Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Loop

Here's a link to click on, which will take you to a blog post about our blog. When you get there, click on the Interactive Rams link provided. Thank you for your attention.

Meet the Interactive Rams

Neil Postman on Technology and Media Ecology

I'm posting a video that was produced for a special occasion, a celebration of the Media Ecology Association, because it incorporates a tribute to Neil Postman, and incorporates some clips of him talking about technology and media ecology.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This Is Just Funny

It's on that NES tip.

No One's Talked About it..So i Will

Why are people getting sports news from websites like I watch Sportscenter just about every day, and every day for the past week the the same clip of Tom Brady walking down the street in a protective boot on his foot, courtesy of the paparazzi conglomerate TMZ. With the public's rabid demand for celebrity gossip and fast information we now combine freelance 'journalism' with respected, established news sources. The Brady link is from, but it is originally from How does the idolatry of celebrity clash with the demand for real news. In this very isolated case, wouldn't it be useful to get video of Tom Brady working out or practicing, rather than walking flowers to his girlfriend? As I write this, I am almost positive, without even checking, that within the headline list on the front page of many prominent internet news sites is a link to the latest on the death of Heath Ledger. Yes, he was nominated for an Academy Award, and some people think hes a real dreamboat, but how can that trump the much more real problems such as an impending recession, approaching presidential election, ongoing war overseas, crime rates in major cities, African strife, or any other real problems. It might be the public themselves to blame, as they would rather receive softer news rather than the reality.

Last year, a reluctant domino effect ensued with Anna Nicole Smith died as headlines and TV news promos were shalacked with the latest about her death and the status of her baby. Yes she was a celebrity, but did that warrant the attention it drew? Reality television and tabloid shows are more prevalent than ever, as are blogs and online chatter, so where is the progress being made? There are more eyes with things to say and platforms to say them in than every before, and I'm not sure if it's good or bad, yet.

The Super Bowl is at the University of Phoenix Online Stadium (Chap 12)

Patkin spends a solid chunk of time discussing the virtual opportunities in the world of education, and even business. It even educates those within the business world. Well, let's start with the education topic. In recent years, I would say the last decade and change, people have been able to take classes online. While this has not been looked at as a very prestigious way of obtaining a higher education it certainly is widely utilized. The fact that a teacher can lecture to a class through streaming video (more recently), and they can post assignments and tutorials online. Even Fordham utilizes the internet to aid and improve efficiency in learning as we have Blackboard and Oasis as almost necessary entities in our collegiate experience. More to the virtual point, as it says in the book, computers can offer high level, full scale representations of the actual job. The book points out flight simulators as a virtual experience beneficial to the actual task.

With business the virtual realm improves efficiency and technology only furthers the communications possibilities of international commerce. Take the newly introduced full-size video conferencing for example. The fact that, from anywhere in the world, two groups of people can meet practically sitting across from each other.
This is a ridiculously cool invention that, thanks to the power of telecommunications and basically the same technology as the virtual classroom experience, but on a larger scale, is undoubtedly a progressive movement in business.

When I was about 8 or 9 years old Nintendo introduced the Virtua Boy, a "virtual reality" gaming experience where you physically put your head inside a read box on top of a tripod and most of the time, you'd get a headache. This is really my only on-the-head virtual experience, and it wasn't a great one. So, what type of possibilities can be pursued with the fully encompassing experience that virtual reality can give us? As I see it, there would need to be some type of interactive element to make the virtual reality platform be more than a novelty or an entertainment option and really be a force in the world of academia or business.

We have online, multi-user gaming systems on both the XBOX360 and the Playstation3. Each console, provided the online kit is purchased, enables the user to play against and talk to anyone with the same console and online capabilities. It's an exciting thing to think about, and previously on this blog it has been discussed, but it would be nice to see things like this applied to more areas than just trash talk and grainy banter.

Virtual Learning

Chapter 12 touches upon the subject of education and virtual reality. It explains some of the key reasons why learing through virtual reality would be beneficial to students. The brain can process information better through sight, sound, as well as touch and VR can enable students to do so. This book emphasizes the value this system of learning has had on aviation, as well as police work. One reason why it is so effective in these fields is because it enhances an individuals skills in these fields and excludes the risk of injury. Virtual practice makes it so a beginner can conquer the more difficult tasks first such as landing the plane, and catch up to speed on the less difficult areas such as flying through a crosswind. Although this has been proven to be a great way to learn physically speaking, this method of learning is being applied to the academic world. This video found on youtube shows how the United Kingdom finds how condusive this method of learning can be for kids, especially those who need to be homeschooled for particular reasons.

pros and cons of cyber communication

In chapter 14, we see the positive and negative implications of cyberspace communication explained thoroughly. I think that cyber communication such as e-mail as well as instant messenger bring are easy to use, but neglects certain aspects of communication. Although email is very easy and straight forward, it totally lacks physical information, and the person reading the email does not have any idea of that person's emotions or facial expressions as you would see in a face-to- face situation. This type of communication narrows human relationships, because an individual can have a totally different relationship on the internet, and can carry themselves totally different electronically than in "real" life.

