Presented without comment #18

Occasional dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia: Part 1‘ – Colson Whitehead on the World Series of Poker, at Grantland.

I have a good poker face because I am half-dead inside. My particular combo of slack features, negligible affect, and soulless gaze had helped my game ever since I started playing 20 years ago, when I was ignorant of pot odds and M-Theory and three-betting, and it gave me a boost as I collected my trove of lore, game by game, hand by hand. It had not helped me human relationships-wise over the years, but surely I am not alone here — anyone whose peculiar mix of genetic material and formative experiences had resulted in a near-expressionless mask could relate. Nature giveth, taketh, etc. You make the best of the hand you’re dealt.

Occasional dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia: Part 2‘ – Colson Whitehead on the World Series of Poker, at Grantland.

There it was again. For years and years, people had informed me I had a good poker face, when I told them I was going to play at a friend’s on Friday night, or ran into them on the subway while carrying my suitcase of monogrammed chips, which was a gift from a college buddy after I was a groomsman in his wedding: “I bet you have a good poker face.” They don’t know a set of trips from a royal flush, but they know this fact. What they’re really saying is, you are a soulless monster whose fright mask is incapable of capturing normal human expressions. You are a throwback to a Neanderthal state of uncomplicated emotions, or a harbinger of our cold, passionless future, but either way, I don’t know what’s going on in your head.

Perhaps I am projecting.

If your website is full of Assholes, It’s your fault‘ by Anil Dash at paidContent.org.

How many times have you seen a website say “We’re not responsible for the content of our comments.”? I know that when you webmasters put that up on your sites, you’re trying to address your legal obligation. Well, let me tell you about your moral obligation: Hell yes, you are responsible. You absolutely are. When people are saying ruinously cruel things about each other, and you’re the person who made it possible, it’s 100 percent your fault. If you aren’t willing to be a grown-up about that, then that’s okay, but you’re not ready to have a web business. Businesses that run cruise ships have to buy life preservers. Companies that sell alcohol have to keep it away from kids. And people who make communities on the web have to moderate them.

Presented without comment #17

Journalism: The Videogame Redux, Part 7‘ by Leigh Alexander at Insert Credit.

I wonder if other fields labor under the same constant self-reflexive laments as do video games press. It’s always seemed a little absurd to me, sometimes feeling as if there were more people willing to question my fitness and that of my colleagues to do our work – again, we write about video games — than would apply that scrutiny to their local government representatives or their physicians.

Electronic Empire Expo: The First World Problem of E3‘ by Kris Ligman at Dire Critic.

E3 is a first world problem. Yet it reflects some of the most far-reaching global issues our high tech society is able to inflict on the rest of the Earth. For all the self-gratifying expense of E3, the light and sound shows, the slick expensive hardware developed against a backdrop of Foxconn factory fires, the booth babes are just a tiny symptom of this whole exploitative scene. The fact that expo organizers have gone back to this carnival format after their abortive attempt a few years back to downsize and sober up the event signals all we need to know about industry priorities…

Call of Dupe-y‘ by Chris Plante, at The Daily.

Here’s how Activision plans to not only shut down ModernWarfare3.com, but take it over: A complaint like this pertains to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ domain-name dispute resolution policy. To win control of the URL, Activision must prove three things: The domain name is confusingly similar to a trademark they possess; the registrant has no rights or interest in the domain name; and the registrant’s intended use of the domain is one of “bad faith.”

The dispute is in Activision’s favor. If the panel rules on the side of the publisher, the registrant must surrender ModernWarfare3.com — without the option to appeal. The registrant’s return to court would spell a pricey lawsuit and a scrimmage with Activision’s squad of lawyers.

Abstract: Neuroscience and the digital community: what next for the notion of ‘the individual’?

The following abstract was accepted for the international conference ‘Knowledge/Culture/Social Change‘ to be held in Sydney, Australia in November.

