Tag Archives: networks

The Oculus … Rift

I have to admit that my first reaction to the news that Facebook had bought Oculus was shock, with a tinge of fear.

I’ve had high hopes for Oculus Rift (Oculus is the company, Rift is the device) since hearing about the Kickstarter campaign back in 2012. I’ve been watching the development of the Rift and wondering what type of new experiences it might bring and how it would shape itself as an independent project. With the successful completion of the campaign, where it raised over $2 million, well over the intended goal of $250,000. When that happened, I remember thinking that this was a pretty good start and would tip off investors that there was renewed demand for virtual reality (VR) gaming, which was pretty much dead before Oculus brought it back.

I wonder how many out there remember when these systems were making the mall-circuit back in the 90s?

The Virtual Nightmare by Daniel Rehn (flickr cc) https://flic.kr/p/dKbcMG

The Virtual Nightmare by Daniel Rehn (flickr cc) https://flic.kr/p/dKbcMG

So, now that I’ve had a good 24 hours to consider what this means, I’ve come to two conclusions. First, that what I’m really having trouble with is the combination of Oculus and Facebook. I’m not surprised about the purchase, nor am I upset at either Oculus or Facebook for making what I think is a sound decision for both parties – it really was a matter of time and a matter of who would eventually pick up the company. Oculus needed financial backing, which started with Kickstarter and has now culminated in the $2B pricetag. I think it is somewhat naive for the Kickstarter crowd to expect that something this popular wouldn’t be scooped up. What concerns me is Facebook’s penchant for commodotizing its users. I’m interested in the game, not the purchase, which tends to be the focus for an advertisement-driven organization like Facebook.

Virtual Reality Headset Prototype - Pargon (flickr cc) https://flic.kr/p/4HYWqe

Virtual Reality Headset Prototype – Pargon (flickr cc) https://flic.kr/p/4HYWqe

As someone who would probably have purchased an Rift once it was shelf-ready, I will probably second-guess that decision now. Sure Facebook already has some of my information, but the micro-transaction craze has really gotten out of hand, although I realize that Facebook is not the only company to blame for this trend. What bothers me is that I am concerned that those developers who really would have had a leg up using system independent of a large organization’s focus, would probably have had an easier time changing the landscape of gaming. It’s this frontier attitude that made me excited for the Rift in the first place. Finally, we might have an opportunity to escape from the endless First Person Shooter (FPS), Role Playing Game (RPG), Platformer, Puzzle game loop.

c_a_v_e by William Cromar (flickr cc) https://flic.kr/p/8CTX9K

c_a_v_e by William Cromar (flickr cc) https://flic.kr/p/8CTX9K

My second reason for concern did have something to do with the Kickstarter crowd, although I’ll re-state that this shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise to anyone. The reason for my concern is for the destruction of the social capital that had been built up around the Rift. I’ve been learning a thing or two about social capital, mainly through the writing of Charles Kadushin. This concept is difficult to encapsulate, but easy to see in action. The Rift was an independent product, which had done amazingly well, based on the real capital that those who invested in its social capital were trying to realize. Kadushin explains:

On the individual level, social capital can mean that people who have a large number and/or a wide range of friends in different occupations, or who have friends in high-ranked occupations, have better occupational outcomes.

Here he’s talking about better occupational outcomes, but we can extrapolate this for the Rift. The loose network or highly motivated individuals who donated a fair amount of money to Oculus, could have been a major factor in it’s development and success. The simple fact that some are disenfranchised now, regardless of whether it is warranted or not, means that a certain amount of social capital (how much remains to be seen) is now not available to draw from. This weakening of the network that came together to initially fund the Rift is now not nearly as cohesive as it once was and there is no way to tell exactly where the holes are. Most are potential customers, but how many were potential developers, or potential writers?

So, where does this leave us now? Facebook/Oculus have the Rift, Sony has recently announced their foray into this gaming space. I’m sure that others will follow. It looks like the race is heating up, but I hope that it’s not a race to the bottom. I worry that large companies can’t afford to fail, so they stick to the tried and true (tired and true), whereas a small, nimble company, with a group of independent AND established developers might have been able to come up with something really unique. We will have to wait and see.

Sony by BagoGames (flickr cc) https://flic.kr/p/kY7LDT

Sony by BagoGames (flickr cc) https://flic.kr/p/kY7LDT

Offline sources:

Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding social networks : Theories, concepts, and findings. New York: Oxford University Press

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Love it or Leave it

I had a very interesting discussion yesterday about social media and how difficult it can be if you don’t want to use it or feel that it is unnecessary in your life. Responses to conversations like this with those who do use it (and love it a lot) often include denial, anger, and bargaining. I have to admit that my decision to participate in social media has brought me through most of the seven stages of the Kübler-Ross model and I now sit firmly between depression and acceptance.

