Sunday, April 29, 2007

Social Implications Of Online Gaming

One of the topics that we touched on this semester that I found shocking and sometimes amazing was the world of Internet gaming; something that I had never tried or participated in. My participation is still limited by only creating a Second Life account of which I still have yet to explore all of the possibilities.

The most intriguing thing, from a researcher perspective is how integrated most of these online world have become in some people's lives as their main form of income, entertainment and a social outlet. The scope that I would like to examine is the social outlet. Why gaming? isn't it more valuable to have face to face communication?

Well it turns out that while I was completing some research for an independent marketing firm in the area that was examining the World of War craft environment to gain some market perspective on this relatively new phenomenon, it was pointed out to me that the demographic not only consists of "highly intelligent males in their late teens-mid twenties". This is of course the tip of the ice burg and pretty much everyone from all walks of life participate in these games, but for the most part this demographic will be the one I explore in an attempt to understand the motives and reasoning for the vast growth and real world implications that have occurred in lue of face to face communication.

From this research perspective it is important not only to evaluate the good and the bad. Some of the positive implications from gaming are:
Broadening a social network that can potentially span the globe.
The potential to have monetary gain (Second Life).
WOW there is potential for monetary gain from competitions as well.
Having the availability to not only play online, but communicate to each other verbally and live.
The games can bring others into a social circle that otherwise wouldn't have ever met.
The gamers have a common interest and therefore a common bond; belonging to a community.

On the other hand some of the negative implications are as follows:
All computer mediated communication; lack of face to face communication which could lead to misrepresentation or less depth in the relationships (pseudo-friends).
This can potentially become addictive, with common reports of gamers playing for extended periods of time.
Due to the time spent, people lack real world communication skills by dedicating their efforts to the online communities.
The lack of communication skills in the real world could lead to introversion and limiting the potential for developing real world relationships.
Also it is possible that people carry over their game life to real life. (examples of this were displayed in class by a gamer killing themselves "to be with his characters in the game" or when a gamer sold a highly revered item in WOW on eBay that was loaned to him. The person who loaned out the item retaliated with murder.

These are some Pros and Cons associated with the new way to communicate and have become some hot button issues in the news today. As a newly developed community there are many avenues yet to be explored and nobody is really sure what will happen either it be good or bad. Social researchers are paying close attention as these gamers grow in numbers and incidents of success and social support find their way to the medias as well as the stories of murder and addiction also surface. Where the trend is going is still unclear, all that we know for sure is that more people are signing on to play now more than ever.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Net Economies

When attempting to think of an economy that I actively participate online with, other than a commodity driven economy with monetary gain, the best I could think of are my class discussion boards.

An open source software web site; a pro gift economy web site states that, "gifts that an individual might offer in large or even unlimited amounts to a community, into the gift economy, we need to look beyond traditional units of account like hours and dollars, and cultivate the greater "forest" in which individuals who give unlimited or immense quantities of their particular gifts and services would be compensated not with exact amounts of money but with sufficient reciprocal gifts from other community members"(

With this definition that is on a more grandiose scale than my example, but never the less the same principal. The gift economy that I participate in; discussion boards, follows suit as a gift economy by following the principal of reciprocation. For example when preparing for the exam and if you miss notes or need a little help with an assignment you can shout out at your class and hope that someone out of kindness will respond. Often people do respond too, but sometimes they expect you to reciprocate the favor.

Kollack discusses gift economies in a group setting, "While a balanced reciprocacy with a particular individual may not be possible, there is a sense that the balance might occur within the group as a whole" (Kollack, 2).

First of all in this type of setting you may or may not experience an exchange with one individual. As said before, a person may ask for something in return, yet there is no explicit obligation to repay. On the other hand if someone simply helps you out they may get information and another juncture from another member of the class. The ultimate hope is that when you do help someone else they will either be willing to help you or contribute to others. In the most perfect of conditions everyone would contribute to make the ultimately best source of information. That is also an idea that helps support the credibility of Wikipedia, which could fall under the category of a public good and a gift economy.

Kollack describes the idea that reciprocacy can be of a service or idea, but this author still believes that being able to quantify the value of the "gift" makes it worthwhile.
"What happens if there is no tangible return or rewards are not quantifiable? I suggest that the gift economy weakens and content providers seek more than just intangible rewards — reciprocity in the form of tangible compensation" (Synergic Earth News,Veale,1).

I agree with this to a sense as well, however personal value or appreciation for information or an virtual good may simply out weigh the costs of being able to quantify its worth. A discussion board still could be quantifiable as monetary and a gain in grades. Here is my chain of thought:
You miss a class
You miss notes
You have quiz that you need full credit to pass the class
You get that information from a friendly classmate online
You pass the quiz
You pass the class
You don't waste your tuition, time invested or supply costs for the class.

