Thursday, November 30, 2006

Socialtext press conference in WoW tomorrow

Lots of companies are doing press conferences in Second Life, but World of Warcraft? With duels and orcs? Well... Socialtext is trying it out.
From Joi Ito's page:

"It started by making fun of large companies holding press conferences in Second Life, but was taken seriously enough that we are going to do it. The first ever press conference held in World of Warcraft. This could be a cheap PR stunt around some good news from Socialtext, but it could also just be fun.

  • Time: December 1st, 5pm server time (4pm PST)
  • Location: The Twilight Grove, Duskwood."
Journalists are to RSVP here on the site>>

It would be neat to see what the differences may be between an online environment like Second Life, and World of Warcraft, which have 'game' things going on that aren't so 'businessy'.

Technorati Tags: Socialtext, WoW, SL, conference

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cthulhu sighting in our North Atlantic

So. We have a blob at the bottom of our ocean. At least we know we're 'not alone.' I shall name it Cthulhu.

Indeed, we are not alone. You see, I take pride in making my life's work about... well... life in the real world of the nitty gritty. The grassroots. The 'people.' Typing whilst having a finger on the pulse of humanity. Telling it like it is, and other such trite things people say by the fire. I'm an anthropologist/ethnographer/insert soul-seeking term which is current.. whatever you want to call it. As one of these 'thingified' people, I concern myself with the everyday affairs of life in order to explain, clumsily at best, what is "actually going on in [land of nod]." In order to do this, one must take into account a myriad of factors rather than discrete variables. Makes life difficult, but that's... well... life, n'est-ce pas?

A debate I wish would 'get solved so we can move on with our lives'^tm, is that of "virtual" worlds versus "real" world. Of real and consequential versus fantasy and escapism. It simply ain't that simple. My book chapter in Gaming as Culture (McFarland Pub) with Vieta and Smith published earlier this year talks about identity as existing in a unified Self, as opposed to being fragmented and removed (as has often been the perception of gaming).
Things are related to one another as a whole. Even the term "Second Life," something that's being written about quite frequently to the point of absurdity (as Ren from TN points out) is somewhat misleading. I think all the hoo-ha has been a mere case of 'new media-itis.' You know, kind of like how people through time have thought that print, audio, and visual media of all types have been the devil's work at one time or another. Identities in Second Life are about as much removed as a "second job" might be. For example, I'm an academic. I'm also an actor. Am I still.... me?? Hellz ya. But, you know... I might lay off the critical theory now and again when people ask me what I'm reading on set. I think it's absolutely fabulous and about time that we're beginning to take advantage of the possibilities afforded by technologies in transcending space and time and all the things that come with it, but it is what it is... an affordance. I'd get really -really- excited if they could actually transport me Star Trek style without killing me, or let me see a ME in a parallel universe (how facking kewl would that be). But alas, much hand waving to be done about this paradigm shift. I know. I know. The fact that things are called 'games' makes it really ~weird~ and the fact that real money is essentially being traded (RMT) through these venues have people thinking of ways to launder money, and commit crimes with money. These are all issues. Yes. We need to think of ways to fold this behaviour into our everyday consciousness. For me, personally... I find it as shocking as online banking.
I guess that's the job in my job... to boldly go where people think they have gone before....?

Technorati Tags: Cthulhu, anthropology, virtual, real, Second Life, Star Trek, RMT

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Second Life - a virtual open house...

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada -- November 21, 2006 -- On Saturday, November 25, 2006, the Masters of Digital Media (MDM) program at the Great Northern Way Campus will host an Open House for prospective students from around the globe in the online metaverse Second Life where a virtual Centre for Digital Media building is currently under construction. This event will be held in conjunction with a Real Life Open House taking place simultaneously at Vancouver’s Great Northern Way Campus. At both events potential students will learn about an innovative graduate program in digital media planned to launch in September 2007.

“We are very excited about using Second Life not only as a recruitment tool to attract the very best digital media students in the world, but also as an interactive learning environment through which our graduate students can learn the tools and design principles for constructing virtual worlds, “said Dr. Gerri Sinclair, MDM Founding Director. The futuristic virtual Centre for Digital Media building was constructed by Second Life Designer and Architect Scope Cleaver, whose avatar will be on hand to greet prospective students along with Virtual Research assistants Sociologist Tracy Kennedy (University of Toronto – avatar TracyTrail Blazer) and Graduate Student Joanna Robinson (Brock University – avatar JoannaTrail Blazer). Architect Cleaver has agreed to keep the design of the building fully open and to assign ownership to the MDM program so that students will have the opportunity to deconstruct, reconstruct, and modify their virtual learning environment.

