On Norbert Wiener’s God & Golem, Inc.

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Death, Ethics, Evolution, Magic, Poetry & Prose, Religion, Science, War, Violence & Terrorism

While read­ing Annalee Newitz’ intriguing blog post on io9 about the his­tory of the word cyber, I came across the name Norbert Wiener (not Weiner — get it straight, you Eng­lish­ers) who had intro­duced the term Cyber­net­ics as “the study of con­trol and com­mu­nic­a­tion in machines and liv­ing beings”. His other works include the book God and Golem, Inc.: A Com­ment on Cer­tain Points Where Cyber­net­ics Impinges on Reli­gion, and that title imme­di­ately caught my eye. Stud­ies of the inter­ac­tion between sci­ence, tech­no­logy, and reli­gion always interest me a lot, as do Golems and Jew­ish folk­lore, so Wiener had sold it to me eas­ily.

The Possibilities of Horror in Games

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Death, Digital Media & Videogames, Psychology, War, Violence & Terrorism

My latest blog post on games is my third for The Onto­lo­gical Geek, and my first as a reg­u­lar con­tri­bu­tor to that fine collec­tive. In it, I explore some of the ways in which games can tap into the tools and trap­pings of the hor­ror genre. I use the the­ory of art hor­ror as pos­ited by Noël Car­roll and dis­cuss how games can evoke fear and dis­gust in play­ers, not just by using mon­sters, but also light, dark­ness, and spaces. The art­icle is part of a series of art­icles on hor­ror in games, and con­nects to many other recent and older wri­tings on the genre, so there’s a lot to read.

Time for a Story (On Papers, Please and Gone Home)

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Digital Media & Videogames, Gender & Sexuality, Literature & Narrative, Politics, Travel & Exploration, War, Violence & Terrorism

Two recent indie release (Papers, Please and Gone Home) inspired me enough to pen a little ar­ticle last week. Today the piece found a home on The Onto­logical Geek.

In the ar­ticle, I ex­plore how Papers, Please simu­lates the way in which bureau­cracies can force us to treat people like cattle, like num­bers, like items on a list. Through in­si­dious sys­tems the player — in­ha­biting the mind of a bor­der offi­cial — is forced to spend as little time on immi­grants as possi­ble, while still follow­ing all the rules im­posed by your govern­ment. I con­trast this to the ex­peri­ence of Gone Home, where we can take all the time we want to dig into the per­sonal lives of an Amer­ican fam­ily, and ex­peri­ence their tou­ching stor­ies.

No Control: on The Wasp Factory

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Death, Literature & Narrative, Magic, Poetry & Prose, Psychology, Religion, War, Violence & Terrorism

Few nov­els com­pelled me as much to imme­diate­ly write my thoughts down as The Wasp Fact­ory by Iain Banks. Usu­ally I enjoy nov­els a lot while read­ing them (or not), but quick­ly dive into a new one after­wards. In this case, I felt the need to spend some words on it be­fore mov­ing on. I’m pretty sure this means that the book has some sort of cla­rity and com­pact­ness of style that brings across its messa­ges very dir­ectly.

I sure was­n’t the only one rea­ding The Wasp Fact­ory this month. Banks passed away after a battle with can­cer on June 9th, and a num­ber of my online friends and ac­quain­tances made a grab towards his debut novel, like I did.

The Iterations of Punxsutawney Phil

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Death, Digital Media & Videogames, Film, Gender & Sexuality, Memory, Posts by Topic:, Psychology, Social Interaction & Networks, War, Violence & Terrorism

Remem­ber Ground­hog Day? It’s that 1993 film about Bill Murray’s char­acter, Phil, who keeps reliv­ing the same day, Feb­ru­ary 2nd, in the Penn­sylvania town of Punx­sutawney, where on that day, the ground­hog Punx­sutawney Phil will pre­dict when win­ter’s going to end. […] It’s an awful lot like the way we tend to play video games these days. Faced with chal­lenges in a game, we have the quick­save and quick­load but­tons close at hand, ready to revert to an earlier point in the game to try again. If you get to replay a sec­tion of a story over and over again, any chal­lenge inher­ent in the ori­ginal situ­ation quickly morphs into a mat­ter of trial and error. Like Phil in Ground­hog Day, we get to try out every inter­action, every conver­sation option the world allows us. More im­por­tantly, in a typ­ical collap­sing together of char­acter and player, Phil – like us – retains (meta)­knowledge of every­thing he did earlier.

2012: A Year in Books

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Astronomy, Languages & Linguistics, Magic, Mystery, Mythology, Poetry & Prose, Politics, Religion, Science, War, Violence & Terrorism

What did I read in 2012? I’ve found look­ing back at my last year in books helps me chart some themes and devel­op­ments in my (men­tal life), so I’ve decided to do it again this year. I read 92 books in 2012, a little fewer than in 2011, but they were big­ger books, and my page total ended up higher. This does­n’t count all the art­icles I’ve read, but we’ve got to draw the read­ing ner­d­age line some­where. It’s all slightly arbit­rary any­way.

Walking The Path

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Death, Digital Media & Videogames, Folklore, Gender & Sexuality, Memory, Psychology, War, Violence & Terrorism

Through the years I’ve had so many reas­ons to ignore her, always telling me where I could and couldn’t go… – I was follow­ing a pretty bird, and I got lost. I wanted to go for a walk by the lake. I wanted to pick some flowers that only grow in the forest. I was secretly meet­ing a boy. I wanted to check out the creepy grave­yard. I needed to get away for a while. Be­sides, the real reason she doesn’t want me to stray is be­cause she doesn’t want me to grow up and make my own de­cisions and not listen to her all the time. That’s why I went off the path and into the for­est. It’s made me who I am.

Asteroids and the Human Near Future in Space

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Astronomy, Science, War, Violence & Terrorism

If news reports from earlier this year are to be believed, aster­oids are high on the list of celes­tial bod­ies to be explored - and manip­u­lated. On May 13th, The Tele­graph revealed that Brit­ish astro­naut Tim Peake was going to be trained by NASA for an aster­oid sur­face mis­sion. Only weeks earlier, on April 24th, the Amer­ican com­pany Plan­et­ary Resources announced its plans to invest in aster­oid min­ing tech­no­logy. In the back­ground the impress­ive explor­a­tion data from NAS­A’s Dawn mis­sion to the aster­oid belt trickles in, mainly con­cern­ing pro­to­plan­ets Vesta and Ceres.