In the Algorithm We Trust (But Should We????)

Welcome back to hell~

This week, we dove deeper into the darkness of the web and the practices of those who use the web as a tool for mass surveillance. Topics in this week’s discussion include 1) data tracking, 2) digital redlining, and 3) surveillance capitalism. Light stuff, I know.

Anyway, I suggest you grab a drink of your choice and strap in for my *hot take* on some of these issues~

Data Tracking, Digital Redlining, & Surveillance Capitalism Oh My!

So, this week, we got the ball rolling with a video on how advertising practices in online spaces are quickly turning the Internet into a dystopian nightmare that puts Orwell to shame. This video, “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads”, by rockstar goddess Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) is one I shared in a prior blog post and is one I think explains the ramifications of current online data tracking practices in a very accessible way for most people. More importantly, I believe this video really emphasizes just how little regulation there is in place to stop Big Business from buying and selling our attention as if it were any other product and not something integral to life as we know it.

I think it’s important to understand that our “robot overloads” are not some far off possibility but a real-time inevitability. The world will end “not with a bang but a whimper” and all that. The Panopticon very clearly does not need to be a physical place in order to operate. It’s a state of mind and a state of being. In her talk, Tufekci mentions the idea of “surveillance capitalism”, which is the monetization of our online movements for marketing purposes, and the of “persuasive architecture” which is a structuring of a space like the Internet to best capture attention and so maximize profits. These concepts are important when discussing exactly why the current design of the Internet is not optimal for users. When private interests become more important that user benefits, I think there is a fundamental problem with that system, especially if the system is meant to be of public use. Essentially, we’re all experiencing a different Internet which can cause large rifts in information and knowledge between users which easily spills out into the real world.

For me, it is these implications that most concern me. Like, I don’t necessarily care about seeing ads for a pair of shoes I want all over the place but I care immensely more about the divide in knowledge this personalization of space for optimal monetization is causing. Especially when we’re talking about the Internet in a country whose citizens often define themselves along partisan lines like the U.S, these divisions become very concerning very fast. At least, for me. I think a lot of my classmates and most people are quite apathetic towards this issue. This, though, may be due in large part to a lack of informed consent and the development of diligent digital literacy.

The idea that digital literacy is essential to activating the public in order to enact meaningful change in regards to this issue is one that was discussed in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night. Which was uplifting to see. Though, even as a huge proponent of such measures, I remain skeptical of the effectiveness of them. It’s just, in this current sociopolitical climate, I don’t see how meaningful change has even a tiny chance. We’re more divided now than ever, it seems. Still, I want to be hopeful and I believe we can be a part of the movement towards meaningful change in this arena–it’s just going to require a lot of consistency in the face of overwhelming and, in many cases, willful ignorance.

There are many people out there, like Tufekci, who are trying to enact meaningful change in their own ways. In addition to watching Tufekci’s video, we also had the opportunity to have a studio visit with Chris Gilliard (@hypervisible) who is an outspoken voice on the subject of digital redlining as well as on the many other absurd ways in which we are being surveilled online. Digital redlining is basically the old redlining just repackaged in digital form and perhaps several times worse. (You can check out my older post on the subject.)

What I found most interesting from our talk with Gilliard is how truly privileged the notion of “I don’t have anything to hide” is as well as how utterly absurd. Even if that were true, so what??? That doesn’t give any entity the right to invade your privacy at a whim. More, it doesn’t give anyone the right to surveil someone who is not a criminal nor suspected of any criminal activity. It blew my mind when Gilliard talked about how our license plates are constantly being collected and cataloged and so that our regular movements can be tracked and compiled into a record.

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Again, this is happening to all of us–not just people being suspected of wrongdoing. It’s crazy to me and, like Gilliard said, the burden to prove I don’t need to be under surveillance should not be mine. It’s antithetical to everything this country was founded upon. And, it cannot be stressed enough, this kind of surveillance is not innocuous. It can very real world impact that affects agency, access, and opportunities in life. That’s far too much power to go unregulated and yet it does.

I found the idea of “permission-less innovation” to be another eye-opening concept. Essentially, the idea here is that questionable/concerning entities like Uber or whatnot are allowed to exist simply because they were developed and created before regulations existed to stop their existence. It’s this kind of weird chicken/egg problem. The word innovation somehow becomes a magic word that lets companies be dicks because nobody knew such a dick could exist until they popped up.

It’s honestly less discerning than I thought it would be to be living in a Black Mirror episode but it’s still really horrifying the more I let myself think about it. Which is probably why I don’t.

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Brett Gaylor (@remixmanifesto) is another researcher looking into the ethical and overarching issues with online data tracking. He’s one of the main contributors and creators of the Do Not Track series which explores how data tracking invades our daily lives in a very personalized way. Though I knew it was coming, when the first episode showed the town I lived in and the current temperature, I was highly perturbed. Hella freaked out, tbh. It’s one thing to read and hear about how easily it is to track you online but a whole other thing to see it so clearly demonstrated. That little detail is honestly hat freaked me out the most, more than the information on the web of connections between the different sites I visit, because it’s really not a small detail. It makes me feel unsafe.

Again, it’s one thing to subconsciously understand you live in a surveillance state and a whole other thing to be shown evidence that you are being surveilled.

Overall, I found this week to be a very disconcerting week. For the most part, I believe I am fairly resigned to being surveilled. But, this week, I found out that there are many things about living in a surveillance state/economy that I am actually very not okay with. Before this week, I wanted to believe that education could help alleviate this issue. I really did. But, now, I’m not so sure that is enough. We really need to mobilize and activate ourselves in order to get people into positions of power who can facilitate meaningful change–whatever that may be. I’m still not sure on what should be done.

I do know what you call Chicken Little when the sky is falling though:

Right. Awfully right.

****

Out of My Depth

In addition to this overview, I also wrote a post about a site called “Am I Unique?” which allows users to see how their browser fingerprints compare to others. To be honest, I feel like looking into this issue only created more questions for me. If anything, sites like this make it abundantly clear why digital literacy is very necessary. A basic knowledge of some coding practices would also be very nice. If anyone has anything else to add about browser fingerprints, please feel free to provide that info in a comment on the post! It’s be greatly appreciated.

Regarding these additional posts, I would like to express some concerns I have. Mainly, I feel that we were not properly informed about these additional posts. I understand that class went late last week but I do not think a brief paragraph at the bottom of the weekly class post was enough to fully explain what is expected. Also, I wish there was more of a discussion in general about adding them at all. I understand they are going to serve a larger purpose but two additional posts on the topics asked for is a lot of work because these topics are not easy or familiar to many of us and require a time commitment to adequately analyze. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel a little out of my depth here and could use a lot more guidance on the subject matter. I don’t mean for this to be a criticism but I did want to make my concerns known.

Daily Digital Alchemies

This week, I shared how art inspires me to create and think critically from different perspectives. I find myself heavily inspired by the messages encoded in art.

Also, I shared style icon Wednesday Addams and some words to live by. Honestly, I dare a man to try and control me in any way. I’m not trapped in a man’s world. Men are trapped in my world.

