Thursday, December 4, 2008

Journal #10

The future has a lot to hold for my peers and I. Hopefully, I will be working at a company creating 3 Dimensional graphics for an advertising company or architectural firm. If technology keeps advancing, I may have to learn many new programs to render realistic looking pictures and simulations for other companies. 3D graphics may become easier to create, but the artistic aspect will still be necessary. I currently work at a sign and graphics company and customers believe they know what graphic design is and believe they can create graphics with programs like Microsoft Word. When technology advances, it may be easier to create 3D graphics, but like my sign customers, people will struggle making the artistic decisions to create realism.
My friends may be ahead of the curve. One of my friends is a computer science major who works at a top secret military base. He cannot tell me anything about what he does day to day, which leads me to believe he would be ahead of the new technologies created by the government. The government may have more power over what we do and what we see. Chances are, the government will get us to agree to what they want us to agree on. The government knows how to put things to get the public’s support, i.e. the Iraq War. The government flat out lied to us about nuclear weapons and that Iraq was a real threat. The public, being stunned by the recent attacks, showed full support for our government just to find later on they lied to us. If the government has successfully pulled off this trick in 2001, what makes us believe they won’t pull this off again?
The online community will probably become even larger due to the horrible economy. If we cannot figure out how to fuel our vehicles, or have no motivation to work at a company that we have to travel to. With mass communication, we all could essentially work from home and send our work to a headquarters, which could be anywhere in the world, over the internet. Neighborhoods will no longer be relevant, people will not care how much land they have around their house. People will be entirely enveloped by the internet and all of its charm.
The only way this future would not be possible is if the internet crashes: people would need to localize their world. Prices of basic materials will skyrocket and the “Computer Age” will be in a history book, yes a book! We will all have to revert to the middle ages and work our way back to what we once were (modern times). Government will either have to deviate their power up to local governments, or send out troops to enforce their laws. Technology would be nearly extinct and with technology gone, how would we be monitored?
The future could really go either way, technology advancement or technology extinction. Our world wil most definitely be different. The government may have us all fooled right now, we think our elections areup to us, but it may be preplanned. We may have less power than we think we do. If technology is eliminated, essentially the public would have much more power than the government, we would just have to have enough people stand up for the same idea. More technology would lead the government to have more power over us because we can be constantly monitored. All of this may happen in more than ten years, but eventually we will be either owned by or in charge of technology.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Journal #9

After reading Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, I noticed far too many similarities between the story he told and the world we live in today. The use of Xbox and the Xnet were an interesting parallel to our current world. After the attacks of September 11th, the world changed how it sees itself. America changed in the name of Homeland Security. We were all compliant with the changes thinking they were serving the greater good, something our society tends to strive for. After the devastation was cleaned up and our minds were rid of the thoughts of another attack, we start looking at the changes we have made and wonder; what are we risking?
The many things we have had to endure has become more of a threat that security. Everyone has to go through an extensive security check before entering an airplane, including old people and children. I understand wanting to check everyone, but do you really think the generation that fought World War II would try to blow up a plane full of innocent people? The government started saying they were listening in to phone calls that could be possible threats. How would they know which phone call was a threat unless they checked them all? The government, in the guise of security and safety, has taken away many of our rights of privacy without opposition. The reason people are afraid to stand up is they are afraid to be called a terrorist. If someone were to oppose, they would be immediately labeled a terrorist trying to hide something, when that something is his/her privacy! There was a big problem years ago with being considered a communist and people would do anything they could to avoid being “black listed”.
This kind of behavior is not new; people have always been afraid of being labeled as anything outside of the crowd and seen as a threat. Sometimes when we think the government is on our side, they could be taking advantage of our willingness to comply with new rules even when those rules are taking rights from us. Governments use the public’s fear against them when they want to have more power. Governments and people of power always want more and get it in any way they can, even if it takes lying to the public about things like nuclear weapons. The Bush campaign flat out lied to the American public when they knew there were nuclear weapons in Iraq, seeing as how the American public was ready for revenge, we cheered our leaders on to take out Iraq and eliminate where the terrorists are being harbored. Turns out there were no nuclear weapons and we were all taken advantage of.
We really have to be careful of what is really being used as a safety precaution and what is just another reason to peer into the lives of innocent civilians. If we do not keep an eye on what our government is doing, we will allow them to have even more control over us and they will be seen more of a threat than an ally. Doctorow really made this story believable with his many references to things we have in our world now. His story is a bit horrifying, but I could see it really happening today under the circumstances we are under now. Hopefully we can get this government to work with us like it was originally designed, rather than victimize the public.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Journal #8

