December 2010 Archives

Stop point!

Let this blog entry serve as a visual marker that no more extra credit film reviews or blog entries can be accepted for credit past Wednesday, December 15th at 11:15am.

However, do feel free to use this space to extend discussion past the timeline of our course!

All the best,
Michelle

The Stepford Wives (2004)

The Stepford Wives Trailor

What does it take to become a Stepford wife, a woman perfect beyond belief? Ask the Stepford husbands, who've created every wife to perfection in Stepford, in a very modern comedy thriller called The Stepford Wives. The movie is about Joanna Eberhart, a president of a TV Network, who suffers a nervous breakdown and moved with her husband, Walter, from Manhattan to Stepford, Connecticut. Once there, she makes good friends with a jewish write named Bobbie. Bobbie and Joanna start to realize that everything in the town, especially the women are perfect. The women are beautiful, always put together, great cooks, and of course a wild stallion in the bedroom. Soon, Joanna and Bobbie's husbands start to get clued in on what is happening in the town through a group of husbands controlling and, of course, "making" their wives. The two husbands start to become interested. I thought this was a great movie showing the high standards that society puts on women. In the movie, there is an "ideal" women, which seems to be white, blond, skinny, big breasted, and a great lover, or in other words, a so called "trophy wife". Women are strong and independent people, and in this movie, all that is taken away from the women. For example: Joanna was a president of a huge TV network. She was wildly successful and, consequently, she made a majority of the money. Her husband, Walter, had a problem with this. He gives off a vibe in the movie, during that scene, that women are supposed to be homemakers and men have to bring home the bacon. This is a typical view in society. Men are supposed to be the strong, able- bodied people who make the majority of the money and take care of their wives, while the women stay home, take care of the kids, cook, clean, and give absolutely breath taking sex. Is this reality? This is absolutely not a reality. Women are unique in looks, cooking skills, sexual abilities, cleaning abilities, and parenting abilities. Men also vary in these skills. Are women held to the standard that we know and are experts in all the things listed above? Is society releasing that stereotype? Are men the dominant leaders in the family? Is society trying to perfect women by releasing this "female ideal" and offering plastic surgery, cosmetics, diet pills, and hair dyes? The reason why I thought this was a good movie is that it brings up all of the stereotypes of what a perfect woman is and smashes it into a million little pieces with thanks to Walter. In the end, you find out Walter never changed his wife into a Stepford wife. At the end you also find out that Claire Wellington was the "stepford wife" who created all these stereotypes. Is one person, thing, or media outlet responsible? Or is it everyone's problem that these stereotypes are created and bash independence and uniqueness? Who needs to be the ones to fix it? Is it a community effort or a solo effort?

Second Skin Review- Extra Credit

Second Skin is a documentary that follows gamers who play MMO games. The documentary follows the gamers through-out their daily lives to show how the game has effected them. The documentary offered both the positives and negatives of the gaming world.
In the beginning a group of men is followed. These men became best friends through the MMO they play. They ended up moving in together and because of their gaming they are like a family. The documentary follows them and what their daily lives look like. The next set of people the documentary follows are couples that have started dating because of the game. The couples state that their dating relationship was started similar to how any online line dating site would be. Many of these couples of been together for an adequate period of time and many of them are living together. The documentary then follows a couple where the woman is pregnant with twins and who is also a very understanding wife when it comes to her husband's gaming. The documentary follows the couple up until the babies are born.
All of these gamers spend hours playing their game of choice. The documentary gave a statistic saying that at least 11 hours per day are spent playing an online game and about 171 days out of the year are spent from start to finish playing the game. The game is a huge time commitment. The documentary offers the positives and the negatives of what the online gaming has created for these people. Many of these people find a sense of belonging because of gaming. These gamers say they easily get caught up in the mundane activities of everyday life of waking up, going to work, coming back from work, and doing housework. These games offer a sense that these people can escape the real world momentarily. The lecture we watched in class explains these issues a little further. The speaker stated that online games offer gamers a sense of belonging and make them feel like they can accomplish important things. When life bogs them down with situations that are difficult to solve and people start to second guess their capabilities, they can look to gaming as an outlet where they know they can solve difficult tasks. Also, for people with social anxiety or feel like they don't fit in with most people in real life, these people can find a variety of people in the online gaming world that they are able to make strong connections with.
The gaming world also has a lot of negative downfalls to it. The documentary states that 1 out of 5 gamers actually say they live in a virtual world. Also, many of these gamers have lost touch with their real life because they are too caught up in playing the game. Many people that the documentary follows have lost their jobs and have lost their friends in real life because they chose the game over everything. The man whose wife is about to have twins is actually scheduling his time with the babies around his gaming. This is a little pathetic and it is obvious to see that the priorities of these people are a little mixed up. Online gaming can also be addicting and pretty soon people are spending days straight on the computer and the only time they stop is because they physically aren't able to play the game anymore.
This documentary can tie in with the argument of feminism as well. Female gamers can feel empowered by these virtual worlds but they can be scrutinized against as well. One of the creators of an online game describes a situation where gaming can be positive for girls. The example was that if a heavy set girl that has been scrutinized against her entire life has to live in a small town. There is no chance for the girl to get out of the small town because she has to take care of her mother. Online games can offer a sense of escape where this same woman can chose the body and features she wants to have. To me, this may be liberating for some, but degrading at the same time. Society is creating these ideals where these types of women are being scrutinized against in real life. Gaming is an escape from their reality when these women should not have to feel like they need to escape in the first place. Another issue with feminism is when the creators of the games or men get to chose the women they want to have in their games. These women characters normally end up looking like a "Dolly Parton" with a huge test and the rest of the body is very petite. Laura Croft from Tombraider is a great example of what women characters normally end up looking like. These characters all enforce the ideal that society has created even more which is degrading to women in real life.

EC Film: Troubled Waters

When Troubled Waters premiered at the U I missed it (it sold out!), so I was excited to see it available online. Nevertheless, I didn't get around to watching it until yesterday when I decided to use it for an extra credit blog post. I'm glad I finally watched it. The film centers around issues that I already know a bit about generally, but not so much specifically (as in, I knew agriculture polluted waterways, but I hadn't learned about any specific stories).

The focus of the film was industrial agriculture and how runoff from farmlands damages bodies of water; the Mississippi River, Lake Pepin, and the gulf coast were discussed primarily. Essentially, modern agriculture uses immense amounts of synthetic fertilizer, which ends up in local waterways. The fertilizer travels downstream, polluting as it goes, and ends up in the gulf coast, contributing to a massive "dead zone." Dead zones are places where marine life can no longer exist - sediment with fertilizer leads to algal blooms, which die and deplete the area of oxygen. This has had an impact not only on the organisms who used to call the area home, but also on the lives of locals who relied on fishing to make a living. Additionally, the film discussed erosion, depletion of soil fertility, and various, more sustainable alternatives.

As fascinating as the film is by content alone, its release was controversial; for a while the U contemplated not releasing it at all. You can read the full story here. The official reason for pulling the film was that it needed further "scientific review" to ensure its objectivity and scientific accuracy. However, the film had already been reviewed by a number of scientists the previous year. The fact that the person who pulled the film is married to someone in big agriculture further throws that claim into doubt (although they have both denied that claim).

The entire debacle brings up issues of power. I watched the film keeping this in mind and on the lookout for bias. As far as I could tell, however, it was objective and scientific. It didn't name names even when it clearly could have, and it stuck to facts. It didn't even pander to our emotions, as many recent environmentalist films have. It was political, however, as it was critical of the Farm Bill and governmental support of monocropping. This issue of power (we have to ask, who has the ability to restrict something like this, and what are their motives?) is reminiscent of both the "epistemologies of ignorance" article and the unit on democratic science. More and more people are becoming aware of problems within modern agriculture, but many people still do not understand fully its disastrous outcomes. I really liked the final segment, in which possible solutions are given. Farmers who are commit to more sustainable farming by doing things like planting perennial grasses, rotating crops and bringing animals back to the fields are wonderful, inspiring examples of fair, democratic science. Monocropping generates profits, but it destroys the environment. Farmers should not have to choose between profit and ethics, so we really cannot blame farmers who plant those much discussed endless miles of corn. We need to ask why certain practices, like monocropping, are rewarded and we need to think about how to change that.

The film ends optimistically with "we all breathe the same air and drink the same water," so we all have a stake in how farming is performed. Our aim should be to "leave a better planet," and, in this case, that means questioning the way we farm and figuring out how to do it better.

Extra Credit: Second Skin analysis

Second Skin is a documentary that follows the lives of avid gamers, and explores how the game affects each individual's life. The documentary mainly explores the lives of three individuals. Each individual has been heavily impacted in some way, and the documentary suggests that in all three situations the person has an addiction. One gamer, for example, has lost nearly everything due to his obsession.

What I found to be the most prominent problem that all three individuals faced throughout the documentary was the inability to separate this virtual gaming reality from the physical reality they are forced to live in. The documentary brought to light how unaccepted these cyborg bodies are in the physical reality. For example, gamer Dan loses his money, home, and family due to his gaming obsession. Eventually, however, he stops gaming through intense therapy and regains his life back. His conclusion about gaming? "The only way to live a good life is to quite gaming altogether."

What I find disturbing about this is that Dan was forced to quit his love for virtual gaming since it seems he could only function in reality if he abstained from playing them. Unlike the video we watched about the woman video game creator, he was unable to translate ideas and relationships from gaming into a positive gain to translate into physical reality.

Similarly, we see a gamer who's parental duties are often challenged by his obsession with gaming. Throughout the documentary, he seems to always want to create more time for gaming rather than taking care of his newborn. Again, the skills he is using to game are not translating into any sort of applicable traits to bring into his physical reality.

Essentially what I gained from the Second Skin documentary is that a cyborg body unable to translate skills gained through technology into skills used in physical technology will be quickly categorized in the physical reality. To really prove this point, we see the third gamer who met his current girlfriend through the gaming network. Unlike the other two gamers, this gamer is able to apply this newly formed virtual relationship into a physical reality relationship. He and his virtual/physical girlfriend can share their love for gaming, without it tearing them apart. Hence, the only successful cyborg body was one that translated virtual reality into physical reality.

Second Skin Film Review

When we are born into this world, we never get to choose the characteristics or the family we are born into. The famous saying is that "you get what you get." For the lucky few they are born with the genes and family wealth that most of us only dream about. But for most of us, we are not special and must work harder to achieve what others are born with. This is not the case when you are talking about the world of online gaming or the virtual world. In the game you and everyone else start at the same level, giving everyone the same odds of succeeding. Granted there are cheaters out there who try to take shortcut by using gold-farmers and power levelers, however in games hard-work surpasses wealth.
The virtual world is the one place where money is not the most powerful commodity. This is one of many reasons why a person could be drawn into the virtual world. You could become the most power avatar in the game, and all you will have to do is put in the hours. Also in the virtual world, with power comes respect and friendship. This all come easier when you are able to control what someone else sees. Having the power to control what people see you as, you and manipulate what people think of you. They are able to remove the barriers of discrimination and prejudice, allowing people to act freely and as their true selves, or even to be someone they are not. The virtual world is a place where people are allowed to restart and control their lives.
The virtual world has become something more than just a game, but rather an online society, with its own laws, currencies, and purpose. Many people turn to these virtual realities in in order to run away from problems of reality because like Jane McGonigal on TED suggested, gamers know the purpose of the game is achievable and that they are not working hard for no apparent reason. Gamers can attain these goals because when playing these games, they have a more positive outlook and know they will receive instant gratification. In games, you are able to reach the maximum level and goal of the games in months' time versus decades in real life. By having these goals and quests, it removes all the ambiguity like in real life. This type of virtual reality brings us both closer and further away from our humanity. Towards end of the film, a couple of disabled people were allowed to "live through reality" via stimulated virtual realities. The stimulation created an imitation of the real world that disabled people were limited to. These gamers feel as if they have been liberated from their bodies and as if they were able to live a normal life through the virtual worlds. Virtual realities also caused some gamers to further themselves from reality. For instance, one gamer named Dan. He spend 14-16 hours days playing games, which overall left him around an hour to do miscellaneous things like eat, bathroom break, and etc. He lost almost everything in his life including his job, relationship, his home and almost his life. After a while he realized he had did not have anything outside of the virtual world; therefore he became very depressed. But, after sometime he was able to get himself together and realized how much of a waste of time games have been.
All this shows is that we need to embrace technologies, but also at the same time be aware of what is happening around us (Haraway 155). Technologies allow us to partake in another stimulated world which may bring us closer or further away from humanity. People may see it as liberation from humanity and create an artificial imitation of the real world, or for other may see it as destruction to humanity. Many people turn to virtual worlds because we have created a reality that people feel unsafe in.

The King of Kong: Addiction or conviction?