Back At It With Twitter

So, here we are again at the top of the semester, looking at my lacking Twitter activity:

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Don’t worry. I’ll find my groove as the semester picks up. Look forward to more 3 AM tweets as I continue working late into the night on my thesis :))))))))

~Till next time~

@myFBIagent Till always~

 

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I’m Unique…Like Everyone Else

If anything, delving into online data tracking has made it readily apparent just how much of our information is, well, readily apparent. Just about every application you could conceive of using is tracking you to some extent. Don’t believe me? Sounds far-fetched? Well, there are plenty of sites you can explore that will break down for you how different forms of online data tracking work.

This week, were provided a list of different sites in the class blog post that let you view how your own online activity is being tracked. Now, I know this post also said not to use sources shared in the class post for any additional blog posts. But, in this case, only brief summary of these sites were provided. Also, most people will not have the opportunity to explore every site more thoroughly. So, given those circumstances, it seems it would be helpful to have posts exploring the sites in more detail.

Anyway, justification for this post provided, let me get into what “Am I Unique?” does!

The site “Am I Unique?” allows users to discover how identifiable their own “device/browser fingerprint” is online as well as explore how comparable their fingerprint is to other users around the globe. Device/browser fingerprinting is “the systematic collection of information about a remote device, for identification purposes.” This kind of tracking seems like an inherent capability on most devices/browsers. The goal of this project seems to be to make people more aware of “cookieless monsters”. See, device/browser fingerprints are not a kind of tracking cookie or composed of many tracking cookies. Instead, it seems like a device/browser fingerprint is generated by you just connecting to a server. According to “Browser Fingerprinting: What Is It and What Should You Do About It?” by PixelPrivacy, “when you connect to the internet on your laptop or smartphone, your device will hand over a bunch of specific data to the receiving server about the websites you visit.” From your fingerprint, any interested party can find out all about your browser usage, operating systems, plugins, timezone, languages, screen resolution, as well as any other of your active settings. Essentially, your fingerprint will reveal what your computer looks like to someone else.

While this seems highly concerning to me, “Am I Unique?” points out that this fingerprint is a “double-edge sword”. Fingerprints can be used to fight fraud and hijacking and confirm that a user is a legitimate one. But, they can also be used to create a profile of you for advertisers as well as exploit you in other ways through targeted attacks. PixelPrivacy states, “Websites bulk-collect a large set of data of visitors in order to later use it to match against browser fingerprints of known users.” Even if your fingerprint isn’t used right away, it can be stored in a system for future targeting by a given entity.

And, this is all legal practice in the US right now.

More, this is not even the worst of it. There’s canvas fingerprinting as well (which deals with HTML5 coding–so I didn’t get too into it because I’m not familiar enough with the terminology). Essentially, your fingerprint is written into this code and freely accessible if you know where to look. The thing you want to look for is called the “canvas element”. I recommend checking out the wiki article if you want to know more about the mechanics of how this system works.

Anyway, “Am I Unique?” allows users to see for themselves how easy it is for their fingerprint to be accessed. Mainly, the site shows user what kind of data points are generated by their fingerprints.

For example, this is the overview of my fingerprint:

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The site breaks down how much of the sites you use are “unique” and kind of shows you how a site would collect this kind of info so they can target specific groups of people (like Windows 10 users). The site also provides some charts so you can see how specific parts of your user profile further break down.

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In this chart, you can see the browser break down of all the people who have used “Am I Unique?” around the world. It’s a little disconcerting and by a little, I mean a lot. You can also see the languages people search in:

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I like this one because it looks like a spider

It’s honestly wild just how much information about you can be extrapolated in like 30 seconds if that. I mean, this is just a broad overview of all the information that could so easily be accessed for any reason by anyone interested.

What’s very concerning about this kind of fingerprinting is that there is really nothing that can be done to totally eliminate it. If you want to use the Internet, you’re going to have to accept some minimum invasion of privacy. For most of us, it’s a massive invasion though. We don’t know to manage the online tracking of our data. More, we don’t even know what and how much is being tracked. For those concerned about their device/browser fingerprint, PixelPrivacy recommends: 1) Using private browsing methods (like going incognito) 2) Using plugins that block ads like AdBlock Plus, Disconnect, etc. 3) Disabling JavaScript & Flash 4) Installing Anti-Malwate Software 5) Using the TOR browser (if you’re serious) and 6) Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network), of course. Now, all of these things have their downsides and can severely impact your Internet browsing experience (i.e cause slower loading times, interrupt the functioning of sites, etc.). It is important to weigh one’s concerns against the risks before making any decisions in this area.

Of course, what is most important is that we continue to try and educate ourselves on important online issues like data tracking and online privacy as well as continue to develop our digital literacy practices. Sites like “Am I Unique?” provide a lens through which we can better understand and conceptualize important issues like this that are, unfortunately and nefariously, often hidden from view. I highly recommend checking out this site in order to learn more about the importance of one’s browser fingerprint and about what this fingerprint can be used for.

***Edit: I give this tool a in regards to how much light it sheds on the darkness of the web. It seems like it could be useful for providing clarity but, unfortunately, a lot of the languages used and a lot of the knowledge necessary to interpret this information is fairl inaccessible to a lot of users.

~Till next time~

Descending into Darkness…

So…. this past week was a bit of a mess.

I experienced some major and hella expensive car issues that made me wish for a self-driving car for the first time ever despite their numerous, reported issues.

Anyway, enough about my ever-growing list of issues. Let’s dive into the Internet’s f*ckery~

The Dark Substance of the Internet

This week, discussion started off light enough with an introductory reading on alchemy and the creation and nature of this ancient magic’s digital form. This reading was also meant to provide an exercise for those of us unfamiliar with hypothes.is. (I am clearly not I will give anyone a piece of my mind anytime, in the margins or otherwise). Anyway, I found this reading to be both nostalgiac and an informative refresher on the true history of what we are delving into in this class. I made some comments here and there that are informed by my own experience with this kind of “magic” as well as my by own perspective I have been developing on burgeoning digital practices of creation and communication in the course of my thesis (check that blog for some real nonsense). In my second comment, I liken the concepts of “alternative facts” and “post-truth” to a kind of modern-day alchemical process in which words and semantics are transmogrified to horrible effect. This generated some interesting discussion on the nature of truth and reality itself. I’m not sure if I really have any answers to the questions posed about the nature of realty and of truth but I do know there are some statements and facts we all agree are “true” and create something “real” and I believe that it is important to acknowledge when opposing statements made to these self-evident truths are made not just to identify a “glitch in our matrix” but with the intent to vindicate a perspective on the  deserves no consideration let alone vindication. Contemplating the nature of truth and reality is a fun, philosophical exercise but it is important to remember that many people these days are not challenging the nature of truth and reality to pose a philosophical argument or to play devil’s advocate; they are doing it to forward some reprehensible and downright disgusting agendas that have very real consequences.

