Is the games industry institutionally sexist?

A bold question I know, but please bear with me.

This started as an update to this post but I realised that once I had written over eleven paragraphs it probably needed its own URL. Right, deep breath, here goes…

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I’d like you all to read ‘In which I don’t try to write like a man’ by Margaret Robertson. Margaret is both a leading games writer and development director of Hide & Seek. It is her response to Mark Sorrell’s blog post ‘Dear Men, Please Listen. Love, Man‘ and also a discussion thread about his article on Reddit.
Continue reading → Is the games industry institutionally sexist?

The standard Google search result is dead: why the personalised web may undermine democracy

“The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see”, says Eli Pariser.

Following up from my post on social search, and how in creating more filtered-personalised search results we get less serendipity, I thought some of you might be interested in this TED presentation from Eli Pasier.

In it, Pariser explores how the personalisation of the web – be it on Facebook, Google or elsewhere – is creating ‘filter bubbles’. Whilst the web promised us freedom from media gatekeepers, he believes that in reality there has been a passing of a torch, “From human gate keepers to algorithmic ones”.

He writes in his book:

“Most of us assume that when we google a term, we all see the same results – the ones that the company’s famous Page Rank algorithm suggests are the most authoritative based on other pages’ links. But since December 2009, this is no longer true. Now you get the result that Google’s algorithm suggests is best for you in particular – and someone else may see something entirely different. In other words, there is no standard Google any more.”

Pariser outlines why this may be a problem for society and democracy, as the web feeds us what it thinks we should know, against what we are potentially really looking for, or perhaps just need to know.

“[…] you don’t choose to enter the bubble. When you turn on Fox News or read The New Statesman, you’re making a decision about what kind of filter to use to make sense of the world. It’s an active process, and like putting on a pair of tinted glasses, you can guess how the editors’ leaning shapes your perception. You don’t make the same kind of choice with personalised filters. They come to you – and because they drive up profits for the websites that use them, they’ll become harder and harder to avoid.”

These ideas take notions of like-mindedness, such as research by Cass Sunstein, a step further, and more out of our control. Whilst many of us might actively try to follow, search for and discover ideas outside of our comfort zone, unwittingly these attempts may be in vain.

Note: For a longer extract of Pasier’s book see this piece in the Guardian.

UPDATE:
Google’s Matt Cutts responds to the questions raised by personalisation of search
Financial Times book review of The Filter Bubble by Christoper Caldwell – ‘A dystopian view of online freedoms’

Behind the headlines: raising local voices in Haiti

At 16.53 local time on Tuesday 12 January, 2010 an earthquake with a Moment magnitude of 7.0 struck Haiti, with an epicentre approximately 16 miles from the country’s capital Port au Prince.

Almost immediately the country hit the headlines and was rarely out of the news for a few weeks. NGOs and the media came flying in to help and report. Yet, often the voices heard in the media were not those of the locals, but of crisis professionals, analysts and politicians.

This didn’t mean that locals weren’t involved in picking up the pieces, simply that we rarely heard from them. Some of this could be put down to a matter of language translation – a fairly predictable scenario when going into a foreign country, and whilst the first language of Haiti is the less spoken Creole the second language of the country is French. But there are many other possible reasons.

Two projects have attempted to rectify this situation:

The Kenyan Ushahidi, a non-profit tech company that develops free and open source software for crowdsourced information collection, visualization and interactive mapping, was founded to re-balance these very situations, as this video explains:

When the earthquake in Haiti struck, Ushahidi and mapping volunteers quickly got into action. Both enabling the reporting of incidents and information on the ground (via mobile SMS, emails and online) and mapping the dramatically changed landscape, infrastructure and cities from satellite pictures above. The result was a constantly updated interactive map.

The following presentation given by Juliana Roitch at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia shows what was involved and just some of the challenges and processes that they had to learn on the job. Processes and reports that are still ongoing.

The web and film documentary Goudou Goudou, the ignored voices of reconstruction is another project that aims to re-address the balance of voices telling the story of Haiti.

Filmed and produced by Benoit Cassegrain and Giodarno Cossu – who together run Solidar’IT – it tells the stories of several characters and their lives since the earthquake. The film was recorded in Creole and French during 2010, and has yet to be fully translated into English (I’m sure the film makers would be up for discussions if you are interested in changing that), but the following trailer is available, and gives a glimpse into the day to day lives of those that the earthquake effected.

Both projects highlight in their different ways that we need to change how report crisis’. That we consider who can report as well as what and how language should be considered right from the start.