Category Archives: DIGC335

Week 7: The Things That Talk Back

Teodor Mitew wrote an article on the internet of things called ‘do objects dream of the internet of things’, In this article he identifies the concept of the internet of things as such, “the IoT stands for the connection of usually trivial material objects to the internet” (Mitew, 2013), as demonstrated in this video,

Mitew goes on to say, “this connectivity allows things to broadcast sensory data remotely, in the process augmenting material settings with ambient data capture and processing capabilities” (Mitew, 2013). Relating to the video, we see the Google shoe detecting that its wearer is moving and doing strenuous activity and tweeting about it in real time. This kind of object interactivity, as well as being humorous, suggests that other objects work with it, the more objects within the network working together, the greater the sensory data input until the objects are all communication like an elaborate machine.

When We Wear The Internet of Things

Google is currently developing a new range of wearable tech known as the Google Glass. Wearable tech are devices that primarily work when worn on a person’s body, the Google Glass seems to be a combination of an android phone and glasses as seen in this video,

Wearable tech becomes a sort of pseudo extension of the body and when that extension is intended to be always on, always connected, we’re brought into a realm we’ve never faced before. Given the large scale of the internet and the networks that form it, it’s not unusual that objects of the internet of things appear to be more capable, with navigation, weather, maps, an infinitely large database, etc. There are many unfortunate accidents that are caused by people following devices they believed to be more capable than themselves, for example an elderly couple that drove off a ramp to a demolished bridge in 2015. What’s to say we won’t rely to greatly on these increasingly more common devices on the internet of things.

Wearable Communication Technology or Tracking Devices?

As I mentioned previously, the internet can be seen as an infinitely large database, expanding exponentially in users every year. Considering these devices we’ve been looking at take in sensory data from their surroundings; locations, movement patterns, physical health details, consumer statistics, it all needs to be stored somewhere and that somewhere is online. A large part of this ‘internet database’ is in depth measurements of so many aspects of our lives, it’s a gold mine for marketers. In another of my posts I go into why this could be a problem.

On The Bright Side

Technology that talks to others can adapt, it can change to fit the data it’s receiving, effectively updating and staying relevant. Individual, not connected, devices are built for a purpose but these purposes are restricted and these non-connected devices age out. On the other hand, objects in the internet of things are able to communicate and therefore ‘share’ purposes. A regular refrigerator can only keep things cool but an always on, always connected, smart fridge that’s aware of its surroundings could potentially self regulate it’s temperature, warn users that there is a lack of a certain item or that something is about to expire and ever communicate with stores to find the best prices for items.

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Looking At Interactivity

Interactivity is all about users being able to put something towards the media they consume and having something come from it. Traditional media often had call in or letter to the editor sections for audiences to have an input but this was almost specifically restricted to these sections alone. New media is often described as bringing interactivity into the mainstream and normalising it. Unfortunately, being a fairly new concept we are sometimes faced with issues when studying new media and how we interact with it.

Prequal

A fairly unknown example of interactive new media is the interactive web comic Prequal. Prequal has classic comic and novel characteristics but is distinguished by the way it takes suggestions on where the story will go next from readers comments. By allowing readers to directly interact with it’s content, Prequal has garnered quite a large hardcore fanbase over four years. Where as classic comics and narratives may take time to write and publish and fans may be left disappointed, Prequal transcends these boundaries by being written as it is published independently online almost immediately. The readers aren’t waiting to experience something they are writing it themselves.

