Author Archives: gabriel

Final Reflection

Before I start, I just want to say that I actually liked Sophie. Say what you will, I rarely had a problem with it because I went to ITS where the computers seem able to handle a program as demanding as Sophie. If you guys have time over reading days, I would suggest heading over there and making a digital book! Okay:

The most interesting thing I took away from this course was the way that structure is invariably tied to function. This concept exists in the real world–we expect our architecture to reflect its utility–but it seems all the more evident in the digital one. The way that a website or social network is set up determines the types of interaction that take place on it. The hyperlink allows for two-way communication between an endless number of entities. Before this class, I never realized so clearly that the uses for something are defined by the way it’s set up.

I think it’s interesting to note how much a sense of community the class developed. This wasn’t simply because the people in the class were great, which they were. I think a lot of it had to do with the way in which technology facilitated our interaction. In no other class have I ever been able to learn about so many others’ interests. Also, I believe that we were able to bond as a community over our use of new media, like Google Wave and Sophie. Our shared experiences of these technologies brought us closer, as the projects we created using these new media.

Ever since my final project, it’s occurred to me how much digitial media incorporates the characteristics of autopoiesis: self-creation. Our discussions in class revolve around the technological works that others have created, which then leads to our own creations based off of them, and discussions based off these creations, and more creations as a result of these discussions. There really is something to be said for the way that technology can facilitate an incredible amount of, what is all at its very core, communication–whether it’s through writing, art, music or video.

Final Project

Here it is:

Have fun!

An update on Net Neutrality

I just read this interesting article on net neutrality, which puts the issue in much more economic terms, compared to the access aspect of it that we are typically used to. It seems that many of the internet service providers are arguing that their business is essentially economically unsustainable because of the amount of bandwidth that certain users are able to take advantage of. As a result, ISPs are limiting specific customers who exceed a certain limit, and now considering charging large websites like Google and Facebook. It’s difficult to see whether this is simply a ploy to argue against net neutrality, or whether their business model will actually falter in an age of massive data usage. It reminds me a lot of the arguments that pharmaceutical companies make when arguing for the patents. On the one hand, it’s a valuable product that many people want and need, and therefore there should be a somewhat open playing field. On the other hand, we need to ensure that the people providing these services are able to remain economically sound or else we won’t have the product at all. My guess is that the answer in terms of net neutrality lies somewhere in the middle.

Gamer Theory

What I found most interesting in Gamer Theory was the discussion of what makes people play and how this search for an algorithm is one of the most important aspects of gaming. I think in many ways game play closely mirrors what we all do in every day life without even noticing it–searching for patterns, discerning rules of social conduct, trying to establish meaning. Today I was reading Andrew Sullivan’s blog as I do nearly every day, and came across this passage from a review of a book about childhood:

“Play, Konner says, “combining as it does great energy expenditure and risk with apparent pointlessness, is a central paradox of evolutionary biology.” It seems to have multiple functions—exercise, learning, sharpening skills—and the positive emotions it invokes may be an adaptation that encourages us to try new things and learn with more flexibility. In fact, it may be the primary means nature has found to develop our brains.”

This could go a long way towards explaining the appeal of gaming, simply that it allows us to expand our horizons in ways that we couldn’t do in real life.

The Downfall Meme

Remember earlier in the year the Youtube video we watched in which an actor playing Hitler, from the movie Downfall, angrily rants (through subtitles) about fair use. Well, it turns out that every video within this meme has been removed, after the production studio, Constantin Films, decided to use Youtube’s Content ID system to remove all of these parodies. It’s an ironic, and unfortunate, example of the way in which Youtube has essentially surrendered to media companies, even when the people producing these videos are well within the grounds of fair use.

Sophie Project


On Video Games

I’m quite fascinated by Galloway’s “Gamic Action.” Growing up with an English teacher as a mom, I was naturally shielded from these illicit forms of entertainment known as Video Games. I wish I had had Galloway’s critical analysis to justify them, but instead ended up spending most of my time reading or staring blankly out the window. The closest I ever got to a video game was the Tetris game I had for my Game Boy Color.

