Give the iPad a chance… I did

Ok, so, I am here sitting in a dingy atrium in the middle of Russell Square, London, typing on my iPad at it has just passed midnight, and I am coming to the end of a month long ramble around europe. If there is anyone who is going to tell me I didn’t give the iPad a fighting chance to impress me, I will be sorely tempted to shove a cactus up their arse…

So, inevitable, the question is… Has it?

Underwhelmingly… Yes… But not in the way one would expect, even coming from someone who is a closet Apple fan (yes, my nerdy gamer friends hang shit on me for it). The best way to sum it up, immediately, is to give you an example of an interaction I had with some fellow Australians, while on the road.

It was a blazing hot Berlin day (weird, I know, we brought Aussie weather along with us when we came) and I was sitting in the coach trying to get as much airflow to my face. The girl from the seat behind me, having spied the unholy iPad lying next to me asked me,

“Oh, that’s an iPad, can I have a go?”

Naturally, I said yes (as all gentlemen do when forced to interact with an attractive brunette interested in his gadgetry), and as she began pondering it’s use she asked me what I thought of it. All I could say was,

“Meh… It’s an iPad”

As opposed to the magical and revolutionary slogan Apple has now been pushing for the last 6 months (yes, it is even quoted on the service hotline, the hotline you call when you’re fed up with an Apple device not working), the greatest revelation (for me) has been the fact that it has not been a revelation at all.

Unlike the iPhone 3G, when I finally came to lay my hands on this device for the first time, I almost forgot I had it (I left it in the bedroom, promptly went to play some more Assassins Creed II, which, by the way, is almost as good as ME2, big call I know, before remembering I should probably take a look at my eleven hundred dollar purchase).

Previously called the Apple Tablet, Apple probably changed it’s name, when they realized how un-awe inspiring it was. As it’s former name suggests, it really is just an almost tablet PC, albeit, with the popularity of iPod touches and iPhones, it has come to be known as a gigantic one of them… And it is… Well… Sort of.

It’s giant 9 something inch screen is reminiscent of a tablet PC, and it’s multi touch screen is infinitely more usable than other similar technologies, however, it’s specifications and operating system limitations create a device that is extremely good at a small number of functions and not much good at anything else.

Coming in at over half a kilo (this is the 64GB 3G version we are talking about), it is far too heavy to use like a kindle as you slowly droop forward from extended use. However, Apple have made the choice to essentially make the device a giant battery, with over 10 hours of usage to be had (yes, I have used it for that long… On a plane… While my arse turned to jelly), which makes it good for another function.

Apart from being able to play your tunes through its iPod interface (iTunes is ludicrously easy to manage… To all those iTunes haters out there, think of the musicians who use it to fund their livelihoods…. yeah! Sad gits), with the release of iworks for iPad and a slew of similar applications through the app store, the iPad has turned into a marvelous space saving, long lasting, office computer!

And that is it’s problem… For many people, buying this device is like buying a luxury iPhone, the screen is supposed to be all encompassing and the functionality just as full. But it isn’t. Like any other computer, it doesn’t come preloaded with all that you need (It didn’t even come with a clock or calculator function), and all that extra software comes at a premium, a premium that is significantly more hefty than your average iPhone application. Even then, with the delayed release of iOS4 to the iPad, the usability of these applications can be frustratingly limited. The lack of a camera and microphone for such purposes as Skype is also perplexing, and would be an extreme let down to anyone who skypes a lot.

Upon reading an Ars technica analysis of the new OS in conjunction with the new iPhone 4, the sadness of this device became all the more apparent. Not only has the new iPhone been gifted with the new operating system, but it has also been endowed with twice the memory and the same processor as the iPad. This leads me to see the iPad as dated… And it’s only three months old…

Sadly, despite it’s downfalls, and also like a luxury iPhone, it is still undeniably desirable… It’s sleekness, solid build quality, screen and smooth operation (vetted by Apple, of course) still make it a compelling experience.

If you can lower your expectations and can settle for your everyday limited casual user functionality, this may be the perfect device for you… And therein lies the problem.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Flickr much?

Hey guys,

I’m excited about the new old Konica FS-1 I got in the mail, and I’m now waiting on its big brother as well. The lenses from the old Konica Hexanon AR range are about the best lenses I’ve ever used! And to have it on a 30 year old 35mm SLR, jeez, the digital generation sure has diluted the quality coming out of those previously awesome Japanese lens makers (ok, they don’t really make the lenses nowadays, they usually pawn that off to thailand).

I’m so excited, that I decided to share my prints on a new flickr account I set up! here’s some of the first images I had processed from my camera. Seriously! People start looking at those old pre-1985 camera’s. They’re built like bricks and the lenses are amazing and cheap to boot!

cheers! chum

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thechum/

Follow-up: Ho hum, I spoke too soon, my FS-1 decided to slowly die while I was trekking through Pompeii, no doubt due to the notoriously faulty electrics, and here I am with 7 lenses and without a body to stick them on. I will be on the lookout for a Konica FT-1 now, apparently Konica improved on the electronics on this on despite the polycarbonate body. Anyway, I have a Hasselblad waiting for me at home which I am dying to try out, bring it on!! Oh and I wasn’t left completely high and dry by the death of my lovable FS-1, like the volkswagen beetle from the African challenge on Top Gear, I have been forced to use my tiny arse Sony compact digicam…. Blergh…. Stupid 28mm super wide, I don’t want to stand a meter away from my subject!!! Pics incoming

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Exigesis on presentation of thesis design

Hi again guys! I decided I would pop in my exigesis on my presentation of thesis design (yeh… I kno… writing about speaking about writing… its really wierd) for any further discussion you can bring to me in case I’ve missed anything. Cheers! Chum

Killing the Noob
Presentation Exigesis

“One does not study the labour market because work was holy and ethical; one did it because the conditions of work meant a great deal to a large number of ordinary people.”

