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Monthly Archives: May 2013

In “Gamic Action, Four Movements” Galloway starts off the saying:

If photographs are images, and films are moving images, then video games are actions.

It reminded me of this following Ted Talk by Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make a Better World.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE1DuBesGYM

The main points that I thought were interesting from the Ted Talk was that:

  • Average gamers spend 10,000 hrs on gaming by the time when they turn 21.
  • If you spend 10,000 hrs on something, you are practically a virtuoso at that something.
  • That something, for gamers, is the following combination of the four: urgent optimism, social fabric, blissful productivity and epic meaning. (Watch the video for more explanation on these starting at 8:57)
  • The above are 4 basic qualities that can qualify you to solve real problems in the real world.
  • Gamers should use these skills to take action in the real world and solve problems in the real world.

The core of video games is taking action to solve problems. How do you get from level 1 to 2? How do you kill that monster? What do you need to do to fight? Obviously in the real world, we also have real problems that needs to be solved, such as world hunger, alternative energy source, and etc. However, what makes people want to solve problems in the virtual world rather than in the real world? I speculate that it’s because we present the problems in the real world in an overwhelming way that no individual feels capable of solving it. Jane McGonigal brought up the point that the problems that people are more motivated to solve problems in the gaming world are small with smaller consequences and big reward. Rather than making the gamer meet the Big Boss at the beginning, the gamer works toward the Big Boss little by little and the gamer overcomes small challenges one by one.

So how do we motivate gamers to tackle real world problems? Create games whose goals are to solve real world problems. Using video games to solve real world problems — kinda cool. Combined with the interesting point brought up by peer (Are We All Gamers?), if we are all gamers, then we have the skills to solve the problems of the real world. So let’s take action not just in the virtual world, but in the real world as well!

Bush’s concept of the “Memex” and Nelson’s “ELF” first and foremost made me think about the new ways in which we read hypertextually. Not to mention, engaging with the readings on my iPad gave contemplating these new ideas of storage and record a meta experience. It seems as though we are already living out Bush’s prediction that science will provide new ways of recording that will free the human mind of the burdens of confusion, loss of thought, or menial mental tasks. The technical aspect to Nelson’s “ELF” is already demonstrated in the way we use personal computing devices everyday. However, what the readings also made me consider were the potential losses that come with new hypertextual experiences. Does reading a piece of writing for itself have an ulterior value compared to reading hypertext, filled with notes, links, and records. Do these hypertextual qualities work to strengthen the way we read and record, or create a distraction from the piece of writing or the original record? It is obvious that we read in very different ways with technology, but it makes me wonder what is lost in relation to what is gained through this transition to new processes of recording and reading.

All the Piracy, None of the Scurvy

All the Piracy, None of the Scurvy

I love pirates. From Johnny Depp to the Ghost of the Flying Dutchman in Spongebob Squarepants, I love all pirates. But unlike the traditional pirates, the cyber-pirates are not quite as sexy or cool. (To be honest, neither are traditional pirates, I’m sure they were realistically speaking, pretty disgusting but I digress.) Cyber-pirates are people just like you and I who don’t want to spend money.

In Liang’s Porous Legalities, he provided 4 possible reasons for why cyber-piracy became big:

  1. Unequal access of media between developing countries and developed countries
  2. Fundamental shift in our understanding of the logic of production, distribution, and consumption
  3. The world of non-legal media is the world of recycled modernity that is achieved through piracy.
  4. Residue from within the gigantic movement of the capital

 

As a former cyber-pirate (I quit after getting into trouble once), I argue that the reason, the simplest one, is that people like getting things for free if they can. If we can get things for free, why would we pay? But this point was challenged when Radiohead released its 7th album, In Rainbows. Surprisingly, Radiohead had declared that they would not put a price on the album, but let the consumers decide how much Radiohead deserved to earn from the album. This was a shocking news in the music industry and despite the risk, it proved to be a good move on Radiohead’s part. Although the large number of people did end up downloading the album for penny, a decent amount of people still paid the full retail price. But those people, I would think, had personal reasons as fans to support the band, and thus paid for the album.

In Manovich’s The Interface, he defines human-computer interface with the following:

The term human-computer interface describes the ways in which the user interacts with a computer. HCI includes physical input and output devices such as a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

and he continues to discuss the definition of a cultural interface:

a human-computer-culture interface — the ways in which computer present and allow us to interact with cultural data.

But Manovich that computers are not only an interface for data, but it is an interface for people as well. As much as we “interact with cultural data” via looking at images and movies on the screen, we also interact with people on the Internet through variety of means such as emails, Facebook (wall posts, chats, “likes”, etc.) and multi-player games. Although computers succeed as a cultural interface, they fail as a social interface as they do not promote proper, active social interactions.

