Author Archives: Exxy

#TIC104: Do Laws Stifle Creativity?

Video here.

I’m kind on the fence about this talk. On one hand I really do agree with Lessig in that there are some laws that stifle people’s creativity, either by design or as a side effect. I think that there are so many creative things that people produce using resources that were originally produced by others and eventually get shut down by copyright laws. I also believe that most, if not all, of everything that humanity has created is derived from another piece in some way or another. Nobody finds issue when every other Great American Novel is just a resetting or some or other biblical tale. It seems that there are only some categories of works that are deemed not okay to derive from.

But I also don’t agree with Lessig when he agrees with the quote he reads from someone talking about the invention of the “machines”. I don’t think that technology’s natural state is restricting people’s creativity but just adding more ways to let people be creative.

Long, still related, tangent under the cut.

This whole discussion reminds me of my time developing content for IMVU. Now it’s not a whole lot more than an outdated cyber sex simulator, but in 2006 it was a much smaller, much more pleasant community. I couldn’t afford the 3DS Max suite, which was the only program as far as I can recall that could produce the mesh files that the IMVU development tools would accept, so my 11 year old self stayed with retexturing other people’s meshes using my mother’s copy of Photoshop (6, or something).

Deriving from other people’s meshes was an incredibly well thought out system, in retrospect. The original creators of the mesh could choose whether or not they would allow other developers to derive from them and when the derivative product was sold a portion of the (real!) money price would go back to the mesh creator. This encouraged a lot of those who could to get into both modelling and texturing for maximum profit, but there were also those who exclusively relied on releasing meshes with no textures, just to be derived from by other people.

Retexturing was also a lot more versatile than it sounds at first. Through clever use of alpha mapping you could produce a product that looked almost nothing like the original that it was derived from.

It’s a shame a system like that can’t be implemented for everything. An automatic system where people can choose whether or not they want to be derived from and would eventually get something from being derived from would be pretty cool, if not impossible in the real world.

It was a pretty neat way to earn some pocket money as an 11 year old, anyway. And it taught me quite a lot about how video game graphics work, as well as online real-money transactions.

#TIC104 Summary: “What Happened to Video Game Piracy?”

This article discusses the fears that were floating around when music piracy first hit the mainstream with the popularity of Napster. The author speaks about how important people in the video game industry was at first as concerned as those of the music industry that internet piracy would destroy their businesses.

The article reports that, interestingly enough, video game developers never reported any large hit to their income that could be reliably put down to people pirating their games instead of buying them.

The reason for this, the author poses, is the popularity of games consoles. It is much harder to pirate a game made for the console than it is to do so with one made for the PC. Not only that but the average console gamer is thought to not have the knowledge necessary to illegally download a game for their console and take the steps to have it work on their console. The reason for this is that many people who use their computers to play newer, more demanding games need powerful computers than can play those games in the first place. And many of these computers are built by their users themselves, necessitating that many people who game on desktops already have a decent working knowledge of how the computer works, while people who prefer to play their games on a console do not need an intimate understanding of how their machine works. Because of this, many console gamers do not know how to go about pirating games for their chosen console or they simply don’t care enough to go through the extra effort that is required to make a pirated console game work.

#TIC104 Summary “An Onion a Day Keeps the NSA Away”

This article from the Journal of Internet Law discusses the online anonymity network “Tor”. At it its most basic, Tor can be explained as allowing users to interact online without having to expose their IP address.

The article gives a quick but detailed and helpful summary of how Tor works and how it is different from proxies and other methods that people use to keep their internet habits private. The author also goes over some of Tor’s functions in more detail, such as the ability to use it to get around workplace or school internet blockage of certain URLs or categories of website. I used to use the Tor browser in secondary school to play flash games on the library computers, but apparently those same features can have an even more important use of allowing one to bypass their country’s preferred method of internet censorship, such as China’s infamous firewall.

