Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Next New Thing

Suggesting a new type of "new media" that does not currently exist is difficult for me particularly because I'm no Ray Kurzweil. I feel like everything has been done already.

Regardless, I would make a site where people could play a game that is actually a simulation of certain aspects of society and whose purpose is to let regular people attempt to solve pressing social issues. For instance, someone could play a simulation where they come up with a way to provide drinkable water at lowest cost to people in areas where it is difficult to get clean water. Or a simulation where people come up with cost effective, both financially and ecologically, ways to get rid of garbage.

The game itself would look cartoonish and would have fun sounds and cute little characters including an assistant who informs the user of certain crisises that the user's actions have caused and that need to be fixed. The game would be enthralling enough that players would just think they are playing a really fun game but informative enough that the data collected is realistic and useful. The best performing players' simulations can then be used by governments or municipalities to solve actual problems.

Privacy & Confidentiality

Considering the openness of new media it is no surprise that issues of privacy and confidentiality would appear. New media sites allow for a plethora of information to be shared with potentially anyone if the user is not informed about the various privacy features available to him/her. Some information about a person that can be gleamed from their new media connections include their name, address, telephone number, education level, where they go/went to school, their appearance, likes/dislikes, relationship status, where they are at a given moment, their friends and family members, the places they have been to recently, what they do in their free time, what they do for work, what social causes they support, their political views, and the list can go on and on.

Inherent to this information being readily available is the possibility of it being used against the poster. A stalker could use this information to keep tabs on or, in the worst case scenario, kill their victim using the information they post. Sexual predators could lure young naive victims through new media sites.

The onus on who is responsible for privacy and confidentiality are two-fold. The administrators of new media sites should offer resources that protect the users and the users should make sure they know how to protect their information from people they do not wish to have it.

Privacy and confidentiality (should) go hand-in-hand with new media in order to protect the users.

                                                 Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me" 


The above acronym stands for peer-to-peer which is a form of file sharing protocol.

1. File sharing is when a file from one computer is copied and shared with another computer. This can happen through protocols such as client-server and/or peer-to-peer. With client-server a client requests information from the server and the server supplies the file requested. It is centralized and depends on the functioning of the server in order for the transfer of the file to be successful. If the server fails then no one will get the requested files until the server is back online. A server can fail if too many people are requesting information from it at the same time.

2. Peer-to-peer file-sharing is not centralized (though it can be, as was the case for Napster) and the computers of peers (those who have pieces or all of a particular file already on their computers), form a network with many nodes through which a download of the complete file can be derived.

3. An example of a peer-to-peer protocol is BitTorrent. BitTorrent was created by Bram Cohen in 2004 and is used by the resilient bittorrenting site The Pirate Bay. BitTorrent facilitates the downloading of files using file swarming which allows for pieces of a file that have been downloaded to simultaneously be uploaded by other users who also want the same file. The more users are downloading a file, the faster it downloads. As long as someone is allowing others to "leech," take, from them (the givers are called "seeders", takers are called leechers) the file will download. If one seeder's computer goes down, or if they no longer what to seed a file, as long as other people are seeding that file others can upload it. So peer-to-peer does not rely on a single server but the amount of people seeding. Generally the three types of P2P structures are pure peer-to-peer, centralized peer-to-peer, and hybrid peer-to-peer.  

The popularity of The Pirate Bay and peer-to-peer file sharing "is estimated to account for as much as half of all Internet traffic" according to Eric Pfanner in his New York Times article titled "Should Online Scofflaws Be Denied Web Access?" The ease at which files can be transferred using this protocol makes it the most efficient and fast way to swap files.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Modeling Reality with Virtual Worlds

I find the idea and exploration of virtual worlds to be exciting and limited only by our technology -- which is constantly improving. One of my favorite pastimes is playing video games, a great escape from the limitations and ennui of real life.

I was perhaps first introduced to the idea of virtual reality from the 90s action/fighting kid's show  VR Troopers (the VR stands for virtual reality) in which three young adult protagonists entered "VR" in order to battle against Grimlord and his minions who were bent on taking over the real world. Exhibit A:

Virtual reality is not only limited to its use in entertainment, it can also be used for information, business, travel, and medical/psychological purposes. As Nicole Saidi writes in her CNN online article "Report: 'Naughty Auties' battle autism with virtual interaction," "many think [virtual reality] computer interactions could eventually be helpful in treating autism." Mark Tutton writes in "Going to the virtual office in Second Life," "[t]he ability to collaborate effectively using virtual tools may now become an increasingly important skill as technology offers more options than [...] video conferencing." We really are just beginning to contemplate the practical possibilities.

The pros are as stated in the above and the cons are, ironically, virtual reality's ability to isolate us both physically from each other and from "reality" itself (after all, what exactly is reality? It could be different for many people). For instance, a problem I have had is that sometimes I would like to play a video game with my friend who is physically with me at the time only to find out that the only way we could play together is if she was at her house, me at mine, and we'd connect over the PSN server for cooperative gameplay; as is the case with Borderlands, it's frustrating (a problem that was remedied with Borderlands 2).