To attend the Virtual Open House, stop by in Second Life on Saturday, November 25 anytime between 10:00 am – 3 pm PST/SLT. Second Life members can teleport to the Virtual Centre for Digital Media – Erie: 135, 32, 25. Or newcomers can become a member of Second Life for free at:

Great to see this open house under way! Joanna and Tracy will be cool "Trailblazers" in SL ;) They've started a Flickr site for the GNWC where you can see the construction happening!
The promotion of the MDM program is something I've been peripherally involved in (and wish I had had more time to host... but that would mean my comps would be done:)...

Technorati Tags: MDM, openhouse, SecondLife, GNWC, Vancouver, Canada, Flickr

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

... truthiness is scary, and you can't handle it.

My favourite conservative troll is at it again. I really don't know if he's saying this stuff to be antagonistic and get more Google hits. Really. But it certainly works. You know what they say, when you know just enough to be dangerous...

In his Radio Factor show on Friday (it took till now for my jaw to be able to shut) he slams games, gamers, gamer culture... MACHINES... umm.. and ipods, among others. You really have to read snippets of the transcript to really wonder...are people taking this guy seriously? He was on Oprah not too long ago talking about his "Culture Warrior" stuff (you know, there's a war going on in America... a war of cultures, 'traditionalists' vs bleeding heart liberals blah blah). Sees himself as a courageous crusader for what is -R-ight. This is why Colbert has an enterprise parodying this guy. It's kinda morbidly fun.

Gems I must highlight: "I really fear for the United States because, believe me, the jihadists? They’re not playing the video games. They’re killing real people over there."

However, it is interesting to point out that he offers a premium $50/year membership that includes a *gasp* podcast.

Technorati Tags: Oreilly, conservative, troll, machines, Oprah, evil, games, ipod, Colbert, jihadists

Top ten girl geeks

A fun little tidbit...
CNet posted a list of the Top ten girl geeks: your essential guide.

I agree that most should be on this list. Others... not so much. It's so subjective, and I can think of at least a couple more 'girl geeks' who should have made the list. Casualties of a world too large... of a gaze too provincial.

A nice start though.

Technorati Tags: girls, geeks, technology, list

Monday, November 20, 2006

Consoles, water, what's the diff

Like the PS3, the Wii sold out this weekend. Unlike the PS3 however, the Wii apparently sold out rather peacefully... with no violence. PS3s are going for insane prices on Ebay right now.
Speaking of scarcity of goods, associated violence, and price gouging, in Vancouver we haven't been preoccupied with consumer electronics but something rather simple and pertinent--water. For those of you keeping up with Vancouver news, you know that we have a 'boil water advisory' due to all the Noah's Ark-type rain causing mudslides and excessive 'turbidity' in the water. Born and raised in Vancouver, I grew up with boiled water all my life even though tap water was generally safe to drink straight out. If it wasn't bottled, it was boiled, end of story. Once a year around this time it has always gotten 'turbid' but admittedly not to this extent where people are literally fighting over bottled water (as in the case at the Grandview Costco on Friday). With all the businesses who typically provide drinks (like coffee, tea, or other) I was pretty surprised to see just how many consumers and managers were not ready to deal with water they had to boil. Normally in our yoga-utopia, simple filtration is merely a precautionary and aesthetic measure. Well, doesn't matter now. If you can't get the stuff hot enough (like many coffee places who serve drip)... they say no dice. People have been calling into radio stations with their stories of Montezuma's revenge, left coast style... Stores everywhere are mitigating the 'water fights' and imposing a 'Limit 1 per customer' restriction for packages of water.
Someone was saying the other day, with how spoiled we are at times (when the city goes nuts over the prospect of adapting to boiled water....) we are only really 24 hours away from being a third world country. The storms knocked out power... our water is 'undrinkable'... woo... time to get two of each animal into the boat and stock up on weak beer. :P

Technorati Tags: Consoles, games, PS3, Wii, Ebay, Water, turbidity, Costco, Vancouver, bottled, boiled, beer

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

State of Play, Terra Nova symposium NYC

In anticipation of the ~very international~ State of Play IV conference in Singapore next year, the Terra Nova-ites are having a State of Play Terra Nova Symposium at the New York Law School December 1-2, 2006.