The article also brings up a big problem with complete internet anonymity, which is that it allows people to exchange illegal goods and images (such as child pornography) with little to no way for authorities to track down the people behind such websites. The author brushes off this problem with complete anonymity by arguing that the continued existence of such websites serve as proof that Tor works as it should. To me, this just reiterates the big problem with choosing to stand behind the ideal of complete anonymity online, as although it allows people free access to information and communication without worrying about angering the powers that be, it also allows for the continuance of criminal activities that most sane people would consider detestable, such as the making and distribution of pornographic images of children.

Finally, the author brings up the ways in which network administrators are attempting to block access to Tor and the ways which he as used to get around them.

#TIC104 Summary: “Nude Photos Of Jennifer Lawrence And Kate Upton Leak: Five Important Lessons For All of Us”

They’re calling it The Fappening, the leak of nude pictures of one-hundred female celebrities stolen from their iCloud accounts. Although there was some question as to whether or not they were real or if they had been edited, several of the women featured in the leaks have confirmed that the pictures were, in fact, real.

The author of the article gives several interesting points about the whole ordeal, firstly being that it is not certain as to whether or not the women whose pictures were stolen took proper measures to protect their iCloud accounts. The article also recommended that someone who wants to store sensitive information on a cloud service encrypt it themselves rather than relying solely on the encryption service provided by the cloud service. It was also highly recommended that one makes sure to use complex passwords and to learn from this event in order to not make the same mistake that these celebrities made when storing their sensitive photographs because the average person would not find half as much support from internet services as has been offered to the victims of this leak over the past couple of days.

This might be a very important event for how we view cloud storage, especially because the service in question, iCloud comes automatically installed on every iPhone and many users might not even realize that they’re using it.

#TIC104 Summary: “Internet gaming disorder and the DSM-5″

Almost ten years after the last incarnation was published in 1994, the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published in 2013. One of the many changes in the new DSM was the addition of Internet Gaming Disorder to the manual.

The article describes the process that the people writing the manual went through to recategorize abuse disorders such as substance abuse disorders, gambling disorders and Internet Gaming Disorder.

The article mentions that there is very little information available about IGD at the moment and poses that its inclusion into the DSM-5 was in order to encourage more studies into peoples’ internet use habits and when they may become unhealthy. An interesting thing that the article notes is that the criteria in psychological studies relating to internet use vary wildly, some coming to the conclusion that only 0.1% of participants may be affected by unhealthy internet habits, and other studies put that number at 50%.

I find this paper very interesting, as it is a great example of how psychology must adapt to the movement of technology and, by extension, how the human mind also adapts to it, as something like Internet Gaming Disorder would either have not existed in 1994, when the DSM-4 was released, or would be so rare that it would likely have been completly unheard of.

#TIC104 Summary: “Understanding Black Twitter”

An article from Public Relations Tactics named “Understanding ‘Black Twitter’: A look at the increasingly diverse Internet population.” details the participation trends of African Americans on Twitter and how the social networking website it is quickly expanding medium for members of racial minorities in the United States to communicate and have their voices heard.

The article speaks about how around 25% of current Twitter users are black and that a higher proportion of African Americans use Twitter than any other racial group. The idea of a collective identity, facilitated by technology is an extremely interesting one and have already been multiple events where the collective attention garnered by Black Twitter has been used to effect social changes, such as all of the attention given to Paula Deen’s racist comments or that of the public relations executive who tweeted something racist before getting on an eight hour flight and was already fired before her plane had landed.

The influence of “Black Twitter” can be seen in the recent events in Ferguson, MI. For several days town authorities were not allowing journalists access to the town to report on the protests that broke out after the police shooting of unarmed 17 year old Micheal Brown. During this time some of the only information coming out of the town was over Twitter and primarily tweeted by African Americans. All over the world support was garnered for the protesters and the information  that the Black Twitter community provided allowed news sources to further spread the information coming out of Ferguson. It’s also worth noting that some of the information coming from the protesters’ tweets told a vastly different story than that told by the authorities and furthered the discussions and accusations of government corruption being involved in the events in Furguson.

#TIC104 Summary: “Why Bitcoin Has Value”

This article from the ACM discusses the virtual cryptocurrency Bitcoin and how its non-existent exchange rates, automatic transaction records and near-complete anonymity make it a currency valuable for many things that currencies backed by governments are not optimal for.

