Snow Crash and Alternate Reality Games

November 15, 2008

/ SNOW CRASH

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Crash
http://www.time.com/time/2005/100books/0,24459,snow_crash,00.html

– lethal text as popular fiction
– Neal Stephenson stared writing Snow Crash in 1989; published in June 1992
– in 1990, Tim Berners Lee began testing the ‘world wide web’ at CERN in Switzerland
– in 1991, the world wide web was released
– in 1992, there were 26 websites, mostly associated with the University of Illinois
– in 1995, traditional online dialup services like AOL began to provide access to “The Internet”
– cyberpunk / post-cyberpunk genre novel
– Time listed it on the 100 all-time novels written since 1923
– a graphic novel without the graphics
– cyberpunk is gritty (technology bad – like Blade Runner)
– post-cyberpunk = technology is good (Hiro Protagonist – technology is celebrated – young urban professional with more social status)
– Phillip Rosedale who created Linden Labs (aka Second Life) – Snow Crash was their business plan
– there is a video game company named Black Sun
– Are the characters governed by their ideas and origins or their feelings and emotions?
– popularized the word AVATAR- virtual world-ware named Blaxxun (after the disco in the metaverse)
– Google Earth / Google Knol – monetizing information = CIC

– video of Neal Stephenson speaking in London in 2008

– did Stephenson write a technical vision of the future or did techies take his ideas and make it a self-fulfilling prophecy
– Dr. William Gibson – wrote Johnny Mnemonic (invented the term cyberspace)
– memes are self-replicating units of culture – memes to genes as memetics to genetics
– memetics = the theory that cultural information comes in chunks, and are transmitted like viruses.
– Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
– principal thematic concern of Snow Crash is memetics – ideas are transmitted like code and are vulnerable to hacking
– the original Sumerian is analogous to binary/machine-level coding
– language and ideas are programs written by priests/hackers
– diversity in a culture is a good thing so as to not have everyone vulnerable to a single viral attack
– L. Bob Rife (metaphor of L. Ron Hubarb) seeks to control the media and UNDO the nam-shub and then recreate a lethal text that will control through hacking
– A TEXT THAT DISRUPTS OR DESTROYS THE MECHANISM THAT PROCESSES IT.
– a computer virus is a lethal text
– The Tower of Babel
– Die Laughing?

MONTY PYTHON – funniest joke in the world then die laughing

– lethal text paradox: no one can know the lethal text and remain capable of telling it (perpetual auto-responder computer paradox)
– many a malevolent computer in science fiction has been short-circuited by making lethal text queries that have no logical output (Wargrames)
– we can choose to lose at Tic-Tac-Toe – the WOPR in Wargames came to a rational conclusion about nuclear war by being force to play tictactoe

– “The only way to win is to not play”

– the brain can deflect paradox by ceasing to think about it, machines cannot – no one can win, so why play?

– is dystopic or futurist writing (in this case cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk) a form of memetic virus that infects the future?
– Mosaic and Google founders / CEO of Second Life / XBOX architect J Allard
– most prophetic aspects may not be the technology, but the depiction of a decentralized, post-statist social system
– has de-coupled the notion of land of sovereignty and redefined nations as people linked by values or interests

– posits an atomized, completely de-centralized future
– “Rhizomatic” structure; small, inter-dependent nodes, no central government
– the one nuclear power in the story  is an individual, Raven (the ultimate free-agent)

– Freidman wrote “The World is Flat” in 2005 – just won the Nobel Prize for economics
– international best seller – describes the mechanics of fungibility and out-sourcing
– documents flatteners like technology, workflow, the web, outsourcing…
– American economy needs to shift to a creative or value-added economy
– Blackwater = General Jim’s defense System and Admiral Bob’s National Security
– for-profit prisons in the state that has 3 strikes you’re out laws!

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ALTERNATE REALITY GAMES (ARG)

– an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform
– uses media and traditional game elements (like puzzles) to tell a story that may change or be otherwise affected by the participants’ actions or reactions
– the internet is the central binding medium for an ARG (cellphones, the web…)
– players are more actively ‘controlled’ by designers, as opposed to the AI-based characters in a video game
– does a game require an opponent?
– ARGs don’t necessarily have an opponent
– puppet master may change or engage players in real-time, but they want you to ‘solve’ things

ARG TERMS

The Curtain = a metaphor for the dividing line between the designers and the players (from Wizard of Oz – man behind the curtain)

Puppet master = the lead designer or producer of an ARG; directs or impedes the progress of the players through clues or puzzles

Rabbithole = AKA Trailhead, the Rabbit hole is the first clue or invitation to the ARG (Alice in Wonderland)

ARG DESIGN PRINCIPLES

Archaeology = not a single narrative, but a story that is assembled by player community from pieces scattered across multiple media

Platform Appropriate Media = using the best media to deliver pieces of the story (ie: download mp3, watch youtube, send txt / I Love Bees)

Crowd-source Solution = requires cross-discipline expertise within player community to solve

Whisper Rather Than Shout = present the entrance to the Rabbit hole with a whisper rather than a shout; get players to ‘pull’ out the story, rather than ‘push’ it on them

TINAG = this is not a game – actual phone numbers, URLs etc all worked – characters functioned like real people

NAH = Not A Hoax – at the same time, one has to be aware of creating panic, discomfort or a disturbance in players, public and civil authorities. It needs to be a game.