– Edward Castronova, 2001

These are some of the first words written in Edward Castronova’s seminal work, Virtual Worlds: a First Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier, possibly, one of the most referenced economic papers of all time, and, yet, it is entirely concerned with a new, often dismissed as child’s play, medium: massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG).

While “games” is a part of their label (Garriott, 1997, ed. Safko and Brake, 2009), the fact is, they now serve as a realm for communication and interaction, exploration of one’s identity, participation in the growth of important cultural artefacts, and the reinvigoration of a culture of collaborative play not seen since the golden age of arcades, for over 100 million people (Castronova, 2005, Steinkuehler, 2006).

Despite the current nascent state of the field of MMORPG research, investigations have been conducted in vastly different, often surprising, fields. They include the cathartic psychological effects of MMORPGs on their users (Turkle, 1995) to the simulation of viral epidemics (Balicer, 2007); from the experimentation of legislation (Bradley and Froomkin, 2004) to leveraging the learning processes within MMORPGs to create environments conducive to more scholastic modes of education (Steinkuehler, 2004, 2008).

Killing the Noob is not a thesis that is examining any of the previously mentioned issues, nor is it examining the multitude of other, popularly referenced topics. Rather, it hopes to uncover the reason why these complex and engaging vehicles for social interaction are so short-lived, stunting their potentially significant and wide reaching cultural impact on our earthly society.

“In a game type that is wildly different to previously well established genres that immerses users based on emergent game play resulting from social interaction rather than graphics, sound or even fundamental mechanics…

Why are people leaving? “

While the overall methodology that will be used to address this question is loosely based on Claude Levi-Strauss’s(1963) model of structuralist anthropology, that is, the comparison of deep structures within different societies, this thesis will employ a wide variety of methods in order to compare the social structure currently existing in MMORPG’s (Bartle, 2004) and how they arose, to the social structure of the theoretically appealing, but practically impossible notion of a meritocracy (Young, 1958).

The first chapter will be an overview of the current literature available on the subjects of MMORPGs and meritocracy, and will be divided into the different streams in which research is currently being undertaken. Through a discourse of its history, the second chapter will provide the reader with an understanding of what an MMORPG is and how they evolved into their current state. Chapter three will study cases of how implementations of meritocracy have been attempted in the real world and their consequences, in order to provide the reader with a greater comprehension of how meritocracy is currently understood and the results of executing that interpretation. Chapter four and five will attempt to link the two fields of study, MMORPGs and meritocracy. This will be accomplished by investigating how an MMORPG embodies possibly the first “true” meritocracy, as was outlined by Young (1958), Eckland (1967), Jensen (1969) and Herrnstein (1973), through its use of avatar statistics as a classification system for playing ability. Using the MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics) model outlined by Hunicke, LeBlanc and Zubek (2001), the thesis will discuss the consequences of such a design, comparing it to the population trends of current and past MMORPGs. Rather than attempting to postulate a remedy for the situation, due to the complexity of what is essentially engineering societies, Killing the Noob will conclude with areas for further research.

The historical discourse of how meritocracy arose will be divided into two opposing interpretations. Originally defined by the musings of Young (1958) in his seminal work, The Rise of the Meritocracy, its widespread misinterpretation lead to the views of Eckland (1967), Jensen (1969) and Herrnstein (1973), who argued that enforcing a meritocratic structure using general intelligence testing (or g-Factor testing (Spearman, 1923)) as the metric for classification, on systems of education, seeding an eventual structural change in society, would be of benefit for the human species. They saw the social barriers to opportunity rapidly diminishing, and argued that appropriate support should only be given to those groups in society that could best take advantage of it. Herrnstein, in particular, was derided as scientifically racist; when it emerged that during the course of his research he postulated that, in the modern American society, African Americans had an inherent deficiency in mental ability that could not be corrected with any amount of mentoring (Herrnstein and Murray, 1996).

On the other hand, scholars such as Jackson (1964), Jencks (1972) and, later, Gould (ed. Jacoby and Glauberman, 1995) and McNamee and Miller Jr. (2004) argued that despite more traditional barriers to opportunity diminishing, a different set of social barriers arising out of a hyper capitalist society now confronted the less fortunate. They argued that it was these new barriers, rather than inherited mental ability, that retarded the mental growth of those in environments less conducive to learning, and it was in the best interests of the wider society to provide greater support to those in such a situation.

Between the 1960s and late 1990s over one hundred and thirty papers were published on the subject of meritocracy, for the most part, either attacking or defending Herrnstein’s work (Gottfredson, 1994, ed. Jacoby, Glauberman, 1995). During this period of stagnation very little research was done on the possible real world application of meritocracy and its consequences, and the moral and ethical implications of quantifying human ability. Instances of it emerging in the corporate and educational systems, and, most publicly, in Singapore, will be discussed through the use of case studies in chapter three of Killing the Noob.

