Look What Can Be Done In Only Two Short Weeks

Scientists have synthesized a virus from scratch and it has “become bioactive” (started reproducing).

Read more here.


My Other Blog

In case anyone reading this was wondering, yes I do have another blog. You can find it here.

The Faculty is accepting nominations for New Media Reps til Wednesday. I’m going to run again – we’ll see if anyone else does.


Jeff Milner Update

Anna has gone to Edmonton and leaves for Saskatchewan on Monday. She won’t be home until the end of November. I am babysitting the dog. We hate each other. She pretends to like me and I pretend to like her, but deep down we both know that neither of us will be happy until Anna is back.

Disney friends travel

The Happiest Place on Earth

I am going to Disneyland. It’s official, Anna has purchased our passes, there is no turning back now. However I have some good news. It appears that I may be finishing school earlier than expected. I don’t believe I have any final exams outside of class time — which means I may be done as soon as December 6th. I am not sure how this will affect my desire to stay and swim for the last couple of weeks that Andy has practices sceduled. Actually I’m very certain this will negatively affect my desire to stay. Hmmm, and how am I going to explain my absence? I’ll keep you posted.

article games philosophy

An Analysis of "Structural Ambiguity: An Emerging Interactive Aesthetic"

The following is a review paper I wrote last night for my Net.Art Class. A boring read for most, I’m sure, but I wrote it so I might as well get as much milage out of it as possible.

As humanity exited the darkness and despair of the middle ages and entered the renaissance, literature and theatre established themselves as mankind’s primary tools for stimulating critical thinking. A new book or play would tackle subjects with the intent of educating while it entertained. In an effort to increase the influence of these mediums, authors and dramatists alike have been striving to create interactive constructs. Randomized non-linear books however have not been plentiful nor are they generally considered anything more than a gimmick. Choose Your Own Adventure books fall short due to the fact that once a path is read the interactivity remains but the ambiguity, the intriguing nature of the book, is lost. Theatre has more potential to be interactive but it has only been in the last century that society has seen numerous attempts to alter the traditional linear productions. While they are more successful than literature they still fall short of true interactivity due to the fact that for the most part the essential plot structure is unaffected by audience member participation; there is little ambiguity from show to show. Giving the audience full control over a full-length commercial production would be too expensive and too taxing on the actors.

Enter New Media — the medium that possesses a unique capacity for interactivity. It is cheap and accurate. It is the new catalyst to inspire creative thinking all the while entertaining through humankind’s natural desire to discover. Jim Gasperini’s article “Structural Ambiguity: An Emerging Interactive Aesthetic” articulates that computer technology realizes both the ability to convey a dynamic story while at the same time has the potential to maintain replayability through structural ambiguity. He believes that if computer technology does not develop a true interactive aesthetic then it fails to take advantage of the essential power of the medium.

Gasperini explains that there are three levels of ambiguity — two familiar levels and one that is quite new. They are textural, interpretive, and structural. Textural ambiguities are the double meanings we find in prose and text through similes and metaphors. Interpretive ambiguities are those that appear when words emerge as part of a theatrical performance. The same words may be used, but two different renderings of the play may choose to make very different interpretations of the script. The final level is structural ambiguity, which arises from the role the audience or user plays in creating the plot. The two subclasses of structural ambiguity are closed-ended and open-ended. Closed-ended structural ambiguity is found in what Gasperini refers to as “twich” games. Games that depend primarily on learning to perform hand to eye coordination task fall into this category. He also includes the action / adventure genre. By his definition some examples of closed-ended ambiguity style games are Tetris, Castlevania, Super Mario Bros., and The Adventure of Zelda series. Gasperini claims that interactivity is only feigned in these closed-ended structural games and that replayability leaves something to be desired. I have to point out the fact of the matter is these games are classics and are fun to replay — if not so much for ambiguity and mystery than for nostalgia. Open-ended structural ambiguity, on the other hand, comprises works that become more ambiguous the more they are played. The style of game where this is most evident, explains Gasperini, is within the simulations genre. He highlights Sim City and Hidden Agenda as prime examples of games that use open-ended structural ambiguity. It should be noted that Gasperini has a bias because he helped write both Sim City and Hidden Agenda. Personally I wonder if you can find more people still playing the tried and true arcade classics like those I mentioned above over simulation type games like these. I hadn’t even heard of Hidden Agenda before reading this article.

It is Gasperini’s intention to try and define a new genre for these simulation games. He would prefer that because they are different than games with closed-ended structural ambiguity that they not be called games at all. He doesn’t seem to realize that it’s okay to call something he cares about deeply a game. But as he points out himself, even America’s favorite pastime, baseball, is just a game — and many people take it seriously.

Gasperini goes on to extol the strength of the medium. He articulates how the media enables the audience to become the protagonist and how it allows them to gain a greater sense of empathy toward points of view other than their own.

In the end, Gasperini asks a lot of seemingly rhetorical questions and then answers them with very “ambiguous” answers. I’m not sure, but is he striving for a theme? One would expect that in his conclusion we should find something substantial to back up his thesis; instead he ponders deep philosophical questions about the relation between games and quantum physics. He does however get back on track when he admits that the medium is still new and that it will take time for authors to develop stories that make the best use of the tools available.

