NSA to shut down bulk phone surveillance program by Sunday. A first step.
The CBC has a story on how the Canadian video game industry catching up to TV & film production. The story is based on the annual report of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC). You can download the PDF from here. Some of the interesting facts from the report include:
- The video game industry employs 20,400 people (up 24% from 2013) with an average salary of $71,300.
- The currecnt skills most lacking in the talent pool include programming, artist and animation, data analysis, and game design.
- Quebec has 29.4% of the companies or 10,850 full-time employees (53% of all direct employment).
- Revenues from console games are down and mobile games are up.
The Globe and Mail and other sources are reporting that Computers in classroom have ‘mixed’ impact on learning. This is based on an OECD report titled Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection. The overall conclusion is that teaching is about the individual student and can’t be automated. Computers aren’t necessarily good for learning – they should be used for specific projects and used to teach real-world digital skills.
Students who use computers moderately at school tend to have somewhat better learning outcomes than students who use computers rarely. But students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics. (p. 3 of Report)
The Globe quotes Prof. Slotta of OISE to the effect that:
Technology is most effective in the classroom when it is used to develop skills similar to those that adults are using in everyday life, such as finding resources, critiquing arguments, communicating with peers, solving problems and working with data…
Skimming the report and the slide deck shows a complex picture where often countries like Japan have fewer computers in classrooms and do better on learning. Massive investment in computers like that of school boards who get laptops for every child doesn’t seem to lead to improvements in learning.
Put simply, ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics seems to do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than can be achieved by expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services. (p. 3 of Report)
The report also looked at loneliness and confirmed what parents have suspected,
Last but not least, most parents and teachers will not be surprised by the finding that students who spend more than six hours on line per weekday outside of school are particularly at risk of reporting that they feel lonely at school, and that they arrived late for school or skipped days of school in the two weeks prior to the PISA test.
The slide show prepared by Andreas Schleicher of the OECD suggest that there are larger questions about what sorts of skills should we be teaching in the coming age of automation. The second slide says “The kind of things that are easy to teach are now easy to automate, digitize or outsource.” A slide titled The Race between Technology and Education (title from work by Goldin and Katz) suggests that there is social pain when technology isn’t matched with education. The conclusion is that we need education for a world where many jobs can be automated. Just as the industrial revolution caused social pain in the form of dislocation and unemployment, so too could AI.
Announcing the first issue of the Journal of the Japanese Association for Digital Humanities. I am on the Editorial board of the Journal, but the real credit goes to Charles Muller, Christian Wittern and Kiyonori Nagasaki who are the working editors. This journal represents the maturing of the Japanese digital humanities scene. They have a Japanese Association (JADH) which was founded in 2011, and became constituent organization of ADHO in 2013. Now they have a journal. As Charles Muller, Editor-in-Chief, puts it in his “Dear Readers”,
While Digital Humanities has been practiced in Japan for more than two decades, up to now, little is known outside of Japan regarding the content of Japan advancements in this field. We therefore aim to rectify this situation by initiating a first-tier peer reviewed international journal published in English. Although we hope to be able to shed light on projects in developments in Japan, we will be accepting article submissions from DH practitioners around the world on a broad range of topics.
CBC Spark with Nora Young had a segment on Why empathy is the next big thing in video games. The category seems to map onto “persuasive games” or “art games.” Some of the games mentioned:
- RIOT – a forthcoming game where you experience being in riots
- Spirits of Spring – about a “young native in a mythical land”
- Papo and Yo – about alchoholism
Ian Bogost talks on the segment and makes the argument that in empathy games one feels a different type of empathy than in narrative media. When you make the choices you have something at stake. He also made a point about empathy with systems that I didn’t quite get. He talked about systems oriented game design where you get exposed to a different system or environment and learn about it through playing. The idea is that by playing someone running a fast food chain you learn about the system of fast food. You learn to empathize with the fast food mogul in order to understand the constraints those systems are under.
