Kotaku, a video game new site, ran an article by Chris Person, discussing an episode by television journalist Katie Couric. The article examines how journalism can be used to steer your perceptions of an event through techniques and words. In this case it was used to create fear that video games will some how ruin children’s lives. Sadly not all journalism is going to be as blatant as this episode of Katie was.
The only real safeguard against this type of journalism is critical thinking. Is reading, watching, or listening, then thinking about if what you’ve taken in matches what you know, what you can reason out, and even if it does or doesn’t dig a little deeper into whatever its sources might be, before you internalize it as a “truth”. This requires effort. You’re not going to succeed every time. The other way is to try to find trusted sources of news and information, but make sure they earn your trust.
We life in the Information Age now and while that gives us all sorts of awesome things, it should require us to be a responsible consumer of all that information.
There have been times when I’ve wanted to discuss social issues with people, not to convince them of the point, but to try to help evolve my own understanding by getting their opinions and beliefs. And instead of having the discussion, the person decided they didn’t want to discuss it. This has happened to me multiple times with different people, from close friends to friendly strangers.
But there are some social issues that need to be discussed. Over on my Tumblr I posted a video that explains the fight for women’s suffrage to the music of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. Do you think at the time discussing whether women had the right to own property or vote in political elections was a polite topic at the dinner table? A good majority of men and women felt different than a smaller group of women regarding the issue. It required people like Alice Paul to bring the issue to people’s attention and get them talking about it, realizing the idea and implications. As more people thought about it, rather than simply forming their beliefs based upon the status-quo, the movement garnered support until women were considered equal citizens to men, at least in word if not always in practice.
One social issue that also needs to be discussed is sexuality. I could explain why but a recent post by Seanan McGuire, author of over a dozen stories, I think sums it up a little better. Show, don’t tell: why they need to be there by Seanan McGuire.
I was recently talking to a friend* of mine who is also a writer about inclusion and inclusiveness in fiction. He was frustrated. Why did people keep asking him to include a non-heterosexual character in a starring role in his work? After all, he’d said that non-hetero characters existed, and were actually the norm. It was right there, in black and white. So why wasn’t that enough?
I explained how, when I was a kid, the only smart blondes I could find were Marilyn Munster and Susan Storm. How I wound up identifying with the Midwich Cuckoos, rather than the humans who they were threatening, because the Cuckoos looked like me and were isolated like me and no one understood them. How, as I got older and realized that what I wanted wasn’t necessarily the kind of marriage my mother had, every gay character became a magical revelation—even the ones I would look at now and think of as stereotyped and cardboard. It was enough for me that they were there.
This argument, of course, hinges on your personal beliefs regarding if certain types of sexuality are morally wrong or right. It appeals to that time when you finally found someone, be it a fictional character or real life hero, who you felt was going through similar problems and conflicts as you, and how you drew strength from the fact that they survived. Maybe not everybody had this experience but I believe that to be unlikely.
Discussing social issues is hard but challenging what we know to be right and understanding that it may be wrong or at the very least, partially incorrect, is a part of what makes us human and what helps us to continue to improve ourselves.
Neil Gaiman brings up some really good points for books. But I’d like to expand the conversation to all media and fill in a few gaps I think he missed.
Thoughts on Digital Piracy across all media
What should have been said above is “Mileage may vary”. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Piracy does something really interesting in my opinion. It puts the power and control in the hand of the consumer rather than the distributor. What I mean by this is that consumers, thanks to piracy and actual legal forms of free media distribution, are allowed to consume content, then decide to support the content by paying money. It says “Here. View this. If you like, please realize that the person who made it needs money in order to make more like it. Pay them.”
Reasons why it works
I just came across this article about how Harper Collins is suing Open Road claiming copyright infringement. Open Road is publishing as an eBook Jean Craighead George’s storyJulie of the Wolves. Harper Collins already published this as a book back in the 1970s.
Random House did this back in 2001 but was shot down in two court cases that ruled that eBooks were not the same as books, and therefore prior contracts about publishing books did not include the rights to digital publishing. These cases, however, ended up having a settlement between the ePublisher and Random, likely because Random threatened to continue appealing and most eBook publishers are small operations that can’t handle sustained court cases.