An example of this can be observed through Facebook chats or any chats or texts in general. I’ve often heard the sentence, “I’m less awkward online than I am offline.” Why is there a division of online and offline personality? When we chat in person, we are prompted to react and respond within milliseconds of the others’ actions and, admittedly, some people have harder time knowing what to do in certain situations and cannot react within the expected time. I believe that it is with practice of conversing and interactions that one can remedy the “awkwardness” during in-person social interactions. However, with emergence and growth of communication via computer, we give ourselves excuses to allow ourselves to hide behind our screens and talk in the comfort of our “protective” bubble. We have the Internet at our finger tips, so before we say anything stupid, we can use the Internet to check ourselves. We “perfect” our responses to project a “less awkward” character. And we can say statements without worrying about our facial expressions because the other party can’t see our faces online. Online communications over the computer interface does not aid us in our need to become the social creatures we were meant to be — it deters us from it.

Nowadays there is a applications that allow video-chats that improves the situation. However can it fully replace the learning experience of an in-person interaction? I leave that up to you to decide.

My head is buzzing with thoughts on Big Data, functionality (breaking down of a figure into component aspects for analysis – or at least that’s what I thought Foucault/Philip were doing, anyway), I Love Alaska and the human condition in general. Bear with me.

So to my understanding, Big Data is basically a gigantic record of self-expression on the internet which is then used to reconstruct of the self. What does this reveal about human nature, about correlations, about expressing insecurities through spending habits, about trends in self-expression? In all our varied diversity, what trends emerge? How are we changing, how is the digital age infecting our lives with its false promises of secrecy, its temptation to become narcissistic? What false narratives emerge? In I Love Alaska, is the woman her web searches? Or are those simply a magnified narrow look into her darkest sides? Can you be reduced to your digital footprint?

Is Big Data dehumanizing? Does it overly generalize the intricacies and variances that make us human? Or are we more similar than we think we are? Is there a formula for the construction of the self along the lines of teenage girl: 20% body insecurities, 15% crush on boy whose smell is reminiscent of said girl’s father, 10% social/academic pressure, etc?

With Big Data comes the possibility that we are all in fact identical products of a complicated machine, our actions are governed by various deterministic factors? What are they? What degree of choice do we exercise over our lives? Our my choices really “my” choices? Who am I?

If I were to be broken down into component pieces, would I really be the sum of my pieces? Or is there an element that we’re missing?

IF

shrimp\sim \!\,data ( with ~ = poorly approximates)

else,

shrimp\approx \!\,data (with \approx \!\, = approximately equal)

then,

jumbo shrimp\sim \!\, raw data ( with ~ = poorly approximates)

else,

jumbo shrimp\approx \!\, raw data (with \approx \!\, = approximately equal)

IFF

Oxymoron={jumbo shrimp, raw data, critical theory…}

\blacksquare \!\, (<– denotes end of proof)

Analogy:Metaphor::datum:data?

true or false?

Objectivity:adam::massive data-base tally:you?

Did I switch that one?

surveilance:eye::dataveilance:protocal

Warhol:capitalism::evercookie:cybernetic capitalism

data:abstract::data:aggregate

data:plural::data:singular

what is data scrubbing any way?

mind being mined

 

If anything, printing technology has radically expanded the horizons of reproduction. Letterpress and typewriter have  alternated our perception of written text to the degree that nowadays the possibilities that digital typography offers (algorithmic fonts and dynamic type, such as Beowolf, Move Me MM, al. developed by LettError Maeda, Cho and others) remain largely futile.  In fact, as Emily Kang, who writes a rather insightful review of LetError’s work point out, the role of digital typography has been largely downgraded to that of early photography which ” made the reproduction of reality easy and obliged painters to do something more interesting instead”. Indeed early digital typographic experimentation dates as early as 80s, however remaining rather unnoticed and  falling victim to what Erik van Blockland, designer of Beowolf explains as following:

‘For a short while, maybe 300 years, there was a system that meant letters had to be the same. A mechanical system of producing type meant that there was one master form and you made copies of that; it was all very logical. That is why all the ‘A’s are the same and all of the ‘B’s are the same. We have grown up expecting that to happen, but it is the result of a mechanical process, not for any reason of understanding or legibility.’

The default choice of the typewriter font for screenplays has similar roots, both abiding by the imminent standardization that printing technology allowed, and paying an homage of sorts to the history of typewriting. Typewriter font does, indeed have a DIY aesthetic that comes through in its slight irregularity, worn down effect and built-in defectiveness that alludes to the poor home-made printing that typewriter served for, in contrast to letterpress printing.

However, the digitalized version of typewriter font does not bear the same formal and conceptual qualities as the typewriting itself. A text, written on a physical typewriter will always have a subtle representation of author’s hand, it will always possess a degree of originality: all stemming from the slight modification in the pressure, forcefulness, speed and general style of typewriting.

Digital typewriter fonts come in a variety of styles, whether replicating a certain person’s typewriting style (such as Trixie, a font designed by scanning and digitizing typewritten texts by a woman, called Trixie), or varying in the degree of degradation. However, in each specific font individual letterforms are identical and have no affiliation with a person typing them. They carry on the irregularity of typewriting, ignoring the aesthetically pleasing qualities of regular fonts designed, bearing reproduction in mind, but loose the intimacy of the actual typewriting.