Robots Making Robots on the Moon

In chapter 14 there is a passage on page 235 that pushes the question of autonomous robotic development. It is undeniably intriguing, but I feel like the demand for a higher and higher form of artificial intelligence merely romanticizes the purpose of robots - making them closer to their idealized science fiction form. Taking away "the meat" in favor of computer function, and presumably, and efficient work is no new idea. Ask anyone from Flint, Michigan: machines can build a car much faster than a man can. However those car-building, hulking machines are merely programmed to do the job, not necessarily figuring it out and refining its own tactics.

That being said, it as suggested in the chapter that robots could, theoretically, be sent to the moon (a suggestion made around the height of moon exploration in the 1960' and 70's) to collect data, materials, and eventually reproduce, in a way, and continue work for however long it is needed. This seems not only flawed, but dangerous. The demand to match the science fiction imagination is a frivolous one. It would be a landmark discovery if computers did ever obtain a "sense of self," but juxtapose that with the already established human sense of self. Robots could form judgments, biases, trait, and mannerisms. Maybe I've seen too many movies, but it doesn't seem necessary to provide computers with fully functioning minds, complete with free will. I just seems dangerous, though glamorous. At the end of the day machines are here to do our bidding, practically, and they should perform as far as they are programmed, not beyond and not of their own devices.

Old School Flaming

What Mr. Forand is referring to is a polished and perfected form of cyberspace communication and competition. These headset-based online combat and mission type games have been progressing for the past fifteen years. However, the idea of immature, obscene language and taunting hasn't always been linked to this type of gaming. Yet, in today's advanced online gaming it does seem to be all you hear. Maybe this is because games like Halo 3 Online are so advanced that the only thing left to worry about is smack-talking your opponent in order to get a chuckle out of your buddies or vice versa. In Thompsen's chapter he bases much of what he says on the "social influence model of technology use". Based on this model, he says that it is human nature for us to log in and let our emotions fly in online-gaming, killing every one in sight. Saying that all these gamers are hotheads was done by Thompsen years ago. Now it seems to be somewhat accuarate that half of these gamers probably grew up in a half-cyber, half-real universe where they would like to kill every one in sight, but don't have the means, or the "rank". With this type of technology, it would be no surprise that those caught up in today's cyberculture like Luke, express this type of human behavior when hidden behind the armor of a cyber-soldier.

However, I am old-school, not talking Halo 1 old-school, not even Socom or Rainbow Six old school, I grew up at CyberSmith. For those of you who don't know, CyberSmith was a store in malls during the mid-90's where online gaming, and virtual interaction began. Much of what Thompsen says concerning the lack of communicative cues in the roots of cyber interaction began to come about here. When gamers waltzed into the CyberSmith at their local shopping mall, they left their potty-mouths, and ignorant slurs at home and just came to play. Because the type of gaming was so different, gamers at the time were satisfied by this new form of cyber competition and didn't need to take it to a negative level. I was one of these youngsters who kept my mouth shut when I was in the pressence of virtual reality for no reason more then I didn't have full knowledge of what we were doing with this new technology. At CyberSmith, an hour of gaming on linked desktop monitors was probably the same price as the actual Halo 3 game. Hey, they were the pioneers that needs to be worth something. CyberSmith was the start of interaction through video games because you would play out missions and adventures with other cyber characters with no knowledge of their actual identity. The phenomenom that took place in this magical ripoff of a store left no room for hate mongering because those involved were happy to enjoy their hours of what was considered to be awesome online-gaming. At the same time they kept quiet because their parents were paying an arm and a leg for them to use these low-budget computers that would lag and make the gamer dizzy. It seems to me that the maturation of "flaming" has only come about more recently, as the games and consoles become more advanced and affordable. It is not enough to just play the game anymore, which may mean that new forms of cybertechnology and gaming may be on the forefront.

In Theory, yes...(A response to Paul Levinson's Essay)