I personally suspect HC is attempting the exact same thing as Random. They know precedence is against them but they are hoping to either overturn the rulings, and therefore not have to renegotiate to turn their back library into eBooks, or at least sue every eBook publisher who has already contracted with the original estates or authors for settlements and licensing agreements out of court. HC unfortunately may have a chance due to the wording of their prior contracts due to wording. The contracts included a clause which gives HC the exclusive right to publish “in book form” as well as the right to exploit future technologies “now known or hereafter invented,”. The argument will be that this implicitly includes a grant of electronic rights–even though those rights did not exist when the contract was signed.
If the courts rule in favor of this, contracts are going to get very scary here soon. Adding the “now known or hereafter invented” clauses will start appearing everywhere and it is going to be up to the courts to really start to decide if something is a new media, or just a “future technology” of the same media.
For those of you who have been paying attention, there is a list of useful links below. For those of you who haven’t, stay awhile and listen.
Actions being taken by the United State government will begin to fundamentally change the internet. Please read or watch the following to understand what is happening and if you want to take action about it.
[spoiler show="For those of you who would like my words on the subject. Click here."]The United States created the Internet. Despite fancy names like “World Wide Web” and “Global Communication System” and “Series of Tubes”, the internet is not managed by the world. It is managed by corporations on the united states and is subject, for the most part, to US Law. Even more so these days since a majority of the people connect to the internet via their local telecommunication company (phone, cable, satellite, etc).
That being said the internet has been pretty untamed for the last few years. Anybody could put or post up anything. Your information was only as secure as how well your protected it. It was effectively the digital wild west. Now, however, the internet is in so many homes, has become the focus of so much economic use (online shopping, movie and song streaming, video games, marketing) that this can’t last. Just like the trains that brought big business to the west, killing off the last place where your only real protection was the gun at your side, progress is going to try to tame the internet for the good of all, to the detriment of the few.
This is more or less inevitable. The new internet that will come into place will be highly regulated and likely more forcefully controlled by the big economic interests that want to use it to provide services to the world for money. When they do, innovation will become exceptionally difficult. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the like, will still exist, but their successors likely won’t appear. Blogs, chat rooms, social networks, bulletin boards/forums system, may or may not survive in this new internet. Words like “National Defense”, ”Anti-Piracy”, “Copyright”, and others will be used to tightly regulate any site that tries to provide the public with ability to communicate and share.
Effectively the basis for the internet as we know it, sharing and communicating, will come to an end at the hands of capitalism and censorship.
The first steps for this have already begun. The United States government has two acts currently being discussed. The PROTECT IP act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Both have been getting a lot of news. As of right now, both look to be dying heavily under media massive campaigns set forth by various websites and organizations, despite the money being thrown at it by media and telecom corporations. The best example is today, February 18th, 2012, where websites all over the internet are “Blacking out” or putting up protest notices. You can read up more about what these acts do in the links below, but to summarize the acts allow and empower the US government to try to block or remove internet services (primarily websites) that infringe on copyright, without significant due process.
Now I am not a proponent of piracy. I make a living off of software development and I hope to some day make a living as an author. These are both areas that have notably high piracy rates, which concerns me. I would like to be compensated for my effort and work but I also feel that censoring the internet is not the answer. So for now, I protest.[/spoiler]
[spoiler show="For those of you who like videos. Click Here."]
- Wikipedia: SOPA
- Wikipedia: PIPA
- Blog.Reddit: A technical examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP
- TerribleMinds: Why SOPA and PIPA and other anti-piracy bullshit measures matter to writers
- TEDTalks: Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea)
- (Wil Wheaton) WWdN: In Exile: Today the US Senate is considering legislation that would destroy the free and open Internet
- (The Bloggess) The Bloggess: Me and Vader, fighting together. Weird.
- Google.com (Protest Page)
- PATV: Season 3, Ep. 24a - Stand Together: The Gaming Community vs SOPA and PIPA
- Girls With Slingshots
- Abstruse Goose
- Kawaii Not
- Something Positive
- Dominic Deegan
And many, many more, including you, hopefully.
The following are scanned images of a letter written by Austin Madison, an animator at Pixar. He wrote it for the Animator Letters Project, a website that encourages professional animators to write letters to those who need the encouragement. While I have no dream to become an animator, I am working at becoming a novel writer and some of these letters, the one below in particular, has a message that all should know, when pursing your own creative endeavours.
