MonthAugust 2013

How to Destroy a Community

Tim Maly reports on Alex Gianturco, an EVE Online World of Warcraft player who uses espionage and psychological warfare to destroy rival guilds:

An aggressor, he says, can untie the binds of community by putting pressure on the group until individuals stop thinking of themselves as part of the larger collective. Power blocs in Eve are made up of alliances, which are made up of corporations, which are made up of individual people. In a strong alliance, individuals think of themselves as part of the greater whole. As an alliance weakens, individuals experience a shift in identity. They think differently about who they are.

“Pressure and not having any fun in the game makes pilots blame the alliance for their failures — ‘my alliance sucks, but my corp is great’?“ Gianturco says. “Enough people shift identity from ‘I’m a member of Band of Brothers’ [an alliance] to ‘I’m a member of Reikoku’ [a corporation], and it’s just a matter of time before those corps blame one another for the alliance’s failures.”

When it comes to putting pressure on your enemies, not all adversity is created equal, he says. Dramatic wins or losses, though exciting, do little to turn the tide of war. Humans are quite adept as rationalizing these sorts of events. If you lose one big battle, you can tell yourself that the other guys cheated, or that it was server lag.

Instead, Gianturco suggests a campaign of sustained low-level misery. “The trick is to find what the enemy hates the most and feed it to them nonstop. You listen to their discourse and find the core of their identity and then step on it as hard as you can.”

Figuring out what part to step on is the job of Gianturco’s spies. With access to the private communications of his enemies, Gianturco can figure out what parts of the game they hate and then force them to live only that.

Full Story: The New Inquiry: How to Destroy a Community

Interview with #Burgerpunk and Paintwork Author Tim Maughan

Tim Maughan

Here’s a nice long interview with, Tim Maughan, author of short stories like “Paintwork,” “#Burgerpunk” and the British Science Fiction Award nominated “Limited Edition“:

The problem, perhaps, with addressing the concerns of the day – particularly in science fiction that hopes to predict the future – is that it ages pieces considerably. Simon Ings (Hot Head; Dead Water) said of Paintwork: “[Tim] catches those fleeting moments of possibility in stories that ought to have no shelf life whatsoever – and which, regardless, linger in the mind.”

With very positive reactions, this timeliness obviously doesn’t concern Tim too much. In fact, he embraces that idea, mentioning how dated – but still enjoyable – films like Alien, Blade Runner and Outland are. “The idea behind many of them,” he tells me, “is that we’ll go into space and it’ll be this massive industrial enterprise; we’ll build these huge mining platforms – and that’s a reflection of the 1980s right? That’s a reflection of what industrial corporate technology was like then. It’s not a reflection of what industry’s like now.

“If we do ever expand our industries into space, it won’t look like that because the only way we could do it would be with more sophisticated technology – with nano-technology, and much sleeker approaches to doing things. We’re not going to go and build huge mining cities on Io, or whatever. But that doesn’t make those films any less beautiful to watch and it doesn’t make them any less relevant. In the1970s and the 1980s, we were building these huge oil platforms out in the North Sea in order to exploit the resources we had there. And I’m a big believer in that sort of science fiction; I don’t mind getting things wrong.”

He can even see his own work becoming dated, despite only being published in July 2011. “I get the impression that QR Codes are already going out of fashion,” he continues. “I don’t mind that because when I was writing about them, they were a fairly new thing. It’s interesting: I think the reason they’re going out of fashion is because they’re so easily hacked! They’re so open to malware – and you don’t know where it goes.

“That’s what Paintwork is all about. I like the idea that you can look back at science fiction from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, now, and go, ‘well, that’s wrong about the future, but that doesn’t matter because it was reflecting the values and concerns of the time it was written.’” It’s like a time capsule. “It makes science fiction an important and historical document,” Tim agrees. “You can’t get the future right, you never can. So coming back to those films, I watch Alien and Blade Runner and those movies all the time because they’re visually stunning. For that reason, there’s a place for it and it is nostalgia.”

