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Wii – Video games PROMOTING physical activity

December 15th, 2009 1 comment

For over two decades, video games have been blamed for the steadily increasing number of overweight and obese American children.  Unreliant on fair weather conditions and friends to participate, children are able to “play” without exerting any energy or engaging in social, yet physical activity – or rather, they were until the Nintendo Wii came along.

My father asked me this weekend to pick up a Wii console as family Christmas gift. I thought the idea to be ridiculous at first. I knew my father and brother would get a ton of us out of the thing, but I’ve always been more of a gym junkie than a gamer. My mother certainly wouldn’t have any reason to use the thing, I thought.

I’ll admit now that I’m actually pretty damn excited to open the Wii and get it running in two weeks. The Wii console includes the “Sports” package, with tennis, bowling, baseball, golf and boxing already loaded. The game’s design encourages the player to physically move his/her body parts, simulating movements of a player engaged in the actual sport. Not only is the system incredibly accurate, but the movements required to perform well on the screen are almost as vigorously demanding as they would be outside!

The Wii Fit and fitness games are also offered. I picked up a pilates video to share with my mom, in hopes that the digital workouts and pilates exercises would act as substitutes for rainy days when running outside is difficult.

I’ll add that I’m battling a head cold this week, one that’s prevented me from hitting the gym – not because my sick body isn’t capable of physical activity, but because don’t wish to share my germs with the healthy. The Wii system will allow me to continue to exercise in confinement when I come down with any future illnesses.

One has to wonder, if the Wii is now enabling an individual to stay active 24/7, unreliant on the weather, gym hours, or work out buddies, is it actually a superior mode of exercise? My, have we changed our playing fields!

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Twidroid Review

December 13th, 2009 1 comment

twidroidI picked up the MyTouch G3 about a month ago on a whim.  I was fueled by my recent desire for a phone that allows me to access Twitter a little more effectively than Virgin Mobile’ ARC.

Twidroid is the a third-party application for Twitter.  It was developed by Ralph Zimmerman and Thomas Marban for use on the Android Operating System.  Twidroid is available for free on Android’s market, which is accessible through the phone and from a computer.  Mashable.com, “the world’s largest blog focused exclusively on Web 2.0 and Social Media news,” (said themselves) rated Twidroid as one of the best free Twitter applications for the Android.  How could I say “no” to something so highly regarded?  And free?

Before I continue, let me say that my photos were taken with a digital camera.  Getting screenshot software to work was more complicated than I imagined and I just don’t have the knowledge or time to deal with the process.

Once opened, Twidroid presents itself in a rather straight forward manner.  Tweets are displayed on the majority of the screen while at the bottom are several icons:twidroid2*Photo courtesy of michael-lipson.com

This is the home screen.  To send a tweet, I just need to press on the speech bubble on the bottom bar, just right of the house.  At the top of the screen, a space will appear.  After tapping on that space, the G3 keyboard will appear at the bottom of the screen.  Now it’s just a matter of carefully entering whatever message I want with my clumsy fingers, but my problems with G3’s keyboard are for another post.

Pressing @ icon opens up my list of mentions, displayed in reverse chronological order.  The envelope icon shows my list of direct messages in a similar fashion.  The magnifying glass icon opens the searching tool with which I can search for other users and keyword.  The circular arrow on the far right refreshes whatever list I’m looking at, which is quite useful when I have the automatic refresh set for longer periods of time or when I’m engaged in a conversation that requires a certain degree of swiftness in replies.

To reply to other users’ tweets, I just press on the arrows to the right of their post and a menu will appear:

twittermenu

From here I am able to reply, look at their profile, favorite that user, retweet their post, send them a direct message, copy their tweet to my phone’s clipboard, share their tweet (email, Facebook, SMS), or report the user as spam.  The last two options aren’t visible in the picture, but the menu does scroll down.