Anyway, rant over, I also want to shout-out the shout-out our “Gandalf” gave Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, I hope. It’s always cool to find out that some thing we love is actually a part of meaningful and robust tradition ^.^

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Enjoy a snappy Mustang~

In addition to exploring this reading, we also took a deeper delve into the dark upper, middle, and lower belly of online advertising. I read up on the history of the medium as well as considered the nature of “surveillance capitalism“. Horrifyingly enough, this concept is not just some Orwellian idea. (Though, perhaps it is Kafkaesque???) Essentially, we and everything we do becomes a marketable quantity for advertisers. When a system allows for this kind of advertising to occur, there is an incentive created for 24/7 surveillance. Me looking up pictures of megabats at 3 AM is very valuable information, you know??? Wouldn’t want to miss it.

Anyway, to be honest and, as I mentioned in my last post, I and I’m sure many other people, especially in my generation and younger, kind of already accept that we are constantly being monitored. If you’re living in a surveillance state and you know it, clap your hands. What many of us may not understand is what exactly is being monitored and why that information is being monitored. I think for many people, still, it is very difficult understand how advertising works in this 21-century, digital age. More, the process seems so utterly unbelievable as to be whole dismissed as “fake news”.

This thread by user @hypervisible provides a long laundry list of ludicrous facts about not only the ways we are constantly being surveilled but about the things that are actually able to be surveilled. I was asked to pick just one from this long list that stood out to be as horribly absurd and troubling but, honestly, I find myself simultaneously horrified and not horrified/surprised in the slightest by any of these facts. Certain students are encouraged by targeted ads to drop out? Of course more labor for the Capitalist machine. Jeff Bezos is deleting 1984 off Kindles remotely??? Ironic and of course. Apple and Google don’t care about their employees? Duh.

Our descent into this night has not been gentle.

Perhaps I’m jaded and disillusioned and I’m a bit too much of a nihilist at heart but so much of what is currently happening in the so-called “darkness” is something many of us have seen written bright as day on the wall for years. The Internet has always had this potential to be something so magical and to be something that can extend beyond its boundaries but it is these same qualities that seem to have made it into what it has become today. That potential and that magic came with a great responsibility that was not observed. Advertising in online spaces is only one of many evils/curses that has gotten out of hand due to a lack of foresight, oversight, and accountability. There is also this distinct lack of humanity and common decency that also seems to be propelling this evil further and further, out of the dark reaches straight into our homes and our hands. Nothing is ever going to change if we don’t decide to care. My disillusionment and resignment with the system is not merely a symptom; It’s also a cause.

I believe that there is a cure to every curse. If not a reversal, a nullification, at least. Perhaps that is the kind of magic we should care more about finding.

****

Daily Digital Alchemies

This week, I shared some bot recommendations. I had the opportunity to explore bots as well as making bots in early renditions of this course. I think they are a lot of fun and can be used as a tool to tell some compelling, nonlinear narratives ^.^

Also, I got to play around with one of my fave, little sites clash. I think it’s a really simple but interesting way to see how online spaces can be used in collaboration with other mediums.

Lastly, I decided to contribute in absentia and mad late to last week’s in-class DDA. I decided to share a picture of some of the thoughtful clutter cluttering my IRL space. In this photo, I have an old & beloved stuffed cat Beanie Baby (named Dicey) on top of a pop vinyl Dementor stacked atop a stack of Edgar Allen Poe books–the go-to gift when a family member doesn’t know what to get me. Overtly, there is contrast between the Dementor & the Edgar Allen Poe books and the Beanie Baby. To me, there is a contrast between the nightmare fuel and the object that brought me comfort from my nightmares as a child being grouped together.

~Till next time~

This Post Goes Out to My FBI Agent (Thanks for Always Being There)~

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How my FBI agent probably looks most of the time~ I’ve missed you over the shutdown T_T

Anyway….

I’m back and better than ever.

Hope you haven’t missed me too much 😉 I’ll try to make up for lost time and get right into the snarky commentary~

Big Brother is Watching You

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“How do we know who, what to trust online anymore?…What keeps you up at night or worried about your own internet activity?”

I see we’re starting off light this semester.

Anyway, what doesn’t concern me about using the internet anymore??? It seems like every other day we learn about some new way the government has been tracking our internet activity or about some third-party company or multi-million dollar company (here’s looking at you Zuckerburg >.>) making stupid amounts money selling our data to the highest bidder. That was the story last year and it’s still the story this year. Third-party tracking, learning algorithms, privacy–the issues with all of those things are only getting worse as the internet becomes more ubiquitous and people become more inclined/manipulated to plug-in. The internet is becoming more convenient. It’s more convenient to go paperless with most information these days, to auto-save passwords, to venmo, to group chat, etc. The decision to forego privacy for convenience is becoming more and more voluntary, the methods driving this shift decidedly more and more nefarious.

Tbh, though, I don’t find myself as concerned with being tracked these days. It just seems like such a given, now. Of course, someone or some corporation is surveilling me and making money off of it. Of course some shady entity is using the internet to manipulate not only people but concepts like reality and truth. It’s so easy. Really, check out how stupid easy it is:

These are 2 of my fave videos of all time and I share them a lot~

Truth doesn’t matter anymore. Facts don’t matter. Unless they’re alternative facts…. While I’m a strong believer that the great thing about facts is that they don’t change whether you believe in them or not, an increasingly horrifying number of people seem to be of the mind that facts are things one can choose to arbitrarily believe in or deny, as if facts have somehow rumors or hearsay. It’s a troubling ideology that has only been galvanized and perpetuated and even weaponized (here’s looking at you Russia >.>) by internet intervention.

Rather than the internet being this place for creative enterprise and the free exchange of ideas, it has become this thriving cesspool of misinformation and bigotry that has gained a sphere of IRL influence that is expanding at an alarming rate.

And, it’s not very clear to me if more or less regulation will alleviate any of these issues. There’s never been a space like the internet before and it’s challenging to make decisions about the space. To make matters worse, many of the people in positions to make decisions about this space are older persons who, quite frankly, don’t even have a basic knowledge of how to convert a Word doc to a PDF or an idea of the different between Facebook and the internet let alone the knowledge necessary to pose meaningful sanctions on what information third-party servers can make a market of.

This is only a small curation of the many issues with the internet I have that keep me and many other people up at night. While I really want to be hopeful and believe that the internet can be this place for the democratization of information and this place for creative and free exchange, the current reality complicates this idealistic vision and the current sociocultural and political environment does not seem supportive of it. There are these little pocket realms where these ideals seem embraced–AO3, closed-species communities, select Reddit and Twitter threads, etc.–but for the most part, there is a lot to be desired.

All this said, I think it is more important than ever that media literacy and digital literacies be an integral part of education. Despite everything, I am a firm believer that education and knowledge bring the understanding and empathy necessary to overcome any kind of ignorance or intolerance and really instigate change. Facts and truth will never matter again unless we are actively teaching people that they do. We don’t have to be the loudest voice–just the most consistent. Hope may be the spark but education is what keeps that light at the end of the tunnel bright and burning.

