This episode is about the current trend of online culture, games, and how that can be used as a vehicle for social activism and awareness. The two videos are from 2008, so a little dated, but they outline perfectly the trend we have been seeing in recent years. The integration of real life into games and vice versa.
The first talk is by Clay Shirky delivered at the Web 2.0 conference back in 08. Shirky talks about the idea of cognitive surplus. The huge amount of free time that we as Americans are blessed with, yet squander needlessly. He drops some scary statistics on TV watching, building to his beautifully simple statement "it's better to do something than to do nothing". (16 min)
What I love about this talk is shift to positivist thinking. No longer is the internet a mess of uncoordinated data and childish humor, it's the nascent form of something great. Maybe, yes, it's infantile in parts, but there are sparks of brilliance like wikipedia that shine through.
The second talk is from the New Yorker Conference that same year. Jane McGonigal, the force behind the experimental MMO Superstruct, talks about the history, psychology, and future of gaming. She nails down some of the theoretical notions that Shirky brings up, and illustrates just how effective utilizing the cognitive surplus can be. (15 ish minutes)
Saving the World Through Game Design
I want to work at IFTF. McGonigal's next project is a game called Evoke. Its again a social MMO, designed at solving real life problems.
"Our goal: to empower young people all over the world, and especially in Africa, to start tackling the world’s toughest problems: poverty, hunger, sustainable energy, water security, conflict, disaster relief, health care, education, human rights."
It launches in March 2010, so sign up now to become a part of it, it could be really interesting.
The last entry in this eposide is a post on the Wired blog Beyond the Beyond. The blog is authored by novelist and Fururist, Bruce Sterling. Sterling is an interesting character, he not only helped to define the Cyberpunk genre, but co-authored with William Gibson The Difference Engine, the seminal work of the Steampunk sub-genre.
What Sterling alludes to is an idea brought up by Skirky and McGonigal, Crowd Sourcing. The technique of pulling knowledge from a common database, rather than an 'academic'. It is the idea that fuels open forums, and projects like Wikipedia. It functions on the assumption that the cream naturally rises to the top, and that the shit sinks to the bottom.
There of course also a darker side to this type of "internet meme ooze" that Sterling mentions timidly; crowd sourcing can rewrite history. Rumors, if they are told by enough people, and they resonate enough with the reader, become part of history. Indeed it is clear that a battleground is forming. On one side you have the guerrilla troops of 4chan and the like trying to undermine authority, and on the other you have the corporate publicity machines attempting to right their image. In the middle of this the internet academics are maintain some sense of credibility.
Atemporality for the Creative Artist
"I think there is a large hole there that could be filled, from an atemporal perspective. Not at the lowest end of artistic expression, but way up at the top philosophical end."
Throw out grand historical narratives, or pull them apart anachronistically, fill them up with relevance, because dignifying them does no good to anyone. Post-Modernism was a cute jab to the ribs, 'look how clever I am when I mix old and new'. Well fuck that, that's old school. I want to mix past, present and future. Mash it up so much you'll forget whether this is old or new, to the point it becomes irrelevant. To the point that all that matters is your visceral reaction. Forget post-modernism, it's time for Atemporality!
This is a 30 minute lecture that goes a little deeper in to the game world. It is a talk delivered by Carnegie Mellon Professor Jesse Schell. It gets technical and numerical at points but ends with some comical speculation about the world of disposable technology and omnipresent games.