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The King of Kong is an interesting but poignant documentary about two rivals who compete in the timeless video game of Donkey Kong. I have to admit before watching the documentary, I had my own preconceived notions about the documentary upon reading the synopsis online. The story show how there are a select group of die hard classic video gamers who devote a better part of their lives to get that perfect high score in classic well known video games. The tale shows how Billy Mitchell achieves the highest score for the game Donkey Kong and a bunch of other classic games and holds the record for many years to come. Then comes the story of Steve Wiebe, who has been laid off from his job as an engineer and wanted to find something interesting to do during his unemployment. Steve Wiebe was a sort of a sad story because he always came up short on success in whatever it is he did be it baseball, music or art. I think this is where he found a new realm of possibilities in video games when he decided to go on a conquest to beat Billy Mitchell's high score in Donkey Kong. Then comes the montage of how Steve spends countless and maybe hundreds of hours devoted to playing Donkey Kong to the point of almost neglecting his duty as a father in his household of four. There is a sense of dualism in this endeavor as Steve could be perceived as having an unhealthy addiction or he could just be seen as having a strong conviction to validate his efforts. During the last two weeks of this course, we have talked a lot about video games and the effects of virtual reality and gaming. I remember watching Jane McGonigal's "Gaming can make a better world" lecture on YouTube and thought about how that could be related to this movie. You could maybe see how Billy Mitchell's desire to be the best has permeated other areas of his life like his job for example but you can also see how gaming has really taken a toll on both Billy and Steve as they endlessly chase each other to get this elusive highest score. Did the Donkey Kong really unlock the real life potential in both these players or did it just made them slaves to this game? I can almost certainly relate to this conquest as I used to be an obsessed video game player during my high school years when I was one of the best players in Street Fighter 2 growing up in my hometown. I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours at the arcade devoted to this game and beating everyone I thought was worthy of my challenge. At the end of high school I've decided to completely abandon video games altogether after realizing how much time I've sunken into this game and having nothing to show for it in real life. I am somewhat skeptical about the view that video games can really unlock our inner potential in solving real life problems. I believe an epic win in a video game still cannot amount to an epic win in real life like running your first marathon or graduating from college.



Gamer

Gamer is a movie that revolves around virtual reality. Ken Castle, played by Michael C. Hall, is the creator of a game called Society, which is exactly like the Sims, only played with real people. People can pay money to play the game and control their character, or they can get paid to be controlled. It is possible to control the characters because their brain cells are replaced by nano-cells, allowing them to be controlled by the thoughts of those who play them. Castle then invents a game called Slayers. Death-row inmates battle each other until death, and if a player survives thirty games, he is let free. Kable was doing just that, he and his controller had won twenty-nine games before he escaped out of the game. A resistance group named humanz freed Kable and were fighting against Castle and what he stood for.
I believe that Gamer is a good example of what could happen to society if virtual reality was abused and crossed the line. There are plenty of things that virtual realities could change for the better. For example, we use photo alterations to show the horrors of drug abuse or to visualize your future so you're more apt to save money for retirement. When as a society we decide to accept the control of humans for entertainment, I think that is when we have crossed the line. Although they needed the money and decided to be controlled for that specific reason, you most likely do not know who is controlling you and without that responsibility you could be led to do things you believe to be immoral. The anonymity of the control allows for people to do things they usually would not in public. Throughout a lot of the movie, the people being controlled are wearing little, if any clothing and are usually doing something sexual in the midst of the people all around them. I believe that when people are not held responsible for their actions you usually end up seeing their dark side and it could hurt society to abuse a device such as virtual reality.
Most of the movie shows the games with the death-row inmates. These men have opted to fight in these games rather than serve their sentence. This is a cruel and unusual punshment. If these men had served their sentence, they would most likely die a peaceful, painless death. Instead, for our entertainment, we battle them like a real-life video game and hope that they may beat the system. There is such a separation between the audience and the game, it seems as if they do not realize the inmates are real people.
I believe that Gamer shows that the worst in people can come out when they are no longer responsible for what happens to themselves. When consequences do not need to be accounted for risks are more likely to be taken and bad judgment is made. Although virtual realities can be used for the good of humanity, there are also things about it that could ruin our society. Like most other things we have talked about in the class, meeting in the middle is usually the best decision. Not doing anything too extreme is the most likely way to keep things under control. The same could be said about virtual realities.

Food, Inc

Food, Inc. is a documentary by Robert Kenner which explores not only where the food from the grocery stores comes from, but also who is profiting from the production of these products. Throughout the documentary, Kenner explores how profit and efficiency have become the driving force behind America's food production. His investigation uncovers the ugly side of corporate food production in the beef industry, the chicken industry, and the plant industry. Because of the large amount of genetic engineering and pesticides used on foods today, Kenner also follows the development of new strains of E.coli and how they are contaminating our food sources, causing sickness and death.

Starting with the chicken industry, Kenner explores the role of both unnatural and natural foods found in grocery stores. As we have discussed at length in class, the distinction between what is natural and what is unnatural creates a dualism, where one category is usually favored over the other. However, how is natural in this sense defined? Kenner seems to differentiate between the two by calling all of the foods that are processed unnatural and all of those that are grown organically natural. But how are Americans to distinguish for themselves what is natural and unnatural when they don't even know how their food is grown and processed?

Much of the work being done by large companies to create bigger and better products occurs through the use of steroid supplements and antibiotics. Everyone wants to eat a bigger chicken breast, but what is the cost of this mass production? Farmers who live in poverty and animals that live in hellish conditions. Sanitation in the food industry is grotesque. Chickens and cows are raised in conditions where they have to be given steroids and antibiotics to make them "healthy" enough to be used for food. However, this has not always rid the animals of disease, as can be seen from the increasing number of mutating E. Coli strains that are infecting many of our food sources.

The plant industry, like the animal industry, is being affected by corporations that are trying to maintain their profits by modifying their produce. Kenner talks about the company Mansanto and how Mansanto sells seeds that have been genetically engineered to be Roundup Ready resistant. In class, we were given the chance to learn about Mansanto through Vandana Shiva, who spoke about the problems with Mansanto's products and how they dealt unfairly with the farmers who purchased their seed by only letting them use the seed for one year.

The issue of genetic engineering was a topic that our class also spent a large amount of time discussing. Are GMO's going to help humanity? Do they bring more trouble than they are worth? In Food, Inc, I believe that Kenner is arguing against the use of any type of genetic modification in food. He portrays the farmer that raises his cattle, chickens, and pigs without any type of enhancement drugs as the good guy, while he portrays companies that use genetic engineering as the bad guys.

Kenner also brings to light the difficulty for Americans to stay healthy when eating healthy foods is so expensive. This echoes the writing of Raj Patel in Stuffed and Starved, where he explains that for many people, eating natural and unprocessed foods can be so expensive that they must choose either to eat healthy or pay their bills. It is convenient and cheap for people to order food off of the dollar menu at Burger King or McDonalds, but making a meal takes a trip to the grocery store and money. Because of people's busy lifestyles, they have even less time to eat right and exercise, especially for those who want to stay physically healthy.

Alien: A critique of heroines in science fiction

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       The rise of modern feminism in the last few decades has produced many great works in the form of literature as well as popular mainstream movies. In this advent many writers and directors have explored different genres to convey their views and critique of the role of women in today's society. Alien is a good example of a movie that explore themes of sexism and gender roles. The protagonist, Ripley, confronts an alien life form which threatens the lives of their crew as they head on their way back to earth. Ripley defies the conventional male heroic figure as she battles the alien amidst the lack of support from her own crew. Despite the movie's central focus on the female protagonists' strive for survival in extreme situations, Alien challenges the perception of the conventional submissive woman by portraying Ripley as a brave and brutal alien slaying heroine.
       Alien's plot is centered around the premise of a female protagonist's survival in an extremely hostile environment. Ripley is one of the two females on the commercial towing vessel Nostromo. Not only does Ripley have to battle the seemingly invincible alien on Nostromo, but she must also accomplish this while being oppressed by her own crew simply because she is female. An example of her being ostracized is when her command to quarantine Kane, Dallas and Lambert in order to prevent an alien from infecting the ship was ignored by their science officer named Ash. He later opens the inner hatch for them to come aboard. Her non-conforming demeanor does not help her either in this situation even though she is the third commanding officer on the ship. On the contrary, Lambert's submissiveness and compliance with the crew still does not prove to be of aid to her own quest for survival and ultimately these traits become her downfall as she is unable to cope with the grim crisis of the alien and the increasing depletion of her crew.
       The continual struggle for power between men and women is prevalent in Alien. Ripley's self preservation plan for the crew is constantly compromised by her own male crew, especially by those with superior rank. Any suggestions made by Ripley are usually ignored even though it is for the benefit of the crew. As aforementioned, her initial suggestion to not let the alien life form on the ship created a disaster. After the alien takes the lives of Dallas and Kane, Ripley being the next commanding officer suggested sticking with Dallas's idea of trapping the alien and destroying it. However this was refuted again by the same crew that agreed with the plan when it was originally made by Dallas. I think what really draws people to Alien especially at the time of its original theatrical release was the fact that Ripley, the sole survivor of the Nostromo was a heroic female figure. Alien worked well with its audience by grabbing their attention with the unexpected heroine thus signifying a change from the typical male hero. Ripley displays a strong female character and with extraordinary self-preserving skills. She is calm and usually very stern in her actions, as she knows how to take charge in daunting situations. This can be seen when Dallas and Kane are both killed by the alien and therefore leaving her with command of her crew. She relies a lot on her gut instincts to react to her situation. At the very end of the movie, she realizes that her self-dependence is the only thing that can guide her out of this ordeal and that she cannot rely on the ship's computer system "Mother". It is all these adversities that propel her to emerge as the sole survivor on the ship.
       Sexism is widely portrayed in Alien through subtle images and comments. Although Ripley's character defies the stereotypical female role, she is often bombarded with sexism remarks from her crew. In the scene where Nostromo lands on a foreign planet to retrieve the alien life form, the ship has troubles and when Ripley tells her crew she is going down to check it out, her crew mate Parker scoffs "What is she going to do down here?". In another scene Ash tries to choke Ripley to death with pornography magazines. This is a subtle message by the film makers how female are viewed as mere sexual objects. Lambert, the only other female character in Alien, is the epitome of all negative female stereotypes. She loses her composure when Dallas and Kane are both killed by the alien while Ripley takes charge.
       Science fiction can be seen as a form of extrapolation of our current times. Despite Alien's setting in the far future, it is still a good depiction of how women are overlooked in their capabilities and contribution to society. The movie constructs an interesting platform to analyze how different societal structure perpetuate the idea of sexism and gender roles. It is the responsibility of its audience to take home this revelation that society can operate on a different level where men and women are treated as equals.

CoD attacks

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Everyone knows what Call of Duty is. If they don't then they've heard of it at least. Well, I recalled reading on BBC news that a teenager was arrested for a cyber attack he conducted on the site.
"The attack came about via a malicious program called "Phenom Booter", which was also being offered for sale on a web forum which allowed those playing Call of Duty to score more points while stopping other people playing the game."
This isn't a new concept really, it's a form of hacking and for anyone who plays MMOs of any sort or even online games, most have witnessed or been a victim of a hacker's actions. In Maple Story, the most common hackers will either cause all the "monsters" to zoom to one spot on the "map" or screen and a bot will kill them constantly without receiving damage. Anyone who is found doing this is usually reported to the GM and usually banned. But being arrested for this cyber attack the teen did is new.
Apparently the reason as to why the teen was arrested was because "of offences under the Computer Misuse Act" and that "Online gaming is a major retail sector with millions of titles being sold in the run-up to Christmas worldwide. Programs marketed in order to disrupt the online infrastructure not only affect individual players but have commercial and reputational consequences for the companies concerned. These games attract both children and young people to the online environment and this type of crime can often be the precursor to further offending in more traditional areas of online crime."
I am very glad that the British authorities have taken this as actual crime, though can they do the same to that Anonymous group that I've spoken about in my last blog? Is it the same thing? Or is it virtually impossible since members can be from different countries?

Anonymous

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This is my blog from yesterday that I submitted but didn't go through while I worked on my next one before my computer crashed.

Since we've been talking about virtual realities as well as affects on reality in class the past two weeks, it's reminded me of the "virtual attacks" on sites that withdrew support from Wikileaks by a group called "Anonymous" that has been going for the past few weeks since WIkileaks was taken down by their server provider. They say that they're not really a group, but more of an "internet gathering". The way they described themselves and what they do reminded me of any social website, not necessarily facebook though but more like gaiaonline where there are forums for discussion, but in any case, these attacks the group has done has actually not caused any law enforcement. This ties into my last blog a week ago where the issue of online virtual items can actually be considered property. Do these attacks on these virtual intangible websites have free reign since enforcing law over the cyberwebs is debatable as well as difficult?
The group uses a known program to enact these attacks on these actual companies, but can the companies sue the individuals in Anonymous for causing either intermittent lag or complete shut down of their websites and thus their companies?
These companies are set in reality, but virtually and being attacked through that medium and apparently there was a member in the group with 30000 machines and botnets at his disposal to use, is there anything the companies can do to protect their virtual parts?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11971259

Lack of privacy or an endless resource of communication?

All of this virtual reality talk got me thinking a lot about Facebook and networking in general. I'm sure the majority of the people in the class have a Facebook and know what it is all about. I remember when I first got one at the end of my senior year in high school, you had to at least have a college email address to belong to a college network (correct me if I am wrong) and that was the only way you could sign up. No ones profile was visible unless you were friends with them, the privacy was defaulted to this. Now, with Facebook, any one can join and you have to set your own privacy, and it reminds me a lot of "Myspace" that was huge a couple years ago. Recently, they came out with a "new" look of Facebook and people can decide to update to that look. After updating, I then noticed that any comment I write on someones wall or status, is then posted on my wall showing exactly what I wrote. It used to just say that I commented or wrote something, but now it's shows my exact words. Granted, you can "X" that out, but when noticing this, I thought, "Really Facebook, in how many more ways can you invade my communication with one other person, without letting the whole world (or my friend community) know what I am doing?" Also, I have been noticing this "checking in" application where my friends can "check in" at places on Facebook and it shows me EXACTLY where they are (yes, a map is shown) and they can "tag" who they are with. I'm sorry, but I don't want people knowing where I am at 24-7 and who I am with. I really do not understand the concept of this whole "checking in" feature.

