Second Life Activities

I’ve noticed a number of interesting activities that are using Second Life as their virtual site. The Infinite Mind in Second Life is a web page about interviews with people like John Maeda and Kurt Vonnegut that were broadcast (took place?) in Second Life. (You can see photos and read agout it also at The Infinite Mind blog.)

CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion is a law class about argument outside of court and on the net. The class is by Harvard prof Charles Nesson and his daughter Rebecca Nesson. There is a trailer video that explains the class and how you can join through Second Life. There is an interesting moment when you shift from the video of Nesson to video of his avatar in a recreation of the same space.

Note how video is the way virtual encounters are being documented.

Thanks to Johnny for the Infinite Minds link and Peter for the Harvard link.

BBC: Text analysis of texting to catch criminals

The BBC have a story on Texting study to catch criminals by researchers at Leicester University in the School of Psychology. They are studying the individual styles of text messages in order to help with forensic investigations. The BBC had previously reported how Text messages examined in Danielle case had helped in the prosecution of the 15-year-old Danielle Jones’ uncle who seems to have sent text messages from Danielle’s phone in order to throw off the scent.

The Leicester University researchers have a web page that welcomes people willing to submit samples. I wonder how useful anonymously submitted messages will be. I imagine, if they get enough messages, it will give them a control sample for the study of particular suspect messages.

Tagliamonte: Instant messaging linguistics study

Instant messaging is not a spoiler of syntax in youth, U of T study suggests (Victoria Ahearn, Canadian Press, August 1, 2006) is a news story that is circulating about a study that Sali Tagliamonte and a student conducted about instant messaging. The good news is that we needn’t worry about IM.

Here’s a word to the wise (AWTTW): Instant messaging (IM), which is often riddled with acronyms like LOL (laugh out loud) and TTYL (talk to you later), is not the spoiler of syntax that some think it is but rather “an expansive new linguistic renaissance,” suggests a new study from the University of Toronto.

Here is the conclusion of an abstract submitted to the New Ways of Analyzing Variation conference in October of 2005:

These findings challenge the deleterious perceptions of IM and suggest that they have been over-blown in the media. Instead, IM is vibrant new medium of communication with its own unique style
(see also Herring 2003, 2004). We will elaborate an argument that IM is an illuminating reflection of
the dynamic ongoing, normal processes of linguistic change that are currently underway in the English
language. Moreover, we will suggest that it may well provide a ‘bellwether of future [socio linguistic]
trends’ (Schiano et al. 2002).

See OMG, its so PC! Instant Messaging and Teen Language.

The Wire

In the 6th episode of the first season of HBO: The Wire the camera moves from a dead boy to follow a jury-rigged wire across the street through a broken window into the house where Wallace, a teenage drug dealer, and other kids live. Wallace wakes up and hustles the kids who are sleeping on couches and mattresses off to school, handing out a juice box and bag of chips to each that everday morning.

The wire in both the episode, the show, and the cable, is about the connections between people, connections between institutions like the police and drug gangs. It is about the ways they tap into each other’s lives, listening in and learning about the other. The wire the camera follows looks like an illegal tap into the electrical system – a long extension cord providing power to an apartement of kids who sleep in their clothes with Wallace as the closest they have to a parent. This family wire taps illegally into the electrical system, while the police tap into the beepers and phones Wallace and others use to deal. The wire is also a connection between Wallace who called his boss the evening before, when he recognized Brandon, the dead boy, starting a chain of beeper calls, all logged by the police, that led to Brandon being picked up by the enforcers of the gang, tortured and left dead outside as a message everyone in the projects could see.

I noticed that the chidren, as they left for school, all had transparent backpacks. When I lived in Viriginia our children’s public school board was recommending (though not enforcing) transparent backpacks so that children couldn’t smuggle drugs and weapons into middle school. What has become of us when everything is watched and for the convenience of surveillance? I was appalled at the presumption of criminality, the implied fear, and the priority of security over education in what was otherwise a great school in a wealthy town. Why does war and security trump everything?
Continue reading The Wire

Since Otar Left … (Movie)

I don’t normally blog movies I’ve seen, but we just watched Since Otar Left … and it was one of the most touching movies I’ve seen in a long time. It takes place mostly in Tbilisi, Georgia and ends in Paris. The three main characters are a grandmother Eka, daughter Marina, and grandaughter Ada who are dealing with each other, life in post-independence Georgia and Otar, the missing brother of Marina (and beloved son of Eka.) The family are francofiles and Otar has gone to work in Paris where he dies in an accident. Like the movie Good Bye Lenin! (2003), Marina and Ada conspire to pretend Otar is still alive. Unlike Good Bye Lenin! the deception isn’t really about politics, doesn’t descend into farce, and leads to a touching conclusion for Ada. I found the movie dealt well with life in Georgia for an educated family without being about Georgia. It ultimately focuses on three generations of strong women, offering one of the best depictions of an independent grandmother I’ve seen. All three actresses are terrific, but Eka (who, according to the distributor is a “90-year-old former dental assistant and fledgling star Esther Gorintin”) is a character we almost never see in Holywood films.

A must see.

Adobe buys Macromedia

According to the Guardian and other sources Adobe is buying Macromedia for $3.1 billion (USD), Adobe downloads Flash for £1.8bn or Macromedia – Press Room : Adobe to acquire Macromedia. Stephen Elop, who I believe did CS at McMaster, will be head of worldwide field operations. Rob Burgess who also was at McMaster joins the Adobe board.
What does this mean for the multimedia software industry? Not good – we now have only one major provider of tools with an almost monopoly over our tools from Flash to PhotoShop. Time for some new competition.

Kate Taylor on Massive Change

Kate Taylor in this Saturday’s The Globe and Mail has a column on Bruce Mau’s show at the AGO. The column titled, “Why Massive Change feels minor league” (R4, March 12, 2005) points out what I noticed about the web site months ago – the show is really a student project by students in a special vanity COOP design program, Institute without Boundaries. (See my blog entry on the site, Mau: Massive Change and Overrated Sight.)
Of course, it is easy to grump. Now that the program is in Toronto I should go down and see for myself.

PressThink’s Top Ten Ideas for 2004

Jay Rosen’s blog on the press and media has a nice entry on PressThink’s Top Ten Ideas for 2004. The top ten ideas are:

1. The Legacy Media.
2. He said, she said, we said.
3. What the printing press did to the Catholic Church the blogging press does to the media church.
4. Open Source Journalism, or: "My readers know more than I do."
5. News turns from a lecture to a conversation.
6. "Content will be more important than its container."
7. "What once was good–or good enough–no longer is."
8. "The victory of affinity over geography."
9. The Pajamahadeen.
10. The Reality-Based Community.

There are explanations or links to blog entries that explain these. It is a great way to summarize a year of ideas. More generally Rosen’s blog does a good job of linking to highlights of ideas and short essays. His blog seems a good example of a blog made up of short essays rather than just links.