Fighting Crime with New Technology

Remember the days when it was considerably easy to get away with crime in cities? Well, nobody alive does, because the advent of the simple thing we call electricity. As the reading tells us, phonographs, telegraphs, and early electric gizmos started the crime busting technology launch in the late 1800s. For example, the city of Baltimore created 170 call boxes in order for policemen to call back into headquarters to share valuable info. Burglary alarms were being put into place, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art even used new technology to guard their prized artwork. The city of London was able to connect with the Parliament, police, and fire departments, and some workplaces used electricity to monitor a worker’s night shift. For the time, these technologies were amazing and set the table for what we have today, but we are nowhere near done. I do believe that the early improvements all the way back from electricity will eventually evolve to the super-technologies that were present in the novel and film The Circle.

A scene shows a worker for this massive world-dominating corporation presenting a camera that can be placed anywhere around the world to take continuous video to be viewable by a vast audience. If this ever comes a reality, it would dispel crime at the highest level. The issue of privacy would be incredibly in question, but the many wrongdoings it would stop might be a final solution to the problems that have been faced since the beginning of civilization. Can you imagine all of the crime that would occur daily if it was so probable that individuals would “get away with it” ? I don’t think we’ll ever go back there again.

Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3UgCtRfO3c, “When Old Technologies Were New- Community and Class Order by Carolyn Marvin

Angry Bird: Cloning this Generation’s “Viral Game”

Tap the screen to fly. Do nothing and quickly feel the effects of gravity. Send the poor animal through as many Mario-like pipes before you will inevitably fail and see its death. This was the basis for the most viral video game that had ever been seen. Flappy Bird, originally released in 2013 by Nguyen Dong, swelled in popularity near the end of the the year. The simplistic gameplay, addicting nature, and easiness of attainability allowed it to reach #1 on Apple’s free app rankings. Unfortunately, Dong removed the game from the App Store in February of 2014, since all the attention he obtained from its success “ruined his simple life”. As a result, since the game was already so popular, other people began to clone the game and put countless other versions of the same thing on the App Store and the Internet, including a variation where you are a sperm. See for yourself in this video.

As Dr. Sample points out in his work regarding code in video games, we see that “code” does not just refer to the lines of gibberish typed down by pizza-eating millennials. It  also concerns the text, visuals, sounds, and other elements. As Sample put it, “it is a mistake to think about code as always and only instructions to a computer”. The “code” for the majority of the Flappy Bird clones employs the same flying-like controls for each game, with similar variations of shape, color, and presentation. Should doing this be fair, or is it like cheating? Rockstar Games, for example, frowns upon players when they “prepare derivative works” on GTA, which is kind of like what is going on here.  In my opinion, people should not really be allowed to copy a game and earn money off of it like what many “smart” developers did with this sensation. If you do this, you are quite literally “stealing” the code and efforts of one’s original work to make yourself successful , which is what unfortunately happened way too often in the age of Flappy Bird.

 

Sources:

Griffiths, Sarah. “Flappy Bird Is ‘Gone Forever’.” DailyMail.com, Associated Newspapers, Ltd., 11 Feb. 2014, www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2556818/Flappy-Bird-gone-forever-Games-creator-pulled-app-addictive-product.html.

Sample, Mark. “Code.” Debugging Game History: A Critical Lexicon, MIT Press, 2016, pp. 53–62. Dropbox, www.dropbox.com/s/70m9jnr0oztb78p/Sample%20-%20Code%20(2016).pdf?dl=0.

“The MANY Clones of Flappy Bird.” YouTube, Google, 21 Feb. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdXnvmuB23Y&t=21s.

MP3 or MP”Free”?

For the majority of millennials that grew up, MP3s were part of what made their days memorable. This audio file was a form of social connection between friends, an asset for parties, and a cure to bust boredom. It was a celebration of the noises, pitches, and voices that we as humans could connect to form the melodies which shaped the memories of our lives. According to scholar Jonathan Sterne, the MP3 “is an artifact that ‘works for’ and is ‘worked on’ by a host of people, ideologies, technologies and other social and material elements”. Unfortunately, questions surrounding the ethics of the convenience have been around for a great time now .  

The MP3 was made to compress sound files in a way to make them as small as possible without a significant loss in quality. This success allowed the massive sharing of these files on sites like Napster. Music lovers pounced, especially college students. However, the easy and free access to all of these songs allowed for some major problems. After all of the profit made by record stores, was it even “fair” for consumers to download Napster songs to their computers for free? The debate got to the courts, and in the summer of 2001, the ruling resulted in the complete shutdown of the service. This documentary explains the peculiar rise and fall of Napster. 