Intro
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Abandoned Walmart is Now America’s Largest Library

walmart-library-5

walmart-library-1

From Web Urbanist:

There are thousands of abandoned big box stores sitting empty all over America, including hundreds of former Walmart stores. With each store taking up enough space for 2.5 football fields, Walmart’s use of more than 698 million square feet of land in the U.S. is one of its biggest environmental impacts. But at least one of those buildings has been transformed into something arguably much more useful: the nation’s largest library.

Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle transformed an abandoned Walmart in McAllen, Texas, into a 124,500-square-foot public library, the largest single-floor public library in the United States.

Full Story: Web Urbanist: Abandoned Walmart is Now America’s Largest Library

I think this might be the Walmart that my family shopped at when I was a kid.

(via Ales Kot)

Pre-Emptive Counter-Revolution

Charlie Stross on what’s going on in the world today:

The over-arching reason for the clamp-down on dissent, migration, and freedom of expression, and the concurrent emphasis on security in the developed world, constitutes the visible expression of a pre-emptive counter-revolution. […]

I believe what we’re seeing is a move towards the global imposition of a police state in the developed world, leveraging the xenophobia that naturally emerges during insecure times, by a ruling elite who are themselves feeling threatened by a spectre. Controls on movement, freedom of association, and speech are all key tools in the classic police state’s arsenal. What’s new about this cycle is that the police state machinery is imposed locally, within national boundaries, but applies everywhere: the economic system it is intended to protect is transnational and unconstrained. Which is why even places that were largely exempt during the cold war are having a common police state agenda quietly imposed. There is to be no refuge, other than destabilized “failed states” where the conditions of life make a police state look utopian in comparison.

This system has emerged organically, from the bottom up, and is not the result of any conspiracy; it’s just individuals and groups moving to protect their shareholdings in the Martian invaders, by creating an environment that is safe for the hive intelligences to operate in.

Full Story: Charlie Stross: Who ordered *that*?

On Gulf Futurism and Ethnifuturisms in General

Fatima Desert Strike EP

Above: cover of Fatima Al Qadiri’s Desert Strike EP

Scott Smith interviews Rahel Aima:

Gulf futurism, as I understand it, is conceptualised in the mould of Marinetti’s Italian futurism, and inherits many of the same touchstones. All of its seductiveness: sun, sand, and solar-sintered glassy desolation of the Arabian gulf at the extreme promontory of the millennia. All the beautiful/callous brutality, all the proto-fascism of a society that privileges success and speed over human life.

Yet Gulf futurism offers no new imagery to displace the hegemonic ones in power—instead setting up the scaffolding to reproduce the injustices, structural degradation and racial erasures of the present. As ethnifuturisms go, it feels like there’s something missing, too. Where’s the longing, the displacement, the impossibility of return? Where’s the Afghan, the Filipino, the Indian, the Iranian, the Somali, the Pakistani, the Bangladeshi, the Iraqi, and all the other non-Khaleeji Arabs all bound up into one pathologised brown body? [Experimental jazz musician] Sun Ra had to go all the way to Saturn; the Gulf futurist doesn’t need to go anywhere because they’re welcomed, and even reified, right at home.

At base, Gulf futurism is “plus ça change futurism,” all wrapped up in what a friend has dubbed “flying force fields of neo-Arabness.” It’s not imagining a future so much as mapping shards of future detritus—imagery strongly defined-as-future by Western culture, as you put it—in the present. It’s an aesthetic scaffolding that reproduces all the injustices, structural degradation and racial erasures of the present. I do want to tread carefully here, as I still live and work in the region. And I’m awfully reluctant to invoke any kind of rights-based frameworks which I think are problematic in their own way, but you can probably extrapolate and posit what else gets thrown out with the bathwater here. How can it be sci-fi without social justice?

Full Story: Current Intelligence: Ethnic Futurism in the Gulf

See also: Rahel on “Aspirational Weirdness”

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