The article sets out to convince us that if computer technology does not develop a true interactive aesthetic then it fails to take advantage of the essential power of the medium. He isn’t right because given the capitalist nature of our society, rather than choosing the type of game that best takes advantage of the medium it is judicious to let the people designing games to give users what they want; design a game that is fun to play that keeps them coming back for more. Examples of these games mix aspects from both the closed-ended structure and open-ended structure. They sometimes include a compelling single player campaign mode and enthralling multiplayer action. These games range from real-time strategies like Warcraft and Starcraft to first person shooters like Doom and Half-life. On the one hand their single player missions give a narrative that forces the direction the game takes, but on the other hand the multiplayer mode places the user in a situation where anything can happen. Not only do the users choices affect the outcome but also there are a lot more random events that can affect the game-play. This type of interactivity with other players makes the games addictive. So much so that it might just kill you.

Gasperini seems motivated to sell the types of games that he likes and that he has helped produce. While he made some good points about the dynamics of games that use an open-ended structure, he was so focused on that one aspect of the game design that he ignored the fact that there is more to making a good game than having an open structure. Most users want to have their cake and eat it too; they want the comfort of familiar closed-ended structure of campaign mode as well as the more ambiguous nature that the open-ended structure of multiplayer melee bestows.


When "The Onion" Hits Close to Home

A blogger’s worst fear: Your mother finding your blog. In case you are wondering, no I haven’t told my parents about this blog, but at the same time it’s not a secret either.


How to be a Bible Apologist

Based on the conversation I had with Gary last weekend in Calgary, he must have been studying this page. Check out the helpful hints under Steps 3, 5(b), and 7. Remind you of anyone?

Anyway, I was in Calgary last weekend and it was pretty much the first time we’ve spoken since I stopped posting at We were still debating the virtues of our arguments on the blog about “same-sex marriage” issues in Canada and about Blacks being withheld the priesthood in the Mormon church (pre 1978). I told him about Brigham Young’s statement that the reason for Black’s having dark skin was because of the curse of Cain and therefore THAT is why the church refused to allow them to hold the priesthood. He told me straight out that he didn’t believe Brigham Young actually ever said that.

I did some research and found the following:

President Young stated privately in 1849 that, “the Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them from the Priesthood,” and in 1852 the prohibition was published in the Deseret News. In that same year, in an address to the Territorial legislature, he declared, “…any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain]…in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now… .”


New Music

Today I discovered what I think will be my new favorite band – Abandoned Pools. While checking out Tommy Walter’s artist blog I read his recomendation to investigate another band – The Stills. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for, reminds me a lot of the grunge alternative music I used to listen to in the mid to late 90’s.


Lego News You Can Use (well if you have time to waste)

In case you were wondering how exactly Lego is made? Now you can find out.


Don’t Fear Fellow Downloaders

The following article was copied from the National Post in October 2003. It details one lawyer’s opinion as to why it is legal for Canadians to copy music off the Internet. I would have linked to it instead of copying it down, but I couldn’t find a link anywhere, so here it is:

Why downloading is legal

We already pay for the right to copy music off the Web


I download music from the Internet. I do this without the permission of the owners of the copyrights in either the composition or the recording. I’m not afraid to admit I do it all the time. That’s because there is nothing illegal about what I am doing.

Copying music for the purpose of private use is legal in Canada.

What? you exclaim. The debate over copying music came to a head in the mid 1990s when the Canadian music industry stepped up its complaints that people were getting rich off the practice. Bootleggers? Street Vendors? Black Marketeers? No. The music industry’s targets were Maxell, Fuji, TDK, Sony and all the other companies that make the cassette tapes on to which the music was being copied, with the even greater threat of CD-Rs (recordable CDs) just over the horizon.

So the Canadian government stepped in and granted the music industry’s wish for a levy on Blank Audio Media. Through the levy, we all pay a little bit more for our blank tapes and CD-Rs and the extra funds are distributed to artist members of the various Canadian music industry collectives, such as the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

However, Parliament could not impose a levy (a kind of tax) based on a premise of illegal activity. So, in 1998, simultaneously with the imposition with the levy, the Canadian Copyright Act was amended to provide for the express exclusion of copying for private use from being an infringement of copyright.

That exclusion is now found in section 80 of the Copyright Act and reads, in part: 80(1) Subject to subsection (2), the act of re- producing all or any substantial part of …(c) a sound recording in which a musical work …is embodied, onto an audio recording medium for the private use of the person who makes the copy, does not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the …sound recording.

Let’s look at these sections. The first part of 80(1) is concerned with reproducing a sound recording onto an “audio recording medium.” Since the levy only applies to audio recording media, the exception only applies to copies recorded onto an “audio recording medium.”

