The Algorithm of Videogames and the Internet

Wow this article was confusing. I may not have the prior knowledge to fully follow all of Manovich’s points, but one point that did stick was the one on video games. Highly academic of me I know. I Manovick has the beginnings of  a decent argument when it comes to narrative masking the algorithm of games. He is correct that because of the story we often overlook how the game itself functions. This a true point and a bizarre point. It seems obvious that the narrative is suppose to take our primary attention. I don’t think that it takes away from the actual experience of the game itself at all.

I don’t really see his point in this section though as he more just states facts. Yes, there are different kinds of games, that is why we have created different genres for them. Manovich goes on about the differences between algorithms, narrative games and logic games, but doesn’t really say why. The differences seem fairly straightforward. To add onto that I think he actually simplifies games down too much to fit his groups. Plenty of games have little mini games built into them. One example is hacking in fallout 4. The hacking system is a very straightforward word creating game that would fit into Manovich’s algorithm category. But fallout as a whole is a very different style of game.

Manovich could’ve made the argument that we often overlook the important aspect of games themselves. He could’ve said that video games are not as free and expressive as we like to think they are. That in reality we are following these codes and simply tricking ourselves into thinking we have some sort of freedom through the context of the narrative. That is a perfectly valid point that he starts to make, but never fully says. Instead he jumps to the next topic. I understand he wasn’t focused on this per say but I felt like he did this in many other sections where he’d simply start a point and move onto the next without creating any closure.

 

 

Trolls vs Bullies

Trolls control the internet and wear many different masks. There are some that aim to personally attack and insult others, and there are some that look to annoy and or mildly inconvenience. I personally have been lucky enough to have never faced a “troll” whose intent was to offend me. Granted I don’t have a big persona on the internet, which makes me a pretty irrelevant target for trolls. In my experience trolls have always been a part of my experience when playing games online. I am not a huge gamer, but I dabble in the occasional game here and there. The first time I was ever trolled was when I snuck onto my brother’s computer and played the multiplayer of Halo: Combat Evolved. 2 guys were standing at the spawn just shooting everyone on their own team when they respawned. They would call you a name in the chat once you died and were being just generally annoying. It was enough to discourage me from playing games until I was older and understood what they were doing.

This to me in hindsight was frustrating but harmless, as I think most “trolls” are. Usually they are in it for a laugh, though it comes often at the price of another person’s inconvenience or mild frustration I seriously doubt most people have true malicious intent. I think that when someone has the goal of mentally hurting and or attacking someone personally that there should be another word for their actions. It is no longer the mildness of a “troll” but rather the aggression of a bully. I feel like calling the actions of those who delivered threats and attacks during “Gamergate” the ones of “trolls” really makes the whole situation too lighthearted. When I hear trolls I think of those guys who ruined my Halo game, not of misogyny and brutality. I agree with the article in that we need to reevaluate how we act online, but I think the first step comes with recognizing the impact that “trolls” and or “bullies” have on people’s lives outside the digital world.

http://ei.marketwatch.com//Multimedia/2016/07/14/Photos/NS/MW-ER478_trolli_20160714084402_NS.jpg?uuid=a4a30a84-49c0-11e6-82a4-0015c588dfa6

 

Lab 3 – Animated GIF

 

Reaction gif

These are some of the most commonly used gifs in today’s worlds. Finding a counter-gif for this wasn’t too hard due to its regularity. I decided to take a different path with this though as the gif I chose as my counter is a reaction gif itself. Ironic I know, but reaction-gifs are all about context and this gif is making fun of that context. To elaborate, the internet loves trends and gifs are no exception to this. Currently Reddit is packed full of Michael Scott gifs reacting to a caption about how people’s wives are already starting to take out Christmas decorations. It is a relatable idea for many and his simple and or over-the-top reactions seem to fit it perfectly. Someone had the great idea of posting this gif of pam (image 2) with the title, MRW (my reaction when) I have no wife or girlfriend to take out the Christmas decorations early… or Christmas decorations to even take out.

Cinemagraph Gif:

These are my personal favorite out of any gif category. They are visually captivating and practically utterly useless. There is often not a very humorous meaning to the gif. It is meant as a piece of art. That is why I think Will Farrell’s gif couldn’t be more fitting. It tears down the fancy aspect of a Cinemograph. We see in the first gif a picturesque dinner table with the endlessly swirling glass of wine. In the second gif Will Farrell is in a massage chair, crying, and failing to get the wine from his swirling glass to his mouth, hilarious. In my mind that is what a “gif” should be. It should tell a story or describe a moment. The cinemagraph creates a moment, its purpose isn’t to capture a scene we can all relate to. Though I do thoroughly enjoy scrolling through these cinemagraphs I feel like they are the snobs of the gif world.

