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Category Archives: Tristan’s 12 pm section

On Clickworker:

Doing menial tasks that simply involved copy and pasting from the Google search engine intrigued me. Well, the reasoning behind it intrigued me, whereas the task bored me to death because it took absolutely no effort or thinking. My searches had to do with a rich investor from UAE. I was told to search phrases such as “(person’s name)’s biography” and “(person’s name)’s investments” and other, similar phrases about this certain man’s presence on the internet, as shown by Google’s searches. I am sure that I did not actually do anything of use, as I linked the same articles and wiki pages 10 times.


On the digital presence of the Arab Spring:

When I learned of the small proportions of the population in Egypt that had social media accounts, I quickly began to wonder what the experience of the undocumented populations were like. I cannot imagine that the poor, the old, and the rural populations were properly represented in the feeds of the revolution, which in many cases were picked and manipulated by Western companies.

Trolling is destructive, senseless, yet it offers a glimpse of ourselves. Trolls on /b/, and other online communities, ultimately take advantage of our own societal weaknesses to offend and insult. To condemn the trolls is to condemn ourselves, because if we cannot see the satirical nature of the trolls, we are accepting that their exaggerated racism and offensiveness is grounded in real substance.

Of course, it is certainly not the case that trolling is always racist, or sexist, or offensive in any way. I can hardly see how links to shock-horror pictures or screamers are offensive to anything but my eyes and ears.

Farming gold in World of Warcraft as outlined by Dyer is one of the rather curious cases of capital markets giving value to an otherwise valueless object, but in this case a digital object. A similar case is present in Valve’s implementation of the Steam Market. In their games Team Fortress, DOTA 2, and Counter Strike, Valve has introduced in-game cosmetics that have value on the Steam Marketplace, and more recently, are exchanged on external, third-party sites so that the $400 limit for single transactions on the Steam Market can be avoided. Yes, this means that there are cosmetic items that exceed the value of $400, and some of these are thousands of dollars each. None of the prices are set by Valve, but instead, economies are naturally created by supply and demand. This means that if a new pack of cosmetics comes out that is highly desired by the playerbase, the other cosmetics on the market will tank in value. Case in point: about a year ago, the Asiimov skin in Counter-Strike was $75 each, and because of the stability of its price (due to its monopoly as a moderately-rare, desirable skin), was a currency in and of itself (many trades listed items priced at $300 as 4 Asiimovs, such was its reputation). However, as of now, it is priced at $30, due to a multitude of new skins that have similar rarity while being visually pleasing enough to be desirable. On another note, one of the minds behind the Steam market was employed as Greece’s finance minister in January of 2015.

The presentation on Runescape made me recall my own experiences playing the game, and it is difficult for me to believe that Runescape’s design is racist, or problematic to any degree. No one starts the game with more privilege than anyone else, and as everyone starts the game at level 1, this is as fair as a start can be. As with any MMORPG, there are varieties of characters that add heterogeneity in the personalities of the NPCs. A snake charmer is exotic caricature, but is it really a particular manifestation of our culture’s fetish for the exotic?

On the other hand, I can understand why someone may raise concerns about the playerbase. When I played the game, I was in 3rd grade, and one of the phrases I had most commonly seen was “buying gf”. The phrase is a bit of a joke, but at the same time, I can assuredly say that many pre-pubescent children were using the phrase in their quest to find a digital girlfriend. At the ripe age of 8, I had bought myself a girlfriend, only for her (in all honesty, the player was probably not actually a girl) to leave as soon as I gave her my stacks of gold coins. Eventually, I learned that if I created a female character, I could sell my digital soul (perhaps that’s the wrong word, but it certainly was not the selling of a body, and I really don’t want to call it love) in exchange for some other 8 year-old’s gold.

I Love Alaska was a rather chilling experience. The content of the work notwithstanding, the atmosphere that the work was able to create was rather impressive. Everything about the direction was bleak, so even when the content of the user’s searches was somewhat comical, the lack of any inflection in the narrator’s voice with the barren landscapes in the background made it difficult to find humor. In fact, I would argue that while the content of the user’s searches may have been preserved, the character that the directors of I Love Alaska was not the same one that input the searches.