Even using Veale's principal for a gift economy the discussion board still hold up, in fact if used properly its value can be immeasurable when it comes to learning more. You will have that forever, however as said before there are few situations where this Utopian idea of free exchange works to it's fullest potential for all of the users in an equal proportion.

Monday, April 23, 2007

1st Blog re-re do

I chose to talk about hypertext. A bit late now that i know the term and have realized that I have used this technology more times than I can count without knowing what I was doing was inserting hypertext into documents and slides or just clicking on them.

Hypertext, in its most frequently-used form, is text on a
computer which can be "clicked on" for more information on a subject. Hypertext is a relatively recent paradigm in computer user interfacing, attempting to overcome the old limitations of written text. Rather than remaining static like traditional text, hypertext will dynamically "branch or perform on request" taking the user to related subjects on demand (Nelson 1970). Thus, hypertext makes possible an organization of material through links and connections (called hyperlinks) which overcome the lack of interconnections in written or printed text.

This definition I did find interesting because it looks at broadening the horizons of text by making text itself interactive and multi layered.

1945- Memex is created, a fanciful idea that volumes of information could be stored at a desk top. Nelson and Engelbart took the idea further and developed the wonder of hypertext in its first stages in 1965 through the mid seventies. Small developments occurred that made leaps as far as the studies in hypertext went. In 1977 the first application of hypertext was used, further developments like "guide" allowed for the application to be available on personal computers (Wikipedia). Since this time hyperlinks have become a backbone to the Internet experience. Without hypertext a web page would just be a page and each document or related idea would therefore be separated in virtual space. With the use of hypertext the Internet has become a source of information with limitless depth and breadth of information.


The arguments over copyright infringement and protecting the rights of authors vs. public domain has been a long standing debate that is still making headlines today. The most recent mass media frenzy that made headlines for months was of course Napster and their run in with Metallica. As the Internet emerged as an source of downloading music, it cough the attention of the music industry and the big names that rely on the record sales to promote their business. Makes sense, but record sales in retrospect really weren't effected. In a study to compare the effect of record sales and music downloads it was found that "We match 0.01% of the world’s downloads to U.S. sales data for a large number of albums. To establish causality, we instrument for downloads using data on international school holidays and technical features related to file sharing. Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero."(Oberholzer-Gee, Strumpf, 1); the distribution of the music may have actually have been viewed as a promotional tool. What this topic boils down to... who decides what they can or can't do with something you have created?

This is the debate around copyright. Granted if you have a brilliant idea and someone takes that idea and capitalizes on it, wouldn't you feel robbed? What if you wanted to keep it a secret, even if it served the greater good of the public, and someone took your idea and benefited the world? Is stealing it right then?

According to the law it is, to an extent. Works that are not protected under the copyright law include "works in which the copyright has expired, some government created works, things expressly put in the public domain, and may include any "idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work" ((17 USC § 102b) Ovalle, 3).

Other works that do not fall in this category are protected depending on when it was created, available for renewal, etc.

I think that the fine line between what is public and what is private actually boils down to the creators intent and what they have in mind to do with whatever it is that they create. The only exemptions would apply to the government and medical/scientific fields that would aid in the advancement or survival of the overall human race. That is just my opinion. If you create it-it's yours and I think there should only be a few exemptions. "Fair use is codified in Title 17 Chapter 1 § 107.Fair use is an important exemption to a copyright holder's rights. Any use for "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research is not an infringement of copyright"(Ovalle, 6).

Now believe me, I like a free download just like the next guy and believe that the Utopian society would be a shared economy (really though- it can't work, people will only take advantage and capitalize on each other); you have to draw the line somewhere.

Ways to enforce and protect copyright infringement on the Internet are in place, but constantly face problems due to the various ways to create intellectual property that is really easy. Also there are limitless ways to download use, alter and change that property. It is difficult to regulate with all of these variables, but the rules still apply and it is still illegal to download or use copyrighted and protected material.

Friday, April 20, 2007


As I have been reading more into my project and more class material is presented i have noticed that essentially everything is tied together one way or another. For instance, one of these ties that I noticed a tie to are politics and journalism. Journalism plays the major role and touches on any topic of human interest, politics and a hot topic like net neutrality defiantly apply, which also could fall under the politics or journalism category. That is the general role of journalism; on the Internet journalism takes shape as a public way to communicate. Really, if you think about it so many possibilities and opportunities to reach out without very much effort and be able to organize and share oppinions, ideas, creative work, feelings, suggestions (it truly is endless the amount of information available).

