Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dissent vs. Control in Media


This presentation explores the history of the use of media for dissent against the status quo as it relates to the cultural impact of that dissent and how powerful entities exert control to manage that impact. The scope only focuses on American media and does not go into news media as that was deemed too broad. Through the presentation, it is demonstrated how control reduces dissent greatly and causes many attempts to have little impact on the culture it was introduced to through examples of this dissent and an analysis of it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Not Just Unhealthy for Girls

Sorry I forgot to post this!

My project looked at primarily three different advertisements put out by the Dove brand.  Two of the commercials are directed at women, one is about little girls and the other is about older women.  The third commercial is directed at men.  My presentation will look at the commercials from a feminist viewpoint as well as from a social scientist's viewpoint looking at the various strategies used to capture the interest of their target audience.  Although it appears that some brands are trying to break away from other, more negatively viewed products, sometimes the advertisements fall short. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Finite volume modeling of internet traffic

Finite volume modeling of internet traffic

Cameron Fullinwider, Stephen Marinsek

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Using finite volume analysis, Bernoulli’s equation, and Microsoft 2010 C# Express, we developed
a model to simulate traffic flow on the internet by simulating 22,500 websites. From the model
produced we compared our calculated values to published values for traffic flow to determine if our
model is accurate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

did this work

Second Skin Reaction

I want to point out that I was not in class for the first session of Second Skin, nor do I play online games.  As a previous poster mentioned, my interaction with video games is limited to Solitaire, Hearts, and occasionally Minesweeper. 

I'm also one of those people who has to do something on a regular basis.  I hardly ever even make it through an entire movie because I can't sit still for that long and I feel so unproductive just "sitting there," I like to be doing productive or active things. 

I have known a fair amount of gamers and although I don't understand why they can be addicted to those games in particular, I do understand addiction in general.  The majority of addictions are unhealthy for us: alcohol, drugs, food, shopping.  Addictions can come in any form and it doesn't surprise me that video games are one of them.  Everyone who is addicted to something has a reason why and many of them do contain the escapism aspect. 

I don't understand these types of addictions, but I don't judge the people who are affected by them either.  Nor do I think that addressing them in the same 12-step-program kind of way is appropriate.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thoughts on "Second Skin" ... thus far

Please keep in mind: My facility with video games is limited to things like solitaire, computer chess, and free cell. And I'm not good at any of them because I don't play them all that often. The closest I've ever come to playing an MMORPG was the ten minutes I spent loosing a couple of games of internet checkers.

I would also like to point out that my complete unfamiliarity with the video game world means that I have absolutely no basis for knowing how accurate the movie's image of video gamers is.

This isn't to say that I don't understand wanting to escape, to get away from the world for a while. I understand that the world can be a very unpleasant place. I don't begrudge anyone the desire to go somewhere else, be someone else, in only for while. I don't know anyone who doesn't try to escape in some form or another from time to time. However, escaping from problems, like a dead - end job, or obesity isn't a solution. Solutions to these problems aren't easy, in fact, quite the opposite. Finding a new, more fulfilling job, getting exercise and eating healthier aren't easy. Escapism is. In fact, I think that it would hit the nail on the head so to speak to argue that the excess of escapism portrayed in the movie actually prevents people dealing with these types of problems from actually going out and solving them.

That said …

My first reaction to the movie "second skin" was "I need to go out and get a healthy dose of reality." Chalk this as an example of someone being influenced by media if you want, but if I ever had any sort of a desire to play any sort of video game, which I never have, this movie would have cured me of it. It's scary how much time it seems that playing a video game can suck up. Again, I have no idea if those statistics are real, but I think I remember the video running through the amount of time. I remember about four hours of sleep. I remember about an hour a day to do everything else. I also remember somewhere over ten hours of video games. I have no desire to spend over ten hours a day in front of a screen. Maybe this was just an expectation I was raised with, but if I spend too much time (more than a couple hours) watching TV, or a movie, even reading something for fun, I HAVE to stop what I'm doing and get up and do something productive, or do something outside, or both.

