Research Paper

“Hey Siri!” “Alexa, call mom.” “Hey Google, set my alarm for 10:00 am.” Here are three statements, that you, along with the rest of Generation Z have most likely interacted with in one way or another. Investing in a machine that, as advertisements demonstrate, can literally do anything for you, sounds like an amazing idea. I mean, who would not like to have a device to remember your passwords, tell you how much of an ingredient to use in a recipe, set your alarms, give traffic advisories, among several other things? All of that sounds great, does it not? Yet, have you ever stopped to think about where this information is stored? Or how the machines actually know the direction of your commute? Is it just a coincidence that Siri knows the exact time you set your alarm for every morning and reminds you to set it? Or that Alexa knows whose phone number to call when you tell it to call mom? The amount of information a virtual assistant stores within it about its user should be much more concerning to us. Although these machines are created to make our lives easier, they pose a major risk to the privacy of our generation and on generations to come. 

Virtual assistants collect large amounts of information about their users. In the Berkeley Technology Law Journal article, “How Digital Assistants can Harm our Economy, Privacy and Democracy,” authors Maurice E. Stucke and Ariel Ezrachi state, “Digital assistants (and the smart technologies connected with them) aim to collect even more personal data [than smartphones]” (Ezrachi and Stucke 1279). This makes it clear that these machines do indeed collect immense amounts of information. You may be wondering, how do these machines actually collect this information if all users do is ask them questions? Well this is an interesting thing to take a look at. As users, we ask virtual assistants different questions ranging from the weather to the amount of time a commute will take, to information on a specific singer, to just asking the machine to play our favorite playlists. These may sound like simple commands, but as each question is asked, the information is stored within the internal servers of the company that owns the machine. In turn, this provides the companies with information on each one of the machine’s users. The same article references a situation from 2017, when the company VIZIO was caught tracking the television shows its users watched, without their consent. This was done in order to cater advertisements towards their consumers. Just as a company like VIZIO could do this, so could virtual assistants. The only difference is that virtual assistants collect a greater amount of data, due to the fact that a larger amount of people interact with the machines, including children, guests, or anyone else that comes to a home that owns one. (Ezrachi and Stucke 1283). Machines can gain access to a user’s location, as well as his/her likes and dislikes from interpretations of commands that are given. 

In addition to the issue of large corporations knowing too much about us, according to the Berkley Law Journal article, government surveillance should be another concern. After providing an example of how a government agent can hack into smartphones, the authors go on to say “Governments would have similar… abilities to hack digital assistants to monitor and gather evidence” (Ezrachi and Stucke 1282). As a result of this, it is evident that the information that is shared with virtual assistants can be used for a lot more than just answering a question, or conducting an inconvenient task. 

Users of virtual assistants often confide in their machines, as if they were a partner or significant other (Woods). Due to the fact that they feel such an intimate relationship with them, they tend to share the same amount, or more information with it than they would with a close friend or relative. As a result, the machines get to know the user inside and out. This then leads to the machine storing detailed and personal information about the user. In an interview with Forbes.com, an Amazon Echo employee said that the reason the company collects data on its users is to  “improve the customer’s experience” (O’Flaherty). During the same interview, the spokesperson also said that the Echo Dot does record its users, and that these recordings are listened to by select Amazon Echo employees. They claim that this is done to “train [the machine’s] speech recognition and natural language understanding systems” (O’Flaherty). Although this is certain, and the employees can not identify the people they are listening to, as O’Flaherty states, “Amazon never explicitly tells users that a human could be listening to [them].” 

Owning and using a virtual assistant is something that is becoming increasingly popular. According to Pew Research Center, as of 2017, 46% of American adults frequently used a virtual assistant ( “46% of Americans Use Digital Voice Assistants” ). As a result, issues of privacy and the way in which these machines store and interpret our data should be concerning a greater amount of people. Furthermore, virtual assistants are not only used by adults, but they have also become intriguing to children. Since these machines speak to you as if they were your friend, children easily become entertained by asking them silly questions and waiting to hear the response that has been curated by the company that created the device. 