The second topic to be researched, MMORPGs, will be discussed in chapters two, four and five. Labelled as MUDs at the time (Multi-user Dungeons, homage to DUNGEN, an adaptation of the popular Dungeons and Dragons electronic game, Zork), MMORPGs grew out of the academic fascination with network technologies during the 1970s and 1980s, which had more in common with the creation of ARPANET and, the resultant Internet, than the popularly referenced genesis of gaming, Pong. The first engine that enabled multiple users to interact with and create artefacts for each other, essentially an early “chat room” (room in very literal, though textually narrated, sense), was created by Roy Trubshaw in 1978, but was not utilised to its full extent until Richard A. Bartle became involved in its development in 1980, now widely recognized as the creator of the first MMORPG (Bartle, 2004, Kelly and Rheingold, 1993, Castronova, 2005).

This is, partially, the reason why the current generation of MMORPGs, in a large part, share commonality with social networking websites such as Facebook and Myspace, with multiple users interacting with each other and the generation and exchange of social capital in a public, visually depicted social space. In fact, it could be argued, the emergent social interaction was the core game play within MMORPGs, with the other mechanics, more akin to traditional single player electronic games, such as first person shooters (MMOFPSs such as Tabula Rasa and the recently released MAG (or Massive Action Game)), real time strategies (MMORTSs such as Shattered Galaxy and the recently released End of Nations), and, in this case, role playing games, simply creating an engaging means to direct this emergent social interaction (Turkle, 1995, Yee, 2006).

However, it is this implementation of the mechanics of role playing games that enforces the, not entirely natural for the society of a virtual realm, dynamic of scarcity, where the issue of how to distribute resources can only be determined by an aesthetic of rationalised inequality (Hunicke, LeBlanc and Zubek, 2001). In order to understand how this results in the aesthetic of rationalised inequality, one needs to understand the closely bound relationship between the hidden mechanics within an electronic role playing game and the genre’s predecessor, the heavily statistics driven, pen and paper game, Dungeons and Dragons, which will be discussed in chapter four of Killing the Noob (Barton, 2007).

Uniting two disparate fields of research, MMORPGs and meritocracy, Killing the Noob hopes to fill a current void in academic literature using a combination of historical discourse, case studies of current instances of real world implementations of meritocracy and MDA design structure of an MMORPG derived from role playing games to investigate the current applications of meritocracy and their consequences, and the implications of quantifying human ability within an environment that has a definitive meritocratic structure, MMORPGs.

Bibliography

BALICER, R. D. 2007. Modelling Infectious Diseases: Dissemination Through Online Role-Playing Games. Epidemiology, 19, 260-261.

BARTLE, R. A. 2004. Designing Virtual Worlds, Indianapolis, Indiana, New Riders.

BARTON, M. 2007. The History of Computer Role-Playing Games Part 1: The Early Years (1980-1983). Available: http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20070223a/barton_pfv.htm [Accessed May 11th, 2010].

BRADLEY, C. FROOMKIN, M. 2004. Virtual Worlds, Real Rules: Using Virtual Worlds to Test Legal Rules. In: JACK M. BALKIN, B. S. N. (ed.) State of Play: Law, Games and Virtual Worlds. New York: New York Law School Law Review.

CASTRONOVA, E. 2005. Synthetic Worlds: The business and culture of online games, London, UK, University of Chicago Press.

ECKLAND, B. K. 1967. Genetics and Sociology: a reconsideration. Atlantic Monthly, 173-194.

GOTTFREDSON, L. S. 1994. Mainstream Science on Intelligence. Wall Street Journal.

HERNNSTEIN, R. J. 1973. I.Q. in the Meritocracy, Little, Brown & Co.

HERRNSTEIN, R. J. MURRAY, C. 1996. Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, Free Press.

HUNICKE, R. LEBLANC, M. ZUBEK, R. 2001-2004. MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. Game Developers Conference. San Jose.

JACKSON, B. 1964. Streaming. Streaming. Routledge & Kegan Paul.

JACOBY, R. (Ed.) GLAUBERMAN, N. (Ed.) 1995. The Bell Curve Debate, Three Rivers Press.JENCKS, C. 1972. Inequality a Reassessment of the Effect, Harper

JENSEN, A. R. 1969. How much can we boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement. Harvard Educational Review, 1-123.

MCNAMEE, S. J. MILLER, R. K. 2004. The Meritocracy Myth, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.

SAFKO, R. BRAKE, D. 2009. The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies for Business Success, New York, NY, Wiley.

SPEARMAN, C. 1923. The nature of intelligence and the principles of cognition, London, UK, Macmillan.

STEINKUEHLER, C. A. Year. Learning in massively multiplayer online games. In: Y. B. KAFAI, W. A. S., N. ENYEDY, A. S. NIXON, & F. HERRERA, ed. Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of the Learning Sciences, 2004 Mahwah, NJ.

STEINKUEHLER, C. A. 2006. Why Game (Culture) Studies Now? . Games and Culture, 1, 97-102.

STEINKUEHLER, C. A. 2008. Cognition and literacy in massively multiplayer online games. In: J. COIRO, M. K., C. LANKSHEAR, & D. LEU (ed.) Handbook of Research on New Literacies. Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum.

