Tag Archives: reading response

The Definition of Machinima

So, we discussed this a bit in class, but I think it’s still a bit of an issue.   As such, I’d like to put forth a few pieces and ask if people think they are Machinima.

Obviously, RedvsBlue is Machinima.   It’s people controlling the characters in highly intentional ways to create a traditional (if absurd) narrative.

“Leeroy Jenkins,” too, seems to be Machinima, although it is posing as an unscripted gameplay video.


But what about this video?   It’s a serious attempt on (at the time, several years ago) a new boss.   However, they do have a dedicated “cameraman,” since no UI is showing on the recording.   The use of music, too, seems to have a pretty big impact on the footage.   And there’s definitely a narrative here.


I’m not sure if it’s Machinima or not, but I can’t say I can just clearly dismiss it.

Anyway, I think it’s worth questioning how much you have to be “using things in unintended ways” for it to be Machinima, since the act of recording video games is (until recently) rather unintended in and of itself.

Fan Fiction and Rule #34

So, for anybody not familiar, Rule #34 of the internet is that “if it exists, there is porn of it.”   The articles for this week demonstrated an interesting example of that phenomenon, and the internet seems to be the catalyst that lets this exist.

As we have mentioned before, subcultures thrive on the internet because it unites people who are otherwise  divided.   It takes surprisingly few people to create an active subculture, but without the web, it is unlikely those people would ever meet.   Sexual subcultures are an even more extreme example, as it is very unlikely that people will mention even fairly tame  sexual fantasies in passing conversation.   The internet, however, strips away both social  constraints around these issues via anonymity  and the physical  boundaries that divide people who share an interest in them.

Fanning the Flames (forgive a horrible pun)

I was very intrigued by the article “Why Heather Can Write,” and was surprised that there was no mention of the historical roots of fan fiction.   Fan fiction is not a recent invention.   The Aeneid is, in essence, a piece of fan fiction, taking a minor character from the Iliad and expanding upon his story (whether this piece of fan fiction shows signs of that other hallmark of fan work, I will leave up to your interpretation).

The recent trend towards a desire for every part of a story to be original is just that: recent.   Most works that received substantial notoriety prior to the last few centuries were either retellings of existing stories or were advertised as such.   Myths and legends are another example of “fan work.”

It is very interesting that the internet has provided an easy way for people to simultaneously return to an earlier model and drastically expand upon the way it works.

Mass Truth

I thought that Schiff hit upon Wikipedia’s greatest weakness in her article “Know it All” when discussing the case of how William Connolley, an expert on global warming, ended up losing a shouting contest on Wikipedia against an opponent with little knowledge of the subject material.

People who edit Wikipedia for purely malicious reasons (aka “Trolls”) are far less of a danger to accuracy than those whose intentions are good (or at least not actively bad), but are misdirected.   With Trolls, a patient expert editting Wikipedia simply has to out-wait juvenile attempts to spread false information for fun (which is hugely annoying, but also usually quite obvious and easy to revert).   People who are spreading misinformation because it is what they truly believe, however, can be very difficult to deal with.

Part of the reason this is more problematic for Wikipedia than it is for a more traditional encyclopedia is because it biases vary greatly from page to page.   Of course, older encyclopedias are frequently biased, as well, but usually these biases are consistent and can be determined, and so a reader can be conscious of such biases when they appear.   On Wikipedia, there is no such consistency.   Of course, this means that no single bias rules the encyclopedia- which is good- but it is also very hard to tell what political or social message any given page supports.

Audience Atomization

One interesting point that the article on the sapping of the strength of the mainstream press failed to mention was that, frequently, events or opinions make a significant splash because they fall within the so-called “Sphere of Deviance.”   While it’s true that such views are frequently silenced before they can make headlines, there is an entire culture built around using them for profit.   Many extremely conservative or liberal figures, whose views fall outside of the accepted realm of consensus, are able to build careers on their extremism.   Ann Coulter, for instance, frequently garners the attention of the mainstream media because her views are so radical that they cannot be ignored (and because they sell newspapers).

The reason for this phenomenon is, of course, that people are excited by shocking news.   Just as a news report regarding a bear falling onto a trampoline becomes a hit on Youtube, people respond strongly (even if frequently negatively) to political beliefs that are so ridiculous as to go against the national consensus.   Hence, reporting on “deviant” views can be pretty profitable, even if it runs against the views supported by the particular media distributer.

Benkler and the Wealth of Networks

Although Benkler’s article was very interesting, there was one small point within it that I took issue with.   On page 5, Benkler claims that “Science is built around many people contributing incrementally- not operating on market signals, not being handed their research marching orders by a boss.”   While the first part of this statement is accurate, the second is not.   Scientists must get funding to perform research, and so they must appeal to either public or private interest to recieve that funding.   The suggestion that scienfitic research exists free of corporate interests is simply not correct, and this strikes a hard blow against Benkler’s point that open source software can follow the same model.   Of course, this is not to say that open-source software need follow the same model, but the comparison provided here seems to suggest that it should, and so it is disapointing that Benkler points to a field that is so often bogged down by the old model of private interests to demonstrate how technological advances should occur in the “commons.”