So after class I went out and got myself that healthy dose of reality. For the rest of the day, the most complex electronic thing I turned on was my car. I didn't even turn on my computer or my iPod. I had no desire to do anything on my computer, watch any TV, or even listen to my iPod. I studied, read a book, spent some time working in my garden, and went for a walk with my dog. To me, the saddest part of the movie was the image of the person sitting at their desk playing a video game, their dog curled up next to the desk. I mean, why even have a dog if you are going to spend your time playing video games and never going on a walk and playing with your dog?

4/19 essay on Second Skins

The real world is far from fair, right from the moment of conception. One's parents' lives deeply affect how one begins one's existence, from general situation to behavior. Infants are born into poverty, war, or oppression every day. Heredity can predispose one to autism, dwarfism, or countless other mental, physical, or immune disabilities (immune disabilities is here defined as an inherited predisposition towards cancer, glaucoma, or other diseases). Everyone is born with a fixed ethnicity and gender, and attempts to change these are met with ostracizing and violence. In a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), these cruelties of chance have little to no hold.

When someone logs onto World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, EVE Online, RuneScape, or any other MMORPG and creates a character, it's a blank slate. Zsiarudael the Dragon-Slayer can never have the fetal alcohol syndrome that his hypothetical player has. Siren347 will not bear the bruises and scars inflicted upon her transgendered player. While a human may suffer a long, slow death from Huntington's Chorea, a Klingon avatar will simply cease to log in. No matter what the player's background in real life, their avatar is what and who they choose to make it. Undesirable, unchangeable conditions can be fled with ease in the digital realm of the player's choice.

As the film mentioned, for a level zero player, the field is open. All of these fixed initial conditions are set upon character creation to the player's tastes. Everyone starts out with either the same statistics or the freedom to adjust starting statistics within even parameters. Marx spoke of an ideal world where every infant is born into equality, but even socialism/communism could never eliminate hereditary disabilities.

Digital realms of MMORPGs are not only a Marxist's dream, but an existentialist's dream as well. Some games have “core plotlines,” but these can be ignored. Quests and similar activities have goals, but starting a quest is optional too. A player can decide to dance for tips, or to farm, or anything allowed within the game engine. Anything that the game engine allows can be turned into a primary means of activity. It's a world with implicit goals, much like real life (money, fame, family, etc.), but those are only suggestions, far less ingrained than the suggested goals of real life. All of this freedom is a powerful tonic for escapists everywhere.

Worth mentioning, though, is Second Skins's depiction of this escapism. Most of the players shown are not escaping crippling diseases or unchangeable conditions; the gamers shown are escaping conditions that could be changed with effort. Bad skin can be medicated, obesity can be controlled with diet and exercise, and dead-end jobs can be replaced with more satisfying work. While the world of 1s and 0s has provided refuge for those stricken by chance, the film has depicted those who choose to leave the fleshly world behind.

Self-improvement, in the fleshly world, is difficult. Junk food habits are hard to break, getting into shape takes determination, and the medical procedures required to fix bad teeth or eyesight are expensive. In a game, grinding to improve stats or gain items is tedious, but the quantified nature of stats or items in video games makes rewards more tangible and regular. Seeing one's constitution stat go up in-game is less satisfying than a compliment to one's figure from someone attractive, but it's easier to see how close one is to the numerical goal. Quantifiable progress has less potential for frustration and imagined impotence than the unquantifiable, non-linear progress of real-world improvement.

Interesting is the film's mention of many big MMORPG players being in what they feel are “dead-end office jobs.” It's very understandable that the tiny cog doesn't appreciate its part in the greater machinations it's involved in, but the effectiveness in placating the dissatisfaction of said tiny cogs is astounding. It's not too far a stretch to suggest that MMORPGs are, to paraphrase Lenin, the opiate of the working class. Instead of devouring each other in the quest for upward mobility, these office drones vent their frustrations and slake their aspirations in computerized realms, leaving them to quietly keep the wheels of society turning.

Admittedly, the film was not explicitly drawing these conclusions, merely implying them. Second Skins doesn't actively advocate meat-space over cyber-space, but the only benefits of MMORPGs they've shown so far apply to networking in the real world. An examination of the relative philosophical value of “reality” in the face of this idealized digital world remains untouched. Still, the film is not yet done, and there is hope for this question to be asked yet.