The New Social Gaming

Never mind the gamertags – hashtags are where it’s at.

Social involvement isn’t exactly a new idea when it comes to video games. Multiplayer functionality, scoreboards, and online gaming are all advents that came along with the idea of uniting gamers with each other for an added dimension of real-world fun to their artificial-world gaming. But a new game on the market takes on social gaming in a truly unique way.

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Senator Ron Wyden explains his opposition to PROTECT IP

On Monday, at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, US Senator Ron Wyden was interviewed by Jon Heilemann of New York Magazine about a range of legislative issues, including his opposition to the PROTECT IP Act.

PROTECT IP is a bill which would mandate the creation of a domain name blacklist based on accusations from law enforcement and private companies accuse of copyright infringement. ISPs would be required to use DNS filtering to prevent their customers from reaching those domains.

In part, PROTECT IP is simply pointless since it’s trivially easy to simply change your computer’s DNS settings to route around the affected servers. At the same time, it would set a dangerour precedent by giving private companies law enforcement powers and dealing a significant blow to due process.

Wyden is no stranger to laws which pit content producers against Internet services. In the 1990s he was one of 2 US legislators to get language inserted in Communications Decency Act to shield Internet service providers from liability for their users’ actions.

Last year it was thanks to Wyden that a bill nearly identical to PROTECT IP called COICA (Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeits ACT) was killed. Just last week, it was Wyden who sent a letter to President Obama demanding the ACTA agreement be submitted to the Senate for ratification since it is effectively a treaty.

On the subject of PROTECT IP, which he has publicly criticized as an attack on free speech, he said on Monday:

“Let me just go right to the question of the so-called PROTECT IP legislation – the question of intellectual property. What this is at its heart is a question of whether one part of our economy, the content sector, can use government as a club to go after another part of our economy which is the innovation sector and everything that the Internet represents.

The PROTECT IP ACT, when you really strip it down, is about whether or not you’re going to have arbitrary seizure of domains, whether or not you’re going to have these vague standards for going in an seizing a domain. And then, something I think is particularly ominous, ceding a significant portion of the authority over the Internet to private companies. In effect allowing them to bring private rights of action.

So I have put a hold on this legislation. I’m the sponsor of the effort to get rid of these secret holds. I announce everything publicly, because I think this legislation, in its current form, would take a significant toll on both freedom and innovation. And particularly now, where the digital space is one of the most exciting parts of an economy where we’ve got some tough times, I don’t want to let that happen.”

Among other points, he talked about the security issue Paul Vixie of the Internet Systems Consortium explained to AfterDawn back in August. “This PROTECT IP Act could actually harm responsible efforts at cyber security, because some of what is done kind of mimics what hackers do, and we’re against hackers getting into domains.”

Senator Wyden made it clear that he is not against protecting intellectual property rights, but also that PROTECT IP is not the way to accomplish that. He called PROTECT IP’s approach, “the equivalent of using a cluster bomb when you ought to go in there with a laser.”

You can watch the entire interview for yourself, which covers a range of topics from net neutrality to geolocation privacy to secret interpretations of the law by the government.

via (afterdawn)

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Think you need to fly to play Quidditch? False! The first ever Quidditch Canadian Cup is this weekend!
It’s been a big year for Harry Potter: The final movie in the series came out (Hollywood’s most successful franchise ever). JK Rowling announced Pottermore—a website/interactive experience that promises to expand the magic of the original series (and also act as a platform to sell a bajillion of the previously unavailable e-books). And, finally, there’s Quidditch, the no-longer-fictional sport that has been, ahem, sweeping North America off its feet.

Now, when we were youngsters reading the books for the first time, it’s pretty reasonable that we considered Quidditch to be quite possibly the coolest sport ever. As a 12-year-old, we might have reasonably thought, “Hey, wouldn’t this make a cool video game?” But it takes a certain type of person with a certain type of mind to think, “Hey, wouldn’t this be a cool game to play in real life?”

Enter: Muggle Quidditch. That’s right, Harry. While you were wading around in your swimming pool of gold coins and bragging about your Nimbus 9000, the rest of the 99 per cent were stuck with boring non-flight sports like cricket or curling. Sure, we might have competitive pigeon racing but, physically and emotionally, a pigeon can only carry you so far.