Section 79 of the Copyright Act defines “audio recording medium” as “a recording medium, regardless of its material form, onto which a sound recording may be reproduced and that is of a kind ordinarily used by individual consumers for that purpose…”

The Canadian Copyright Board, which is responsible for authorizing the amount of the levy, has stated that the term “ordinarily” is used to describe what is ‘regular, normal, average, recurring or consistent’. It goes on to state that “the levy is applicable to recording media, which a non- marginal number of consumers use for private copying in a way that is not marginal.” Well, this obviously covers such media as cassette tapes and blank CDs, but is a computer’s hard drive an “audio recording medium?” Well, no levy is currently imposed against computer hard drives. However, when I download a song from the Internet to my computer, I am physically altering my hard drive with a representation of the sound recording. I may not be able to see this alteration with the naked eye, but that does not change the fact that a physical change occurs. Additionally, I argue that members of the public “ordinarily” use their hard drives to copy music. Simply because no levy is imposed on hard drives doesn’t remove such media from inclusion in the construction of section 80. So, now that I know that I am reproducing a sound recording on to an audio recording medium’ the question remains whether I am doing so for my “private use.”

A private use is one that is made for my personal musical benefit and includes such uses as sitting at home listening to it play on my stereo or on my computer or burning it to a compact disc and playing it in my car for my own personal enjoyment. In contrast, public uses would include playing it in my restaurant or nightclub or burning multiple copies and selling them on the street, none of which I do.

But aren’t the Internet sources just illegal copies? No. Not when Parliament intentionally refused to impose the requirement that the source or target be lawfully owned — a fact confirmed by the Copyright Board.

As a result, when I download music from the Internet, I am making a copy of a sound recording on an audio recording medium for my own private use. As such, section 80(1) of the Copyright Act deems my copying not to constitute an infringement of copyright.

This does not end the section 80 analysis. Parliament was concerned that permitting private copying would lead to the condoning of undesirable conduct. To ensure that we all behave ourselves, the amendments to the Copyright Act included section 80(2) which reads, in part: 80(2) Subsection (1) does riot apply if the act described in that subsection is done for the purpose of doing any of the following …(with the sound recording), (a) selling or renting out …; (b) distributing, whether or not for the purpose of trade; (c) communicating to the public by telecommunication; or (d) performing, or causing to be performed in public.’

Section 80(2) addresses the in- tent or the purpose for making the copy and excludes certain public intents or purposes from the beneficial protection provided by section 80(1). The key word to focus on in this section is “the”. This section provides that if “the” purpose of making the copy is one of the listed prohibited purposes, then the protection provided by section 80(1) does not apply. I note that it doesn’t say “a” purpose. It doesn’t say “one” purpose. It says ‘the” purpose. As such, Parliament intended that the listed purpose must be the only purpose for making the copy, or at least, it must be the primary purpose for making the copy, be- fore the section can be applied to exclude the copying from the benefits of section 80(1).

Now, let’s look at the public purposes listed in section 80(2). The first is selling or renting the sound recording. I can honestly state I have no interest in selling or renting the sound recordings I download. You won’t find me on the street corner hocking bootleg copies of Bat Out Of Hell or as the proprietor of SoundBuster Music Warehouse. None of my purposes are covered by this first listed public purpose.

The second listed public purpose is “distributing” the sound recording, whether for trade or not (i.e., by sale or gift). The only action that I am taking in this regard is permitting the sound recording file to be downloaded to my Shared Folder from which location others may copy the sound recording. The third listed public purpose is “communicating to the public by telecommunication.” While currently under consideration by the Supreme Court of Canada, it has been held by the Federal Court of Canada that a communication to the public by telecommunication occurs when any member of the public uses a browser to access a work from a source computer.

A work is communicated to the public, even if transmitted only once, when it is made available to, the public on a site accessible to a segment of the public at different times of their choosing.

Finally, the fourth listed public purpose is performing the sound recording in public, not playing it to friends at my house.

Since my acts of downloading music from the Internet are covered by the beneficial protection from infringement set out in section 80(1) and since they are not covered in the limitations found in the public purposes set out in 80(2), I have shown that my actions are not infringements of copyright.

So, I can download music from the Internet for my own private use and not infringe on the copyright owner’s right to prohibit the unauthorized copying oft his work. Great. However, that does not end the analysis. The right to control copying is not the only right granted by the Copyright Act. Among other rights, the Copyright Act also grants the copyright owner the sole right to control the communication of the work to the public by telecommunication.

By leaving files in my Shared Folder, I may be considered to be communicating those files to the public by telecommunication. However, I solve this problem by removing any copyrighted files from my Shared Folder immediately after downloading them. As such, I cannot be said to be communicating them to the public. Thus, I am not infringing on any other right granted to the copyright holder by the Copyright Act.

So, don’t fear, fellow downloader, downloading music from the Internet for your own enjoyment is legal in Canada. Don’t let the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, the Recording Industry Association of America, the boys in Metallica or anyone else intimidate you into believing otherwise. Just tell them that it is perfectly legal and that you’ve already paid for it when you bought that last spindle of blank CD-Rs.

Financial Post

Corey Bergstein practices intellectual property law in Toronto