To me, alchemy is nothing more than the pursuit of knowledge, digital alchemy the pursuit of digital knowledge. It is also the pursuit for best practice, making it an ever-changing kind of “magic”. But, above all else, it is meant to be illuminating. This semester, I hope we are able to cast a little light of our own~

I’ve been feeling rather “dim” lately and I could really use a little light.

****

I’m the Map, I’m the Map, I’m the…

If you need a little pick-me-up after such a bleak post, I highly suggest you check out my own personal map of the internet and my interactions with it. While I’ve still got my reservations, I think I express my hopes for the internet in an articulate, albeit embellished and a little bit pretentious I quoted Van Gogh like an assh*ole???, way.I’m not a total killjoy make some noise just mostly one–it’s kind of my #brand~ ^.^

Sweet Screams

Zero stars????? What’s a girl gotta do to get some stars??? Go give me some love~

Daily Digital Alchemies

I made a gif in Giphy for #dda238 and for #dda240, I took a swing at NJ Transit ^.^ one of my fave #pastimes~

~Till next time~

It’s Been Real (Or Has It…???) ^.^~

Farewell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

(Just kidding This simulation’s graphic’s are super real >.<)

So, it’s the end of another semester spent traversing the weird, wild web, huh? Time definitely flew by this semester! It feels like just yesterday we were talking about the terrors of online data tracking… or maybe I’m just having flashbacks of Zuckerberg testifying before Congress >.>

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Anyway…

This semester was definitely wild. I can honestly say I was not expecting to do as much work as I managed to pull off this semester. Check it:

Weekly Blog Posts (I did all 14! Really, wild~)

Daily Digital Alchemies (Somehow did all of these too??? And only came in at 5th place…)

Makes (And I did all these??? And only made it to 4th place -_-…sensing a pattern)

That is a lot of work. Time-consuming work. I don’t know about everyone else this semester, but it takes me a minimum of one day to write up a blog post and another to edit. That’s not to mention how long it takes to complete the week’s actual digital activities. For example, my Audacity post, my Audacity Interview post, and my posts on both Neo-Dadaism and Selfies took significantly longer time to complete. This is because 1) I am still very unfamiliar with working with audio and 2) some subjects require much more research in order to write a thoughtful/insightful post about them. The post on selfies was, after all, done in conjunction with a Twitter chat I ran on selfies as art as well (which I reflected about in another post). All this is to say that I did put a lot of effort and time and thought into my work every week. Nothing was ever hastily thrown together and I always tried to be thoughtful in my reflections.

On Twitter, too, I tried to participate regularly throughout the semester. I tweeted out @netnarr every time I posted on my blog and used #netnarr as well. I always did at least 2 DDAs a week, as well. (And, I think I tried to approach both creatively–using imaginative titles and images.) More towards the beginning of the semester, I also used the #netnarrlinks to share some interesting articles/videos I found on topics I thought relevant to the course. (Or, just interesting to me ^.^) While I’m not sure if all this activity counts as “robust use” of the platform, I would definitely say it demonstrates diligence.

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Activity on my account from 1/23/18

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Compared to activity on my account from 5/5/18

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1/23/18

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(Check your own Twitter activity)

As you can see, I definitely increased my activity on the platform and began posting more regularly to Twitter. More, my posting seems to have become more organized–I have more regular times of activity as well as more regular usage of hashtags and links. Retweets are still my most popular form of Twitter usage but I have certainly upped my game overall on the platform this semester.

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More than all that, though, I’ve become a part of a community on Twitter. Not just my activity itself on the platform increased but my level of engagement with the platform. Before getting involved with this course and the digital humanities, I never thought of Twitter has a place capable of fostering community. But, it really is. I learned so many tips and tricks from fellow users online.

Which brings me to another point: collaboration. Twitter makes collaborating with other people so very easy. For example, one of the extra projects I participated in this semester was largely facilitated through Twitter. The NetNarr Alchemy Lab is a collaborative work, put together by so many very talented digital alchemists. Essentially, it’s an online interactive storytelling project in which I was invited to participate. You can read all about my own contribution here and the ins n’ outs of working on it but I just want to say that this was one of my most favourite activities I participated in this semester (though it wasn’t part of the course proper). Also, I want to thank everyone who reached out to me on Twitter and helped me with this project. Again, without the online community, I’m not sure how any of this would have been accomplished. Not easily, for sure.

Additionally, I did try to use my Hypothes.is as well towards the start of the semester. We kind of bailed on it as a class, though, so I hope my lack of “robust” usage of the tool will not count against me. Interestingly enough, though, I did end up using the annotating tool for another course this semester–a course on research and theory (I made 96 annotations for just that course). So, though I did not get to use my Hypothes.is know-how in this course, know it did still come in handy elsewhere~

Honestly, I’m fairly proud of all the work I accomplished in this course. My favourite assignments have to be the ones related to selfies, to memes, and to gifs. I think my Make on the #SelfieUnselfie project is one of my most meaningful, digital works to date. And, my Make on “Gifing” digital life still makes me actually laugh out loud. More, discussing memes as art objects inspired me focus my thesis on researching Neo-Dadaism in new digital media (specifically on researching the emergence of the Internet meme as a resurgence of Dada idealism). So, our discussions on these topics in class, specifically on digital art, definitely inspired me to think more deeply about the content.

That isn’t too say there weren’t subjects I found uninteresting. As mentioned before, I don’t enjoy working in audio. It’s more difficult than other mediums, yes, that’s part of why I don’t like working with audio but, also, there’s just my personal preferences. I’m a more visual person. I like art on canvas, words on the page. I like having something for my eyes to swallow, devour. Of course, I’m pleased enough with how my audio interview project turned out but, if given the choice, I would not want to repeat the project. Even having two weeks to do it, I found it to be just very complicated. More than endearing the medium to me, the project kind of turned me further off. Sorry. (I really wish my feelings were different but when I think of that project, I just remember frustration.)

Another aspect of the course I found it bit dull was the online gaming section of the course. Again, this might come down to an issue of personal preference. I just didn’t find the content to be too engaging or interesting. Also, I didn’t necessarily like looking at digital redlining as a kind of game because it’s really not. For future courses, I would like to suggest moving the issue into the area of Digital Life. (I did like my Make for this subject, though. The activity for the subject is very apt, I think. It conveys exactly what it is designed to. Also, I found the H5P tool to be fun to use. I would definitely recommend teaching future students how to use it.)

Enough with the critique!

Overall, I found this course to be fun and engaging. This semester has certainly had its ups and downs. While some activities in class came easier than others due to past experiences working with the medium, there were plenty of challenges presented by this course. This semester, I certainly had to learn how to use new tools as well as how to make peace with old rivals here’s looking at you Audacity >.>. For the most part, I think I made out pretty well. Not all of my work came out as polished as I would have liked but I still tried to do all of the work asked of me and I tried to do it well within the time constraints I had upon me. More, I tried to be creative with my work wherever I could–whether through word-play, memes, or some other insertion of my own personal panache, if you will.

Above all, I hope it comes through that I am proud of what I accomplished and of what I learned. This semester was tough but I’m tougher! I think I came out on top. But, what do you think?

Thanks for another amazing semester!