The menu button on my G3 opens another menu on the bottom of the screen:

twitter submenu

From here I can choose to jump to the top of the tweet list, enter Twidroid settings, view my lists, view my profile, and exit Twidroid.  The “More” icon opens a sub menu containing access to my Twitter accounts, my favorite users, and an option to manage my lists, though List Management is an offer available to those who have Twidroid PRO (which users have to pay for).

Viewing my own profile on Twidroid is quite similar to viewing it on Twitter’s website: Twidroid displays personal information on the top, icon to the right, and tweets below whereas Twitter keeps the personal information confined to the far right.

twitter profile

The large similarities between Twitter  and Twidroid  allow more users to comfortably shift from one to the other without becoming confused by the interface differences.  In this particular case, the layout is simple enough to navigate without much prior knowledge of Twitter.com.  This can be done by simply exploring the application.  But that can be said of anything.  The best way to learn a new skill is by using it.  You’ll be clumsy and uncomfortable at first, but all new interfaces are reflective for while, and “even the most reflective interfaces tends toward transparency as a user becomes accustomed to it,” so sayeth Colin Brooke in Lingua Fracta, page 133.

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A Second look at Jenkins

December 9th, 2009 No comments

In earlier Writing for Electronic Communities class we discussed changes that need to be made to our collaborative essay.  I have been assigned the section on Remix culture and Youtube.  Prior to this essay, I had every little experience with the art of composing remix. I needed to do quite a bit of research to be able to discuss the components and issues of remixing existing works to create something new and unique.   I looked to scholars such as Henry Jenkins, Chuck Tyron, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Lawrence Lessig, Eduardo Navas, Nick Diakopoulos, and others.  I explored relevant intellectual property laws at the U.S. Copyright Office and World Intellectual Property Organization.

Jenkin’s Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, which I recently (re)explored in light of the this essay, provides an insightful look at remix and sampling. Jenkins, like many others seems, to feel that remixing should be encouraged and embraced.  This is particularly important in the education system where students can learn to analyze remixes and discuss what must be understood to compose a remix such as various materials and relevant copyright law.  Similarly, he discusses how “students learn by taking culture apart and putting it back together again” (p. 55).

Jenkins spent some time explaining the concept of influent and how this is similar to remixing in many ways.  He states, “the digital remixing of media content makes visible the degree to which all cultural expression builds on what has come before it” (p. 55). He discusses the artistic process and explains that artists do not create uninfluenced by other works.  Instead, they “build on, are inspired by, appropriate and transform other artist’s work…by tapping into a cultural tradition or by deploying the conventions of a particular genre” (p. 55). Jenkins points readers to Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey as a remix of Greek mythology and the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as a “mash up of stories and images from across the entire biblical tradition” (p. 56).

He explains the complex nature of remixing and its many components which may not be well understood by those who have not worked in this area.  Jenkins explains that successful sampling from “the existing cultural reservoir requires a close analysis of the existing structures and uses of this material; remixing requires an appreciation of emerging structures and latent potential meanings” (p. 58). This process may also include making relevant connections between sources that are not usually thought of as related.  Jenkins and the other before mentioned authors have given me much to consider when composing this section of the project.

Google helping newspapers?

December 9th, 2009 No comments

I recently retweeted Siva Vaidhyanathan’s link to Eric Schmidt’s op-ed, “How Google can help newspapers.” It’s a great article. For anyone that missed it, I’ve included the link here.

The article begins with how Schmidt envisions Internet technologies in five years, describing optimum speed and accessibility promised now, but not always available. He addressed the events we’ve witnessed – the death of the afternoon newspaper with the introduction of 24-hour news and the creation of hand-held technology with FREE access to whatever stories the consumer wants. But Eric Schmidt takes a very different approach from the article’s beginning. Online writing, valued for its free, easy and fast accessibility, Schmidt says, often isn’t any of the three.

