Author: mreydams

The Battle for Virtual Rights and Equality

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 This past weekend, I saw featured keynote speaker, Anita Saarkesian, speak at the annual Digital Ethics Symposium. Saarkesian runs a Youtube channel called Feminist Frequency that speaks out against sexism in the gaming industry. Because of this, she faces death threats on a daily bases from a group that started a hashtag trend called “gamergate”. This ‘gate’ keeps the gaming world exclusively male. It is a cyber mob that throws sexist temper tantrums in an attempt to keep up with the status quo, which is this notion that games are for boys; it is a domain for young men, hence Gameboy and not Gamegirl.

There is, however, a gaming spot where girls are welcomed. That spot is the causal and mobile games that are looked down upon by the intense gamers. Because those games are considered for women, they are marginalized. To be called a gamer one has to play masculine and testosterone infused games that develop very unhealthy mindset and perspective towards the female population. It also reinforces this myth that women are sexual objects and sexual playthings for male amusement. Women become disrespected and dehumanized. For women who do not identify themselves as gamers or who do not view the game beyond the story line, it can create an unhealthy mindset for them. It can lead to this idea that the stereotypical women is someone who wears skimpy outfits and is always the damsel in distress. They view the men as their savior, which not only enforces the patriarchal system but is also does not leave any room for independent thinking.

The woman does not always have to be the damsel in distress. She can save herself. However, this idea does not fit the patriarchal box. For example, The Legend of Krystal, was a Nintendo 64 game based around a female fictional fox character called Krystal who fights off demons on her and saves herself from any distress. The game developer, however, did not think the game would sell. He modified and altered the game into Star Fox Adventures. The protagonist becomes a male fox, Star, while Krystal trades her independence for the damsel in distress. In other words, if the game perpetuates misogyny and sexism, it receives the green light.

When women, like Sarkeesian, speak out against the misogyny and sexism, they are threatened. Because Sarkeesian holds a high profile and is one of the leading women to address this issue, she becomes the main target of gamergate. She is called a “feminazi” who steals money from hardworking men to buy shoes. In this case, she is “stealing” money from the hardworking gamers. As Marwick puts it, “when people with likeminded beliefs congregate together, they collectively move to a more extreme position”. There is an underlying fear among the gamergate community that women do not deserve an authoritative position in the same community. To me, it shows that these men are not only immature, but also very insecure about themselves. They work out their frustrations by hating on someone else.  We need to stop alienating women and believe what they say when they talk about their experiences. We need to stop shutting them down and speak against their defense. I would think that progressive games come with a progressive mentality. Therefore, games of any type should cater to both men and women and women should be allowed to speak up without feeling the repercussions. Women have the right to speak up and be heard in the gaming industry.

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Exploring Lambdamoo

I have never heard of Lambdaoo until taking this class. The fact that this game is told through stories in written form rather than visual is very interesting. One has to use their imagination in order to gain a visual sense of the space. There isn’t really any room for judgment. If one begins a new story that has yet to be perfected, others have the opportunity to alter the story to make it better. This allows the player to really access the creative side of the brain and create a world that fits according to their standards. As Dibbell mentions, “It asks us to shut our ears for the time being to techno-utopian ecstasies and look without illusion upon the present possibilities for building, in the on-line spaces of this world, societies more decent and free than those whose mapped onto dirt and concrete and capital”. In other words, it’s a tool that allows one to create a community of their own simply through the use of their words where they can flourish and thrive.

Not only does Lambdaoo allow creative story telling, it also allows one to strike up creative conversations with other users in the game. However, I found it difficult to converse with others. First off, I took me forever to figure out how to interact with other users. Once I got out of the closet and into the house, at one point I forgot that there are others in the virtual space. It wasn’t until a line came up that indicated to me that someone stumbled out of the closet I realized I was not alone. I tried to reach out to them through a series of commands. Every time, however, I was denied with “I don’t understand”. For me it got very frustrating to the point I thought if it even was possible. I only felt a sense of community through visuals provided but not by the interactions. Oddly, I felt a bit alone. How is that possible if it is only a virtual space? IT felt strange to explore this unknown space without any interactions.

As I delved deeper into the world of Lambdaoo , however, I came across a user who reached out to me. So all I had to type was <say> and a <thought>. I got very excited because of this new dimension. My excitement however, quickly died down because I realized I had nothing to say. How in the world do you interact with someone if there are no literal visuals? Because I was only a guest, the only thoughts entered my mind where just questions about the workings of the game. Do I talk about how lovely the roses are, or, compliment the bandwagon at the end of the field? What was the point of conversing with each other? Maybe it gave the users an opportunity to share creative ideas about the game or it just adds another realistic dimension to the game to mimic the real world. Once I figured out how to communicate with another user, I realized that a simple greeting of “hello” would suffice.