In an experiment conducted by Stefania Druga, Cynthia Breazeal, Randi Williams and Mitchel Resnick, published by the MIT Personal Robots Group, the researchers looked at a group of twenty six children ranging in ages from three to ten. These children were divided into groups and told to talk to four different devices: an Amazon Echo, a Google Home, a Cozmo and Julie Chatbot. From these conversations, the researchers learned that 60% of the younger children (ages three or four)  thought they were smarter than the Amazon Echo, while 100% of the older children (ages six through ten) thought the Amazon Echo was smarter than them (Breazeal et al.). This is a notion that can be taken into consideration when looking at the ways in which these machines can affect upcoming generations. Although younger children still believe they are smarter than the device, the older children are more aware of the fact that these machines know more than they do. Since the older children are more capable of interacting with the machines, as they are more developed than the younger children, they can take advantage of the knowledge they have noticed from these machines and, from a young age, start having the virtual assistant conduct simple tasks for them. This creates a culture of dependency on the machine to answer questions for homework, for managing different home appliances, and for looking up information. From their research, the authors also found that a majority of the participants thought that the virtual assistants were friendly and trustworthy (Breazeal et al.). This demonstrates that children are very likely to confide in these machines as if they are their friends. As a result, it is probable that they share extensive amounts of information with them, which can in turn lead the large corporations that own the assistants to hold onto great amounts of information about young children and those they associate themselves with. 

As virtual assistants continue developing into the future, they can very much look a lot like Samantha in the movie Her directed by Spike Jonze. This film was released in 2013. Two years prior to this, in 2011, Apple came out with their personal digital assistant, Siri. This was the beginning of a revolution. At its start, Siri had limited functions compared to its abilities today. At the time of its release, the movie Her, was seen as something unimaginable. Who would spend the day speaking to some virtual voice that does not exist? Who would actually depend on this machine to fulfill all of his or her needs? And an even larger question, who would fall in love with a figure that is not even real? Although all of these things seemed like an exaggeration in 2013, six years later, a lot of these situations could actually happen in real life. The extent of the tasks virtual assistants can complete today make them seem like they are a real person. Adding on to this, with the creation of Apple’s AirPods, people can walk around requesting for Siri to conduct any task for them by just saying her name.

At the rate technology is developing, we are at the brim of becoming a society dependent on our virtual assistants to please us, just as the world in Her was. David Burden and Maggi Savin- Baden look at this in depth as they discuss the future of virtual assistants in their book, Virtual Humans Today and Tomorrow. Throughout their text they look into how these machines could potentially affect our future world. The authors reference these digital assistants by pointing out that “Amazon Echo/Alexa, Google Home and other variations of the ‘intelligent speaker’ or ‘smart house assistant’ have begun their invasion of our homes,” and by mentioning “As Siri and Cortana on mobile phones continue to develop, those living within a developed country will be constantly in reach of a virtual human performing the role of a personal assistant” (Burden and Savin-Baden 250). Here they make it clear that both the in-home and mobile assistants are beginning to define the world around us, and that these machines are going to continue developing and making an even greater impact on our lives. They discuss the possibility of uploading a brain to a computer and replicating the human mind in the form of a device, making these machines much more capable than they are now. If this were to happen, digital assistants could also likely become part of the economic and social capital of our world. In addition, the authors predict that between 2050 and 2100, there will be one virtual assistant for every five real humans (Burden and Savin-Baden 251). Noting the points stated above makes it evident that the potential intense development of virtual assistants throughout the next century, can change the way our society works entirely. 

It is important to acknowledge this rapid evolution of technology today. The way innovations change from one year to another is astonishing. Looking at digital voice assistants, this technological development becomes notable. As mentioned previously, the digital voice assistant began as a program on a mobile device that was able to conduct a limited amount of tasks, those of which mostly pertained to the cell phone (reading text messages, making phone calls, conducting emails…). Yet as technology has continued to develop during the past two years, leading companies have diverted from the original mobile phone digital assistant to create separate digital assistant products. Digital assistants such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, have the ability to answer more commands than the mobile device assistant. Due to the convenience these machines bring to us as twenty first century technology users, and their continuous technological advancement providing them the ability to do more, they have become immensely popular amongst digital technology consumers, and have the potential to take over the society we live in today. 

Works Cited

“46% of Americans Use Digital Voice Assistants.” Pew Research Centerhttps://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/12/nearly-half-of-americans-use-digital-voice-assistants-mostly-on-their-smartphones/ft_17-12-07_voiceasst_users/

Breazeal, C., Druga, S., Resnick, M. and Williams, R. “‘Hey Google is it OK if I Eat You?’” Initial Explorations in Child-Agent Interaction.” MIT Personal Robot Group. http://robotic.media.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2017/06/idcwp0180-drugaACR.pdf pdf. June 2017. 

