William Gibson’s novel, Neuromancer had a noticble effect on Japanese culture in the 1980s and 90s. Consequently, there many anime from those decades that have cyberpunk elements. Here’s a brief list of a few that I think are worth checking out:
Our discussions about the future of the internet and smart appliances reminded me of a movie a watched a few months ago called Roujin Z. The film was written by Katsuhiro Otomo, who is best known as the director and original creator of Akira, one of the most highly regarded cyberpunk films in Japanese animation.
Set in the early 21st century, Roujin Z’s plot centers around Japan’s aging population. In order to care for the elderly, the Japanese government created the Medical Crisis Network, giving the elderly special pendants that alert medical personnel in the event of an emergency. After only ten years of using this system, however, it’s already overloaded. To try and solve this issue, a team of scientists working under the Japanese Ministry of Public Welfare invent a special hospital bed called the Z-001. Once placed in the bed, all the patient’s needs are met. It can feed, medicate, wash, and even provide the patient with exercise and entertainment. The bed is even hooked up to the web, so patients can interact with their loved ones without ever having to leave its confines.
Onboard the bed is special “sixth-generation computer” that learn and update its own hardware, not software. The bed ends up taking on the personality of the guinea pig’s dead wife and runs amok, ultimately leading to military intervention.
The film was released in 1991, and as such, gives an interesting look into what people imagined technology would be like 20 years into the future. If my brief summary seemed interesting to you, be sure to check the film out, it’s only 80 minutes long.
Writing in 1999, Xin Yao, a professor of computer science at the University of Birmingham, UK, explains what he calls “evolvable hardware,” or EHW. According to Yao, EHW is a type of hardware “whose architecture, structure, and functions change dynamically and autonomously in order to improve its performance” in certain tasks. The article briefly describes several different opinions regarding the application of EHW. Likewise, the article also explains the two major aspects of EHW: simulated evolution and electronic hardware. EHW uses different evolutionary algorithms for different tasks, but most EHW rely on reconfigurable hardware; for example, the article cites field-programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs. Because the functionality of FPGAs are determined by their architectural bits, which are reconfigurable, they’re plenty flexible for use in EHW. At the time of this articles publication, EHW was an emerging field. Conversely, it also talks about the emergence of several scholarly articles talking about EHW. Yao concludes that there is more work than can be covered in his article which he simply intends to be a brief overview of what EHW is.
Anime fansubbing, or the practice of copying, translating, and disturbing anime to fans, has long been essential to the Western anime community. Otherwise, English-speaking fans would either have to learn Japanese to experience many of their favorite series, or they’d have to wait for the often butchered, official, dubbed releases. Times have changed, and many series now receive official dual audio release, but fansubbing is still a prominent practice in the community. Early in the community’s history, fansubbers often stuck to the rule that they would stop the distribution of subs once an anime was licensed in their country. This has changed with the advent of digital fansubbing and peer-to-peer distribution, i.e. torrents. Dr Hye-Kyung Lee explores the ethics of this phenomena in her case study, “Cultural consumer and copyright: A case study of anime fansubbing.” Her findings show that respect for copyright holders has dwindled in recent years as the community itself has become less centralized. Her article also calls into question the traditional view of the copy right holder’s rights.
The relevance of cloud computing has increased tremendously in the last few years, and it’s only likely to increase in relevance in the future. Of course, many people are still unsure what the “cloud” refers to. Donald Beaty hopes to remedy this with his article, “Cloud Computing 101.” According to Beaty, cloud computing involves meeting the computing and storage resource needs of individuals and businesses through an online infrastructure. There are two main types of cloud models, the “Public Cloud” and the “Private Cloud.” Public clouds are the most numerous and are employed by web-based applications used by both individuals and business. Applications that run on public clouds include: Twitter, YouTube, Gmail, iTunes, etc. Private clouds, on the other hand, are often owned by an individual or company and are subject to their desires and use. In addition to the two main types, there also exist “Hybrid Clouds,” or cloud services with varying levels of security. He also explains cloud computing as a service provided to a customer. There are five different styles: Platform as a Service, Software as a Service, Communication as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, and Monitoring as a Service. Beaty ends his article by reflecting on cloud computing’s rapid evolution. According to him, clouds must be adaptable as technology advances.