TURKLE, S. 1995. Life on Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, Massachusetts, MIT Press.

YEE, N. 2006a. The Demographics, Motivations and Derived Experiences of Users of Massively-Multiuser Online Graphical Environments. Stanford University.

YEE, N. 2006b. The Psychology of Massively Multi-User Online Role-Playing Games. In: R. SCHRODER, A. A. (ed.) Avatars at Work and Play: Collaboration and Interaction in Shard Virtual Environments. London, UK: Springer-Verlag.

YOUNG, M. D. 1958. The Rise of the Meritocracy, London, Thames and Hudson.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Welcome back Chum!

Ahaha, yes, I know, I am greeting myself in the 3rd person, but, yes, hullo again to you too.

I has been a while hasn’t it kids! I know I was meaning to come back with some work from my film studies, but production has not yet kick started (it will… very very soon! in fact… in about 11 days, how exciting!).

Anyways, what prompted me to come back here… hrm… let’s see… two corresponding and equally inevitably colliding reasons:

1. My thesis on MMORPG structures (yes, coming from a closet WoW nerd, it seemed more that likely I was going to one of them kind of academics)

2. The impending release of Final Fantasy XIV, the spiritual successor to the first MMORPG that I ever played and loved/hated (you never truly love an MMORPG, it’s always a self-defeating relationship).

So, firstly, to start my first serious posting of 2010, I would just like to say, Sen. Stephen Conroy, for once in your puny little life, I applaud your insistence on a National Broadband Network with or without Telstra (who will fail if don’t join the scheme for it seems likely they will be unable to compete with it in a marketplace. Sounds like socialism? Who cares! It’s good for you, me and the rest of Australia). I will be interested to read the $25 million report they faffed on about it.

No, seriously, to start with, while I am much more knowledgeable about social structures, particularly theoretical meritocracy, and the ins and outs of MMORPG’s, that doesn’t necessarily mean I have organised them into a coherent format. So, to blab on about the first, I am currently at the stage where I can finally start contemplating my first serious chapter to ease me into full on argumation mode: MMORPG’s a history!

Currently, I have a half completed introduction and a mostly completed review of existing literature. Here’s something I would like an input on, oh scrawny singular reader of this blog, most likely to be myself. Is the social structure, ideology, concept, whatever you want to classify it as, of meritocracy analogous to the learning and progression system, and consequently forming society within the current generation of MMORPG’s (I am talking the 3rd generation here: post Everquest II and World of Warcraft), and, if it is, is that a bad thing?

I suppose before you can even answer that, you might need a small explanation as to what meritocracy is. Well, for those of you asking, meritocracy is a society based on a definable and scarce metric of some human competency, for example, IQ. As resources defined by are current technology is finite, academics have been forever contemplating a way to distribute these resources in an ethically and morally sound way (keep in mind ethics and morals and wholly human constructions and, as such, open slather to interpretation), and that is where this idea of merit comes in, as well as the argument of whether allocation of resources should be decided by being a “supportive” society or “opportunistic” society. Seems a rather convoluted concept, right? And yet, I believe no-one, at least no-one in western society would argue against its basic premise.

We all have a right to an opportunity to excel

Again, this is highly open to interpretation, although I won’t go into it (I tried it once in a 40 minute presentation and it didn’t work… I’ll keep telling myself: at least I know what’s going on)

So, now that you have an idea of what meritocracy may be, what say you?

If you can justify it all the better (saves me work, heh). Either way, I’ll be back towards the end of the year with my definitive answer.

Anyway, apart from the fact that my love of MMORPG’s was “birthed” by FFXI, FFXIV interests me in an entirely new way, and, for that reason, if I don’t get a beta key, I’ll stab someone for it (evil grin). But, in all seriousness, it is the first in the 3rd generation of MMORPG’s, or, considering the gap between the last AAA grade MMORPG was developed, possibly one of the first of the 4th generation of MMORPGs, that has implemented a skill system. A system that, while still provides progression (without progression and scarcity of it, there would be no motivation to play), does not provide an explicit way to rationalize inequality. And, I will be extremely interested if this turns into a solution for the current woes for most MMORPGs of short-lived”ness”.

Also, this will be, hopefully, an oppurtunity to experience and investigate, as an anthropological participant observer, an MMORPG from it’s commercial birth.

Dear god, santa, the tooth fairy, whatever deity you can think of, please let me have a Beta Key!

Till next time: Chum signing out

Follow-up: well it turns out, SE had the stupidity to hand me a beta key! I’m currently in London but as soon as I get back, first impressions are on the way!!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Nationwide Net Nanny – Internet Filter to Provide (Protection) Censorship for Australians

This is by far the stupidest thing this government, or any government before it has done (and they haven’t done a whole lot wrong, admittedly) by a long hole-in-one-esque shot, even stupider than John Howard and his changes to work laws pre-election (not that it was particularly harmful to employment despite all the conjecture, but mainly because he shot him and his party in the foot with a policy that was bound to fail ’cause it was quite crap).

On the 15th of December (yesterday), after Enex labs reports on mini trials (and yes… they were mini trials, several thousand blacklisted sites measured by a few thousand users akin to measuring a drop of sea water for salinity in the southern ocean and assuming the readings to be the same in the great lakes of Canada… totally irrelevant) of this filter were released publicly, Senator Stephen Conroy deemed it a great success and began drafting a policy to try and pass through the senate in 2010,

“Most Australians acknowledge that there is some internet material which is not acceptable in any civilised society,” he said. “It is important that all Australians, particularly young children, are protected from this material.”