I can see how Facebook is great at communication and keeping in touch. I can see how it is great for networking and establishing relationships. What I don't see is how my every move made on Facebook and where I might be at is of any concern to my friend community. I feel like it provides people an alleyway for almost "stalking" me in general if they felt like it. I guess they don't call is "stalker feed" for nothing.
What do you all think? Is Facebook creating more problems for people or is it a great tool for communication?

Racial Biases in Virtual Reality

Click HERE to find an article about how people's behaviors including racial biases are consistent in reality and virtual reality. Psychologists at Northwestern University did a study where they had participants in a virtual world asked by other avatars to help them with something. The psychologists found that when the avatar asking for help was "dark-toned", the person being asked for help was much less likely to help than if the avatar asking for help was white. I found this fascinating that even in virtual reality we have biases and act on them. The very color of this virtual person affects how others respond to them. The person responding does not even know (or care) if the real person who created this avatar is the same color (or gender, race, etc) that the avatar is. I thought that people who participate in virtual worlds would like to create an avatar different from themselves, to have a new experience and be someone they could not be in reality. But apparently, people remain much the same in virtual reality as in reality. So why do you think this is? Why, even when there are no real consequences for actions and anonymity, why do we act on social biases? Is it fear? Is it because they are so ingrained in us that we are not even aware? Are these conscious choices? How do we overcome racial bias when we can't even avoid it in virtual reality?

Motion-swinger

In lieu of the talks about Avatars and social networks and virtual realities I came across a disturbing video game. The recent Kinect for Xbox is the hottest new video gaming system for kids and adults out there. Well now, its really for adults. I came across a new game called MotionSwinger. It is the first adult video game on the market. It is a full on video game of sex and porn.

In MotionSwinger, the person scans their body and voice into the game thru the connect camera and automatically turns into an avatar. Then let the fun begin ( or some people might think). A person can compare their body types and their "packages" to other users on MotionSwinger, you can compare "skills" and watch yourself in the act or others on MotionSwinger as well. The BayWatch heartthrob David Hasselhoff is the voice of love on MotionSwinger and lets you know if your doing a good job.

This blows my mind... After explaining it, I'm at a loss for words.

Lawlessness of the Internet

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With everything we have been talking about, both in class and on the blog, about social networks and virtual realities I started thinking about whether or not there needs to laws set in place on the internet for the general safety of users. Now some of you may be asking yourself, why does there need to be laws set in place on something that many believe to be an "alternate" reality? However, in many cases, mostly those dealing with social networks, this so-called "alternate" reality affects users in real life as well.


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This also happens with online gaming as well, but it is not a serious as one the shown in the clip. Your personal social website or gamer identification is your property right? So, my question is that should social networking websites or online gaming websites be doing more to protect your identity? Your property? Or your safety? Right now someone can hack on to your account and pretty much do whatever they want without consequence and it is coming at a price to those who are on the receiving end.

In Response to: Social Network

This is a comment in response to the "Social Network" post.

Privacy has become a huge issue in the facebook world, or any social networking world. What I have come to question is where online privacy merges with the privacy we have in real life. It is that people put all this information about themselves onto an internet network- a world that has never-ending strings and links- and expect this information to only be shared with certain "friends" or "networks." However, as much as an individual wants control over their so-called "profile," that privacy cannot be promised since the internet has control over us users. For example, try "google-ing" yourself. As weird as it sounds I bet you will be extremely surprised by the results. Information posted by online newespapers, University postings, my facebook page all came up. No matter how "private" I set my profile on facebook, there are still mounds of information about myself that is out of my control. In fact, the non-virtual world has become effected by the internet. For instance, newspapers are no longer solely in paper form.

Dating sites are a great example of this merging of internet and reality. Taken further, the following site merges anonymous, virtual flirting to be translated into connections made in reality: Likealittle.com/minnesota. Instead of connections being made in reality, a person can "flirt" online and discuss their thoughts about another person without this person even being aware. So I will ask again: Where does the line of virtual privacy cross into the area of true life privacy?

Second Skin Review

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Second Skin was both troubling and informative. Second Skin follows the lives of several avid gamers, and how gaming has affected their lives. In between anecdotes from the gamers about how gaming has helped them find love or has gotten in the way of their careers professional game developers, psychotherapists, and experts on gaming describe how the games being played have become so addictive.
After watching this movie I could not help but think about how we are abusing the virtual realities so many of these gamers play on. Second Skin tells the story of a couple of gamers who have disabilities. The gamers talk about how they feel liberated playing on these online games, where they can interact with people just as easily as people without disabilities. People confided to wheelchairs can still walk, climb, and jump in the virtual realities that exist online. People paralyzed from shyness can feel more confident in the virtual world, and open up more then they thought they could to people in the real world. One of the big points of Second Skin is that online games are such equalizers. Everyone starts out at level 1 and has to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to level up. It works the same for everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, income level, or ability level.
Of course, as the movie pointed out, there are still ways that you can avoid this. People are abusing such a wonderful premise with their own greed. If someone does not feel like leveling up by themselves they can buy a character that is at the level that they want. Similarly they can buy gold from the gold farmers in China, who are being abused for their cheap labor. In this way people with a different income level could hold an advantage, when the idea is that everyone must make their own way.
I thought it was interesting how relationships were affected by having their genesis inside the online game. Second Skin pulls many statistics of how people are more likely to act like their true selves while on the game. With no one there to judge how they act, gamers are more likely to act like themselves. Much like the people with disabilities everyone was free to act however they wanted. Couples who met inside the game describe how differ it was getting to know someone in the game. Since they were free to act like themselves, they were more open with their partners from the beginning.
I think that this aspect of the online games has such a potential for many types of people. Why not go on a quest for your inner self, while in a game? Online games are a safe environment for experimentation, with no long term repercussions inside the game, you would not have to worry about your image or reputation. You would be free to do as you please until you discovered who you were.
The troubling thing about these games is however how addictive they are. Living in such an idealized world makes it undesirable to leave. Then, when you do leave, you find that your real life as fallen apart during your neglect. You have lost your job, your house, and many of your close acquaintances. Some gamers do decide to break their habit, but their online friends are now left with the knowledge that they must find new friends. Couple gamers described this transition as "growing up". When a gamer decides to leave the game on a more permanent basis to nurture their real life more.
I think that for many people online games could be a way to discover themselves in a safe environment before they "grow up". They could use the time they spent online to develop more self confidence and learn to trust in people more. Much like your college years are spent learning who you are and what you want to do with the rest of your life, online games could do they same thing. The problem lies in the exiting process, the appeal of online gaming can be too much for some people. Second Skin opened my eyes to how online games can have many positive consequences, but it depends on the person on whether the negative consequence will be too great to come back from.

Social Networks

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Reading the articles we were assigned to last week had me thinking a lot about social networks and how they have become so popular in the last five years or so. I, myself, was hooked for a good couple years, but thankfully I got myself out while I still barely had a handle on myself. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed staying in touch with high school friends and family, as well as reconnecting with long lost acquaintances. The turning point for me was all the extra baggage that came along with it. The biggest thing that I couldn't handle was the lack of privacy I felt I had when I had a Facebook account. If I was a parent, I would absolutely not let me child have a social network account for so many reasons. The biggest thing that gets me is that a lot of the people online could disguise themselves as someone else to allow access to talk to certain people. I would hope these types of people are not out there, but I cannot be so naïve to think that they do not exist. If anybody is familiar with South Park, you might have seen the episode when Cartman is sick of his friends so he decides to find some new friends online. He agrees to come to a NAMBLA (North America Man Boy Love Association, not to be mistaken with the North American Marlon Brando Look Alike) meeting where he is abruptly surprised to find out what these men actually want to do with him. Fortunately it all ends well for everyone in the episode but, in real life, it doesn't always turn out for the best. How would you go about protecting your safety on these social networks and on the internet as a whole?

Digital Nation

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The video I added is called 'Digital Nation- life on the virtual frontier'. It is a documentary by PBS that discusses, among other things, the nature and impact of virtual reality and virtual worlds on real-world life and culture. It's a very interesting film and I recommend watching it.
After reading the selections from Tom Boellstorff's 'Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human', I immediately thought of this documentary because they discuss Second Life and World of Warcraft.
As I've never played World of Warcraft or Second Life, it is difficult for me to understand their appeal; but obviously those games seem to offer a lot to the millions of people who play them everyday. But what are the side effects of playing such games like this on a daily basis?

What do people's responses to World of Warcraft, Second Life, and other virtual environments tell us about human interaction, relationships and experience?
How do you think digital technology has changed: how families communicate? how people view the real world? how people interact, communicate and understand real world problems?

I was also very intrigued by the video we watched in class on Friday about using gamers as a untapped resource and using the skills people build in video games and in virtual worlds. I have a very difficult time buying into her argument. I don't think the skills that someone builds in a virtual world or through a video game could ever truly translate into the real world. The main reason most people play WOW or live in Second Life, is to escape the dull, daily problems that real life poses and join a world where there are possibilities that life outside virtual worlds, doesn't offer.
The woman in the video said she believes that the gamers build skills that are capable of potentially solving real world problems, but have their been any studies proving that the people playing these games or living in these virtual worlds have taken those skills and applied them into their real life? If a person becomes extremely successful in their life in World of Warcraft, does their real life parallel that success? I'd be interested to know how a gamers success in virtual worlds effects their success in the real world.
Does anyone have an opinion on whether or not they think game skills benefit a gamer's real life or become detrimental?

Pro/Con of video games

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First of all I would like to clarify that even though I am a gamer, I can easily see the faults in gaming. I don't play any MMORPGs such as WOW, but I do frequently spend time on console games. I enjoy playing a variety of these such as the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, Call of Duty, the Legend of Zelda games, and my personal favorite...Pokemon! I've spent many hours of my life playing these, and while I've gained a few life-skills, there's also the drawbacks.

Gaming for the World

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After watching the lecture on "Gaming Can Make a Better World" I could not help but think about how her argument had some serious flaws in it. She claimed that gamers have all these skills that non-gamers don't have. Sure she made some good points, that they have an incurable optimism about their game, they have a tightly woven social circle, excellent problem solving, and feel that they are doing something for the good of all, or are they? If feel that she is stretching the bounds of what gamers could do. I point to the gamers in my life. My brother is an avid World of Warcraft player. He capped out on the leveling up a long time ago, and yes he continues to play W.O.W. regardless. He does enjoy what he does, does do a lot of quests, so in that sense he is highly productive. However, he does, or should I say, doesn't ever do his homework. He cannot wrap his head around how his homework is as important to his life as the quest he is trying to complete is. Another example is my best friend's mother, another avid Halo and W.O.W. player. My friend's mother spends so much time playing her games, that my friend had to take up the task of taking care of her house herself. In addition, when my friend does play online games with her mother, her mother introduces my friend as her roommate, not her daughter. She believes that her online friends would not want to "hang out" if they knew she had a teenage daughter. I know that there is the possibility for gamers to band together and solve our global problems, but I'm still a little reserved. The point of a game is that it isn't real, that you can take the risks in W.O.W. that you would not in real life. I guess I am wondering why non-gamers do not have these skills McGonigal praises so highly. Are there not people who have these skills and also can enact them in real life, without the use of a game? What we should be doing is asking ourselves, where are they? So my question is, with the exception of gamers who else has the ability to solve our global problems? Or, how can we tap into the potential of gamers without a game to stimulate them?

Mercy and Virtual Realities II

Video Game Raging

We've discussed video games quite a bit this week, and on Friday we mainly watched a video clip about how we could turn life itself into a game in order to increase productivity, decrease resource consumption, and achieve a real life "Epic Win". However, what we didn't really discuss was the differences in mechanics between real life and a cyber play world. Most video games today have some form of story line or massive virtual world that the players are thrown into. Some games you can customize your avatar, others you merely assume the role of a prefabricated character. Either way, once you enter these worlds you play by different rules compared to real life. What I mean by this is that there are fewer consequences for the player's actions, the physics of the occupied world may be different, as well as the physical abilities of the characters in these worlds. As players in these worlds, we assume we can accomplish anything we set our minds to, we assume we are nearly omnipotent; however, when we begin connecting with these games there can be emotional consequences. This usually occurs when we are thrown into a PvP (player vs. player) game type. When players spend most of their time as the dominant player in a game's campaign, constantly beating the AI players, and then move on to face other players (whose skill level may exceed their own) they begin believing that everything bad happening to them in the game is the result of a flawed game. Classic examples of this are when players complain of "Lag" or that other players have found a way to "mod" the system. Eventually, if this continues players may end up venting their frustration in what today is called "Raging" by other players. These episodes, depending on how severe, can be quite scary to watch and may result in injuries of other people as well as damage to surrounding objects. Now I'm an avid gamer, and I do believe that turning our daily chores or world problems into some form of game would be an excellent idea; however, the psychological consequences could be debilitating for a select group of individuals. I personally found Friday's video to be both inspiring and scary. The fact that an entire civilization could play games instead of eating, while useful at the time, brings to light many cases in today's world where people would rather play video games than tend to the needs of themselves or dependent family members. To end this post I thought I would leave the readers with a somewhat comical youtube video of "Raging".


