Sunday, December 7, 2008

Journal IV

Journal #4

The concept of a virtual world is nothing new. We have merely found another way to create a partial reality that desperately tries to capture what can only be found in the ideal plane. That being said, I chose Furcadia as the virtual world to talk about, and it was one of the weirdest virtual experiences.
I primarily started going to Furcadia with some other friends of mine told me about it. We would just go around to the various portals in the site and talk to people. The main draw for us was the conversational aspect, since most of the conversations and interactions made no sense at all. It became very apparent that most of the people using and visiting Furcadia had other things in mind. From what I understand the site, although it has a very whimsical-cartoonish feel, is a hub for people in search of a particular type of kink. Furries, as they are called, are sexually aroused by anthropomorphic characters mainly of a cartoonish nature. This fact, again, just added to hilariousness of it all to me. The program and the character design of Furcadia have a very pixelated, analog look them. You are given several different choices in what kind of animal you want, which is called a furre, to be, the sex, the coloration, but that's about it. Unless you pay for specialty items your character will basically be some sort of mildly happy looking anthropomorphic creature in neo-medieval garb. You have a more detailed looking profile avatar, while the representation of it in the game is much more basic. The world is a 2-D design with relatively simplistic action commands. There is no zooming in or angle changing since the game was designed back when Windows 95 was the big thing.
The fact that the creatures have kept this now almost retro design going defiantly adds another element that many newer virtual world games do not have any more.
As with all the games that are created in this format many of the commands that run the game are in DOS format such as: / To whisper to another member, or: (ex. :smiles) To communicate an emotion. It gives it a, dare I say, an old-tyme, quaint feeling. A feature like that would as probably attract an even slimmer cross section of people from the Internet populous.
Along with there being a large variety of rooms, or dimensions, you can go into, there are also user created specialty rooms called dreams. While the large dimensions are created by the game programmer, dreams are completely created by the users. The game and profile avatars can change in the dreams, depending on how they've been programmed. For instance, what was once a biped rabbit person is now a, to scale at least, twisted, 8 foot, quadruped. Now, some of the other dreams have bar and, um, special rooms of a certain private nature. I'm not sure what exactly happening in them, but I would have to guess that it's something along the lines of virtual foreplay. I suppose the use of this virtual world could range to any number of uses on a personal level. Talking to people with similar interests, experiencing a different view though a chatting medium, or just trying out a new virtual experience.

1. Furcadia
2. Furries
3. Interview with Dragon's Eye Productions, Inc.
4. MUDs
5. Virtual Worlds News

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Time Line: Mid to Late 90's

1995 – Movies – The Net, Hackers, Strange Days, Johnny Mnemonic, Tank Girl, The Fifth Element, 12 Monkeys, Ghost in the Shell, Toy Story (first computer animated movie), Judge Dredd
Book – Diamond Age published, Cyberpunk handbook published
Technology – MP3 files began to spread on internet, Napster created, Viaweb(first online store)
Games – Sega Saturn
1996 – Movie - Escape from LA, Eraser
Books –
Technology – Dolly the sheep cloned, Tamagachi, Fossil bacteria found in meteorite on mars,
Games – Nintendo 64, new controller style
Other – Netrunner collectable card game
1997 – Movies – Fifth Element, Gattaca
Books –
Technology – dvd became the standard format for media, Path Finder lands on Mars
Games – Blade Runner CG, Final Fantasy VII, Fallout
1998 – Movies – Dark City
Books – Julian Dibbell writes “A Rape in Cyberspace”
Technology – US department creates vaccination, Identity theft became federal offense,
Other – Firby created
Game – Fallout 2, Metal Gear Solid
1999- Movies – The Matrix,
Books – Cryptonomicon published by Neal Sphenson, Ender’s Shadow CSI by Orson Scott Card
Technology – Millenium Bug, MIR space station abandoned, Mellisa worm attacks internet, MAC OS 9
Games – Dreamcast, DDR

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Journal VI

Diamond Age has so far been a great delight to read. The world developed by Neal Stephenson is rich and full of depth. The story mainly focuses around three major story lines, including John Percival Hackworth, Judge Fang, and the most primary character, Nell. The story focuses on the lives of these characters, as well as many other, and they're interactions and connection with a device know as, The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.
The tale begins in the Neo-Victorian world the Hackworth is a part of. He befriends one of the highest ranking Neo-Victorian and "Equity Lord" Lord Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw. Finkle-McGraw collabrates with Hackworth to create the Primer. Hackworth has other motives for creating the Primer and it's uses. He goes to Dr. X, a crime lord, to get the proper information and technology for the conception of the Primer. After the Primer has come together and is whole, Hackworth is rolled by some hoodlums that work for Dr. X. One of which is Harv, brother of Nell. He pinches the Primer from Hackworth on orders to return it to Dr. X, but after Harv's sister has bonded with it, he denies ever finding it. So it is that the story continues with Nell developing a very close relationship with the Primer and subsequently a ractor named, Miranda, who becomes a sort of combined mother figure. Nell creates stories that coincide with her life ad the Primer gives her a sort escape from the very awful events that befall her. The Primer also teaches Nell how to speak properly, read, do math and defend herself, as just a few examples. She becomes very attached to the Primer; all who see her with it can tell how much she truly needs and loves the book. Judge Fang is a Confucian judge in the Celestial Kingdom and investigates the Hackworth's mugging in the Least Territories, after he had illegal second copy of the Primer created. This investigation leads him to call into question his allegiances to the Coastal Republic. Judge Fang is a and some of his coworkers resign from they're positions in the judicial system due to this. Hackworth is later caught in his deception in creating the second Primer and is ordered to develop a huge amount of Primers for the orphaned girls of Shang-hai. A lot more happens but I can't some it up just yet.
The various technologies and devices used in this futuristic vision of the world, are described is great detail. Stephenson, gives these devices flaws that could be found in any kind of technological machinery, making them seem even more real. The Primer is described beautifully and sounds as though it has a great deal of charm to it. The world also sounds very frightening with all of it's new technologies for killing people on a domestic level and the intensity of the advertising. The whole world of this book feels very whole, mysteries and all.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Journal II