Engagement with Twitter is now a must for most journalists. Tweeting is, after all, a proven way to increase an online publication’s readership. Mark S. Luckie, Twitter’s Manager of Journalism and News, knows this better than anyone. His blog post “Best practice for journalists” lays out four easy ways for journalists to boost their followers and increase their views. The first method, according to Luckie, is to “tweet your beat,” or to “regularly tweet about the subjects you cover.” Research shows that those who live tweet an event or post a concentrated number of tweets about a topic in a short timespan see an increase of 50 percent in their follower growth. Another option is to use hashtags. Those who include hashtags in their tweets are likely to see an increase of 100 percent in their engagement with their followers. Likewise, citing your sources is also important. Linking back to your source in your tweet using mentions can increase your growth by 17 percent, as opposed to simply using links. And finally, share with your follows what you’re interested in. Doing so can increase your engagement by 100 percent.
Although the internet has outpaced traditional media in many aspects, and has the potential to develop even further, there’s a surprising lack of research involving internet service providers (ISP) and their use of brand power to gain customers. Kevin Chiu, Ru-Jen Lin, Maxwell Hsu, and Li-Hua Huang have hoped to remedy this by studying the brand power of ISPs in Northern Taiwan. Despite its small size and population of only 23 million, with an internet penetration of only 46 percent as of 2009, there are over 51 ISPs competing for customers in Taiwan. In their study, they look at the role branding plays on an ISPs ability to retain old and gain new customers. According to their study, the power of branding comes from the image customers attach to a brand, the knowledge or awareness customers have of a brand, the trust customers put in a brand, and the consumers’ overall preference. The study found brand awareness and brand trust to be the key factors in how an ISP brand is perceived. Control of these factors by ISPs are crucial for their success and overall standing in the marketplace.
The discipline of Human Computer Interaction, or HCI, involves the study of how people interact with computers and how computers are developed to interact with people. HCI has caught the attention of several corporations and academic institutions, all of them looking for a way to make the interaction between man and machine as user friendly as possible. Ugwunwa Chinyere Esse takes this approach in his study comparing users’ experiences with Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Vista. In his study, he cites much of the criticism levied at Windows Vista not long after its launch, including: its high system requirements, restrictive licensing terms, and its inclusion of digital rights management technologies, or DRM. According to many critics, several aspects of Vista do little to increase how user friendly the operating system is, and are more likely additions made to please big business. Esse surveyed a large group of Windows users who found it difficult to switch to Windows Vista from Windows XP, despite preferring Vista’s graphically interface. He concludes that Microsoft needed to “investigate and conduct a feasibility study on the end users” of their operating systems to further improve the user friendliness of their software.
3D printing has boomed in the last five years. An adaption from “Computer Numeric Controlled” machines that came about in 1952 after “researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wired an early computer to a milling machine,” 3D printers are now showing up in classrooms at every educational level. Even President Barack Obama called them “the wave of the future” in his 2013 State of the Union Address. In their article, “3D printing: In Technology and Engineering Education,” Robert L. Martin, Nicholas S. Bowden, and Chris Merrill give a basic overview of this new phenomena, from its history, ethics, and use. They explore its origins as a CNC that formed shapes by milling away material, to its current form as a machine that creates objects using an additive manufacturing process. They also go over its ethical questions—both the printing of weapons and possible copy right infringements. After giving a basic overview, the three men conclude the article by talking about the possible impacts 3D printing may have on STEM education, saying that “students may be enticed to pursue STEM-based careers by just having a 3D printer in the classroom.”
Broadband internet access has rapidly gained ground in China. Likewise, online gaming has also become hugely popular. In 2003, online game players made up only 18.1 percent of the 11 million users online; in contrast, as of 2008 they made up 59.3 percent of over 120 million internet users. According to Wei Peng, Ph.D. and Ming Liu, M.A., many of these users suffer from what they call, “online gaming dependency:” a “psychological state characterized by psychological discomfort experienced by online gamers when they are unable to play online games as they wish.” Peng and Liu hypothesized that this dependency was likely to strike people that suffer from negative visions of their role in society, shyness, and depression. They also hypothesized that online gaming dependency would negatively affect a person’s social and personal life. Their data confirmed their hypotheses. They hope their findings can help guide health professionals to better care for those suffering from online game dependency.