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Links for August 22nd 2008

Interesting links for August 21st 2008 through August 22nd 2008:

  • Monkey Magic – Karen Lury / University of Glasgow [Flow TV, 8.06] – Playful and engaging reading of the BBC Monkey-style BBC Opening for the Olympic Games: “A playful, irreverent choice then: a trailer that reverses a mythic journey (from West to East) and which pays overt homage to a cult TV series that was never – in any coherent sense – an ‘authentic’ reflection or interpretation of Chinese culture or mythology. … The animation itself reproduces certain static poses and a colour scheme that may have been inspired by Chinese illustration and Japanese Manga; but for Hewlett fans, this is recognisably a Hewlett world – a world that is both menacing and cute (and where ‘cute’ is revealingly close to its roots in the freakish world of the side-show). It is funny and slightly unsettling as Pigsy smirks provocatively or when Monkey opens his mouth to reveal his dirty and surprisingly sharp teeth.”
  • Tiger Woods Responds to Fan’s YouTube Video [Micro Persuasion] – “This video response is brilliant marketing on the part of Electronic Arts and Tiger Woods. A fan posted on YouTube that it’s possible for Woods to hit a golf ball in Tiger Woods 08 while walking on water. How does Tiger react? By showing how it’s done and promoting Tiger Woods 09 in the process. It shows they listen and bring in the big guns to engage.”
  • Digital futures report: the internet in Australia [CCI] – “This report provides an overview of our work, presenting results for each of the questions asked. We will also be publishing work that examines relationships between our key variables exploring, for example, differences between users with broadband access at home and those on dial-up connections and the differences that age, gender and education levels make to people’s use and experience of the internet. Analysis we have already conducted shows that broadband does make a substantial difference to peoples’ use of the internet. The internet is more highly valued by those with broadband connections and they use the internet for longer and for a greater variety of purposes. Younger people have been quick to integrate the internet into their lives, they use the internet more and particularly for entertainment.” [Full Report PDF]
  • Few lives left for Second Life [The Age] – “Separately, figures released by the virtual world’s creator Linden Lab in April show there are only 12,245 active Australian Second Life users, down from highs of 16,000 towards the end of last year. … Australians appear to have lost interest in Second Life and the users still there appear to be shying away from the big corporate brands. Kim MacKenzie, a PhD student at the Queensland University of Technology, centred her honours year thesis around the business applications of Second Life. She studied the Second Life bases of 20 international brands over three months last year, including Dell, Toyota, Coca-Cola, BMW, AOL and Vodafone. “They were like ghost towns,” said MacKenzie, adding that many of the users she saw on the company islands appeared to be staff members.” (A significant rebuttal of the information and argument in this article can be found at Personalize Media.
  • For YouTube videos, a ‘fair use’ boost [News.com] – “Copyright owners, such as NBC Universal, Warner Bros., and Viacom, were put on notice Wednesday when U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that they must not order video be removed from Web sites indiscriminately. Before taking action against a clip, copyright owners, must form a “good-faith belief ” that a video is infringing, according to Corynne McSherry, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “
  • Poor earning virtual gaming gold [BBC NEWS | Technology] – “Nearly half a million people are employed in developing countries earning virtual goods in online games to sell to players, a study has found. Research by Manchester University shows that the practice, known as gold-farming, is growing rapidly. Researchers say the industry, which is largely based in China, currently employs about 400,000 young people who earn £80 per month on average.” (Good article, but really, “playbourers”?)
  • Up, Up, and Away? Separating Fact from Fiction in the Comic Book Business [Alisa Perren / Georgia State University – Flow TV 8.06] – A timely look at the relationship between comic book sales and the blockbuster movies they’ve been driving so successfully this year: “Myth #1: Comic-Con is all about comics. From its inception in 1970 well into the 1990s, this was largely the case. However, in recent years, the Hollywood studios increasingly have focused their energies on using the annual event as a means of promoting upcoming films and television programs. … Myth #2: Since movies based on comics are all the rage, comic books must be selling like crazy.”
  • iTunes blocked in China after protest stunt [WA Today] – “Access to Apple’s online iTunes Store has been blocked in China after it emerged that Olympic athletes have been downloading and possibly listening to a pro-Tibetan music album in a subtle act of protest against China’s rule over the province. The album, called Songs for Tibet, was produced by an a group called The Art of Peace Foundation, and features 20 tracks from well-known singers and songwriters including Sting, Moby, Suzanne Vega and Alanis Morissette. It was released as a download on the iTunes Store on August 5 – three days before the start of the Olympics – with the physical CD launched on Tuesday this week. The Foundation provided free downloads of the album to Olympic athletes, urging them to play the songs on their iPods during the Games as a show of support.”
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Links for July 15th 2008