Ok, well, apart from attempting to take the moral high ground preset by his conservative mindset, there are several things wrong with the statement, and, considering it is less than 30 words long, thats quite a high number of problems.

1. Most Australians? Has he polled anyone yet or is he assuming… Because if the Sydney Morning Herald polls are anything to go by (and they’re not really, considering their wording and the reputation of the vendor) 92% of the Australian public disagree with him, curiously, this is exactly the same number of people who disagree with Gov Gen Michael Atkinson’s stand against an R18+ rating for games (this will play into it later as these two things, games and internet, both convergent media technologies, will affect each other. I’m not sure on the technicalities of it, but at this time, it get’s me thinking. If a game is RC’d in Australia, for example, Manhunt, then won’t that be filtered on the internet? If so, won’t large swathes of game related websites that cover this game and possibly the issue also be filtered? maybe this is an overextension.)

2. “any civilized society”. In who’s book, what is your classification of civilized, and why do you feel to need to impose your ideals upon us Sen. Conroy? Is there any other reason than to reinforce your self-importance and belief in moral superiority?

3. “It is important that all Australians, particularly young children, are protected from this material.” This is probably the most problematic statement of all. Firstly, “all Australians”? We are homogeneous sheep, gee thanks, we can’t think for ourselves. Secondly, “young children”? If memory serves me correctly, the government’s role is not to act as our parents, that position has already been filled, it is the government’s job to allow a pathway for democratic discourse (although… I also find this highly problematic considering the general lack of intelligence, narrow-mindedness and inability to thoroughly research and backup their political views that most politicians suffer from), something demonstratively lacking in this push for legislation (as can be backed up by public opinion). Lastly, “protected from this material”?  Again, this argument is purely restricting choice. It is similar to saying, “I don’t like this material, hence, no-one should be allowed to view it”.

Now, I am an open-minded guy, I accept there are questionable websites out there with content I cannot condone, but respect the right to freedom of speech… I’ll just never actively seek to find that material (in fact, I believe google and the other two big search engines filter such material anyway… How a small child could telepathically input the address of a website that contains child pornography without actively seeking the content is a bit beyond me… And most of this content would be classified as deep web space, so accidentally finding one is about as likely as finding a purple grain of sand in the sea (if you don’t already know where they are)). I agree that there is such sexualized violence and depravity out there than I totally abhor. In fact, I believe it is already legislated as being illegal (at least in this country and probably most others).

However, a leak (this is also questionable… who leaked this information) on Wikileaks in March this year showed that a significant amount of unrelated material other than what could be classified as child pornography was also being rated as RC (refused classification as determined by ACMA (which is another problematic institution, despite attempting to classify websites for the past nine years they still have no idea) standards) was also on the blacklist, including user contributed material on large well-established social networking and media hosting sites as well as, predictably, pornographic websites, and, booya!, bit-torrent announcement servers, which account for the majority of todays Internet bandwidth usage (and probably why there was little loss in speed during testing because the ability for bit torrent packets to clog the bandwidth was removed) – which are currently being systematically removed from the web anyway.

The scary thing is that conservative, minority and very vocal lobbying groups get an inordinate amount of power with the implementation of a public complains system. Sure, there are steps to review the content and, no doubt, they go to great lengths to contact the webmaster of the site (p.s. this is all sarcastic), but obviously some angry god-fearing conservatives views on reality is getting through.

In a report compiled by Professors Catherine Lumby, Lelia Green and John Hartley of UNSW, Edith Cowan University and CCI (respectively) the following websites were examples of what is to be rated as RC (hence, would be filtered):

– A site debating the merits of euthanasia in which some participants exchanged information about actual euthanasia practices.
– A site set up by a community organisation to promote harm minimisation in recreational drug use.
– A site providing a safe space for young gay and lesbians to discuss their sexuality.
– A site that includes dialogue and excerpts from literary classics such as Nabokov’s Lolita or sociological studies into sexual experiences, such as Dr Alfred Kinsey’s famous Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male.
– A site devoted to discussing the geopolitical causes of terrorism that published material outlining the views of terrorist organisations as reference material.

Clearly, this is not just “protecting the children”, this impinges on our ability as academics (yes, that is what I aspire to be… strange, huh) to investigate contentious issues, which are exactly the issues that must be thoroughly investigated – Sen. Conroy obviously believes it is a  case of “out of sight (or site (giggle)) out of mind”.

Edit: after a bit of research into Open Net Initiative’s website (an organisation that promotes Internet transparency and freedom of speech), I found out that any content that was deemed R18+ or a questionable MA15+ is also part of ACMA’s prohibited or potentially prohibited list and is likely to be blocked (i.e. we are restricted to M15+ content… Right… We are all 15 and require parental supervision), since January 2008.

Senator Conroy argued that 15 other western countries also had Internet filters and there was no reason we should not do the same… Well to that I have to add:

1. these other 15 countries, including, and especially, Denmark and Finland, instituted voluntary laws on censorship at ISP level that ISP’s could choose to go ahead with or choose to ignore (I’m not sure of the ramifications of ignoring). Now ISP’s are private companies, and it is up to their respective owners (shareholder’s what have you) to decide whether to adhere to the suggestion by the government, and I respect that, it’s just coincidence Denmark has 98% of the population filtered.