 

When we flash forward to 2017, we have multiple new “Napsters” that allow for free music listening.  A prominent example is YouTube.  People have developed apps and websites for ripping YouTube videos and creating MP3s to listen to any song on the immense website for $0.

From evidence like this article explaining the taking down of one of the more popular “Youtube to MP3” sites, we see that the industry is continuing to crack down on naughty services like this one. However, with the amount of other sites still like this on the Internet, including other online opportunities to listen to music for free, I doubt there will ever be a day where one could not be allowed to access any free online MP3s. Despite a volatile history, the MP3 remains the revolutionary file type of what was, and still is, an expressive tool to connect our passions and memories through our favorite sounds and songs.

 

Sources:

 

“Napster Documentary: Culture of Free | Retro Report | The New York Times.” YouTube, Google, 8 Dec. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKrdsGdLVQ8.

Sterne, Jonathan. “The mp3 as Cultural Artifact.” New Media and Society, vol. 8, no. 5, 2006, pp. 825–842. SAGE Publications, journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1461444806067737.

“YouTube to MP3 Ripping Site Taken down by Music Labels.” What Hi-Fi?, Haymarket Media Group, 8 Sept. 2017, www.whathifi.com/news/youtube-to-mp3-ripping-site-taken-down-music-labels.

 

Lab 3: Animated GIFS

 

Reaction GIF

My Reaction Counter-GIF:

 

What we see in reaction GIFs are clips of people, animals, or cartoon characters showing an emotional expression.  They may be  jumping up and down, crying, or clapping with their mouth open. But a clip of a random woman walking with her back to the camera shows no explicit reaction at all, and is the perfect example of a counter-GIF. We really don’t know how she is feeling just by seeing the back of the person.  We can only see genuine reactions well by looking at the person’s facial expression. The girl could be excited about getting away from a place she did not like, or she could be upset that she was recently dumped by her boyfriend. This clip can evoke emotions on the broadest range, thus this contradicts what we see in most reaction GIFS.

Sports GIF

 

My Sports Counter-GIF

The job of a sports GIF is either to share an incredible play or laugh about an epic fail that happened in a game. However, many more moments in games are not amazing plays nor are they “so awful it’s funny” instances. So, a counter-GIF of the most average sporting performance in a game is the complete opposite of what people choose to share, just because it happens all the time and is not out of the ordinary. An example of a pitcher throwing to first base to unsuccessfully pick off a runner happens many times in a baseball game, and is  known for being very uneventful, which opposes what we usually see in popular sports GIFs.

Fandom GIF

My Fandom Counter-GIF

The Fandom GIF uses the power of popular culture to highlight scenes in (mostly) movies with a large cult following. Only the very best scenes from the movie are chosen. Normally, they are the ones that are either the most memorable or comical and “stick with” the fans, thus fitting the “fandom” name, like the above scene in Star Wars. But what about the other scenes in movies  that fans do not commit to memory? These, boring, average scenes would be  examples of  Fandom counter-GIFs. Take a clip from Alfred Hitchcock’s famous flick The Birds. Search the film on a site like Giphy and you will see clips of the most famous scenes, like the mass of people running away from the flock of birds. But the few seconds of the schoolteacher walking away from the building to the bench was clipped “in between” more important scenes and was not at all memorable, which makes those few seconds a prime counter-GIF.

 

In Case You Didn’t Know, YouTube Approves Violence

At one point in your YouTube viewing career, you have bound to come across a clip that spoke to you as violent, racial, or stereotypical. You may wonder why these seemingly “inappropriate” videos remain on the site for all to see. One of the most infamous cases  happened when Texas native Hillary Adams posted a video of herself as a child getting beaten and abused by her father, who just so happened to be a FAMILY COURT JUDGE. See it for yourself, at your own peril.

I was able to just pluck this video from YouTube today because it is still on the site. Which brings up the question: Should it remain on YouTube? On the one side, these clips can expose to individuals how bad violence could be. Also, it could show footage that is impossible to pull up in a written or spoken account, which can help for law enforcement. However, on the other hand, is this really appropriate for the random Internet user to see? Select people may use these clips as an inspiration to inflict damage on others, which could snowball into a larger issue. Per YouTube’s Community Guidelines, “It’s not okay to post violent or gory content that’s primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful.” So, if Adams’ menacing video remains on the site, why? Unfortunately, one reason might be monetary. According to our reading by Sarah Roberts, “I noted that a number of (these similar videos) were preceded by commercial advertising”. Since only well-viewed videos ever receive ads before them, clips like these somehow manage to continue to get by the CCMs. This creates real tension between Google’s profitability and the question of a video staying up. In my opinion, there are more than enough ways for Google to make superior earnings than by showing horrid violence to the masses. In YouTube’s Guidelines, a sentence about inappropriate videos reads “Don’t cross the line”. Where, then, is that line?