In Charles Stross’s Halting State, the not too distant future is eerily believable unlike other stories we have read in class. The reason behind that would be that most the stories we have read were written in the 1980’s where technology was just starting to boom, but Halting State was written in 2007 where many of the gadgets and technologies mentioned and dreamed about in the 1980’s has become reality. The idea of a crime committed in a virtual world being taken into the real world and pursued in real life may seem like an impossible feat, but with some of the immersive online communities available today, this could definitely become a true case.
The game of Second Life is based on the economy of the game engine; the whole point of playing Second Life is to create a monetary gain. In Halting State, the game Avalon Four is the most popular game of the time and, like Second Life, has a way of turning the virtual money into real money ( With a game as immensely popular as Avalon Four, the game company responsible for the creation, Hayek Associates has a real issue on their hands when, “the game loses players by the millions and everyone's stock prices take a nosedive” (Wagner). The game economy starts to crash, in turn making the real life stock crash. The relation between Avalon Four and games like World of Warcraft and Second Life are incredibly similar. I could see World of Warcraft becoming the real life version of Avalon Four because of the Orcs and how immensely popular the game is.
Online communities have grown significantly since the early days of chat rooms and have now become large groups in three dimensional worlds (Meadows). As Meadows has mentioned, “An avatar is an interactive, social representation of a user”, therefore makes the player responsible for what the avatars do within a virtual world. If an avatar goes against the rules of the game, the user is at fault and should be punished. In today’s games when a player would do a malicious act to ruin the game for others in an unfair way, the user would be banned from playing and if real money were to be attached to the virtual money, the company could refuse the payout. In Halting State, however, there is a mole within Haytek Associates, who is giving away info on how to hack into Avalon Four. This mole is causing the stock of Haytek Associates to plummet.
The story behind Halter State can be seen as somewhat a reflection of what our future may develop into. The gaming world has become so embedded within our normal society that when a crime is committed in the game itself, the real world reacts to it. Today there are problems and “crimes” committed within the virtual worlds and if they are serious enough they are dealt with by the company that makes the game. The reason much of the crimes committed in virtual worlds today are not taken as serious is because these virtual worlds are still considered “games”. Once something has the title of “game” no one would take problems in the virtual world as seriously and they can laugh it off and ignore anything that may be a potential problem. Once a game becomes so immersed within our society that it looked at more like another way to communicate instead of a game and has millions and millions of users, crimes committed in that world will be reacted to in our world. Like Meadows says, “Maybe the more freedom we have, the more rules and roles we need to invent.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Journal #7

When playing Second Life, some play to get monetary gain and some play to become what they are not in real life. Second Life allows a person to create an avatar to be whatever the person wants. They can escape the everyday routine where the player essentially can be a god of sorts. The player can create buildings, businesses, gain money, and even fly! Second Life can almost be seen as a do-over in real life, if the player has made a few mistakes in life, he/she can use what they learned and apply it to their “second life”. How many times have you said, “If I only knew what I know now”? Within Second Life, you can solve problems in a different way or avoid the whole situation altogether. Second Life is unlike other online games, unlike most there is no violence. This allows players to communicate successfully regardless of how much time others have spent playing. This game is entirely based on the principle that money is the core commodity in a society. A player can have a minimum wage job in real life, but can be largely successful within Second Life.
Second Life also eliminates the need of human contact by creating the illusion of other people through avatars. “This is why some people prefer Second Life and systems like it to the real world. Their intimacy and interaction with others can be more easily controlled, and they feel more protected” (Meadows, 36). Meadows points out the fact that people tend to feel more secure interacting with others through an avatar rather than talk in person. I have even ran across this in middle school using AIM, people would act tough or obnoxious, but in person would never act like that or back up that kind of behavior. “Most of the Internet is a collection of avatar villages” (Meadows, 23).
Online games allow people to act out in ways they are not allowed to in real life due to social stigmas. This can be seen as a way of releasing tension that builds up in a society like ours where an angry person is portrayed as having some “anger issues” rather than just being treated like an emotion. Games that are based on society, especially online interactive games allow the release of emotions that is still deemed “okay” by our society. Some players do, however, tend to go a bit far and use the online world as an excuse to go completely insane (reference videos below).
Online games can be perfect for some and problems for others. The gaming community has always been misunderstood when it comes to how truly involved we all get with our games and avatars. “Ultimately, avatars are about the advancement of personality within a kind of fiction that is both social and personal” (Meadows, 23). A person’s avatar becomes an extension of their own personality and it represents them in a virtual world, some being more realistic than others, nonetheless still linking us to our emotions. Avatars allow us to act on a more primal level with one another, our true emotions and thoughts can be shown without consequence and there is a degree of security in knowing the people you are talking to have no idea where you live or what you look like, in essence giving you the option to act kind or act completely insane. When we sign up to be apart of an online world, we get the freedom to act however we see fit in a society that is different from the one we wake up to every morning. We ultimately have to opportunity to reinvent ourselves.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Journal #6

