by Kyle and Andrew

Jane McGonigal argues that in video game worlds we become idealized versions of ourselves–more creative, more outgoing – we perceive ourselves as better. Because the cost of social failure is so low, we are allowed to be bold and take a more aggressive and truthful approach than we would in a physical world. In our travelogue, we hope to look at this phenomenon in the context of in-game and out-of-game relationships. One of our goals is to try to catch a glimpse of how real people interact with others in games and how they perceive and react to these interactions.

Because we think games involve some form of simulation, like Frasca’s piece on Ludology describes, people who may deem themselves socially inept have a chance to interact in a new highly social space that is separate from the physical realm. McGonigal states that in video games, we are able to experience scenarios “beyond the threshold of imagination…and when you get there, you are shocked to discover what you are truly capable of” – an epic win. For McGonigal an epic win would be doing something large for the greater good. But these epic wins are currently being focused differently. For a lot of people, it is being able to create and maintain deep and meaningful bonds and friendships that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to create in other spaces.
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Blogging (see the video) has dramatically altered the concept of news from a purely professional endeavor to a phenomenon considered both professional and personal. The blog allows anyone to be a reporter and publisher, facilitating different versions of news, often for free. The blogging platform has revolutionized the way we share news and ideas by creating a universal media outlet for various people to express their diverse interests. Popular blogs like The Huffington Post cover world news while TechCrunch shares insights on new technology and gadgets. Unlike newspapers, blogs have the remarkable freedom to be topic-specific or to cover a wide spectrum of issues. Most importantly, however, is the power of the blogging personality. In “Breaking News: I’m Paid to Blog,” we take a look into how the ambiguous “professional blogger” constitutes a career, why professional blogging is difficult to isolate from journalism, and what remains as blogging’s distinct advantage over traditional press.

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With the advent of new technology, it seems our country is packing on the pounds. People spend more time in front of the computer or TV than they do outside, and the number of people working sedentary jobs has risen drastically over the past 20 years. Many think technology is to blame, as more and more people are connected online and spend an enormous amount of time communicating over the internet. However, the American Heart Association has created a website to combat this problem. Read the rest of this entry »

The advent of social media tools has revolutionized the way people communicate. Through the Internet, people around the world are more connected and able to organize based on interests and activities. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow people to have virtual relationships that may or may not translate into real world relationships. This new dynamic has forced marketers to adapt their strategies to accommodate these technologies in order to reach consumers.

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There may have not been Facebook in the 1970s, but the human concern for privacy is timeless. In 1974, Columbia University professor Alan Westin conducted surveys about privacy and concluded with the result that most participants were privacy fundamentalists (those with high concerns) or privacy pragmatists (those with medium concerns). Now, put internet in the picture. Privacy and the internet don’t really go hand in hand. People will tell you cautionary tales about that – “once it’s on the internet…!” Yup, you’ve heard the horror stories. No, really, if you don’t want to share certain information, DON’T SHARE IT.

As you may have noticed, Facebook constantly changes its privacy policy. But what exactly are some of the changes? It seems that when a layout change occurs, people pay attention and give their time of day to explore the new settings, but notifications about new privacy policies aren’t given too much thought. When Facebook started out, your information was viewable by friends and people in your network (such as a school network).We observed the transformations across the years on this timeline. Facebook started in 2005 with the policy that “No personal information that you submit to The Facebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.” Five years later (by April 2010), it’s become “When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. …” and ended on the note that “If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.” There goes your privacy! Read the rest of this entry »

Legions of the Underground will do little to alter the existing conditions and much to endanger the rights of hackers around the world. Declaring ‘war’ against the country is the most irresponsible thing a hacker group could do. This has nothing to do with hacktivism or hacker ethics and is nothing a hacker could be proud of.
- 2600, the Chaos Computer Club, L0pht, Heavy Industries, Phrack, Toxyn, Cult of the Dead Cow, Pulhas, and !Hispahack (1999)

We quickly discovered while studying hacktivism that a coherent and consistent definition is an enigma. Maybe this is a reflection of the decentralized and deeply individualized medium that plays host to it, or maybe it’s due to its sheer newness. In our research, we were able to identify two major motivations in work that self-identifies as hacktivism: the values of activism and street protest and the ethics dominant in hacker culture. In their book Hactivism and Cyberwars: Rebels with a Cause?, Tim Jordan and Paul Taylor identify these two strains as mass action hacktivism and digitally correct hacktivism, respectively. We will explore this terminology further in later sections, but it is important to note that Jordan and Taylor base their distinction on the hacktivist’s relationship to an inherently disembodied cyberspace. In their view, digitally correct hacktivists embrace this feature of cyberspace, whereas mass action hacktivists counter it by attempting to populate this space with embodied agents. To be clear, the two aren’t meant to be hard and fast divisions, nor could they be. In fact, most hacktivist activity could be argued to demonstrate elements of both. However, these categories do provide a useful analytical framework for examining hacktivist actions.

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