November 30, 2009

Games With Ex Post Facto Lawmaking [11:48 am]

Court sides with Govt in detainee photo case (pdf)

The Supreme Court has thrown out an appeals court ruling ordering the disclosure of photographs of detainees being abused by their U.S. captors.

In doing so Monday, the high court cited a recent change in federal law that allows the pictures to be withheld.

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November 25, 2009

Speechless! [10:27 am]

No, truly — Video: man in Japan weds anime game character [via Boing Boing]

Sal9000 is an active member of the Nico Nico Douga community, so it was important to him that his offbeat wedding ceremony was broadcast on the site. The footage seen here of Sal and Nene tying the knot between real and virtual is a highly imaginative, multimedia project orchestrated by a guy determined to officiate his devotion to his video game, and to pay homage to the otaku subculture that nurtures this type of creativity.

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November 24, 2009

Saving Content? At What Cost? [7:38 am]

While it’s easy to understand what Murdoch is trying to do, it’s really difficult to see that it’s going to be a win-win. What *is* the price elasticity of demand for content? For news? I can easily imagine that this actually makes online news content less valuable — if you can’t find it through Google, it may simply be time to turn on the radio/TV instead. After all, *reading* news has never been the preferred avenue; it’s just become the most timely for many. Take it off Google, put it behind a pay-wall, and it loses timeliness — because it’s hard to imagine that it won’t eventually get online, just not in a timely fashion.

News Corp. Weighs an Exclusive Alliance With Bing - NYTimes.com

Microsoft has been in early discussions with the News Corporation, the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, about a pact to pay the News Corporation to remove links to its news content from Google’s search engine and display them exclusively on Bing, from Microsoft, according to a person briefed on the matter who spoke anonymously because of the confidential negotiations.

If such an arrangement came to pass, it would be a watershed moment in the history of the Internet, and set off a fierce debate over the future of content online.

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November 23, 2009

Commensuration, Computing and Algorithms [9:09 am]

Currents - Are Metrics Blinding Our Perception? (pdf)

Computers have become an extension of us: that is a commonplace now. But in an important way we may be becoming an extension of them, in turn. Computers are digital — that is, they turn everything into numbers; that is their way of seeing. And in the computer age we may be living through the digitization of our minds, even when they are offline: a slow-burning quantification of human affairs that promises or threatens, depending on your outlook, to crowd out other categories of the imagination, other ways of perceiving.

Maybe, although the complexities of metrics go well beyond what this article discusses. For example, see this Clay Shirky speculation on authority: A Speculative Post on the Idea of Algorithmic Authority

The social characteristic of deciding who to trust is a key feature of authority — were you to say “I have it on good authority that Khotyn is a town in Moldova”, you’d be saying that you trust me to know and disclose that information accurately, not just because you trust me, but because some other group has vouched, formally or informally, for my trustworthiness.

This is a compressed telling, and swerves around many epistemological potholes, such as information that can’t be evaluated independently (”I love you”), information that is correct by definition (”The American Psychiatric Association says there is a mental disorder called psychosis”), or authorities making untestable propositions (”God hates it when you eat shrimp.”) Even accepting those limits, though, the assertion that Khotyn is in Moldova provides enough of an illustration here, because it’s false. Khotyn is in Ukraine.

And this is where authority begins to work its magic. If you told someone who knew better about the Moldovan town of Khotyn, and they asked where you got that incorrect bit of information, you’d have to say “Some guy on the internet said so.” See how silly you’d feel?

Now imagine answering that question “Well, Encyclopedia Britannica said so!” You wouldn’t be any less wrong, but you’d feel less silly. (Britannica did indeed wrongly assert, for years, that Khotyn was in Moldova, one of a collection of mistakes discovered in 2005 by a boy in London.) Why would you feel less silly getting the same wrong information from Britannica than from me? Because Britannica is an authoritative source.

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November 9, 2009

Gaming Regulation and Government Policy [8:32 am]

Chinese Agencies Struggle Over Video Game (pdf)

On Monday, the Chinese General Administration of Press and Publication ordered the Shanghai-based operator of World of Warcraft, NetEase, to shut down its servers for World of Warcraft. The agency said that it had rejected the company’s application to become the new host of the game’s four million Chinese players.

But by Wednesday, the Ministry of Culture had struck back.

“In regards to the World of Warcraft incident, the General Administration of Press and Publication has clearly overstepped its authority,” a ministry official, Li Xiong, was quoted as saying in the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper in Beijing. “They do not have the authority to penalize online gaming.”

The ministry said it had that authority. And it said NetEase was perfectly free to offer the game on computers in China. The matter now appears destined for settlement by the State Council, the Chinese government’s cabinet.

Such bureaucratic hair-pulling might seem petty, were so much not at stake. Why the authority to regulate video games should trigger such a fracas is not altogether clear. But on its face, the defining aspect of the dispute involves money.

The online gaming industry in China is already huge, and growing fast. About 50 million people crowd the Internet cafes of China on a regular basis to play. Revenues in 2008 rose about 50 percent to at least $2.9 billion, according to Alicia Yap, a Hong Kong analyst for Citi Investment Research and Analysis. That is 10 times the revenue of just five years ago. IDC, a research company, has predicted that annual revenue will reach $6 billion by 2013.

In that context, the question of who decides what games go online — and how they decide — looms large. It is perhaps especially important for game makers outside China, who have had trouble cracking the vast Chinese market.

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