The Samplisizer; No Free Lunch: Digital Privacy on an Advertising-Driven Internet

Grace, Cooper, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Jacques, Richard, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Powell, Harry, EN-Elec & Comp Engr Dept, University of Virginia

For my capstone project I, along with my teammates, created The Samplisizer. The Samplisizer is a customizable audio sampling instrument that allows users to turn any sound recording into a series of playable notes on MIDI-compatible instruments. We leveraged our musical and technical backgrounds to design and construct a new instrument. My STS research focused on the advertising-based model of supporting online services and content, its ethical issues, and potential technological and societal developments that could ameliorate those issues. I chose this topic because I previously completed an internship at an advertising technology company and wanted to investigate the ethical implications of our work.

My capstone group wanted to create a novel instrument that was fun and accessible. At the start of our project, one of the first questions we got stuck on was what should the instrument sound like. Leading us to the conclusion, it should be able to sound like anything. So, we designed and built an all-in-one customizable instrument called the Samplisizer. The Samplisizer builds upon the existing concept of an audio sampler but with the ability to record a sample at the press of a button and then play it back at a relative note corresponding to a key on a piano-style keyboard.

My STS research paper investigated the origins and development of digital advertising and public opinion on the collection of personal data by companies in order to synthesize possible ethical solutions to issues with online privacy. In this paper, I detailed the evolution of online advertising and its relationship with the growth and proliferation of the internet and online data collection. Further, I interpreted data on how the public views data collection and their feelings regarding ownership and control of their data. Lastly, I looked to the future and compiled potential advancements and actions that could improve digital privacy and security.

My capstone project presented unique learning opportunities in both technical and non-technical areas. I interacted with technologies ranging from operating system design to digital signal processing. Additionally, my capstone project gave me the opportunity to work on high-level system design and integration in a team where we prioritized communication and collaboration. Through this process, I gained a greater understanding of the wide range of ethical considerations present in the design of a user-facing product. I was able to leverage this understanding in my ideation on ways internet services can better preserve users’ privacy, in addition to my analysis of the development of web-based advertising technology.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge my STS professor, Professor Richard Jacques, my capstone advisor Professor Harry Powell, and my capstone teammates, Frederick Scotti, Lucia Hoerr, and Quinn Ferguson.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
privacy, custom instrument
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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