The genre of Cyberpunk seems to be that of the more realistic and, maybe, the more pessimistic author. Although much of what is addressed in many of the stories in Mirrorshades seem plausible, they also have a feeling of nostalgia. This is most likely a result of the stories being written in the early to mid-80's, but it gives them almost a naive quality. Some of the subjects they've written about have happened or are happening. Then again, some stories have this sort of feeling of normalcy and then a strange bit of information is given and it completely takes you out of what you felt was a safe place. The other vision of life we're given is one of supposed security in the state and world that the future has formed and it's rotten from the inside out, rotten with technology.

Snake-Eyes, for example, really appealed to me because the main character, George, lives and talks about places where I've been and grew up. He also describes his life in a very human, confused and frustrated sort of way, which makes him seems very “real”. At first it seems as though he's just another cast off from the Air Force, left to mentally designate and vanish. His purpose though becomes much more complex and strange as the story continues and he becomes controlled by the primeval force in his mind and a space “computer”. Passions ends up conquering all though love and the need to be in control. Which is a very compassionate and emotionally appealing conclusion to a tale that began so dismally.

This seems to be a running theme through out all of the Cyberpunk genre. Regaining hope through deep external and internal strife. Many of William Gibson's stories follow this pattern as well. He shows a world very similar to the one we live in now; dirty, used and lost in the past to a degree. Gibson also gives the impression that maybe it's for the best that we aren't living in the gleaming temple world that was envisioned for us. The Gernsback Continuum gives a great example of the potential totalitarian steel nightmare we avoided. We aren't burdened by he horror of flying cars, food in pill form only and uniform identities. What our future is now holding is poorly constructed condominiums that block out all view, tainted food sources and economic disaster. That will at least hold true, for the time being.


Mirrorshades, Bruce Sterling 1986

William Gibson - Official Site

Cyberpunk Project

Mirrorshades Postmodern Archives

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Journal I

I think it would be fair to say that, currently, most people are living de facto cybernetic lifestyles. There are somewhat streamlined bio technologies that people's lives depend on (pacemakers, artificial limbs, cochlear ear implants,ect.) and more social technologies that others feel as though their lives depend on (Blackberries,cellular phones, domesticated GPS devices, ect.). Even though the most organic looking of the cybernetic technologies are not seen excessively, that is what they are meant for, to look natural. They are also very expensive, and until they become affordable for all the public they most likely will not be seen everywhere. Regarding communication devices, from what I know, they are for the most part entirely external. Eventually we may come to a precipus when it comes to hi-tech biotechnologies and what a human is. Even considering what is a cyborg is on more “realistic”terms may happen in my lifetime. Due to the over whelming incompetence of most people would make me think it's a little farther off then some others may believe. Any sort of maintenance that would have to be kept up by the person with a cybernetic device would be far less successful than some one with self-sustaining cybernetic technologies.
What we would be once considered a Cyborg in the recent past, now passes for almost the norm by today's standards. Everyday you see people with headset walking around talking to people, even keeping these headsets on after they have concluded their conversations. Even our memories are being replaced by technology. There is a galore of new devices that record memories through audio and video with very high quality. Many people become so dependent on these devices that it can be said that actually memory is not being valued as highly as digital memory. This has a sort of dehumanizing effect on a person, you can lose your sense of self if you don't have your own memories. The down playing of critical thought plays an active part in how this fact is ignored by some people, maybe for the purposes of easier rampant consumerism.
We are even given the option in some stores to have bank account information be linked to our thumb prints for a “safer, quicker payment option”. Part of this can be attributed to our modern cultures obsession with rampant commercial exploitation and having “the new thing”. Progress in smaller, more accessible technology is a major contributing factor as to why so many people have more of everything electronic. Before when such things as hand held camera or small recording devices were around they would have be marketed more towards people in a business field that would require such things. Much of the technology was more bulky and cumbersome. Many of the new devices we have now combine several different functions into one format. We can keep our camera-phone-computer-tracking-device-recorder on us at all times.
Medical technologies have also made many new inroads as far as what they can put inside us to keep living and on the move. Hip, knee, shoulder replacements, drugs that can act as various stimulator, and smaller and smaller electronic devices that are inserted into various parts of the body. Even the technology that goes into how we are operated on. When one sees the robotic arms that are meant to work on a person, is can look similar to what you might see on a car assembly line.

1. Finger print access controller
2. Human Ethics: what is a cyborg?
3. Biotechnology
4. Cell Phones
5. Digital memory cards