Author: anthonyrossi111

Anita Sarkeesian at LUC

By Anthony Rossi

Last Friday, I attended the Digital Ethics Symposium to see Anita Sarkeesian’s keynote speech. Sarkeesian is an important social figure and media critic who has recently made waves by commenting on the negative attitudes towards women in the videogame industry. Growing up, Sarkeesian was a fan of videogames even though her parents didn’t support the hobby. They initially refused to buy her a Gameboy because they were convinced it was “for boys”. Sarkeesian noticed that, indeed, most of the games and their advertising campaigns seemed targeted at men. Instead of being powerful heroes, female characters in videogames were reduced to sexual objects or helpless damsels in distress. Sarkeesian found it hard to connect with many games because of these tropes, and began to discuss her frustrations in web episodes of her blog, Feminist Frequency. She pointed out that there are an increasing amount of women playing and developing videogames, so it is ridiculous that sexism is still so prevalent in the field.

When her videos were posted, there was an immediate wave of intense criticism from certain members of the male gaming community who where convinced that Sarkeesian’s remarks would somehow ruin videogames. These gamers, who eventually became branded “Gamergate”, began to attack her with comments, tweets, and invasions of her privacy. They hacked into her files and leaked her personal information, mass-flagged her videos to get them removed from Youtube, and sent her specific rape and death threats. They also created crackpot conspiracy theories about Sarkeesian, claiming that she was bleaching her skin to appear more white and that she was sending herself the death threats in order to get more attention. These theories were used to portray Sarkeesian as a selfish, raving lunatic who was stealing money from those who donated to her Kickstarter.

Sarkeesian has continued to stand strong against these threats and attacks on her personal image. In her speech, she pushed for social change that would not only decrease the presence of sexism in videogames, but also reform social media networks to make it more difficult for harrassment to occur online. She suggested adding shareable block lists or the option to autoblock messages containing certain keywords as ways to innovate sites like Facebook and Twitter. She also suggested that these sites make it an option for users to report abuses against their friends so that the victims will not have to relive the abuse. Adding functions like these will make social media more secure and prevent serious threats and abuses like she has experienced. As she pointed out, it will also encourage more people to report offenses commited against them or a friend online.

I am very glad that I had the opportunity to see Anita Sarkeesian speak in person. She made some very important points about social action while giving us a window into her life and her personal experiences. I hope that her ideas continue to have an impact on new media, because she has some very valuable opinions and points that could make social media and videogames more inclusive.

LambdaMoo: Minimal, Interesting, and Very, Very Confusing.

By Anthony Rossi

For me, spending time on LambdaMoo was as confusing as it was interesting. At first I found it difficult to immerse myself in the online world because the format of the game was so different from what I am used to. The slow pacing of the single direction and response gameplay was odd because it felt as though I was speaking directly to the computer. As I tested out different commands and choices, I felt restricted by the lack of options. The fact that you have to structure your commands in a specific way for them to work threw me off. I was so frustrated that I barely wanted to continue playing, but eventually I started to figure out the gameplay and enjoy the experience of wandering around this online world. There were some strange moments (I got trapped in between barrels in the wine cellar for about twenty minutes) and some really cool ones (I played and won a text only version of Pac Man). The environments were described with such detail that I could picture everything that was going on even though I was only scrolling through text. At first I did not understand how to communicate, with other players in this environment, leading to some very awkward encounters. Most users seemed to ignore me if I did not approach them, but some reached out to me when they saw that I was logged in as a guest. Because the game is text based, it is up to each user to cultivate their own identity within the world and develop their own characters. It is clear that certain players take LambdaMoo very seriously, because their characters were detailed, believable, and well planned out. The users that wanted to chat with me were all very polite, which made it confusing how anything like our reading A Rape In Cyberspace occurred in this environment. I was expecting users to be much more abrasive because of the high level of anonymity provided by the text only game style. Without any photos or ways to track other users, it would be easy for trolls to log on simply to mess with people. Most of the other users I encountered, however, were just logging on to spend time exploring the environment, and interaction with other users seemed rather serious. Overall, I was impressed with the experience once I figured out what I was doing. I did not expect that such a basic style of gameplay could be so complicated and that it could create such a detailed virtual world.

The Good, The Bad, The Vine

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By Anthony Rossi

At its core, Vine is a very simple social media app: anyone with a smartphone can shoot, edit, post, and comment on six-second mini-videos. When it first launched in 2013, Vine instantly gained popularity as more and more people joined to follow and interact with their friends. Soon, people began to take notice of the app’s “popular” page, where the videos with the most likes, views, and comments would be showcased for all to see. It is estimated that now over 40 million people are using this app, but reception is mixed.

https://vine.co/popular-now

So is Vine a networking Utopia or Dystopia?

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On one hand, Vine is brilliant. The app allows you film pretty much anything and post it in a feed for your friends to see. It is very simple to use, making it easy for everyone to enjoy. Some users incorporate costumes and props, even sets, into their videos. Some simply film themselves talking. Vine gives many people a creative platform to express themselves. Vine distinguishes itself from Youtube because videos can only be six seconds and are automatically looped, challenging users to experiment with quick storytelling. People create visual art, short form comedy, musical loops, and many other things. The options are almost endless!