As far back as I can recall "technology in the classroom" has been a buzzword (buzz phrase?) that has been going around talking about the future of education. As a little kid I would hear how television screens in the classrooms could bring countless classes to different teachers, or unite numerous classrooms under the tutelage of one instructor, since those times the same type of talk has been applied to the computers, the Internet, and so on.
Professor Levinson's essay, which touches on the online classroom and the conditions of time, place, and physical restriction which it can eliminate for the betterment of education and earnest academic participation seems to be the next spokesperson in line for the fore-mentioned type of talk. I don't deny the advances technology(namely the Internet) has done for the educational institution. Hell, without Blackboard, Oasis, or I wouldn't know how to pick classes, know when they were, or what day the school year started or ended on (school calendars are clutch). E-mail and the Internet have vastly increased the scope of material, interaction, and points of view we have as far as information and access to one another, its potential is not what I question, its the application part I'm looking at.
When I read this chapter and the parts it discusses about the beauty of online classrooms bringing people from all over the world together at all hours of the day joining in intellectual dialogue, I do admire it. I am by no means discounting the majesty of a deaf or blind person finally being able to participate to their intellectual potential because of the neutrality and assistance given by technology. Its just that I can't help but think the chapter is giving me prototypes and trials and calling it full-blown proof. Technology has tremendously increased the scope and efficiency of the business of education, but as for "online classrooms", the most I see (aside from those Phoenix University ads everywhere) is a blackboard posting here and there by my professors. Just like with "TV in the classroom" this has been hyped up and perpetuated by its potential. Looking back, about the most my classroom's ever been "online" is when I spent a whole class watching 'To Catch a Predator' episodes on YouTube, or the standard PowerPoint lecture class. From the onset of the Internet and its possibilities craze in the mid 90's, all I remember doing when I first learned what "Electronic mail" was, was sending dumb and pointless messages to the people right next to me.
And hey, this isn't because its not a good idea. Their are just too many factors that I guess, would never let the idea of an online classroom meet its full potential. The Chapter does point out our innate tendency to feel that the traditionally, physical way of learning in the class from a teacher whom you can see and hear is what most of us hold on to as the optimal way of learning. This will always make integrating something so against that notion difficult, so that we will almost always want to self-sabotage it. Because while there are lectures and teachers out their who sound as monotonous as a simple text recording, there are those who couldn't believe anything more effective than the real deal, the catch is that, most of us believe that. Also, looking back on how crappy/highly aggravating Oasis or Fordham Internet can be, I wouldn't want to risk the same functional dependency on my direct learning experience. For now, I'll tip my cap to the new doors and access ramps these online classrooms open and facilitate, but it's still right up there with the video phone for me.

Telepresence, the Missing Discussion of Ethics and some Robots (just for fun)

It's almost hard for me to admit the rapid pace at which it seems our world is becoming a virtual(ly friendly) environment. As some of you have already posted, online educational games, courses, robots controlled by the monkeys' thoughts in addition to the the virtual organization,"virtual teleconferencing, manipulation of graphically rendered objects, telepresence surgery, architectural design and vehicle movement" mentioned in by Terri Toles Patkin in "Constructing the Virtual Organization: Using a Virtual Multimedia Simulation for Communication Education" are really beginning to make me think.

Architectural design and graphically rendered objects do not offend me. However, the although convenient, cars that park themselves, and telepresence surgery are two examples of what I believe are really going to foreshadow the next decade as such conveniences begin to integrate themselves into our lives.

This video is a great summary for the examples of telepresence given by Terri Toles Patkin, in additional to a new telepresence system Pebbles which is used for educational purposes.
Telepresence Robotics - Haptics, Pebbles, Virtual Surgery:

On thing, that is important to me but however remains largely unexplored are the ethics behind virtual realities, telepresence systems, embedded chips etc. I believe that our technology is advancing so rapidly people are not able to agree on a code of ethics, or rules. We are going to create Alife before we even understand how it should be appropriately used. Look at our online practices as of now. The internet has been a household item for more than a decade and still there is very little understanding of online practices such "flaming" and furthermore there is no agreement for the types of regulations that there should be when there are real world consequences for online actions. People think that "If it's happening virtually, then it must not *really* be happening right?" Well, an email may not be as formal as a written letter however you've contacted that person, they are informed of your message, decode that message and then either file or "discard" that message. Even the "codes" of email (as discussed in Ch.19)are still being understood however communications and interaction via email are definitely a large part of what dictates our real lives. Therefore codes of conduct and a better understanding of our online/ virtual-to-be nation is definitely a necessity. We are behind the ball on this one.

My last complaint (or flame) is that Philip A. Thompsen considers flaming to be a "social phenomenon"?? All I can say is PUHHHLEEZ!!

this is just absurd>>> Captured by Robots:

Using Computer Games to Teach

Chapter 12 reminded me of when a few schools a couple of years ago decided to use videogames to help teach students through virtual scenarios. Patkin states that “the structure of the simulation somewhat resembles a game” (210). Back in 2006, the University of Minnesota created a mod with the game Neverwinter Nights to create scenarios to help teach journalism skills. It wasn’t a perfect simulation as it was missing many of the key aspects that Patkin describes the Virtual Organization to have, but it is a step in that general direction, such as providing students with quests in order to complete a level.

Here are some articles about schools using this game to teach:
Teaching journalism with Neverwinter Nights
Computer game to boost key skill

I guess this has already been done with Second Life’s online courses, which is an interesting topic since it combines virtual reality education with online education. I just thought it'd be interesting to see the use of already made computer games like Neverwinter Nights, or Civilization III to teach class as opposed to the forever changing, social-networking kind of world of Second Life.

Free Wifi?

Driving on Interstate 90 across the state of New York this Christmas break, I noticed that the service signs for rest stops not only included gas and food, but "Free Wifi" as well. In the middle of upstate New York, where there are probably more cows and truck drivers than actual residents, the state of New York found it necessary to provide free wireless internet to highway travelers; interesting. Reading through chapter 12 and 13, with the focus on education in a cyberspace world, I began to wonder what my community was providing me with, to help further my education in a generation that is rapidly becoming digitalized. I came across a website called NYC wireless which is a non-profit organization working to promote wireless community networking. If the digital world is rapidly becoming so influential that it can (and may be needed) to help satisfy human needs, then isn't the job of our community and government to provide us with public access to this digital world? Would this mean that I wouldn't have to worry about stealing wireless internet from my neighbors anymore? Check out the NYC Wireless mission statement and decide for yourself.