Walking A Mile In Our Own Shoes

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Being a poor college student, I haven't saved up that much money. Each paycheck I earn goes towards food, gas, or rent. I can't even imagine the luxury of being able to purchase something that isn't a necessity. According to Hal Ersner-Hershfield, a behavioral-finance researcher from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the average American is not taking ownership of their finances. He developed a virtual reality world so you can "walk a mile in the shoes of your future self". His theory is based on the premise that if the subject can imagine themself living at the age of 60, they might try and prepare financially for that time. This virtual reality ages you so you are able to look at a future image of yourself. Subjects in the study who were shown future images of themselves allocated about twice as much money toward a fake retirement fund compared to those who did not experience the virtual reality. This virtual reality world would be a good experience for almost everyone. We become more conscious of the fact that we may grow to be old and should start to prepare for that now. This virtual world helps us get a better grip on our possible reality. I think that there are several opportunities for virtual realities to be used as tools to help our society grow in a more positive direction and this is one of them.

World of Warcraft

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I found Jane McGonigal's speech, "Gaming Can Make A Better World" very interesting. I personally have never played World of Warcraft, nor do I ever want to, but for some people it can be very beneficial. I decided to do a little more research about World of Warcraft and in doing so I stumbled upon an article titled "The power of social structure in World of Warcraft" by Danah Boyd. In the article she discusses the social structures that exist within this online virtual world. The only way to succeed in the game is to work in groups called guilds to complete tasks. The people that don't "work within the social structure get penalized." The individuals that make up these guilds will joke around with each other because this level of intimacy will help with team building. The team building and group making can be beneficial to those people who aren't able to interact with others in the real world. It at least provides a place where these socially inept can build and tune their social skills. Even though there are benefits still World of Warcraft and any other video game for that matter can be harmful in the sense that some people get too obsessed with them and spend the majority of their day playing these make believe games. They become further unattached from the real world. They seek comfort with games like World of Warcraft because in the game there is a very formalized structure that makes it clear were a certain person stands in this virtual society. A certain player's status or class is all dependent on their rank or level. So there is no arguing that one with a high level is in the upper society. Why is it that people enjoy playing these games so much? Is it because it is a way to escape the real world and their real lives? Do you believe that people seek comfort in these games because it is more clear where they stand in these virtual societies than it is in the real world? Do people of lower society in the real world seek these games so they can be apart of upper society in a virtual world?

Deconstructing Dichotomies in The Island

The people who have survived the contamination have been waiting to go to the Island. Yet, this isn't enough for Lincoln Six Echo; he wants more. Lincoln begins to question the world that has been constructed around him. The shocking discovery in the film, The Island, is that Lincoln and his friends are not "real humans." They are clones, waiting to have their organs harvested for their donors.

The Island evokes core ideas extrapolated in Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto", which challenge the human/nonhuman dichotomy. The movie inverses this binary by giving the power of narrative to the clones, who are the main characters. The audience sympathizes with them and is shocked with them over the discovery of their "non-humanness" as the story progresses. The main characters, similar to Haraway's Cyborg, appear where the boundaries are transgressed between animal and human, organism and machine, and physical and non-physical (153). Clones are not animal, machine, or non-physical per say; however they are defined as not human or "real" because of their essence of replication.

The permeability of the distinction between human and non-human is a fear, evidenced in rhetoric. Dr. Merrick, the creator of this cloning technology, soothes Lincoln's anxieties by saying, "It's natural, even healthy, to question the world we're presented. You might say it's only human." He recognizes their humanity; therefore he is compelled to oppress it. So Dr. Merrick uses dehumanizing rhetoric like calling Lincoln a "product" and "an insurance policy." This limitation of the clones' humanity is best described by Fuss who writes, "Sameness, not difference, provokes our greatest anxiety (and our greatest fascination) with the "almost human" (3).

Essentially, the film deconstructs this binary. Dr. Merrick acknowledges, "without consciousness, human experience, emotion, without life . . . the organs failed." In this statement, the man, who claims that the "products" are not human, has undermined his whole argument. These clones need all of the components that intrinsically make humans "human." Mac, a human working at the simulated world where Lincoln and Jordon live, gives the audience a definition of human. He emphasizes, "Humans will do anything to survive." Later in the film Lincoln fights his donor (which is necessary, since symbolically only one of them can survive in this exclusive world). When Lincoln wins (which he as the optimistic cyborg future must do), he states his humanity, "Humans will do anything to survive. I just want to live." By fulfilling the standard of humanity, Lincoln, the non-human has deconstructed the dichotomy human/non-human.

True freedom does not come from just beating his opposite, since that inverses but still reinforces the distinction. Liberty is achieved through destroying the need of a division, which is done symbolically through fighting Dr. Merrick, the self-proclaimed God of this world. The creator begins monologuing about his power over Lincoln Six Echo (a product name). Then Lincoln interrupts by declaring his subjectivity, "My name is Lincoln." Metaphorically, Lincoln finally fights and kills Dr. Merrick when he takes away Merrick's power of rhetoric. Thus he creates a world were he, the cyborg, can exist in the blurring of dichotomies.

Surrogates Film Review

The movie, Surrogates provokes the idea of bringing a virtual self, an avatar, into reality. In the film, a man named Lionel Canter develops a technology that allows robots to be controlled entirely by the human mind. This technology becomes so advanced that 98% of people in the world use surrogates at all times. The draw of surrogates is that they can't be destroyed but normal means of human death, being shot, falling off a bridge, car crashes, etc. It allows for people to experience the world and engage in risky activities without the fear of injury or death. Another draw to surrogacy is that it allows people to "become whoever they want to be." One can choose the appearance of their surrogate whether being a replica of their actual self or something completely different. People can choose to change their sex or be as beautiful as they want.

The widespread use of surrogates had led to a world with record low crime rates, an overall safer world to live in. However the plot of the movie circles around the first homicide in years. Bruce Willis's character Tom Greer, a detective, discovers a weapon that when used on a surrogate not only destroys the machine but also liquefies the brain of the occupier. During the rest of the movie Greer goes on to try to stop the destruction of all surrogates and their occupiers.

In class, we have been talking a lot about the pros and cons of this kind of advanced technology and virtual realities. The movie does a great job of discussing both. The beginning of the movie highlights the pros of surrogates by describing a safer world with less crime and no homicides, a world in which any person, regardless of disability, race, sex or class can experience the world the same as every other person. The use of surrogates breaks down barriers that exist today between races, genders, and classes.

However, as the movie progressed many of the cons of living in isolation and experiencing the world through a surrogate emerged. The movie stressed the importance of human interaction and experience. One scene in the movie that I found particularly important was a scene where Greer confronted the person (trying not the spoil anything for those who want to watch the movie) behind the weapon designed to destroy the surrogates. The man shoots a gun at the wall and asks Greer, who has lived through his surrogate for as long as he can remember, how it feels to feel his pulse quicken, the heightened awareness, savoring every breath as if it were his last. In a world where everyone lives through a surrogate with no risk of injury or death, one doesn't get the appreciation of life. This movie outlines societies struggle with deciding whether advancing technology is for the better or for the worse.

"The King of Kong" Film Review

The movie "The King of Kong" is a documentary on competitive gamers. One man, Billy Mitchell, at the age of 17 years old obtained the high score on the classic arcade game, Donkey Kong in 1982. Not until 2004, was this high score ever surpassed. Steve Wiebe, a laid-off engineer, found Mitchell's score online and was determined to beat it, something to distract himself from his hardships. In 2004 Wiebe finally beat Mitchell's score. The film goes on to describe the controversies, backstabbing, and revenge that goes on in the gaming world. It describes how these people literally devote their lives to being the best at these games.

In class we have been talking about gaming, virtual realities, and technology and the effect that these things have on society. Many make the claim that an addiction to gaming, like all other addictions, takes people away from reality. They forget their lives and what is really important to them. Often times in the movie, Wiebe is shown as having a strong addiction to gaming. It has become his life. At one particular scene, he is playing Donkey Kong, approaching the high score he is so longing to beat, and his son, Derek, is screaming for him in the background. Wiebe tells his son to stop and he will come in a little bit and Derek replies, "Stop playing Donkey Kong." As the documentary progressed they showed a few interviews with Wiebe's wife and kids, every time Steve is in the background playing Donkey Kong. These scenes show classic examples of an addiction. Wiebe has neglected his son and family in order to play this game that has literally taken over his life.

Another scene in the film that struck me was when Wiebe and his family were driving across the country, over 3,000 miles, in order for Wiebe to compete at a convention. Steve and his daughter are discussing the Guinness Book of World Records, in which Wiebe has a shot of being in for a high score in Donkey Kong. His daughter turns to him and says, "Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there." I think this movie focused on many of the key issues that make gaming a problem in society. I think too often people get too caught up in their virtual realities that they forget about their families and simply forget to live their lives. Despite my first impressions, I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it for everyone living in the modern technical age. It also has an amazing soundtrack!

We Decide the Fate of the World

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Today (Dec 10th) in class we watched Jane McGonigal's speech called "Gaming Can Make A Better World." To be quite honest, until we started talking about virtual realities in class, I thought of video games as a complete waste of time. I have to admit, her theory really opened my eyes. I never realized how cooperative and productive games like World of Warcraft are, but now I realize that these games actually are a lot more than just going on "quests" and "raids" to kill a bunch of stuff with other players. McGonigal brought up four attributes that gamers have or share: urgent optimism, social fabric, blissful productivity and epic meaning. She explained how these qualities were exactly what the world needs more of, and how people should actually spend more time playing online video games to keep their minds goal-oriented and get better and better at problem solving so these qualities can transfer over into real life problems and disasters. She briefly discussed three games she helped design: World Without Oil, Superstruct and Evoke. All of these games have more realistic problems to solve and get people thinking about solutions to the world's current threats. While reading about these games I found one with a similar mission, it's called "Fate of the World."
Here's a trailer for the game:

Here's an article about Fate of the World:
So, the goal of this game is to save the world from climate change! While that seems like a way more complex goal than killing a boss, you have to admit that the game would at least get people to recognize different factors, and educate them about how different things happening all over the world all play a role in our planet's fate. What do you guys think about these new kinds of video games? Do you think people will play them as much as games like WoW, or will people not be interested in playing them at all? Do you agree with McGonigal that games could play a huge role in changing/saving the world?

Gamer

Gamer is a futuristic movie that addresses issue with gaming, technology, and our desire to make stimulations and games more and more life-like as well as our desire to control other people. Basically, a man named Castle has created these two video games called Society and Slayers. Society is a lot like Sims, but there is one slight disturbing catch--the characters you control are real people and the things you make them do really do happen somewhere in a controlled environment. The ability of a person to control the human who is the character in the game comes from these "nano-cells" that injected into a person's brain. The nano-cells allow for ultimate physical control. The invented game Slayers also uses the nano-cells and is even more disturbing. It is similar to Medal of Honor or some other military/mission killing video game. The people you are killing are real though. In this futuristic society we are introduced to in this movie the people who play the characters in Society are paid wages for their work. Slayers is actually supported by the government. The men used as characters in the game are death row inmates. This brings to mind some critiques about this futuristic society that we discussed in class about being inhumane and how prisoners "lose the right to be treated humanely because they have committed a crime". While you could argue the people signing up to be in the game Society know what they are getting themselves into and it is voluntary, you could also argue prostitution is voluntary and many countries outlaw that. Furthermore, you never really know why someone decides to work in the job they do. Some people have little choice if they want to earn money honestly and have no other job prospects. In this way, just having a game that forces real people to give up their control and freedom is inhumane. Then, to make a game for death row inmates that results in them being killed for the enjoyment and entertainment of someone else, is inhumane on many levels, even if the death row inmates are given a choice to participate in the game or not. It is inhumane for the children and other people being entertained to partake in a game like Slayers and play it. And how much of a choice do the prisoners really have? They will die if they don't play, but there is an incentive for them if they do play in Slayers--if they win 30 games they are set free. However, we learn later in the movie that the game is designed so that no inmates win. Kable, the main character in this movie, is on his 27 or so battle and Castle hires a man to play as a character in the game Slayers with the goal to kill Kable. This is a system, like many others that humans have constructed, that is set up so that the oppressed can never win. This movie is also a terrific example of technology and video games going too far in stimulating real life. The desire with stimulations is to create something that is perceived as real. What better way to do this than to take what is real and make it be perceived as a stimulation? This is the ultimate stimulation and this movie shows the great difficulty we as humans have in separating reality from stimulations. Even when the "natural" and "real" is used as a stimulation, we still do not quite recognize it. Simon is the 17 year-old boy that controls and plays with Kable. He is told and he knows on some level that what is happening to Kable is real, but he is so far removed from that actual environment, it still is just a video game to him. To Kable, Simon is playing with his life. This brings up the questions we ask already. Is seeing violence on TV or in a video game desensitizing humans? Is this desensitization making humans more blood-thirsty and violent? Furthermore, are we no longer able to distinguish constructed stimulations from real nature? What happens when we don't know what is real anymore? And what happens when we perceive everything as a game/stimulation? The movie answers these questions by showing us from the vantage point of Kable, a prisoner who partakes in the game Slayers as his only option to remain alive and eventually be reunited with his family, and his wife, who is a character in Society as her only means of making money because her husband was jailed. It is obvious to us, the movie watchers, that both are suffering from this futuristic society that is constructed around entertainment and video games. While, the video game players like Simon see this suffering on some level, they still continue to consume and play. They are desensitized from the suffering and to them it is only a game. That is, until Ludacris and some other actors in this movie form a resistance group called Humanz (I thought that was pretty interesting that the resistance group is called Humanz since they are trying to put the humane back into human) that hacks into the games and tries to bring down Castle...