Typewriter font as the default mandatory choice for screenwriting is an ugly vestige that isn’t even rooted as much in nostalgia, as it bastardizes the source of nostalgia, the original and subtly defected typewritten text. It becomes a rather shallow and not sound from the aesthetic perspective choice that is somewhere in the realm of instagram photography and not film photography, promoting the former and endangering the latter.

 

The rise of big data raises questions that technologists cannot readily answer, because the issues presented by the massive amounts of data that we generate—and the constant mining of it for insights—are largely political and ethical in nature.

It has become alarmingly easy for governments to monitor what we search for on the internet and place us on terror watch lists for seemingly benign activity; for health insurance companies to monitor what we eat and charge us individualized premiums based on minute personal decisions; for companies to design experiences and advertising that are so specifically tailored to us that our sense of reality and normality become completely warped (as we talked about in class, Netflix’s recommendation algorithms can be so accurate that we perceive them as creepy. The problem here is how to reconcile the seemingly impersonal nature of the computer-based service with the personal connection afforded by recommendation algorithms).

As Gitelman and Jackson write in “Raw Data” is an Oxymoron, “our credit and debit cards, transit pass, school or work ID, passport, and cell phone—basically anything with a barcode, magnetic strip, RFID, or GPS receiver” put us on the grid and generate data that can be used to piece together our online lives for the benefit of some watchful corporate or government eye.

Can data collection even be regulated at all? We can answer the same question by collecting all kinds of data. If we wanted to curb the gathering of certain personal information by regulating the collection of one type of data, it might still be possible to answer the same questions using other types of data.

For example, divorce can be predicted through spending habits. For credit card companies, it is of utmost importance to be able to predict who is going to pay their bill on time and who is a liability. Mastercard has developed algorithms that detect with 90% accuracy whether a couple is about to get a divorce based solely on their spending habits. This is important because couples going through a divorce are less likely to pay their credit card bills on time.

We need to ask ourselves what we should do, not what we can do. Technology cannot answer the normative questions.

In Manovich’s writing about the Interface, he boldly points out that our society is neither “a society of spectacle or of simulation, but, undoubtedly, a society of the screen.” (94) This is to say that we are so tied to what goes on in the screen- be it a computer screen or a TV screen. He also mentions differences between the “classical” type of computer screen and the more “modern” type. The main difference is that the modern computer screens contain elements of temporality, whereas the classical screen displays consist of more static images. (103) Another difference he points out is the “relationship between the space of the viewer and the space of representation,” hence the interactive nature of modern screen types. (103) However, Manovich’s writing was published in 2001, when touch screen devices were not as widely accessible as they are today. What he refers to as the modern screens differs greatly from today’s screens. Not only are they temporal, but they are also highly interactive. We now have access to various devices, like iPads and smartphones that are literally interactive because touch screens are designed to react directly to the user’s gestures. The level of interactivity between the user and the screen interface is subject to changes over time, but the fact that we are the “society of the screen” seems to holds true.

(And now everything can be touch screen, even bars…

http://itechfuture.com/interactive-touch-screen/ )

I’m really glad we ended on Big Data, mainly because as a computer science major (with lots of interest in science communication and bioinformatics), this is something near and dear to me. For me, what struck me as interesting was the metaphors used to describe data—Jackson and Ribes make the comparison to corn and fruit flies, as if they were organisms which can proliferate and change the landscape. Raley described it as “the new oil of the Internet” (123). And others such as David McCandless called it the new “soil”

http://www.ted.com/talks/david_mccandless_the_beauty_of_data_visualization.html

(Mind you, upon watching McCandless’ talk the second time after this class, it seems a lot more guilty of faith of oxymoronic raw data.)

In reality, of course, data is none of these things—it may be a commodity, but it doesn’t spring forth and yield bounties like oil derricks or farmland. It’s really more confounding and complex, and doesn’t yield profits nicely.

For me, “data as oil” seems to be an extension—or at least a compliment—of Kirschenbaum’s screen essentialism of last reading. Our data and information flows ephemerally like light, but it almost blesses us with understanding like light.

Finally, I thought Raley’s point on Data/Countervailance was the strongest article I’ve read that convinced me to distrust the surveillance of the Internet.  From my own experience/conjecture, it seems that people our generation ask “why not?” when it comes to sharing things online, whereas previous generations ask “why should I?” This made me question my own personal norm of openness.

However, I feel that, as far as big data goes, it can be far more subversive without being quite as malicious as spying/surveillance. Mainly, I see the customization of the internet through big data as dangerous because it exactly inverts the web as a place of openness and communication, and instead creates an echo chamber. Raley touches on this in the example of “what happens when I type ‘cow’?”

Mainly, if Google tries to match you with search results it’s predicted for you, then a search query such as “environmentalism” will return vastly different results based off of your predicted political alignments. Such customization—while efficient—then would only further fracture/alienate different viewpoints, as they’re enabled to retreat to various corners of the internet.

This was talked about in another great TED talk I saw:

http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html