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Violent Video Games & the Dishonest Debate

Today at 03:07:04 PM by kat

So of course this discussion has to be had again despite it not yet being entirely clear if gaming, never mind violent ones, played much of a role informing this latest tragedy. And again this means looking at data that demonstrates violent videos games do not cause the type of behaviour society might nominally understand as violent[1]. This is so unequivocal it's astonishing it constantly needs to be said, the fact that it does reveals a lot about the "debate".

With that said it must be acknowledge the data does tend to indicate what might be better understood as describing predispositional traits or even telltale markers that could be used as diagnostic tools that create a picture of a given individuals mindset or attitudes towards a particular subject[2]. There is a caveat of course; this type of result is often consequential to highly conditional evaluation, that when individuals are tested under certain conditions using particular methodologies, apparent changes in attitude and behaviors can be observed.

And it's at this point the broader conversation about violence and violent video games disintegrates.

The problem is not the fact that something can be seen to occur, rather that as data points stripped of meaning and broader context, the objective results enable and embolden activist researchers, advocacy groups, politicians and politically motivated individuals pushing their own agendas, to subjectively and willfully disingenuously conflate conclusions with cause and effect; that any measured difference is somehow the gotcha that irrefutably evidences violent games cause violence behaviours when nothing could be further from the truth and nothing of the sort is being described[3]. But this seems not to have ever mattered.

Worse yet, this wanton politicisation further obscures the fact that source materials, the tests, surveys and studies, the foundation of the raw data, are as far as is possible to determine without compromising participant privacy and anonymity, nearly all conducted on mentally, physically and emotionally stable individuals, not 'at risk' groups, those who almost universally appear to suffer the kinds of mental impairment that would benefit from the research[4].

And this calls forth the biggest elephant in the room, the way mental health should be informing the debate but is not, or cannot, because activists and advocates are provided broader platforms to vociferously and aggressively push their obfuscating narratives as an intentional consequence of media networks, already culpable in pre-selecting and pre-filter their programming, being further fiscally compromised by Healthcare and Medical Ad dollars, by institutions whose practices might otherwise come under fire, be harshly criticised or subject to scrutiny[5]. Are these the conditions to facilitate an "honest debate" or merely the illusion of one, more a controlled conversation.

So too Governments and Politicians similarly lobbied not so insignificantly by the same politicised interests who are able to spend disproportionately more money lining the pockets of power-brokers than other parties to the conversation[6]. The fact this occurs is not allowed to be mention lest the person saying it be shouted down or shamed into silence. Are the political classes hearing all that needs to be heard, then able to make the decisions that need to be made.

Whether its acknowledged or dismissed as a conspiracy theory, the reality is there are significant economic incentives behind why the violent video game debate tends to form around and focus predominantly upon singular aspects and not others as a whole, there is simply too much money at stake from groups that have little, if anything, to actually do with video games[7].

This is not a debate about violence and violent attitudes or behaviours in media and entertainment, it never has been. Its a deliberately artificial polemic, an intentionally self-serving monologue easily dominated through the manipulation of emotion. Where different opinions, public discussion of certain topics are verboten for sake of being shunned and ostracised, or risk loosing advertising dollars, being sued for negatively effecting stock prices. Not exactly the sort of environment to have the necessary 'honest debate'.

In the meantime incidents will continue to happen and meaningful answers, of being able to develop a toolkit that helps spot or highlight individuals that might be at risk, will continue to be evasive all the whilst its pursuit politicised[8].

Further Reading
- Boom Headshot, perpetuating the 'murder-simulator' narrative through bad science.
- Dumb things pop-culture critics say: video games cause violence.
- Digital Self-Harm Among Adolescents, a new phenomena.
- Men harassed online more but like, seriously, it's not about them - Pew 2017.
- Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong.
- Kicking ass and chewing bubblegum.
- Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing.
- Virtual Reality Assault and Developer Responsibilities.
- Normalising/desensitising violence in games. An (initial) study.
- How social context influences violence-aggression relationship.
- Violence against males in games doesn't count... another study that 'proves' it.

[1] it's important to understand there is a difference between outward expressions of violence society would normally consider to be "acts of", versus inward or internalised expressions or the same, i.e. attitudes, thoughts, mindset and so on the individual might have. This is not to say one is more of an issue than the other, rather than the former has the greater potential to affect others in day-to-day life, whilst the latter might lead to incidents that happened in Florida. With that said, the two do not specifically correlate.