Wobble Gif:

The wobble gif can often be a parody of other gifs due to the fact that it can combine multiple gifs and or scenes into one. I picked the inception gif because it is such an iconic and frustrating scene that many people have often done some funny parodies of it. The gif loops endlessly with the top always wobbling every half second. People like to put captions such as, “wait for it.” Why you ask? Because they find it hilarious to know that you will stare at this endlessly looping gif with the expectation that something will eventually change. Even that wasn’t really a parody because the gif itself was unchanged. The second gif shows Richard Branson in a high speed car chase using some future device to help eliminate the cars in pursuit. Some creative animator realized that his device looked similar to a Gameboy so they edited in a Gameboy in place of the actual piece of technology. So now he is simply playing an intense game of Mario-Cart during what is supposed to be a suspenseful chase scene. I love this gif because it is able to totally transform the clip from serious to comical with one simple edit.

Sports Gif:

These are famous for two reasons, highlights and fails. That’s about all you get with a sports gif typically. Sometimes there is an exceptional fan reaction, but generally speaking they are, to no surprise, sports oriented. The first gif I chose is a classic play where the cowboys fail to touch the receiver down and give up a touchdown against the giants. The second gif is of Homer Simpson fading away into the bushes behind him with a cub’s shirt on and reemerging with an Indians shirt on. It is meant as a way to show the loss of faith in the losing team and the shift to the winning on. It is a funny comment and a good break from the standard sports gif. I think that as sports gifs go this is rather counter to the norm as it is breaking allegiances which is a big no go when it comes to sports.

Fandom Gif:

The nerdy brother of the gif world is the Fandom gif. I picked Game of Thrones as my topic because of its prominence in today’s culture. Even with its popularity it can be hard to use a lot of the show in gif form as people have a hard time separating a moment from the show as a whole. When I see a clip from game of thrones I remember everything else that was going on in the show and I cannot really separate it to apply it to a situation in my own life. Without that quality the gif either has to present a joke and or remind you of a classic scene. The first gif is an iconic scene for the show of the Night King, doing what the Night King does. The second is a totally different scene with a very different meaning. The gif of Tyrion is meant to make you laugh and it can be used as a reaction gif or just for a laugh. This to me makes it counter to the Fandom gif because it serves no purpose in really highlighting a moment in the show. It can be removed from all context and still manage to get a laugh or at the very least feel relatable in some way.

 

 

 

Vine and the story of Watermelon

The concept of digital blackface is something that I had never considered when looking at reaction gifs or social media as a whole. In thinking about this I realized that I actually did frequently send and or receive gifs of over the top reactions that I guess could be under the title of “black face.” I think there is something to be said for this idea of popularizing a stereotypical reaction or behavior and applying it to all members of that race or group. For instance when vine was still going there was a very famous video where a black vine star, Marlon Webb, eats/wears/yells watermelon. He would rhyme things with watermelon, but he would pronounce watermelon as water-mel-own. This way of pronouncing watermelon became very popular on vine and many people started to follow his example. This gets a little uncomfortable once the creators are white though. They try to say the words exactly like he does and it goes from a joke to an offensive impersonation.  The vines as a whole are pretty weird and not meant to be racist, but the subject matter itself is already a tough subject. Watermelon has been an African American racial trope ever since free slaves began selling it as a way of living post slavery. Since then it has devolved into a negative symbol often used alongside other stereotypes. Having this in mind turns these vines into something much harder to watch in my opinion.

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/12/how-watermelons-became-a-racist-trope/383529/

Digital Blackface in a broader sense is something that has grown alongside the birth of reactiongifs. As the article explains this over-the-top representation of the African American race can have damaging effects to society. In my mind the biggest issue is when we see the digital image cross over into conversation and reality. We can find these clips so funny or relatable that we try to use them in person. Much like the watermelon vines people have a tendency to try and mimic the gifs and or videos, this doesn’t work as well when you’re doing an impersonation. Too easily things can go from harmless to racist.

I can hear the counterargument now though of people saying, “Well what about when people try to imitate rednecks and white people with accents.” The difference lies in the history. Historically speaking white people in America have had it pretty good especially if you’re looking at their representation in media and movies. It is a different story when you look at the history of African Americans, specifically in cinema. Black face and dialect poetry and performances were very popular throughout the early to mid 1900’s. That is why it is important that we are aware and careful about misrepresentation in the digital age.

 

The Electrical Usage Food Chain

This article covers a lot of topics all at once. The argument that these data servers are ecological monsters is a little strange though. It makes a better argument for the hidden impact of technology as whole than it does for the evilness of just servers. The truth is these servers are what keep everything we need and or want to use running. Without them we would be setting ourselves back decades.