Here's some insight on how far away the human race is to living amongst evil geniuses, I-robots, and Robocops. Sue Barnes mentions the human drive to create a cyber-self, and those cyberpunkish enough would want to completely blend the realms of virtual and actual reality. Based on the rapid acceleration of technology experienced in our lifetime, us cyber-rebels have now been able to create alternate replicas of ourselves through things like Web 2.0. As a popular way to finally "leave our bodies in the boring, physical world", Web 2.0 allows every one to interact with others, form relationships, and exchange personal gestures. The activities performed by our cyber-selves are technically disconnected from our physical bodies, however can affect us in the same way. We can gain feelings of stimulation and excitement from our cyber-self's interactions, while at the same time we can easily find ourselves feeling dissapointment and resentment like we would in actual personal relationships. This should not be considered a bad thing for the evergrowing cyberculture who strive for further grasp on virtual space.

The question seems to be however, how far do we let the roller coaster of technology go before the cyberpunks puke their guts up? The idea of artificial brain functions and computerized thought processes may not be too far away due to recent advancements in the technology needed. If a monkey can send brain functions to a robot then it is in the foreseeable future that humans can begin to possess the same cyber powers. However, I do not feel that the human demand for this type of cyber-interaction is high enough yet for this technology to be truly perfected. Perhaps, the cyberpunks are a little too intimidated by robot monkeys because of how many times they've rewatched Planet of the Apes. You be the judge if we will evolve from our furry friends in the cyber world.

Xbox Live: The International VR Arena

Recently I have been spending more than a sparing amount of hours playing Xbox Live, a gaming system that links Xbox 360 users across the globe and arranges ranked games for people to play others of matched experience(up to 20 players in one game). In the Halo 3 online live arena, players have a rank based on skilled kills(sniper head shots, double kills, killing sprees, sword sprees, killing frenzies, etc.) as well as experience points gained simply by amassing hours of game time. A gamer can customize his profile "picture" so that when other gamers check their stats, the marine supporting the gamer's display name has specialized armor and colors. I play with some of my "material friends" and we play under the tagname of Berrian576; Our Halo marine is a grade 2 Gunnery Sergeant, has 200 experience points and has reached the 18th highest skill. This marine represents our Halo warrior, our digital self competing against hundreds of thousands of other Halo players online at any moment of the day worldwide.

Like social networking, gamers can friend other players and real friends from their hometowns; people can chat, send voice messages to each other and text message using the Xbox 360 controller. A great experiment on social networking, chatting before games involves idle small talk and "smack talk" followed by strategy planning and communication during the game. Thompsen calls this vulgar cyber talk "flaming". The definition used in Thompsen's chapter in Communication and Cyberspace mimics nearly all the manners of speaking during Xbox Live chats. "rudeness, profanity, emotional...annoying...spontaneous" comments are commonplace and "the spontaneous creation of homophobic, racist and misogynist language during electronic communication" seems like exactly what I hear bantering back and forth from blue team members to red team members before a social slayer match. Gamer vocabulary and knowledge of the maps is essential in understanding the "Halo World".

This virtual reality has become the realest video game interaction in the sense that it connects real people and organizes them systematically into competitive matches which take place in "cyberspace". Anybody interested in talking smack, kicking ass, taking names and ranking up with a couple boys from Fordham U, look for Berrian576 in any ranked team slayer, social slayer or big team battle matches on Xbox Live and you'll be messing with a few of the Interactive Rams(Paul L involved).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Say it With Me, Frankenstein is a novel, not a real incident

In reading Chapter 14, I was struck by something almost immediately, there is no argument. For Ms. Barnes, who has obviously done her research, there is only one conclusion augmenting the human brain without the body destroys the individual. While this is not a new sentiment, it is a little confusing as to how she reaches this conclusion as one minute she's talking about Cartesian perception and the next we're shattering human personalities by adapting them to the computers.

Her use of Margaret Mead's observations is very astute and it has the ring of reality to it. How are we to perceive a virtual reality when it only focuses on vision and hearing. Touch, at the time of Barnes' writing, was an as yet unexplored ability of cyberspace. While it is still a far off possibility today, advances have been with the recent announcement of a monkey using it's brain power to make a robot walk, how far off will a computer being able to feed us virtual weights and textures?

However, the most unnerving thing for me in the entire reading was when Barnes says, "Despite the fact they work with digital software instead of living wetware, this research is still clouded by the legacy of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein." (p. 237). While she goes to explicate that that the book is indeed a story of science gone awry, the implication is that this one book forever overshadows any attempts at creating new life. It acts as if that one book has instilled this innate fear of cyborgs into everyone.

In the end, I can't help but feel that Barnes piece reads as an alarmist piece of work, saying "Stop now, before we destroy our humanity," more than a piece examining the implications of artificial life. The conclusions are gone, abandon all hope and look elsewhere.