[2] the general purpose of the research into violent games is the development of a diagnostic tool, if a such a set of traits or markers can be recognised effectively it means then being able to assess an individuals predisposition with respect to violent attitudes or thoughts, not specifically outward behaviours - someone might be tested as expressing negative attitudes or thoughts but not specifically outward behaviours, which would likely result in a diagnostic prognosis that would likely result in treatment or therapy of some kind. With that said research only appears to indicate temporal change in the immediate and short-term.

[3] although changes may be noted it is not entirely clear whether they are as a consequence of the novelty effect, the "meh factor" as it were, of literally thinking "not this image again" being registered as a negative, rather than a response specifically consequential to stimuli - typically using highly emotive or sensitive subject matter individuals may already have strong feelings about i.e., "sexism", "misogyny", "violence towards " etc., etc.

[4] it needs to acknowledge its no coincidences many violent acts are carried out by individuals who are mentally and/or emotionally impaired or traumatised in some way, and are or were on medication or treatment for such

[5] in 2016/2017 Ad dollars from Healthcare and Medical industries overall was to the tune of $9,000,000,000, that's nine BILLION Dollars

[6] the various Healthcare industry lobbies spent some $500,000,000 (2017) buying influence whilst comparative figures for the firearms lobby amounts to c.$10,000,000 (2017) (although is was c.$50,000,000 (2016))

[7] the figures for both 'industries' are difficult to determine exactly because both include federal spending. This being the case the general economic impact of the firearms and weapons industries amounts to c.$51,000,000,000 dollars on its own (fifty-one BILLION), including Federal spending some c.$650,000,000,000 Billion (close to $800 Billion accounting for 2018 budget request). Healthcare and medical on the other hand has revenues of c.$2,000,000,000,000 (two TRILLION), and including the Federal budget some $3,000,000,000,000 (three TRILLION)

[8] what is the debate about exactly, cause of death, or something else. If its the former then looking at broader statistics we find that firearms usage killed c.40,000 (2016); the number of vehicular deaths c.30,000 (2016); workplace deaths c.5,000 (2016); whereas medical deaths are estimated to account for some c.250,000 deaths (2016).

Digital Self-Harm Among Adolescents, a new phenomena

January 01, 2018, 09:03:48 AM by kat
In a digital age, Internet users, minors in particular, are finding new ways to 'self-harm'. Interestingly, despite the research pointing to boys being more prone to "digital self-harm", the issue, like other coverage, is given the appearance of something particular to girls ("societies progress as a whole is assessed only by its treatment of a part, that of women and girls").
Despite increased media and scholarly attention to digital forms of aggression directed toward adolescents by their peers (e.g., cyberbullying), very little research has explored digital aggression directed toward oneself. “Digital self-harm” is the anonymous online posting, sending, or otherwise sharing of hurtful content about oneself. The current study examined the extent of digital self-harm among adolescents.

About 6% of students have anonymously posted something online about themselves that was mean. Males were significantly more likely to report participation (7.1% compared to 5.3%). Several statistically significant correlates of involvement in digital self-harm were identified, including sexual orientation, experience with school bullying and cyberbullying, drug use, participation in various forms of adolescent deviance, and depressive symptoms.

Further Reading
- Men harassed online more but like, seriously, it's not about them - Pew 2017.
- Virtual Reality Assault and Developer Responsibilities.
- Normalising/desensitising violence in games. An (initial) study.
- Harassment of women now a "hate crime".
- CPS Guidelines on Prosecuting Social Media 'crimes'.
- Keeping kids safe; do more....
- Violence against males in games doesn't count... another study that 'proves' it.
- Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls - A World-Wide Wake-Up Call.

"Net Neutrality" has been hoodwinked, yet again!

December 26, 2017, 08:36:11 AM by kat
It appears with the FCC's recent announcement the "Net Neutrality" discussion has been hoodwinked, again. This time by "muh evil corporations"[1], specifically of the Cable & Broadband Service Provider variety, who, it is said, will take advantage of the situation to out-price and over-charge their customers for access. Such is the concern about this 'infringement' the likes of Google, Facebook and other Information Service Providers have jumped on the bandwagon in support of "a free and open Internet".