Politics rely on communication. The platform and way that they present themselves are all forms of how they communicate their political ideas. This also applies to political groups too. The Internet provides a medium where citizen & professional journalists can communicate and have their ideas equally accessible to the world. Like minded folks can gain momentum and organize ideas in ways that were never possible. The turnaround is instant too, consider the possibilities. People can do a search for a topic like global warming and get involved by touching a button (and often there is no liability or real responsibility to back an idea and have your oppinion count. I think in general people are more informed.

On that note I have been happy to see citizen journalist as people who are making some great points and effecting a lot of people. A good example is Utube. Anyone can post and it is a very popular web site with a lot of visibility. If you make a good point or have anything to share that catches the eye of someone it can become a viral video. (hell Andy Milanarcus, I think that's his name, he has a show on MTV now because of his posts.)

People are effecting the process of information with their own lines of thought like never before and I think that is a related or "linked idea" to everything that we have discussed this semester, it is truly amazing.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Net Neutrality

The debate over net neutrality seems to have many points of interest and frankly I think that all parties involved have something valuable to offer and all should be equally accessible to all.

Net Neutrality-"The idea that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites and platforms equally"(Wikipedia; Tim Wu, Columbia Law).

The debate as it stands now is that Internet content providers are having to pay up for taking up too much band with. By taking up Verizon's or Time Warner's band with they are claiming the right to charge. The problem in that lies that competitors and select high traffic providers may get preference and those who are less popular will have to compensate with higher prices. It seams plausible in a capitalist world and everything costs something, right? Is band with included?

I do think that there is value to provide better quality service. Therefore there is value for band with and I can understand why they think they have the right to charge. My major issue is the control that these new found gatekeepers have. As mentioned in the article found in the Wall Street Journal, "A Battle for Control of the Web", Cox cable is brought up as being directly linked with limiting access to users for their direct competition. Sounds like a monopoly. Now the term monopoly sounds dated and synonymous for Rockefeller, but think of it... a monopoly is basically any type of industry that provides an essential service to the public. It is usually in high demand (the Internet is in high demand & so is the information on it) and they have total control of what where who when and how it is distributed or in this case viewed. I think if these providers that think they can start to charge and not expect the entire industry to run into some major issues and customer complaints.

It seems that every ones interest is at stake because we are all susceptible to having our right to public information being kept private because our provider doesn't happen to do business with because NEWS XYZ is their competitor. Also as the professionals who drive the advancement in the field the topic is of special interest because they fear that it will limit progress to the technology itself, but also the information that the Internet provides. Oh yeah did I mention 1st amendment rights?

Overall I think it is quite clear my stance with network neutrality. There is a bigger picture here and I am sad to say that companies that want to charge or pick and chose who they allow access to is just another way to nickle and dime everyone. It isn't worth making service better for a few who can afford it, all content on the Internet has equal priority just as those who chose to view it do. And anyways how does your local service provider know what you want to look for, so why should they choose what you can access?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Second Life

Well overall my second life experience is pretty slow. It is probably my computer but other wise second life world is pretty fascinating. I was impressed immediately by the depth of rules and expectations in this virtual world. Not only does it mimic common courtesy of the real world it is essential to maintaining an open environment where creativity can be shared without the threat of being harassed or compromised. In short you still have your own privacy and rights just like in life.
I am still trying to get a grasp on how Second Life works and how much it actually involves. I am not that involved in the whole programming thing so it is difficult for me to really wrap my head around it.
I have to say though I do not usually have major issues on my computer, it is a bit slow, however SL continuously crashed. I did read a notice about the system crashing but I did find that to be disappointing.
The concept of SL is pretty interesting though; there are many ways to interact on a social level or on a professional level and people are surprisingly paying a lot of money for virtual property. I stepped into an auction online and it was going for $2,500.00. To me that is a jaw dropper and I suppose the most intriguing part of it all to me. 270 Linden Dollars is equal to one US dollar, approximately. I am very curious as to how people can justify purchasing virtual property-but the fact that people do buy it makes me want to start creating.
I think that as the program and the programmers (Linden Lab) create a more and more developed world with more real world relevance it can be used as a tool in lue of actually meeting with people. I am timid to expect that everyone uses this virtual world as an actual means of living a life. I was impressed at first by the volume of people that have logged onto SL but in reality there are not that many everyday users who actually spend a considerable amount of time online. Wikipedia pointed about that many users are non-active accounts and the real representation of users is closer to 20,000-30,000 people in a given day; definitely still notable. I am curious to follow where SL goes to and there is more improvements on the way, including real time voice between avatars. That would be interesting to see and experience. Like I said SL has promise and is obviously getting a lot of attention from the public, if it were just a bit more practical or applicable in day to day activity it would really take off.