An interesting aside to this is that Barnes ideas are heavily mirrored in Sci-Fi, specifically in the British Sci-Fi Television series Doctor Who. In the series there are two robotic aliens the Doctor fights, the Cybermen and the Daleks. The Cybermen, created in 1967, were humans who spent their lives augmenting their bodies to preserve their lives. Somewhere along the line, the augmentations took over the body and many of the humans went crazy. So they developed an emotionally inhibitor that would stop them from feeling the coldness and loneliness of being a living brain encased in a metal body. Without emotions, they became mindless automonatons and lacked any real sense of individuality. The machine destroying the individual.

The Daleks, created in 1963, were once human in shape bu,t due to radiation, became mutated and disfigured. Over time they built metal cases to live in but cut themselves off, physically, from reality all data coming from extensions of their bodies on the metal shell. Eventually they too went crazy from the detachment and lost their sense of individuality and became machines who wanted to destroy all that was not like them.

Online Dating; a weak link in the cybosphere

Personally, I think online dating websites such as Eharmony and are the cornerstone for the devaluation of real human relationships in a digital world. Similar to Ted and Will's resentment of the myspace community, is how I feel about online dating websites. In Philosophical Issues in Chapter 12 where the author warns about the, "importance of integrating the real body with the virtual body," is where I find my quarrel with online dating websites. This is a GREAT youtube video which challenges these online dating websites from a different point of view. Why would people waste their time and money on these expensive (generally $1 a day after start up fees) websites when they could join myspace or facebook for free? This video helped me draw the thin but distinct line in between online dating websites and social networks. Although I agree that social networks are much more susceptible to annoying advertisements and false digital personas than a dating website with a background check, I think the ability to be able to recognize actual people from false identities adds to the value of true digital human interaction.

Theres hippies in cyberspace too

Chapter 14 talks a lot about compromising the value of human interaction within this new age of digital social networks. One of the most notable icons for genuine, valuable human interaction is the "hippie" and the idea of "free love" which emerged from the 70s. Aside from the detailed descriptions of how the author bargained for drugs in overseas countries, the article makes an interesting note to include (even) hippies in the digitalized cyberworld.

"Trance music and the cyber-hippie culture that surrounds it has become a full-blown global phenomenon, attracting hordes of free-spirited revelers bent on dancing for days on end to music that's complex and cutting edge."

This is the gist of the article that relates to the class, but the rest of the article is a very entertaining read.

Chapter 14 - Human Interaction

In Chapter 14, Barnes discusses how “Eliminating visual information about the physical body in cyberspace communication has positive and negative implications. On the one hand, eliminating the body makes us more equal because we no longer have access to the visual information of sex, age, or race. But on the other hand, the quality of human relationships narrows, because unlike face-to-face communication, we do not have a full range of visual and verbal sensory information” (247).

In the example of “The Naked Lady,” Barnes says the woman had a behavioral change because of her digital persona. I don’t believe that because she is not interacting with someone face-to-face that her behavior is artificial. The fact that she was able to create a new personality shows that she already had that ability in her to act that way, it was just a matter of finding the right influences in her surroundings to trigger that change. I think that this kind of communication helps increase human relationships as opposed to narrowing because it allows one to be more free in their actions. Though it is true that there are some awful or questionable personalities out there in cyberspace, in general, I think cyberspace helps develop one’s self-identity because it incorporates a kind of freedom to act in ways one usually would not act because of societal influences. Additionally, it could present to us new kinds of behaviors that we usually would not experience anywhere else, providing a larger scope of the world we live in.

Keeping the Chapter 14 Cypher Alive Ya'll

I just finished reading chapter 14 and a whole bunch of ideas came to mind. The chapter definitely seems like a collection of notions and ideas on the whole cyberspace, digital self extension matter that need to be addressed no matter how extreme some may seem.
Firstly, they discuss a bunch of paradoxical notions throughout the chapter, mainly I believe, about the duality of the self digitally and in the real world and how having both would de-value the uniqueness of the first. I think this is an argument that has existed before..."I think, therefore I am". The existence of a digital self does not take away the value and importance of the real deal person, if for anything else than the fact that without the original there would be no brain to transplant into the cyber-realm (for those people who considered the human body as "meat"...).
There are certain compromises between digital and physical selves, that reinforce the value of both, as well as each individual notion of identity. Physically speaking, we have the distinct ability to experience and grow as people through the things we feel, hear, taste, and see. Inversely, the digital realm's ability to transplant time, space, and eliminate the biases of gender, race and appearance create an equally unique social facilitation which helps the individual grow. What this means to me is the things that make digital identity seem real if not more vivid than physical identity are what we in fact, wish was better in our physical lives. That's why i see the whole digital self/cyborg/machine thing as an extension of humanity, made to assist, its not an evolution or a replacement. Technology is a crutch, people come down on it with the the dangers it possesses, but that's because humans are the ones behind it all. Some people will use a crutch to help them because they broke their leg and some people will beat others with it. It's all relative, I think.

Blogging as a human neccessity?