And no-one stops to ask "why?". Is it any wonder so busy are the social media catastrophists in threatening self-harm, or engaging themselves in Munchhausen level insanity or Category 5 hysterics, ginned up as always it seems these days by a Main Stream News narrative laying claim the World is to end because their Internet is being taken away! (by the same Corporations that own them and the network providers). Just why would all these 'media' and 'information' Corporations and Entities be so concerned about the individuals remonstrating #FirstWorldProblems so furiously?. As customers of ComCast or any number cable/network service providers, what is the individuals ability to access content to them? After all they have their own networks over which their content is distributed into which cable/broadband companies essentially plug - cable/broadband service providers are not the Internet, they are simply consumer conduits or gateways into the broader network of systems.

The question answers itself in a way. Of course media and information providers have joined the fight for "a free internet" because they benefit directly from their data being freely available ("free" as in "accessible" not "free" as in "from cost"), except when they are the ones asking consumers cough up increased subscriptions for 4k, special or exclusive content, their content.

And this is not speaking to Google, Facebook et al setting up their own "differentiated networks"[2], of the light infrastructural footprint of Mobile & Wireless providers, over which "Net Neutrality" regulations have (little to) no impact.

This makes the actual "Net Neutrality" debate one of Corporate funded astro-turfed anti-competitive sabotage; hinder the competition, who are tied to massive physical infrastructure overheads, with regulations that only apply to them, de-facto burdened BY LAW with providing minimal service whilst the late-comers to the game get the upper hand, being free to invest in new technologies and regions instead of up-keeping old crumbling infrastructure.

Any way one cares (dares) to cut it, that's not "Net Neutrality", not by a long shot.

Further Reading
- President Obama's Plan for a Free and Open Internet.
- FCC Open Commission Meeting (Feb 2015).
- Two tier Internet - Net Neutrality has been hoodwinked.
- Net Neutrality - EU abolishes mobile roaming charges.

[1] Today's Victory on Net Neutrality - "'Net neutrality' has been built into the fabric of the internet since its creation -- but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas." - except the very nature of the supply and demand market forces that BUILT the Internet have ALWAYS "pick[ed] winners and losers", it's never been "neutral" in that respect.

[2] The likes of Google (Google Fibre), Facebook (Internet.org infrastructure initiative) and other global information services being involved in the "Net Neutrality" debate motivated by developing new and more profitable markets for their products... whilst Facebook, though Internet.org, pushes the 'humanitarian' angle with their outreach, the ONLY reason for doing so is to coerce the remaining 50% or so of the Worlds population without Internet into using Facebook based services ('internet access' being the carrot to dangle)... the United States, and much of Europe for that matter, have reached the top of the bell-curve where increasingly disproportionate investment is needed to push reach beyond the 80+ percent it currently is, resources that used elsewhere will garner much greater profits and Government influence, often in poorer countries with much weaker currency valuations, making the US$ stretch even further (buyers remorse not having set in as is the case in the the USA/EU/AU where users are increasingly finding themselves subject to depression and other anxiety related disorders as a consequence of unfettered Internet use).

YouTubes adpocalypse super-secret/hidden (since removed) codes

December 01, 2017, 09:14:03 PM by kat

IMPORTANT NOTE: in the time since the videos discussing this issue went live on the 29th November, and writing the below (30th/1st), YouTube appears to have removed all traces of the 'secret demonetisation codes' from source. They can no longer be found using the search parameters outlined below. This literally (lidderally) happened whilst this post was being written (occurred some time between 29th Nov and 1st December). The fact the codes were removed without any notification or comment (at time of writing at least) could be considered odd to say the least.

• • •

In trying to get to the bottom of the YouTube video demonetisation #adpocolypse, the controversy seems to have taken a step or two into darker murkier waters, or so at least some commentators on the subject are saying, the TL:DR of which suggests YouTube makes use of super-secret hidden codes to "censor" YouTube Creators and their video content (this does not relate to/is separate from videos marked as "not eligible for monetisation"). Naturally this means doing some fact-checking.

So, do the 'super-secret codes' exit?. Yes (although the numbers are not exactly super-secret - see below, what they mean is (or was - see note above)).