CBC and others are reporting on a new Nintendo Creators Program where Nintendo will take a percentage of the ad revenue associated with a YouTube channel or video with playthroughs (Let’s Play) of their games. See YouTube gaming stars blindsided by Nintendo’s ad revenue grab or Nintendo’s New Deal with Youtubers Is A Jungle Of Rights. This will
In the past, advertising proceeds that could be received for videos that included Nintendo-copyrighted content (such as gameplay videos) went to Nintendo, according to YouTube rules. Now, through this service, Nintendo will send you a share of these advertising proceeds for any YouTube videos or channels containing Nintendo-copyrighted content that you register.
This program is only for “copyrighted content related to game titles specified by Nintendo”. This is probably because Nintendo has to be careful to not be seen as making money off playthroughs of other publisher’s games.
This new policy/program raises interesting issues around:
- Fair use. Is a screen shot or a whole series of them that make up a playthrough covered by “fair use”? My read is that the publishers think not.
- Publicity from Playthroughs. YouTuber’s like PewDiePie who post Let’s Play videos (and make money off their popular channels) argue that these videos provide free exposure and publicity.
- New Economic Models for Gaming. Is Nintendo exploring new economic models tied to their copyright? Nintendo has been suffering so it makes sense that they would try to find ways to monetize their significant portfolio of popular game franchises and characters.
Wired and others have stories about how Nintendo Is Finally Bringing Mario to Mobile Phones. They are entering into an alliance with DeNA by buying DeNA stock (and DeNA will buy Nintendo stock.) Iwata (Director and President of Nintendo) and Isao Moriyasu (President and CEO of DeNA) made a joint announcement. You can see a translated version of the presentation on YouTube here.
This is a big change for Nintendo as they have been losing money as the traditional console gaming industry loses market share to casual and mobile platforms. I had heard ex-employees say Nintendo would never make the transition, but stay committed to tight integration of their games and dedicated devices. Obviously things have changed and now Nintendo will be deploying their IP to smartphones, especially to reach a global market. Nintendo stock closed 27.5% up.
My understanding of Iwata’s explanation was that they now see mobile versions as building their fan base and therefore helping sell dedicated devices/content. They are afraid that they will be marginalized globally if they don’t expand the reach of their IP. They have now decided how to use smart devices as a way into dedicated systems.
Because the interfaces are different, they don’t intend to just port existing titles to mobile platforms. Instead they will work with DeNA to create new content specifically for smart devices.
One of the key issues raised by Snowden is whether all this surveillance works. The Washington Post has a story from a year ago reporting that NSA phone record collection does little to prevent terrorist attacks, group says. This story is based on a report:
- Bergen, P., Sterman, D., Schneider, E., and B. Cahall. (2014). Do NSA’s Bulk Surveillance Programs Stop Terrorists? Report from the International Security Program of the New America Foundation.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and partners have announced and released a searchable Snowden Surveillance Archive. This archive is,
a complete collection of all documents that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked in June 2013 to journalists Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, and subsequently were published by news media, such as The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Mundo and The Intercept.
It is dynamic. As new documents are published they will be added.
You can hear the announcement and Snowden in CBC’s stream of Snowden Live: Canada and the Security State.
One thing I don’t understand is why, in at least one case, the archived document is of lower quality than the one originally released. For example, compare the Snowden Archive of the CSEC Document about Olympia and the version from the Globe and Mail. The Snowden one is both cropped and full of artefacts of compression (or something.)
One of the points that both Snowden and the following speakers made is that the massive SIGINT system set up doesn’t prevent terrorist attacks, it can be used retrospectively to look back at some event and figure out who did it or develop intelligence about a someone targeted. One of the speakers followed up on the implications of retrospective surveillance – what this means for citizens is that things you do now might come back to haunt you.
Slashdot pointed me to a ZDnet story that It's official: NSA spying is hurting the US tech economy. As one can imagine, the Snowden revelations are having an impact on American businesses. Who trusts them anymore?
A related story describes the brokers who handle data requests for companies like those from the FISA court. See Meet the shadowy tech brokers that deliver your data to the NSA. One of the bottlenecks is the shortage of lawyers with security clearance who could fight orders. The system seems designed so that few think about whether government orders should be resisted at all.