Daniel Casey-Dunn

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Wiki Article #1: Sid Meier's Colonization-Daniel Casey-Dunn

An Interesting Look at Racism in Coding, and Missed Opportunities

Colonization: How the Game Works: In Sid Meier's Colonization, the player is controlling a particular country during the time of European colonization of the Americas. It is a strategy game, contingent upon producing settlements in the 'New World' and logistically managing the collection of resources within the environment. While that seems relatively boring in the computer game dimension, what makes the game playable is, of course, war. Each country has to deal with various Native Tribes and other countries within the game. What makes this game unique however, is that while war is of course ever present (as in most computer games) the true strategic test is managing relationships with other powers within the new world. Further, the logistical importance of managing these relationships via trade puts a new twist on a rather worn concept. Further unique is the fact that the game was released in 1994, and allowed for users to change certain coding aspects of the game. This of course lent itself to the 'hacking' culture of the time, and appealed to technical gamers who not only wanted to experience game play, but enjoyed the challenge of tweaking the code as well. Further, the developers built upon this platform and re-released an updated version of the game in 2008. Which also attracted'hackers' but in the current digital age, allowed them to take a closer look at the 'guts' of the game in a meaningful, in depth way.

Trevor Owen's Take:and the Controversy Surrounding the Game: Blogger Trevor Owen builds on a trend pointed out in the game by Variety Reporter Ben Fritz who believes that the game is, in essence, racist. Fritz takes issue with the nature in which the game portrays Native Americans, and the conquest of them by Europeans. By the very nature of the game, Native Americans are exploited for the purpose of winning the game. Owens builds on this idea, by looking at the code within the game. As he 'peaks under the hood' of the game, and views and manipulates the code, he comes to the conclusion that the code itself is interestingly racist. But further than his one point regarding the code of this particular game, I believe that he is trying to look at the interesting social stances taken within coding. Further, the potential manipulations of these codes that also carry social significance. He uses this particular game as a case study for understanding the writing of code fro a social, and racial perspective.

The Social Significance of Code: In his blog post, Owen's biggest issue with the code of Colonization is his attempt to give natives more abilities, and the absolute inability of the code to produce these abilities. Further, he notices how easy it is to change the code of the game to play with the Native Americans, but how it is impossible to make the natives competitive with the European powers of the game. It is easy to get caught up in the racial arguments that he makes, while missing his overarching point that is strewn within the article: is the ability, or inability to code things a certain way, as it applies to race, actually racist? Or merely an oversight of the authors? Owens uses the popular colonization game to look at this trend in general, singling out this Native American issue within the game. By examining the racial constructs within this game, Owens is attempting to analyze the way in which code is written by the developers of many different games, and their racial undertones. The ability to manipulate, or not manipulate these codes also has interesting racial undertones, and he discusses the social ramifications, or non ramifications of this ability.

Wonderful Point, Poorly Executed: After analyzing Owen's post, and the subsequent feedback, what became apparent to me was that Owen's had used the wrong vehicle to get across the point he was attempting to make. While the colonization of the Americas by European powers was indeed controversial, the coding text within this particular game was lackluster in solidifying this point. While perhaps more than subtly racists on occasion, the game was clearly designed to mimic history, not take a moral stance as Owens attempts. This is latched onto by many commentators, and Owens has to defend himself repeatedly and try to steer the conversation (often times unsuccessfully) back to his actual point. This brings up my next criticism, that Owens point is so interesting, that this particular topic area was the wrong vehicle in which to deliver it. Perhaps he was 'cashing in' on the controversy surrounding this particular game, spurred on by the Variety post, but it seems that there would have been much better works to use for this particular thesis (as he actually links to within his post). While I can admire the line of reasoning he attempts, it appears it could have been better executed. By latching onto such a controversial topic, Owens found his own point sidetracked and minimized in the discussion.

Works Cited:

Totilo, Stephen. "Variety Troubled By Sid Meier's Next Game." Kotaku. 16 June 2008. Web. 12 June 2015.

Owens, Trevor. "If (!isNative()){return False;}: De-People-ing Native Peoples in Sid Meier's Colonization." Play The Past RSS. 1 Mar. 2012. Web. 12 June 2015.

Owens, Trevor. "Sid Meier's Colonization: Is It Offensive Enough?" Play The Past RSS. 23 Nov. 2010. Web. 12 June 2015.

