Posts Tagged ‘Uncategorized’
One of the reasons I like working for CNW Group* is because it is such an exciting time for communications, and I am right in the thick of it, working on a ton of cool projects
A few weeks ago, I got the go-ahead to launch a Twitter account that would pull news from our ‘Internet Technology’ news feed. I chose this category from the list because I thought it would be most relevant to Twitter users, and you can check it out here.
More recently, we launched a wicked-cool CNW Group widget that allows anyone to display news from CNW on their website or desktop. I installed one on the side bar of this blog, and you can see it further down. Otherwise, check them out for yourself here.
CNW also partnered with Viigo Inc., a company that distributes news to mobile devices. It is essentially an RSS reader that works on your BlackBerry or Windows mobile device, but it is super-slick and easy to use. If you’ve got a Blackberry, check it out at http://getviigo.com/cnw.
That’s it for now…
*This is a personal blog, written outside my CNW hours and may not reflect the views of my company. For more, see the BlogCampaigning disclosure page.
if you’re in Toronto today, come see Jesse Brown at Fionn McCool’s.
From the Third Tuesday Toronto page:
Jesse Brown is the host and one of the producers of the CBC Radio One show Search Engine. A journalist and humourist, Jesse has worked in many different forms of media, including print, television, and radio.
Since its launch in September, 2007, Search Engine has won praise from followers of Internet culture, in Canada and worldwide, and has attracted a thriving, engaged community of listeners with an interest in the social, political, and cultural impact of technology.
Designed as a collaborative, open source radio show, Jesse and his colleagues at Search Engine utilize the show’s blog to communicate and collaborate with listeners. The radio stories feed off of opinions or information gleaned from listener commentary, and feature stories on the show typically spill over into healthy, sometimes heated discussion in the blog comments. Jesse also openly encourages listeners to suggest improvements and changes to the show itself, and continues to tune the show format based on listener feedback.
Jesse broke into media at the age of 17 by founding a city-wide underground student newspaper. He was honoured by Ryerson University with their Udo award, “for noteworthy contributions to the field of Journalism,” and remains the youngest recipient in the award’s history. His radio program The Contrarians ran as a summer replacement series on CBC Radio One. His satirical column The Experiment ran for two years in Saturday Night Magazine and won a National Magazine Award for Humour.
Come out and hear Jesse speak about the ideas behind Search Engine, the power of the community, and the future of open source broadcasting
See you there.
The reason I haven’t posted lately is because I’ve been in Halifax at the Canadian Public Relations Society National Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I’d like to start off by saying that Halifax is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada. It was my first time visiting any of Canada’s maritime provinces and I was quite impressed. The people were friendly, the city was walkable, the buildings were nice
Maybe I’ve just spent too much time in a concrete wasteland over the past year.
The conference itself was great, but I was disappointed when during Joseph Thornley’s presentation less than half of the communicators in the room said that the used Facebook. A handful even knew what Twitter was, and only a slightly larger group raised their hands when asked if they wrote a blog. I’m sure that the session was inspiration for Joe’s post about how social media authorship is mandatory for credibility as an advisor.* Similarly, I question why the CPRS Toronto website is so often out of date, and why they can’t just switch to a blog format. Since the CPRS members are supposed to the creme de la creme of Canada’s professional communicators, shouldn’t their society reflect the latest trends and advances in communications?
Part of the reason there are so many “social media experts” out there these days is that it doesn’t take much to rise above the average level of social media knowledge. Compared to the many great and otherwise brilliant PR pros that I might at the conference, I’d pretty much say that anyone who reads this blog (or any blog) could be considered a social media expert.
To those Halifax Twitterheads that invited me to the Monday-night Tweetup: Thank you! I’m sorry I couldn’t make it, but lobster dinner at the shore club was calling my name.
Last week we also had the most recent installment of Thirsty Thursday, a monthly gathering of Toronto’s most brilliant young communicators. The weather was great, and we totally took over the patio at the The Central. Not only was there free foosball, but the waitress had an incredible memory for drink orders.
If you’re not already a member, join the Thirsty Thursday Facebook group, and we’ll invite you out to the next one.
In fact, since our friend Michael Allison is going to be in town, some of us will probably be getting together late next week.
Now it’s time for an afternoon of playing soccer and watching the Euro cup (I’m cheering for Sweden, but mostly just hoping that Germany loses).
*Why does my spell check not recognize the word “advisor?”
Some parts of the fourth edition of the popular video game Grand Theft Auto were inspired by al Qaeda’s operations, including the Sept. 11th attacks, claims one member of a militant Islamist forum who identified himself as Abdul Wahab. Several links to YouTube videos of the game were also posted, including one of a helicopter crashing into a building and exploding. Abdul Wahab posts links to other parts of the game, detonating taxis and buses as well as suicide operations, and claims they were all inspired by al Qaeda.
And you thought Jack Thompson was nuts – as if some stone-age fundamentalists and their horrific acts played any role in inspiring the most successful entertainment product of all times. That certainly would enhance its mass appeal… I mean c’mon, theoretically you could commit suicide attacks in pretty much every game with explosives – apart from the fact that these actions don’t benefit you in GTA at all. If you survive you just get into a lot of hassle with the cops. Not very terrorist friendly rules. Let’s just hope this doesn’t inspire Weazle… eh Fox News to run headlines along the lines of “GTA – now endorsed by Osama.”
But then again what do you expect from a world that makes addicted gamers feel worse about their habit than those addicted to pornography. Says Dr. Jerald Block, who specializes in treating online game addiction:
BLOCK: …the computer gamers tend to be harder to treat. People feel a lot of shame around computer games. Whereas, it’s socially acceptable to have a porn problem.
IDEAS: You can’t be serious. You mean your clients are more ashamed of …
BLOCK: …playing World of Warcraft than looking at porn. Yes.
BLOCK: As a society we understand that porn is something people do, and you can see a psychiatrist and get treated for it. But gaming is hard to describe to anyone else. So these people can’t explain their situation to friends. In fact, it’s hard to give you an example of what my clients talk about, because gaming is enormously complicated.
And I thought stuff like this only happened on the Simpsons.
We are considering having something similar to a rally where parents and children can bring CDs and video games that they consider are destructive to the mind set of our youth and have a burning…
Young people are being influenced by what they see and what they hear. They are being influenced by television … television and videos are telling young people a vision but something that’s not reality…
[Violent media] has a tremendous influence on young people and violence. That’s basically all they see. Most of them try to emulate what they see, when in reality, the people they see don’t even live in those communities. Some of the rappers they see on TV portraying crime don’t live in the urban areas — they live in the suburbs somewhere. It’s all a facade.
Seems videogames are good for anything these days: Critical thinking AND basic military training – at least according to the US Army.
Popular Mechanics reports on how the military complex utilizes interfaces that evolved in the gaming industry as the development of controllers evolved to a point where the army can learn from the interactive entertainment business and not the other way round.
Says Mark Bigham, director of business development for Raytheon Tactical Intelligence Systems (a company using Xbox controllers for controlling unmanned aerial vehicles):
“In the past, the military far outspent the gaming industry on human-interface technology, but that’s changed. It’s never going to go back the other way. The gaming industry is such a huge market. The investment in R&D that they’re going to spend on human factors is going to dwarf even what the Department of Defense will spend.”
Apparently it’s all in the thumbs as analog thumbsticks have become the common standard for gamepads. For good reasons:
“[W]hen we’ve talked to our human factors experts, what they’ve told us is that the thumb is the most precise pointing instrument and requires the least energy.” Bigham explains.
Hardcore PC gamers will probably roll their eyes at this stage, telling you that the time-honored keyboard/ mouse combination will beat a controller anytime. But in a military environment this simply doesn’t apply as a pad is superior in terms of portability, durability and easy ergonomics (starting with the fact the soldiers won’t have to worry about a flat surface).
So will the future war just be like playing a videogame? Complete with achievements (medals) and cheating (terrorism)? As the piece points out:
There is, of course, a real concern that appropriating the game interface into the military space will also bring with it an emotional and moral disassociation from the act of fighting wars, and experts say that the answer may be to experiment with even more immersive technologies that allow soldiers to feel the full impact of the battlespace.
The salvation, here as anywhere, is of course the Wii: Raytheon has already been experimenting with Wii controllers to explore the possibilities for training simulators and other applications that require physical movement. I wonder how Nintendo’s waggle boy will ultimately be able to convey moral choices and emotional attachment but at least the physical component is indeed more distinct (after all this was one of the reasons why Manhunt 2 on the Wii was so controversial).
Wired in a similar fashion reports on how the top U.S. military intelligence agency uses videogames to teach recruits critical thinking skills.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has just taken delivery of three PC-based games, developed by simulation studio Visual Purple under a $2.6 million contract between the DIA and defense contractor Concurrent Technologies. The goal is to quickly train the next generation of spies to analyze complex issues like Islamic fundamentalism.
Games like Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust put the player in the shoes of a rookie DIA analyst who has to go through different scenarios like tanker under attack in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. The question he has to solve is: Who attacked the tanker and how by using the approved analytical process to analyze and choose among competing hypotheses of his colleagues.
The DIA isn’t the only agency using videogames for training purposes. The U.S. Army Intelligence Center even uses a custom made game to train its “human collectors” (=interrogators). The torture already starts with the name of the title: “Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer Human Intelligence Control Cell.”
What IEWTPTHICC does is teaching the player how to work through an interpreter, use culturally appropriate speech and analyze a detainee’s body language; it currently does not teach coercive interrogation techniques, like waterboarding. But it may eventually be modified to show how offensive or abusive questioning will cause detainees to become less cooperative.
Again this shows the strengths of the digital game medium: its simulational nature which allows the trainee to go through all kinds of possible scenarios. The question remains though which scenarios are included and how their rules are defined. The Wired piece acknowledges this too:
[G]ames as teaching tools are only as effective as the assumptions behind them, says John Prados, a designer of hobby war games as well as an historian who has studied U.S. intelligence. For example, prescripted events in a game will tend to reflect the biases of the game’s designers as they steer the player toward certain decisions.
Obviously these assumptions are the most crucial part of the whole game. Assumptions which can be highly politically charged. E.g. should waterboarding be used? Will it be effective? Which other options are there? Would a round of chess work better? Do they incorporate the irrationality of fundamentalists and its effect on the interrogation process? And on a more basic level: how do you turn irrationality into rules? How do you turn a whole culture into rules?
Despite the challenges one thing should be clear: If it helps to protect the country, it can’t be too bad for you either.
If you were one of the lucky few that caught Mike Masnick’s talk at mesh 08, then you are also probably one of those who told Rob Hyndman that it was your favorite part of mesh 08.
Mike Masnick is a powerpoint ninja. I mean, he went through 322 slides in about half an hour and not once was a I either bored or felt like he was moving too quickly.
That’s probably because, as I’ve mentioned before, he is probably one of the smartest economic thinkers around today. If you don’t believe me (about either this or the powerpoint thing), watch the video of him below (you’ll have to select “on demand”, then “mesh conference” and then the Mike Masnick presentation).
A close second for for the “smartest economic thinkers around” award from BlogCampaigning has to go to Matt Mason (no relation). Even though he wasn’t able to keynote at the 2008 mesh conference, it is definitely worth watching this talk that he gave at the Medici Summit in Arizona. In it, he explains his theory of the Pirate’s Dilemma and how manufacturers need to copy the pirates if they are to survive. I don’t want to say much more because I think that you should watch the video for yourself. It is about 40 minutes long, but the time will fly.
And if you still can’t get enough, check out this site, which has aggregated all mentions of mesh using tags. Its a pretty cool system, and I’d like to explore it further to see how it works to collect mentions of other event.
That’s it for now…until the next post, catch me on Twitter.
Apparently, the RZA (aka future-crime fightin’ gangsta B.O.B.B.Y. Digital) came up with the concept of WuChess, a Wu-Tang-themed online social network based around chess. Even though I’m a fan of the Wu, I don’t know how successful this venture will be. There are just too many free chess social networks, and I doubt that the Wu Army cares enough to support this one.
At least least the RZA seems to understand that it can be a good idea to give away his music for free. Wikipedia quotes him as saying that the Razor makes music…
“…to be heard, personally. And, if somebody download it, if they heard it, then my job was delivered. Of course I love to make the money. I get million dollar album budgets, so of course there’s money involved with it. But, personally, as a musician, as an artist, the first thing is to be seen and heard. If you’re not seen and heard, who cares? … I never got pissed off at the Internet kids with the downloading. In fact, I told them, ‘Help yourself. Have a good time.”
Well put, RZA.
With that, I’ll leave you with search for a version of their track “Da Mysteries of Chess boxin’.”
Part of the duties of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to create a solid basis of foreign relationships through the means of educational and cultural policies. Like no other department it uses the core elements of these areas – the teaching of the German language, scientific exchange, German schools abroad – to establish links with other cultures. And it does increasingly so through the products of the German cultural industries.
This is the background to its “Menschen bewegen. Kultur und Bildung in der deutschen Aussenpolitik” (“Moving people. Culture and education in Germany’s foreign policy”) conferences. Events that not only address traditional institutions of German cultural policy but also try to fathom new forms of collaborations by including new actors into the outlining of a future policies – the movie business, German companies with a strong foreign presence… and game developers!
Under the motif “Computer.Spiel.Kultur” (Computer.Game.Culture) several industry representatives were invited to the Ministry to give an overview of the field and its possibilities; amongst them Andreas Lange, director of the Videogame Museum in Berlin, who enabled me to attend this event.
It was a bizarre sight to say the least. The “Weltsaal”, apparently one of the biggest and most prestigious halls of the Ministry, was stuffed full of computers and Wiis. Which again goes to show the immense importance of Nintendo’s waggle box to acquaintance non-gamers with the medium as everyone easily picked up the Wiimotes and play away (under the guidance of some student of the University of Leipzig).
Non-understanding – and therefore rejection – due to never having played a digital game is of course one of the biggest obstacles; giving people involved in cultural policies and legislation a chance to play to let them overcome their prejudices consequently seems a very good strategy. Case in point: the lady I competed against in Wii Sports and who enthusiastically commented on the fun she had while playing tennis.
Even the foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, made an appearance. Stressing that games can be culture – this is Germany after all and without having been elevated into the lofty realms of culture no new technology is acceptable – he uttered the vision of a co-existence of classical German high culture (as in the explicitly mentioned Goethe) and the new medium of digital games – not without having mentioned that the “non-academically inclined” milieus spend a proportionately higher part of their day in front of the computer. Here we go again…
(It did not become clear if this includes internet use as well; to be fair he also mentioned that there’s not necessarily a causal relationship between underachievement and time spend with computers – which is pretty much a no-brainer as it of course mainly depends on the use one puts it to. Also: When asked what amount of time he considers appropriate to spend time with computers his answer was “30 minutes to an hour” causing pretty much everyone to break out in laughter…)
Steinmeier’s speech was followed by him playing Fifa, some Need for Speed title, Wii Sports and Brain Training. If someone would have told me that one day I will get the chance to watch the German foreign minister playing digital games I would have declared that person utterly crazy. Did he enjoy it? Difficult to tell – he didn’t score a goal in Fifa, sucked at Need for Speed, scored a strike in the bowling part of Wii Sports and apparently was pretty good at Brian Training. I guess that’s a sign that we don’t have to worry about the future of my Vaterland…
I also got a chance to speak to Malte Behrmann, lobbyist and chairperson of the German and European game developers associations, and very much involved in trying to involve the state in supporting the industry. He explained to me that in the European Union one just can’t randomly subsidize a branch of industry but that certain criteria have to be fulfilled to qualify for grants – one being the “cultural exception”, the reason why he was busy trying to frame games as culture to achieve said subsidies. It can be seen that in France this approach was obviously successful.
But it also helped to widen the acceptance of digital games in Germany as it was used to counter the maddening “Killerspiel” discourse. As I told Malte this was probably the best action plan they could come up with. The thing is: German politicians for the most part are all members of what could be called a high-level milieu (successors of the classical educated bourgeoisie) whose main form of distinction is “anti-barbarian”, one of the main reasons why digital games with violent content matter are vigorously rejected. The opposite of “barbarian” is of course culture, a concept that perfectly works for these people’s self-legitimation resulting in the heightened acceptance of the new medium. (It’s interesting in this regard that the ancient opposition between nature [=barbarian] and culture still lives on in all its explicitness; I always thought this binary opposition was considered overcome, but here it is as clear as day. More on this in my Ph.D.). This is also one of the reasons why I consider stuff like all the brain training titles extremely important for the perception of games in Germany as they set the “anti-barbarian” tones.
All in all: A successful event and certainly a step in the right direction! It pleasantly surprised me as it surprised other members of the game community and was a welcome counterpoint to the shrill discussions normally surrounding digital games in Germany. Even though it seems games only have a right to exist when they are culture – but I suppose that’s better than being allowed to exist at all…
About playing Guitar Hero: They had that set up as well; plus the speeches were followed by a buffet which included beer on the taxpayer’s expense. An irresistible combination causing me to shred away “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Holiday in Cambodia” in front of some MPs including pretending to smash the guitar in a hall where normally global politics are happening. Another bizarre incident at a bizarre, yet great event!
And thanks to Scotty Mac, there is now a Facebook group for Thirsty Thursday, Toronto’s hottest meet up for young PR people and communicators. These events have always been about having a few extra-casual beers and getting to know your peers at pub or bar around Toronto, and I know that the June edition will be no different.
Join the group and help us choose the venue for the next event, which will probably be on June 12.
In the meantime, follow me on twitter.
(on a side note, did you know that you can delete both the Groups and Photos applications from Facebook so that even you can’t see what groups and photos you are in?)