A Dying Document

Rheingold’s history of one of the first virtual communities was a fascinating bit of modern archeology and anthropology.   And so it should come as no surprise that, like any historical record, it comes with plenty of anachronisms and outdated information.   I expected these things to be in the content of the piece (old data, etcetera).   Instead, I found them in the form, specifically in the hypertext.   The vast majority of the links are dead.   Those that are fortunate enough not to be housing 404 errors are ubiqitous placeholder sites or, in one case, porn.

In Ted Nelson’s piece (the one about the future of hypertext and its potential, for reference), the writer mentioned that one problem with modern hypertext is that links go dead.   When I read it, I dismissed it as inevitable growing pains of the internet.   Things shift around, and some links go dead.   But this page has gone from being hypertext to being text; it has lost utility with the passage of time.

Of course, ideas and contexts change with time; allusions Shakespeare frequently are lost upon a modern reader without the footnotes, but in this work, the footnotes of the original author have actually died (and sometimes decomposed and been devoured by new sites of various repute).   The web was also a very different place when this piece joined it (I couldn’t find an exact date, but this alone shows its age), and has solidified a great deal since the first forrays into it.   Still, changes continue to occur.   With an ever-growing web, this document raises the question of whether or not hypertext can, in its current form, avoid being rendered text as time passes.

Reading for Monday: Turing/Bush

Turing’s “Computing, Machinery and Intelligence” is a fascinating piece to consider when discussing the potential power of machines and what that means to us and our humanity. I’d like to extend his idea by introducing John Searle’s counter argument, as presented in a 1980 paper entitled, “Mind, Brains, and Programs.” Almost sixty years since Turing published his work, I think it’s harder to argue that a machine couldn’t be developed to convincingly pass Turing’s test–if one hasn’t already been developed. Searle introduces a counter point, the Chinese Room argument, and suggests that a machine could pass Turing’s “imitation game” without understanding what it’s doing nor helping to explain the way humans think. His example involves a English speaker in a room with a set of Chinese inputs and outputs and a set of rules to answer any potential question posed to them. With enough practice and a complete enough set of rules, it seems as if this machine (the person, rules and symbols) could answer any question in Chinese–and pass Turing’s test–without the person inside having any understanding of Chinese. If such were the case, what truly comprises thought and thinking? In these examples, I think you can go back and forth and what constitutes “thinking” and a “machine” forever, but to me I think you’re going to reach a point where the line is significantly blurred. I see no reason why–with enough time, technological advances, and understanding of ourselves–a machine couldn’t be developed to think and to understand what it’s thinking. For one thing, I’d say you certainly can’t rule anything out until, at least right now with what we know.

Bush’s piece read oddly familiar today, in the age of computing. He obviously wasn’t using many of the terms–“internet,” “computer,” and such–because they hadn’t been made up yet, but the detail with which he is able to talk about some of these future technologies is pretty incredible. On one hand, I’m not extremely surprised–I’ve read enough science fiction to have encountered similar speculation to this–but the detail with which he wrote nonetheless stood out pretty strongly. The aspect I found most interesting about his article, though, was the setting and inspiration with which he wrote it. The article is dated July 1945 and thus was published in the close months of World War 2. I really liked his suggestion that we undergo a shift and direct the powers of our intellect away from building physical objects that give us power and instead focus on more abstract, mental processes. In many ways, that shift certainly has happened today. But what implications has it had on, say, the financial markets, where it seems we’re making money from money and not really producing anything physical. What can we take from this driver of Bush’s, when you consider the fact that we’re currently at war, but that we’ve just undergone a shift in presidents?

Vannevar Bush, a great predictor

While reading As We May Think, I was deeply intrigued by the author Vannevar Bush’s prescient prediction of the possible direction and extent of technology development and his brilliant ension of the system “memex” by simulating human mind which represents the idea of association of knowledge.

Although Bush wrote this essay in the 1930s, almost eighty years ago, he did a great job pointing out what should be further developed and what was destined to be advanced. The example of photography is a very persuasive one. He wrote, “Certainly progress in photography is not going to stop. The camera hound of the future wears on his forehead a lump a little larger than a walnut…There is film in the walnut for a hundred exposures…It produces its result in full color. It may well be stereoscopic, for striking improvements in stereoscopic technique are just around the corner.” We naturally think about today’s digital cameras. We can look at the pictures immediately after they are taken and the “dry photography” that Bush was thinking about was realized. Bush also wrote that, “The Encyclopedia Britannica could be reduced to the volume of a matchbox. A library of a million volumes could be compressed into one end of a desk” Actually we’ve gone farther today but he was definitely on the right track. We have scan disks today, which is far smaller than a matchbox.

The “memex”, which stands for memory extender, is one of the major contributions of Bush, although it wasn’t quite recognized of its value shortly after the term was posited. Bush wrote,” Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library.” His suggestion is widely taken use of today. We have facebook, aplia, sakai, delicious, and many digital resource centers that followed his idea of association of knowledge.

Bush would be very pleased if he could see his visions being realized today. All kinds of inventions come from our visions. He knew that and we should know it, too.