2. Conroy’s argument to follow suite is, again, like sheep following sheep (shallow, I know, but it’s totally true… If the entire basis of his argument for filtering of the internet was based on the fact that other countries had it, and for the same reasons as these countries, his argument is also shallow, at the very least, it does not take into account the regional differences between us and our Scandinavian counterparts.)

3. unlike these 15 countries above, Senator Conroy is moving to have this policy legislated and enforced, which, despite his haranguing, is a completely different kettle of fish than providing ISP’s with a framework to voluntarily censor their own internet service and letting the choice be up to them (enforced censorship), which, according to RSF (Parisian organisation Reporters without Borders) doesn’t mean we are categorized with these 15 typically western countries.

In fact, we are categorized (as of 2008) as nominal (the category before becomming and “enemy of the internet” i.e. full censorship) along the likes of:

– Belarus
– Bahrain
– UAE
– Malaysia
– Thailand
– Sri Lanka
– Zimbabwe

Take a good look at that list… See any dictatorships there? Thought not 😛 (joking if you didn’t realise… none of these countries would be considered a developed western country and at least two of them in the recent past, if not more, were militarily run or dictatorships –  I really can’t be bothered researching the political history of these countries right now… I’ve done enough research as is.)

There are the arguments that:

– This is leading to communism on a scale that rivals China
– That a relatively intelligent child could circumvent it (as was demonstrated in early trials)
– That this could be a burden on infrastructure
– That this could be a financial burden to smaller ISP’s (which is pretty much anyone who isn’t in the top 15 ISP’s in Australia)
– That the whole RC classification business and consumer complaints system was problematic, in that these decisions did not reflect public opinion in Australia rather they pander towards small, but vocal lobbyists, afraid to accept differing perspectives
– That the government has no right to control what we see and hear, even through the facade of a 3rd party (the agenda is set by the government)
– That legislating this would be a pointless and expensive burden on taxpayer’s dollars (an argument I find supremely hollow in the face of the GFC)
– That trying to black list possibly tens of billions of websites (if deep web is incorporated) is, at best, not possible, and, at worst the catalyst for a realization of 2012 (yes… I’m joking… 2012 is an impossibility… I can’t even begin to describe what was wrong with the portrayal of natural disaster in that movie and the Mayan and cult psuedo-theories it was derived from)
– That the trial was done on such a pitifully small scale it was bound to clear the barely passable criteria for success.

These are all valid, and well-backed arguments, they should not be ignored, and, furthermore, I believe are currently the core of what is frustratingly bizarrely pointless about this impending policy (not yet 100%, but it certainly did get a boost, if not in the eyes of intelligencia and people who already avidly oppose this, then possibly the blissfully ignorant public’s eye).

However, a term, possibly more sinister, that conjures up the right images to describe this phenomena of censorship, that has been left adrift from this argument is this – in the 21st century, in a country that could be described as having one of the highest levels of livability  in the world, that espouses the values of multiculturalism (despite it’s lack thereof within the country), how, is it possible to get away with flinging such a wide scale method of social engineering upon the population, let alone let it hold up that long under public scrutiny so as to have a chance to go through senate (the process of politicization seems to ring true here – obfuscate enough and you can make the Australian population go along with anything).

Due to the Internet’s being so integrated into daily life, despite what you may think, most news and information is at some point derived from the Internet (i.e. I do most of my research on line and it’s also the reason why news is so homogenized),  does the fact that everything you are allowed to see, hear and learn/know must be passed under government scrutiny trouble you? Chew on that for a bit.

We are entering what looks like an Orwellian future (1984 anyone? What… You didn’t read it? WHY ARE YOU HERE?!)

P.S. There are grassroots organizations you can join to help combat this unprecedented recent surge in ultra conservatism, restriction on choice and freedom to consume media and, basically, censorship such as:

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA)

Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA)

Everyone Plays Organisation

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Channel 7’s Sunday Night – the “World Cyber Games are an homage the video gaming addiction?”

Shame on you Channel 7 for letting this air! Oh, who am I kidding. Your researchers have the intelligence of 12 year olds and the conviction of a pine nut. Heaven forbid showing unbiased, truthful (as possible) reported facts that may go against the grain of conservatism so as to effect the ratings of Sunday Night. I suppose you would get more over-hinged criticism from the thoroughly uneducated and overtly conservative audience if a more balanced story was shown (save the children! Who will tell us games are bad!).

I viewed Game On! thinking you would cover the aspects of Australia’s participation in the World Cyber Games, however, sadly, this was just a thinly veiled cover for the real story of Ross Coulthart’s video game bashing on the issue of addiction.

The fact is:

1. To master anything requires an incredible amount of time and dedication (take for example Gladwell’s rule of 10,000 hours, not particularly scientifically correct, but often used as a yard stick), often multiple hours of practice a day for many years. So does aspiring to become a player at the highest level and putting in the effort behind it (as is seen in WCG) a demonstration of addiction? If you said yes, then, by that logic, your favourite footballer would be considered an addict of football. Rubbish? Well consider the hours of practice required, consider the dedication, consider the ambition. They are fundamentally the same.

