Author Archives: jadedred

Misfortune can be lucky…ask Mulan

When I was younger I vaguely remember a story my parents told me:

A man’s horse ran away, which he considered bad luck. However, a few days later, his horse returned home with a mate. What a instance of good luck! Later, when riding his horse, the man was bucked off and upon falling, broke his leg. He thought he had quite a bit of bad luck until government officials came to his town, requiring that all men go to war. Because his leg was broken, he didn’t have to go to war, which probably saved his life.

Recently I watched Disney’s Mulan again, and in it I noticed many elements of this story. There are many instances of people and things seeming unlucky that actually come back and save everyone.

The lucky cricket. Originally, the cricket ruined Mulan’s chances at impressing the matchmaker, so you think his name is ironic. However, the cricket helps Mulan save China- so you see, a little bit of misfortune can lead to a whole lot of good luck.

Other than that, the character of Mulan is interesting, yet very Disney in nature. She has not learned what is expected of her in ancient Chinese society; she’s spunky, free-willed and won’t accept unpleasant things that are out of her control. It is as if you placed a girl from the 21st century into ancient China. No wonder Mulan cannot impress the matchmaker in order to bring honor to her family- who she is on the inside does not match what people expect from her on the outside. In a different century, these traits would be valued much more.

So perhaps the theme of the movie is that “misfortune can bring you luck.” If that is true, I’m not sure I’m okay with that. That theme sounds like it belongs on the back of a fortune cookie, and it perpetuates the stereotype that all the wisdom of the Chinese culture can be spewed out in a bunch of one-liners

Sometimes children see things the clearest

Here is a poem my ten year old sister wrote about the environment:

I looked outside in a cheery mood.
I saw all the cars sputtering bits of gas next to a scrawny tree with a bird that weakly cooed.
I saw a factory chugging out murky black smoke.
I saw the end of the streets littered with cans of Coke.
I saw a whole row of houses with all their lights on.
I saw what was left of a nature park, all gone.

Then I stared and marveled at the little patch of green grass beneath my feet.
Then I stared at the world
And looked away in disgust.

by Jerrica Li
We need to save the environment! Even my little sister realizes this!

LET’S GO

Second Life in schools

I could have an entire discussion on how current teaching methods in public schools are awful and how they don’t fully educate a student, but instead, I’d like to expand on the DeWinter article. I think it’s a fantastic and necessary idea to increase computer and virtual literacy through Second Life.

The article says “many students do not recognize the breadth of their online audience; they also are often unaware of the ways their personal information contained online may be used without their consent.” In today’s world, we must acquaint kids with how the virtual world works, instead of focusing on pen and paper standardized testing methods. Not doing so would be a disservice to graduates; with an increasingly digital world, it is imperative that their education teaches them about virtual spaces. Schools need to rework their curriculums, which can be difficult when teachers have little computer literacy themselves or they have been accustomed to teaching out of the same text book for 20 years. How can kids learn these 21st century definitions of privacy and intellectual privacy when their teachers themselves don’t fully understand? Obviously, there is also a financial constraint for meagerly-funded school systems.

Like the article suggests, Second Life can help the user reexamine themselves by observing what their avatar looks like, what activities are important to them, and how the interact with other players. Second Life, and other social online programs, are no longer an activity for geeks who live in their parent’s basement, but rather a legitimate cultural phenomenon that deserves to be studied and talked about in high school classrooms. Things like dealing with harassment, conflict resolution, and learning and thriving in a system with set rules are all life skills that should undeniably be included in everyone’s education. Second Life can educate people about corporate interests and consumerism and give students a sense of familarity in dealing with digital spaces which is indespensable today. Yes, I agree with DeWinter. We should use Second Life in the classroom, because to not do so would be a disservice.

Here are the resources you need to be a pokemon master!

Okay. So everyone knows a little about pokemon battling from their childhood. We all know that fire attacks are super-effective against grass type pokemon. If you know a little more, you might even know that psychic attacks are super-effective against poison type pokemon.

Some people know that if a pokemon performs an attack of its type (eg, a squirtle who attacks with water gun) will have its attack power increased by 150%. You also might know that Thunder has a hit percentage of 70%. These are things that you can look up in a basic strategy guide purchased from GameStop.