Saying Games Are Bad Is Bad

This goes the same for video games, the users are creating the story within  pre-built environment as they play the game. One question seems to dominate the discourse around video games, and that’s, does video game immersion and interactivity with violent mechanics instil violent behaviour in users. Sparked by cases were youth have claimed or others have suggested that crimes were commited because they saw/did it in a videogame, Politicians, parents and academics began asking “What effect is violent video games having on our youth?” but as Schreier points out, researching this has not been easy. It’s fairly easy to say that if someone does something violent in a game and is rewarded for it they can be conditioned to think violence is ‘good’ but then just as fair to say that people of sound mind are capable of dissociating virtual reality and reality and if a non violent person does something violent in a game they most likely won’t respond to it. Schreier asks, “Competition is just one factor that must be considered when studying the effects of violent video games on aggression. What about gender? Boys are more aggressive than girls. How about home life? Income level? Previous cases of bullying or being bullied?“, this is significant as it outlines the main problem with researching the ‘effects’  of interactive media; that the audience is a primary component of what makes up interactive media. Instead of thinking that interactive media is ‘injecting’ violent behaviour into the youth, perhaps it is allowing previously violent youth or those with a tendency for violent behaviour to explore these darker thoughts.

What I’d like to see is a change in how we perceive interactivity and immersion in interactive media. Stop the witch hunt for ‘corrupting media’ and instead focus on informing and educating youth on the reality of violence and violent crime.

Disclaimer: I do not own this cover image ‘Link to cover image

The Modern Self

At a point in our development we begin to become self aware to the point that we wonder who we are as individuals and become concerned with how we are represented, now more than ever this introspective exploration is being influenced in all direction as well as aided and hindered by media and technology. The ways the groups we belong to are represented in modern media has come to represent ourselves on a more personal level than previously, who and what we belong to and with  is also being challenged with the branding of evolving technologies that are just about extra limbs to the modern consumer.

Girls On (Film) Games

Early forms of media was sparse and rudimentary; images, written books and spoken stories did little to explore it’s characters and their gender or race, etc. Contemporary media has a greater focus on the narrative and the personalisation of characters, particularly video games. The history of race and gender representation in the gaming industry has been controversial to say the least, featuring games in poor taste that have been universally panned such as Custer’s Revenge on the Atari 2600 and on going events such as gamergate. In Keza MacDonalds article on The Guardian she outlines 5 main excuses often cited as to why there aren’t enough fairly represented females in video games. A couple that stand out to me in this article are that pressure to add female characters will lead to tokenism and that the pressure for developers to write excellent female characters is so great that there is a fear of backlash but these only make sense if females aren’t being represented at all. All we are asking is that female characters are not so often made to be unnecessary sex objects. Take the E3 trailer for Hitman 5 for example.

How on earth would the female outfits in this trailer make any sense on assassins. Curvaceous, ridiculously leather clad, it wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t just senseless sex appeal. Bioshock Inifinite’s character Elizabeth Comstock is a shining example of how a female character can be done well.

Elizabeth isn’t physically strong and she’s only playable in downloadable content but the role she plays in the main game is substantial to the plot, she is coded well as player support, she grows as a character throughout the game and isn’t a love interest or most importantly an object of explicit sexual desire, simply because she doesn’t need to be. Females make up 48% of gamers, it’s about time they are shown the respect they deserve by the games we all love to play.

All Hail (Insert Major Corporation Here)

As well as being divided amongst ourselves by our own identities, we are divided by the identities we adopt from our technologies. Personally, I have owned every PlayStation console and consider myself somewhat loyal to PlayStation as that is what I have grown up with, as well as that I currently have a Samsung smart TV a Samsung smart phone and a Samsung Tablet (and to be honest if they made Samsung food, I’d probably eat it). Why? Well, on one hand it’s the convenience, I’m fairly comfortable with a PlayStation controller and all my Samsung devices can connect wirelessly, but on the other hand, it’s kind of like picking a side, I can’t charge my phone with an Apple iPhone charger so I won’t get Apple’s products. I am aware that Samsung and Google (from the android OS) probably have a decent data profile on me but that generally comes with being connected to the network.

Common tropes in cyberpunk works such as William Gibson’s ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ include the glorification of one’s image and the near omnipotent power of large corporations. The reality of this is reflected in the discourse of today’s media. Struggles with identity and representation in the media and the idea of being affiliated with specific companies are ongoing issues and phenomenon that I suggest we continue to monitor closely, whether through reflection on our own action or looking at people’s predictions of the not so distant future, as how we come out of this technical evolution may determine whether we live in a cyber utopia or dystopia.