Interaction in a game is one of the most important aspects of game play. Games would be very boring without interaction of any sort. In order to create interactions, game makers have depended on artificial intelligence (AI) to give the players something to interact with. With the increased speed of telecommunications, players are now able to interact with one another along with AI. Second Life is a game that depends entirely on player-to-player interaction along with the financial based game play.
In Second Life, I had found an area with a group of people and I must say, there are quite a few limitations when interacting. Artificial Intelligence does not exist, so without other players, the game is dull. When interacting with other players, the two modes of communication are typing or talking with a headset. The group of people I found did not use the headsets, so I opted out of using what I had. Typing is actually nicer because the messages show up at the bottom of the screen, where all of the option buttons are. Other players tend to be one of two types; the type that will not say much, or the type that are rude. I tend to be rude when I receive one word responses when I am trying to have a conversation. There is a large variety of players within Second Life; I met one man from Denmark. The feature that allowed me to communicate with him was a translator. The instant message would show what he typed and then showed the translation into English. Second Life seems to want players to communicate from across the globe, but after a forced conversation there is very little to do with another player.
When interacting with the environment, a player can purchase items or collect items that are free. When purchasing an item, the player has to put it in the items list, much like a folder in Windows, and from there must open the folder, extract the item into the world, and then collect it again. This process is quite tedious and if a player had to buy a lot of items, this would take up most of the play time. In order to get around the massive landscape, the player can fly and/or teleport to coordinates much like a map works. Within the map function, there are filters to find locations with large populations, free items, etc to help the players get where they want to go. The environment is not much like a busy city in real life. In real life, you can bump into people and they will respond, possibly even start yelling or fighting. In Second Life, the most someone can do is type-out their aggression or leave entirely. I am not sure if the designers made it this way to try to create “the perfect society” where fighting does not exist and players have to be nice to one another, but this is what inevitably happens.
The quote from Lynn Hershman: “Interactive systems require viewers to react” is absolutely true. In order for a system to properly function, the player needs to make reactions to what he/she sees on screen. Second Life seems to ignore this rule; there is nothing to react to unless there are other players interacting with you. Even the other players interacting with you are most of the time, dull. If Second Life had some artificial intelligence to take up space when there are a specific number of players are not engaged in the game, they would greatly improve the playability of the game. Without interactivity, there is no game.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Diamond Age

I find it interesting how Miranda manages to ract after becoming a Drummer, in Nell’s Primer in order to find her.

After reading all that Nell learns from the Primer, I wonder how nice it would be to have one myself; I wish I could learn martial arts and all the proper etiquette as easily as Nell had. Having someone/something as a companion teaches is much more effective than someone/something that is completely foreign to your way of things.

I felt sort of bad for Hackworth, while he was gone his wife had decided to divorce him and when he came back Fiona decided to join him on his journey. On their travels, they stumble across Dramatis Personae and Fiona decides to stay with them. Hackworth has lost his family entirely. To think that a girl would rather stay with a theatre troupe than with her father is quite disturbing.

Princess Nell finds out her subjects were mice and when they become disenchanted, they are an army of little girls. What are you supposed to do with an army of little girls? Take over a city?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Virtual World

For my virtual world, I chose Second Life. After watching an episode of The Office where Dwight created a Second Second Life, I thought the game might be worth checking out. When you start Second Life, you can customize what your avatar looks like right away, along with a semi-custom name. Unfortunately, there is not much to choose from when you start, there is a list of last names to choose from, I picked the most brutal one I could find: Hammerer. (Erek Hammerer sounds pretty brutal, huh?) I spent a good deal of time trying to make mine look similar to me with terrible results. After getting acquainted with the controls and some other people, you can leave the starting island.
Once you land anywhere within Second Life, you immediately notice the mass amount of information within the game when it takes a few seconds to load your surroundings. Once you come to terms with your surroundings, there is quite a similarity between real life and Second Life. Just like real life, the economy runs everything and the Linden Dollar is king. Although, this may seem annoying to anyone on a budget (especially me, why else would I play a game that requires a $0 startup cost?) there are many things for free within the world of Second Life, you just have to know where to look! I found jeans, Nike Air’s and a Limbonic Art (Norwegian Black Metal band) tee shirt. I even managed to find a Diamond chain that sparkles so much, it almost blinding. There are free Pope Rings, Lord of the Ring rings, and various other pimp rings, even a blinged out pimp cane!
Controlling this madness is the same as any other game, WASD are directional keys and the mouse allows you to look around, the Home key activates flying and End deactivates flying. Communicating with others can be typed out with instant messaging, or use a headset and talk. I only used instant messaging because I did not care to have these other people hear my voice. Second Life has its own version of Ventrilo, however, it works like a real voice would in the sense that the further away you get from the avatar speaking, the less clear it gets.
This game is pretty easy for beginners, but I do not see the appeal for many players. Sure, there are there are X-rated areas, but even in virtual reality it seems disturbing. Aside from playing here and there to mess around and see what kinds of antics you can get away with and hear reactions from other players, there is not much to do without spending money. By using a credit card, you can purchase land and build a house using Second Life modeling software which would allow others to come in and have a virtual party. Some users like to make their houses open to the public and you can walk right into their kitchen. The most disappointing fact of the game is that there are no health meters and no way to die. To test this out, I had my avatar fly up as high as he could and disabled flying. While in is free-fall towards a real-life death, he starts flailing to make it a bit more believable. When he hits the ground, there are no repercussions, not even a bounce; he simply stands up waiting to do something. After about an hour and a half, I had seen enough in the Second Life world and got back into my real life. I will have to get back into this world eventually and see what kind of trouble I can start for free.