Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Clifford Geertz, 1926-2006 will be missed

PRINCETON, N.J., October 31, 2006 -- Clifford Geertz, an eminent scholar in the field of cultural anthropology known for his extensive research in Indonesia and Morocco, died at the age of 80 early yesterday morning of complications following heart surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Geertz was Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, where he has served on the Faculty since 1970. Dr. Geertz's appointment thirty-six years ago was significant not only for the distinguished leadership it would bring to the Institute, but also because it marked the initiation of the School of Social Science, which in 1973 formally became the fourth School at the Institute.

Gosh, I feel like I knew him through reading him and his resultant influence on me and my teachers. The news just came out and I'm not quite sure what to say. Never do, I suppose. It gives me comfort to know that through writing, a scholar like Clifford Geertz could affect so many people.
Just last week, upon receiving mobile phones for some user research I'm involved in conducting, we named our phones after favourite scholars. I named mine Geertz, and that means so much more to me today.

More can be found here>>

Technorati tags: Geertz, anthropology

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New issue of Digest available!

Digest 17 (Summer/Fall 2006) is now available. We hope you enjoy the issue, which includes an interview with Mark Poster, and article on new media by Darryl Cressman, and an interview with MobileMuse's David Vogt.

Access to the articles here>>

Friday, October 20, 2006

My surgeon plays video games. Does yours?

From Reuters today, an article that asks if video games are a blessing or a curse while covering the history of video games exhibit at the London Science Museum. Come on people. Like everything else in life, it's both and there are pros and cons. But boy is it fun debating the intricacies, I know, I know. It's what -we- (big hand gestures) do, isn't it?
Even more amusing was the New York study the exhibit cited, which, summarized in the article, stated: nimble-fingered surgeons who played video games were 30 percent more accurate and faster than their non-gaming colleagues. (Me could generally agree but me scratches head in issues of correlation/causation as always...)
Then states, video games are now used in training Air Force pilots.
Then, it goes into the inevitable polemic of -in encouraging game use, are we creating sedentary violent people???-
I find it all very tiresome... but then again, it's questions like these that make me go ZOMGLASERGUNPEW PEW PEW!@!#@
...and keep researching the good fight.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Taxation of RMT - everyone wants a piece of the pie

Cory Doctorow writes about how the US government is looking at ways to tax in-game transactions. He cites Julian Dibbell's clairvoyance regarding the issue in his book Play Money, which is a memoir of the author buying and selling in-game artifacts for a year.
Not coincidentally, both their presences are prominent attractions to the State of Play conference in January.

Read more on this at BoingBoing>>

Sunday, October 15, 2006

State of Play IV

Aaron Delwiche has just posted word of the State of Play IV Conference, on TerraNova. The conference is set to take place in Singapore, January 7-9 and with its global emphasis, -amazing- people in attendance like Neal Stephenson (author of Snow Crash...) and other huge-ies in the investigation of games and play... it totally promises to be 'teh uber'. Take a look at the speaker list (yahoo!) and the program and tell me that there is a person interested in games (or building the global metaverse) who doesn't totally want to be there! Tell me you're going, and we'll meet up. I can bore you with stories about my childhood adventures in Southeast Asia over a Singapore Sling or something.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Women like gadgets, but they have to be useful

Quoth the CBC, in a story about women and gadgets. Seems that what is becoming conventional wisdom nowadays is that while men seem to be early adopters of tech gadgets for often no other reason than "fun" or that it's "the latest"--women are the ones that companies are really starting to pay attention to because they require "utility."
"For guys it's about entertainment, and a bit frivolous, while women actually use it."

Thanks Emm.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Oh give me a home, where the pro-gamers roam...

Super good article in the New York Times today titled, "The Land of the Video Geek," which manages to capture the heightened sensationalism with respect to the professional video game culture that is in Korea. The author brought back very vivid memories of my fieldwork in Korea, especially when he talked about the goings ons with progamers at COEX Mall in Seoul (where you can hang out, shop, eat, see movies, and progamers!).

Rich Wickham of Microsoft had a particularly interesting quote:
“Too often I hear people say ‘South Korea’ and ‘emerging market’ in the same sentence,” said Rich Wickham, the global head of Microsoft’s Windows games business. “When it comes to gaming, Korea is the developed market, and it’s the rest of the world that’s playing catch-up. When you look at gaming around the world, Korea is the leader in many ways. It just occupies a different place in the culture there than anywhere else.”

I totally recommend this article for a read. It journalistically covers many bases, including the societal pressures on Korean youth to succeed in schooling, the probable reasons for dominance of PC over console in that environment, and other cultural factors that mesh with gaming.

