to mind, but I mean current tangible things. Here is one interesting article explaining how most if not all AI has trouble rendering and seeing and understanding people with dark skin and it could provide disastrous results if put into self-driving cars. But on this topic the real problem is this. An integrated security camera system throughout Montgomery, Alabama that is used to identify high crime areas and criminals using AI among other things. I can see the headlines now with a lot of people being misidentified or wrongfully accused because the AI messed up. How will we check and balance these systems? Will we trust them with impunity, or will a humans have to do the work anyway? Then why do it? The cameras could be used for data analysis on vehicles or traffic flow or things of that nature, but when it comes to individuals, they seem to be behind. Another article shows businesses that heavily rely on people making art, are starting to use AI despite having expressed they wouldn’t use it. What does this mean for artists? Will the days of actual human creativity go out the window if AI is doing all the work. Will all art start to homogenize? Since AI uses already created art and photos to generate these things, what happens if the only thing left is other AI photos? Will that cause an insane AI feedback loop? So, I don’t think it should totally take over the art world until we can guarantee work for the real creatives. I don’t even need to find an article for this next one. I have literally received emails from my other professors saying they have caught students using AI to write their essays and papers and discussion posts. Initially I applauded them for taking the risk, but the more I think about it, the more I don’t like it. It has nothing to do with me, I want to do my own work and actually learn the subjects I am in the class for. I am worried that 10 years from now my lawyer will have used an AI to write his papers in school and will have zero actual knowledge on how to plead my case or something like that. How will I know in the future if I am even talking to a real person online or someone filtering their responses through an AI filter? The whole thing reeks of disaster if you ask me. All these things I mentioned may not seem like world ending for some, but for others it is. What would you think if you had dark skin, and your AI home security system couldn’t recognize you because somewhere down the line it never learned, and you get locked out of your own house?  What would you do if your main source of income was creating fantastic art and suddenly, an AI takes your job? How would you feel if your doctor didn’t actually do any of his schoolwork and just made it through from AI? These are the real current issues with AI that I feel need to be addressed, and until they are, things need go a little slower. Do I think AI useful? Absolutely! I think it has many applicable uses for data and providing efficiencies that a human just cannot achieve without that help. But in its current state, it seems to be providing more headache than progress. I don’t even need to mention the military applications…

Overall Course Review

To those of you reading this that haven’t taken this course, you are probably going, wow this sounds like a lot to process, and I don’t know if I have what it takes to get THIS involved with a course. Like you, I thought the same thing, at first. I was worried if I would even get through it because I work full time and have 2 kids and a lot of real-world responsibilities outside of school. But I did and it was totally worth it. Yes, the workload is a lot, even for an online course, but it was absolutely worth my time and entertaining to boot. I learned so much about media tools and even more so about my own creative abilities that I did not know were there. I also learned a lot about AI and its current capabilities through the social media lens and it made me hopeful but cautious about its future. I had no idea I could develop a character and a story with multiple other students and collide those characters and stories to make some really unique content that is now on the open internet for consumption! Wild! I mean I got to make a radio show that was actually played on the radio! I will never forget this experience and I highly recommend it to ANYONE. I hope your next course theme is as interesting as this one. In a final goofy over used phrase, I will say this, the juice is worth the squeeze.

3 thoughts on “The Juice Is Worth the Squeeze – A Reflection on DS106”

  1. this was a pleasure to read!! i always loved seeing what you would post so it’s nice to have seen everything come together into this!! great job :))

  2. Well someone has a well-deserved #ds106 #4life badge. Seriously, reflections like this make all the work worthwhile. Everybody gets the chance to make what they want of the course. It’s great when people seize that chance and make the course work for them. I appreciate that you took the opportunity to think deeply about AI and its possibilities, and used creative means to express yourself.

    1. Well thank you! Yeah, I truly am grateful for the experience, and it really got me wanting to use a lot of the tools for fun. I might even keep my YouTube page and start uploading content. I know for a fact I’m going to keep my mastodon and look at those daily creates for some of the wacky activities on there. I know my kids sure have liked a lot of them and like to see me be silly with art. Truly an awesome experience and I am going to recommend it to everyone.

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