Burden, David, and Maggi Savin-Baden. Virtual Humans: Today and Tomorrow. CRCPress, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019.

Ezrachi, Ariel and Maurice E. Stucke. “How Digital Assistants Can Harm Our Economy, Privacy and Democracy.” vol. 32, iss. 3, 2017. Berkeley Technology Law Journal. https://doi.org/10.15779/Z383B5W79M

O’Flaherty, Kate. “Amazon Staff Are Listening to Alexa Conversations— Here’s What to Do.” Forbes.com, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2019/04/12/amazon-staff-are-listening-to-alexa-conversations-heres-what-to-do/#42eaa6b71a22. Accessed 16 November 2019.

Woods, Heather Suzanne. “Asking More of Siri and Alexa: Feminine Persona in Service of Surveillance Capitalism.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 35, iss. 4, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2018.1488082. Accessed 4 November 2019. 

Website Reflection

After working with WordPress and this website for a semester, I have mostly mastered how to create posts, new pages and how to add pictures to the site. WordPress is definitely not the most user-friendly website making tool, but after getting used to it, it is manageable.

Over the course of the semester I was able to personalize the website to my liking, and learned how to make different tabs, as a way to organize all of my information. Although I was not able to create a drop down menu for each page I had in the menu bar at the top, I was able to create a “home page” for everything belonging to my creative project. When creating my website, this was one thing I had in mind. I wanted all the parts of my creative project to be in one section, and for everything else to be in different tabs.

Under my creative project menu, there are different buttons, each pertaining to the different assignments I had to create for the project. I also have created a tab for the reflections I had to write, and one that is linked to the Twitter page I made for the class. The major goal I had for this website was to have it organized and navigable. I think through the use of the menu bar, and the various tabs I have created, I have accomplished this goal.

One of my other goals for this was to add more pictures that I found on my own, rather than using the ones that belong to the website. Although I did not really use too many images for the different sections of my projects, I did add a photo to the home page of the site. So I guess I could say I accomplished this goal as well.

Making a website was much harder than I expected. As I stated at the beginning, WordPress is not the most user-friendly website, making it pretty difficult to really customize the entire site to my liking.

Although I am unsure of how I will use this particular website in the future, I will definitely use the skills I learned for creating a website for other classes, internships, and even for after college.

Finally, using this website really put a lot of what we learned in class into play. Since the classes objective is about digital media, I think publishing our assignments to the Internet gives a real- world example of how we can use the digital world for our academic career.

Artist Statement Creative Project

For my creative project, I decided to make a digital diary from the perspective of the Amazon Alexa. In order to do this, I looked up all of the commands Alexa responds to, and from there I created the events I wanted her to deal with each day. The commands shaped the things Alexa encountered on a daily basis. 

To publish the journal, I thought of several ideas. The first thing I thought of was to create a real online digital journal. I then realized that was not as feasible as I had thought. From there I thought that I would make a blog, just as we have been doing in class to publish the steps of our project. I thought about using WordPress since I had a bit of experience using it. I then remembered the challenges I encountered with it when I first went to create my blog for the class, so I decided to create a website on Wix. This was much more navigable and user friendly.

When choosing the theme of the website, I looked for a template that most resembled a social media feed. The one I found was perfect. It even allowed me to put an icon that looked like a profile pictures on a social media website. From there, I wanted to personalize the site as much as possible, so I decided to create a photo that looked like a child’s journal cover. I found a font that looked like a child’s handwriting and used the Amazon logo under the writing to make it clear that this is coming from the perspective of the Amazon Alexa. 

As stated before, I wrote from Alexa’s perspective through using the commands that she commonly responds to. I wrote her thoughts throughout seven days, and ended each one of the entries by saying “Forever Prime.” I used this term, as a way to create a play on words, alluding to the Amazon Prime service. 

Similar to my research paper, my creative projects dives deep into the world of the Amazon Alexa. I thought it would be interesting to come up with the way Alexa viewed the world for the creative aspect of the assignment, while looking at the way users view the Amazon Alexa for my research paper. Although the part of the way Alexa views society is fictional, it provides an interesting perspective as to how the machine could potentially have viewed society if it had real thoughts. 