Whilst all the alleged codes are time-consuming to verify a number of them can be found right-clicking a page in which a YouTube video appears and searching the html source for two markers, "excluded_ads" and "excludedAds", which can be found in two locations, both part of a script function, not just the one as described by the authors linked above.

With that said, not all videos carry the numbered tags; those that do, may not have been specifically content or ToS flagged; those that have been, don't necessarily continue to carry any if at all the tags once checked and/or remonetised (DMCA flagged videos, and those with other specific Copyright violations, don't seems to carry the tags once cleared).

The lack of transparency on this, at least in regards to the codes being 'behavioural markers' like the red-sticky spots teachers might place on a child's report card/progress report, is more than a little confusing and concerning. For example, the following video, "Easily export a map to Unity3D", has never been flagged or demonetised and yet it carries a number of the numerical tags being reported on, the critical values precede the "=";
Code: [Select]
Tag 1: "excluded_ads":"46=14_14;59=14_14;64=14_14;76=2_2_1,2_2_4",
Tag 2: "excludedAds":"46=14_14;59=14_14;64=14_14;76=2_2_1,2_2_4",

That's "46", "59", "64" and "76". These particular numbers appear common to almost all KatsBits videos, few of which have ever been flagged. So rather than being behavioural red marks, this fact perhaps hints at their likely being 'advert category identifiers'; "46" might be "personal care", or "Holidays and travel", both of which might be less valuable to Advertisers placed on education videos about Blender or content creation, so videos being tagged to identifying this incongruity makes sense.

In addition to this likely reason for some of the codes, the other half of the equation is a little more troubling because they do only appear on videos that have been flagged as "not suitable for most advertisers". For example the number "102" appears in code for the following video "Monday #imvufbx shenanigans w/ IMVU's JinxyWithMoji & CodeRodent" in addition to the aforementioned common codes;
Code: [Select]

This is where things get a little more serious because the codes, it's being alleged, appear to be policy violation identifiers, content deemed to contain "Controversial issues and sensitive events", "Drugs and dangerous products or substances", "Harmful or dangerous acts", "Hateful content", "Inappropriate language", "Inappropriate use of family entertainment characters", "Incendiary and demeaning", "Sexually suggestive content" and/or "Violence". Each 'category' is assigned a unique tag that can be innocuously dropped into page source such that the KatsBits video linked above can be flagged with "102" identifying it as containing "Inappropriate language" (at least according to the research linked to up-top).

As discussed in a follow-up chat (also demonetised at time of writing), unless the word "but" is considered inappropriate it's difficult to imagine exactly how YouTubes system works aside from it automatically flagging 'live' videos, obligating Tubers to challenge, just so the process teaches the AI something or other about content flagging/making course corrections. Even if this were true, the implications for 'marking' certain content, and users, as a matter of course regardless, doesn't bode well in any sense.

Who knows at this point...

Hey ho, to sea we go, a Pirates life for meeeee!

September 26, 2017, 04:13:27 PM by kat

A report recently discovered/forced to be released publicly, "Estimating displacement rates of copyrighted content in the EU" suggests European piracy rates don't appear to negatively affect the gaming industry as expected (note: some media outlets have made specific comment on the apparent age of the data used for this report based its being (re)published in 2017. Whilst perhaps a valid concern in some respects, the criticism however, omits(?), neglects(?) ignores(?) the reports actual 2014 publication date, as highlighted in the Copyright & Publication Notice, and the 2015 Authors Notice, all within the first few pages, and the fact that a request for access/release was sent to the European Commission, also in 2014 - this is notwithstanding large-scale studies of this nature often being historical rather than real-time).
Main conclusions
In 2014, on average 51 per cent of the adults and 72 per cent of the minors in the EU have illegally downloaded or streamed any form of creative content, with higher piracy rates in Poland and Spain than in the other four countries of this study. In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect. An exception is the displacement of recent top films. The results show a displacement rate of 40 per cent which means that for every ten recent top films watched illegally, four fewer films are consumed legally. People do not watch many recent top films a second time but if it happens, displacement is lower: two legal consumptions are displaced by every ten illegal second views. This suggests that the displacement rate for older films is lower than the 40 per cent for recent top films. All in all, the estimated loss for recent top films is 5 per cent of current sales volumes.
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