October 24, 2007
It's not just a guy thing...
After discussing the infamous sperm donor who was so thrilled with his achievements, I was curious to find out if this type of "reproductive pride" was exclusively a male phenomenon. Unfortunately, it's not. Take a look at "Queen Bee 1993," a.k.a "the Fallopian Phenomenon" in this YouTube video.
October 22, 2007
The Open Content Alliance
The New York Times ran an article today entitled "Major Libraries rejecting deals on online books: Some Shun Tech Giants: Googe and Microsoft Offered Scanning, With Restrictions." The article stated that research libraries such as the Boston Public Library and the Smithsonian Institution have opted to sign on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit which makes online books widely available. In contrast, Google, which has signed with libraries like the libraries at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford, restricts material from other search services.
The full article is at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/technology/22library.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin.
The Open Content Alliance is run by a group of benefactors who cover the cost of scanning books (about $30/book), and they make the content available to all search services. For more information, their website is http://www.opencontentalliance.org/.
I think that the University of Michigan is making a grave mistake by signing with google. The goal of a library is to provide information to the public; by restricting information in the interest of commercial concerns, the library is not fulfilling its duty. Perhaps, if possible they should consider the benefits of signing with the Open Content Alliance.
October 16, 2007
Heatlh and Happiness
Our class discussion on happiness prompted me to consider what affects one's happiness. I came to the conclusion that health often has a profound impact on happiness. I decided to explore this relationship by creating several YouTube videos. Please feel free to view them at my YouTube website.
October 11, 2007
Radiohead's New Business Model
The band Radiohead is making its new album, "In Rainbows," available online for the price of...whatever the buyer wants to pay. Radiohead, who road-tested the songs from "In Rainbows" in 2006, tolerates live bootlegs, so many Radiohead fans have been listening to these songs for over a year now. However, the entire edited album is just becoming available. Since Radiohead is no selling its album under a record label, the band decided to try something new.
Given that most listeners no longer pay for music anyways (they download it online regardless of copyright infringements), Radiohead's new business model could be rvolutionary. Though some buyers will not pay a fair price for the album, avid fans may spend greater amounts simply to establish themselves as diehard Radiohead fans. Furthermore, many people realize that in order for Radiohead to continue making albums, they must have some income. In the end, Radiohead will be worth what people are willing to give them.
Though this model may end up working for Radiohead, it is largely because of the band's previous success in the traditional music market. It would be very difficult for new bands, who presumably do not yet have avid fans, to sell CDs for whatever price the buyer names. Therefore, this "pay what you like" system does not solve all of the music industry's woes. But at least some individuals in the music industry realize that they must change with the digital age in order to survive.
By the way, if you are interested in Radiohead's new album, you can buy it at http://inrainbow.com.
October 04, 2007
Myanmar is Offline
Those of you who have been following the situation in Myanmar know that political unrest and protests have dominated this small nation in recent weeks. The military government has responded by cracking down on protestors, notably peaceful monks marching in the streets.
The most recent crackdown is directed at technology: the generals running Myanmar shut down the Internet. According to the New York Times:
"Until Friday television screens and newspapers abroad were flooded with scenes of tens of thousands of red-robed monks in the streets and of chaos and violence as the junta stamped out the biggest popular uprising there in two decades. But then the images, text messages and postings stopped, shut down by generals who belatedly grasped the power of the Internet to jeopardize their crackdown."
(For the whole article go to http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/world/asia/04info.html)
This incident reminded me of the incredible role the internet plays in global communication. The internet can be very useful in fighting oppression, especially in isolated places like Myanmar, by informing the global community of a crisis. We see this theory in practice with internet games like "Save Darfur," which seeks to inform people of the genocide taking place in Sudan. Learning of a situation is the first step towards doing something about it.
Myanmar does not yet have a game. Its internet content was purely information about the current, tragic events its people are suffering. Without the ability to share this information, I am afraid the situation for the people in Myanmar can only get worse. My hope is that enough images and postings are already online, so that the global community will not forget the people of Myanmar.
October 03, 2007
"...this book is about an effect of the Internet beyond the Internet
itself: an effect upon how culture is made. My claim is that the
Internet has induced an important and unrecognized change in that
process. That change will radically transform a tradition that is as old as the Republic itself. Most, if they recognized this change, would reject it. Yet most don’t even see the change that the Internet has introduced."
-Lessig "Fee Culture"
I agree with Lessig that the impact of the internet is indeed radical. Moreover, his notion that non-commercial culture is being regulated for the first time in our nation's history is alarming. That is, with the advent of the internet, what is free and what is regulated comes into question. Internet users must constantly ask themselves, is this "sharing" or "piracy"?
Lessig states: "we are less and less a free culture, more and more a permission culture." By this he means that the protection of non-commercial culture has gone too far. Individuals are no longer able to create without permission by the law. And those who want to develop a creator's ideas are restricted. If this continues, the development of ideas and the growth of our culture could be significantly hindered.
I do believe that there needs to be some regulation when it comes to sharing ideas and information. A creator should receive credit for his or her ideas. And yet, ideas should be shared so as to benefit society as a whole and not just the initial creator. Perhaps new ideas can build on old ones. After all, why come up with ideas if no one is going to use them?
In summary, I would like to say that I appreciate Lessig making his ideas so readily available to us. I think that by sharing them, he is making a positive impact on our culture.
October 02, 2007
Comments on Self Empowerment and Games
For those who want to feel self empowered, here is a link to my Scratch project: http://scratch.mit.edu/galleries/view/6114
Feel free to empower yourself further by adding to my gallery. Certainly, becoming a creator will make one feel empowered. As the initial creator, I may feel an even greater power. However, perhaps by allowing others to add to and/or edit my gallery, I relinquish some of this initial power. And yet I am still credited with a type of ownership, just as any writer or artist "owns" his or her work even though the work may be cited and used by others at a later time.
In regards to the games "Darfur is Dying," "Stop Disasters!" and "Food Force" (all available online), my reaction is mixed. I understand the desire to inform people about Darfur, natural disasters, and food scarcity. However, should we make games out of such serious dilemmas? In "Darfur is Dying," for example, the player must hide in a refugee camp, save a girl from rape, search for scarce water sources, etc. Although these are all real problems for many Darfur refugees, I wonder how they might feel having their lives turned into a game? Might it be slightly demeaning to have one's daily life be played by another person? The same questions arise when we play games to stop natural disasters. Should we not be taking such action in the "real world," rather than make a game out of the situation?
And yet I do understand that some people are uninformed of the situation in Darfur or natural disasters, and these games might inform them. But they might also trivialize the situation. Perhaps some sort of disclaimer should go along with these games saying that THEY ARE A REALITY.