****

Links

Twitter

Poeticize the Poem (DDA Topic I submitted)

ELit Concept + Moon Girl Bot

Digital Art Referencium (Curated by me and Hailey)

Giphy

Killing It

Peace Out Goodbye GIF by GIPHY Studios Originals - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Hopeful Monster: Exploring an ELit Frankenstein of Hypertext & Kinetic Poetry~

Done Its Over GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This week, we’ve finally begun our much-anticipated exploration of Elit. (Perhaps, it’s only much-anticipated on my end though…?)

Delving into Elit ❤

As I may have mentioned before, I’ve taken a few courses already on ELiterature and networked narratives. And so, I’ve already developed a bit of a soft spot for the genre. I find the experimentation and spontaneity and interactivity of Elit to be engaging in a way that is not better than traditional literature but that allows for more of my senses to be involved in the experience of the work. It’s different. Especially when it comes to poetry and prose shared in this genre, I find something special and almost magickal about the work.

I’ve often heard criticism that digital work–writing and art, particularly–are somehow less meaningful for their “digital-ness.” Like, because a work is made to be experienced through a digital interface, it is somehow inherently less capable of  conveying meaning or initiating meaningful dialogue. Or, more simply, it’s just less.

That line of thinking couldn’t be farther from my own. More, it couldn’t be farther from the truth of my own experience of both interacting with works of Elit and with making my own work of Elit.

Two particular works of Elit that come to mind when I think of ones that have touched me are Jason Nelson’s This is How You Will Die and Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive. I mentioned Nelson’s work earlier when discussing Dada in new digital media and have written at length about this particular work. Nelson’s work is a kind of kinetic poetry with a dash of generative fiction thrown in. As for Porpentine’s work, I went into great detail about my thoughts on this piece here.  The “story” is a work of hypertext fiction created using Twine (a platform of which I’m not so much a fan myself but that seems to work amazingly for other people) and it is an absolutely beautiful work. I love everything about it from the diction used to the background sounds and the colours. Read my full review of it if you want but I found this work of Elit to be a particularly poignant articulation and exploration of experiencing trauma and moving on from it. (*Fun fact, this work was on display at the Whitney Museum’s 2017 Biennial exhibit and I got to see it~)

Revisiting EPoetry and Prose ❤

For this week, I decided to explore another work of EPoetry/Prose from the 3rd volume of the Elit collection. The work I chose is Ask Me for the Moon by John David Zuern. It is a work of kinetic poetry. The lines of the poetry in the piece ebb and flow into each other likes waves on the shore of a beach.

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*The work starts with one line of poetry that overlaps and fades until it becomes the horizon for a slowly increasing cityscape–that of Waikīkī, this work being set in Hawaii.

Once you enter the work–by clicking on the screen in order to “ask me for the moon”–there are also missing spaces in some of the lines and particular quoted phrases in some of the lines too. These differences in the lines are filled in by excerpts from related works once the poem finishes ebbing and flowing out and from the screen. The poem will fade into the background and either the quoted phrase or the blank space will be emphasized as an excerpt from another work fades in on the screen.

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The contents of the introduced excerpts revolve around the colonization and industrialization of Hawaii. More, around the commodification of the islands’ themselves, their natural resources, and the natives’ culture. The seen vs. the unseen is also invoked by this piece as the images one clicks to engage with the poetry are of different kinds of labor and work–the line of these images cutting across a beach scene at night. In the editorial statement for this work, these decisions are described as such:

“John David Zuern’s Ask Me For the Moon is a digital poem created in Adobe Flash using juxtaposed images, words, and sounds, to create the feeling of the labor behind the scenes at a Hawaii resort. The images and colors (black, white, and turquoise dominate) paint a picture of Waikiki that is emphasized in Zuern’s notes on the piece, which observe that at the time the piece was made there was approximately one worker for every two and a half visitors to Waikiki. The text of the piece plays over the faded gray landscape of the island, while the moving pictures depict fragments of labor moving through like waves along the shore. The visual poetics serve as a poignant reminder of how much work is done at night, out of sight of the tourists who swarm the island.”

Zuern says of his own work, “I was looking for a way to bring concrete details of my experience of working in Waikīkī into some kind of dialogue with what I was learning about the history and politics of the tourism industry in Hawai‘i. I wanted the poetry to quote but also, in a sense, to inhabit and illuminate the writing of philosophers and critics, calling attention to their own deployment of image and metaphor. At the time, it seemed important to keep the file size as small as possible, and notions of compression and constraint wound up governing many of my formal considerations, including my decision to write in haiku, to employ a somewhat restricted vocabulary and palette, and to include small images with minimal animation.”

For his purposes, I think Zuern’s work becomes a compelling commentary. At first, I was thrown off by the constrained format and the minimal amount of direction/interactivity of the work but once I realized the scope of the content of the work, I began to appreciate the aesthetic and technical decisions of the work. It’s definitely more simple than many other contemporary works of Elit but I think that simplicity makes a statement about what is being lost. In that way, I think this work transcends itself.

What do you think, though? More, what do you feel when engaging with this work? Do you feel the loss, the longing for a return to something simpler? Or, do you feel something else?

On Making Our Own Elit

If we are making our own works of Elit, I’m definitely interested in making a work of EPoetry/Prose. So far, I’ve translated my poetry into metalworks (which is a process, let me tell you) but I would like to expand into Elit with it. The work of Elit I created before was one of prose and so I would definitely like to expand upon what I can do with Elit and the medium.

That said, I would like to express concern with the time-frame for creating this Elit piece–if we are. I had an entire semester to work on the other piece of Elit I made and during that semester I was learning how to use many different kinds of tools and whatnot to create my piece. It was a whole, long process. And, even then, it was still a struggle to create the work I did due to how long it takes to do anything/translate anything it seems into a digital format as well as how overall challenging and strenuous it can be. There were many, many ideas and drafts scrapped along the way.

Anyway, I guess I just want to both inform, maybe, expectations as well as ask for a clearer understanding of what will be expected of us if we are making a work of Elit.

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Links

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Goodies

Porpentine’s Twitter

Bots & Whatnot~

Funk GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Beep-Beep-Boo-Bot: Revisiting Bots

So, at this point in my exploration of the digital humanities, I’m not unfamiliar with bots. In fact, I’ve written about them at length before. More, I’ve written about the ethics or lack thereof of bots here.

This isn’t to say that I’ve, by any means, said all there is to say about bots, just that I have thought about them and their functions in detail before. And, more, as far as interacting with and creating bots, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Anyway, that disclosed, let’s get to this week’s activities!

First, after discussing what a bot is for those who are unfamiliar with them, we explored some different bots on Twitter. I decided to check out some of the bots mentioned in this article by Lainna Fader. Since I already do follow a lot of bots (mostly sappy poetry ones #itswhoiamasapersonsorrynotsorry), I wanted to check out some ones that come highly recommended~

Two of my favorites were the @420worldclock bot and the @wikisext bot. Totally nsfw but pretty Great~ @420worldclock seems to co-opt the the adage I’m writing this at 4:20pm AHHHHH btw~ “It’s always happy hour somewhere” to “It’s 4:20 somewhere” and tweet out about that.