However, there is a huge body of battling knowledge that the casual to moderately committed gamer might not be aware of, that as far as I am aware, exists only on online websites dedicated to pokemon knowledge. For example, there are special move sets that take advantage of a pokemon’s types (or after 4th generation, individual pokemon powers). There are strategies where you take a pokemon with high hp and use it as a sponge to absorb damage and there are strategies where you give a pokemon focus band in order to let your pokemon endure a hit that would otherwise KO it, and then using a move that reduces your opponent’s hp to your hp level, followed by a Quick Attack. Here is a list of advanced roles your pokemon can play to destroy your opponents really creatively and effectively: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Appendix:Metagame_terminology

Furthermore, there are things called effort points. Ever wondered why your rare-candied pokemon were weaker than naturally raised pokemon? The answer is in these effort points that cannot be viewed by any in-game method but nonetheless is part of the mathematic calculations that the game engine makes. If you want your pokemon to have good stats in the right places, you MUST understand how effort points are earned and calculated. http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Effort_points

Now you really can be a pokemon master. To relate this back to the transition between print and digital media, i bet none of this information would have been published in a book because there simply isnt a market for it and it wouldn’t have paid for its shelf space. However, with the ease of online publishing and the ability of geeks everywhere to team up and write these guides, we can have this information today that wouldnt have been available in the past due to the limited channels which the information could have been passed through.

YouTube Rites: YouTube vs. Kevin B. Lee 2.0

Here it is!

http://pages.pomona.edu/~fl002008/youtuberites.spbf.zip

Enjoy the video and the pictures and the information

Fan fiction is an investment in our future.

Jenkins writes: “…intellectual property…has enormous economic value and companies seek to tightly regulate its flow in order to maximize profits and minimize the risk of diluting their trademark and copyright holdings.”

So Jenkins tells us that media companies seek to regulate all the things that are said about its intellectual property in order to maximize its profits. After all, if you can only get Star Wars stories from George Lucas, he will maximize his profits! But like I said in class today, this kind of thinking is not sound in the long term.

Firstly, I’m not saying that we should make all movie characters and plot lines into public domain, as this would create a situation where there would be no incentive to create. I do think its potentially a good thing for consumers that media companies are spreading their properties across many different forms of media. Action figures, books, movies, and websites all increase our enjoyment of a franchise. But to try and limit fan fiction from going up, to limit the right of people to imagine and create new storylines and scenarios and share them with like-minded fans is not only plain greedy, but also fiscally unsound.

Firstly, the very people that create fan fiction are the ones that buy the action figures and videogames that come along with franchises such as Star Wars. To alienate this population would have multiple effects: 1) you would get your most dedicated fans to get angry at you, 2) you would lose demand in these ancillary markets (clothing, merchandise), 3) people will think you’re evil, and 4) fans would experience a dearth in narratives from these popular fictional universes. The argument that fan fiction dilutes a franchise and cuts into their profits or their control over a fictional universe may be mildly true at best. The stories and narratives and plot lines that come from the media companies themselves are unquestionably definitive, and fan fictions absolutely do not claim that their plot lines are the “true” ones, so you have no threat of a fan changing the character traits of Ron Weasley, for example. They will still look to the pen of J.K. Rowling for the “true” story. Thus, the media companies’ cumbersome and clumsy efforts to limit this dilution would bring about more problems than benefits because they would alienate a key consumer population and decrease “buzz” for little gain. After all, who is going to buy a novel based on a videogame? Obviously, only the geeks who read and write fan fiction.

I do think that the seemingly greedy behavior is caused by the very nature of corporations, which concentrate only on the short-term bottom line. The bottom line number cannot account for the future benefits of fans creating a rich culture around your franchise, and it cannot account for the social benefits of letting fans weave creative narratives. I agree with Jenkins in that it benefits us to be able to talk about our society’s heroes, and the fact that companies can flex their legal muscles and try to control the public’s imagination about them seems like an unfortunate result of our modern legal system.

Get with the program.

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While reading the articles assigned for today, I have to be honest. I felt a wave of condescending elitism towards the authors that felt Facebook and twitter invaded our privacy. I mean, get with the program! You’re behind the times! You have control over what you post online, you have control over what you say, and you have control over what groups you join. And if people put up embarrassing pictures of you, you have the option to untag yourself. Adults today have grown up with limited media sharing; to see photos or to find out what someone is doing, you might actually have to go to that person and say hi. To them, seeing all that information is unsettling because they have a different conception of the value of that information. Someone of my generation, however, views information in a different way. Firstly, because we grew up with vast amounts of information available on the news feed on Facebook, our generation places less value on social information. What people do in their own time is not considered a juicy tidbit of gossip anymore because it is public information and we’ve pretty much grown up with it being public information. The internet today, like the blogging articles told us, is like a public but also friendly space, in that there is something about how the internet works where you don’t mind sharing things about yourself. To someone of the older generation, this shift in the value of social information might not make sense. But to me at least, sharing social information on Facebook is so natural and unthreatening, because honestly, what harm can it do? I do not care at all if people see if I joined the Wizard of Oz Pit Orchestra group or if they can see my interests are comic books and ice cream. I do not care at all if an unknown person sees a picture of me smiling in front of the Hollywood sign. Honestly, are you guys afraid of going out in public in real life? I like being able to see my friend’s photos, and even the photos of people I am sort of friends with, just to keep up with what they are doing. Furthermore, I feel like the arguments for privacy concerns are all blasted away by the simple fact that you can control who sees what with privacy settings.

