Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Brian de Palma Redacted and Fair Use & Abu Ghraib blow back

Brian de Palma’s new Iraq war film Redacted is getting strong reviews for being difficulty, violent, hard hitting feature film. It is the documentary footage at the end of the film of war victims, taken by anonymous photographers and of unidentified persons that is creating controversy. In an interview with for the New York Film Festival, De Palma explains that all of these images inn the film float on the Internet and that they are engaged in the film under a principle of fair use. Magnolia, the films distribution company and backer, headed by Mark Cuban, do not want the legal responsibility of showing images without proper permissions. The film critic J. Hoberman, who conducts the interview, suggests that the sooner it goes to trail the better. The fair use issue seems to be two fold from de Palma.

1. The images are already in a de facto public domain (Internet)

2. There is a moral imperative to be able to use these images freely. He cites images of the Vietnam war (photojournalists one assumes) as the motivation for him to go into the streets and protest that war as well as make his war films of that period.

There is really no information about this fight on the
Magnolia Redacted site. The blogs here and here have been a bit suspicion of a media stunt, but it seems like a pressing issue that has come up domestically around entertainment properties. To frame this debate as one that extends to civic use of media and representation within democracies deepens the stakes.

Abu Ghraib prison images were not un-attributed. The location, time of the images and identities of the victims were documented aspects of the military interment. The question was not whether the images were authentic (all the signatures were in place), but whether they were credible¬¬¬––whether an American public could fathom this kind of overdrive of cruelty as an analogue of waging war. They are amateur shots taken by US military that, as writer Luc Sante has described them, are really “trophy shots.” The point Sante makes about the terror the Abu Ghraib images evoke is not the horror of war, but something far more perverse in its domestication, its standardization as it were. He writes, “The first shot I saw, of Specialist Charles A. Graner and Pfc. Lynndie R. England flashing thumbs up behind a pile of their naked victims, was so jarring that for a few seconds I took it for a montage.” It’s the unreal of the documentary image are troubling in the Abu Ghraib case.

Mark Cuban for Redacted, and to a certain extent our government in regard to media images of the war, argues that it is an abuse and further violence to the victims to circulate such images. What Brian de Palma argues in the defense of his film is that people should be able to see the images of this war. It is our right and our duty to see them. I guess these guys will not be hugging this one out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Virtual CSI: Good TV, so-so User Experience

It was marvelous to see machinima (machine cinema) used so well on CSI: New York last night. This is the most-watched TV franchise in the country, which means millions of people got to see Costume Avatar play (virtual to real), a World-of-Warcraft style gladiator battle, and Gary Sinise in drag. Venus, the femme-fatale/tranny killer/victim is a character worth following down the rabbit hole. That the TV show actually engaged Second Life, and not a reference to virtual world play (as in the Law and Order episode), made it all more real…and by that I mean more fun. The in-world play where one can follow three different threads to participate in vw crime solving was less fun. Electric Sheep literally gave people arrows to follow to indicate procedure on game play. Their new Onresz application (yes, must be downloaded) is a major innovation in User Experience Design. I need to play with a bit more to see if it is good innovation. Anyone want to join a detectives guild?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Virtual World Growth: waddle around and meet new friends

Yesterday’s WSJ Marketers Explore New Virtual Worlds confirmed my sense of what the San Jose Virtual Worlds conference expressed: We are now beyond Second Life as the only virtual world platform with public traction and big user numbers. The chart of t unique U.S, visitors to virtual worlds WSJ published shows Webkinz with 6 million visitors and a 592% growth in users. Club Penguin follows with 4.7 million.…It is the youngest sector that continues to show the greatest adoption and retention in vw platforms. They are the interactive 3D generation.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

@ Virtual Worlds Conference, San Jose

I am at the Virtual Worlds Conference in San Jose and will be speaking on a panel Giff Constable form Electric Sheep put together. The subject is Togetherness: What Drives the Virtual Human Connection. The lead story from the Virtual Worlds site (other than the conference) is still $1 Billion Invested In 35 Virtual Worlds Companies In The Past 12 Months. Seems like there is a lot of togetherness brewing.

Come by the panel @ 4pm today if you are here. The SL version of it last spring went well.

Second Life Walkie Talkies

I met Dutch artist Sander Veenhoff at the Conflux festival where he was presenting his Second Life Walkie Talkies as part of a real world (rw)/virtual world (vw) walking tour. The SL Walkie Talkies are part of a growing trend of building porous interfaces that connect rw and vw more fluidly. This one works by text message. SMS are sent from back and forth from SL avatars (how have a chat ability built in) to rw cell phones. This means that as I walk down the street in Williamsburg, where the festival was held, admiring the paper cub camera obscura embedded in a backyard fence (see above image), I can speak with a friend in SL who is live linked by virtual Walkie Talkies. I asked Sander why he did not make the Walkie Talkies voice enabled, as the voice client is now working in SL. He said that you would then be speaking with another person and not an avatar. Ok, that’s keeping it virtually real. There is too much head down in the hack as it stands––if we were ostensibly on walking tour together, it is not so nice to have one’s head buried in a cell phone all the time. For people who are already getting their email to their phones, there is a long-standing porous IM function in SL that sends messages to your email. That Sander is enabling a two-way and real time experience of in-world to out-world communication is cool. More sneakers and robots.

The link to load the Walkie Talkie is, which was not loading last I checked…ah me, the future.