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Announcing Better Worlds: a science fiction project about hope - The Verge
"Contemporary science fiction often feels fixated on a sort of pessimism that peers into the world of tomorrow and sees the apocalypse looming more often than not. At a time when simply reading the news is an exercise in exhaustion, anxiety, and fear, it’s no surprise that so many of our tales about the future are dark amplifications of the greatest terrors of the present. But now more than ever, we also need the reverse: stories that inspire hope.

That’s why, starting on January 14th, we’ll be publishing Better Worlds: 10 original fiction stories, five animated adaptations, and five audio adaptations by a diverse roster of science fiction authors who take a more optimistic view of what lies ahead in ways both large and small, fantastical and everyday.

Growing up, I was surrounded by optimistic science fiction — not only the idealism of television shows like Star Trek, but also the pulpy, thrilling adventures of golden age science fiction comics. They imagined worlds where the lot of humanity had been improved by our innovations, both technological and social. Stories like these are more than just fantasy and fabulism; they are articulations of hope. We need only look at how many tech leaders were inspired to pursue careers in technology because of Star Trek to see the tangible effect of inspirational fiction. (Conversely, Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson once linked the increasing scarcity of optimistic science fiction to “innovation starvation.”)

Better Worlds is partly inspired by Stephenson’s fiction anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future as well as Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, a 2015 “visionary fiction” anthology that is written by a diverse array of social activists and edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown. Their premise was simple: whenever we imagine a more equitable, sustainable, or humane world, we are producing speculative fiction, and this creates a “vital space” that is essential to forward progress.

The stories of Better Worlds are not intended to be conflict-free utopias or Pollyanna-ish paeans about how tech will solve everything; many are set in societies where people face challenges, sometimes life-threatening ones. But all of them imagine worlds where technology has made life better and not worse, and characters find a throughline of hope. We hope these stories will offer you the same: inspiration, optimism, or, at the very least, a brief reprieve that makes you feel a little bit better about what awaits us in the future — if we find the will to make it so.

—Laura Hudson, Culture Editor, The Verge

BETTER WORLDS STORIES

“A Theory Of Flight”
By Justina Ireland | Animation by All In Pixel
A daring plan to build an open-source rocket could help more people escape Earth.

“Move The World”
By Carla Speed McNeil
Once in your life, you can choose to pull a lever that resets the world — but will it make things better?

“A Model Dog”
By John Scalzi | Animation by Joel Plosz
An overbearing CEO demands that his employees engineer a solution to his dad’s aging dog.

“Online Reunion”
By Leigh Alexander
A young journalist chronicling a vintage e-pet reunion gets more than she expected.

“St. Juju”
By Rivers Solomon | Animation by Allen Laseter
A young woman must choose between her secure enclave and the one she loves.

“Monsters In Their Season”
By Cadwell Turnbull
An island commonwealth integrates an AI to defend itself against a worsening hurricane season.

“Overlay”
By Elizabeth Bonesteel | Animation by Device
A family hopes that running the perfect simulation can wake the father from a coma.

“Skin City”
By Kelly Robson
A street performer gets into trouble after falling for a radical privacy devotee.

“A Sun Will Always Sing”
By Karin Lowachee | Animation by Yeah Haus
A spacecraft carrying precious cargo embarks on a lifetime journey to a better world.

“The Burn”
By Peter Tieryas
As people around the world fall victim to The Burn, AR researchers begin to suspect a pattern."

[See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAyBWYlLGGo ]
theverge  towatch  sciencefiction  scifi  optimism  technooptimism  animation  stories  hope  nealstephenson  walidahimarisha  adriennemareebrown  inspiration  justinaireland  carlaspeedmcneil  johnscalzi  joelplosz  leighalexander  allenlaseter  riverssolomon  cadwellturnbull  elizabthbonesteel  kellyrobson  karinlowachee  petertiervas 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Y2K aesthetic: who knew the look of the year 2000 would endure? | Technology | The Guardian
"In the year 2000, a shiny new millennium spread out before us, glittering with the promises of modern technology.