Second Skin Film Review

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I just finished watching Second Skin, and I honestly think it was a very fair and balanced way to view the gaming world.
I am not a gamer, and have very little knowledge about the gaming industry, so it was helpful to watch the documentary with my boyfriend, who also had a slight addiction, to watch it with me and help me with the terminology and to better understand the gold farmers.

For those of you who do not remember the description of Second Skin, here's a trailer.

I thought there were many different key points mentioned that were extremely interesting and fascinating. Although some of the individuals featured were a little scary, I think gaming is just like any other addiction or habit. For example, one might use a sport as a social event or a way to connect with others who enjoy being active, while another might use it to control his/her eating disorder or compulsive exercising. It was a good documentary because the producers presented an extreme side to gaming, and a less severe side. The viewer saw individuals who literally lost everything to gaming, and then showed individuals who met their partners over World of Warcraft or other games.

I also wanted to mention that I think some of the gamers are a reflection of society's negative impacts. One of the men who spoke throughout the documentary essentially said he believes it's really upsetting that a woman who is overweight can find more of a social network online rather than in person. I agree with him and think it's sad that we somewhat influence individuals who may be overweight, disabled, etc, into a virtual world online because we haven't created space for them otherwise. Because of this, I'm not sure I think it's bad for people to have online tools like World of Warcraft to connect with other people. If we were really concerned about the well being of gamers, maybe we should ask ourselves why people can spend endless amounts of money and time being in front of a computer rather than in front of a group of friends, and then perhaps ask how we influence and could help fix this problem.

What do you guys think about games like World of Warcraft? Do you know of anyone who plays WoW?

"The Surrogates": Is Virtual Reality Our Future?

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In the movie "The Surrogates" the new reality has become that people live through a surrogate body. This is meant to create an environment of safety for humans since there actual form never has to leave the comfort and safety of their own home and if something happened to the surrogate they would simply have to purchase a new one and nothing would happen to them. Or so they thought. The plot of the movie ends up being that there is a weapon made that when it kills the surrogates it kills the owner as well.

The first thing that I found extremely interesting was how it presented all the pros of creating a virtual reality in which no one was in danger and they could be whoever they wanted. This relates to how virtual reality is able to break down many of the barriers that surround race and gender because when people are able to choose their own gender and race and they are able to look however they want there is no reason to discriminate because all you are seeing is what you want them to see. One part that especially sticks out in my mind from the movie is when they find out that a beautiful 20 year old blonde girl actually turns out to be a middle aged slightly balding, slightly obese man. It is interesting because this man was able to live the live he wanted to, different in age and gender, which made him happy and no one suspected anything so he was not discriminated against. In this light, virtual reality is a great way to escape the stigmas and confines that bind a person into something that they may not be happy being. On the other hand, is virtual reality a fix? Although this person is happy in a virtual reality, if this is not there only reality (as is now days) is being able to escape to who you want to be really a good solution or is does it just serve as a band -aid and make the problem worse? In the movie this seems like a perfect solution because there whole world is virtual so it will never be questioned and that is how there life is lived, so it is like they completely have become the person they created in there surrogate. However, in the life we live right now we are forced to switch between the virtual and real world, so creating a different persona in the virtual world may cause discomfort in the real world. This can lead to social construction in which a person who has become so comfortable on the internet and in the world they created that they can no longer function in their real life. So again I ask, without completely changing to an entirely virtual reality is having a virtual world really helping people? Or is it just hindering their ability to face problems that they may be facing in the real world?

The Second thing I found extremely interesting in this movie was the fact that we used virtual reality to escape all the dangers of the real world, but that danger eventually found its way back into that life. People in the movie seemed to have lost respect for one another as well as the value of a human/ surrogate life because there was never any real danger. With this idea they no longer feared anything and therefore did whatever they wanted because they had created a new hierarchy in which surrogates were the invincible and highest life form. All people controlling surrogates and no desire to return to a real world and also felt like they had power over everything because nothing could happen to them. This is interesting that humans continue to create ways to heirarchize themselves above other beings and if we feel that we are slipping from that top spot that we create new ways to remain on top. When in reality no matter if we are in the virtual or real world there will always be other organisms and ideals that are challenging our hierarchy because the idea that humans are on top of a hierarchal pyramid is a misplaced one. We are not, and will never be, invincible and therefore have more power over any other human or being. Therefore, it is illogical to place humans at the top of a hierarchy. The sooner we accept this reality the sooner we can continue toward a balance between having the escape to the virtual world while maintaining our position in the real world. Hopefully meaning that we won't ever get to the point where we only have the option to live in a virtual world.

"I Robot": A Posthumanist Feminist Review


Imagine a world so advanced that robots are able to take on the characteristics of humans, where we no longer have to do the tasks that are "remedial" or "undesirable". A world in which robots who can act like humans have become the dominant life form on earth, but there only purpose is to serve the humans that inhabit it. This is the reality of Will Smith in "I Robot" a film which explores a world filled with technologically advanced robots who can act and move as humans do, yet are programmed to listen to their human owners.
The robots, although acting human in every way sans the physical appearance and characteristics are treated as nothing more than property because humans have the need to be in control and still think they deserve to be the dominant life on the planet. This brings up many theories that we have discussed so far in our exploration of feminist ideas. One of these theories is the deciphering what is human and what is not. This idea was explored in Donna Haraway's the "Cyborg Manifesto". Haraway was more focused on expanding the boundary between human and animal, but in this context a cyborg could also be the mix between human and machine, such as in this movie. If something displays human characteristics, to the point where two of the robots are able to develop and have human thought where they can then run themselves and are no longer slaves to the will of the humans that own them doesn't that mean that they are then a human? What boundaries are in place that classify a human as a human, a robot as a robot, an animal as an animal? If we all share the same characteristics and the only thing separating us is physical differences can we really say that we are different? Therefore, the movie " I robot" does a great job of exploring this because the robots are like a second human race in every way, except their physical characteristics. This brings me to the second theory that this movie brings to light which is the hierarchy that humans have created, placing themselves against all other life forms, whether natural or artificial. It is clear in this movie, however, that humans are not the dominant race as the robots are much stronger and have the ability to function better in our society than us. Still we insist that this hierarchy exists because we are the "original" life form and created even if it is clear that we are not. We are experiencing something like this right now, although maybe not quite to such a clear and drastic measure. Humans are currently destroying the earth's resources, and as far as I know we are the only species that is so far causing this much harm to the environment. Although we have to power to control other species does that mean we should? Does that make us better? We are the only ones causing harm to others as well as to the environment in which we live, which to me does not sound like we are performing like a dominant species. Our view of dominant is skewed because we have this ideal that because we speak and can create the things we do that we are better than everything else, which is not the case. Again, " I robot" is able to parallel this idea in an ironic fashion because the very thing we create is ultimately able to deconstruct the very nature of the idea in which we created them. Therefore, the movie " I robot" is able to parallel and support two feminist theories that critique the social construct that we live in currently.

Global Day of Action for Climate Justice

From Democracy Now!, "Thousands March in Cancún at La Via Campesina's "Global Day of Action for Climate Justice"

Al Pacino Digitally Creates a Woman

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The video I've attached is the trailer for a movie that premiered in 2002 called Simone, starring Al pacino. His character is a producer whose film is endangered when his star walks off, so he decides to digitally create an actress to substitute for the star, the digital actress 'Simone' becomes an overnight sensation that everyone loves and thinks is a real person. You can see in the trailer that Al Pacino's character eventually starts conversing with this fake woman he has created, talking to her as if she is a real person and in the end, when he tries to get rid of her, he can't seem to find a way to erase her from his life even though she is only a computer generated being. Our reading "Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations: Rethinking the Relationship between the Beholder and the World" by Katherine Hayles, reminded me of this movie and the close relationship Al Pacino forms with this woman he created. Throughout the movie, he slowly forgets that Simone isn't a real person and gets lost in this version of reality that he has created, with a fake woman controlling his life. He begins to care very much about this computer generated woman and replaces real human interaction with his interactions with her, which consist only of him speaking into a microphone that changes his voice into hers and then responding to what he just said as if she was the one who said it. As we look at the world around us, one unavoidable aspect is our participation in its creation, representation, and ontology. It's possible that our image of the world could be a simulation caused by an external agent, but also our representation of the external world could actually be a simulation caused by an agent: us. This can lead one to lose faith in the previously "external" world, or gain faith in the new "virtual" worlds. Do you think there are risks in the development of these new virtual worlds? What do you think the effects virtual and simulated worlds have on the way people interact and participate in the physical or external world? Do these simulations (computer generated people, worlds, identities ect.) create new ideas of what is considered 'natural' today?

Which world is more real?

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When discussing in class the blending of "natural" and simulated", I thought of a video I saw in my public health course about death and dying. It is a tribute video for an avatar in World of Warcraft whose player died in "real" life. The player, whose name was Chris, had muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease of the muscles that does not have a cure. His sister went on to his WoW account to tell the other players that Chris's avatar, Toxik, would no longer be online because Chris had died. She states that the game was his world. The other players not only put together this tribute, but had an hour long funeral march inside the game for Chris/Toxik.

I remember tearing up as I watched this video in class. As I look back on it, I can't help but wonder what really got to me? Was it the incredibly sweet funeral march for a guy whose only way to "live" was through a video game? Or was it because I find it sad that as an "other", as a person with a disability and degenerative disease, Chris was barred by his body from participating in the "real" world and was only able to find true happiness in an online world? Honestly, I still can't tell you how I feel now. I think it's a bit of both. I think it is both a sad indicator of how we marginalize people in society and evidence of the wonders of the internet that Chris was able to become Toxik and live a "normal" life. I've put a lot of words in quotes in this entry, because I think their definitions have been confounded by our discussions and no longer have an easy answer for me. It seems to me the life on the internet was certainly more freeing and accepting. No one discriminated against Toxik, because Toxik didn't have muscular dystrophy.

So, what is natural and what is simulation in this scenario? Which world is more real? The one where Chris existed and was trapped in his body? Or the one where Toxik existed and could do things that Chris could not do outside the internet? Is there any way to tell the difference anymore?

Here's the funeral march/tribute video:

The Sims & Control

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The topic about simulated natures and the picture Michelle showed in class last week with The SIMS 3 really, sort of struck me as interesting. I, myself, have played the Sims every now and then, and I still continue to do so randomly at times. I remember times when I was playing that hours would go by in the blink of an eye because I would become so immersed in my character that I made, and the objectives I set out for them. The character I made is basically a representation of myself, or a "fantasy" representation. I made sure I had a good job, that my family was in good condition and my house was decent. At times I would even alter things in the game to see what the outcomes would be, because I had sole control over these characters and their motives and moves. I think the reason why people continue to like this game so much, is for that fact alone. You have control over this simulated world. You can decide on every move and what will happen. Real life, on the other hand, is not so easy and you can't control everything. We like the "idea" that we are controllers of our own universe and we decide what will ultimately happen, but in all actuality our decisions are based on various sources and ties, and not 'solely' made by an individual. Virtual reality and simulations are the attraction to the idea that we have this control. So, in the end, does the simulation control us or are we controlling it? What really does 'control' entail?


the-sims-2.jpg

A League of Their Own

"A League of Their Own," is one of my favorite movies and I wanted to explore the hidden ideas of feminism other than the obvious one that is the premise of the whole movie; the powering and uprising of women during World War II. The whole plot of the movie is about two girls picked to play on the All American Girls Professional Baseball Team. First I would like to point out the wording they chose. The word girl was chosen instead of women's baseball. The organization was started by a man and I think that the word girl has a connotation of a less professional, young, less powering manor than woman. Woman has more power given to it, but in this time period women were seen as being more inferior to women. The only reason for the "girls" baseball team was because all the men were out fighting the war. To go along with our discussion on cosmetics and diet and health, these women in the movie were told to act like a lady while playing baseball. They had to wear skirts and go to charm school. One character, Marla Hooch, is almost not added to the team due to her unflattering image. She looks more like a boy than a girl. I think that in this time period it was unfair for women to be seen as merely house wives and proper. These girls knew how to play baseball and weren't afraid to change the social norms and get dirty, all the while being told to act feminine. One of the most famous lines from the movie, "There's no crying in baseball!" says it all. They had certain ideals for the women to be held to even while playing a sport. Another prominent conversation in the movie between the two owners shows how these women were seen during the war. Mr. Lowenstein and Mr. Harvey have a conversation about the factories. He says, "This is what it's going to be like in the factories, too, I suppose, isn't it? 'The men are back, Rosie, turn in your rivets.' We told them it was their patriotic duty to get out of the kitchen and go to work; and now, when the men come back, we'll send them back to the kitchen." Mr. Harvey's response was, "What should we do - send the boys returning from WAR back to the kitchen?" These men, and I'm sure most men during the time period, were scared to "queer the normal line" and ask men to do their part at home since the women were all working in the factories now. Would it really be that bad if the men helped out at home when they returned from war? I think the obvious theme of this movie is that women have just enough power as men and should be seen as equals. The other underlying themes of Queer natures and body and health/ image of women are also very important themes for this movie.

