Tag Archives: Media

We Create Polite Society

When I first ran across Gamergate, I thought it was a joke. It had to be. What kind of person gets upset when women get better representation in video games? Also, there was no evidence that the game industry was under any kind of threat from governments, feminists, or anyone else. It’s not like you got stopped at the airport for carrying a play station vita or anything like that.

The more I heard about Gamergate, the more dismayed I became. The harassment, the doxxing, and the terror threats were bad enough. What really crushed my faith in humanity was that so many more people were willing to believe that all of the threats against female developers were just a fabrication of a vast feminist conspiracy. One or two deranged wackos is one thing, but to have thousands of people building and supporting the narrative that makes all this insanity possible? It makes you want to quit the internet entirely.

If only it were that easy. Last week we saw the results of another internet-borne narrative with the attack on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. ISIS, the terrorist group claiming ties to the attack, is famous for its internet video propaganda, which media outlets are only too happy to spread.

So what can we do? If we start banning speech from the internet, we go back on our most basic democratic values. If we just let people listen to stuff like this, they can just stay in their echo chamber until shooting up a newspaper sounds like a great idea.

The only thing we can do is make more speech. Make OUR speech. The thing that Gamergate and ISIS have in common is that they both used the internet, the most advanced communication system in history, to make themselves heard. And the key word here is USED. They created forums, tweets, youtube videos, wikis, anything and everything possible to make sure that their word was the only one out there.

We have these tools too. We simply choose not to use them. Maybe it’s a lack of technical expertise. Maybe we tell ourselves that we have better things to do. Maybe we are just afraid no one will hear us. The truth is that when we post online, even if it’s something simple like “I like artsy Japanese video games”, we create knowledge. In this case, I am acknowledging the existence of artsy Japanese video games, and that I, being the person that I am, like them. It also creates a safe space, however small, for anyone else who likes artsy Japanese video games.

The point of this is that I am exercising a small bit of control over what other people can see and hear. The reason that movements like Gamergate exist is that their members produce enough content for someone to get completely immersed in their message. If we are creating our own messages that carry our own values, we can break that immersion. Media is not just for consumption any more. We decide what is on our screens now. We control the values, we control the content, and we create polite society.

Nerd Rage

On Friday, February 12th, my wife watched as 188 grade sevens experienced their first Nerd Rage. The Percy Jackson movie was compromised beyond repair. The Greek mythology was messed with for no apparent reason. Some totally sweet battles from the book were cut out entirely. The suspected evil mastermind from the book was the actual evil mastermind in the movie, stripping away layers of complexity and character from the story like turpentine on a Monet.

How long does Disney, Sony or Dreamworks think they can keep bilking kids out of their allowance money this way? When the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potters of the world pack as much of the books as they can on celluloid and make billions in the process, how is it that film producers still believe they can make more money by appealing to a larger audience? Disney, like most of the corporate world, thinks they can get by with the factory approach to film-making. Create a product that will please the most people, because more people means more money. That approach worked in the days of Ma Bell and Johnny Carson, but we now live in a time where you can’t own all the media channels, and the equipment to make a movie can be bought with your average credit card. The market is completely open for a few true believers to take Disney’s customers away forever.

Facebook Sharing is Up, User Activity is down

Fast Company posted an article on some revealing statistics about facebook users. While the total number of links, videos, and content are going up, the number of users actually sharing that content is going down. This should come as no surprise, since many online communities go through these kinds of usage curves (see The 90-9-1 Rule).

So once again, a social network has been taken over by a core contingent of oversharers. And farmville. Don’t forget farmville. If this is a stage that all web 2.0 sites go through, why do we bother with them in the first place? With the price of hosting going down every year, what’s to stop people who want to share links with their numerous friends from taking market share from these social media giants with sites of their own?

The Captain Planet Cocktail Mark I

I attempted to create this drink last night at a New Year’s party. The recipe was improvised, the ratio imprecise, but this version ends up tasting like a graham cracker with lemon, much like the ironic nostalgia that inspired it.

Kahlúa (Earth)
Spiced rum (Fire)
Nigori Sake (Wind)
Vodka (Water)
Yuzu liqueur (Heart)
Red bull (Your powers combined)

No2010 and the Death of the Left

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan

-John Lennon

Last week the Olympic Flame was diverted from its intended path in front of the BC Legislature by protesters. The downtrodden and disenfranchised of this province rose together in glorious revolution to disrupt an integral cog in the all-consuming Olympic machine – the photo op.

Every time I see the No2010 protesters on the news, I am filled with armrest-ripping rage when I see their flakey, malnourished leaders make  a speech on the evils of capitalism. Is it because I’m just shy of my 30th birthday? Is it because my factory farm fed existence is being threatened? Have I sold out to the corporate machine, put on a blazer and started selling real estate?

Not exactly. Well, at least I’m not selling real estate. I’ve been following protests like these in the news since the so-called “Battle of Seattle” at the meeting of the G8 countries in 1999. In that time, wars have broken out, oil prices have skyrocketed, the cost of computer storage has plummeted, and every year these protests seem to be less about affecting actual  change and more about making noise and ruining things.

The Olympics are a particular sore spot for me because it is only tangentially related to the problems the protesters are trying to address.  Are any of the torch runners greedy land developers? Did any of the snowboarders widen the sea to sky? Should the Olympic flame be blown out as Terry Fox’s mother might carry it to the podium? Most of the people involved with the Olympics are simply trying to achieve their hopes and dreams. Disrupting that proves nothing. If the protesters are complaining that society sees them and the poor as human garbage, they do themselves no favors by acting the part.

You might say that making an out-dated and kyriarchal sporting event slight less enjoyable is a small price to pay in the never-ending class war between the rich and the poor. Over time these efforts will result in the anarchist paradise that supposedly we’re all hoping for. But let me ask you this.  Is there any mention on the No2010 website of actually talking to government officials? Will they be sending any bills to Parliament? The Legislature? City Council? Strata Council? Are they knocking on any doors? Raising campaign funds? I must admit I haven’t been looking all that hard. There’s only so much rhetoric I can take at one time. I did find a lovely Riot 2010? Riot Now! pamphlet, though.

Even if No2010 achieved its goal of stopping the Olympics, then what would happen? There never seems to be any plan with these movements, be it No2010, the Green Party, the Marijuana Party, or even the current NDP. I think that there is such deep-seated hatred of authority in these organizations that any kind of leadership or coordination is immediately shouted down. Meanwhile, the BC Liberals will probably be in power for the next 100 years. You can be sure they will pass any dumb idea that the Fraser Institute can cough up. It’s not because the Liberals are necessarily on the take. By the time the Fraser Insitute presents an idea for a bill, they’ve got all sorts of studies and petitions that make the legislature’s job much easier. The only people who even pay attention to protesters are running paranoid military juntas. Canada is nothing of the sort, so we’d do best to start acting like it.