Categories
article backmasking

Wall Street Journal Article Published Tomorrow

The article in the Wall Street Journal about backmasking that I was interviewed for is going to be published tomorrow. I’m pretty excited to see it. I had my photo taken by Bob Cooney (he’s in charge of media relations at the University of Lethbridge) and he is pretty excited for me. He wants to do a story for the Legend (the official University paper), and figures that the Lethbridge Herald and the Medicine Hat news will each also want to do stories.

He described getting into the Wall Street Journal as being like the Oscars of getting into the news. He was also pretty excited to be getting a photo credit for the photo he was taking. It will be interesting to monitor the stats on my site tomorrow and see if there is a big influx of visitors.

From the teaser exerpt of the article (it’s already online):

Playing songs backwards — a popular pastime from the days of turntables — went out of fashion when CDs arrived. But now it’s enjoying a new cult following thanks to Web sites and software that do the trick.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my backmasking page.

Categories
advertising article ethics

Wired Magazine on Click Fraud

Wired has an intriguing article on the state of online advertising and the use of click spam to defraud advertisers.

Pay-per-click is the fastest-growing segment of all advertising, reports the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Last year, Yahoo! alone ran more than 250 million individual listings, according to Michael Egan, the company’s search-marketing director of content strategy. Yahoo! doesn’t break out PPC earnings separately in its financial statements, but Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto believes that keyword advertising accounted for about half of the company’s estimated $3.7 billion in revenue for 2005. PPC is even more lucrative for Google. According to Noto, Google will end 2005 with $6.1 billion in revenue. About 99 percent of that revenue comes from keyword ads (over 56 percent from AdWords, according to the company’s most recent quarterly financial statement, and 43 percent from AdSense), making Google a bigger recipient of ad dollars than any television network or newspaper chain. All of which is to say that little blue text links, a type of advertising that barely existed five years ago, are poised to become the single most important form of marketing in the US — unless click fraud ruins it.

How Click Fraud Could Swallow the Internet

Categories
article backmasking

My Salt Lake Tribune Interview

Yay! Today The Salt Lake Tribune published the article about backmasking that I was interviewed for.

Enter “backmasking” into the Google search engine and nearly 9,000 sites pop up. One of them is “Stairway to Heaven: Backwards” (https://jeffmilner.com/backmasking.htm ), a site established by Jeff Milner, a 25-year-old student, part-time lifeguard and bed salesman.

“As a kid, a cousin of mine told me he took his ‘Stairway to Heaven’ record and played it backwards hearing some kind of satanic message,” Milner says. “I never had a chance to hear it myself. . . . Then when the technology came along to do it on the computer, I jumped at the chance.”

He copied the song from the 1971 Led Zeppelin album onto his hard drive, then used the Windows Sound Recorder application to reverse it. He found what sounded like lines about the devil.

Update: I’ve posted the complete contents of the Salt Lake Tribune backmasking article in the comments.

Categories
article technology

Behind the Scenes at Google

Via Slashdot:

Fortune Magazine published a fairly long but tremendously interesting article about Google.

“Instead of the usual exultation over PageRank algorithm and Larry-and-Sergey biographies, we get a different message – is Google growing up, and is trouble brewing at Google? Here’s Fortune’s description of the pre-IPO days: ‘Google has grown arrogant, making some of its executives as frustrating to deal with in negotiations as AOL’s cowboy salesmen during the bubble. It has grown so fast that employees and business partners are often confused about who does what. A rise of stock- and option-stoked greed is creating rifts within the company. Employees carp that Google is morphing in strange and nerve-racking ways.”

Categories
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.