Finally, this topic relates to our class as it looks at a digital form of technology that is currently impacting our culture. Much of my inspiration for this came from watching the film Her in this class. As I was watching the movie, I continuously thought about the ways Samantha was similar to the Amazon Alexa. The resemblance between the two was astonishing, especially because this movie was made prior to digital assistants becoming popular. By looking at the way the digital assistant has already developed in the short amount of time it has been out, and the way the movie Her depicts Samantha, it becomes evident that the impact they can potentially have on our society is concerning. 

Bibliography

Her. Dir. Spike Jonze. Warner Bros, 2013. Film. 

Priest, David. “The Complete List of Alexa Commands so Far.” CNET

https://www.cnet.com/how-to/every-alexa-command-you-can-give-your-amazon-echo-s

mart-speaker/.

“The Good News Network: Positive Stories 24/7.” Good News Network, 18 Nov. 2019, 

https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/.

Rough Draft Research Paper

“Hey Siri!” “Alexa, call mom.” ‘Hey Google, set my alarm for 10:00 am.” Here are three statements, that you, along with the rest of Generation Z have most likely interacted with in one way or another. Investing in a machine that, as advertisements demonstrate, can literally do anything for you, sounds like an amazing idea. I mean, who would not like to have a device to remember your passwords, tell you how much of an ingredient to use in a recipe, set your alarms, give traffic advisories, among several other things? All of that sounds great, does it not? Yet, have you ever stopped to think about where this information is stored? Or how the machines actually know the direction of your commute? Is it just a coincidence that Siri knows the exact time you set your alarm for every night and reminds you to set it? Or that Alexa knows who’s phone number to call when you tell it to call mom? The amount of information a virtual assistant stores within it about its user should be much more concerning to us. Although these machines are created to make our lives easier, they pose a major risk to the privacy of our generation and on generations to come. 

Virtual assistants collect huge amounts of information on their users. In the Berkeley Technology Law Journal article, “How Digital Assistants can Harm our Economy, Privacy and Democracy,” authors Maurice E. Stucke and Ariel Ezrachi state, “Digital assistants (and the smart technologies connected with them) aim to collect even more personal data [than smartphones.]” (Ezrachi and Stucke 1279). This makes it clear that these machines do indeed collect immense amounts of information. You may be wondering, how do these machines even collect this information if all users do is ask them questions? Well this is an interesting thing to take a look at. As users, we  ask virtual assistants different questions ranging from the weather to the amount of time ones commute will take, to information on a specific singer, and for the machine to play our favorite playlists. These may sound like simple commands, but as each question is asked, the information is stored within the internal servers of the company that owns the machine. Which then in turn provides these companies with information on each one of the machine’s users. The same article references a situation from 2017, when the company VIZIO was caught tracking the television shows its users watched, without their consent. This was done in order to cater advertisements towards their consumers. Just as a company like VIZIO could do this, so could virtual assistants. The only difference is that virtual assistants collect a greater amount of data, due to the fact that a larger amount of people interact with the machine, including children, guests, or anyone else that comes to a home that owns one. (Ezrachi and Stucke 1283). Machines can gain access to a user’s location, as well as his/her likes and dislikes from interpretations of commands that are given. 

In addition to the issue of large corporations knowing too much about us, according to the Berkley Law Journal article, government surveillance should be another concern. After providing an example of how a government agent can hack into smartphones, the authors go on to say “Governments would have similar… abilities to hack digital assistants to monitor and gather evidence” (Ezrachi and Stucke 1282). As a result of this, it is evident that the information that is shared with virtual assistants can be used for a lot more than just answering a question, or conducting an inconvenient task. 

Users of virtual assistants often confide in their machines, as if they were a partner or significant other (Woods). Due to the fact that they feel such an intimate relationship with them, the user tends to share the same amount, or more information with it than they would with a close friend or relative. As a result, the machines get to know the user inside and out. This then leads to the machine storing detailed and personal information about the user. In an interview with Forbes.com, an Amazon Echo spokesperson said that the reason the company collects data on its users is to  “improve the customer’s experience.” (O’Flaherty). Amazon also told Forbes.com that the Echo Dot does indeed record its users, and that these recordings are listened to by select Amazon Echo employees. They claim that this is done to “train its speech recognition and natural language understanding systems (O’Flaherty).” Although this is certain, and the employees can not identify the people who they are listening to, as O’Flaherty states, “Amazon never explicitly tells users that a human could be listening to [them.]” 