Meanwhile, @wikisext is pretty self-explanatory, no???

Personally, I think this bot gives Great advice >.< Totally recommend checking out for yourself~ (if it’s your cup of tea)

After interacting with and exploring a few bots, next, we put our newly-found bot prowess to the test to see if we could differentiate between bot poetry and, you know, traditional poetry. Not as easy as it sounds???

Check it:

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For the most part, I was able to identify Poe, Dickinson, Neruda, some Keats, and some Blake but, in my opinion, including e.e. cummings was just unfair >.> I mean, have you read his work??? Come on!

There were also some really Great works that totally should be famous poems. Like, look at this:

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Genius. Absolutely Great.

…Anyway, moving on~

I found it interesting to see just how similar some bot-generated poetry could be to works written by people. For some of the works, it was easily to spot the thing that made the poetry come alive. That human hand. But, for a surprising number, it was rather difficult to identify them as bot-generated. I’m not sure what that implicates for the future of the medium and of technology but it’s certainly interesting.

Revisiting Making Bots

After exploring the medium and discussing some of the functions and applications of bots, both positive and nefarious, we got to the crux of the matter: making our bots.

Now, as I mentioned, I’ve already made a bot. This pesky, circle-talking faerie… (she talks a little very-scary but don’t worry too much~ she’s harmless ^.^)

So, I didn’t really experience much difficulty in the process of creating one. It took me some time to come up with a format for the things I wanted the bot to say, though. I got a topic I wasn’t overly enthused with discussing thank Alan. So, that took some time to develop. I came up with some Great hashtags, though, in my opinion… #zuckers, #zuckit, #zuckoff…. I mean, come on–those are Great ^.^

I didn’t really get much interaction with my bot-generated content, though. One person outside of the #netnarr scope did like a tweet, which was marginally exciting:

Aside from that interaction, the most I got on my tweets was a comment here:

and a retweet here:

along with a few likes here and there as well~

I’d say some of my replies to some tweets got more interaction. For example, this thread:

It generated some interaction amongst multiple users in the #netnarr sphere, at least. Other than that, I mostly felt like I was having one-sided conversations with other users~ (which, isn’t really all that different from most conversations I’ve had with other Twitter accounts tbh~ in my experience, most aren’t super responsive to comments??).

Don’t think I really influenced anyone all that much with my tweets but maybe some targeted hashtags could change that?? I’m not interested in keeping this bot running past this week, though. I like my personal account to be more organic~

I mean, look at the difference in my bot-reading that only a few days made:

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Added a few of my accounts for comparison~

2018-04-15

My bot-rating jumped from 29% before using bot-generated content to 41% after incorporating only a few days worth of bot-generated content. It’s kind of odd that it’s the same percentage though as my other account, @hellsskell24, which has never had any bot content on it. And, to be honest, I kind of expected my actual bot account, @noxsiog, to have a higher bot-rating. I mean, it is a bot.

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting experience. I wish we could have generated more discussion within the #netnarr thread, at least, but I still like this approach to teaching bots. It’s interactive and creative~

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Links

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Killing It: Some spooky/creepy/disturbing little stories I wrote inspired by bot prompts/nonsense #shamelessselfpromotion

Goodies

Some bots I highly recommend following:

@DothTheDoth

@SICKOFWOLVES

*I mean, this is Great.

@DarkRothko

@s8n

~Till Next Time~

Gaming the System

*Much less fun than it sounds~

Painting the Town Red

This week, we talked about redlining–basically denying services either directly or indirectly to residents in certain areas of a city or town based upon the ethnic makeup of the residents. More specifically, we talked about the idea of digital redlining and how online algorithms can play a part in the contemporary implementation of redlining practices.

In order to learn more about digital redlining and how it works, we watched a fascinating talk led by Chris Gilliard:

Aside from this talk, Chris also contributed to this article about how digital redlining operates at the university level. Essentially, the appropriate use policies (AUPs) can become knowledge-blocks for many students at community institutions. Being that community colleges are typically populated by working-class individuals, many of whom come from a more ethnically diverse background, this problem becomes one of digital redlining.

Because online spaces are where an increasing number of people primarily get their information from, restrictions such as these become not just issues of inequality and accessibility but of ethics as well. If the flow of information is restricted, then people simply cannot make informed decisions about things that can greatly affect the quality of their lives. More, by restricting access of certain knowledge, power is given to those who are not restricted. A game in which certain players are given all the knowledge and all the power while others are left totally unawares is not much of a game. At least, it’s not a very fun game, to say the least.

What I find particularly awful about the whole issue is that those who are being most affected by digital redlining are the ones who would have no idea, who are not informed and have no means of becoming informed. That is the game. This is especially sickening considering how often technology and the Internet are lauded as being “great equalizers”. The truth that so few have access those is that both could not be any farther from. You might even consider digital redlining the 2.0 version of the original–now new and improved.

Painting Newark, NJ Red

In order to learn just how close to home the issue of redlining is, this week in class we investigated possible instances of it occurring in nearby Newark, NJ. The activity asked us first to review this map charting inequality in the city and then to choose from a variety of other services to see if the locations of those services were possibly affected by the inequality of wealth revealed in the initial map.

I chose to see if there was any correlation between the historical redlining of Newark and the location of license plate reader (LPR) cameras. This is what I found:

https://h5p.org/h5p/embed/215322

In researching whether or not a kind of redlining is still present in Essex County, specifically in Newark, NJ, I noticed a possible correlation between LPR camera locations and the location of Newark’s poorer areas.

According to the LPR map, there is a cluster of LPR cameras located in the center of Newark, sandwiched between 2 areas (Third Ward and the Ironbound) identified by the inequality tracking map as “hazardous” zones. Now, this cluster could be related to the close proximity of Newark Penn Station–a major travel hub–but upon inspection of other large, travel hubs in the area, like the nearby Paterson rail station, that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, there’s only 1 LPR location remotely near the Paterson rail station compared to the 5 LPR locations within a few blocks of each other near Newark Penn Station.

So, perhaps the cluster of LPR locations in Newark relates more to the “hazardous” designation of the overall area? What do you think?

My Make

Personally, I was quite surprised to notice a possible correlation even though I, myself, having grown up nearby, know there areas of Newark I want to avoid, especially at certain times. Driving into Newark this weekend, actually, for a concert, I found myself thinking more deeply about the issue of potholes on 21–the main drag through the city. 21 stretches across Essex county and into Bergen county–where I now reside. There is a clear distinction between the amount of potholes encountered, though, between the two counties. More specifically, between the city limits of Newark and the surrounding areas. Seems potholes on 21 are more worth filling outside of the city >.>

Returning to Sound

In contrast to the rather depressing topic of redlining and its digital counterpart, this week also had us finishing up our work on interacting with empathy games. (I think an empathy game about digital redlining could be pretty good, yeah?)

