Saturday, July 30, 2011

Leet Noobs: Expertise and Collaboration in a World of Warcraft Player Group as Distributed Sociomaterial Practice


Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4



ABSTRACT
Group expertise in socially-situated joint tasks requires successful negotiation and distribution of roles and responsibilities among group members and their material resources such that the group is a network of actors all in alignment on shared tasks. Using ethnographic methods, the author documents the life and death of a player group in the online game World of Warcraft as it engaged in a 40-person activity called raiding, which consisted of highly coordinated battles against difficult game-controlled monsters. The group took 7 months to master an in-game zone known as Molten Core, defeating all of the monsters within, including the last boss monster, Ragnaros. Part of the group’s success depended on its members’ ability to reconfigure their play spaces, enrolling third-party game modifications and external web resources into their activity. Before joining the group, the players had successfully built-up enough social and cultural capital to be recognized as expert players. Once joining the group, however, they had to relearn and adapt their expertise for this new
joint task that required them to specialize, taking on different roles depending on the types of characters they chose to play, and structure themselves for efficient communication and coordination practices. They also needed to align themselves to new group goals and learn to trust each other. Thus, once-expert players became novices or noobs to relearn expert or leet gameplay, yet they were not true novices because they had a good understanding of the game system and ways to configure their individual play spaces to be successful players. Rather, they were “leet noobs” who needed to reconfigure and adapt their expertise for new norms of sociomaterial practice suited for joint venture. After 10 months, the group experienced lulls in performance due to a change in membership, and the group disbanded as members were unable to renegotiate and agree upon shared goals and responsibilities. Their network had been irreparably disrupted. Understanding how group success depends on alignment of goals and responsibilities helps us plan for future collaborative endeavors across both formal and informal settings.

Full Thesis Available Here

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Upload of 18 592 Scientific Documents to the Pirate Bay




A user called Greg Maxwell just uploaded a torrent with 18,592 scientific publications to the Pirate Bay, in what appears to be a protest directed both at the recent indictment of programmer Aaron Swartz for data theft as well as the scientific publishing model in general. All the documents of the 32-gigabyte torrent were taken from JSTOR, the academic database that’s at the center of the case against Swartz.

The torrent consists of documents from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the copyright to which has long since expired. However, the only way to access these documents until now has been via JSTOR, as Maxwell explains in a long and eloquent text on the Pirate Bay, with individual articles costing as much as $19. “Purchasing access to this collection one article at a time would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he writes.

Maxwell goes on to explain that he gained access to the documents years ago in what he says was a legal manner, but he was afraid to publish them because of potential legal repercussions from the publishers of scientific journals. He says the indictment of Swartz, who allegedly tried to download thousands of files from JSTOR through the library at MIT, made him change his mind:


"This archive contains 18,592 scientific publications totaling 33GiB, all from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and which should be available to everyone at no cost, but most have previously only been made available at high prices through paywall gatekeepers like JSTOR.

Limited access to the documents here is typically sold for $19USD per article, though some of the older ones are available as cheaply as $8. Purchasing access to this collection one article at a time would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Also included is the basic factual metadata allowing you to locate works by title, author, or publication date, and a checksum file to allow you to check for corruption.

ef8c02959e947d7f4e4699f399ade838431692d972661f145b782c2fa3ebcc6a sha256sum.txt

I've had these files for a long time, but I've been afraid that if I published them I would be subject to unjust legal harassment by those who profit from controlling access to these works.

I now feel that I've been making the wrong decision.

On July 19th 2011, Aaron Swartz was criminally charged by the US Attorney General's office for, effectively, downloading too many academic papers from JSTOR.

Academic publishing is an odd systemΓΓé¼ΓÇ¥the authors are not paid for their writing, nor are the peer reviewers (they're just more unpaid academics), and in some fields even the journal editors are unpaid. Sometimes the authors must even pay the publishers.

And yet scientific publications are some of the most outrageously expensive pieces of literature you can buy. In the past, the high access fees supported the costly mechanical reproduction of niche paper journals, but online distribution has mostly made this function obsolete.

As far as I can tell, the money paid for access today serves little significant purpose except to perpetuate dead business models. The "publish or perish" pressure in academia gives the authors an impossibly weak negotiating position, and the existing system has enormous inertia.

Those with the most power to change the system--the long-tenured luminary scholars whose works give legitimacy and prestige to the journals, rather than the other way around--are the least impacted by its failures. They are supported by institutions who invisibly provide access to all of the resources they need. And as the journals depend on them, they may ask for alterations to the standard contract without risking their career on the loss of a publication offer. Many don't even realize the extent to which academic work is inaccessible to the general public, nor do they realize what sort of work is being done outside universities that would benefit by it.

Large publishers are now able to purchase the political clout needed to abuse the narrow commercial scope of copyright protection, extending it to completely inapplicable areas: slavish reproductions of historic documents and art, for example, and exploiting the labors of unpaid scientists. They're even able to make the taxpayers pay for their attacks on free society by pursuing criminal prosecution (copyright has classically been a civil matter) and by burdening public institutions
with outrageous subscription fees.