The biggest issue I had with this article is that it started to make this food chain of energy, but never really flushed it out fully. The article showed us how much energy servers use, then how much our computers and phones use and then finally how much streaming and videos use. Well this is all great, but the servers are using power, not creating it. Eventually we hear about how Greenpeace and Facebook were using coal power plants and that after some due pressure they changed to renewable energy. The problem lies with that final step. If Google wants to use energy equivalent to the entire country of Turkey that is great, because it is run off of renewable energy. I can guarantee that the entire country of turkey is not using renewable energy. So  the fact that Google is, is a step in the right direction. In my mind how are these servers  are not the biggest problem that we face in this scenario.  In fact these larger companies that use the cloud for storage, save more energy than the local servers. It may be harder for smaller companies to do what Facebook and Google are able to do, in terms of using renewable energy. That being said though, they also aren’t using nearly as much energy as those two companies. I think that the more important message to take from this is that even the internet has an effect on the environment. Even though in our mind it is ethereal entity, it is actually just as grounded as a factory.

 

Berkeley Lab Study Finds Moving Select Computer Services to the Cloud Promises Significant Energy Savings

Social Norms of a Digital Age

People don’t realize that technology reveals more about ourselves than typical social interactions ever could. In Change of Absent Presence, the idea of social norms is constantly being brought up. The context is most often with the changing of behaviors. These changes are also often attached to a fear or negative opinion. For example, on page 235 the article says, “My concern here is with the emergence of a world of meaning cut away from the pragmatics of everyday life.” I take issue with a few things being said here. I don’t think technology necessarily takes away from the pragmatics of everyday life. I think that too often we distance ourselves from technological advances. We like to act as though technology is its own self functioning entity, not a creation of humanity. We adapt around our own creations and change how we interact, not because it forces us to, but because we decide the new social norm. On twitter the word count was not determined by the website, it was chosen by the developers. From their guidelines a new way of communicating was born and we chose to adapt to it. This adaptation should be recognized as it reveals how susceptible we are not only to change, but to social pressures we put upon ourselves.

All of this being said, I will admit that certain groundbreaking technologies such as computers and cell phones created far more radical changes in our society than the apps of today. I believe the article does do the social and societal changes caused by cell phones justice. It acknowledges the fact that we are glued to them, in this age of constant social media we seldom take the time to look around and interact with those around us. I often think of how often I spend time on my own devices. I would say 60% of my day, while awake, is spent on some sort of device. It is a strange thing to think about, yet it is true. Technology has been implemented into every part of my life. Movies like Her paint the picture of a man obsessed with the computer based in his phone more specifically an I whom he slowly falls in love with. This idea is fascinating. As I just said I spend more than half of my day on some form of technological device, but if my best friend was also in these devices I doubt I would ever put it down. I personally don’t use social media so I don’t know how I would feel about an interactive computer living with me. Either way I think that Her paints a picture that is not so far fetched. We already are buried within the technology we created, so it is not too far fetched to think we will soon build ourselves into obsoleteness. It is hard to imagine, but I think it is an important thought to consider as technology develops constantly around us.

 

ofaworldofmeaningcutawayfromthepragmaticsofeverydaylifez

Lost in Cyberspace

In Chapter 20 we see Case jack into the port in the Library. Immediately Case undergoes a transformation. He seems to lose control over himself, haunted by his past. Case usually jacks into someone else’s mind, which gives him company and a sense of place. Yet in this scene he is lost on a beach. Gibson doesn’t just make Case lost though, he collapses and breaks down. The fact that he urinates himself is especially jarring. It his such a juvenile action, yet here is Case our ‘Hero’, though troubled we are routing for him, pissing himself. He loses control over his composure. It drew me into the scene more than any of the action scenes had up to this point.

Another moment in this scene that I thought was masterfully created was Case’s realization of where he is. His defiance against his situation moves him back into the badass category. I love when he says, “Mean, motherfucker,” he whispered to the wind.” (235) Case’s fight against this invisible enemy mixed with his inner struggle to remain calm transforms his character back to its original status. The reader can tell that he is in trouble and he knows it too. He has lost control over this situation.

This reminded me of Inception, in the final level of the dream Dom Cobb is forced to face the ghost of his wife that has haunted him throughout his mission. I am sure Inception has taken a lot from Neuromancer, but this scene is uncanny. We see Cobb return to the ruined city he built with his wife. He is forced to battle with his past whilst not losing sight of where he is. Case does this exact same battle. Though the scenes are different I think if you just focus on Cobb and Case’s emotions, mostly guilt and sadness, you will see the similarities. It is always in the back of the reader and, presumably, Case’s mind that he is flatlined with not long to live. The combination of confusion, fear and tension comes together masterfully to create what was one of my favorite scene in the novel.