True Life

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In class the other day we all talked about people spending a lot of time on the internet and using it as an escape from the real world. Another example that wasn't mentioned in class that showed the "second life" in a more positive way was MTV's show, True Life. In the episode, True Life: I Live Another Life On the Web, three people are shown who have changed their lives through the internet. One girl has stage freight and used "Second Life" as a way to express her talents to fans. She has a fan base very large over the internet and sang and recorded original shows for people over the internet. There are a lot of questions being asked about how far technology is going. Feminist studies explore politics, society and history from an intersectional, multicultural women's perspective. It critiques and explores societal norms of gender, race, class, sexuality, and other social inequalities. With technology, explorations between how technology affects social norms it can both be harmful and helpful. However, that is just as many other things in the world. I challenge someone to find a situation where something is only helpful. Negative issues arise from everything depending how it is used. For example, some pills are meant to decrease pain such as Percocet. This will help someone with horrible pain from an accident or after a surgery, however given to the wrong person they can be used for recreational purposes. alcohol is a legal substance but it has regulations. People can abuse it; therefore they regulate who can use it. Should the internet and technology have regulations?

FAT = EAT

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I was really interested in the discussion we had on friday about the wii fit phenomena that makes us feel inadequate with our bodies. It made me wonder who is it that decides what we process or consume. I was thinking about it in direct relation to my text messaging. I have the option for T9 on my phone. That means I type in letters and the program gives me options for words. I can then press next to go to other words. If I try to ask someone where they want to eat or if they want to go eat the first word that pops up before eat is fat. That always concerned me, Why does fat come first? I use the word eat more than i use the word fat and eat even comes first alphabetically. So why is it that my mind is perpetually conditioned to link fat and eat together? Then if i try to write eating the word dating comes up instead. That makes marginally more sense because dating would come first alphabetically. However, when texting, which I'm sorry to say is my main source of communication, my mind is forever trained to navigate fat, eat, dating and eating together. it makes me wonder why would we have to link all of those together?

(In Response to the HPS blog post)

This is a comment based on the HPS blog post since my computer doesn't let me directly comment under a blog.

This may be a biased response since I one day hope to pursue medicine, however, I find very few negatives with the HPS. In light of your question, I do not find the HPS to negatively impact the patient-provider communication barrier. I find this to be an excellent example as to how the "unnatural" is not necessarily bad. I find many examples of the "unnatural" to, in fact, give humans the power of choice and freedom. For example, blogs and the internet have given individuals the power to express ones self via words, pictures, and thought and spread it vastly amongst different people and nations. Cells phones, as distracting as they may be, allow relationships to extend among distances. People question what happened to the "pen and paper" method and how it has been replaced by this new "technology." However, who are we to say that the pen and paper method wasn't new technology? How is that any more natural than speaking on the phone? Writing on paper still deviates from the "natural" way of spoken, face-to-face communication.

So in conclusion, I agree with you when you claim HPS as a positive "unnatural" technology. If it is available to us, if it can be made capable by the findings of humans, then why not make use of it?

Living in The Matrix

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In reading this week's articles, Katherine Hayles' "Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations: Rethinking the Relation between the Beholder and the World" really caught my attention. The article posed some really interesting ideas in constructing an alternate reality, especially in the two different simulation through Maturana's World and Tierra. I can't help but relate this to one of my all time favorite movies The Matrix. I'm sure everyone in this class has seen or at least heard of this groundbreaking movie from 1999. Its a film about how humans in the future are subdued to mentally live in an alternate reality called The Matrix while their bodies are being 'harvested' by intelligent machines for energy source. In my mind this is the ultimate artificial simulated world and it is so flawless because of how the real natural world has turned into carefully constructed alternate simulated world which incorporates the human suffering and happiness that makes life so interesting and these two worlds just morphed seamlessly from one to the other that the human mind would have no way of dissecting this reality. The question posed in Hayles' article really resonate in this movie "What counts as natural?" when I think about the scene in where Cypher says "You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? ...... Ignorance is bliss." The rebels in the movie defy the Matrix because they believe that living in a simulated world is not really the truth, which is true in some sense, but how many would choose to just forgo the 'real life' if they had to choose between the real world in the movie and the perfectly simulated artificially simulated world like The Matrix? I know we are so far from anything that would remotely resemble the situation in the movie, but I've always wondered what really counts as natural and real versus artificial and unreal in the context of the movie especially if one never took red pill?

Human Patient Simulator

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"The HPS is METI's top-of-the-line, fully automatic, high-fidelity patient simulator specifically designed for training in anesthesia, respiratory and critical care." This machine is absolutely fantastic. It is meant to simulate actual responses of a human being. In class on Friday, a lot of people were mentioning how virtual realities can be a very bad thing. I think this is one invention most can agree on is a very useful tool in education. Instead of using actual human beings and risking lives, a machine will simulate actual responses and teach doctors, nurses, and medical staff what the consequences are.
Some of the key features are:
# Pupils that automatically dilate and constrict in response to light
# Thumb twitch in response to a peripheral nerve stimulator
# Automatic recognition and response to administered drugs and drug dosages
# Variable lung compliance and airways resistance
# Automatic response to needle decompression of a tension pneumothorax, chest tube drainage and pericardiocentesis
# Automatic control of urine output

One could easily see how, in this case, simulation is a great thing to use. This relates back to the reading we did called "Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations: Rethinking the Relation between the Beholder and the World". A Quote from this article I found interesting is: "If every species constructs for itself a different world, which is the world? The implications of this question are radical, for they point toward the conclusion that we, like the frog, never perceive the world as it 'really' is." I wanted to bring up this quote because I always think about whether we are losing ourselves in technology. Is by using the HPS eliminating learning bedside manner or actually communicating with the patient?

Virtually and Literally to the First Degree

In class on Friday, the discussion on virtual realities and this certain couple who neglected their child for a virtual one reminded me of this man who stabbed his wife with a sword a while back. His reason? He didn't like his wife's decision to marry someone else on WoW. Yes, on WoW. He got jealous and stabbed her with a sword. I can't seem to find the article, perhaps it wasn't too important of news, but I believe the wife was fine.

Another case that I recall from years ago was of an incident where a man killed another for selling his digital sword.
Online gamer killed for selling virtual weapon

The debate was whether or not virtual property could be considered "actual" property protected by law and thus whether or not what happened was thievery.
"Games writer Jason Hill said that while MMORPGs make up only a tiny percentage of the virtual gaming market, those who do play them tend to be very dedicated, spending a lot of time in these cyber-worlds.
'The actual items in the games, be they property or tools, become valuable because of the time people have spent building them up,' he said."
This, any dedicated gamer will agree to. Drop rates (or frequency of item availability) of some items are quite low, so that can force the gamer to spend a large amount of time to procure said items. Some are acquired after successfully completing requirements, and most are long and can be frustrating. I recall the time from a few years ago when I first played Maple Story (a popular 2D side-scrolling MMORPG), there are a few items that drop so rarely that they make quintuplets more likely (like the Glass Slipper item, for example, which drops from Fire Boars at such a low rate, you're more likely to buy them from the market ingame.). So, with all this time and effort put into something, there's really no blame to what the man did, but committing murder, one has to wonder how is there a division between what is virtual and what is natural? Is it because the virtual are pixels and terminals of data? When reality becomes affected due to virtual reality, is it really still "virtual" or has it become the reality?

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor who was dying of pancreatic cancer, delivered a talk will teaches how to really achieve your childhood dreams. He covered a bit of Virtual Realities that he worked on there that changed him with his relationships with people and working together. (you can see that at around 27 minutes or so)
At around 36 minutes or so, he shows pictures of his students wearing headsets and using various things to interact with the VR they created. That was the first thing that popped into my head when I first read the Simulated Nature and Natural Simulations reading, especially the "hello.World" simulation (which was annoying, and morbidly amusing). The world in that VR is created only with gestures from the "player" and when the "player" wants to end the simulation, the VR does not want to end. This sort of plays into the fear people have of technology: what will happen if AI gets a mind of its own?
In any case, this lecture is very illuminating and I do recommend watching it in its entirety if you have over an hour to kill.

RapeLay Video Game

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As we were talking about video games in class on Friday, I couldn't help but think of the video game called "RapeLay." The video game, released in Japan on April 21, 2006 by the company called Illusion, is centered on a man who stalks and rapes a mother and her two daughters. Three years after it's initial release date, RapeLay began stir up debates and controversy for it's content.


Below is the YouTube video to preview the game.


In class on Friday, we spoke a lot about the advancement of video games and how much they impact our everyday lives and also touched a little on the idea that women, even in video games are sexualized.

Although RapeLay isn't the first video game to objectify women (to say the least), as I'm sure all of you know the debates surrounding Grand Theft Auto, I do believe this is one of the video games that really tests the limits when discussing women and their roles in video games.
It's concerning because as we move forward into a world that relies heavily on technology and spends a lot of time playing video games, we need to ask ourselves what it means that women are still presented in this manner. Are we really moving forward if women are still treated as objects and the entire game is centered on a male who rapes a woman and her daughters?
Although we're moving forward with technology - video games that dehumanize groups of people really set society back. How can we claim to be successful with technology on a global/local basis, if women and other groups of people are being portrayed like this? In my opinion, without a doubt have video games like this affected society and the world in some way or another, and as a woman, it's concerning to me that consumers would even buy these kinds of video games or justify their production. I guess I just don't understand how it could possibly be entertaining, fake or not, to play the part of a man who sexually assaults a woman and her daughters. I think it's a problem that some roles like this, even in video games, are accepted.

How do we control this kind of production? Should we find means to control this form of "entertainment?"

Thomas Grunfeld and simulation.

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Tomas Grunfeld.jpg The Hayles article was very interesting and challenging. While reading it the question "What counts as natural?" kept coming up in my mind. It made me remember an artist I had studied a few years ago. His name is Thomas Grunfeld. Some of the art he is most well known for is his animal hybrids. These are taxidermies that have been crossed with another animal. His work is poignant in relating to the Hayles article because it examines the question of what is natural. His art also is a way to further explore the simulation of nature. I view his art as a physical, tangible way to explore the simulated imaginings technology allows. Creating different creatures in a virtual world provokes a certain mindset. Taking that creature and making it a tangible object changes that mindset and turns it on its head. Grunfeld's art is the next step in simulation. The last sentence in the Hayles article furthers this discussion, "It speaks instead of simulated nature and natural simulation, insisting that the interaction between the beholder and the world partakes of both". Grunfeld's art is both simulated nature and a natural simulation. On top of that his art is a further extension of simulation through the natural object. The question I would like to propose is this: How does the bridging of simulation/ nature and/or natural/ artificial tie into past readings? Does this provide a way to mediate different oppositions or does it further muddle the issue?

Nonhuman vs. human

Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto" talks of the boundary between human and nonhuman. The boundary shouldn't be seen as a dichotomy but as a progression but even then what really should be considered human and nonhuman? Why should humans be able to decide what is nonhuman? This boundary between nonhuman and human made me think of the movie District 9. In the movie, aliens come from another planet and land in Africa. They are immediately classified as nonhuman and segregated from the humans. Human discrimination towards the non-humans was so great that they even placed signs everywhere reading "For use by human only."

A great part in the movie where the boundary between human and nonhuman is crossed is when a human comes into contact with some sort of alien material which catalyzes his transformation to the nonhuman. Immediately after the word is out of his infection, humans consider him nonhuman. Why should such a small change cause him to be classified as nonhuman? The majority of his being was still human. The humans acted by running tests on him, human domination over nonhuman. By the end of the movie he had become almost all alien thus nonhuman. Do you believe that there should be a dichotomy with human on one side and non human on the other? Or are there different stages in between the two poles?

Alien

The movie Alien plays with the stereotypical roles of the female and male, that being the female as passive and the male as being active. It also plays with the boundaries between human and nonhuman. The movie begins with a mining ship landing on a planet where a SOS was emitted from. They discover a colony of some unknown creature. A crew member goes near one of the eggs and the parasites within the egg attacks him. The nonhuman creature is now planted inside him. The merging of nonhuman and human. The rest of the movie follows the crew members attempts of survival. The movie centers around a women named Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver.

The movie plays on peoples fears of nonhuman. It shows nonhuman as dangerous and will cause harm, that non-humans and humans can't get along in harmony. I think this makes humans uncomfortable because they are so used to dominate their surroundings whether living or not. Here the aliens dominate the humans, the humans are no longer superior and struggle to survive. One of the aliens grows inside of a crew member, infecting him. The alien parasites infected him and used him as a host. This blurs the boundary between nonhuman and human. Would a human with a nonhuman growing inside of them still be considered human? The alien quickly grows inside of him and then emerges killing the host body. I think there are three stages in this nonhuman and human transformation. Prior to infection the crew member is undoubtably human. After infection, and while the alien parasite is living off of the host, he is considered somewhere in between human and non human. Finally, when the alien emerges from the host's body their is no question that the product is alien.

In Alien, the stereotypical female-male roles are reversed. Ripley is a strong female character who is very active and is the sole survivor. While all of the male characters are seen as passive. The males are constantly being killed by the alien and are tentative to Ripley's commands. Ripley's plan to kill the alien is successful while the male Captain keeps making bad decisions which causes him to lose his life. The female is seen as intellectually equal if not superior to the male, far from the stereotype that women are lacking something that men have.

An interesting observation is that the two females in the movie are represented as tired throughout, as if they aren't capable of keeping up with the men. In the movie, the women almost seem like men visually. Their attire doesn't display off their female figures and they aren't wearing lots of make-up. This goes against the idea of women as beautiful damsels in distress who are passive, needing to be saved by their active male counterparts. The two females are much more active which can be related to their functional attire and lack of make-up. In the movie, the likewise happens, the women are the ones who are saving the men. The men are dependent on the women.

Celebrities: Real or Simulated?