What, but the computer gamer doesn’t sweat or work out, gain muscle mass or cardiovascular endurance, I hear you exclaim. But the measure of a humans growth is not merely limited to physical aspects (far from it, I would argue, the accumulation of knowledge and development of intelligence is bound to last longer than physical prowess for the vast proportion of the population. I would rather be a Nobel laureate than win the Brownlow Medal in AFL any day). In fact, research as far back as five years ago shows cognitive benefits from gaming (Gee, 2005) with current research investigating the extent of this cognitive enhancement (Steinkuehler, 2006).

The quote, “What is lacking in sweat is made up for in sheer numbers” is, frankly, insulting. The best gamers in the world have highly developed cognitive processes developed through gaming such as pattern recognition, system thinking and  highly enhanced reaction processing.

2. I agree that there are a very small number of people who “over-use” games and there are even an astoundingly small number of people of have died from unnaturally long continuous bouts of gameplay. However, the vast majority of gamers simply interact with the medium as they would with any other media. In fact 63% of the US population would be considered a gamer (NPD, 2007), spending at least 10 hours a week on gaming and gaming related activities (while this isn’t the Australian population, we don’t really have any studies. However, if the Australian Parliament Standing Committee on Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (2008) uses this as analogous to our situation then so will I). So, would television viewing habits require the use of television addiction boot camps? If we applied the same principles of consumption as we do to television we would see many times the number of television “addicts” compared to video game “addicts”.

What researchers can agree on at this time is that the vast majority of the current research being done on the psychological effects of gaming particularly addiction is ineffective and irrelevant. In fact, despite all that is being said in the media and by lobbying groups, there is yet to be a definitive clinical definition as to what defines “video game addiction”

Applying criteria related to gambling addiction does not work. For example, someone playing an MMO, especially if there was issues with guild relationships that he or she may be involved in will of course think about the game outside of playing it. He or she has already emotionally invested in the game. The relationships made in that environment are real, never mind how shallow or wide they are. The hype surrounding this issue is also skewing results unfavorably, Dr Richard Wood writes in his book The Myth about Video Game “Addiction”,

“Some people are being mislabelled addicts by concerned parents, partners or others when they have no problems with their game-playing behaviour… Some people who are concerned about their own behaviour… end up labelling themselves as video game addicts.”

And, really, humans are inherently addicted to things. Our evolutionary survival instincts dictate that we love to eat too much, we are obsessed about sex and anything that provides reward from input is bound to provide more reward from more input. While the comparison to gambling, smoking and alcoholism are all valid comparisons, however, I won’t stoop to that level to beat the drum, but, just say, addiction is part of human nature and gaming is a relatively less harmful than a lot of other possible addictions (if research results in a clinical definition) out there and the amount of media frenzy it attracts is unwarranted.

The use of a respondent in the programme who claimed to spend 15 hours a day gaming is highly sensationalist.  For all I know he really does spend 15 hours a day gaming, but in a survey done by Nick Yee in 2005 of over 3000 world of warcraft gamers only 2 respondents spent 15 hours or more a day gaming. This is a minuscule proportion of the respondents, in fact, the average number of hours spent playing World of Warcraft among all 3245 respondants was 22 hours per week, which is in fact similar to the amount of time the average Australian spends watching TV (26 hours per week), indicating that gaming is possibly replacing television time in these respondents.

Something in the back of my mind is thinking this report is a reaction to the amount of time people are now spending on games rather than television. In a recent survey by Roy Morgan (2008) the average Australian (over 14) still spends 43% of their media viewing time glued to the television with computer usage coming second at 21%. However, the most telling statistic is in the younger portion of the people surveyed where the gap in the two mediums was much less apparent. Respondents aged 18-24 almost had no different with 36% of their media viewing time spent on the computer and 37% of it spent watching the telly. Something I suppose would be a scary statistic for networks about the projection of TV influence in the future.

3. “…they’re just games”

This was the most infuriating thing said on this program. They’re just games. Well. If they were “just games” how come the games industry dwarfs the movie industry and yet, in Australia particularly, attracts comparatively little government funding in comparison to the film industry. If they were  “just games” how come the average gamer in Australia is now over 30 years old and, yet, we have no R18+ rating classification, even with 98% of the population (IEAA, 2009) seeing the benefit such a rating would have (such as educating parents on what content is applicable for their children, the argument many of the opposition peddle, which is baseless because 92% of surveyed parents say they know what their children are playing. And, even if kids these days are more savvy (which they are), they aren’t telepathic, they are not going to spend hours devising and implementing brute force algorithms to break a 4 digit code placed by their parents to play a game rated above their age).

Such a view that games are juvenile and puerile has no statistical weight. It seems this form of technophobia is nothing new, television caused the silver screen industry to spew propaganda dismissing the television as harmful to family relations as a survival technique, and now they are ubiquitous. Such is the same with games, the arguments against addiction, violence in games and social degradation are scapegoats we have all seen, petted and then subsequently roasted before.

We are in an age of unprecedented media saturation. Our views are unfortunately disproportionately shaped by what we see, which is often a reflection of popular views, further distilling it. I would think, however, that we were all intelligent enough to see everything through a critical frame of mind. But, the saying rings true that 90% of a population is moronic viewing media almost as a form of blind faith, if a current affair programme says this, it MUST be true, never mind there maybe underlying agendas, never mind there may be mitigating factors, it is black and white.

