Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Intersection of Art, Life, Silly & Computer Science

A lot of life goes on on a university campus. At UNC Charlotte, part of that life is avian. Goose, to be specific.

They interrupt traffic, they eat the grass, they poop all over the sidewalks, they spy on you from the rooftops. They generally ignore the people who are interlopers on "their" campus, but occasionally they get annoyed, hiss like a big snake and chase you into a building. Voldemort would be proud.

@UNCCGeese come with... attitude.

They also have perfected the art of snark on Twitter. If you live in Charlotte and use this social media platform, no doubt you have already encountered the tweeting bite of @UNCCGeese.

Forgive me for saying that they seem almost human.

Supporting the argument for their humanity is the evidence that they apparently find the time to take classes, apparently classes in software design. How do we know this? They now have their own app (read a nice story on this here) that allows their human fan base to record their every movement on the internet.

In typical goose style, this sounds like a silly thing, but actually has some serious hiss and bite going on.   As the NBC News story notes:
 So, what’s the point of the app? It’s not really to learn about geese. It’s to learn about us."We can leverage the mobile phones of people to collect data for a scientific or a civic purpose,” said Dr. Jamie Payton, a professor of computer science at UNC Charlotte ... “One thing we're interested in is: what motivates people to contribute data in these volunteer scenarios?”
Whoa, now the geese are doing social science research too -- the interdisciplinary kind -- using the power of the human flock... to study us. I am impressed -- and more than a little bit frightened.

Yesterday they were out there biting our ankles. Tomorrow, they take over the world. Pay attention to the hiss.

[Moderator's Note: all silliness aside, the very cool UNCC GooseSpotter app is, in fact, the creation of Osa Omokaro, a UNC Charlotte doctoral student in Computer Science.]

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