Gaming in The Home

In days past gaming was almost exclusive to arcades where youth would stand around each other and watch as someone tries to beat the highscore on the newest arcade cabinet. Many things have changed since the introduction of the personal computers and home gaming. The atmosphere of a cramped arcade is now the comfort of a living room, the highscore roll on a cabinet is now a global network of people’s achievements in every game, taking turns on a cabinet has become competitive online competitions with servers and little to no face to face interactions.

Bringing It Home

Bringing gaming into the home with console and home pc gaming has really helped bring gaming as a media into the mainstream market. ‘Gamers’ no longer need to go out of their way for a gaming experience, one can simply buy a platform and have it readily available whenever you want. This boost in the popularity of gaming has spurred the expansion of genres of games as it’s new found accessibility allows many new people to enter the world of gaming. Unfortunately, confining gaming to homes has perpetuated the stereotype that gaming is somewhat anti-social even though sharing games and gaming experiences is one of the most social past times of the current age.

Putting in on The Web

The combination of the internet and gaming has exploded gaming as a culture. As I mentioned previously gaming is a very social experience, with the internet connecting gamers from one room to another to somewhere on the other side of the world, huddling with your friends around a small screen has become a ‘party’ of screens where everyone is invited. No other medium has this same sense of simultaneous experience between users, people can watch the same movie online but it’s not considered watching the movie ‘together’ whereas two people playing the same game is considered playing together. Gaming isn’t very passive as a medium either, users engage with games quite deeply especially compared to other mediums such as film, television and music. Through engaging with the medium users are engaging with each other, a kind of social interaction that isn’t face to face but more than just talking through a phone. The anonymity of the internet often inspires sour behaviour in groups and individuals and this is very clear in gaming as seen here,

The idea of a ‘gamer’ has really developed into a well known stereotype and this would not have as easily been the case if it weren’t for the development of gaming in the home and the rise of gaming on personal computers.

Week 9 Work And Social Media

An important characteristic of the internet is it’s accessibility, that is to say anyone can access the internet at any time but sometimes it’s inappropriate. An issue emerging around social media is it’s use and roles in a workplace environment. Most companies now have a social media policy that not only covers whether or not social media is accessible at work but the expected behaviour of it’s employees on social media, even during their off hours.

Companies That Say No

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A study by Mindflash and Column Five, shown in the infographic above, shows that in 2011 70.7% of workplaces actively restricted access to social media at work but 72.6% of workplaces claimed to not monitor employee social media use. In the last few years Companies have gotten stricter and smarter about their social media policies, 43.4% agreed social media misuse in the workplace is an issue that needed attention in 2011. On the surface it seems like a reasonable idea to simply stop employees using social media around work at all, but this has the risk of influencing employees to respond by; becoming docile and accepting the restrictions, Trying to cheat the system by finding ways around the restrictions or loopholes in the policy, or become paranoid and stressed about always being monitored.

Companies That Say Ok

Larger companies are finding it more effective to not just block social media but to offer training and set guidelines on appropriate social media use for its employees (Smaller companies can afford not afford the training). When simply blocking access to social media, companies run the risk of employees disregarding rules and misusing social media as a result.

This advertisement for employee social media training highlights the importance of education over the set and forget approach of outright blocking social media access.

The Companies Themselves Use Social Media

Considering the widespread use of social media, companies are more and more being drawn to marketing and public relation on social media. A good example of a business using social media to it’s potential is Biltwell Inc. for their facebook page. On their page they feature competitions, handouts, communicate with customers and generally advertise the brand in a positive, effective way. As Sonny Ganguly identifies about social media marketing, “Social networks are a good option for advertisers because of the advanced targeting options, reliable conversion tracking, and prevalence on mobile devices” (Ganguly, 2015).

Disclaimer: I do not own this cover image, cover image can be found ‘here’

Is Hacking like Modern Spying?

For a long time espionage has been an important element of waging wars, whether it be between nations or companies or two neighbours, spying and breaking into things happens quite often. Spying has long been frowned upon as dishonourable and as an arguable contemporary equivalent so is hacking. Hacking means to gain access to data that you normally aren’t allowed to access. It’s important to note that while in pop culture hacking is often depicted as very computer intensive with lots of coding involved when most often hacking involves tricking someone into giving away a password or physically stealing some kind of key. So, if hacking involves getting virtually into something you shouldn’t can be considered modern espionage?

The Formal Business

On November 24 2014, it was made clear that Sony Pictures Entertainment had been hacked by a group referring to themselves as “Guardians of Peace”. The hackers obtained roughly 100 terabytes of data including private and secure data pertaining to Sony’s business. Within days films from Sony that were currently in theatres and some that were yet to reach theatres had been uploaded to file sharing sites and downloaded, some files up to one million times. A couple of days after the initial attack speculations arose that North Korea was behind the attacks in response to a film in development that criticised North Korea’s leader. Following this, many theatres chose not to show that film.