While we are media savvy, it seems the majority of the population is not savvy enough to distinguish sensationalist “newstainment” (which, unfortunately, is more economically viable) from truly factual and unbiased reporting. It is a trend that is worryingly becoming more apparent (we need more Media Watch).

So, Sunday Night, under your guise of “award winning unbiased presentation of facts”, don’t muddy the water of a new and already overly contentious issue. It does more harm to a growing and influential Australian industry and the culture surrounding it, than it benefits Channel 7’s wallet.

P.S. I’m going to get a call from my mum probably later tonight telling me to stop studying games now =_=. Thanks Channel 7 for bringing further doubt into my parents minds about my future. They weren’t exactly confident to begin with.

Watch the video here (notice the complete lack of even basic scientific grounding. Dr Tao Ran’s use of anecdotal evidence explaining the condition of 15 or so kids and then linking it with the “health of Chinese youth” is farcical . If you are going to use a scientist, at least use someone who is recognizably knowledgeable in the subject… Not some random who is willing to spout anything to get on television (DONT YOU DARE DEFLECT THE ISSUE ONTO RACISM))

http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunday-night/video/#fop
(3rd one across in the gallery)

P.S.S. I am waiting on the transcripts to be released for me to more accurately quote Ross.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sensitivity, the bane of society, demonstrated through biscuits

Sigh! Hullo again good sirs!

Well, happy and anxious times ahead. My last formal class, i.e. the last time I was required to attend University, is now 5 days ago. I can’t believe I have gotten through four years of university study, just a year in and I was failing fundamental subjects, oh man… I look back at myself then compared to now and I have gotten old fast… like… super old style. Anyway, I should probably get back to why I decided to post again.

So… this has been building for a while now, while randomly jetting about Australia’s cities, I distinctly remember an incident in Sydney… Accidentally bumping into an overly large and bawdy man in a crowded city train (I think I drew attention to him staring down a moderately attractive girls bra… however, she probably had the intelligence of a small mole). So he turns around and yells, “Hey! Watch it!” (wow, now that I think about it, it sounds like a cliche audio clip out of GTA), and, basically, I had to get off the train because I only just realized it had stopped at the right station, so I just kept on walking!

OK, so you’re thinking… What a rude bastard! But, I’ll elaborate on it in a second… granted, I will probably still seem like a rude bastard, but at least I have my reasons 😛

So, tonight, on today tonight (I JUST switched on the telly and it was on! I SWEAR I don’t watch that spewer of fecal matter), apparently Coles is rebranding a cookie from “Creole Creams” to “Gollywog Cookies” because some aboriginal rights idiot complained about it being a racial slur, (does he even know what creole means?).  What… And Gollywog isn’t? Noddy the claymation was stopped because of political correctness like this… It’s seriously idiotic (psssst. I wont ever refer to the source of that information because it’s terrible)

Sam Watson from Uni of QLD (the person who brought this up) was quoted saying (Brisbane Times, 26/10) not only that things like this are to keep us from being desensitized to the issue of racism (which in itself is bullshit) but also,

“The word Creole comes from a period when people’s humanity was measured by the amount of white blood they had in their bloodstream”

Are you fucking serious?! Granted creole has a double meaning, french american people and mixed european people, even a style of food popular in America, but how the fuck is it an offensive word?! How the fuck can you interpret it in that way! How the FUCK can you skew the meaning of the word to relate to racism?!! YOU, SIR, ARE PROMOTING RACISM!

How about, fucking accept it! Banging on racism is like picking at a scab! It only serves to inflame it!
(this follows the whole harry connick jr farce… ooh! hey! inflammation demonstrated! HAHA! Go the media to follow through!)

This leads me onto the next thing. People nowadays are far too sensitive, like we are all King Henry V, we are too quick to crucify anything that doesn’t affect our fairytale view of an Utopian reality (btw, just FYI, economic trade promotes the closest thing to peace… peace is purely the absence of war, not some lovey dovey feeling or emotion). If we could all forget about the placing importance in politeness (which in itself is an outdated traditional ideal that conservatives living in the elizebethan era feel they need to bang into our heads, and people without the intellect to comprehend its meaning often do take it into their head… unfortunately they have no idea how to use it… But these are the people who give the greatest flying fuck… the very people who don’t understand it…) we could have a much more efficient society the way I see it.

For example, imagine the hours and hours that could be saved per year if people forgot about the words please and thank you, which have absolutely no communicative relevance to any situation apart from making the respondent feel more valued.

Mull on that kids, and yes, I am a harsh bastard, and I don’t believe in religion, politeness or useless political ideology unless, under critical discussion of it we find it is useful to society (which is highly unlikely and anyone who tells you otherwise is pushing an agenda… yes, really… Think about what they are saying, what are their views? Why are they promoting the idea? You’ll see), but let me leave you with this…

As  Australian comedian Ronnie Johns said while playing the caricature of Mark “Chopper” Reid,

“Harden the Fuck Up”

P.S. If Sam Watson happens to come across this blog and he is reading this. Here is a message for you Sam. That issue that you just brought up probably earned Coles more money than they could possibly earn by explicitly advertising “Creole Creams”. Cheers for progress!

P.S.S. I will elaborate on why I think small shops will always exist and so will shopping centers and department stores at a later date. It’s all to do with target market, and shopping experience.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized