Pavlov’s Schoolchildren

I laughed at first when I made this correlation, but I suddenly found it a little disturbing. It came to me when I walked past the primary school I walk past every day to and from the train station. The recess/lunchtime bells were probably put in place to indicate the time of day put aside for eating your daily sustenance and getting some exercise, but the subsequent psychology behind it seems a bit off to me. What it mimics is a classical conditioning experiment (see Pavlov’s Dog) that conditions us as schoolchildren to expect food at the sound of a bell. It creates routine, something young minds can easily grasp, yet I still find the idea strange because it’s the same bell sound throughout primary school and high school (years Prep & One through Twleve), at least it was for me.

The same goes for the start and end of the day bell. It makes me wonder what difference it would make if there were no omnipotent bells and the teachers would simply call class to an end and dismiss the children themselves. There would definitely be a more personal touch to it, and the students wouldn’t expect to have their daily routine dictated by an inanimate sound. We don’t have bells in offices or workplaces to indicate lunch times, however we do have them in prisons and military installations (to my knowledge). Perhaps this should be amended, this tradition from an era past. The school bell sounds awful too.

Reflections on a week past, and a new blogging idea

First off I’d like to say I’m a bit bummed I missed out on the symposium last week where some of the discussion was based around hypertext narratives and video games. I had just returned from a 4 day trip to Sydney where I was doing some work attachment with Oceanic eSports (check out the photo album from the weekend here) so Tuesday was a bit of a write off since I was required to upload media etcetera etcetera. I always have something to say about games as a medium though so despite missing out I’ll be sure to have something about video games up soon. Before that thought, I had an idea that stemmed from my newfound distaste for the traditional blog… Continue reading

Hearthstone; ‘Just one more game’

On the eve of the mid-semester break I was given a very magical gift. From the good folks at Blizzard Entertainment I was bestowed beta access to their new free-to-play card game Hearthstone. Boy was my break productive after that.

For clarification I have never invested a lot of time into card games – bar my old Pokemon card collection, and an old deck of Yu-Gi-Oh cards I used to own and only ever use with my neighbour – so Hearthstone is the first time I’ve really explored the true multiplayer aspect of the genre. Even before I started playing it last week I was already hooked watching the numerous live streams and coverage of the game everywhere.

Right off the bat the thing that impressed me the most is the simplicity of the game. It revolves around a basic “Beat up your opponent before he beats you up” objective. Apart from that the mechanics of the cards are very simple, intuitive even. You have Taunt cards that force the opponent to remove them from the field before being able to target anything else, cards that heal you or your own minions, cards that allow you to draw extra cards from your own deck; all very simple.

The best thing about this simplicity is that it allows the developers a lot of room for aesthetic polish and that is where Hearthstone really shines. The use of sound and movement makes for a lot of visceral actions including anything from stomping on an opponent with a powerful minion, shaking the board and throwing shrapnel everywhere, to opening up your Collection which has a large tome swing open to reveal your cards. After playing the game for hours over the break I realised it’s been a very long time since I’ve had that ‘just one more game’ feeling. It was beautiful, in it’s own procrastinatory way.

There’s a lot more to talk about the game which I hope to cover in a ‘First Impressions’ video sometime soon, which I will definitely share when I get to do it.

Video Essays: Alive and well

In the symposium a couple of weeks back there was mention of the video essay and how it’s not yet an academically acknowledged format. This immediately made me think about the video essays that exist as part of popular culture.

Regularly I watch several YouTube channels that don’t consider themselves, nor – to my knowledge – are called Essays. This includes channels such as Vsauce, PBS Idea Channel , CGP Grey , the plethora of TED channels, Minute EarthMinute Physics , and that’s not including the hundreds perhaps thousands of others that exist out there that I don’t personally view.

I wonder why this is so, and my first assumption would be the sloth like system of academia and the slow uptake of new technology, processes, and reliance of classic formats. I immediately considered however, should this kind of essay be expected to be included in the academic world? I mean it would be, eventually, I expect given that the videos provide thoughtful and logical discussion as the internet continues to grow, but with the speed at which information flows and evolves within the global network will academia even be able to keep up?

I expect it would have to redesign it’s regulations or whatever they do to call something ‘academic’ to do so, but even right now any piece of information is available via the internet which is inhabited by students and experts alike who are more than willing to share their ideas without hesitation. Just take a look at reddit with it’s numerous sub-reddit communities based on asking questions to experts (/r/askhistorians, /r/personalfinance etc.). Even Wikipedia which is relied on every single day by them asses to validate information without a second thought as to it’s source, could I dare say that academia in the traditional sense – writing, reviewing, publishing, updating – will eventually become defunct?