And the whole social convergence thing? I felt that was just a reaction to the social disorientation that non-facebook users feel when they first use the site. Trying to figure out the social context to every single message or status will cause your brain to implode, and I can see how someone who grew up defining social interaction as being in the same social context would feel a little unsettled. Facebook takes some getting used to, for sure. But I would bet a lot of money that most users just glaze over people’s statuses or their actions in their indifference. People are joining new groups and planning to attend events every day, and I feel I speak for a lot of people when I say the social context in which people join these groups or attend these events is not important to me simply because I do not care. The internet provides a lot of information that we don’t need. Knowing that Tim joined German Club actually improves our social understanding, because we get an idea of what people are interested in that in pre-Facebook days we might not have known. And if we are just dying to know the social context of him joining that club, we can just ask (using the chat feature).

frisbee is cool

Here’s a video I made showing that ultimate frisbee really is a sport.

Enjoy.

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/3995156[/vimeo]

The two articles this week seem to have opposite viewpoints. Ham and Atkinson’s article addressed the fact that technologies are created faster than the laws that govern them, which has been a common theme in our recent readings. With amendments to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, they assert that the market for music can indeed be a market again, instead of the anarchy that napster presented. The two guys who wrote the piece assert that creator’s rights to their creative property gives people incentive to create. This makes sense- if your work will just be pirated you have less incentive to create.

But Bailey’s article says kind of the opposite- that when more works are in the public domain (and they’re easily accessable), they enrich our culture. This also makes sense to me, because it does seem like big media is manipulating the law to earn more money and to increase their control over media distribution.

I’m not sure what stance I’d like to take on this issue. I enjoy getting free stuff from the network, but I also don’t like stealing. I have indeed grown up with the belief that “consumers should not have to pay for music at all, that the very concept of intellectual property should go the way of the horse and buggy.” But in the end, for the good of myself and for the good of the long-run state of the internet, we should err on putting more content in the public domain, imposing less controls over content, and generally giving more rights to users.

I don’t like the dangers of stronger copyright, DRM, and weak net neutrality. The internet is still an untouched, virgin landscape, and I see big business trying to put up ugly, confining structures and consume all its resources on their road to profits. I feel we do live in a decisive time where if politicians are swayed sufficiently by media companies, we could all experience a dearth of (legal and illegal) free content, which we have grown so used to and which we have based our fascination of the internet upon.

There is an argument that net neutrality could be a good thing. We all use google anyway, and if the ISP’s give special preference to google then it could even serve us better. The same may be true for youtube or any other number of popular sites that everyone uses anyway. In the long run, however, I don’t think this is good for the advancement of the internet and our culture. New, innovative services or websites that could become very popular or useful would not be able to find success if the bandwith of the internet was taken up by a few giants. If weak net neutrality were to happen, we would be resigning control of the internet, this beautiful, unlimited frontier, to a few giants, and then they alone would be responsible for defining and addressing the needs of internet users. I find that quite dangerous; akin to publishers holding such a strong influence over defining the sphere of legitimate debate during the era of newspapers. The problems would be what they defined them as, and we would have to use their solutions or their applications, even though they may not be the best ones or the ones that we need the most. With more lax copyright policies, perhaps freeware would be a more democratic way of seeing what software people need and then addressing that need through peer to peer creation.

So we need file sharing services, because there are plenty of legimate and even essential uses for them. I hope lawmakers recognize this, as well as the need for an increased public domain, so that users can keep their power over the internet.

how the internet improves our lives through fmylife

F My Life is a perfect example about how popular print media cannot guess what people will enjoy reading, and how the internet solves that problem. I suppose it’s obvious that people like hearing crazy stories about how other people have unfortunate lives, but with the formalities and levels of editing involved with print media, I could see how fmylife’s content would not end up being published. Furthermore, the fact that the site can be updated with new content keeps people coming back and keeps the ad revenue flowing, something that print media could never achieve.

But I think the site is an interesting commentary on what our society values in its entertainment, and we never would have realized this aspect of the public preference if it weren’t for the ease of publishing on the internet.