Interesting links for July 9th 2008 through July 15th 2008:

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Apparently I’m in Vogue

You’ll forgive the title to this post, I’ve never been able to let a good pun go and I doubt I’ll ever be able to use that one again. It’s true, though: I was interviewed about a month ago by Cathrin Shaer, a New Zealand-based writer for Vogue Australia who was writing a piece on life online. She was trying to do an awful lot in one article (talking about MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Second Life, etc.) but somehow my name came up and I ended up talking with her for almost an hour about the complexities of interaction in different online modes. Clearly the bit that stuck was about Second Life. Here is the snippet from that interview which appeared today in ‘A life less ordinary’ (Vogue Australia, May 2007):

Tama Leaver, a lecturer at The University of Western Australia whose research interests include exploring how humans interact with technology, has used Second Life for business meetings: “Most of the people working in my field are spread across the globe. I’ve participated in teleconferencing, but it’s better of have a conference in Second Life because you’re all in a room together, rather than just disembodied voices.” Apparently, even if you’re meeting with a bunch of serious academics, it doesn’t matter if you look like a cartoon character. “There’s a great parallel in animated films,” Leaver explains. “We understand what’s going on in an animated character’s face — most people understanding what Shrek was saying.”

Not exactly mind-blowing stuff on my part. Also, I suspect there are a few sentences Shaer could have left in since there was somewhat more space and substance between talking about academic discussion in Second Life and Shrek (for the record, I’ve never met anyone online or offline who looks like Shrek – while the facial features might be there, no one I’ve met was actually green). That said, it’s interesting to see interest in social software spreading as far as Vogue. (Although I was a little surprised that they didn’t use any Second Life screenshots for illustration – and what they did use seemed like a bad high school art collage – perhaps the Vogue graphics people didn’t actually make it in-world).

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Four Corners: ‘You Only Live Twice’

In conjunction with their purchase of a Second Life Island, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) dedicated a full Four Corners programme to exploring the world of Second Life. It was actually quite a fair representation of SL (at least, as I understand it, only having spent a few hours in-world); it was also neatly structured to familiarise viewers who’ve never heard of virtual environments with SL as it began with Ticky Fullerton’s (the journalist’s) signing-up process, and showed both in-world and material-world footage as she developed her avatar, checked out Orientation Island and eventually explored the people, the markets and the inevitable red-light districts of SL.

Also of interest was the way in which the programme was presented – it wasn’t just a 45 minute slot, but also has a substantial online presence on the Four Corners website. The layout of the extra material is a little busy for my taste, but the wealth of material is excellent – there are longer versions of the interviews with Philip Rosedale (Second Life’s US creator), Ted Castranova (a well-respected academic voice on Virtual worlds and virtual economies) and Clay Shirky (SL’s most prominent critic). I particularly like these ‘raw’ interviews as you can hear all the questions asked, something that regularly gets lost in the tight editing which happens in putting a 45 minutes show together.

The ABC, like the BBC, is not hampered by trying of extract every last cent for their productions; rather, their mission statement is to disseminate their shows as accessible to Australians as is possible. It means these sort of extended versions are part of their core mission, and I’m quite impressed with the amount online (my only gripe is that it’s all flash video, so not so easy to download – a concern if I wanted to use a few minutes of one of the interviews in a lecture!).

For those who prefer to check out a lo-fi version before spending the time watching the videos, there is a full transcript of the ‘You Only Live Twice’.

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