For the record, I think that this is an exceptionally good place to have landed. Through my class work, more on-the-side activity and by opening myself up to the opportunities, challenges and dangers of these networks, I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of the factors at play in this relatively new online environment. What I’ve discovered has both delighted and disturbed me. I’ve gone from lurker to participant in 10 short weeks. I’ve started, stopped, turned around, re-started and duplicated many of my efforts, all for pragmatic reasons, because this is the way I learn. The environment and infrastructure has allowed me the flexibility to do this and all I’ve given up is my personal data, which I’m pretty sure I had already given up in the first place.

I have read a few articles this week that have illustrated the wonderful variety of emotions toward social media. These range from those who have given it up, like Jordan Turgeon in his piece I Quit Social Media (And I Don’t Miss it Yet), to Kevin Allen’s Why I Love Social Media. In between are so many shades that it is exceptionally difficult to find common ground, which forces you to take a stand, no matter what that stand might be. Mine is reluctant acceptance, mostly due to inquisitiveness. I understand the benefits and I weigh the risks. Since I have chosen to study in this field, I don’t feel that I can do that effectively while standing on the sidelines. However, I can certainly participate in such a way that I am fully aware, and capable of helping others to be so, of the privacy and surveillance issues that we should all be discussing.

Now, for those of you who are dead-set against social media, I don’t think you can get away anymore with knowing nothing about its inner workings. Please take heed of the wisdom of Sun Tzu and “know your Enemy.” There’s a very quick blogpost by Allison in the RoundPeg.biz site that nicely lays out what you should know about social media even if you never intend to use it. We’re well past the point where ignorance can be considered bliss and that ignorance may turn out to be more dangerous than you realize.

I’m not sure if this picture could be a sunrise or it could be a sunset. This is how I’m feeling about social media after all of this experimentation:

SunriseSunset - Michael L Baird (flickr cc) http://flic.kr/p/dzvJyg

88 Keys to a Fluid Internet

Warning: Broad and unrefined speculation follows.

This week I tweeted:

This was an indirect reaction to a blog post by Maureen Crawford (Press Pause, Let Go, Let Flow), including her tweet stating “Internet is liquid not solid”.  Musings on several other posts by MACT cohort colleagues Kelly Spencer (The Power of Flow in a Network) and Rohit Sandhu (Globalization through the lens of networks) kept these thoughts tumbling over the last 24 hours. What I’ve been mulling over is how fragmented I’ve felt my time spent online has been over the past few months.

This past month, my nightly routine has been:

  • Open Tweetdeck and see what’s going on
  • Check email on my phone or tablet
  • Check online new sources
  • Check blog sources
  • Check facebook
  • Check course outlines
  • Prepare blog post
  • Prepare wiki posts
  • Check LinkedIn
  • Find a new Social media site and see if it’s useful, or offers anything new
  • And several other steps I won’t bore you with

Yes, push notifications on my tablet and phone automate this process somewhat. Yes, news aggrigators mean that I can check multiple media sites at a glance. Yes, I’ve come up with a system to manage links. However, it still feels very static, despite the comfort level that I have begun to feel. Then I realized what was wrong: I’ve been pressing the keys but I’m not making music.

007/365 - Keys

I’m not yet at the point where there is melody in what I’m doing online. I’m pressing each individual social key but only occasionally is there relation to what I’m composing. I’m not sure if this is just me or if it is a technical fact of an instrument that is still in the early stages of development.

Then @dianambrown challenged me to develop the idea further:

Here is my response to date (requiring much more thought), continuing the musical metaphor, in three steps (and purely speculative):

  1. In order to continue developing the skills necessary to one day reach the potential of cross-internet mastery, we need more practice and the ability to personally tune our instruments. I think that practice is coming in droves, considering the amount of time that we’re spending attached to our devices. This tuning process is taking a bit longer, although it is catching on with coding being introduced in some classrooms, especially in the UK.
  2. As we are developing our skills, we will also continue to develop new systems to fill in the gaps in our communication ability. The number of apps launched each day is staggering. Filling in the holes in our networked lives has become big business and the only way to get a foot in the door in a saturated app market is to find something nobody else is doing.
  3. Of course, the last step is the hardest to describe. In my tweet back to @dianambrown I called it “personally relevant design.” What I meant by this is really being able to plan, select, modify, and launch our own set of features, using the skills and theory developed in practice, across the platforms selected to further our own means. This is the process akin to playing each note in a song and having the result be music, rather than just a series of tones. This is where online communication might begin to feel individual rather than an appropriation of someone else’s ideas.

At that point, if we ever reach it, our submissions to each other would reach a new level of meaning (hopefully understanding). Of course, at this speculative level, it sounds very utopian, and is meant to be so. Some of this may tie into discussions about the semantic web and, taken to its extreme, human-machine collaboration not dissimilar to conversations about technological singularity.

In any case, our ability to manipulate our experiences online, in order to achieve a more personal communication style, has already begun and has certainly come a long way, even in the last decade. Learning about and experiencing online communication in the last month has granted brief flashes of insight. At some point, I hope that they can coalesce into a coherent whole.