The first point the article brings up is that of the fact that the same Bitcoin cannot be spent twice, as the Bitcoin system keeps track of each coin’s individual transactions and new coins cannot be forged, even by someone who has all of a coin’s transaction information. The article also details is that Bitcoins can be transferred between users and into different currencies for next to nothing compared to the rates attached to government backed currencies.

Of course, unregulated currencies come with their own risks completely separate from those of backed currencies. For one, the anonymity of Bitcoin prevents the creation of the paper trails that are created with other currencies, allowing Bitcoin to be used for criminal transactions, allowing the authorities much less information that could be used to track down those using the currency in the trade of illegal goods, such as illegal drugs, weapons and child pornography.

A personal interjection: lack of regulation also contributed to the Mt. Gox disaster in Feburary 2014, where the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange (handling 70% of all Bitcoin transactions at the time) closed down, taking with it 850,000 BTC, a value of $598,034,500 USD at the time. People who lost their money in the shutdown never got it back, as the exchange did not have the insurance that a bank that handles government backed currencies would have.

#Gamergate: Something I Found a Little Funny

Above is an image that over the course of the past few days has been posted to multiple subreddits, along with 19 others, all under the title “Have you heard about how social justice activists/warriors are planning to kill gaming? Well, it turns out that’s wrong. They’re not planning. They’ve already been working at it for years.” This photoset has caused monumental drama in reddit’s gaming communities, with some lauding it and some criticizing it.

The image above shows a promotional screenshot from Bioshock: Infinite, where a character, Elizabeth, is shown wearing a rather low cut outfit by the standards of 1912, the game’s setting. Below that are screencaps of two articles discussing the outfit and a tweet from controversial game critic Anita Sarkeesian criticizing Irrational Games’ choice in Elizabeth’s dress. The bottom portion of the image shows another screenshot from Infinite, showing Elizabeth now wearing a white blouse with all of the buttons done up.

Worst dad and hot Jesus.

The implication is supposed to be that Irrational caved to the demands of critics and changed Elizabeth’s outfit to something much more conservative, supposedly proving something or other about the continuing dastardly plot to destroy video games because… for shits and giggles I suppose.

The funny reality is that anybody who has actually played Bioshock: Infinite will know that both outfits are present in the game and [spoiler alert!] Elizabeth changes from the more conservative one into the low cut corset about halfway through the game and both outfits get just about equal screen time in the game. Not to mention that the second outfit is the one featured on most of the Infinite merchandise. Take the poster on my wall, for instance.

For someone supposedly extremely passionate about the state of the video game industry, and considering Infinite’s popularity and the time it spent in the headlines, this seems like a rather bizarre mistake to make. Rather ironic, really, considering how many of the rebuttals leveraged at people who critique video games for their diversity insist that they do not care at all about the industry, but instead are only interested in pushing some sort of agenda. Absolutely fascinating.

And for the kicker, it is worth noting that Irrational did, in fact, change the model for Elizabeth’s second dress at some point during development. It is unknown whether or not they did so in response to the controversy about how low cut it was for the era, or if it was just one of the many small changes that get made during the development and design process.


Both of these models are present in the game’s files and the one used in the game is on the right. Although the colouring in the first picture more accurately matches that of the used model, the neckline of the dress and shape of Elizabeth’s waist resemble that the old model much, much more. As you can see the corset of the dress in the newer model is much less sexualized than the (mostly) unused model, with a more natural looking waist, a higher neckline of the corset and less noticeable cleavage. There is also a  lace trim at the top of the corset that is not present in neither the unused model nor the one in the screenshot at the top of this article.

This change was exactly what the creator of the graphic was looking for to complain about, yet somehow neglected to mention at all. Perhaps because making a neckline ever so marginally higher and adding a lace trim to a character design is not nearly as sensational as implying a complete redesign.

The conclusion? They did change Elizabeth’s outfit, just not to the one that the person behind this infographic claims, and not nearly by as much as would constitute an actual change to the character’s design.

And even then, would the entire gaming industry really be dismantled by the absence of a single pair of breasts?