Wiki Article #2 Daniel Casey-Dunn

The Internet: Parceling out the Good & Bad Guys

SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA: SOPA, or the Stop Internet Piracy Act, attempts to do just what its name entails, Stop Internet Piracy. PIPA, or the Protect IP Act, also basically attempts to do what it's name details, protect Intellectual Property, in particular it attempts to target foreign websites and domains which infringe on United States copyright and intellectual property laws. These laws, in and of themselves, are rather pedestrian, their language is legalese, and an in depth breakdown of them would take away from the point that the backlash of these bills pointed out: attempts at preventing piracy, and internet crime need to be handled with care, and have an ability to adjust and adapt in a way that the current American legislative system (or perhaps anywhere else in the world) is simply incapable of dealing with. These bills were not an attempt to curb the freedom of idea exchange on the internet, but the outcome of the legislation very well could have done this. Further, the bill that has replaced these bills in intent, if not technical language, is CISPA aka the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. This has generated further outcry and political gridlock, but perhaps this issue goes beyond the simple current trend of political gridlock, but highlights the inability of our current legal system to address these issues. T.C. Sottek provides an excellent analysis of the more current legislation, CISPA, and highlights the common error this bills tend to make; ambiguous language which provides the government with too much power. This is an important trend when reviewing legislation aimed at combating some of the 'bad guys' on the internet. One important thing to note however, is that much of the ambiguous language in these bills also states that a court order is necessary to obtain the data which people are worried the government will over reach for. Is it a mistrust in the legal system? Is it a generally agreed sentiment that when given the power the institutions designed to protect us will overstep? Or is it a combination of both, combined with the large amount of evidence that the government does in fact overstep that frightens so many in regards to these bills? These trends, coupled with the invention of the data age of our current internet, present one of the largest challenges to not only the United States legal and legislative system, but also the worlds international law.

Anonymous It seems apropos that the very issue that plagues the internet, anonymity, has taken a name and a movement; Anonymous. Quinn Norton does an excellent job portraying just what the organization Anonymous truly is, and that reality can be viewed as either more or less frightening than what you thought, depending on your point of view. What is perhaps most relevant about Anonymous in this discussion though, is the difficulty in identifying the organization as a 'good or bad' player. The article points out the upside of the organization, the attempts to ensure internet openness, and the backlash against established government institutions that systematically oppress this openness and freedom. While at the same time, it highlights the almost nonsensical nature of the organization, the list of rules that continue ad infinitum, the sometimes disturbing, sometimes comical pranks that the organization sponsors, and the difficulty in casting Anonymous in one light or the other. What is clear however, is Anonymous' directive, to facilitate internet freedom, to attack those whom suppress information. This seems to be the underlying culture of Anonymous, which is a culture into and of itself, this desire to to push for change in a society where many agree that some kind of change is necessary. The end result is often messy, as Norton points out, but it is perhaps in this mess that blueprints for future action can occur.

Internet Privacy, Arguments for & Against

It also damages one of the most important tenets of reddit, and the internet as a whole – free and open discussion about whatever the fuck you want.

Those words, posted by Reddit user Jason Harvey, in his "Technical Examination of SOPA and Protect IP" scare me. While his post is filled with interesting information regarding the previously mentioned legislation, SOPA and PIPA, I believe that his message misses the mark, and whether due to ignorance or naivety, his takeaways are dangerous for the future of the internet. It is this very same sentiment that scares me about Anonymous, that in their effort to ensure internet freedom, they strip away the humanization of the user. This idea that a tenant of the internet is a complete and total lack of consequences for ones behavior is an alarming trend. The backlash against any sort of regulation of this behavior points out the issue in internet privacy regulations. Here Reed Hundt does an excellent job outlining the issue. Governments take any data that they want, without "Tried and true practices of the criminal justice system", they have in essence over stepped. But I believe that too many people over step in regards to this overstep. Too many people decry any regulation of any sort, to absurd ends. For example, the Reddit [1] 'Take Down Hall of Shame', one of the particular cases is a website, where someone pretends to be the head of a religious body writing a letter to its followers. The religious body filed a formal complaint, and said website was taken down. Seems pretty clear cut. However, the issue arises in not only the fact that this happened in the first place, but that impersonating a religious leader on the internet, and then being surprised/outraged that this was not allowed is viewed as commonplace and acceptable.

