Thursday, August 31, 2006

My favourite architect in the news

Friend and fellow Leonardo 2006 participant, Tristan d'Estree Sterk is profiled in today's Wired News on his perpetual research interest: buildings that change shape. A very cool read for new innovations in architecture. Way to go, Tristan!

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Netherlands: Farming and dating... and the Internet

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A dating site for Dutch farmers lost a court case against Google on Thursday after demanding that the world's biggest Internet search engine stop publishing sponsored links to sex sites. had asked Google to install a filter that would prevent links to sex sites from appearing alongside query results for "farm date," arguing that it harmed its reputation.

The Amsterdam court judge ruled that the words "farm" and "date" were too general to be granted exclusivity by Farmdate.

See the story here>>

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Shanghai: Halfway house for Internet addicts opens

From Reuters today, a story about China's first "halfway house for Internet addicts," that just opened in Shanghai. The place offers troubled teens counselling, books, and the use of computers.
The government has attempted to implement policies aimed at to curbing the 'hookage' by issuing a number of restrictions, including fining cafes that admit minors and the like. But to no avail. The country has an estimated 14 million participants in computer/online gaming, a number that is only increasing as the country becomes more wired (but trying to be less 'hooked'?).
My take on this halfway house of sorts is--go for it, but for this reason: In a country like China, where things are changing so fast, there are a number of social issues that fall by the wayside. There are going to be troubled teens no matter what. My ethnography from Korea says that much and has eerie parallels. That the services are centered around the ideas, baggage, and rhetoric of an "Internet addiction" is just part of the equation, but if it gets troubled teens the services they need to better deal with their changing circumstances and culture, then it's better than the services not being offered at all. Rather, it seems that this is a socially acceptable, rationalized reason to 'get help,' where there would not be any for a teenager saying "look, I'm getting into (insert socially deviant activity like heavy metal music here) to deal with my angst over my changing culture and my parents just don't understand me." Heck, kids HERE need these kinds of services but that's the problem with a fragmented/ing society and institutionalization of social services, or lack thereof. You get it where you can.
See the full story here>>

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

You're never too old to construct amusement

79 year-old Peter (screen name geriatric1927) is the latest YouTube sensation, as he makes videos of himself talking about his life and perspective as someone who's "been there, done that."

The views for his videos are quickly approaching a quarter of a million as of this post.

Wired story>>

Monday, August 14, 2006

Democratizing the 360

On Yahoo! News Technology: Microsoft has announced that it would release a kit that would "democratize" the creation of games for its Xbox 360 consoles. It's called XNA Game Studio Express (free to download, with $99/year 'creators club' subscription fee).

The full story here>>

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I (heart) Stephen Colbert

Well, my favourite late-night political satirist Stephen Colbert is at it again... this time imploring his viewers to go on a Hungarian voting website to vote for naming a bridge after him in the country. The leader to date, has been Chuck Norris... but well... after the show, predictable chaos ensued.

The guy is amazing. Maybe I can be influential enough to wreak cyber-havoc on Wikipedia and Hungarian websites with a single utterance too someday:)

Steve, hats off to you for constructing amusement!
Hungarian government, you've been put "on notice," like milk.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Games and everyday life

Thomas Malaby has a new article out on SSRN which he talks about on his latest Terra Nova entry titled, "Stopping Play: A New Approach to Games" which looks at games as intrinsic to everyday life rather than exceptionally removed from the "real world." It can be downloaded here.
My interest in addiction has me reading his 2003 book, Gambling Life. It's great to see this perspective on games from a cultural anthropologist too, as I've also been working on the idea that games, while having elements of play are not 'play,' in the classic sense of the word and really do have relevance and consequences vis a vis the everyday lifeworld. An example of this is my chapter in the "Gaming as Culture" reader, found here as well as here for those who are far away!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Places I've constructed amusement...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Richard K. Smith quoted in Vancouver Sun

Yesterday, my senior supervising professor Richard Smith (frequently sought out as the local authority on all that is Technology and Society) was interviewed about his opinion regarding the latest StatsCan study regarding heavy Internet users. Some of his thoughts are in today's Vancouver Sun.

Smith, a professor with Simon Fraser University's School of Communication, said he's not convinced heavy Internet use has a negative effect on family life. What it is doing is changing the way people communicate and interact. That, in itself, is not a bad thing, he said.

Inventions come along that displace things that people are used to doing, Smith said, citing the telephone as an example.

"Go back a hundred years, when people suddenly had the availability of this new technology called a telephone. People started chit-chatting on the phone when it used to be normal to go to each other's home," he said. "And yet now we think of picking up the phone and talking to one another as completely normal.

"In fact, a lot of what is compelling about the Internet is not that it is you and the computer, it is you and other person you are interacting with through the computer."

Read the whole story here>>

They found it...?

Scientists have discovered a part of the brain that is stimulated by making a wager, a finding that could help in understanding gambling addiction and some mental disorders.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology asked subjects to choose two cards from a deck and place a $1 bet on whether the first or second card would be higher.

As the wagers were made, the subjects' brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging to see which parts of the brain are activated by risk-taking compared to anticipation of a reward.

They found a gambling circuitry in the brain's subcortex that is controlled by the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is also involved in learning and motivation.

"Pathological behaviours ranging from addiction to gambling, as well as a variety of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are partially characterized by risk-taking," the team wrote in Thursday's issue of the journal Neuron.

"For example, a bipolar subject during a manic episode may invest in a risky business proposition either because they misperceive the risk to be lower than it actually is, or because they accurately perceive the risk to be high but may have impaired learning, attentional, working memory, or choice processes."

Until now, scientists didn't have a way to tell if pathological decisions were made because of misperception of risk or the high-level cognitive impairments.

The new technique may offer a way to better understand the role of risk misperception and cognitive impairments in pathological cases, they said.

I got the story from here>>

Brain's gambling centre found Last Updated Thu, 03 Aug 2006 14:30:54 EDT CBC News