Once I started to get used to the game and began to explore the territory, I really enjoyed the game because of its simplicity to play. (The level of simplicity can vary based on your role in the game as the creator, the player, or both). You type in a few commands and you have entered a simple story that is intricate in its designs and layouts. I have to constantly remind myself that this is what the internet used to be; simple but still exciting.

Social Utopia or Dystopia?

Social networking is the version of the internet utopia. On this database, we are able to share information with everyone and they are able to spread the same information which can lead to a dystopia like cyber-bullying. Also, because our information is easy access, we, in a way, have also become much more vulnerable to the world. Nothing is private. There isn’t an exclusive club unless you pay a hefty price “Social network for rich people costs $9,000 to join”, where certain information is shared, where you only communicate with a certain type and certain group of people. Otherwise, the social network is a free for all.

I was on Myspace the other day just to see how much has changed. Because I, now regrettably, deleted my account a long time ago, I had to log into my sister’s account. I was in for surprise. When I visited the page, I realized that it has become a music site where successful and emerging bands can advertise themselves. Myspace, for as long as I can remember, has always been a good platform for bands to make a name, but now it has become strictly that. So, I nostalgically access her account to see what inspired her to make the choices of what would become her layout. I did not realize at the time, we were actually learning how to code. I felt so cool! However, not only did the welcoming page layout change, but the whole layout of the site changed. When I got to her home screen, there was no personalized layout. There was no song of your latest favorite band, playing in the back ground. Instead, I come across a generic layout, which through further exploring, is the layout for everyone. There isn’t a change layout button…what the hell happened? I think what made myspace to special is the fact that you could personalize it. Now, it has become the Facebook of music. The information we send has variety, but otherwise all the networks we join now, remain the same like in this Big Brother clip. Now we have to pay if we want something different from the rest.

Fleeting from the Tweet

Before I was required to create a twitter account, I told myself that I was never going to be part of that form of social media. As I was creating my account and filling out the required information like name, username and email, I had the option of checking a box stating, “ Tailor Twitter based on your recent website values”. This took me by surprised because our discussion in class from Wednesday was about how the algorithms of the computer shaped how we view the web as well as what is shown on the web. As mentioned in the video, ‘Beware online “filter bubbles”‘ this proves that Twitter also plays a part in what the computer thinks we want to see rather than what we have to see. It becomes another filtered bubble that keeps reality hidden from view. In a way it leaves the user in the dark and for me that is a really scary factor. It has an influence on the way we establish which topic is more important when in fact the reality of the situation is that it could be just a minor fluke in the grand scheme of things.

First off, I found it very strange that there was 140 word limit to your thoughts. How can you possibly express yourself or learn about a new event in such few words? The more I started to explore twitter, I realized that it was another platform for promotion as well as an outlet for the most witty and funny lines. I took me forever to find a thick tweet to tweet about because there is a certain formula behind it. Just like Imgur and Tumbler, in order to get the most likes, or in this case the most followers, the user has to come up with a creative witty line or image in order to garner attention. Otherwise, the user is deemed boring and awkward because they do not understand the world of social media, they do not comprehend the formula behind it.

https://twitter.com/mirjamrey/status/512737772281413632

blog 2 twitter image

With the creation of the 140 character tweet, our attention spans also shortened because of the shortened text. As mentioned in “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, due to the intake of fast and short information, our brain, in a way has been rewired. It is true that for most of us, we have the inability to focus on large texts. We use headlines or the abstracts as substitutes for reading the articles. Twitter does this too. A newscast would tweet a headline along with the link, but from my experience, I only read the headline because I lack the concentration and the patience to read through the article. If I do decide to open the article, I proceed to do a quick browse to understand the idea behind it. As a result, our interest towards important current events decreases and instead we are pull towards the most viral video, image, or tweet because it requires no effort. Twitter among other social media has also become the TV version of the potato chips for the brain.