Virtual worlds foster creativity like with the PlayStation 3 game Little Big Planet. The makers of this game have made it so that users can dress and decorate their avatars (called sackboys) and they can even design their own game levels using in-game tools that other players can access and play online! Here's an example:

I think that virtual reality in the future would find itself in many aspects of life for all the reasons I have listed above. It will be as common place as watching a movie and the lines between reality and virtual reality will blur so much that some people will prefer to live their lives connected to these virtual realities completely forgoing "real reality."

               You knew it was coming, lol. Hard to talk about VR and not mention The Matrix.

Creativity and New Media

A gif with several pictures of mine that I made and that can be used for an avatar: there are two cute dogs, two shots of my Skyrim avatar, and a lobster I boiled alive so that I could eat it. All brought together with free software called PhotoScape


In short, the biggest gif I have ever seen!


Creativity is so versatile that it is no wonder people have been using Web 2.0 features to make original works or mix and mash works already in existence with their creative take. Enter Brooks Barnes' New York Times article titled "Disney Tolerates a Rap Parody of Its Critters. But why?" where he writes about the popular phenomenon of mash-ups featuring Disney and Nickelodeon characters who are manipulated to look like they are singing or saying whatever the mash-up artist thinks they should. Although Disney is notoriously protective over their trademarked characters they seem to turn a blind eye towards a mash-up on YouTube featuring Winny the Pooh characters rapping to a Soulja Boy song. The author posits the question of why Disney does not request that YouTube administrators take it down. 

I think that Disney sees the power of YouTube and understands that things are changing due to Web 2.0 and that they need to relent, in some ways, on the tactics of old. After all, Nickelodeon who is owned by Viacom openly encourages mash-ups featuring their characters and one SpongeBob SquarePants mash-up has "been viewed more than seven million times!" That's potentially free advertising revenue coming into Nickelodeon and when it comes to business the bottom line is always the deciding factor.

Here's one of my favorite SpongeBob mash-ups, SpongeBob and friends perform Slayer's "Raining Blood" (disclaimer: the views reflected at the very end of the video are not shared by me, that thing with the baby, but it's the best version I could find).

Slayer's bassist and vocalist Tom Araya wearing a SpongeBob
 T-shirt. SpongeBob Photoshopped with a Slayer T-shirt.

New media fosters creativity because things like video recording, editing software, and social medias allow people to take their creative talents and broadcast them easily, cheaply, and quickly over the internet.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Social Networking Sites

Social Networking Sites: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and Tumblr, it's hard not to be joined to at least 3 in today's totally connected yet strangely disconnected society!

Personally I didn't have an active account to any of these before this class and when I was younger I was signed up to Facebook and Myspace but grew disillusioned with both to the point I forswore them. So here I am signing up again and my how things have changed!

Looking at Facebook I see that there have been a lot of additions to the format. There's a news feed, timeline, graph search, personalized ads, facial pattern recognition features that instantly tag people in friend's pictures. Every nook and cranny of a person's life and what they are interested, or not so interested, in sharing are served up hot on Facebook. Talk about the cult of total narcissism! Yep, I'm one of those, just not at all into it. I can't wait to delete this newly created profile it's seriously giving me the heebie-jeebies. Everyone I want to talk to I keep in contact with using phone, email, and in-person meet ups. This isn't to say that Facebook is a complete waste, it has its merits.  

                                                    Have you had your fix today?
Now time to turn an eye towards Myspace. My how things have changed! Myspace used to be the social network back in the day for everyday average Janes and Joes, not unlike present day Facebook, but it is clear that it has become a site used mainly by bands, musicians, and their fans. Guess they had to change the business model since Facebook devoured their Janes and Joes. Verdict: Not interested - profile deleted post haste!

Onto Twitter...at first I thought this thing was a terrible idea and fad but I was proven wrong. My opinion on it has changed because it can be used as a means for important and not so important people speaking directly to 'the people' and sometimes that can be informative and/or hugely entertaining. I remember from the Occupy movement and Arab Spring that tweets were used by people as informal journalistic tools and helped paint first-hand pictures of those events. Having signed up on Twitter for the first time for this class...I have to say, as soon as we've wrapped I'll be deleting my Twitter account ASAP. I'll leave the bloggers and news outlets to update me on the really important Twitter tweets.

Finally, Tumblr. From what a friend tells me, this site is where it's at. It's the only one I am actually interested in joining, why? Because it is chock full of LOLs and GIFs and images! I'm very visual so this is right up my alley. Once you find a topic or microblog that you like it's really hard to stop clicking on the down scroll to read/view more. It's a combination of Twitter's format with its 'follow' and reblog features, there's also a commenting section like on all social media sites.

I guess a drawback to not being embroiled in these social networking sites is that I miss out on a lot of trendy things going on. Sometimes a friend references some viral phenomenon and I am clueless about what they are talking about. It's a rare occurrence and I'm never missing out on anything too interesting.