So it’s hard to believe that this is the last week of class. The semester went by really quickly and I’m learned so much in the class! This week, our group worked really hard to get our final project together and ready for presentations. Our first plan was for everyone to make slides and combine them into one large powerpoint presentation on the racetrack. However, we ran into a few technical problems because Akron Island kept deleting our presentation. Thus, in the end, we wound up creating a static, redeployable display in case it was deleted again (which it was!)

In the end, I think that the presentations went really well. I think everyone in the class did a really good job, and I was really impressed with the amount of research and detail. I did however, have a few problems during my presentation. Since I was on campus when we presented, the game internet traffic was being throttled, so my half of the game world wasn’t loaded and none of the textures loaded. Thus, I couldn’t see anyone else’s slides. Also, I didn’t realize until after the presentation was over that I had been standing in the middle of the stage the whole time, which I felt really bad about. All in all though, I felt like it was a really great experience!


Reflection on Reading 2

Sadly, it is all too easy to put yourself in a position where you feel “untouchable”. Take, for instance, road rage. People feel “high and mighty” in their cars and feel free to “flip people off” because, “What could that other people possibly do to me while in their car?” However, you can be sure that people wouldn’t be nearly as brave when not in the safety of their car – say to a group people on the sidewalk. The same is unfortunately true with regards to the internet. Sitting at home in front of their computers, people feel free to say what they want because they have the same illusion of safety and lack of consequences. Unfortunately, there are indeed consequences. People get enormous amounts of backlash from online communities, or worse, lose their jobs, for posting tweets in “bad taste”. In this type of situation, there is no taking back what you said. Even if you delete your account, chances are it will have already been “retweeted” or posted somewhere else.

The three articles I read about “tweets gone wrong” made me think, if they had take one minute to consider “Should I really post this?” or “What will be the consequences if I do?”, they could have prevented this backlash. In America, you are guaranteed the right to free speech and to say what you want – but so are other people in regards to responding to it. People really need to consider if they’re ready for the emotional trials they will be put through if they post a controversial opinion – especially if you’re very visible i.e. a celebrity or CEO. That being said, it’s okay to have your own opinions – but be ready to defend them if you share them. Perhaps we should rephrase the old saying “Think before you speak” as “Think before you post”.

Group Progress

As I discussed in one of my previous posts, we’re using Facebook to coordinate our effort for the group project. Things have been going fairly well for the project, and everyone is working on it when they can. As they say, if you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. To that end, we have a todo list posted on Facebook which lists all of the things we’ve thusfar completed and what needs to be done. So far, each of us has prepared 4-6 visually appealing, yet informational slides for our virtual presentation. Each of us have picked a different topic to research, but they all fit within the central theme of social media. Our topics are the following:

Me – the psychology behind social media and virtual worlds
Sam – statistics of social media
Mitch – the future of social media
Knitsy – the pitfalls of social media
Ania – aspects of social media, the pros and cons, and the usage of it
Cara – virtual culture and social media’s influence

Over the next few days, we’ll be working on integrating everyone’s efforts together and putting up the display in Second Life. I’m confident that we’ll get it done on time!

Reflection on Reading 1

For the first reading, I was surprised to find that the Hurricane Sandy relief program was aided so much by social media. Before I began this class, I honestly had somewhat negative views towards social media, thinking it was just another way for people sitting next to each other to feel even more isolated. However, over the coarse of the class, articles like this are challenging my viewpoint. Social media itself is a very powerful tool, and as with anything, with great power comes great responsibility. I also suppose the phrase “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” applies in this case – it’s not that social media is bad, it’s that some people abuse it. Clearly, social media can be used to do a lot of good.

As a programmer, I often encounter the symbol “#”, but to me and to most people of previous generations (might I add, I’m 19!), this symbol is known as “pound”. Since I don’t use social media that often, until the beginning of this year, I didn’t even know what a hashtag was. Upon researching what it was, I found that it is used as a way to attach something like “keywords” or “search terms” to a post. However (and even the article points this out), most social media sites come with a search functionality that searches the post as well as the hashtag. Isn’t this a bit redundant? Aside from this, I also agree with the problem that hashtags make it too easy to link unapproved or undesired content to a business’s website. On the other hand, the web itself is mostly free and uncensored, so is there any difference to just making the same post without the hashtag and having a user search for it? I think the problem here is not that the hashtag causes more problems, it just doesn’t solve any.