The ‘individual’ has attained an unparalleled level of success and acceptance, with the DNA of all major political and economic theories now permeated with the assumption of real existing ‘individuals’. Modern neuroscientific developments however are challenging this assumption, and in this paper I propose to deal with two challenges to the notion of the individual, the ‘extended mind’ theory and ‘eliminative materialism’, attempting a reconciliation within the context of productive internet communities. The goal of the paper will be to outline some of the important ramifications for humanity and the liberal/progressive project.

Firstly, theories of mind such as Andy Clark and David Chalmer’s “the extended mind” suggest a counter-intuitive redrawing of the boundaries of the mind beyond the limits of the cranial cavity and even the body itself. Consider the example of the Alzheimer’s patient who supplements his failing memory with diligent note-keeping and diarising. Information stored in the patient’s diary now becomes his memory, and as such informs his beliefs, knowledge, actions, etc. The film Memento (2000) in which an amnesiac tattoos messages to himself onto his body functioned on a similar premise.

Secondly, the model of mind proposed by Paul and Patricia Churchland dubbed ‘eliminative materialism’ suggests that when neuroscientific advances progress to a point of near-complete modelling of the human brain, we may well arrive to discover that no structural or literal brain functions are found to represent our common-sense ‘manifest image’ of mental function. What happens when no place, structure, or function of the brain can be found to account for “beliefs”, “ideas”, “thoughts”, etc?

In the paper I propose to attempt a reconciliation of the ‘extended mind’ thesis with the promise of ‘eliminative materialism’, by way of the internet technologies that connect so-called “individuals” together into communities. But if parts of our minds can be said to be outsourced to the digital tools we use for communication, storage, and transmission, and if these tools overlap, what kind of entity arises? The paper will draw on the findings of my earlier work in characterising internet communities as a post-human (or post-individual) subject of knowledge and expertise.

Bibliography (incomplete)

Brassier, Ray. Nihil Unbound. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Clark, Andy. Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997)

Clark, Andy & Chalmers, David. “The Extended Mind”. Analysis, Vol. 58, No. 1, Jan., 1998.

Dennett, Daniel. Consciousness Explained. Harmondsworth Eng.: Penguin, 1993.

Meillassoux, Quentin et.al. After Finitude. London: Continuum, 2008.

Home

Back home again! Lots to report; met a bunch of fantastic people and had even more fantastical conversations with them. I’m still too jetlagged to go into much detail but to say that spending an evening chatting with my hero Kieron Gillen and his RPS Alumni Jim Rossignol and Quintin Smith was a “high point” would be like saying that the apollo space program was “a high point” in the history of NASA. The whole trip was one incredible high after another.

But I’ll save some more of this for later as I gather myself together from all the parts that I’ve left strewn across the world and figure out which parts are worth mentioning.

London bound!

By the time you are reading this I will be jetting across the world headed for London, England. From Sunday I’m in central London where I’m planning to meet up with friends and some people I only know via the internet. If you’re from London, or can get to London, and you’ve got a particularly keen interest in hanging out with an Australian From The Internet then get in touch! My email is on the side-bar and I check twitter more times an hour than heroine addicts shoot up in Kings Cross.

On Thursday I’m leaving London and heading up to Oxford to spend Friday and the weekend at the Videogame Cultures and the Future of Interactive Entertainment conference, where I’m presenting a paper (which I posted the abstract for a few weeks ago). A fairly finished draft version of the paper is available to read online.

Aaaand lastly I was quoted in the first issue of a very pretty e-Zine “ctrl+alt+defeat” and you can see my thoughts on the issue of non-glamorous violence in games on p.17. Matthew Burns adds his thoughts to the same piece, too.

Right. I hope that’s everything. Wish me luck on this 23 hour flight and I’ll see you in the Northern Hemisphere, where I will inevitably complain about how cold it is for summer. Seriously, summer is meant to be 40C, not 20C. I’ve been watching the forecasts and it seems like this year’s mild Australian winter may occasionally be warmer than an English summer. I guess I’ll finally find out why people live in England.