Joe Mascetti

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Wiki Article #1: Anthropology of Social Behavior in BioShock by Katy Meyers

BioShock Development

BioShock was a successful first-person shooter developed by Irrational Games and originally released for Windows and Xbox 360 in 2007. The game incorporates visceral first-person action, horror and rpg elements with a unique story and setting heavily influenced by the ideas of authors Ayn Rand and George Orwell.

In BioShock, the player is placed into the role of Jack, a man stuck in Rapture, a crumbling undersea Art Deco metropolis overrun by citizens mutated and driven mad by unregulated genetic experimentation. Over the course of the game the player must fight for survival while working for and against the city's few remaining sane inhabitants to uncover the truth behind the fall of Rapture. BioShock was a commercial and critical success, which sold millions of copies across all platforms and won numerous Game of the Year awards.(1)

Author's Main Argument

In Anthropology of Social Behavior in BioShock, Katy Meyers draws upon ethnographer Bronislaw Malinowski's idea of the importance of detailed participant observation to analyze the various levels of narrative in BioShock and how an anthropological viewpoint can give greater insight into how the player interacts with them. Meyers argues that in BioShock, as in real life, an anthropological approach can reveal the multiple levels that people operate on in society. This can be applied to the examination of living populations by comparing observations of behavior with peoples' explanations of their own behavior, and in the past through the archaeological examination of artifacts, sites, and texts.(2)

According to Malinowski, an anthropological investigation of social behavior must account for what people do, what they say they do, and the laws and ideals that lead them to do what they do.(3) Meyers applies this to BioShock by noting that the player must engage with these three levels of behavior to some degree whether they are aware of it or not. Like an anthropologist looking at culture or society, if we are willing we can examine Rapture through the same lens and see the multiple layers of storytelling that lie under the surface of BioShock, waiting for an inquisitive player to draw them out.

Importance of BioShock


Central to Meyers' argument is the idea that the tenets of social anthropology or ethnography can be applied to digital worlds like Rapture in the same way that they are applied to societies of the real world. By taking notice of the various levels of social interaction that the player observes and becomes involved with, we apply the same ideas to the analysis of the game that Malinowski applied in his famous observation of life and society in the Trobriand Islands.


BioShock's story and setting are heavily entrenched in the Objectivist ideals of Ayn Rand which assert that the agency of the individual rather than church or state is the most important driving force in a society. According to Meyers, this objectivist theme is found in BioShock at all levels and is the driving force in the goals and motivations of its characters. This might not be immediately apparent to the player, but it often has a significant impact on the way that the player interprets the actions of the story's main characters by the end of the game.

My Thoughts

Katy Meyers brings up some good points about the application of anthropology in an artificial world. Having read about Malinowski's ideas on anthropological observation firsthand in Argonauts of the Western Pacific, I would tend to agree with Meyers that the methods of observation described in that book can be applied to any society, real or not. But I guess that that point could easily be argued against, since the world of Rapture is not real, but is instead a product of the imaginations of the writers at Irrational Games. It could be said that whatever anthropological observations we draw from BioShock are simply those that the creators wanted us to arrive at. But I guess those observations are still valid.

I've played BioShock several times and might even call it one of my favorite games. In my opinion, few other video games have ever been able to combine such a thought-provoking story with a so thoroughly fleshed-out setting as Rapture. Like Meyers says, the objectivist theme pervades BioShock's narrative at every level and made the interactions of the player with its characters that much more memorable. Walking through Rapture's streets and halls is like examining a perfectly preserved archaeological dig site. The signs of past social upheaval and open warfare, combined with signs of the shattered peace of daily life, like food rotting on a table or an overturned baby carriage in the street combine to create one of the most poignant and memorable settings I have ever experienced. Additionally, the insight that the player can gain into the backgrounds and personalities of BioShock's main characters by examining the various levels of anthropological narrative that surrounds them further fleshes out Rapture, making it that much more complex and believable. It is these levels of interaction through which the player engages with the world that sets BioShock so far apart from the other mindless shooters.

Works Cited:

  1. Wikipedia contributors. "BioShock." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Jun. 2013. Web. 5 Jun. 2013.
  2. Meyers, Katy. "Anthropology of Social Behavior in BioShock." Play The Past RSS. Play The Past, 22 Nov. 2011. Web. 05 June 2013.
  3. Wikipedia contributors. "Bronisław Malinowski." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 May. 2013. Web. 5 Jun. 2013.

Wiki Article #2: SOPA, PIPA, Anonymous, and Snowden


The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) are two proposed pieces of US legislation which would give the government greater power to crack down on both foreign and domestic websites which are deemed be in violation of copyright-infringement or wrongful distribution of digital or physical goods. According to the lawmakers who support these bills, SOPA and PIPA would protect the intellectual property of creators while fostering further creativity and defending American jobs. Opponents on the other hand state that these bills violate Americans' First Amendment rights. While many people agree with the sentiment behind these bills, their proponents and opponents tend to disagree about the details in the fine print.

Both SOPA and PIPA would grant the office of the Attorney General the power to initiate legal action against a potentially infringing site. ([1]) If any website is found to be in violation of the bills' provisions, it would be subject to seizure if domestic and a number of restrictive actions if foreign. These include the removal of all links to the site from search engines, the removal of the use of US ads and payment networks, and DNS blacklisting by US ISPs. According to the opponents of SOPA and PIPA, these bills would be harmful to free expression on the internet and could easily be abused due to their loose language and terminology. Because these bills do not actually contain any provisions for removing protected content but instead focus on the censorship of links the opponents state, these bills do not actually do anything to curb piracy or copyright infringement because new illicit sites will always be popping up outside of the borders of the United States.