Anyway, this other activity had us recording questions about empathy games designed by students in Prof. Maha Bali’s class in Cairo, Egypt. Prof. Bali’s students would then record and upload their responses to the shared padlet. Once all the audio components were available, we had to download them and use them to create a new, cohesive whole–an “interview” of sorts in Audacity.

Now, I don’t really like working with audio myself but I think my project turned out pretty well. There are some rough patches in it and, of course, there’s how awful I think I sound recorded but, other than those *minor* issues, I am pleasantly surprised with how my interview turned out. But, don’t take my word for it.

Have a listen yourself:

Mainly, I think my intonation is off in some places and conflicts with prior recordings which makes it obvious that this was not recorded all at once. Also, for some reason, I think I sound more condescending in places where I didn’t intend to and I don’t know why???? Audio is weird.

But, again, what do you think?

I was going for this being like a podcast of sorts–hence the jazzy intro and outro~ Does that vibe come through or nah? What’s your impression of this work?

Jazzy Intro & Outro

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

~Till next time~

Throwing Those Games Together~

(Heads up: This post may not be as put-together as usual due to the holiday weekend and because I’ve been doing research for my thesis proposal >.<)

Lets Play GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

What Makes a Game???

In class this week, we continued our discussions from last week about 1) games, specifically online/electronic games, and 2) audio and using it as a medium for storytelling. Both lines of inquiry still new to me and a little daunting tbh~

Anyway, to begin with, we watched a video that talked about the different ways you can classify games. Check it:

More specifically, this video talked about classifying game-play via what of 3 aspects–Planning, Practice, or Improvisation–a creator wants to emphasize. As I had never heard of doing this before, I found it to be interesting. I tend to classify what few games I’ve come into contact with along much simpler lines–is it a fighting game? (like Smash Brothers or Mortal Kombat), a strategy game? (like Minecraft or chess), is it a “story” game? (like Assassin’s Creed or The Game of Life), or is it a “silly” game? (like Super Mario Cart or Cards Against Humanity).

Kind of similar but still different. Of course, my simpler classifications don’t necessarily address “combination games” or ones that utilize multiple aspects of game-play which is becoming increasing popular to do (which is a good way to appeal to a larger audience–so long as each aspect is appropriately juggled–but also a super easy way to please no one by trying to please everyone~).

After talking about the ins-and-outs of game-play as a whole, we moved on to discussing what we personally value in a game. In order to do this, we actually wrote out our thoughts on the classroom’s whiteboard. This way, we could see everyone’s thoughts and the overlap. Here are my thoughts:

2018-04-01

And here are everyone’s thoughts:

Even though I don’t play many fighting games, I do find those to be interesting–because of the inherent conflict, probably–and so most of my thoughts about what makes for good game-play revolve around them. I want the ability to level-up or to activate certain “powers” or special abilities and of course I want worthwhile match-ups and an interesting overall conflict. That quality could be broadened to be an interesting story-line period. Most of us seemed to value a compelling story-line–we want to relate to not only the characters but the story they are acting out. (In hindsight, it’s interesting that we all seemed to answer this question through the lens of us playing as characters in a story scenario~)

Other traits that we all seemed to agree were valuable in a game were there being a tutorial mode or else clearly explained directions, being able to auto-save our place in game, and there being an expansive “world” to the game.

Blast from the Past

After discussing game-play, we were introduced to the Internet Archive’s Software Library of MS-DOS Games. Basically, it’s a collection of old online/digital games. We got to peruse the library and experience what is was like to play some older games. Once we got a bit of a feel for them, then we each chose one game we were interested in learning more about. The game that caught my fancy was Alley Cat.

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What the screen looks like when you start to play~ (I’m currently free-falling in the upper-left corner >.< But you can see Felicia in the bottom left window!)

According to the info provided in the archive, Alley Cat was a video game released by the Synapse Software Corporation (1981-1984) in 1984. There was an Atari 8-bit version of the game as well (released in 1983). Alley Cat was designed to be an action game “consisting of several mini-games tied together”. According to the Wikipedia article for this game, the several mini-games are:

  • “In one room there’s a table with a birdcage on it in the middle of the room. Here the objective is to push the birdcage off the table and then catch the bird which escapes from the broken cage.
  • In another room, there’s a fishbowl which the cat can enter and must eat all the fish while dodging electric eels and repeatedly coming up for air to avoid drowning.
  • Yet another room contains a huge chunk of cheese with a number of holes. In each hole mice appear randomly, which the cat must catch.
  • The cat may also find itself in a room with a number of sleeping dogs, some of which have feeding dishes in front of them. The cat must empty each dish without waking up any of the dogs.
  • In another challenge, the cat must collect three ferns from the top of a bookshelf while avoiding a disproportionately large spider that may lower itself upon the cat from above.”

Now, I feel I should backtrack and provide more info about the actual concept of the game in order for this above list to make sense. Basically, in Alley Cat, you’re playing as a *you guessed it* little black, alley cat–named Freddie–who is trying to reach the pretty white cat–Felicia–who lives in one of the apartments on the other side of the fence from his alley. In the process of trying to find the correct apartment Felicia is in–by jumping from garbage cans to fences to clothing lines to open apartment windows all while dodging the boots and garbage being thrown at you–you’ll end up in many different apartments that all have their own challenges to complete (as you can see from the above list).

According to WikipediaAlley Cat has 30 levels of increasing difficulty. Upon reaching level 30, though, game-play can continue indefinitely.

Now, full disclosure, I didn’t get very far trying to complete level-fucking-one. I could barely get Freddie to jump on the garbage cans lets alone get him to jump from clothing lines to open windows.

Chill Cats GIF by Jonny - Find & Share on GIPHY

(Actual visual of me trying to play this game >.<)

So, I would decided not call this an easy game to play. At least, not for someone’s only prior experience in playing online games is Neopets >.>

Don’t let my poor performance deter you though! Have a go at it and let me know how you do?? How would you classify this game??? Personally, I think it’s primarily a practice-focused game (the object to complete a task over and over until it is mastered) though it does have some aspect of planning to it (you’ve got to have a strategy for picking out those windows, you know??? Gotta find Felicia!).

So….What’s the Story??

So, I definitely didn’t have time this week to come up with a full backstory for this game but I did imagine that Freddie and Felicia were both feral cats who lived happily in the alley behind this apartment complex until Felicia was “rescued” by one of the tenants and adopted. That’s why she keeps peeking out the windows–trying both to escape and to tell Freddie where she is so he can come and be with her again. It’s kind of a combination “damsel-in-distress”/”forbidden romance”–’cause male feral cats typically have a bad rep and are less desired for it–story.

Sorry Felicia >.< that’s kind of my fault too~

I’d love to sit down and write this story if I get the chance but I hope my imagination is good enough for now~

****

Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

Twit 1 & Twit 2

*So, I added my questions to the Padlet and I see that Ayah and Manar have uploaded their answers to my questions (plus another draft of their game that I really need to check out!) but I’m still working on editing the audio. Tbh, it really helps me out that we have 2 weeks to work on this project. Because so many of us are unfamiliar with working with audio, I think it’s helpful to provide us with more time to work on audio projects. The end results of our work, too, I think will benefit from that extra time to spend with them.