 

 

Sources:

 

“Community Guidelines.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/yt/policyandsafety/communityguidelines.html.

 

Roberts, Sarah T. “Commercial Content Moderation: Digital Laborer’s Dirty Work.” Digital Formations, vol. 105, 2016, pp. 147–159., www.dropbox.com/s/gbup3cq4w90bmi0/Roberts%20-%20Content%20Moderation%20%282016%29.pdf?dl=0.

 

 

The Power of GIFS: Just Another Day at the Office

 

After years of obscurity, the GIF has made a mammoth-sized comeback to the Internet. These moving pictures evoke emotion and affect on those who view them combined with the power of pop culture. As our reading tells us, the rhetoric of GIFS “allows the user to provide a visual representation of how they are feeling, or how they act in a particular situation—expressions which are perhaps less well suited to text; GIFs are “a visual language unto themselves, an emotive vocabulary made out of culture””(Miltner and Highfield). One of the sites that has really taken advantage of this popular internet trend is Buzzfeed. They specialize in creating what are known as “listicles”, or articles centered around a list of certain points about a topic. Many of these contain GIFS for each point the Buzzfeed writer is trying to make. This one in particular was created for Netflix crazed college students, comparing their emotions during finals with scenes from the popular TV show The Office. This article shines when it comes to audience identification, since the emotions taken by the show’s characters accurately depict “our” emotions as students during the scenarios listed. For example, situations include “when you read the first question of a test and struggle”(Pentak) or “when you thought you aced your test” (Pentak). Each scenario is accompanied by a GIF featuring a character or more from the show.

“When it’s two weeks before the exam and your professor starts warning the class to start studying.”
“When you go into finals week thinking you’re prepared, but then reality hits.”

This not only gives the “same I feel this too” feeling but also gives a comical feeling, especially if you have seen the show. Some GIFS even have text inside of the comments that the actor(s) made in the scene to give more context and further add to the effect, especially to those who have seen the episodes. Even though I have only watched a few shows of The Office, I still find the GIFS funny and relatable due to the quirkiness of the characters. So you do not even need to be an Office superfan to have fun reading this listicle. The listicle in particular is so effective due to the amount of college students who are also fans of the show. Ironically, some students spend time procrastinating from their work watching the show, which makes this GIF hilarious.

” And you’re starting to get worried, so you go to office hours and your professor asks what you’ve been doing with your time.”

From this example, it is clear that the power of GIFs has opened up a new way for us to communicate and to be entertained online.

 

Sources:

Highfield, Tim, and Kate M Miltner. “Never Gonna GIF You Up: Analyzing the Cultural Significance of the Animated GIF.” Social Media + Society, 2017. Sage Journals, SAGE Publications, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2056305117725223.

Pentak, Amanda. “26 Times ‘The Office’ Perfectly Understood Your Finals Week.” Buzzfeed, 16 Apr. 2016.

The Mega Data Center: A “Thundercloud”?

If the Internet were a highway, data would be its vehicles. The data centers, which house much of the Internet’s production, are the sprawling metropolises. In real terms, the centers are housed throughout the world, storing large parts of the data which span Mount Everest in discs several times over, if you can actually picture that. From Google’s colorful factory that looks like a children’s playground to Bahnhof’s wartime bunker, these buildings take care of valuable pieces of information to keep our lives rolling in this digital age. Unfortunately, a problem has arisen recently concerning energy use of these mega storage units. According to the Holt and Vonderau reading,” a single data center can require more power than a medium sized town”. By 2020,  it is predicted that they will use more carbon emissions than air travel. Do we have the energy to supply these key structures for not just now, but for the deep future? Climate change is an issue whether or not the President is overlooking it. What do you think, Hank Green?

 

As Davidson students, the “data center corridor” is right in our backyard in North Carolina with Google, Apple, and Facebook hubs. Only using four percent electricity from renewable sources could be absolutely awful for us in decades to come if the trend continues. As NC residents, it may be time to think about the harmful effects of the nearly astronomical lines of data using electricity that harms our environment. Fortunately, steps have been taken to maybe move us closer to the right track. Apple has installed a massive amount of solar panels at an NC location, and Google has been taking steps as well to promote environmentally-friendly data centers in areas around the world. If we can have these amazing data storage technologies along with green energy resources, we will truly have the best of both worlds.

Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuZDylVFbhs

Jennifer, and Patrick Vonderau. “Where the Internet Lives.” Signal Traffic, University of Illinois, 2015, pp. 71–93, courses.digitaldavidson.net/dig101-2017/documents/holt-whero-the-internet-lives-2015.pdf.

Wintermute Is Coming