But that was the past. The masses (or working class Weasleys, as it were) have now come together to reclaim the metaphorical skies. In the future, you will no longer see players using their brooms to sweep the steps of the so-called “wizardry of the upper class.” Instead, they will be proving that Quidditch as described in the Harry Potter books, with its physically impossible gameplay and broken rules, is actually a viable sport. At least, if the International Quidditch Association has its way.

With origins dating back to 2005, the IQA’s version of the game has undergone a number of changes in recent years. In its current incarnation, Quidditch is most similar to dodgeball or rugby. There’s no flight involved, but players instead run around holding the broom between their legs while trying to score points through one of the three hoops set up at both ends of the pitch. Most of the old Quidditch rules are intact, such as the annoying Beaters who throw Bludgers at unsuspecting Chasers (the ones who score the points) in hopes of slowing them down and/or knocking them off their broomsticks.

The inclusion of the human-Snitch is probably the most ingenious addition by the IQA. Dressed head to toe in yellow, this game-ending component is basically the personification of an internet troll. The Snitch will do anything it can to avoid getting caught (for the game ends if it is), and its role is intentionally provocative. Snitches have been known to perform aerobics in the field, ballroom dance with the other players, and even leave the game entirely to hang out at pubs.

Recently, Torontoist had the opportunity to sit down with two of Toronto’s teams—Ryerson and U of T. When we arrived at the Ryerson quad, the team was in the middle of practice, still setting up the hoops. Suraj Singh, the team captain, explained how the game was just coming into its own at Ryerson; since it was a relatively new sport, they were still actively recruiting members. They did, however, play in last year’s World Cup in New York, with mixed results. “We didn’t come in dead last,” says Singh.

To prepare for this year’s tournament and the upcoming, first-ever Canadian Cup, Ryerson plays regularly against competing universities such as U of T and Carleton. Perhaps even moreso than other sports, these games and practices attract many bystanders mostly because it’s an extremely entertaining event to watch. There’s also the “is this real?” factor that many passersby experience upon witnessing the sport for the first time.

Like the books, custom broomsticks are available—ones that are lighter and snap upon hitting the ground to avoid any unfortunate lower-body injuries. The IQA also keeps track of the current standings of all the officially registered teams. The astute may notice that the top Canadian team is McGill University (in 19th place as of this writing). McGill actually holds a deep connection with the origins of Quidditch in Toronto, as it was a player from the Montreal university who helped start up U of T’s team.

By the time we crossed the city to U of T’s pitch, the sky was darkening and the only thing keeping the grounds from total blackness were the floodlights from the adjacent football field. As the school’s team had just come off a very successful year, their tryouts saw a boom in popularity with nearly 30 people arriving to see what all the fuss was about. Arriving in the midst of these tryouts, we spoke with the team captain, Rachelle McCann.

Torontoist: What drew you to playing Quidditch?

Rachelle McCann: I think I have the weirdest story about playing Quidditch. I actually have never read Harry Potter. And I haven’t even seen all the movies. It’s shocking, and I’m the captain of the team.

You realize this is getting published?

I’m okay with that. I dunno, I really like doing weird things. McGill came down two years ago and they told us they were going to teach us how to play Quidditch. I heard about it, but I didn’t get to do it. The next year, one of my friends was going to try out and I decided, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that, that sounds really weird, running around on a broom.’ So I went out.

The people that come out to Quidditch, honestly they’re the friendliest, most fun people to hang around with. Even though I couldn’t share in their inside Harry Potter jokes, it was so much fun playing that it kept me coming back.

What would you say Quidditch is doing right that other sports aren’t doing?

We have the relaxed, friendly environment of intramural sports, but instead of dividing up people by colleges and different faculties, we bring them together as the University of Toronto. The other teams at U of T, they’re really varsity, really serious—so during the tryouts we told people that when you come on the Quidditch pitch, you leave behind what college you’re from, what faculty you’re from, what age you are, what year you’re in—you come to play Quidditch.

The Quidditch team prides itself on being very inclusive. We had tryouts—I want people to be committed to the team—but we really were only going to cut people if they were there to make fun of us. Surprisingly though, no one was there making fun of anyone, so we didn’t have to cut anybody.