Owning and using a virtual assistant is something that is becoming increasingly popular. According to Pew Research Center as of 2017, 46% of American adults frequently used a virtual assistant (Madden and Rainie). As a result, issues of privacy and the way in which these machines store and interpret our day should be concerning a larger amount of people. Furthermore, virtual assistants are not only used by adults, but they have also become intriguing to children. Since these machines speak to you as if they were your friend, children easily become entertained by asking the VA silly questions and waiting to hear the response that has been curated by the company that created the device. 

Works Cited

Ezrachi, Ariel and Maurice E. Stucke. “How Digital Assistants Can Harm Our Economy, Privacy

 and Democracy.” vol. 32, iss. 3, 2017. Berkeley Technology Law Journal. 

https://doi.org/10.15779/Z383B5W79M

Madden, Mary and Lee Rainie. “Americans’ Attitude About Privacy, Security and Surveillance.” 

Pew Research Center

https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/05/20/americans-attitudes-about-privacy-secu

rity-and-surveillance/

O’Flaherty, Kate. “Amazon Staff Are Listening to Alexa Conversations— Here’s What to Do.” 

Forbes.com, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2019/04/12/amazon-staff-are-listening-to-alexa-conversations-heres-what-to-do/#42eaa6b71a22. Accessed 16 November 2019.

Woods, Heather Suzanne. “Asking More of Siri and Alexa: Feminine Persona in Service of 

Surveillance Capitalism.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 35, iss. 4, 2018, 

https://doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2018.1488082. Accessed 4 November 2019. 

Revised Annotated Bibliography

Breazeal, C., Druga, S., Resnick, M. and Williams, R. ““Hey Google is it OK if I Eat You?” Initial Explorations in Child-Agent Interaction.” MIT Personal Robots Group. http://robotic.media.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2017/06/idcwp0180-drugaACR.pdf. June 2017. 

  • This report talks about the ways in which children ranging in ages from three to ten years old interact with digital assistants. It assesses the ways in which children perceive digital assistants’ intelligence, personality and their engagement with the user. It also looks at how much children trust in these machines. I can use this source to look at how digital assistants are being used by children starting at a very young age. I can also look at the ways in which children interact with the machines, and compare this to the ways adults interact with them. In addition, the information provided through this research can also help me analyze whether or not beginning to use this type of technology from an early age can affect children in the future. It will help me look at the ways in which this kind of technology will inhibit upcoming generations from learning how to conduct simple tasks such as shutting lights, and changing air conditioner temperatures. This report can also help me look at the extent to which children trust these machines based on their answers to the questions they were asked about how the trust the virtual assistants.   

Burden, David, and Maggi Savin-Baden. Virtual Humans: Today and Tomorrow. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019.

  • This book takes a look at the technical aspect of creating and using virtual assistants. It looks at the possibility of using well-known digital assistants, such as Alexa, Siri and Cortana, to conduct jobs such as teaching, coaching and managing knowledge. The book demonstrates the ability to create assistants like these and other virtual humans by using research conducted by experts. In addition, the book writes about the use of sample  virtual humans. The text takes a deep dive into each aspect of developing these assistants, from constructing the body, to creating the mind and brain. In addition the book looks at the ethical consequences that come from using the assistants. For my paper, this text could be useful for looking into how the virtual assistants are created, and in understanding the way they internalize and process information. Finally, in Section III of the book, the author discusses the issues that have risen through the development of these machines, as well as what the future of them could look like. This will give me another perspective as to how this technology can develop and affect the daily lives of generations to come. 

Ezrachi, Ariel and Maurice E. Stucke. “How Digital Assistants Can Harm Our Economy, Privacy and Democracy.” vol. 32, iss. 3, 2017. Berkeley Technology Law Journal. https://doi.org/10.15779/Z383B5W79M

  • This article discusses several complexities that are present within virtual assistants. It examines the ways in which digital assistants tend to benefit the corporation that owns the machine, rather than the consumer using it. It looks into the ways in which digital assistants can invade a users privacy by taking personal information shared with it from the questions asked, and use it for internal corporate operations.  In addition, the document explains the ways in which these assistants can create an environment that is prone to heavy economic competition between large tech companies. Furthermore, the article looks at the ways in which the digital systems are continuously developing. Companies are building these voice assistants, with more human-like voices and responses. This article is important to my research as it provides another perspective on how digital assistants invade a user’s privacy, and  because it looks at the reasons and consequences of rapid developments of the machines. In addition, it looks at the ways in which the product will become something more in the future. 