Oyster & Cloud Based Subcriptions

The Oyster service mentioned by Adrian on the main subject blog this week looks, in short, fantastic, but I might be biased because I am invested in the subscription based model for these kind of things.

For the sake of fairness I am currently subscribed to both Adobe Creative Cloud (student version which is fabulous value for all you looking for software for cheap) as well as Rdio, sister to Spotify (but FAR better looking and designed). Why did I choose to take these routes rather than buy outright? It’s mostly value. Music for one thing is an absolute staple in my life and I can say with confidence I’m listening to music anywhere between 6-12 hours a day on average. Continue reading

English Country Tune: ‘Just There’

There’s something special about the way English Country Tune presents itself. You open the game with nothing more than synthesised chords fading in and a menu screen with a handful of options. From the genesis of your experience the game whispers sweet simplicities into your ear.

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Digital existence; yes and not

One particular line in this post from Jackie Matthews tipped something over in my impossibly existential mind which responded to Adrian mentioning how our blogs do not necessarily ‘exist’ continuously, but only form when somebody requests the page. Jackie said, “I had a cool epiphany when I realised that my blog doesn’t really exist, the page isn’t there waiting for me, it just appears when someone seeks out its content. Trippy.”  Theres a bunch of technical stuff involved with blogs and servers and all that, but lets for a second take the abstract concept of that: is this perception of the world not true for everybody?

Now I studied Descartes as part of my VCE Philosophy class and we looked at his famously misquoted statement, “I think, therefore I am”. I won’t go into the full details of the premise and arguments but after a long spiel he concludes that due to the limited and variable nature of our perceptions – namely dreams seeming like reality, reality sometimes seeming like dreams – we cannot fully validate our own perception on the world. Hence, the only true thing is our own thoughts because thought is the only self-authored thing. At least in his arguments. Lets roll with it.

So when I want to look at a blog, I request it, and the server says, “Right, I’m gonna need this text, this image…” etc. and puts it all together for the lovely user. The same process can be said for ourselves; nothing exists until we look at or ‘request’ it from the world. That basketball behind you? Doesn’t exist, at least not until you turn around and look at it. Then it does. You’ll then say, “Well I know it’s there because I see it all the time! I used it yesterday for a sweet match with my friends!” which is very true, so I’ll say, “Alright. Prove to me, without pointing to or otherwise giving me direct visual access to it, that the ball exists.”

If you can do this, hell I’ll give you a medal, but in essence this is a thing known as qualia. It is the subjective, individual experience of a thing. A simpler example: explain – to somebody who has never seen, heard of, or experienced it before – the colour red. Experiencing colour first hand is an example of a qualia.

Your blog doesn’t technically ‘exist’ as such, but neither does the world outside of your peripheral vision, and for all you know it could all just be a dream.

Twisty! A response to a response…

Something of a stream of consciousness post; sitting down on a Saturday night to do a bit of catch up as it were for Uni, and I decided to start off with Networked Media. Here’s what I’m listening to while writing (a 30 minute EDM mix by Knife Party, some ripper tracks in there).

So I started by catching up on the subject blog, and as per mentioning in my blog assessment I stated I wanted to do more of the networking thing, so I endeavoured to engage with somebody else’s blog and right off the bat I found something wonderful! Something I hadn’t thought about before either, as the network is best as revealing.

This post by Alois Wittwer responded to the question put to us last week, “What would it be like to read a story that changed it’s shape every time you read it?” with some observations on the “toxic notions” of a portion of society that like to ‘get something’ out of their lives. I’d agree that this is a rampant desire for pretty much everyone; it can be boiled down to the Meaning of Life thing. No, it isn’t 42 – 42 was the computational error by the Earth of 6 multiplied by 9 and not the answer to the ultimate question – I fancy Douglas Adams was making fun of arbitrary end goals we set ourselves in life when, and as is my main point; the concept of nihilism. Continue reading

Review and Criticism; Reaction and Analysis

This is something I’ve felt quite strongly about recently although I had trouble defining what exactly I meant. Ian Bogost – a Games Designer and Professor at Georgia Tech. University – put it quite eloquently in a string of 8 tweets in response to modern TV “criticism”, summed up best in the one embedded above; shouldn’t critiques be kept to a less reactive, more analytical view to explain, rather than be a tool for the ‘critic’ to express themselves? Before you go on this is partly an argumentative piece, partly my own inner discussion to better concrete my own ideas. If you disagree with me by all means voice yourself because what good are ideas without opposition, eh? Continue reading