The Canadian Cup is right around the corner. What is the team doing to prepare for that?

We have a lot of new people and a lot of people who haven’t played the sport before. In the early practices, I was trying to get them used to handling a ball with one hand while holding onto a broom. Also the basics of running with a broom between your legs, that can be pretty awkward at times. Now we’re getting into setting up plays—passing and communication, stuff like that.

I noticed that McGill has been winning quite a lot. Is there a rivalry between the Toronto schools and McGill?

We’ve always looked at McGill as more of a parental figure—they came to teach us the game three years ago. We shared a bus with them going to New York’s World Cup last year. The one night we spent in New York, we slept on the floor of the old captain of McGill’s sister’s living room. We all fell asleep actually watching one of the Harry Potter movies after a long day of Quidditch—of getting beaten into the ground by all the crazy American teams.

They have nicknames for every player on their team so we took on that tradition too and gave ourselves nicknames. The most memorable nickname from McGill was a guy who ran around on a plunger—his nickname was “Plunger.” They don’t actually know his real name. I’m pretty sure he goes around naked in overalls and has a big curly moustache.

Are players allowed to use plungers instead of broomsticks?

Yeah, I think so. The rules say nothing that’s pointy or can spear someone. And it has to be a certain length. But, yeah, he played with it at the World Cup.

The first annual Quidditch Canadian Cup takes place at Carleton University on October 29.

via (torontoist)

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The Holo-Desk

Microsoft Research has made a breakthrough in the way in which we can interact with the virtual world and created the HoloDesk. It is all down to 3D tracking using the Kinect and some clever computer graphics.

Who can’t have envied the crew of the Enterprise as they got to play in a completely synthetic world, courtesy of the HoloDeck. Well, so far the HoloDeck is just science fiction but Microsoft Research has taken an obvious, but still impressive, step towards creating a HoloDeck – the HoloDesk.
What it does is easy to describe. It allows the user to interact with a 3D projection of objects. The user can pick virtual objects up, move them around and generally play with them as if they were real objects. What might not be so clear from the video, is the fact that there is no tactile feedback involved. The user doesn’t feel the virtual objects in any way whatsoever. Given the remarkable properties of human perception, however, it is possible that some sort of phantom touch experience might well develop if used over time. This is because when the visual sense tells you you are touching something the other lesser senses get into line to support it.

via (i-programmer)

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Penn & Teller go Transmedia!

For years the magical comedy duo have saturated different media platforms (i.e- television, film, video games, etc.) with their combination of illusion and comedy. However, they recently have developed an interactive television program that involves the participation of the audience at home. Each episode features seven outrageous claims wherein one of the claims made is a fake. It is up to the viewers at home to spot the fake claim and vote online or through an ‘app’ developed specifically for this program. Each season the fake claims are revealed and audience members that expose the most fake claims win prizes they showcase on their website.

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Re-cap – Class on October 3rd.

Hello again!

On Monday October 3rd we had a very productive and thought-provoking class. Indy’s group kicked it off with their stimulating case study on RIP: A Remix Manifesto, an open-source documentary by Brett Gaylor that addresses the debate on copyright infringement and its influences on our media literate culture. We talked about how copyright laws affect the transmedia world, and whether or not these laws restrict our creative freedoms as independent artists.

Following that, we had an outstanding presentation by Luise’s group on our favorite Caped Crusader. They presented us with the early origins of the Dark Knight and showed us his many incarnations, from Adam West to Christian Bale, while listing Batman’s success on multiple-media platforms. We discussed the reason why Batman is arguably the most popular comic book superhero of our era, listing reasons such as iconic symbols, compelling villains and, of course, a relatable mortal hero.

We finished the class by breaking off into groups and creating a story world that touched at least three different media platforms. This helped us understand how to use different media outlets to enhance our story world and interact with our audiences. All in all a creatively interesting class!

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“Out My Window” – World’s first interactive 360º documentary, delivered entirely on the web!