“I can flip through pages much faster in the physical edition of the Journal than I can on the Web. And every time I return to a site, I am treated as a stranger,” he says.

While Schmidt values print as a preferred news source, he adds that newspapers, losing their revenue from advertisers to the Internet, are dwindling. Rather than blaming search engines such as Google for their failure, Schmidt says that newspapers should be embracing Google as just what they need to fight for existence.

“Google is a great source of promotion. We send online news publishers a billion clicks a month from Google News and more than three billion extra visits from our other services, such as Web Search and iGoogle. That is 100,000 opportunities a minute to win loyal readers and generate revenue—for free. In terms of copyright, another bone of contention, we only show a headline and a couple of lines from each story. If readers want to read on they have to click through to the newspaper’s Web site. (The exception are stories we host through a licensing agreement with news services.) And if they wish, publishers can remove their content from our search index, or from Google News.”

Schmidt also claims that Google recognizes that the many inaccuracies published, viewed, and linked to on the Internet create issues for the news consumer.

His solution:

“Google is serious about playing its part. We are already testing, with more than three dozen major partners from the news industry, a service called Google Fast Flip. The theory—which seems to work in practice—is that if we make it easier to read articles, people will read more of them. Our news partners will receive the majority of the revenue generated by the display ads shown beside stories.”

His (or rather, Google’s) ideas are great. Maybe the death of print news isn’t inevitable.

Not Thinking About Movies– It’s Not You, It’s Me

November 23rd, 2009 1 comment

Chuck Tryon’s “Reinventing Cinema” was a pretty cool read– an academic text about popular culture with an approachable style. I always liked this style, similar to some of the things I’ve read from Henry Jenkins. In part of his book, Tryon discusses recent developments that have served to shift the demographics of movie-watching. While movie-going habits have stayed rather steady overall, it seems that children with parents and teens make up the majority of movie-watchers. I am not not in that category, and am more a part of that geeky group that isn’t interested in the whole social aspect of having my movie viewing experienced compromised by a noisy crowd. I’d much rather rent a movie on Netflix, and watch it on my 40-inch Sony, with the surround sound turned up. At night, I’ll plug in headphones. The meddlesome cord is well-worth the inconvenience.

The movie theater, to me, is reminiscent of a time when most people had small televisions and VHS cassettes. Now that my technology recreates the experience of seeing a film well enough at home, I have no need to go to the theater. If I get a Blu-Ray player, I’ll have even less reason to go to the movies.

I really dislike the whole movie-going experience. I don’t get the $6 soda or the $7 popcorn. I understand the economics of the theater, but I don’t understand its appeal. The market should dictate the price of such items. I resent theater’s insistence on marking up their prices.

But really, I think it’s the ability to watch movies from the comfort of my home, and the ability to rewind if I missed something important, that makes home movie-viewing so much more compelling.

Then again, my Netflix account goes largely unused– I’ve had DVDs for close to a year, and haven’t sent them in yet. So I’m really rambling about nothing. But, you get the point. If I did watch movies, I’d watch them at home.

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The “New Moon” Craze.

November 21st, 2009 2 comments

Although I’d rather not bring it up at all, I think it’s particularly relevant to our discussion: I saw “New Moon” last night.  I haven’t seen “Twilight” and I have no interest in the genre at all, but my girlfriend enjoys it so I treated her to opening night.  It was my first opening night viewing since “Team America: World Police”, but this time, the theater was much more packed.  The audience was mostly teenage girls, but every so often I could spot a parent or a boyfriend who, like me, probably didn’t care about human-vampire romances.  I bought our tickets for the 10:46 show because every show between 4:15 and 10:45 was sold out, which was about seven shows.  I had never seen so many sold out and it made me curious as to how well the movie did elsewhere.

Once the movie ended and I made it back home sanity intact, I took a peek at some statistics.  A Huffington Post article reported the following:

According to online ticket seller MovieTickets.com, “New Moon” is the No. 1 Advance Ticket Seller of all time, surpassing “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” which previously held the title.