In response to chapter 14, and the entire blogosphere of information and jargon which is all completely new to me, I tried to take a deeper look into the implications of social Internet networks. Is it possible that humans will be able to, or even forced to, participate in social Internet networks to fulfill their needs as a social animal? My SpellingChecker doesn't even recognize the word blogosphere, yet millions of people all over the world are blogging their way towards the creation of a separate online identity. Or is it separate? In a tangible sense of the idea, our online identities can obviously be separate from our actual identity. Just ask Chris Hansen or any of his esteemed guests on 'To Catch a Predator'. We can put a different picture on our facebook profile, change the age on our myspace account, or simply lie through text in a chatroom or aim account. I found two interesting articles from Blog Herald, a news site which gives you the up-to-date in the blogosphere.

The first article looks at blogging as the future of human personality. Valeria Maltoni thinks that the social interaction involved in blogging can be universally applied to all humans in this set of 7 Ideas to improve your blogging ability.

The second article takes a different look at the implications of blogging on the human personality. Lorelle VanFossen believes that some of us have an aptitude towards blogging, where others may not. "Blogging isn't for everyone"

Regardless of your point of view both articles will help you tune your blogging skills, so that by the time the semester is over we can sell Interactive Rams to Google for millions, no wait billions of dollars.

Barne's and the "New Body"

In chapter 14 of Communication and Cyberspace, Barnes focuses on the changing perception of self as it relates to cyberspace and the new environment of the internet. With the advent of web 2.0, social networks and also the new fourth estate of bloggers, the virtual self is as real as ever. I watched a youtube video that provides an imaginative extrapolation of the growth of google and amazon as they grow and become more involved in personal identity. As this video shows, blogs, news, social networks, music, email and buying preferences are being melted down and becoming the personalized internet. The internet machine now has the capabilities to understand who the user is, what the user wants and what they want to know. Digital news becomes more real than ever. I argue that this, not the "replicas" hunted by Decker in the sweet ass science fiction movie Bladerunner, are the future of digitalized identity. In this way, people now have two separate selves: the real self and the digital self. But if this digital self controls life choices, understands deep desires, provides the users with real news and dictates how someone's identity is viewed by the whole world...what's the difference?

Anyway, check this clip of the origin of EPIC, the fictional "super site"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dave Chappelle teaches us something about the Internet

So I finally found this link to a Dave Chappelle skit from his old show on Comedy Central (R.I.P Chappelle's Show) and I wanna post if on the class blog for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the skit mirrors a point brought up in the NY Times article we had to read recently about what would be considered acceptable in the Social networking/Internet world versus the real world. In the skit Chappelle talks about how "nasty" a lot of the things we accept on the Internet are and how if we looked at it in a real world situation we would get the full scope of how bad it really is. Secondly, the skit is extremely hilarious, as are all things Chappelle. Enjoy the skit.

Here's the link:

A Rape in Cyberspace (Shout outs to Prof. Sternberg)

Guys you should check this out. It's  an article I remembered reading and discussing a bit in my Digital Media & Cyberculture class a a year or so back. It talks about a rape that went down in an old school MUD (which is basically like what World of War Craft is nowadays only back then it was just words). The article goes on to say how this user managed to hack past the security controls/guards present in the chat world and reap all sorts of havoc and chaos on the users inside. It explicitly cites an incident wherein one of the users was "raped" among an array of "atrocities" committed. After the damage this user (Mr. Bungle) caused, the article explains about how the victims and other members of the MUD wanted justice handed down to the culprit. Anyways, there's more in the article if you check it out. But I think a key thing to look at when reading this, despite how absurd/silly you may (or may not) find it, is with all the amenities given to facebook, the Internet, etc. to make it seem more life-like and real and with the behaviors and attitudes that are simulated to bring this world as close to ours as possible. Are the feelings, emotions, joys and pains we "feel" online comparable to the real world? And as such, do we punish/reward people in the same or similar ways that we would in the real world? Since everything is "syncing" nowadays I think this stuff is important to consider or at least start a somewhat healthy dialogue about. Maybe or maybe not, anyways its unique to say the least, and if you guys don't find it interesting at least you can see what its like to see chat users get upset over virtual "assaults"

Here's the Link to the full Article:

I Wish I Were A Digital I

Susan Barnes includes Minsky's statement that "that biological human brain cells could be replaced with computer chips" in her examination of mind versus body. (pg 235) Minsky continues asking, "Would that new machine be the same as you?" Teri also posed a similar concern in her response.

I would argue it is. Assuming the computer chips are made without flaws, and enough knowledge had been gathered about the brain and designing the chips, there's no difference between a real person and a person (or cyborg) with one of these computerized brains. In essence, our brains already act like computers, though far more advanced than the current supercomputer. There's absolutely no reason given enough time, according to Moore's Law, we won't be able to program a computer with the capabilities of a neural network identical to the human brain.

To address Teri's concern, I don't think in the example we are arguing that a digital copy of one's self from yesterday will match today's self. Rather think of it like this (and assume sufficient technologies exist): Suppose one day, an evil genius snatches you up, and through the wonders of (post)modern technology, exactly copies your self to a little computer chip and replaces your brain. However, he also erases any memory of his devious little experiment. When you woke up the next morning, would you, or for that matter anyone, be able to tell your self had been digitized? (Ignore the giant scar.) I would argue no.

In Barnes's writing, I get a sense of fear of this future. She seems hesitant to believe that a digitalized version of one's self is equal to the original, biological source. She argues for the necessity of a "real" body to develop one's sense of self.

