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Lessons (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 19) Picard and a new officer bond over their shared interest in music

Rewatching ST:TNG When Picard is up in the middle of the night amusing himself with his archaeology hobby, he’s annoyed to find that Stellar Cartography has taken communications, library systems, and the replicators offline.  When he heads down there, the officer in charge is taking some sensor readings that are so delicate they can be totally ruined by a 3am meet-cute. Lt. Commander Nella Daren is intelligent, focused, witty, well-rounded, and she speaks her mind. When she joins Data as pianist for a classical concert, Troi observes that Picard is unusually moved by her performance.   When Daren drops by…

Academics want to preserve video games. The game industry is fighting them in court.

For decades, champions of the video game industry have touted gaming’s cultural impact as the equal of literature, film and music. Traditionally, the classic works from those mediums have been preserved for study by future generations, and amid gaming’s global rise in relevance, a group of video game scholars and advocates is pushing to preserve the game industry’s historic titles and legacy in a similar fashion. In the process, though, the would-be preservationists have found a number of challenges that include, ironically, legal opposition from video game companies and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), a trade organization that lobbies on…

Starship Mine (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 18) Picard out-thinks thieves raiding an evacuated Enterprise-D

Rewatching ST:TNG Picard plays cat-and-mouse with thugs when the Enterprise is evacuated for routine maintenance. During a long tracking shot, Picard bumps into senior staff members who just happen to be standing in the corridor with administrative problems for him to solve. In the turbolift, Data tries out his new “small talk during awkward moments” subroutine, and Picard recommends he meet Commander Hutchinson at this afternoon’s reception on Arkaria Base. On his way off the ship, Picard pauses to take in the empty bridge, as the local work crew arrives to set up equipment.  At the reception, Data observes the…

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Ship in a Bottle (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 12) Barclay’s holodeck hack brings a mastermind back, that’s a-foul play

Rewatching ST:TNG Data and LaForge are enjoying a Sherlock Holmes holoprogram when LaForge notices an NPC glitch. Because they have more important things to do, they call Barclay, who inadvertently activates the sentient Moriarty simulation (from s2e3, “Elementary, Dear Data“). Picard is shocked to learn that Moriarty has experienced consciousness while stored in the computer databank. Moriarty becomes convinced Picard lied to him about asking Starfleet to work on a method to let Moriarty exist off the holodeck. Moriarty shows a stunned Picard, Data and Barclay that he can leave the holodeck and walk out into the corridor without disappearing.…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In December 2001 I was blogging about

In December 2001, I was blogging about Changes in Online Culture The End of Free (chronicles services that used to be free but that now cost money) Is the [Technology] Revolution Over? Imagine Silicon Valley Buried Like Pompeii Wil Wheaton While the character of teen wonder Wesley Crusher was annoying because weak scripts had him saving the ship too many times, I wrote this blog page that traced early references to Wesley on rec.arts.startrek, a Usenet fan site that predated the World Wide Web. The young actor who portrayed Wesley was sadly the target of some online abuse, but over…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In November 2001 I was blogging about

In November 2001, I was blogging about Florida recounts would have favored Bush (contentions election famous for a Florida ballot that many voters found confusing) Is this a burger which I see before me, / The soft bun in my hand? Come, et me clutch thee. / I eat thee not, and yet I want thee still. (McDonald’s Soliloquy)’ The Tyranny of Nicespeak Treating users with disabilities as people What if David Mamet rewrote 2001: A Space Odyssey?  

Into the depths of code. Algorithmic archaeologies and cave fantasies in video games

The full article (by Angelo Careriis) in French, but there is an English abstract, and Google Translate is just a few clicks away. By examining a mixed body composed of video games linked to the American hacker culture (Colossal Cave Adventure, Rogue, Dwarf Fortress), and some academic research that examine these objects with an experimental and transdisciplinary approach (speleology, archaeology), this paper deals with the metaphor of cave exploration applied to computer programing. Colossal Cave Adventure, a text-based game that was created by an experienced spelunker after a series of expeditions in the Mammoth Cave system, plays an important role…

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I, Borg (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 23) Adolescent Borg Bonds with LaForge

Rewatching ST:TNG When a landing party encounters a badly injured Borg drone, Picard is perfectly willing to let “it” die, but Crusher has other ideas. The Borg, a cyborg race that assimilates whole civilizations and builds a hive mind via cybernetic implants, are a terrifying sci-fi enemy; the music, the costumes and the iconic greeble-bedecked Borg ships pound away at our primal fears. On my first watch, I was totally on-board with Picard when he asks LaForge to infect this drone with an “invasive programming sequence” that will spread and disable the entire Borg collective. To do so, LaForge will…

Missouri governor vows criminal prosecution of reporter who found flaw in state website • Missouri Independent

I’m shocked… shocked that a reporter published a newsworthy story about a rookie cyber-blunder made by a powerful government agency. A reporter viewed the HTML code (a one-click process on many web browsers) and noticed that the social security numbers of school teachers and administrators were embedded in web pages served up by Missouri’s department of education. The reporter contacted the agency, and held the story until the problem was fixed. The governor is now calling the reporter a “hacker,” and vowing legal action. “The state is committed to bring to justice anyone who hacked our system and anyone who…

The sped-up culture that delivers that novel to your doorstep overnight is the same culture that deprives you of the time to read it.