Goodies

*Have you check out the NetNarr Alchemy Lab??? If not, why not??? It’s so cool and it came out beautiful. It’s a great example of how all the different things we’re learning about in class–digital art, Elit, gaming, audio, etc.–cane come together to create a really compelling work of art. More, it’s a great example of how collaboration can facilitate creativity in new and fun and exciting ways ^.^ I’m so happy I to be a part of this project.

*My bone-chilling, spooky, cannibally part of the NetNarr Alchemy Lab for anyone who didn’t already check it out XD~

FullSizeRender (1)

~Till Next Time~

Working with Audio???

I think I’m funny~

Anyway, this week we covered an almost confusing number of different subjects. So, please bear with me as I try to get wandering, wondering thoughts together ^.^

Empathy or Lack Thereof

One of this week’s topics was that of “empathy games”. According to this article by Eric Bartelson, empathy games are ones that confront players with “real human issues…things like depression, bullying, terminal illness, or suicide”. Through playing these games and “experiencing” these issues “first-hand”, players, ideally, develop a more complex understanding of the issue and so are able thereto forth to empathize better with people going though similar issues IRL.

At least, that’s theory.

Many game designers themselves are skeptical/critical of the idea that empathy can be developed to such an extent via game-play. More, many game designers seem that empathy is a skill every game should be striving to develop and so labeling any specific set of games as “empathy games” is redundant. In this way, and as Bartelson states, the divide seems to be over whether or not empathy is “a genre or a game mechanic”. Which, to me, is an interesting division and, to be honest, since I’m not someone who plays very many games, I’m not sure what side of the divide I fall on.

Certainly, I believe that a game alone cannot develop or refine one’s own empathy. That’s the reverse of the “video games incite violence” argument–spoiler they don’t and a government bogging down discussions about any particular reforms to even entertain the notion is grossly irresponsible and tbfh stalling but I digress…>.>. Like I mentioned in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night, you can have the best message in the world in your game but if players can’t connect that message to something on the outside, if there’s no transfer then I’m not sure how it helps facilitate genuine empathy.

See, I believe designers can direct their messages so that they are received within IRL context. But, I also believe:

My line of thinking seems to fall in line with Simon Parkin’s thoughts in this article in which the disconnect between creator intent and game design is discussed. Basically, Parkin reiterates what I just said: a game with a good idea but a bad follow-through is kind of a problem. More, that equation can create a problem. Parkin references a study in which the game Spent–an online game about surviving poverty–and its effects are researched. What the study found was that it actually made people, even those who sympathized with the poor prior to playing the game, empathize less with poor people. Essentially, the game made people believe poof people had more choices than they actually do in reality. Colleen Macklin, a game designer cited in this article, summarizes the phenomenon, “In a game you have complete agency, but in some life situations, people have no choice. If a game is trying to create empathy in this way, it can back-fire spectacularly.”

When creating a game you hope will instill a deeper sense of empathy, intent doesn’t seem to be enough. More, you have to be careful you’re not “game-ifying” a real situation too much or else you may alter the reality of it and so muddle/not accurately portray your message.

That said, a game I think “game-ified” an IRL situation just right is Bad News. I freakin’ loved this game.

In Bad News, players become the propagators and perpetuators of “fake news” online. “Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate” the game encourages. The goal of this game is to gain as main “followers” as you can through establishing fake credibility online (mostly via Twitter). The other goal, in my opinion, is to be as obnoxious as you possibly can i.e channel Trump >.>..

I had a blast:

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I’ll admit, at first I was trying to be a good person and pick the “ethical” choices but once I realized that was losing me followers (and not the object of the game) I just went full on obnoxious. Spread an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory??? Sure. Smear a legit news agency cause they had the audacity to report on something bad I actually did??? Why the hell not??

What can I say?

I got into it.

Anyway, fun aside, I do think this game illustrates the point it’s trying to make pretty clearly. Though, if you don’t have the cultural context–say you live in a 1-party state or your country doesn’t have access to much technology or internet–I don’t know how well the message would stick because it’s social commentary, in a way, right? I get that this game is trying to make a point of how fake news is made and propagated but I also think it’s trying to show just how easy it is to slip into that mindset/head-space where you’re more interested in sensationalizing issues, “making headlines”, and in gaining followers than in making ethical or responsible decisions. Even if that wasn’t an objective by design, this game did a damn fine job of bringing it to attention.

But, what do you think? More, after playing a so-called “empathy game”,  how do you feel?

Amping Things Up

Switching gears this week, we also began discussing sound as a means for storytelling.

Now, I have to admit I’m not super enthused for this shift in focus. Sound is not really my medium. Don’t get me wrong, I love my podcasts–listening to them while I’m doing my make-up in the morning–and I’d probably kill someone if I couldn’t listen to my music in the car but I’m not really into or interested in playing around with sound myself. The thought just doesn’t inspire the same excitement as talking about art or Elit.

That said, I’m open to learning more about how to use sound to tell a good story. I’m so used to it being background noise, I think it’ll be cool to explore it as its own kind of art and story.

For this week’s Make, I did attempt to explore sound as a means for telling a story. Check it:

 https://soundcloud.com/kelli-hayes-365566554/frustration-1

It’s not my best work but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I’m a lot more rusty with Audacity than I thought I’d be but this video helped me out a lot. (I also totally forgot how to upload from Audacity to Soundcloud.)

Anyway, technical issues aside, the idea behind my little story here was inspired by the incessant clacking of my own keyboard. Once I decided I wanted that to be my background sound, I was able to establish the rest of the story.

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I added some notes in the margins once I found the sounds I wanted on freesound~

Really, my story is just a snippet of what it’s like to live online–closing yourself away to open up elsewhere, the incessant typing that gets increasing more frustrated as your message notifications keeps pinging, and the frustrated sigh that another annoying ping swallows up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the life digital means affords me but it can be freakin’ annoying sometimes~

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My view while workin’ on those bars~

My Make

Did you get that message??? Or, could it use some work?? Let me know and maybe you’ll get a ping-back 😉

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

This Week’s Spells:

*I love this throwback DDA ^.^ The book spine poetry was one of my face DDAs from the first time around. I enjoy combining my love of books with my burgeoning love of new new digital media. This DDA also gets me to “remix” real life, removing the context from my books and placing them in a new one. I love it~

*As for this DDA, I decided to take a close-up shot of my fave pinky highlighter (J. Cat Beauty’s You Glow Girl highlighter in the shade Bella Rose for any fellow make-up junkies ^.^). It looks like a cotton-candy floss universe, doesn’t it? ❤

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Goodies

*I chose to look at the game our friends in Egypt, Ayah and Manar, are currently in the process of developing. Their game is designed to teach/inform players about illiteracy and how it affects the everyday lives of people and the choices they are able to make. Ayah and Manar talk about their game here and have a prototype you can play here. So far, I really like the project and thinks it’s shaping up to be a real learning tool. I talk more about what I think is effective so far in my comments on the posts so I highly recommend you check those out and, of course, the good work Ayah and Manar are doing!!