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Suppose North Korea is behind the attacks despite it’s denial, what we have here is a case of a nation and a corporation engaging in cyber based spying. Property was stolen and virtual spaces were entered illegally. In this case, hacking appears to be a more effective, more relevant, more ‘contemporary’ kind of espionage.

For The Lulz

As an alternative to the corporate level espionage conducted through hacking there are organisations such as ‘lulzsec’ who hack regularly “for the lulz”. A seemingly not for profit group of largely anonymous people working under the unified title ‘lulzsec’ often target other groups or individuals for anything from comments the target made that members of the group do not agree with to policies that violate members of the groups ideals, ultimately the group appears to not be after any one goal of stealing something or specifically accessing something they shouldn’t for personal gain. I stress that luzsec only “appears” to be or do anything because the group is anonymous in nature and so not strictly organised and some would argue that they aren’t truly ‘unified’ either.

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All In All

In her article “The internet has changed everything- and nothing” Deborah Orr says,

“Maybe technology allows human beings to know much, much more about their fellow human beings than is wise. Our vanities, our prejudices, our foibles, our failures of understanding, our anger, our hatreds – the internet seethes with it all. Does all that in itself shake our faith in our idea of humans as developed, refined and civilised? What is civilisation, after all, but the collective and settled expression of our ability to move away from savagery?” (Orr, 2014)

In her article, Orr is talking about the behaviour of individuals online but I think her point is relevant to groups, corporations and nations as well. The internet truly is a place to hide all and to a greater degree bare all. On the surface a nation attacking a company through hacking and threats seems like serious acts of aggression but when broken down how is it any better than an anonymous, barely organised group of individuals attacking anyone they disagree with? Or even more, how is it any better than little johnny starting a fight in the playground with little Benjie for calling him dumb? perhaps disregard for law and privacy just comes hand in hand with the aggression we’re all born with and subject to, regardless of context.

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.

Whitewashing Foreign Film

For thousands of years stories have been trade around from generation to generation and between cultures. As stories transcend the cultures they are created within, slight changes occur in order to fit the stories into the new culture. A big contemporary example of this is The United States’ Hollywood, which is often criticised for it’s whitewashing of it’s films. Whitewashing is the making of foreign sourced content with a Caucasian-centric approach. An interesting case is the original 1954 japanese film ‘Gojira’ vs the American remake ‘Godzilla’.

Gojira vs Godzilla

The original Japanese ‘Gojira’ features a giant reptile beast brought about by American nuclear weapon testing and the struggles of the Japanese victims of Gojira’s attacks. The film explores themes of corrupt politics, nuclear warfare and the role and power of science with weaponry. The film is quite well received and is considered a good metaphor for condemning the use of nuclear warfare and as such is somewhat critical of America’s involvement in the development of nuclear weapons. An English dub of this movie was created for American audiences but as well as adding subtitles to some scenes and the occasional dubbing over scenes, multiple ‘American scenes’ were filmed and spliced into the movie to localise it to American audiences.

The problems surrounding the American remake is that the American scenes break the narrative of the original and re-orients the trajectory of themes, effectively cutting a lot of the crucial social and political commentary that made the original so impacting. The inclusion of an American main character, Steve Martin, distances audiences from the plight of the Japanese victims and being an American remake, much of the discourse condemning nuclear warfare and indirectly criticising America’s involvement in the development of nuclear weapons.

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An example of how there seems to be an imagined need for characters that we want to relate to to be of the popular Caucasian variety when it doesn’t matter so much for any other character (In Godzilla, there is an added American main character but Godzilla remains a ‘Japanese’ monster)

It’s Not About Accessibility

A common response to why films are changed so much in translation is that it makes the films more accessible to the local audience. This Huffington post Article by Amanda Scherker demonstrates many cases where stories with foreign source material are strongly Americanised and characters originally of non-white appearance are often being played by white actors. Subtitles and dubbing is often more than enough to localise content, changing important aspects of a film whether it be to defend the integrity of a nation’s military practices or so audiences can relate to the characters and their habits perpetuates the idea of ‘otherness’. As David White say in an interview in B. Couleur magazine, “Unfortunately, the industry is driven by a group of risk averse decision makers who continually make inaccurate assumptions about the abilities of people of color and storylines about their communities and this persists generationally” (White, 2011). White identifies that there is an ideology that suggests we can’t make connections with people who aren’t ‘just like us’. There is a prevalent idea that people of any culture or race than our own is ‘different’ and ‘not one of us’. This can exist in extreme cases with racism and culture avoidance but also in smaller interactions such as thoughts like, “I like Italian food but not Korean food”. Can that truly be the case, that the subject dislikes all food related to the broad culture of a nation? It’s more likely that the subject dislikes a number of foods often identified as originating in Korea.

The End or Just the Beginning?

In a chapter of his book ‘Always on’ titled, iSpy: the end of privacy, Brian Chen suggests that following the rise of social media and the subsequent ease to which we can share personal information en mas and companies can ‘mine’ that information that perhaps privacy doesn’t matter any more. I beg to differ, considering that more and more of our arbitrary personal information is becoming a valued commodity among the companies that surround us, it could be said that privacy is becoming an increasingly prominent aspect to consider in our lives.

We’re All Worth It

According to this quick personal data value calculator, companies would pay roughly $500 for the data profile of a thousand, fairly ordinary people such as myself. Scale this up to the 1.4 billion Facebook users and suddenly data is very valuable. Chen says, “the wide spread enthusiasm for always on interpersonal connections is indisputable proof that people are willing to sacrifice privacy in exchange for services richly tailored to their unique lives” (Chen, 2011), while it is true that people are actively sacrificing privacy in some areas for social media services it’s only some of our personal details we’re simply handing out. Information that previously was not considered so private is becoming the more valuable data about ourselves such as, our shopping habits, travel details and opinions on products and services. It’s these details that we are paying close attention to because of the risk of being profiled by companies that suggest that privacy is more relevant than ever.

But at What Cost?

We have a rough idea of the financial implications of data mining but why is it important that we are aware of what companies know about us? Individual pieces of data on a person aren’t particularly useful but when combined into a profile it can be used to anticipate our wants and behaviours in order to tailor services to unique individuals. For example, consider John, we can tell from his Google check in data that he frequents a specific supermarket near his home, Facebook tells us he is a school student and his loyalty card data shows he often purchases work books and pens but he hasn’t bought any pens in a while. It’s getting close to the beginning of a new school semester and by looking at his profile, we can safely assume John may want to buy pens from his local supermarket, knowing this, John’s local supermarket may lower the price of pens to persuade John to make the purchase. Sounds good, right? John’s data profile allowed his local supermarket to tailor their prices to his needs. On the other hand, John’s local supermarket may also lower the price of work books to persuade him to buy things he doesn’t need and then raise the prices of work books and pens later when his profile suggests he has little demand for new pens but in reality he just lost the new ones he bought.

It’s not that companies may use our data to abuse us but the profiles created from this data are incomplete representations of ourselves and this can cause problems between consumers and companies. On the surface it seems that we are handing out our information and that privacy doesn’t matter or exist any more but so many new aspects of our lives are finding a need for privacy that education on privacy and surveillance is vital to maintaining fair business practices and not allowing societies to develop a culture without any sense of personal privacy.

Chen, B 2011,”iSpy: The end of privacy,” in  Always On, Cambridge MA, Da Capo Pres.

Disclaimer: I do not own this cover image, cover image can be found ‘here’

Pictures of Pain

In 1993, photographer Kevin Carter took a photo of a young, unfortunately malnourished Sudanese child being watched by a vulture. The next year, Carter received the Pulitzer prize for that same photograph, a very coveted award in the journalism industry. Three months later Carter ended his own life. This tragic story highlights an issue in journalism, a sort of images of suffering paradox.

Witnessing Suffering Paradox

In an age where there are so many ways to access news visual media such as; newspapers, magazines, the internet, it’s not uncommon to run into confronting imagery of people at war, under oppressive regime, suffering from famine and other negative situations. On one hand these images are important for raising discourse towards the issues depicted and the contexts in which these issues exist. Alternatively, these images can be said to be exploiting the subjects of the images.

Vulture Watching Starving Child March 1, 1993 Sudan
Vulture Watching Starving Child March 1, 1993 Sudan

Kevin Carter’s Vulture watching a starving child depicts a child in a situation many of us in western countries have ever experienced. Bold pictures such as this one raise discourse around the topic, in this case not only was this picture talked about in the context of the conflict and famine in Sudan but whether the photographer should have taken the photo or not. Carter was criticised for ‘exploiting the young subject of his photo’ by taking a photo of the girl being stacked by a predator instead of helping her. In her article in the ethical limitations of photojournalism, Paula Gortazar looks at four ethics photojournalists need to consider

“· The ethical position in the discourse of their photograph

· The aesthetic representation of such ethical position

· The ethical practice in the production of their photographs

· The way in which their work is displayed and presented to the public.” (Gortazar)

Gortazar concludes that Carter is unethical in all these aspects but it would seem that he is genuine in his intentions because he was clear about the events leading up to and following the photograph which suggests he showed little to no compassion for the girl.

A dilemma exists in that photo journalism plays the important role of showing audiences  situations that we wouldn’t otherwise face but more often than not, at the cost of trivialising the issue when the context of the image or the article it’s attached to creates the wrong kind of discourse or potentially exploiting victims of an issue when an image is used with an agenda.

Other Ways

Alternatives to raising awareness are often being developed such as songs and games. e.g this Sanitation Hackathon project aims to raise awareness on sanitation issues and educate on proper toilet usage. While these approaches may be more engaging (especially games) it’s at an even greater cost of the message. It would seem that photojournalism is a necessity to really portray issues of the world in an easily accessible way.