By using the combination of a monotone, robotic female voice with bleak, depressing landscapes of Alaska, the directors created this persona of a detached, emotionless women who has an affair without much actual remorse. Had the voice acting been done by a real person, the character that was created through these searches would have felt much more alive, and some of the searches seemed to have a spark of life. But on the other hand, the cold computerized voice asking “Why can’t I sleep since I had a hysterectomy?” captures the crushing solitude of the user better than any real voice actor could.

Surveillance is a hot topic in politics right now (as it should be), and will likely continue to be one for the near future. The NSA is no doubt the first thing that comes to mind when surveillance is brought up, but in my opinion, the larger issue is one that is often ignored: surveillance by private companies (Apple, Google, etc.).

A computer system is designed to capture data as input, as Agre puts it. Any input into an iPhone is captured by Apple, and a search into Google is captured by Google (AskJeeves may be safe, however). When the Apple-FBI case came to light, I think it was more problematic that all this data was available for Apple to access, and in all likelihood was being accessed by Apple for reasons such as development and commercialization. Whereas government surveillance is generally done for the sake of national security (which is a vague term that is open to abuse, but nevertheless some sort of good), private companies’ surveillance is done with the goal of increasing capital, however that may be. Since I use an iPhone, Apple likely has captured every input that I have put into my device. Anyone’s digital activity is likely captured by a collection of several different private companies, and so using digital objects becomes a conscious choice to step into the panopticon of surveillance.

After reading Weiser’s piece on Branding the Post Feminist Self, I thought about how there are many women who have to create a brand in order to be seen as successful. In some way, women have to make their persona “more authentic” and stand out in order to create a brand that will accumulate many followers. Once, a woman has received a certain degree of fame through this branding, then comes the tearing down of the brand by critics who deem it as “inauthentic” and “fake”, when the creation of the brand relies on the authenticity of the women. It is through this process of self branding that women are torn down from being successful, not to mention the countless women of color who are denied even the possibility of having a brand due to racism, colorism, and stereotypes from racist societies (USA). The question that I ask is why aren’t men required to have to read books and go through the process of creating a brand in order to have success. For many men, ESPECIALLY cis, white men, they are gifted success and fame simply because of the patriarchal society we live in today.

After reading Nishant Shah’s argument of regulating porn boiling it down to, “I propose instead that digital porn (especially visible in the genre of revenge porn) has to be seen not only as an object of regulation but also as producing a severe and conservative regulation of human sexuality, identities and interactions.” (Shah, 545) I became very critical at their argument, especially when they stated that they were going to focus on the regulation of revenge porn. Obviously if one wants to make an argument on the regulation of porn, then revenge porn should be the go to. Something as violent as revenge porn should be regulated, especially if it is of the Hunter Moore variety then there should be no question as to not having it regulated. Also Shah’s statement that porn produces “a severe and conservative regulation of human sexuality, identities, and interactions.” From my interpretation of this statement, I believe it to be false, but I can see where Shah is coming from. Porn, for some, provides an outlet for their sexuality, identities, and interactions. Shah also throws out that statement without backing it up with any evidence. My overall thoughts on this piece is that it was created for a very specific audience to shame those who consume porn and even do paid sex work as a living.

For some reason this wasn’t posted so re-posting this from a previous week

I thought Friday’s presentation on the Sims was really interesting especially in relation to violence and explicit content. I’ve never played the Sims but in playing games like Grandtheft Auto I always worry about the ability to not only to create disturbing content but also to record content for a broader audience. It brings the notion of celebrity and spectacle into such a weird/ scary part of the internet where people develop or heighten their visibility in order to create a platform for their simulated behavior. People are able to project their fantasies into the parameters of the game giving a heightened sense of not only power and control but also a visibility of/ over their fantasies. It weirdly reminded me of stories where serial killers/ killers that save newspaper clippings of their victims or return to the scene of the crime. While this obviously isn’t translated into cyberspace with the killing of sims it made me think about the desire to memorialize or re-simulate socially condemned behavior.

I have decided to create this week’s blog post in the form of a video.

Please enjoy.