– – – – – – – – – –

CASE STUDY EXAMPLE:

http://ilovebees.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Love_Bees

– Halo 2 launch event website – they sent jars of honey to previous ARG players with ilovebees website and the countdown = rabbit hole
– around the same time, TV commercial showed a link to the ilovebees url
– these were not connected publicly for several weeks – curious players went to the website that had been “hacked”
– no direction or guidance was given – the community worked within itself to help this lowly beekeeper
– players were given 210 time codes and gps locations (turned out to be pay phones) which were when the pay phone calls would go down
– communications between puppet masters and gamers increased in scope – phone calls, emails
– the winners got to go to 4 theaters and play first edition Halo 2 game
– over 3 million people were playing the game
– game was designed and produced by 42 entertainment

http://www.42entertainment.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42_Entertainment

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Wednesday’s DIVA 200 class

October 10, 2008

Sorry that I have been lax in updating my blog, but I got food poisoning last Friday, which morphed into a lovely bouquet of influenza due to my immune system being shot to hell, so I have been a little under the weather of late.

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TROIKA + GLOWLAB

the cloud

tetris + knight rider on office building windows

– starbucks has the largest wireless cloud in the world – they are now an entertainment channel
– doing the same with internet connection as they did with music cds
– war chalking / war driving
– hobo culture / signs / graffity to communicate and warn one another
– marks on buildings to let people know where free internet access is around the city
– notion of privacy of how much of your life is public and how much is private
– google is keeping track of every single search that we do
– web crawler and cyber squatters flipping internet domains

drift.relay in san jose by glowlab
“information wants to be free” = guiding moto of open source movement
book called “The Long Tale” – by Chris Anderson who is the editor of Wired Magazine
– digital content (sitting on a hard drive) versus brick and mortar inventory in a store
– there will be a market for my work
– eventually you will be able to buy the license to a piece of content that you have already paid for (cd, dvd, blue-ray, next gen…)
– digital has transformed everything
– google is the single largest data mining enterprise in the world – save every search until 2038

– google knol – is this the precursor of the CIC (Central Intelligence Corporation – Snow Crash)?
– knol = unit of knowledge – go and get information and if you want more, you can pay for it
– Google is giving you information that they THINK you may want
– civil liberties = main concern: aggregation of personal data in commercial databases
– government databases are subject to privacy act
– commercial databases fall outside of privacy act, and the use of contractors has transformed law enforcement
– ChoicePoint or Seisint, aggregate data from commercial transactions with public records (prescriptions, groceries, travel plans, criminal records)

– potential for abuse
– concentrated target for hackers, identty thieves and authorities otherwise constrained by privacy act
– Seisint compiled a list of 120,000 based of a “terrorist quotient”, a profile they created including ethnicity and religious beliefs and handed it over to law enforcement
– Florida relied on ChoicePoint to identify convicted felons registered to vote – as many as 1 in 7 were wrongfully expunged from the voters list (voter margin in 2000 was 537 votes)

RFID – Radio Frequency Identification
– shock bracelets with EMD Technology (Electro-Muscular Disruption)

Privacy and Social Networks
Google’s Value Proposition – “is to figure out what people want, but to read our minds, they need to know a lot about us”
– will pull ads containing certain keywords, but will not state what those keywords are
– handed over user-records of Orkut to Brazilian government for an investigation
(orkut is a social networking service which is run by Google and named after its creator, an employee of Google – Orkut Büyükkökten. The service states that it was designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships.)
– censored and constrained its Chinese search-engine to gain access to that market
– the Chinese government is in the process of saving SKYPE messages that pass through mainland China and now SKYPE has ended their relationship with their Chinese affiliate

Google Streets – recorded some random kid who saw the Google van drive by and he ended up wiping out on his bike
“Don’t Be Evil”

Second Life Lawsuit
http://blogs.pcworld.com/staffblog/archives/005816.html

The Worst of Real Made Virtual
– the covenant of Extropia
– A Declaration of the Rights of Avatars – by Ralph Koster

189 Satellites that don’t officially exist (spy satellites CIA, KGB)
iridium satellite flashes – search when the satellite will flash on the web
– Russian town had 400 people show up in yellow raincoats and stood in the town square when the google satellite went overhead