Framing the Internet Privacy Debate The current view of internet privacy is that in order to combat security issues, privacy must suffer as a result. This view perhaps sums up the error of both sides of the debate. As Reed Hundt states "Framing surveillance as a tradeoff between privacy and security is a dead end for democracy". This sentiment that we have currently established, that in order to be protected from cyber terrorism, and to combat the bad guys of the world, the average citizen must trade off his own privacy, is incorrect. Rather, the argument needs to be re-framed. The ambiguous language that haunts internet security bills needs to be revised, and a collaboration between the tech industry, those with the tools to build frameworks to help with these issues, and the government needs to begin. Yet, as highlighted below, there is a general mistrust between both sides of this discussion.

Edward Snowden: A Halfhearted Attempt at Reform Edward Snowden claims to be a patriot, he claims to have acted in the best interests of the people of the United States, and the people of the world. It is perfect that he be the case study in the discussion of parceling out the good and bad guys of the current digital age. It is precisely that conversation that has interrupted into so many arguments. Did Edward Snowden expose government overstep and violations of personal freedoms? Absolutely. But at the same time, Did Edward Snowden flee the very nation he states to act in the best interest of and reap immense personal fortune from said exposure, while at the same time claiming to be acting as a patriot for the very nation he refuses to return to? Absolutely. It is nigh impossible for any lay person to make a legitimate claim one way or the other. It is easy to label Edward Snowden as a patriot, as a whisteblower, as a coward, as a traior, as a visionary, in the same thought, and it is this very juxtaposition that exhibits the difficulty in policing our current digital age. Perhaps it is in figuring out this complex issue, that some of the gray natures of the internet become more black and white. Yet, Edward Snowden continues to live in Russia, disconnected, at least physically, from this issue. I believe that if he were the true patriot he claims to be, he would return to the United States and trust the judicial process, and assert his clams in a more valid way that would perhaps encourage more change than the way in which he has thus far. It is this courageous act that would propel the discussion from abstract in many cases, to more cemented, it could encourage the relationship between the tech industry and the U.S. government. However, the longer he stays in Russia, skirting United State's authority, the more he discredits his own arguments.

Where to Go From Here One issue that has become clearer and clearer, particularly in light of the recent Net Neutrality debate, is that the Government of the United States of America is ill prepared, and informed, to deal with the current technical issues the internet provides. This is alarming. While many might say that this stems from corporate influence, and the common revolving door of the private and public sector (as Vi Hart asserts), I would argue there is a more optimistic reason for the poor outcomes that have been achieved; a general inability within our government's tools to deal with the issue. It is precisely in the cutting edge nature of web 2.0 that the difficulty in legislating it stems. It is the international nature, the opposing doctrines, and the creation of a read/write/read/write culture that has evolved into the legal mess that is our current internet. One tenant that needs to change however, to push the internet into a more moral space, is the idea that one should not be held responsible for one's behavior on the web.

Works Cited:

"'Naive and Gravely Mistaken': Analysts Rebut Snowden Claims." NBC News. NBC, 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 2 July 2015.

"Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 2 July 2015.

Hart, Vi. "Net Neutrality in the US: Now What?" YouTube. YouTube, 7 May 2014. Web. 2 July 2015.

Harvey, Jason. "Blog.reddit -- What's New on Reddit: A Technical Examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP." Blog.reddit -- What's New on Reddit: A Technical Examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP. 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 2 July 2015.

Hundt, Reed. "Saving Privacy." Saving Privacy. 19 May 2014. Web. 2 July 2015.

"Main Page." Rules of the Internet. Web. 2 July 2015.

Norton, Quinn. "Anonymous 101: Introduction to the Lulz." Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 8 Nov. 2011. Web. 2 July 2015.

Norton, Quinn. "Anonymous 101 Part Deux: Morals Triumph Over Lulz." Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 30 Dec. 2011. Web. 2 July 2015.

Norton, Quinn. "2011: The Year Anonymous Took On Cops, Dictators and Existential Dread." Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 11 Jan. 2012. Web. 2 July 2015.

"Takedown Hall of Shame." Electronic Frontier Foundation. Web. 2 July 2015.

Sottek, T.C. "The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act: CISPA Explained." The Verge. 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 3 July 2015.

Zetter, Kim. "Reddit Cofounder Calls on Google’s Larry Page to Oppose CISPA." Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 2 July 2015.