Hutson, Matthew. “Our Bots, Ourselves.” Atlantic, vol. 319, no. 2, Mar. 2017, pp. 28–29. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/arc…

  • This article looks into the ways in which the Artificial Intelligence, especially digital assistants are going to shape the future. It discusses the fact that all tech giants are trying to make virtual assistants because of the impact they are predicted to have on the human population in the near future. It specifically talks about the way Apple Inc. developed its digital assistant. In addition, the article references Nova Spivack, a futurist, and examines her views on the future of digital assistants. She discusses in her analysis, the possibility of users forming lifelong attachments to their digital assistants. This article will be helpful to the development of my research as it takes a look at the ways in which digital assistants will eventually evolve, and become something more in the future. Having the perspective of a “futurist,” and the way she believes machines will evolve, gives my research another angle of what the machines could potentially become in the future. Since it is ultimately impossible to tell exactly what is going to happen in the future, using a piece of research that looks at a prediction of what could happen based on patterns of the past will give me insight as to what could potentially happen as these forms of technology continue evolving. 

Vlahos, James. Talk to Me: How Voice Computing Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Think. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.

  • This book looks into the ways in which voice computing will become the next revolution in technology. In the text, the author discusses the fact that the Amazon Echo and Siri are early forms of this technology. He feels as though in the near future, we will be speaking to our phones and computers in the same ways we would speak to any human. The text examines the economic, cultural and psychological effects voice computing currently has on users, and looks at the ways in which it will impact those factors in the future, as the machines develop to become something even more human-like. The book specifically discusses the ways in which large tech companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon have entire buildings and departments dedicated to further developing their voice computing products. Furthermore, he looks into how people will react to these more human-like characteristics of voice computing. He questions things like whether or not people will form emotional connections with their voice assistant, how they will affect our privacy and whether or not they will increase our addiction to digital things. This book will probably be the source that helps me most throughout my research paper. This is because the topics it encompasses about digital assistants are very broad, and it touches points such as privacy and the ways the machines will develop in the future. Both of these points are essential for the research I am conducting. 

Woods, Heather Suzanne. “Asking More of Siri and Alexa: Feminine Persona in Service of Surveillance Capitalism.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 35, iss. 4, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2018.1488082. Accessed 4 November 2019. 

  • This journal looks at the ways in which digital assistants are given the stereotypical responsibilities of a female. It uses the Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri to analyze the jobs they are programmed to do. The journal takes note of the fact that these assistants are designed to conduct tasks of a mother, wife or caretaker, and are created to have features that reflect the female gender. This can be seen in aspects such as the voice they are programmed with. The journal also discusses the fact that since the machines have a femanine persona to them, causing users to tend to confide in them more.  This in turn gives way to them sharing a larger amount of intimate information with the virtual assistants. I can use this document for my research as it takes a look at the ways in which users confide in their machines and share great amounts of information with them. With this information, I will have a sense of the kind of information users tend to share, and how this is affecting their privacy.

Extra Credit #2

On October 24, the Film and Media Studies Department brought in author and scholar Aubrey Annable. Annable is the author of the book Playing with Feelings: Video Games and Affect and is currently a professor at Carleton University in Canada. The conversation began with Professor Dan Reynolds presenting Professor Annable and explaining all of her attributes and awards. After this, he gave Annable the opportunity to talk and discuss what she has written. She spoke about her writings, and the video game Gone Home. She explained that her book is about how video games are a structure of feelings, as well as how her book questions where queerness resides in a video game. In addition to describing these aspects of her book, she demonstrated what the game Gone Home looked like. She showed us how the game was played and the motives behind the different steps that are taken in order to complete the game. Annable also discussed the criticisms and praises of the game. She explained that critics said the game is boring and lacks action and need for skill, as well as perceives problems in ethics. On the other hand, she stated that the game focuses on the novelties of a violent setting with nonviolent storytelling. 

Overall, I felt that the talk was very interesting. I really enjoyed listening to a scholar in the video game field discuss the importance of a game like this. I appreciated the fact that she did not only speak about the pros of the game, but she also mentioned the things she, as well as other critics, have found wrong with it. As we learned in class, video games and other forms of digital media shape the way we think. As a result, I think that her research on queerness in video games is a topic that is very important to look into, especially at this moment in time.