Copyright is a legal fiction representing a narrow compromise: we give up some of our natural right to exchange information in exchange for creating an economic incentive to author, so that we may all enjoy more works. When publishers abuse the system to prop up their existence, when they misrepresent the extent of copyright coverage, when they use threats of frivolous litigation to suppress the dissemination of publicly owned works, they are stealing from everyone else.

Several years ago I came into possession, through rather boring and lawful means, of a large collection of JSTOR documents. These particular documents are the historic back archives of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society's prestigious scientific journal with a history extending back to the 1600s.

The portion of the collection included in this archive, ones published prior to 1923 and therefore obviously in the public domain, total some 18,592 papers and 33 gigabytes of data.

The documents are part of the shared heritage of all mankind, and are rightfully in the public domain, but they are not available freely. Instead the articles are available at $19 each--for one month's viewing, by one person, on one computer. It's a steal. From you.

When I received these documents I had grand plans of uploading them to Wikipedia's sister site for reference works, Wikisource where they could be tightly interlinked with Wikipedia, providing interesting historical context to the encyclopedia articles. For example, Uranus was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel; why not take a look at the paper where he originally disclosed his discovery? (Or one of the several follow on publications about its satellites, or the dozens of other papers he authored?)

But I soon found the reality of the situation to be less than appealing: publishing the documents freely was likely to bring frivolous litigation from the publishers.

As in many other cases, I could expect them to claim that their slavish reproduction, scanning the documents created a new copyright interest. Or that distributing the documents complete with the trivial watermarks they added constituted unlawful copying of that mark. They might even pursue strawman criminal charges claiming that whoever obtained the files must have violated some kind of anti-hacking laws.

In my discreet inquiry, I was unable to find anyone willing to cover the potentially unbounded legal costs I risked, even though the only unlawful action here is the fraudulent misuse of copyright by JSTOR and the Royal Society to withhold access from the public to that which is legally and morally everyone's property.

In the meantime, and to great fanfare as part of their 350th anniversary, the RSOL opened up "free" access to their historic archives but "free" only meant "with many odious terms", and access was limited to about 100 articles.

All too often journals, galleries, and museums are becoming not disseminators of knowledge as their lofty mission statements suggest but censors of knowledge, because censoring is the one thing they do better than the Internet does. Stewardship and curation are valuable functions, but their value is negative when there is only one steward and one curator, whose judgment reigns supreme as the final word on what everyone else sees and knows. If their recommendations have value they can be heeded without the coercive abuse of copyright to silence competition.

The liberal dissemination of knowledge is essential to scientific inquiry. More than in any other area, the application of restrictive copyright is inappropriate for academic works: there is no sticky question of how to pay authors or reviewers, as the publishers are already not paying them. And unlike 'mere' works of entertainment, liberal access to scientific work impacts the well-being of all mankind. Our continued
survival may even depend on it.

If I can remove even one dollar of ill-gained income from a poisonous industry which acts to suppress scientific and historic understanding, then whatever personal cost I suffer will be justified it will be one less dollar spent in the war against knowledge. One less dollar spent lobbying for laws that make downloading too many scientific papers a crime.

I had considered releasing this collection anonymously, but others pointed out that the obviously overzealous prosecutors of Aaron Swartz would probably accuse him of it and add it to their growing list of ridiculous charges. This didn't sit well with my conscience, and I generally believe that anything worth doing is worth attaching your name to.

I'm interested in hearing about any enjoyable discoveries or even useful applications which come of this archive.

- ----
Greg Maxwell - July 20th 2011
gmaxwell@gmail.com Bitcoin: 14csFEJHk3SYbkBmajyJ3ktpsd2TmwDEBb

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Digital Rhetoric 2007



An overview of a Fall 2007 class at UC Irvine about social media and persuasive games. I want one!!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Par tous les moyens nécessaires

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Slavoj Žižek, Julian Assange, Amy Goodman. Entire Conversation


Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! hosts this debate between Julian Assange and Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Žižek -- From the Troxy Theatre in London, July 2 2011.
Also streaming in HQ from Democracy Now for those with faster lines. Brilliant debate!

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and renowned Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek was deemed too controversial for the University of London’s Institute of Education (IOE).

Last year, whistleblower website WikiLeaks released three of the biggest ever leaks of classified information in history: the Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan War Logs and Cablegate.

Since then the world has undoubtedly changed. Ambassadors have resigned amid scandals exposed by leaked cables; the UK government has ordered a review of computer security; and, at the same time, a huge wave of protest has swept the Middle East and North Africa – in part fuelled, some believe, by WikiLeaks revelations.

Discussing the impact of WikiLeaks on the world and what it means for the future, for this very special event WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange is in conversation with renowned Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek.

Focusing on the ethics and philosophy behind WikiLeaks’ work, the talk provides a rare opportunity to hear two of the world’s most prominent thinkers discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time.

It also marks the publication of the paperback edition of Living in the End Times, in which Žižek argues that new ways of using and sharing information, in particular WikiLeaks, are one of a number of harbingers of the end of global capitalism as we know it.

The event is chaired by Amy Goodman, the award-winning investigative journalist and host of Democracy Now!, a daily, independent news hour which airs on the internet and more than 900 public television and radio stations worldwide.