News organizations nationwide reported their local theatres selling out, with many camped out for hours to stake out their spot for the heavily-hyped midnight premiere. Before even hitting the screen, it was reported Thursday that more than 2,000 theatres sold out.

2,000 theaters being sold out by solely advanced ticket sales.  That’s simply amazing.  Also surprisingly, the opening day madness broke  the record previously held by the latest Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”  This was reported by the NY Daily News in their own midnight showing article, ‘New Moon’ Opening Night Sales: Box Office Breaks Record for Midnight Screenings. Some more facts from them:

  • “New Moon” raked in approximately $26.27 million in 3,514
  • “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” earned $22.2 million
  • “The Dark Knight” comes in third, having drawn in $18.5 million

Variety.com claims that “New Moon” made $72.7 million on its opening day, Friday, beating out “The Dark Knight”, which had $67.2 million.  This is amazing. “New Moon” more than doubled the opening day revenue of its predecessor, “Twilight,” which had about $36 million just a year ago.

So why in the world did “New Moon” do so well?  It all has to do with how “Twilight” dug out a new genre and created for itself a entire world of merchandising possibilities.  The incompleteness of the movie allows for fans to construct their own interpretations, carry the movie’s ideas along new paths, and gives the creators of the movie room to expand and build upon their work.  Chuck Tryon in “Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence,” explains the incompleteness of “The Matrix” which inspired the creation of a huge franchise involving, “video games, comics books, and online communities and alternative reality games” (29).  The popularity of “Twilight” was propelled by fan blogs, entertainment blogs, and, unlike “The Matrix” which appealed more to online-gaming (The Matrix Online), spawned series after series of published novels.  Visit the Barnes and Noble in Deptford, NJ, and swing by the Teen section (which is next to Writing References, oddly), and you’ll see several bookshelves paying homage to “Twilight”‘s ideas.

The Great Yogurt in “Spaceballs” had said, “Merchandising! Merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made!”  Today, we accept this truth without thinking about it too much.  Much of the merchandise falls into the standard categories, such as t-shirts, book covers, and posters, but as the fan base grows, a certain percentage tends to become more devoted, which always results in stranger merchadise.  This is not specific to the “Twilight” series, though.  We can see the same thing with any film culture, such as “Star Wars“.

The year between “Twilight” and “New Moon” allowed the fan base to increase  almost exponentially.  Tryon, in his blog,  gives the credit for this rapid expansion to speed of publication, but is unable to determine whether it’s good or bad:

I’m not ready to argue that this process – in which gossip and entertainment bloggers rush to satisfy the voracious interest in Twilight films – is harmful…

But I think it does speak to one of the ways in which the “industry” of blogging – the modes of producing a profit – begin to shape how a film gets covered and even risks drawing attention from lesser known films.

He concludes that thought by saying that online social media tools are an important part in how a movie is received, promoted, and discussed.  In the case of “Twilight” and “New Moon”, its popularity depended entirely on those social media tools (fan blogs, Facebook, Myspace, film blogs, etc).  Now that fans of the series have been given the latest installment and because of how it ended (though I won’t spoil that for you), I see perhaps an even larger turnout for the next movie.

Thinking About Viral Culture and Time-Shifting

November 15th, 2009 No comments

I’m not sure where I stand on this viral culture thing. On the one hand, I appreciate its myriad distractions; on the other, I curse these distractions as they help keep me from getting work done.

Lost in the shuffle of our discussion of Bill Wasik’s “And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture,” was Wasik’s mention of the all-too-useful “time-shifting” (p. 185). Time-shifting is a term to describe the delaying of one’s gratification for a cultural nugget to be consumed at a later date. By employing this mind-set, we can combat the ephemeral nature of popular culture today. I wonder why the notion of delayed gratification is not so well discussed in popular culture anymore, as if Fundamental Christianity somehow held the patent on such behavior.