The angsty 1990s were behind us, the dotcom bubble was swelling and yet to come was the market bust and “war on terror”. Y2K – the supposed turn-of-the-century bug that would bring our infrastructure to a terrifying halt – had failed to materialise and for a brief moment there was nothing but glittering utopian futurism and faith in a new age of boundless possibility.

This brief moment was characterised by a distinct aesthetic period, encapsulating fashion, hardware design, music and furnishings shiny with tech optimism – sometimes literally.

Synthetic or metallic-looking materials, inflatable furniture, moon-boot footwear and alien-inspired hairstyles were just a few signposts of the spirit of the age. Even popular music videos of the time had a cluster of common traits: shiny clothes, frosty hues, setpieces that resembled airlocks or computer interfaces, and a briefly omnipresent “bubble pop” sound effect -– almost as if the music charts could foretell the end of the dotcom age."



"Studying aesthetics is about more than the pleasant itch of nostalgia – it can efficiently provide a full, in-depth picture of a time period, its values, its media and technology. “The sharing, discussion and experimentation I’ve seen in the Facebook group has fostered a deeper understanding and appreciation of that era than some other online subcultures, which sometimes get stuck on a few highly circulated memes and entertaining novelties,” Collins says.

“The fact that we constantly have in-depth discussions … helps us to understand the ‘why’ better, and artists gain a better understanding of the zeitgeist. We are adding something new, reacting in a meaningful way. It touches on a certain aspect of our shared culture and humanity.”

Perhaps in the future people will be able to suss out the threads of American election anxiety, global refugee crisis, or the dark comedy of Silicon Valley culture in the music, architecture and design of today. Do the streamlined, android-inspired fashion trends seen at the 2016 Met Gala point to an imminent boom for cybernetics, virtual reality and AI? What will the aesthetics of this period of time look like with a decade’s hindsight – and what might they reveal about us that we can’t see in the present?"

[See also: https://imgur.com/a/NGU9j ]
y2kaesthetic  webrococo  2016  2000s  aesthetics  retrofuturism  leighalexander  web  internet  technology  dotcombubble  siliconvalley  metgala 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Watch how this beautiful game exhibit helps kids figure out ecosystems - Boing Boing
[i see hints of Electroplankton in some of the visuals here.]

"The New York Hall of Science's new Connected Worlds exhibit is a series of six interactive ecosystems that spreads across the walls of its Great Hall, united by a 3000 square foot interactive floor. Kids can use their hands to plant seeds, or to move real logs to divert water and notice the effects on the various environments. Healthy ecosystems produce creatures that migrate among the different worlds.

It's intended to teach young folks about how systems work, especially in the contest of ecology and sustainability. Prolific game designer and artist Zach Gage (we last spoke to him about fortunetelling apps and accidental clones, but he does all kinds of things) consulted on the project:

"My biggest pushes were for ensuring that the takeaways for children were experiential (to be unpacked later with educators/family members/friends) rather than a set of point-by-point facts or statistics," he writes. "I strongly believe that part of the power of games is that they can convey experiences, not just lessons, and that experiences can be key in teaching certain topics that are too complex to ever truely understand—in this case, systems thinking."

As a kid I remember very little about my class trips to museums besides the worksheets, where we had to study exhibits and then write down what they told us about how the world works. Strangely I can't remember anything specific that I learned—just that I sat for a while copying down a diagram of a flower by hand, more interested in its infrastructure than in any fact the image could convey.

Learn more about the Connected Worlds project here, or see it for yourself at the New York Hall of Science, where it'll be housed for the next 5-10 years!"
games  gaming  seriousgames  ecosystems  museums  children  play  education  immersion  2015  leighalexander  connecetedworlds  interdependence  science 
july 2015 by robertogreco
List of ethical concerns in video games (partial) | Leigh Alexander
"A list of real ethical concerns in video games:

Video games are used to covertly advance the political agendas of arms manufacturers.

The aggressive marketing of capitalist war games is an inspiration to the U.S. military, which could take a page out of games marketing’s book in order to push unpopular ideas on the public.