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After listening to the intense discussion about simulation vs. reality this week, it reminded me of a video that I came across recently that I found really interesting. It's a video of a very popular Japanese pop star named Hatsune Miku. But get this: she's a holograph. Her designers created her image using state of the art 3D imaging. Her voice isn't even from a real person. They completely synthesized her voice using computers with no contribution from a human singer. You can check out the video below. I found the whole idea of a holographic pop star very interesting. I think it's shocking just due to the fact that people are paying big money for a live concert from a cartoon but then again as Americans we pay millions of dollars every year to go see movies, which could be considered simulation. In some ways a holographic pop star seems like the logical next step in our increasingly technology dependent world. This video also made me think about our perception of celebrities. I think the whole celebrity world seems simulated although it's "real". Celebrities don't have "normal" lives and they probably never will. Some people worship them like gods and follow their every footstep in the gossip columns. As a society we are VERY influenced by Hollywood. Would it be any different if celebrities were cartoon people like Hatsune Miku? Probably not. So, what are your reactions to the video? Do you think holographic musicians are a good idea? Should there be more stars like Hatsune Miku? Also, do you think Hollywood is one big simulation? Why are so many people so infatuated by celebrities?

District 9 Film Review

The story begins twenty years before in Johannesburg, South Africa when an alien ship arrives. The ship hoovers above the city and eventually the human population takes initiative to see what is in the ship. They find a whole bunch of sick and undeveloped aliens within the ship. These creatures, known as "prawns" are allowed to stay on earth, but they are housed in a government owned camp known, as District 9.

Within District 9, I saw a lot of connection with feminist science. Speciesism, the assigning of different values or rights to being on the basis of their species member, was unleashed many times in the movie. The human population believed that they were the superior race, and they were given rights and ownership over non-human species. The humans believed that this land was theirs and therefore they had the right to relocate all the creatures. Wilkus, an MNU field operative, was tasked with moving 1.8 million aliens by forcing them sign an eviction notice before they could relocate the aliens to District 9. Wilkus forced them to sign the notice without their complete understanding of what they are signing for. Since these aliens were non-human creatures, they were stripped of human rights and treated inhumanly.

During Wilkus's first encounter with the prawns, Christopher Johnson and his son; he came across an alien device that sprayed alien fluid all over his face. Not knowing anything, he confiscated it. Shortly after exposure to the dark liquid, a transformation begins to occur, where his left arm mutated into a claw like figure exactly like the non-human prawns. The very moment his condition is made known to the MNU, he is tested on as if he were not human anymore.

As soon as the boundaries between human and nonhuman fused together, he was treated as an animal, as the "other," something that is not human. The MNU scientists were researching the powerful weaponry of the prawns. They sought to harness these non-human weapons technology for profit. Humans could not activate these weapons, but when Wilkus's alien half could, it amazed them and they saw him as a potential test subject in generating profit. This subject testing reminded me of the Animal Research Ethics Presentation. Because he is non-human, he was handled inhumanly, and did not have any say whatsoever in the process. Eventually Wilkus was able to escape underground labs of the MNU.

Similarly, viciousness was displayed by the Nigerian people living in District 9. They traded cat food with the prawns for the prawn's powerful weaponry. In attempt to gain the non-human powers, they Nigerian people ate the prawns. One could say they were sort of transhumanist who were seeking to transcend their original biology in order to enhance their capabilities.

From the beginning of Wilkus's transformation process, Wilkus denied that he was a nonhuman. He wanted to become human again, but with all that was going on, it seemed like in order for him to become human again, he needed to lose his humanity. Donna Haraway's standpoint theory or strong objectivity may have taken place here. He went through the cruel treatments of a non-human and then became mutual friends with a non-human. Even though it was not his choice to become non-human, he was able to understand the harshness and cruelty that was being done by the humans. It goes to show that in a world of selfishness and greed, a dangerous world will arise for everyone, including human population.

The film concludes with and exposure of the illegal genetic experiments of the MNU labs. The nonhumans are moved to District 10 with a new population of 2.5 million and still growing. We are unsure about the whereabouts of Wilkus. Some theorized that he has left on the mother ship, is in hiding, or captured by the MNU or a government agency.

District 9

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In the movie District 9 the boundaries between nonhuman and human are crossed. Also the idea of ownership emanates throughout the movie. It all starts when aliens arrive in Africa from another planet. Immediately after they arrive they are segregated from the humans. They are placed in a camp or area called District 9. The humans are afraid of the aliens and thus discriminate against them, placing signs everywhere that state "For use by humans only." The humans are afraid of difference. They assume that any difference is bad. They should have held that difference as sacred. The aliens could have taught them things due to their situated knowledges which were presumably different than the humans.

The boundaries between nonhuman and human are crossed when Wilkus starts to turn into an alien. In the movie, if humans come into contact with alien materials they will slowly turn into an alien. People around him start to treat him as nonhuman almost immediately. They believed that any little change in a human would make them nonhuman. In reality. there shouldn't be a dichotomy, human on one side and nonhuman on the other. There should be stages in between. Scientists conducted experiments on him after his condition was known. They treated him as if he wasn't human anymore but alien. As soon as they considered him nonhuman they wanted him to live with the other aliens even though he was just as human as all of the other humans at one point in time. Even though he may have appeared to be alien to the others, I would argue that he was still very much human "at heart." He still felt human emotion, leaving a metal flower at his wife's home. He still cared about the humans as much as he always did. Only if this caring was reciprocal. It raises the question of when is a human no longer considered human? What has to change? Genetics? Physical appearance? Cognitive processes? Just because something isn't human doesn't mean you should be able to dominate over it as if humans are the superior race no matter what.

The humans believed that the land that the aliens resided on was theirs. They wanted to be dominant over the aliens and attempt to move them from their land. This reminds me of how Euro-Americans came to the already occupied US and moved the indigenous people from their land. The Euro-Americans believed that they had manifest destiny, in that they were destined to colonize all the lands west even if occupied by natives. In the movie, the humans are the Euro-Americans and the aliens are the natives. The humans want to re/move the aliens from the land that they have claimed ownership. It raises the question of what makes that land the humans and not the aliens? Why should humans be able to claim all of the land on Earth as their own? Why shouldn't aliens be allowed to occupy that land, they also need a place to live?

Humanity, or bust

In the Cyborg Manifesto Donna Haraway references Blade Runner, a science fiction movie released in 1982. The movie is set in November 2019 in Los Angeles.

Since the trailer doesn't really provide you with a good idea of what is actually going on in the movie here is the prologue that appears before the first scenes of the movie:
"The Tyrell Corporation advanced Robot evolution into the NEXUS phase -a being virtually identical to a human--known as a Replicant. Replicants were superior in strength agility and at least equal intelligence, to the genetic engineers created them. Replicants were used off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonization of other planets. After a bloody mutiny by a nexus 6 combat team in an off-world colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth under penalty of death. Special police squads--blade runner units--had orders to shoot to kill upon detection, any trespassing Replicant. This was not called execution. It was called retirement".
In the movie the Tyrell Company claims that their Replicants are "more human, than human". This movie makes me wonder about post-humanism and the boundaries that exist between human and non-human entities. If indeed these Replicants are more human than human with desires and emotions not unlike our own how can we suggest that they cannot posses/have a deeper understanding of humanity. We as a society throughout history have placed people in stations based upon criterion which insinuate that some people are less human because of their class or race. Blade Runner indentifies these injustices using a futuristic application that approaches the question of what restrictions have formed the hierarchy of humanity. This hierarchy is constructed based upon who has the right to be considered human, within the constructs of prescribed social realities/relations. Replicants, who are attributed with fears, memories, emotions, and desires forming a consciousness very similar to humans, are not considered human enough to be spared a life of slavery, completing menial/hazardous and overall inhumane tasks delegated by their creators. In this movie we meet Replicants whose reality is one of humanity. They believe without a doubt that they are indeed human, unaware that they are (as Haraway puts it) a hybrid of organism and machine. If you have always considered to existence to be human can conflicting realities relinquish your right to humanity? In the Hierarchy of humanity where do we draw the boundaries on what is or is not human.

The Host

The discussion we had about humanism being "inhumane" and what "inhumane" means in the light of posthumanism brought to mind a quote from the novel The Host by Stephenie Meyer. The Host is about an alien species called "Souls" that are parasites. They are able to inhabit humans (and other aliens on other planets) and essentially erase and replace the "person/persona of the person" that was there inhabiting that human body. Wanderer is a soul that is put in a human who refuses to be erased, providing much difficulty for Wanderer in her life as a soul experiencing the planet earth. Eventually she runs away from society to a group of humans that have hidden from the souls. It is here that she has a discussion with one of the humans about what it means to be human and in many ways what it means to be humane. After one of the humans tries to kill her, she dismisses it, saying, "He did nothing. He is human." The other character replies, "Your definition of human is not the same as mine. To you, it means something... negative. To me, it's a compliment--and by my definition, you are and he isn't. Not after this." I think this exchange shows the similarities and differences between the words human and humane. To be human, especially in religion, means imperfection. Humans make mistakes. They act and react rashly and sometimes violently. This is touched on even further in the book when Wanderer admits that the human planet is one of the most difficult planets to experience because there are so many emotions--many that are hard to control. However, with the strong emotions comes love. Humans have a very strong ability to love and this is where Ian's definition of human comes in and how is relates to humane. To be human is also to have great compassion. Humane is compassion. When thinking of human and humane in these definitions, would you say that humanism is "inhumane"? Do you think that you could argue that humane is rather a subset of human? Are all humans able to be humane/feel some extent of compassion?

Are we SIMS?

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This year, the Science Channel released a show called "Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman." The first episode was titled "Is There a Creator?" Normally I'd avoid religious debates because I hate those debates, however I find Morgan Freeman's voice entrancing and ended up watching the whole show.


This episode talks about the possibility that all of the world is a simulation of one large super computer and our creator is either a person running that computer or the computer itself. It discusses the evidence around us through quantum mechanics that suggest simulation as a possibility.

I'm an avid player of the Sims computer games. I've been playing them since 5th grade. So, naturally, I've wondered what it would be like to be a Sim. It's funny because I notice a lot of parallels in the game that we do in real life. For example: In the game, you can set the free will levels high. Your Sims will make decisions and take care of themselves without your input. You still watch over them. BUT when things start getting tough, like if you delete the fridge and they start to starve, the Sims will look up at the sky (towards your screen) and beg for food. This is very similar to prayer that some people practice.

Another example is how each Sim (especially in the Sims 3) is completely unique from another Sim. Some traits are inherited from parents, some are unique. These traits compile to create a life time goal (One thing that the Sim wants to fulfill before he/she/it dies.) The Sims has a genetic algorithm so that the offspring have a compilation of both parents' skin type, hair color, etc. They also are born with a favorite color, food, and music type. As the Sims grow up, they develop more traits. For example your Sim may develop a slob trait, vegetarian trait, or even become a kleptomaniac. One argument against the idea that real life is a simulation is that there couldn't possibly be the variety we see now in a computer generated world; but based on my Simming, no two Sims were ever identical.

Personally, I think this is a really intriguing theory!! I think it's funny to think that my free will is set really high and someone might be watching me for enjoyment just like I watch my Sims for enjoyment.

What do you think?

Have you heard of this creation theory before?
What do you like/not like about this theory?


*Disclaimer, I really didn't mean to offend anyone's religion in this post. Please don't interpret the post that way.

Robotic Surrogates to take over Humanity

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"Why leave the house when you can get a better-looking robot version of yourself to do it for you?"
I can say this week's reading was not an easy one for me, though the close reading clarified a lot. However, I found Friday's reading and discussion to be really interesting. I wanted to mention the movie Surrogates during our discussion but could not come up with the title at all. The movie is about how our world advances to an extent where everybody has their own robots that they control from the comforts of their home. They "can become anyone [they] want to be" and "live life without limitation." The sky is the limit as the robotic surrogates are not damaged or killed no matter what. In the movie we see Bruce Willis' character try to save humanity.
I believe that the recent and the on-going advancement of technology are leading to a more similar case. As we discussed in class, gamers are already secluded from the real world and are strangers to nature. People now don't even have to leave their house if they wish for they can go to school, work, socialize and shop through virtual networks. I would like to link this idea to the Environmental Justice presentation a few weeks ago. As we mentioned in the presentation, the Human Genome Project was one of the scientific solutions to climate change. I think another solution would be the use of robotic surrogates as in this movie. If we can control our surrogates from the comforts of our homes, we then do not need to get out to the real word and expose our natural body to danger. So then are we set to live a safer life and not need to worry about the environment?
The questions I have are: Would the world be a safer place to live in if we, as in the movie, were to have our own robots that we can control from the comforts of our home? And if it was, would humanity need saving or are we simply going to be known as the "others" and the robotic surrogates as the norms?

Below is the trailer of the movie Surrogates, I recommed you watch it when you have time.


Bicentennial Man

Andrew is a mass produced robot designed to assist humans in the 1990's. The Martin family purchases an Andrew Android to do their house cleaning, cooking, and help babysit their children. The Andrews were designed to have no personality; however the Martin's Andrew had a very distinct personality.

Throughout his robot life, Andrew wanted to be accepted as a human. He utilizes the expertise of Rupert Burns, a scientist who specializes in making robotic parts for humans. First, Andrew's chrome exterior was changed into a skin-like material. To the common passerby, he looks human. All of Andrew's internal parts are still robotic.

His human skin suits him for quite a long time until he falls in love with Martin's granddaughter, Portia. He talks about wanting to experience eating with her on a date and having sex with her. He can do neither because he doesn't have a stomach or genitalia. He returns to the Burns lab to get both. He has a beautiful courtship with Portia and wants to marry her. Unfortunately, a robot can't marry a human under the law. Even though he has the ability to eat, think, have sex, and have emotion he still isn't considered human because he is run by a computer heart.