This technique, I believe, can be of particular use to myself for all manner of entertainment, for example. Why buy that new videogame today, for $60, when it can be had in two or three months for $30 or $40? The same could be said for new books, movies, or music. While Wasik was primarily arguing for time-shifting’s use as a way to get away from the hype that surrounds the release of a new cultural diversion, I think this type of action is useful for other reasons.

By employing time-shifting, we can combat the flakiness that is plaguing popular culture. I think this is what Wasik was getting at when he discussed Indie music in such detail. Cultural works should not need to be so emblematic of a particular era of time, or they risk becoming irrelevant very quickly. As writers, we can probably appreciate this aspect of Wasik’s discussion.

***

Also, I came across an article by Simon Dumenco that was laid out in bullet-point fashion that discussed Wasik’s book. I liked the article because it shed some light on the book, and it was a quick read, with seemingly little time wasted in the normal intricacies of professional feature-writing. One of the comments for the article complemented the author on how this bullet-point style was appropriate for the subject matter. It also made me wonder how much my attention span has been compromised from spending so much time on the web.

One of the things that caught my attention in this article is that the Flash Mobs were a metaphor for the vapid nature of viral culture. This makes me think that Wasik was not at first convinced of his argument until the end of the book.

Anyway, here’s a video of Larry Lessig pwning Andrew Keen on the merits of amateur Internet culture. It’s germane to the topic because Keen despises consumer-produced media, which Lessig champions it.

Essay structure: case study conclusions?

November 14th, 2009 1 comment

We see chapter conclusions in Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence and some of the other texts we’ve read. Our essay will be considerably shorter, but does anyone think we could/should do something similar at the end of each case study? It might make for easier transitions between topics. Just a suggestion. Anyone else have ideas?

Sorry for the really short post. I would have needed a few Twitter posts to get my whole question out!

Bill Wasik Visits Google

November 14th, 2009 No comments

Part of Google’s “Authors@Google” series, Bill Wasik discusses “And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture.”  I thought it’d be appropriate to share this video before we move on with our own discussion.

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An interview with “Bill”?

November 13th, 2009 No comments

Blogger Francis Heaney posted an interview that he claims to have had with “Bill” about his flash mobs. Bill’s interview answers seem to agree with what we read in Wasik’s And Then There’s This, but I still questioned the validity of the interview. After some Googling, I found Heaney to be the author of a few books. He blogs for Stay Free! Daily at http://blog.stayfreemagazine.org/, a collection of blogs claiming to be an online magazine (“blog-azine”?) voicing media and consumer culture criticisms. Not a big-name publication, but the site’s content does seem to support some of the views we just read.

Heaney does appear to be from Brooklyn – local, as far as proximity to the original flash mob goes. Whether the interview is legitimate or not, it’s interesting to see a blogger that took interest in the origins of the flash mob.

I read through a few of the posts on Stay Free! Daily’s site http://blog.stayfreemagazine.org/ and found a post by “carrie” on January 19, 2009 titled “YouTube, the Search Engine?” I had trouble linking to the individual post, but here’s an excerpt that seemed relevant to some of our recent discussions:

“This New York Times story about about the use of YouTube as a search engine caught my eye. Apparently, people — particularly kids — are using YouTube as their primary search engine for research projects, news, and other information. The Times paints this trend as the inevitable march of technology but I can’t help but see it as the devolution of our collective brain. What we don’t get in this story in the fact that defaulting to video-only search is, um, pretty stupid. While I can understand why a 9-year old would do it, you’ve got to wonder where his teachers are to give him a basic lesson in media literacy: video and text communicate differently and each has its strengths and weaknesses.”

This is the original New York Times article. Her last comment about the strengths and weaknesses of video and text to communicate information seems all too familiar.

What would she have to say about my reliance on a Google search for information about Francis Heaney?