Thanks to my super-duper Anthro prof for the quick eyes and presence of mind to send me this.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Women online gamers outnumber men - say wtf?

Conventional wisdom on its head, indeed. Here's a story that's come out of a Nielsen Entertainment survey that reported women online gamers outnumbering men two to one.

Of the online gamers surveyed in a Nielsen Entertainment survey, 64 per cent were female.

In the broader video game sphere, male gamers still outnumber women overall by a factor of two to one, according to the report released on Thursday.

The Nielsen survey also suggested that about eight per cent of gamers are at least 45 years old, but teenagers still comprise the largest portion of all gamers, representing 40 per cent of those who play games.

The survey looked at 2,200 gamers in July who own at least one game device — including game consoles, hand-held devices and PCs.

There are about 117 million video game players over the age of 13 in the United States, 56 per cent of whom play online.

I have to get my hot little hands on these details, for sure. I have played EverQuest, and continue to play World of Warcraft--and know that there is a huge chunk of women involved, but this statistic outdoes the "slightly under half" stat for women online gamers even 2 years ago. Wild. Maybe playing primarily on a PvP server (which tends to attract fewer women and admitting you're a 'girl' still garners somewhat creepy responses) has skewed my thinking!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Make love not WarCraft

South Park's latest episode was the topic of discussion on our dear BoingBoing today (where you can find links to the episode and piccys) because everyone in South Park became World of WarCraft zombies. I also found it giggle-worthy that poster Xeni Jardin linked to friend Joi Ito (fellow WeOrc and WeKnow guildie) as just such a someone.

Online gambling: regulations on payments

Shockwaves are rippling through the online gambling sector because of legislation passing in Washington, making it illegal for banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites.
This regulation has sent industry watchers and investors into a tizzy in the UK, and the Act only requires the signature of President Bush-and that is expected to happen within the next two weeks.
Stakeholders, already reeling from the arrest of David Carruthers of BetonSports and Peter Dicks from Sportingbet, had expected the legislation to fail.
When regulation of this sort comes about, one can instantly see ways around it, including the emergence of more 'underground' type operations. It will be interesting to see what happens.
For more, take a look at FT and the discussion taking place on this at Crooked Timber.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The First Banff Innovation Summit

Lots to think about as we begin the new month of October. Right after my wonderful revelations of kinship with ethnographers in Portland, I was transported too cruelly back into the 'real' world of being -the- anthropologist again. Of course, there is something to be said for fulfilling niches in specific environments (which is what we tend to do) but nonetheless... fleeting, and wistful.
All the more jarring was my direct transport into the land of business and economics, namely my participation in an Innovation Summit in Banff, Alberta.
"What's an anthropologist doing here?" One may, (and many did) ask.
Same reason why people like Stuart Kauffman, a leading-edge Biologist was there: to shake things up, and lend perspective on what various parties and stakeholders need to do and think about in order to create a culture of world-class innovation in Canada. To that effect, prior to the Summit we read five challenger papers by selected delegates assembled by The Centre for Innovation Studies (THECIS):
Richard Hawkins: Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy
Stuart Kauffman: iCore Chair, Biocomplexity and Informatics
Daniel Levinthal: Professor of Corporate Management, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
Ian Miles: Professor of Policy Research into Engineering, Science, and Technology, University of Manchester Business School, UK
David Mowery: Professor of New Enterprise Development, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley

After a keynote from John Dryden of the OECD, each challenger presented their papers and thoughts on the state of innovation in Canada and the world over. Then we commented. Then over 2 long days we brainstormed, and debated, and brainstormed in that room which you can see on my Flickr site. I felt very privileged to be included in this very intimate formal and informal dialogue during these very intense two days.

Over the next few weeks, the results from this conference will be compiled into a manuscript, and the more urgent recommendations sent to government even sooner. When called upon to give my spiel at the end, I contributed my version of the proceedings, which was a 20-point list of what innovation is NOT which I hope captured some of the subtleties and complexities of the arguments while including the requisite "Flo-humour" for which I am now apparently infamous. That list might be going into the report--a quick and dirty (but entertaining) executive summary, if you will. I guess my training as the 'participant observer' came in handy yet again. Perspective from the outside in, the seduction of the margins, and all that.
Stay tuned for more developments on the innovation front, as it happens.

You can see the photos coming from that land, on my flickr site here>>

Blogging for mobilemuse.ca

I have recently joined the team of weekly bloggers at mobilemuse.ca

My first post is a piece on Leora Kornfeld of Ubiquity Interactive.

For mobilemuse, I will be writing on various people, places, and things as they pertain to the wonderful world possibilities in mobility. So my peepz, another one to add to the ol' RSS feed if you haven't already done so. We be getting this party started.