Week 2 Discussion

Most of the time  when one thinks and talks about new media or media in general, they only think about the present. The prototypes leading to the surviving systems are generally lost and forgotten. In “What’s New About New Media?” by Lisa Gitelman and Goeffrey Pingree, they talk about how the past modules play just as important role when it comes to evaluating new media. In other words, the term does not only refer to today’s media. Every form of media and technology at the time of its creation, has held a spot in the technological frontier. Not all forms of media have the same success as their predecessors, therefore the trajectory is short lived. Once the media ceases to exists, the perception of the media goes from ‘new media’  to ‘dead media’. However, the ‘dead media‘ does not die in vain. It becomes a blue print for future technological creations that continue to influence and shape the standard living of society. This notion that traces of  old media carries on into future generations breaks down the common misconception that new media is the vanquisher of the old or what Paul Duguid describes as the supercession trope. Another misconception according to Duguid is what he calls the transparency trope. When a new form of media emerges, it perfects the information transmitted from the old media to created a better representation of reality. However, as mentioned before, old media at one point was considered new, therefore it does not make the old information any less valuable. It should also be regarded with great importance. Because new media is constantly evolving it is hard to define the term because there is always something new on the horizon. 

Van Dijk, on the other hand, in “Characteristics of New Media”  is able to provide the essence of ‘new media’ based on four characteristics: integration, interactivity, digital code, and hypertext. New media is created through the integration of telecommunications, data communications, and mass communications into one single medium creating the term multimedia. The mode of communication becomes faster and more efficient at the spreading of information. With this advancement, the level of interactivity experiences the same pattern. The sequences of action and reaction becomes more complex through digital code and hypertext. The new media allows us to communicate through a variety of means other than face to face. As a result, we are able to create a virtual identity which can be refined and finessed based on the capabilities of the new media.  

Discussion Question:

 How long is media considered ‘new media’? What is the time span?

 How has new media changed personal interaction? 

How has new media changed both personal and cultural identity? 

Due to our generations attachment to new media and the ability to curate our virtual identity, do you think it has made us more narcissistic?

Main Points:

‘new media’ does not only focus on the present day, because old media was also once considered new

‘old media’ are considered the blueprints for new media

supercession trope vs. transparency trope

new media has four characteristics: integration, interactivity, digital code, hypertext

“New Media, Old Media”

 

Turning to the Digital Letter

my-one-true-love-computer 

I have always loved sending and receiving a letter or a post card in the mail. This was during the time when opening the mailbox was just a daily mundane routine for me except for the occasional advertisements about the newest deal on ordering a large pizza. So, when I waited for a reply, the anticipation of receiving  a personalized letter address to me would be one of the many highlights i looked forward to during the week. Sometimes a week would lead to two weeks or more, but eventually the letter would find its way to my doorstep. After reading the letter and trying to take in all the details of the events on the other side of the world, it was my turn. I’d bring out my stationary kit with matching paper, envelope, and stickers and write a letter infused with as much character as possible. This routine in my daily life would continue for many years until I discovered the wonderful world of the email.

I heard the term ‘email’ being thrown around here and there and I knew that my parents were active users of this new form of technology. The exchange of letters was in part due to the fact that my parents prohibited me from having an email. I also never put much thought into it. For me, letters as a way of communication was sufficient enough. However, I became increasingly more and more curious about this foreign invention. I even clearly remember today this day the moment I asked my father about the email. He just finished writing a ‘letter’ and clicked the send button. In my naivety, I asked him how long the process was for the ‘letter’ to finally reach its destination. In the back of my head, I was thinking three to five days. I was wrong, completely wrong. When I learned that a letter through email took less than a day to be received, I was flabbergasted. I would not possibly comprehend how a letter could travel so fast. I had to explore this new mode of communication.

To do so, I created my first email account in fifth grade. The process of creating my email address was just as exciting and gratifying as if I was writing my home address on one of my stationary envelopes. After spending a couple of minutes on coming up with what I thought at the time was the most creative address, I was transferred to the home page to create my first electronic letter. I found myself typing away, trying to get as much information as possible into this white box, only to discover the white box was endless. I no longer suffered from the hand cramps of writing too fast or the smudged ink from being left handed. There was no longer any need to decipher the scribble scrabble of my handwriting or that of my correspondent. From rummaging through my address book, I could now simply scroll through my contact list.  Not only could I show my new form of writing to one person, but to many people at once! I did not have to rewrite my thoughts. A process of a couple hours turned to mere minutes. I now had the ability to mass communicate on a more efficient level without the large amount of time, paper and ink.  In other words, I stumbled upon a new world and there was no going back.

I still write the occasional letter, but having the ability to send people links and images no longer requires the use of my stationary kit. It is one object in what would become a series of objects to take up less space on my shelf.