Anyways, I love the idea of video games as this art form that is like a dance between the user and the machine, both interacting together and simultaneously to create something that is unique and dynamic. I think that games, and video games in particular, speak to something fundamental about human nature. I haven’t put my finger on it exactly, but I think it’s the same reason that we’re so fascinated by dreams. They’re both these sort of mystical and alternate universes that we can occupy and explore and act in. On a very superficial level one could argue that these are merely adaptive forms of simulation. A calculating machine, if you will, that allows us to anticipate the consequences of our actions without actually undertaking them. What would we do if we got in a fight with a tiger? It’s better to know before that actually happens to dreams and video games can help us understand what we would do in situations like these.

But much deeper, I think there is something to be said for life outside the first-person experience that we are given. It’s a rather limiting perspective–that in a world so large and wondrous and multifaceted, there’s only one lens we can see it through: our own. But video games allow us a way to transcend this. Without trying to sound silly, sometimes it can be fun to be a monkey that’s just trying to collect bananas and gold stars.

Similarities between globalization and open access online

Today I read an article about how a major newspaper in Japan, Nikkei, is severely restricting the ability of internet users to link to its homepage or articles. The paper is already behind a pay wall as well. As the article states, half of young people in Japan now get their news online, which means the newspaper is only delaying the amount of time before it faces a reckoning.   I believe that there is a strong comparison to be made between websites that restrict access to their content and countries that close their borders or limit trade in the age of globalization. Both suffer from a lack of understanding that the best way to flourish is through collaboration and cooperation. Websites that go behind pay walls, like authoritarian countries, both hurt themselves, due to pride or fear or ignorance.

Online Debate

Two days ago, my friend Peter started a Facebook event for a re-painting in response to the tagging of the QRC’s freshly painted rainbow on Walker Wall. Ignoring the obvious questions that arise from the initial incident, I think it’s interesting to see how much response, and debate, there has been taking place online. For one thing, unlike what typically takes place, the conversation is civil, reasoned, and considerate. This is probably a result of the fact that people’s actual names are attached to their comments and so they can’t hide behind the comfort of anonymity that usually exists online. More significantly, I think it’s interesting how much Facebook’s new platform of commenting has contributed to the structure and quality of the debate. People can post their thoughts, and others can respond to them in a way that keeps specific threads together. I’m usually skeptical of the Internet’s ability to match real life fora, but in this case I think it surpasses it because unlike in an actual debate, more people can participate, and the temporality of isn’t as important. That is, in an actual debate only one point can be discussed at a time, whereas for this, many can, in a way that has never been possible before.

On Reading and Books

Coinciding with the release of the iPad, Nicolas Carr (who wrote “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”) blogged last week about the future of books and reading. He discussed how to compete with the Kindle, iPad books will include more “bells and whistles” which will in turn compel Amazon to revamp its selection, which it is doing by adding an App Store this fall. The gist of his argument comes from this paragraph, beginning with Peta Jinnath Andersersen’s response to the CEO Penguin Books’ presentation on the “post-book book. He asked:

“What makes a book a book?” A book, she concludes, is just “a delivery system” for text, and one delivery system is as good as another: “How the words are delivered doesn’t matter.” A stone tablet is a scroll is a wax tablet is a scribal codex is a printed book is a Kindle is an iPad. And yet history shows us that each change in the physical form of the written word was accompanied by a change – often a profound one – in reading and writing habits. If the delivery system mattered so much in the past, are we really to believe that it won’t matter in the future?”

I’m incredibly interested in the effects that digital technology will increasingly have on our cognition. On the one hand, I believe that we are able to engage in this technology and still be capable of deep thought. But, it’s definitely becoming harder. Andrew Sullivan responded to Carr’s post today, and wrote:

But I remain convinced that there is a singular experience – of devoting time to read a writer’s sustained and crafted words of more than, say, 50,000 words – that cannot be supplanted by anything else. Maybe this solitary absorption of another’s words will become the activity of a precious few. But anyone seeking wisdom or learning over knowledge and entertainment will still look for it. And treasure it.

William Deresiewicz also said in a fascinating speech, which I highly encourage you to read:

“So why is reading books any better than reading tweets or wall posts? Well, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, you need to put down your book, if only to think about what you’re reading, what you think about what you’re reading. But a book has two advantages over a tweet. First, the person who wrote it thought about it a lot more carefully. The book is the result of his solitude, his attempt to think for himself.

There are several questions to draw from all this: How valuable is reading as an experience compared to other forms of media consumption? How does this change when books become more of a multimedia experience? What consequences does this have have on our thought? Where do we draw the line because reactionary technophobia and legitimate concern?