However, a "real" body is no longer necessary. In a biological setting, the body only exists to provide stimulus for the "mind." Now, in a digital age, such physical bodies are no longer necessary. There's no physical body necessary, if it can be replaced by digital bodies created in cyberspace. A brain in a vat will have just as much self as any other "real" person, maybe even more given any stimulus is possible.

Now, combine these ideas together. I would argue at some point in the future, we will have digital lifeforms, either purely in cyberspace or in robotic form, indistinguishable from "real organic life." They will think, act, and live in the exact manner as ourselves. They will meet or exceed our own intelligence. There's absolutely nothing stopping this future, nor should there. At some point the human species will die off, but through our digital creations, our legacy may continue.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cuban Bloggers

The other day I got a glimpse of CNN covering a story about people in Cuba blogging. I didn't catch the whole story so I looked it up on the Internet to find some interesting articles about the current situation in Cuba. I learned that as Fidel Castro is growing older and physically weaker the need for reform and change in Cuba is getting closer. The Cuban government controls all of the Internet so blogging remains a sensitive topic. It is interesting to see what people will blog considering, "Twenty years ago expressing opinions contrary to those of the government in the street could result in a beating from passers-by. Today, things are very different. You can say whatever you like in the street without anything happening to you. People have lost that political fanaticism." If you can read Spanish, check out some of the more known blogs like El Cubano de La Isla.

I thought this article was interesting because I think we sometimes take for granted our rights to free speech and Internet. Although I might not want to set-up a blog every week for class when I do I want the right to post whatever I want. Imagine having to fear what you post on the Internet because Big Brother may be watching you. Wait is Big Brother watching??

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Delete Your MySpace

So in browsing the web as I do on occasion I happened upon a news story that I could really stand for. Apparently, January 30 is International Delete Your MySpace Page day. I have never participated in MySpace and I am currently, thanks to this class, being somewhat forced to. The whole people connecting with people web phenomenon is OK in my book - I do use Facebook, vigorously. But MySpace, to me, is a place for lacking artists to peddle their wares, photographers who can't capture a moment to show their stuff, musicians to ruin our ears with what is actually crap (DK excluded), and for strippers to express themselves. I could pass gas into a microphone and layer a crispy calypso beat over it and people would ACTUALLY listen to it, and whats more, people would PRAISE it. Maybe I'm being harsh but MySpace is a talentless community (no offense, to the offended). The other day I was in Brooklyn and saw a fancy apartment building being built near Bedford avenue. I noticed that on the large billboard on the face of the building they instructed anyone out there interested in an overpriced BK apartment they should check out the building's MySpace page. What!?? I won't live in a place that's friends with Tom. We, as humans, should pounce on this chance to delete our cleverly skinned MySpace home pages (that of course list all of our everything!!!) and leave the fun to the creatures who inhabit that website (DK excluded). It will be great, until we have to rejoin as part of INTERACTIVE MEDIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fighting Cybercrime and Abuse

Rather than just fret about the internet or try to somehow stop it, there are people who are working to make it a safer environment than it is at present, especially for kids.

One person who stands out in this effort is Parry Aftab, an attorney and internet activist. I met Parry at a Media Ecology Association convention several years ago, where we presented her with our Jacques Ellul Award for Outstanding Media Ecology Activism.

You can check out her professional website by clicking on her name, and note the banners at the bottom with links to, and, and note the further links to explore.

Myspace Abuse Leads to Teen Suicide

Washington Post article about 13 year old Marie who committed suicide as a result of online bullying called "A Deadly Web of Deceit"

this article is so important because the first ordinances about onilne bullying were established in this little girl's hometown as a direct result of this incident. It's a breakthrough in creating real world consequences for online actions!

It's lengthy but such an informative read so, enjoy!

The Unauthorized History of

The history behind the creation of MySpace's Tom.

Part 1:

Part 2:

iraq journalist/blogger

Michael Yon, a former Special Forces fighter, writes dispatches and posts photographs from the front lines in Iraq. Mr. Yon, however, does not work for any organization; no news outlet pays him for the hundreds of dispatches and photos he has produced. He publishes his work on his own Web site, He says contributions from his readers have paid most of his costs, though he declines to say how much they have given. It is remarkable that one man took it upon himself to provide war information cost-free to the world with the click of a mouse. Hopefully, this form of media will help create a stronger more personal form of communication among our society.


Okay so here is the whole article about Robots that "Lie." The previous link is more geared rtowards reader comments which are given categories (ie.e funny, interesting, informative etc.)

This as great clip from the Colbert Report interviewing author of the book "Love and Sex With Robots"

Sue Barnes and Marvin Minsky Challenged

While no one has directly responded to the readings yet, I wanted to address a couple of things I thought about in CH. 14.