Games like Littleloud’s Sweatshop or Molleindustria’s Phone Story are forbidden from Apple’s mobile storefronts, because they question (arguably deservedly) the ethics of manufacturing operations in impoverished areas.

This site and this one are just a couple of the sites game developers can pay for reviews that make unproven promises to improve games’ positioning on mobile storefronts.

Developers who invest in design and publishing on mobile storefronts can expect to have free, unsanctioned clones of their games steal their revenue and come ahead of the original on charts with no action taken from the companies that own those storefronts.

YouTubers have and continue to accept money to put games before their fervent consumer audiences and are not meaningfully obligated to disclose those relationships. They can then occupy leading curation spaces on a major storefront like Steam, Currently Steam curation’s discoverability algorithms mean the most powerful forces — many of whom, again, earn money from some game developers and not from others — only become more powerful.

The labor practices of the traditional game industry are exploitive and abhorrent. The industry’s historical production model involves staffing up, demanding extreme work weeks, and then letting go of the ‘excess’ talent after a product ships. Speaking out against these conditions is socially sanctioned, and developers who speak to the press at any time other than when marketing wants them to risk being fired.

An entire product and studio network — and by extension, a regional economy around games — can tank because of political posturing, and there is no accountability nor information provided to ameliorate the human collateral damage.

One of the U.S.’ most long-running and successful print game publications is owned by one of the world’s best-known game retailers, and few of the magazine’s consumers seem aware of what, if any impact that relationship might have.

In the name of objectivity, the consumer-facing games press largely releases material on a mutually-agreed upon set of terms and schedules dictated by game companies. It routinely accepts travel arrangements to tour studios and look at in-development games on financial obligation to those game companies and on those companies’ terms. Attempting to subvert this process by inserting personal opinion is viewed as ‘bias’.

In many of the above cases even when disclosure is obligated and made, disclosure does little to purify the overall effect on the climate and its perspectives.

Despite this, only the games press exists to question these ethical problems and attempt to inform the consumer. No one would care otherwise.

Women in games are routinely abused, bullied and harassed while their professional community, and the industry’s largest companies, tend to remain silent. Interrogating this culture or attempting to advance this conversation can result in censure or punishment.

Not currently ethical concerns: Women’s sex lives, independent game developers’ Patreons, the personal perspectives of game critics, people having contentious or controversial opinions, who knows who in a close-knit industry (as if one could name an industry where people don’t know each other or work together)."
games  gaming  videogames  ethics  culture  2014  leighalexander  military  militaryindustrialcomplex  weapons  violence  posturing  politics  exploitation  abuse  bullying  harassment  gender 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Life-Changing $20 Rightward-Facing Cow
"And it was a quiet discipline; his work was appreciated in academia, media and even in philanthropy, but often considered "ivory tower"-–not necessarily a complimentary term-–by the mainstream design community and the big profiteers. Then came the Gamification movement, the shiny new idea that if people were assigned goals and extrinsic "rewards," they'd be more motivated to engage with tasks-–and brands-–than they would have otherwise been.

Bogost's years of research and writing on how games could affect perspective and behavior prized design wisdom and a deep understanding of context and of other media. Yet suddenly there was an explosion of investment in gamification startups eager to tack game mechanics onto things like check-in apps. The intersection of games and real life was suddenly a very trendy thing, and a new legion of spokespeople emerged to simplify, systematize and mass-market it."
cowclicker  ianbogost  leighalexander  2011  videogames  zynga  games  kotaku  culture  tragic  facebook  gamification 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Game Design Advance › [Insert Cow Pun Here]
"I don’t think mice push buttons that aren’t hooked up to anything. But people do, they’re called games. Games are Skinner boxes in which you are both the scientist and the mouse. You pretend to care, and then you get to experience what it means to care, only at one remove, like, with a clipboard. Some games let you pretend to murder other people, Cow Clicker lets you pretend to be a slave. A slave to the button. A slave to the rhythm. A slave to these damn Cows. A slave to the daily grind of Facebook, work, and life."
games  gaming  ianbogost  leighalexander  2011  motivation  humans  behavior  cowclicker  psychology  franklantz 
october 2011 by robertogreco

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