Why So Serious? A Panel Discussion on Serious Games


I moderated a panel organized by IGDA Toronto and held at OCAD University on the political potential of video games. Here's the write-up and video:

Contrary to popular opinion - in the wake of recent violence in the US - not all games are about mindless, gun-based mayhem. Many games are being developed today that tackle broader, more meaningful issues: everything from environmental activism to food accessibility.

Join IGDA Toronto and a panel of industry experts for an evening dedicated to serious games: namely, games designed for a purpose other than just entertainment.

Moderator: Jesse Hirsh, CBC technology columnist.

Netflix, Big Data, and House of Cards

House of Cards

Like many I spent this past Superb Owl weekend watching the political thriller House of Cards rather than Beyonce or Football. The Netflix remake of the BBC adaptation of the Michael Dobbs novel is fantastic, and as it turns out, tailored to me, my friends, and our interests.

Netflix is a company driven by big data. Their service is dependent upon customization and recommendations so as to keep us watching shows that are usually old and somewhat stale.

House of Cards, while somewhat old, is actually entirely new, at least when it comes to television production. As noted by Andrew Leonard writing for Salon:

Through the Eyes of Youth

Today I had a fantastic time at Humber College in North West Toronto. I was invited to give a talk as part of their President's Lecture Series.

The topic was supposed to be social media and privacy. While this is certainly what I spoke to, I didn't want to address the topic as if we are victims. I wanted it to be empowering, so I used my current frame of "Getting Paid in the Knowledge Economy".

Rather than expose yourself by blindly sharing personal information, construct a persona that you deliberately put out into the world.

We talked about the value of personal information, and how to protect one's privacy.

One on One with Peter Mansbridge

No, we didn't play basketball, but I did have the opportunity to sit down with CBC's Chief Correspondent, Peter Mansbridge, to talk technology, privacy, and politics.

Peter wanted to start by looking at what is up with Research in Motion, and whether they can and in fact are turning things around. The only way to answer that is to also look at Apple and Google. From there we got into Facebook, social media, and the broader question of privacy.

I tried to synthesize the issue of privacy down to the importance of the secret ballot as a pillar of our democracy. How the more we share, the more we become vulnerable to political identification and manipulation. This seemed to catch Peter's attention, as he understands just what's at stake when it comes to who rules and why.

In a Corrupt Society, Cheaters Feel Righteous


In a society that is corrupt, cheaters are fueled by a sense of righteousness. Driving on the 401 near Brockville, listening to NPR, this is what I hear Daniel Coyle say, reacting to Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah.

It's a fantastic insight as to why someone like Lance would not only cheat, but continue to do everything he can to deny that it is cheating.

It also speaks to the larger culture, and the impact that sensational cheaters have, given the attention and spectacle that surrounds their rise and fall.

The righteousness arises from the perception, that not only is everyone else cheating, but that by cheating more, you're beating the cheaters at their own game.

The Keith Davey Forum on Public Affairs: Is Social Media Good for Democracy?

The 2012 Keith Davey Forum on Public Affairs, moderated by Steve Paikin and featuring Lee Rainie and myself, was held on October 17th 2012 at the Isabel Bader Theatre at Victory University at the University of Toronto.

We addressed the question, Is Social Media Good for Democracy? Neither of us answered a complete yes or no, but instead offered nuanced answers that encourage both cautious optimism and chilling alarm.

The discussion overall was far reaching, and fascinating. In particular it was a treat to spend time with Lee Rainie who is the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, a non-profit, non–partisan “fact tank” that studies the social impact of the internet. Lee is also a co-author – with a close friend of mine and University of Toronto sociologist Barry Wellman – of Networked: The new social operating system, which was released in 2012.

Trolling Does Not Require Anonymity

Muppet Identity Crisis

I find it rather sad that many in the mainstream media believe that trolling will be eliminated if Anonymity is not possible. It's not only a belief based in ignorance, but also a reflection of a bias that leads them to believe that their personal and professional experience is universal.

It's partly a reflection of the culture of comments on mainstream media sites. The vast majority of which have a horrific comment culture in which trolls haunt their sites and terrorize journalists and users alike.

Explicitly this has come up over #IdleNoMore coverage as the racists and xenophobes have been out in force to denounce attempts by Canadians to stand up for treaty rights and the environment.

Health Mallick writing in the Star seems to argue that the only reason the racist comments are there is because the posters are able to hide their identity. She asserts this as a reason why real names should be a requirement for posting online. (While I agree with her the racist comments are deplorable, I don't agree they would stop if the racists had to post under their own name).

Google and Facebook feel this way as well. Though I suspect their reason is less one of online civility and instead part of their business plan and pursuit of profit. They want real names so they can connect your interests, friends, and online activity.

A US Congress Divided By Design

The US Government just narrowly avoided a fiscal cliff, which would have quite likely tipped their economy into a recession, dragging down much of the world with them.

The metaphor of the "cliff" is appropriate, as it conveys how fragile the US economy is, and how there is a sense that it is teetering near the brink. Further, the cliff is not going away, US politics in the first part of 2013 will be dominated by similar debates.

What characterizes these discussions, is the growing division that exists in the United States between left and right, between Obama Democrats and Tea Party Republicans. In particular their insularity, and their further retreat into ideologically induced insanity.

November 2011 Metaviews Update

Fall 2011 has been a fun time developing of Metaviews. While keeping tabs on the disruption of fields from advertising to academia, we have continued to develop our own projects, which has included extending our presence beyond Toronto.

A pair of salon events in Ottawa have focused on the challenges involved in the transformation to Open Government, which drew interest from all areas of the bureaucracy, as developing a more citizen-friendly approach has been pledged by the federal government.

Similar challenges are being faced by the non-profit sector as it attempts to retool its messaging for the social media age. The conversational research style of Metaviews.ca will increasingly be applied in this direction, too.

10 Things You Can Do To Change The World

"Those not busy being born are busy dying" Bobby Dylan

On the weekend of June 26th, Toronto underwent a transformation. A new generation of activists were politicized, and in many cases radicalized. Also, a new generation of journalists were born, products of a long-awaited fusion of traditional and new media. For me, it was a return to days of old, going back a decade to when I was young and radical.

So I was there, on the streets, providing coverage and witnessing history. I'm still processing the insights and emotions triggered by the events, and I finally have time to put down some thoughts. Rather than focus purely on what happened, I'd rather share my story in the form of advice for how to move forward.