This ambiguity—fiction as virtue and vice—sheds light on a larger truth about all the components of Amazon’s administration of literary life just enumerated: as state of the art as they may be, they are to some degree self-contradictory, or at least conflicted. For instance, if what fiction most essentially is for us is a volume of commodified time, one of the most notorious facts of contemporary literary life is that there is so little time for it. This is especially so inasmuch as reading a novel is a relatively long-term commitment compared with other forms of cultural consumption. It is…

Students who grew up with search engines might change STEM education forever

The headline is oddly STEM-specific, but yes, it used to be that if you worked with computers at all, you had to understand your computer’s file directory structure, so all college instructors could expect that their STEM majors had probably learned this concept as part of their earliest computer training. But the “search” function on individual computers (and also the list of recently saved files that almost every software tool puts into its “load” menu) means generation Z usually doesn’t need to internalize the concept that a document exists at a single location on a hard drive. I have recently…

Hear That? It’s Your Voice Being Taken for Profit.

Why do tech companies give us these cool free digital voice assistants? (Hint: If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold.) Because of recent major advances in natural language processing and machine learning, individuals will soon be able to speak conversationally not just to their phone assistant or smart speaker but to their dedicated bank assistant, kitchen equipment, restaurant menu, hotel room console, homework assignment, or car. […] It could all seem like a small price to pay until you project out the use of this tech into the near future. An apparel store clerk uses an…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In September, 2001 I was blogging about…

With a grant from UWEC, I was able to invite foundational computer game designer Scott Adams to a seminar on Storytelling in Computer Games. I used tiny analog tape recorder at the speaker’s podium, and later worked with my student Matt Hoy to post a hyperlinked transcript to go along with the audio. (This was really cutting edge stuff 20 years ago, and I’m glad the site still works. This is not the same Scott Adams who created the carton Dilbert, by the way.) 10 Myths about Copyright Explained Online Health Websites Frequently Inaccurate And of course, something I posted…

Delightful interview with a former Setonian editor-in-chief who’s now doing SEO

As a student journalist, Jessie totally revamped the print publications and the website, unifying them with design elements from the Sisters of Charity (the religious order that founded our school) and rounded rectangles that echoed the interface of the iPads (which were at the time a brand new part of SHU’s student technology plan). The way she blended tradition and high-tech is a product of the flexibility of a liberal arts curriculum. She was also a great writer, a great mentor to younger students, and for some reason she kept coming back to take classes with me. When she was…

“Link In Bio” is a slow knife

We don’t even notice it anymore — “link in bio”. It’s a pithy phrase, usually found on Instagram, which directs an audience to be aware that a pertinent web link can be found on that user’s profile. […] For a closed system, those kinds of open connections are deeply dangerous. If anyone on Instagram can just link to any old store on the web, how can Instagram — meaning Facebook, Instagram’s increasingly-overbearing owner — tightly control commerce on its platform? If Instagram users could post links willy-nilly, they might even be able to connect directly to their users, getting their…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In August, 2001 I was blogging about…

Broken Links and Poor Information Architecture (and of course the link to that article had broken, and the site taken over by low-value clickbait… but the Internet Archive preserved the original article) Helvetica Bold Oblique Sweeps Fontys (satire from the Onion, from an alternate timeline where typefaces get the respect they deserve) Boys and handwriting (from “equal-but-different” feminist Christina Hoff Summers) Velma from Scooby-Doo (a year or so before the Warner Brothers movie was released) The collapse of the Industry Standard (lifestyle magazine that breathlessly tracked the dot-com gold rush) A (then) new edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, restoring…

Why your brain’s so bad at letting go of negative comments

Negative comments engage avoidance motivation. When you’re motivated to avoid something bad, then an important strategy is to be vigilant for more bad things in the environment to make sure that you’re aware of problems as soon as they happen. This may have been an adaptive strategy when there were people or animals out there trying to hunt you in some evolutionary environment. However, it’s a less effective strategy in today’s world, when the negative thing is not a bear but a nasty tweet. Despite this, your brain reacts in the same way, making you obsess about what some anonymous…

He couldn’t get over his fiancee’s death. So he brought her back as an A.I. chatbot

The death of the woman he loved was too much to bear. Could a mysterious artificial intelligence website allow him to speak with her once more? […] There was nothing strange, he thought, about wanting to reconnect with the dead: People do it all the time, in prayers and in dreams. In the last year and a half, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. and Canada have died of COVID-19, often suddenly, without closure for their loved ones, leaving a raw landscape of grief. How many survivors would gladly experiment with a technology that lets them pretend, for a moment, that their…