Ultimately, the court decides that Andrew is only considered human when he is no longer immortal. Andrew then makes the ultimate sacrifice. He replaces his circuitry with a heart and blood. He gave up immortality to be accepted by society as human and have his life and marriage be fully recognized.
This movie reflects a huge component of our class. Who decides what is human and what is not? Where do our boundaries of man and machine arise? Who should be allowed to reproduce?

In Haraway's a Cyborg Manifesto she expresses a quote that reflects the court's decision about Andrew. "They (machines/robots) could not achieve man's dream, only mock it. . .To think they were otherwise was paranoid." (Haraway, 152) Andrew cannot have wants and desires like humans, he only mimics. Portia expresses this same concern by saying, "I like you. I even understand you some of the time. But I'm not about to invest my emotions in a machine."

These ideas must be incredibly devastating to Andrew. He knows that he has emotions and he feels that his life should have value; others just don't see that. This reflects back to our posthumanism debate in class. Who has the right to say that his life doesn't have value because he's a machine? When medicine is creating artificial limbs and hearts, aren't humans bridging the gap to machines? Why shouldn't the bridge go both ways?

Andrew is gratified with his decision to become a textbook human, but provides a particularly poignant quote about his quest for acceptance: "I try to make sense of things. Which is why, I guess, I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be." Maybe if others accepted Andrew for who he was, he could have had an immortal, human life.

Gattaca

Vincent Freeman has dreamed his whole life about space travel. He has devoted countless hours studying the stars and prevailing over his disabilities. What are his disabilities? Vincent is a natural born. He wasn't genetically engineered so he's labeled a "de-generate" or an "in-valid." He is considered a low ability citizen because he needs corrective glasses, is shorter than he could be, and potentially has a heart condition. These conditions mean Vincent will never become an astronaut. So Vincent does the only thing he can do, buy a valid man's genetic identity. Jerome Morrow provides everything from his namesake to his urine to Vincent so Vincent can become a successful astronaut.
Two quotes at the beginning of the movie clearly define the ethical questions surrounding genetic modification. The first, from Ecclesiastes 7:13, "Consider God's handiwork; who can straighten what he hath made crooked?" This quote directly addresses the fact that human's feel they have the right to change nature and "play God," but that power is too great for humans. The second, from Willard Gaylin "I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think Mother wants us to." This quote says the contrary that we are almost obligated to tamper with biology because we can.
I think these two quotes directly correlate to class discussions we've had. The first quote refers to the ethical debates we had over genetic engineering. Is it human's right to change nature just because we have the ability to? Should humans have that much power? When we toy with nature, what will the long term consequences be? The second quote reminds me of the Onion article "Raped Environment Led Polluters On." Mother Nature is just begging to be tampered with, even though Mother Nature doesn't have a voice at all.
Personally, I love the idea of genetic modification in humans. I think it's exciting that we have the potential to eliminate the risk of a disease before birth, or give perfect eyesight, or even predict lifespan. While all of this seems very exciting, it's also terrifying. Is employment for elites vs. non elites fair? If everyone is elite, will there be balance in the world? What traits are considered desirable?
Gattaca addresses some of these questions. The employment issue was summed up in a sentence, "Now, we have discrimination down to a science." In-valids were forced to be janitors or other low income jobs. Their résumé was their genome.
As for desirable traits, that's completely left up to the parents of the child. At the beginning of the movie, Vincent's parents are genetically engineering a brother; they don't want a girl. Later in the movie, Vincent's doctor makes a comment about Vincent's penis size saying "I don't know why my folks didn't order one like that for me." A child by genetic modification is an extension of the parent, not a new being.
The issues of genetic engineering are overwhelming. Gattaca makes these issues entertaining in an eye-opening way.

Media limits Zestra ads...double standard?

"Arousal oil for women hits static on airwaves"

Networks and websites put limits on ads for Zestra, even though they run Viagra and other male-product commercials.

By CAROLYNE ZINKO, San Francisco Chronicle

zestra-newpackaging.jpg

"LPGA Votes to Allow Transgender Golfers..."

"ORLANDO, Fla. -- LPGA players have voted to allow transgender players to compete on tour in response to a lawsuit filed by a California woman who had her sex changed five years ago.

The players voted to remove the "female at birth" requirement from the tour's constitution at a year-end meeting at the LPGA Tour Championship, commissioner Michael Whan said."

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Read the rest of the story here.

District 9


The movie District 9 explores not only the themes of xenophobia and ownership, but also delves into the realm of posthumanism. At the very beginning of the movie, the viewer is made to understand that although aliens have landed in Africa, these aliens are not respected by the human population. The aliens live separately from the rest of the population in an encampment known as District 9. Within the confines of this camp, the aliens are secluded from the Africans and forage through garbage to find food. Although the Africans are largely isolated from the aliens, they fear and discriminate against them, giving them the derogatory nickname of "prawns". Everywhere in the city, there are signs that clearly state, "For use by humans only". The separation between the aliens and the humans is not great enough for the Africans, who are shown at the beginning of the movie encouraging the aliens to leave earth because they do not belong. However, the aliens have no way to leave earth and are stuck in a hierarchy from which they cannot escape.

In conjunction with the theme of the "other" is the theme of property and the ownership of property. While riding to District 9, Wilkus comments on how they must get the aliens to sign an eviction notice before they can make them leave and that "The prawns do not understand the ownership of property. We have to come there and say please, will you go?". Based on their pre-established view of hierarchy, the humans assume that they own the land that the aliens are living on and deem it in their power to move the aliens. They do not take into account the feelings of the aliens, as they do not believe that they matter. The humans have already decided that the aliens are an "other", an organism too different to warrant consideration.

However, the blurring of boundaries between human and non-human occurs when Wilkus starts evolving into an alien after being sprayed in the face by a canister of alien material. When his condition is made known to the people that he works for, they all begin to view him as non-human. They conduct experiments on him in the laboratory, making him kill an alien in the process. These scientists no longer see him as human because he is only seen as an experiment. They have dehumanized him in their minds to the point where they no longer have any objections to subjecting him to enormous amounts of pain and even killing him in the name of scientific research. His father-in-law also refuses to help him, even when he begs him to spare his life.

Throughout the transformation process, Wilkus continues to deny the fact that he is becoming an alien like Christopher. He wants more than anything to regain his former identity and life. When Christopher's son makes the comment that he and Wilkus are the same, Wilkus replies, "We are not the same". It is only after they have accomplished their mission and Christopher and his son leave earth that Wilkus finally seems to be able to accept that he is going to become an alien. While the movie does not tell exactly what happens to Wilkus, it is suggested that he finishes transforming into an alien and lives among them. He is forced to live in his body as an alien, but I do not believe that he ever fully identifies with them. Although he lives among them, he leaves a small metal rose on the step of his wife's house, indicating that he has not been able to leave his old identity behind.

What I find most interesting about this movie is the scary reality behind the transformation of Wilkus into an alien. It is not the transformation that scares me the most, but the way that people reacted to his transformation. Once they saw him as non-human, they felt that they had ownership over him and could freely experiment on him. But what separated Wilkus from the rest of the humans at that point? The so-called boundary between alien and human was definitely blurred as Wilkus at this point in time had half alien DNA and half human DNA. Is that enough to define someone as non-human? I think it again brings up the important question of, what do we define as human, and where do we draw that boundary? In this case, can we draw any sort of boundary? Do we want to?

Artificial Intelligence Capable of Love

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If you haven't seen Steven Spielberg's 2001 film, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, you've probably heard of it. The hit film is about an eleven year old boy, who looks like a regular kid, plays like a kid, and has emotions- anger, sadness, fear- but he is a robot. He was created specifically for parents who wanted to raise a child but for some reason were unable to. He was designed to take the place of a real, live son, and was constructed so that he could actually love his parents- be a sentient being. Sentience is defined as the abilitly to feel and perceive subjectively, the capability to feel sensation, being conscious or aware, and experiencing some form of emotion. Robots weren't supposed to dream or desire unless they were told what to want, but David was able to chase down his dream of finding the Blue Fairy and being turned into a "real boy."
Here is the trailer for A.I.---
"I propose that we build a robot child. A robot child who will genuinely love the parent, a love that will never end. Ours will be a perfect child caught in the freezeframe, always loving, never ill, never changing. With all the childless couples yearning in vain for a license, it will fill a great human need."

Although this film takes place in the distant future, we are not that far from having the capability to create artificial life. I am not an expert on any new kind of robot technology, but I do believe that one day soon we will be able to make machines like those shown in A.I.. How do you guys feel about that? The fact that, maybe even in our lifetime, robots could walk among us. How do you think people would respond to this new being? Will they be accepted as sentient life forms, and should they be? Why?

"Lesbian Couples Should Not Be Able to Raise Children"

This is a quote from my father. I don't necessarily think he is homophobic, or at least I didn't until this. I think a part of this quote was to get me riled up and to distract me from my homework, but I think the other part was actually his fear.

We had been watching a movie on television when a preview for a movie came on during the commercial break. It was for some movie in which there was a scene involved lesbianism. He said something about being "so sick of all these lesbian movies." I promptly questioned him to name only ONE other movie about lesbians. He couldn't. Somehow this topic got to the point him saying that lesbian couples should not be able to raise children. He said it was "unnatural," that the fact that they couldn't have children the "natural way" meant they should not be able to raise children. He kept arguing with the idea that the environment children were raised in would affect who they became in the future. I obviously brought up the point that only straight parents raise straight children, of course sarcastically. He didn't have an answer for that.

He went on about how according to Darwin, the ability to reproduce is key in the success of a species or couple. He didn't seem to care that there were plenty of unwanted children being born by "straight" couples that could go to loving homes, especially the loving homes of couples that couldn't have them any other way.

Today's class made me think of this interaction as we were talking about what is "human" and what is "post human". As my reaction to my father's argument that lesbian couples raising children being against the theory of evolution, I argued we had already shattered that theory. We don't follow evolution anymore. We aren't a part of Darwin's theory anymore. I have a friend that has 900/20 vision. She will be legally blind by 30. She shouldn't be alive according to the theory of evolution. She should not have the "fitness" to survive. But she can because of contacts and glasses. People born with one leg should not be able to survive, but they can because of prosthetics. We have overturned the theory of evolution because of technology, because of our cyborgism. Because we can mesh with machine and overcome what should be our downfalls, we can survive when we shouldn't.

People don't think about glasses or contacts or vaccines or cold medicine or roofs or farming as technology, but anything that allows us to overcome the theory of evolution should be considered a part of our cyborgism. We have become a hybrid without even realizing it. We aren't evolving to become full cyborgs, because we aren't evolving anymore. I always thought, in the theory of evolution, that we weren't done because we had developed the ability to read minds, or fly, or telekinetic powers, but the truth is, we aren't evolving anymore. We have completely obliterated the need to evolve. Us as humans aren't changing, just what we consider to be a part of a human. Glasses and contacts are now a way of life, they are human. Housing is a way of life, it is human. Food not having to be hand caught is a way of life, it is human.

Is it true? Were we never human? Could we be human? Why is human in dispute? Can't "human" just be our species just as a Canadian lynx is always a Canadian lynx? Does "human" have to be a way to describe our subsets? Why do we have subsets? DO we
even have subsets?(I don't mean subsets in a hierarchical way)

Do you think that media that try to depict "people" previously discriminated against as "human" is helping? Or are shows like "the L word", "the REAL L Word," "Brokeback Mountain" just further alienating them from becoming "human" by making their differences real to the people that oppose them?

The Measure of a Man

During today's discussion of post-humanism and what the future holds for natural and artificial life forms it got me to thinking about an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of the characters on the show is an artificial life form: an android by the name of Data. In one episode, a robotics expert wishes to disassemble him to study him and then hopefully create thousands of androids for use in Star Fleet. The captain and senior officers, who have become Data's friends, oppose this and Data resigns. But the robotics expert, one Commander Maddox, seeks legal means to make Data undergo the disassembly on the grounds that he is the property of Star Fleet. A legal battle ensues between the Captain and Maddox, where the question becomes whether Data is sentient or not, and if he does, does he have the right to choose his fate. This got me to thinking even though we do not yet have the capacity to create an android such as Data, that does not mean we will never have the capacity to. When that day comes, will we have such a trial as the one between Maddox and the Captain to determine whether these "machines" have rights? Can artificial lifeforms be given the same equality as humans? Will they be treated as such? Is how a lifeform is created the most important part of its existence?


Human-Machine Boundary

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In the past few days, we have been really focusing on the blend between animals, humans, and technology. We also talked about cyborgs and blending of the technology into people and our reliance on so many things and their reliance on us. I realized that I have many forms of technology I rely on. Not all of them are bad, like my contacts and glasses I use to see. Some of them cause too much harm possible to me and definitely for others. My computer, my iPod, and especially my cellphone become a major problem, not when I am sitting at home or at a coffee shop, but when so many others and I are driving. Here's a video that shows one of the many ways the lack of boundaries and decisions we make cause destruction.

These three things seem to be mere extensions of my body sometimes, but I become less efficient when I am trying to use them while driving. The human-machine boundary is continually being broken down. In which ways do you think this is good and bad? Is all of this technology and especially the addition to motor vehicles becoming a serious issue?

There has been many recent laws punishing the use of texting while driving. Do we have false notions on how much we can multitask?

Here are some recent videos that show some issues created by the lack of the human-machine boundary.

No Phone Zone PSA
No Phone Zone - A special message from Oprah

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