It was suggested that "By connecting ourselves to artificial worlds in cyberspace we not only leave our physical bodies, but also the physical world in which we live (p. 233)." I believe that this may conceptually be possible when one enters a MUD, MOO or themed chat room however, often times I believe that what one does online often overlaps into the real world. Personas lived in VR as described by Barnes on pg. 243 with her example of "The Naked Lady," prove that the development or change of self in the real world can be a direct result of one's connection to virtual worlds. Another way in which online communication and social interaction overlaps into our every day life is with the use of social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook. From my experience, people on these sites primarily interact with friends and family. Besides the "edited" version of one's personality given in one's profile, people tend to try and represent who they actually are in the real world through customizing profile settings. It is less likely for someone to develop an entirely new persona or "character" in this environment where they are affiliated with the same people in the real world. And because they are dealing with friends and family, the CMC occurring here becomes more of an extension of one's real life into cyberspace.
Another point I wanted to debate was Minsky's discussion about replacing one's brain (or biological brain cells) with computer chips. Minsky says that microscopic difference between the human individual and the digital self would have microscopic differences because "it would be impractical to duplicate with absolute fidelity, all the interactions in the brain (p. 235)." He argues that these microscopic differences would not matter "because we are always changing as we age. Because people are never the same from one moment to the next, you cannot claim that your brain machine is not you...Therefore, from Minsky's view, there is no difference between the real you and your digital clone." .... I disagree.
Although we do change with age, the digital replication of you could not compare with you or be you as you might age. As we grow, new life experiences affect how we will react to certain situations in the future. As we learn/grow as individuals and have new experiences, we often change how we will react to certain situations in the future create new emotions. Your digital self cannot replicate these new emotions, reactions or sense of logic unless they are streamed data on your every new experience directly as you experience them and can learn directly from your reactions. Still, as a result your digital self would only be mirroring you current personality. An equal, individual/independent growth of the digital self that might parallel your physical self (like a clone) seems impossible. I think that the differences matter.
Also check out an interesting and kind of relevant link to this chapter about "Robots [Who] Learn To Lie".
See you all in class!

Magic...Whole Lotta Magic

Interesting Stories in the news:

Nasa investigates virtual space

Facebook faces privacy questions

Yap-lication unlocks canine moods

Bereaved father wants suicide website ban

Just things I thought were interesting over the weekend and wondered what the class and others would think about them.

Also here is some interesting reading, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mike Tyson's Brunch out

Rivaling the energy drink in intense media is the Mike Tyson's brunch out on YouTube

A innocent digital cartoon cafe scene is interrupted by a vulgar, crude 80s and 90s retro video game boxing icon (O.K., and maniac). Worth a watch for sure, excellent mixing of mediums on the digital backdrop.

Another Probe From McLuhan

As hilarious and ridiculous as this previously posted youtube spoof on energy drinks and the gym rat personality is in general, it should not be overlooked that this is also a spoof on the medium in and of itself. The structure in this video of using keywords and phrases that may truly appeal to a "meathead" audience demonstrates the power of this medium while still providing comic relief for others not interested in filling their body with "lightning" or having "400 babies". This McLuhan video may further express how people are affected through similar media.

McLuhan Television Probe

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I'm not sure if this works for the blog, but i think that this video is hilarious. Hopefully someone else gets as good of a laugh as i have from it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mike Wesch's Videos on the Contemporary Media Environment

As an experiment in interactive media, here at Fordham University, using the specific medium of The Blog (sounds like a movie monster, doesn't it?), I think we should include, before we go any futher, the well known (to those in the know) and well done YouTube video by my Kansas State colleague and friend Mike Wesch, Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us:

And let's also include a couple of his more recent follow-up to that first, multiple award winning video--I like this one a great deal because it provides a point of comparison and historical context:

And this last one, featuring Mike's students, is either interesting, or depressing, depending on how you look at things:

All of these videos are what Marshall McLuhan referred to as probes. They don't prove anything, they probe the environment, in this case the new media environment known as Web 2.0 or social networking, opening up the territory for further exploration and study, and getting us to start thinking and reflecting.

So, what are your thoughts and reflections???

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Something I Found Terribly Interesting

While watching Rocketboom, I was linked to this Web site about Jamie O'Shea, a man living 2 seconds of time for every 3 of ours; in essence living in our past. The experiment ends on Jan. 19, which will only be Jan. 13 for Jamie. All elements of his life are being delayed by a computer program which keeps his e-mails from arriving, keeps the news on Web sites keyed to his "local" time and other sundry things that mystify me. They are even simulating night and day based on the altered clock. I just thought it was interesting as a way of showing how much we rely on media to keep us up-to-date and in-the-know.

On a related note, today's episode of Rocketboom was entitled The Social Construction of Reality which is taken from the name of a 1966 book by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann. The book sounds like it might have some applicability to how social networks are formed.

From Wikipedia:

The work introduced the term social construction into the social sciences. The central concept of The Social Construction of Reality is that persons and groups interacting together in a social system form, over time, concepts or mental representations of each other's actions, and that these concepts eventually become habituated into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other. When these roles are made available to other members of society to enter into and play out, the reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalised. In the process of this institutionalisation, meaning is embedded in society. Knowledge and people's conception (and belief) of what reality is becomes embedded in the institutional fabric of society. Social reality is therefore said to be socially constructed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hello World!!!!

We are the Interactive Rams.
We are the Innovators.
We are the Future.
We are eager to shock the world.