At the present time, the progress of both of these bills has been stalled indefinitely.


Anonymous is a decentralized network of hackers, activists, and general internet troublemakers. The group originated on the image-board 4chan and first became notorious for its masked members' protests against the Church of Scientology in 2008. In 2011, Anonymous received worldwide media attention when the group became involved in the events of the Arab Spring. In addition, Anonymous has also been responsible for widespread acts of cybervandalism and distributed denial-of-service attacks targeting government, corporate, and religious websites. Because of the loosely affiliated nature of Anonymous, the nature of the group's protests and attacks has varied considerably. But generally speaking, Anonymous has been known to oppose all forms of internet censorship and control. Since the group's inception, Anonymous has been hailed as both "freedom fighters" and "cyber terrorists". ([2])

Hackers and the Cybersecurity Movement

In response to the widespread hacking incidences directed at government, corporate, and religious sites, US legislatures have been searching for new ways to investigate and prosecute cybersecurity crimes. After the failure of SOPA and PIPA last year, a new bill which many see as a more robust version of last year's cybersecurity legislation attempts has been put forward. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), if passed, would allow ISPs to freely share customer data with government agencies if that data is deemed to be a cybersecurity threat.([3]) It is purported that this data would be used for five purposes:

  1. Cybersecurity
  2. Investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes
  3. Protection of individuals from danger of death or physical injury
  4. Protection of minors from physical or psychological harm
  5. Protection of US national security([4])

Similarly to the case of PIPA and SOPA, many groups and individuals have come forward in opposition to this new legislation including The Center for Democracy and Technology, the American Civil Liberties Union, Mozilla, Reddit, and over 840,000 online petitioners. ([5]) On April 22 of this year, Anonymous called for an internet blackout in protest of CISPA similar to the one spearheaded by Wikipedia and Google which took place in opposition to SOPA and PIPA in 2012. Unfortunately, this protest made much less of an impact because many large companies including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and the policy group Technet which includes Google and Facebook support this legislation.([6])([7])

After passing through the House of Representatives in 2012, CISPA was introduced in Congress in February 2013 where it passed as H.R. 624. Currently CISPA is considered to be dead in the Senate, which refuses to vote on the matter and is said to be writing up competing legislation. ([8])

Free Information and the Edward Snowden Controversy

All of these questions raised in recent years about copyright laws, intellectual property, and the privacy of personal data have come to a head recently with the news of the current events surrounding the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former contractor of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency recently leaked details of top-secret telephone and internet surveillance program called PRISM to the press. ([9]) Snowden's disclosure has been said to rank among the most significant breaches of intelligence in US history and has suddenly thrown the media spotlight onto the issue of privacy and government surveillance.

As with Anonymous, Snowden has been called a patriot and a traitor in turn. Those who oppose secretive, intrusive government surveillance call this a victory for the 'little guy' in the battle against big brother, but it also raises concerns about the future of cybersecurity legislation like CISPA. According to Snowden's information, many large companies including Google and Microsoft have already been participating in the PRISM program for some time, secretly passing user information to government agencies. ([10]) In light of this news, some have begun to wonder if perhaps CISPA represents an attempt to retroactively legitimize this secret data sharing that is already taking place. ([11]) If this is the case, then Edward Snowden has given the private citizen ample proof that even without the passage of cybersecurity legislation like SOPA, PIPA, or CISPA, the government has an unprecedented level of power when it comes to snooping into the data of our everyday lives.

Works Cited:

  1. Harvey, Jason. "What's New on Reddit: A Technical Examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP." Blog.reddit. N.p., 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 27 June 2013.
  2. Wikipedia contributors. "Anonymous (group)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Jun. 2013. Web. 28 Jun. 2013.
  3. Sottek, T.C. "The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act: CISPA Explained." The Verge. N.p., 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 27 June 2013.
  4. Klosowski, Thorin. "All About CISPA, the Bill That Wants to Erode Your Online Privacy." Lifehacker. N.p., 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 27 June 2013.
  5. Wikipedia contributors. "Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 Jun. 2013. Web. 28 Jun. 2013.
  6. Kleinman, Alexis. "CISPA 2013 Blackout Staged By Anonymous Doesn't Go As Planned (UPDATE)." The Huffington Post., 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.
  7. Zetter, Kim. "Reddit Cofounder Calls on Google’s Larry Page to Oppose CISPA." Conde Nast Digital, 16 Apr. 0013. Web. 27 June 2013.
  8. Smith, Gerry. "Senate Won't Vote On CISPA, Deals Blow To Controversial Cyber Bill." The Huffington Post., 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.
  9. Wikipedia contributors. "Edward Snowden." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Jun. 2013. Web. 28 Jun. 2013.
  10. Riley, Michael. "U.S. Agencies Said to Swap Data With Thousands of Firms." Bloomberg, 15 June 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.
  11. Cringely, Robert X. "NSA, PRISM, and CISPA: The Conspiracy behind the Conspiracy." InfoWorld. N.p., 14 June 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.