Check out the details, speakers, and program. Registration is open.

Technorati Tags: Games, TerraNova, Law, NYC

Monday, November 13, 2006

IP paper in New Media and Society

ACT Lab games research colleague Sara Grimes has an article out on intellectual property debates out in the December issue of New Media and Society. Here is the Table of Contents to the issue, as well as access to the pdf of the article. Congrats, Sara!

Technorati Tags: IP, Games, Media, Society, Grimes

Friday, November 10, 2006

Masters in Digital Media open house in Second Life!

Announcing the ~virtual~ Centre for Digital Media (modeled after the one at Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver BC!) that is going to host the Masters in Digital Media open house on November 25th.
Joanna Robinson has a blog post on her site about this along with screenshots of the virtual campus... her Second Life avatar will be hosting the open house as well!

Read more here>>

Technorati Tags: GNWC, MDM, SL, virtual, campus

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wiebe Bijker and other lovely distractions

The 4S conference that just wrapped up brought some really cool scholars into town. As it drew to a close, one of my supervisors Andrew Feenberg welcomed friend Wiebe Bijker into the ACT Lab to have a really cool informal roundtable talk. Background: together with Trevor Pinch, Bijker is credited with starting the movement known as Social Construction of Technology within the sociology of science. It was a movement that had the overarching intention of counteracting what some saw as the dominant doctrine of Technological Determinism.
Even though Bijker was probably jet-lagged and on his way to catch a flight back to the Netherlands, he still blew me away with his graciousness and articulateness during what amounted to ten of us grilling him for over two hours about the social construction of technology (SCOT) and where it's going! I took many notes, but my favourite thing he said (that had me absolutely smitten by the end) was that his "dream" for STS was for it to "become more anthropological," (sitting at the table with him, me looks like the Cheshire cat). And, he talked about having a 'passion' for his work and the things he was involved in. Ok, that if he didn't win me over before with the anthro thing...
I liked how he looked to Feenberg to help him resolve the 'ontological' issues in conjunction with his more 'empirical' revelations in his studies. Having the same thing in mind with trying to combine ethnography with critical theory and its cognates in my writing... definitely someone with whom I want to continue having a dialogue. I love little intellectual meetings like this. They're little infusions of outside encouragement that we all need now and then to keep at it.

On another note of what's been keeping me occupied, there is the user research I've been conducting for Nokia through those at MobileMuse including Richard Smith. There's a blog entry on it from my project partner Jean Hébert on what it's been like so far. We are still in the midst of these focus groups (one of which is today), so there will definitely be more -stuff- as we get more data.

Fieldwork is always messy, but rewarding. I suppose that can be said for many a thing.

Technorati tags: 4s, Feenberg, Bijker, Nokia, Mobilemuse, fieldwork

Thursday, November 02, 2006

4S conference in Vancouver... now

The annual 4S meeting (Society for Social Studies of Science) is happening right here at the Empire Landmark inVancouver, November 2-4th.
I just came out of a panel on games that questioned the distinction between 'real' and 'virtual' from anthropological, engineering, and sociological perspectives. People in the session felt somewhat constrained by the binary distinction because we have to question and resist that distinction if we believe that games are just another part of life and culture, but at the same time we find that we're still using those terms (kind of like how I still use 'addiction' even though I try to deconstruct the term). It's hard, and no one found an answer to truly resolve that conflict.
I suppose that as we learn more, and as uses and attitudes towards online games as a part of everyday lived reality progresses, there will be a better vocabulary to describe such phenomena as just another social activity. Something brought up as well was how people tend to look at television as something that is now 'hearth like', bringing people together... whereas before television used to be villainized like games are at the moment. Food for thought.

Just yesterday, those of us at the Applied Communication and Technology Lab and various other friends hosted a great Q/A discussion session with TL Taylor (who happens to be in town for the 4S) where we talked about the state of affairs in thought about games and sociality. It was such a treat to have her here. Her session, titled "Discipline and punish: the game" is tomorrow.

Technorati tags: 4s, games, ACTlab