Out My Window, a project of HIGHRISE, is one of the world’s first interactive 360º documentaries. Delivered entirely on the web, it explores the state of our urban planet told by people who look out on the world from highrise windows.
It’s a journey around the globe through the most commonly built form of the last century: the concrete-slab residential tower. Meet remarkable highrise residents who harness the human spirit — and the power of community — to resurrect meaning amid the ruins of modernism.

Watch it here!

Last month, The National Film Board of Canada received a Special Achievement Award at Canada’s Gemini Awards. HIGHRISE is proud to be a small part of it. Here’s the citation for the Award:

Under the creative leadership of Tom Perlmutter, the NFB has become a pioneer in the use of digital technology, both from a viewing and production point-of-view.

From the advent of video and DVDs, the NFB’s vast collection of documentaries, animation and narrative films, which had been available in 16mm, became difficult to access, unless the material was repackaged from film to popular hom viewing formats. Many NFB classics were languishing in cinema vaults until an new initiative was undertaking to digitize much of what had been created over the years at the Board.

Now, over 2,000 titles can be seen online, including all the major award-winners going back to the 1940s. Last year, NFB films were seen over 20 million times — an astonishing figure — with viewings on the Viewing Room at, apps for iphone/ipad, Android and Playbook as well as on related channels on Youtube and Dailymotion.
Simultaneously, the Board has been moving forward, creating some of the most intriguing uses of documentary in the realm of new technology. HIGHRISE/Out My Window created by Katerina Cizek and produced by the NFB is a 360-degree interactive project, which offers viewers the chance to view real-life scenes and situations in locations around the world.Working collaboratively with artists, activists and residents in other countries, Cizek and the NFB have broken barriers, creating new experiences in the documentary. Along with Welcome to Pine Point and Waterlife, the website as a new form of doc is beginning to take shape.
“Seen through the Board’s long history, social media begins to look like an extension of the social doc, and the recent ascendance of the NFB into a world-player in ineracitve interfaces can br seen more as manifest destiny than dark horse success.”— Jessica Duffin Wolfe POV

“The NFB is creating and showcasing some of the most innovative content anywhere on the web. They are pointing the way for others who want to fully engage with online audiences.” — Norm Bolen, President & CEO of Cnadian Media Production Association.”

With more than 90 minutes of material to explore, Out My Window features 49 stories from 13 cities, told in 13 languages, accompanied by a leading-edge music playlist.

via (
In addition to that, watch the trailer for their new project “One Millionth Tower” here!

ONE MILLIONth TOWER (we call it 1MT for short)
Over a billion of us live in highrises, and most are falling into disrepair. In One Millionth Tower, a group of highrise residents, together with architects, re-envisions their vertical homes, then animators & computer programmers magically bring their sketches to life in this documentary for the contemporary web-browser.

The result of this unique collaboration is a lush, visual story unfolding in a 3D virtual environment. Visitors explore how participatory urban design can transform spaces, places and minds.

One Millionth Tower will be the world’s first HTML5/webGL documentary, powered by POPCORN, created by our good friends at Mozilla. Mozilla has been deeply supportive of our project, offering us extensive technological and philosophical support, as they lead the global open-source charge in the bridging of cinema with the web, under the helm of Brett Gaylor (RIP Manifesto). (An interesting nerd HIGHRISE fact: Bobby Richter, the programmer behind the wizardry of HIGHRISE/Out My Window, now works on the Popcorn project at Mozilla! It is a small HIGHRISE world after all).

One Millionth Tower is engineered by the wickedly talented Mike Robbins, of HELIOS DESIGN LAB, whom we are honoured to call the HIGHRISE house band. Mike single-handedly crafted an entire virtual 3D world with his own two hands. Talk about DIY. Speaks to his genius — and the power of these new open-source libraries. The open-source world you will visit in 1MT might have taken a small army of programmers to create in proprietary software.

The actual story and images of 1MT came about through a highly collaborative process. Highrise residents. Architects. Documentarians. Animators. Drawing, imagining together. Many many hands came together to create the delightful, inspirational world of 1MT. We consider the story *hyper-global.* Deeply connected to a very specific HIGHRISE place in suburban toronto, but with global resonance in its vision for a more human-friendly urban planet — and world-wde web. It’s the HIGHRISE re-imagined. The web re-imagined.

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