Online Etiquette and Social Regulation

Many people claim to hate rules because they feel that they are “being held back”, since they can’t do whatever they want. In a sense, they are – to be part of any society, one has to give up certain privileges to gain others. For example, to live in a society in which there is a chance to better oneself, crimes such as theft must be illegal. Otherwise, society would fall apart because someone could readily steal someone else’s hard work. A functioning society is a delicate balance that must have some way to enforce rules which protect people from “human nature” – violence, impulsiveness, vengeance, spitefulness, and destructiveness. Likewise, though not is so much a physical sense, the same can be applied to online communities.

Online communities are often built by people who share a common interest, whether that be calculator programming (shameless plug), nerdy news (another shameless plug for slashdot), or the creation of virtual worlds. That being said, the people are part of this community because they have an interest that they want to share with others – a goal they can not accomplish if people are ruining it by being rude, or engage in trolling or flaming. Online etiquette is so important because it allows people to share in their common interest, while building relationships and maintaining order and functionality.

For every person that enjoys doing something, there’s another person with negativity of equal magnitude who enjoys ruining it for them. This is why I think there are so many trolls and “script kiddies” (hackers who pick an exploit and apply it to as many people as possible just to cause harm). Why do people do this? Do they like causing harm, or are they jealous that other people are able to be happy and do what they love in a socially acceptable way? I mention this because a recent psychological survey found that a majority of people who engage in trolling do so because they have traits such as narcissism and psychopathy, personality traits which are not socially acceptable to express.

Communication and People in Second Life

For this class, it’s vital that we have a communication medium which enables us to effectively communicate – a medium which allows sharing ideas across time-zones, hectic schedules, and without microphones. Thus, we have been constrained to text-only communication. Though we initially considered using Second Life, we found that there were a few problems. First and foremost, there was the time-zone problem; all of us would have to be in-game at the same time despite living in different parts of the world. Secondly, as said previously, not all of us have a microphone. As a result, the six of us opted to create a Facebook page where we could post our ideas whenever it was convenient for us.

As far as meeting other people in Second Life, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there several other people in SL who are interested in the same things that I am. When I was visiting Mad City, I was having a chat with some random stranger while playing the “escape-the-room” game. To my surprise, one of them also turned out to be a computer science major. We spend a good hour talking about our adventures in Second Life, our favorite programming languages, and other nerdy activities that we enjoyed taking part in. While in Humdingers Toyland, one of the people I played Operation against turned out to be a musician who, like me, plays the piano and enjoys composing. It’s certainly a novel experience for me to connect with people I don’t know, but have similar interests with.

Places in Second Life

What is it about people that makes them seek horror stories or games? I find it curious that people, even I, enjoy games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, or reading macarbe murder mysteries. Perhaps, in a way, people find that fear, outside of that caused by life’s normal stresses, is an almost unexplored emotion. I feel that people may be drawn to it in a similar way that people are drawn to virtual worlds: they are curious to explore a different emotion or experience, without worrying about failure or real-world danger. It is this curiousity that lead me to visit Mad City in SL, a location with a sort of 1940’s film-noir setting. It’s full of eerie, dark streets and hidden secrets for the curious person to find, all while providing a sense of fear and anticipation as to what may be lurking around the corner.

After looking at the dark elements in Mad City, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a place with a happy, fun filled atmosphere. Thus, I stumbled upon Humdingers Toyland, a region full of large toys and games. As a musician, I especially enjoyed the gigantic (actually playable!) piano and colorful xylophone. However, one of my goals for this class was to step out of my social comfort zone and interact with other people. Thus, I took place in playing large games of Operation and Connect-4. It was interesting how people I didn’t even know already chose to root for me to win or the other person to win. Furthermore, I was surprised to see how friendly everyone was, despite, once again, not actually knowing me in real life. Is this because of the personas we all project?

Just for fun, the last place I visited was Fantasy Forest at Bentham Hollow. This forest looked like it was straight out of “Alice and Wonderland”, with its oversized mushrooms and flowers in unnatural colors. Easily, my favorite part was the light streaming in from above the forest to create an almost “Lord of the Rings” Rivendale-in-the-morning sense of surrealism. The main reason why I chose the Fantasy Forest was because I wanted to see something that was surreal and that could not be found in the “non-virtual” world. I find it amazing what you can do in Second Life and, quite honestly, I find myself spending more time exploring in SL than I probably should.