(Page 1 of 2) (continue reading…)
National Coming Out Day is October 11th of ever year and has been more or less in existence since 1988, although perhaps less popularly in the last decade or so. I’m sad to admit I didn’t know it was a regularly organized event until today, and that I missed its passing by several days.
Looking up what NCO on Wikipedia I found this description:
A brilliant idea, of course. With the amount of social pressure that is still placed upon people due to how different they are from the stereotypical and social norm, spreading the word about a day where you can tell the people you care for about this differences at the same time as hundreds or millions of others is a motivating force.
However it’s usefulness has been suspect to me. In prior years it was celebrated via parades and personal declarations that, of course, are limited in their scope to get the word out, as evidenced by myself only just learning of his event. So I would like to point your attention to one of the tools that has helped fill this void: The Internet.
A nine minute long video (well worth watching) of a man coming out. Excellent produced and one of the best use of music in a non-fiction piece. Videos like this are an example of the tools that can be employed to both communicate a person’s coming out and spread the word of the holiday itself and it’s meaning and significance.
Two centuries ago in the United States it was common and even well-known “fact” that humans of pale skin were more intelligent than any human of darker tones and that the act of being sexually attracted to humans that were not of the opposite sex was a lawfully punishable offense. We have grown so much in our understanding of the world and those around us but we can grow more accepting of these qualities. So help spread the word and change people’s unreasoning hatred into reasonable acceptance.
So I’ve verified the writer as Steve Yegge. He posted this on Google+ publicly by accident and of course it got copied. I feel the article makes a lot of interesting points about large-scale IT services and products in general which is why I want to share it. Therefor I’ll post Steve’s disclaimer from his follow-up blog post ahead of the article so you understand the context that it is written in.
Part of the reason is that for internal posts, it’s obvious to everyone that you’re posting your own opinion and not representing the company in any way, whereas external posts need lots of disclaimers so people don’t misunderstand. And I can assure you, in case it was not obvious, that the whole post was my own opinions and not Google’s. I mean, I was kind of taking them to task for not sharing my opinions.
So without further adieu: Steve Yegge’s internal rant on Google Platforms
(Warning: Long rant!)
Seanan McGuire, author of several excellent books, especially the Newsflesh Series (under the name Mira Grant) wrote an excellent post about some of the behavior that goes on among toy collectors at San Diego Comic Con. Let me share it with you.
I remember being a little kid and being desperate for a particular toy. I remember my mother driving hours on end to various toy shops in the hopes of finding me one, which I honestly think is one of the most endearing ways a parent can show how much they care about their kid’s happiness since you have to know the kid will eventually not really care about said toy as they grow up.
But I digress. This is mostly a “shame on you” post to the various other toy collectors who attended SDC and behaved in such a way as to actually hurt, physically and emotionally, this little girl who wanted to stand in line for her toy. Western civilization developed the idea of standing in line in order to avoid these kind of situations and your dedication to your obsession should be bound by the rules set forth to you in elementary school. Get to the heat of the list first/early or get a friend to save you a spot so you can cut. You don’t go pushing your classmates/strangers/stranger’s little kids out of the way!
And you shouldn’t need to be reminded of that.
To summarize, a student at a high school is diagnosed with a disorder which causes attacks that are easily treated with THC. THC by its more common name is medical marijuana. As noted by his doctor, the student suffers no side effects from taking the THC lozenge during his attacks but thanks to the zero tolerance initiatives put forth by school districts across the country, the student is not allowed to even register his medication with the school nurse and have it administered like normal protocols. Instead he has to go home to take it.
This caused the student to need to transfer schools so he could be closer to a school that would allow him to easily walk home to take his medication. Only recently the school district informed the student and their parents that the student would not be allowed back into class because:
“They say if he takes his medicine it is ‘internal possession’ and he cannot come back to school,” the teenager’s father told The Colorado Independent. The boy attends Sierra High School.
Internal possession is a new one for me but seriously? The school district and/or the state of Colorado didn’t make allowances for THC when making their policies? Do Colorado schools allow their students to walk around with prescription drugs? I remember my school requiring I register and hand over prescription drugs to the nurse and they kept them locked up. Why is that not an alright solution for THC?
Anybody think up reasonable explanation as to why this child is being incrementally forced out of public school for the medicine he needs to take?