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of problems with Vine. First of all, the format is extremely restrictive. There is not a good way to edit your videos, and six seconds is almost no time to tell an entire story. The popular page also created a problem, because content became less about creativity and more about getting the most attention. Often, Vine users will recycle jokes or completely steal ideas from whomever they can in attempt to gain followers. “Vine Celebrities” are also paid to promote products, replacing creative content with commercials.

This blend of positive and negative features has consumers divided and, overall, the app seems to be declining in popularity. I believe, as is the case with most projects, Vine was launched with a Utopian vision, but it became corrupt in practice.

Questions:

What is your opinion of Vine?

Do find the six second time limit restrictive or are you in favor of it?

Thick and Thin Tweets

By Anthony Rossi

I first started using Twitter my Junior year of high school and, like many other people, I use this social medium mainly as a distraction. My Twitter timeline is something I can scroll through when I’m bored, when I can’t fall asleep, or when I just need something to look at so I don’t have to make eye contact with strangers on the bus.

 

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Sick tweet, man!

 

At this point, I’ve tweeted 3,621 times and I can honestly estimate that at least 3,610 of those posts were what David Silver would call “thin tweets” (tweets with only one layer of information). Because I am so used to tweeting immature jokes, bad pictures of my friends, and other average things that no one cares about, it was actually a real challenge to sit down and try to figure out something worthwhile to say. I decided to make each of my multi-layered, link-filled “thick tweets” about one of my passions.

With my first thick tweet, I promoted my local improvisation team’s latest show, making sure to include the date, the price, the start time, and the location of the event. I also included a link to our Facebook page so that if anyone was interested, they could quickly find out more information about the team. This is different from my average tweet about the 45 Kings, because I will usually only mention one or two pieces of that information instead of taking the time to include it all. Overall, this thick tweet feels like a much better promotion of the team, because it is informative and interactive instead of a half-assed invitation.

That's more like it!

That’s more like it!

 

With my second thick tweet, I tried to drum up excitement about Fantasy Football season by posting a link to an article with lineup advice. Usually when I tweet about Fantasy Football it is an out of context little blurb about my team or a player’s status in the league. This thick tweet felt more inclusive and appealing because it doesn’t only focus on my experience with the game, but the game as a whole!

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Overall, this exercise was a little difficult for me. Each tweet took more time, more attention, and more creativity than I am used to devoting to my account. Once I had finished typing out each tweet, it seemed to look wrong. This is probably due to the fact that I am used to reading thin tweets, so seeing multiple levels of information in one post made it feel too long and too complex. This, of course, made me think about the readings. Rushkoff’s idea that the net limits complexity and Dibbell’s ideas about the way social media has limited our attention span both seem like prime examples of my experience with thick tweets.

Twitter is tailored to our easily-bored generation and our desire for immediate gratification, so I’m not sure whether my followers would be interested in receiving large amounts of information all at once or whether they would hate me for crowding their timeline with links.

Questions:

1) If you were to post exclusively “Thick Tweets”, do you think that you would gain or lose followers?

2) Do you think you would get more or less favorites and retweets on each post?

Computer-Based Nostalgia

By Anthony Rossi

When I was young, I would wake up at 6 AM and run into the family room to play around for a few hours on our enormous block of a computer. Initially, I didn’t have any interest in the internet and preferred to play with my collection of CD-ROMs. My favorite games were painfully 90’s and would always involve colorful protagonists, 2D graphics, annoying music, and puzzles that took me way too long to figure out. It’s amazing to think that these simple games (Freddi the Fish and the Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds, Zoombinis, Math Blaster) gave me hours and hours of entertainment, but it all seemed so exciting and new.

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By the time I started using the internet, it was mainly to take care of my Neopets or to watch the Hamster Dance a million times in a row. I began to slowly branch out and explore the internet a little bit, adding my friends on several game sites so we could compare our scores or trade virtual items. Cartoon Network, Addicting Games, and AlbinoBlackSheep quickly became my top visited pages. I had made the jump from “Rated G” web content to some hard core “PG” stuff. I was completely hooked on the fast-paced, action-packed games and flash animations which were updated almost daily. The fact that these websites changed and evolved really blew me away, because there was always something new to see. My CD-ROMs were quickly forgotten and I was sucked into the world of the Internet.

My “Ah-Ha!” moment came a little bit later than it probably did for most. When I was in second grade, an online game called Runescape began to take the internet by storm and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The very idea of playing live online with other players and interacting with them in real time was mind-blowing for me. Unfortunately, my mom wouldn’t allow me to play unless I played along with my older sister who was less interested in fighting dragons than finding cute armor. We added our friends to our contact list so we could message them as we played. We didn’t have AIM yet, so Runescape served as our primary means of communication with our friends online. Obviously, Runescape was not a lasting trend, but it was my introduction to online communication and the online multiplayer experience.

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Online life used to be so simple, huh? As much as I love our new technology, I secretly miss that ability to be so easily pleased and entertained. Excuse me as I go download the Freddi the Fish pack on Steam and try to recapture my youthful innocence.

Image Sources:

http://www.giantbomb.com/images/1300-1133482

http://images.mmosite.com/feature/runescape/picture/big/rs_01.jpg