Link Roundup: September 2023

This blog hasn’t been very active in the past month, but I’ve been active elsewhere.  On Pillowfort, I’ve been going through ace romance, ace mystery, and gay mystery novels, and writing reviews.  On The Asexual Agenda, we had a journal club discussing a study about ace romance novels.  Then I wrote about the trope of single-target sexuality.

Roma People – Europe’s Forgotten Social Disaster | Adam Something (video, 24 min) – A discussion of anti-Roma racism in Europe.  In my experience with European readers, many express a sort of culture shock to the American-dominated internet, because we talk about endlessly about race, which is not such a big deal in their countries.  But I’ve always thought, are you sure that you don’t have racism, or is it just that your culture doesn’t talk about it as much as Americans do?  Learning about this subject confirms my suspicions.

A History of Men Not Being OK in America | We’re In Hell (video, 1 hour) – This is a sampler of historical crises in white masculinity.  I find it funny how modern hegemonic masculinity pretends to hearken back to an imagined golden age of masculinity, but if you actually look at the past they have some really alien ideas.

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Link Roundup: August 2023

Last month, I published an article in The Asexual Agenda about initiation in mixed relationships.

Workplaces Without Borders And Sexual Harassment | Thing of Things – Ozy writes about how sexual harassment laws work best in a stable workplace environment.  In an “borderless” workplace, such as actors who work gig to gig, there’s a lot less protection, and little to prevent quid pro quo.  I think this is a consequence of the weird way that sexual harassment is constructed in US law.  If someone catcalls you in the street, we would colloquially think of that as sexual harassment, but in the eyes of the law it isn’t.  Sexual harassment laws are built upon employment discrimination.  So if it doesn’t affect your job, or if it’s targeted equally at men and women, then it’s legally defensible.

It’s okay to be bad at games | Clayton Purdom – An interview with Bennett Foddy about difficult games.  He talks about the game as a dialogue between the player and designer, rather than the designer just giving players everything they want.  He also says he wants players to admit they like the friction, that failure is a big part of the attraction.  I think that’s true of a lot of games and gamers, although personally I’ve found it useful to recognize that I actually don’t like much friction in games.  That’s why I like walking sims, which have so little friction that they’re often accused of not being games at all (though they totally are).

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Link Roundup: July 2023

First, I’ll plug this month’s Ace Journal Club, which discussed a paper about Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder and the “responsive” sexuality model.

AI Is a Lot of Work | The Verge – This article is about “annotators” or “taskers”, people paid to label data to train machine learning models.  You can think of this as people who are paid to do captcha codes endlessly.  Or imagine Papers Please, but it’s real.  As you might imagine, it does not pay very well.

From the data scientist end, this is a well-known process, although I don’t have direct experience with it.  Typically, you’d go through an intermediary, such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and never learn anything about the workers themselves.  Despite workers being paid poorly, it’s an inherently expensive process, and requires a lot of controls.

Games that Don’t Fake the Space | Jacob Geller (video, 31 min) – Video games often use tricks and illusions to make a virtual space seem bigger than it is, but not every game.  Some really are that big.  Now the question I always have about measuring video game spaces is, what’s the measuring stick?  Could we make the world bigger by making the character smaller or slower, or simply lowering the camera closer to the ground?  I feel like virtual spaces should be measured in square minutes instead of square miles.  I have to put a word in for The Longing, which has a big world by virtue of its protagonist walking very very slowly.  You tell the protagonist to walk somewhere, and then you quit and come back later, that’s how slow he is.  It’s not a conventionally “fun” experience, but it’s interesting to see games do big/slow once in a while.

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Link Roundup: June 2023

I guess it’s just one of those months where I didn’t save links for this roundup.  Nonetheless, I will plug the Ace Journal Club’s discussion about why low sexual desire is considered a mental disorder.  And I have a single link:

Why Do You Always Kill Gods in JRPGs? | Moon Channel (video, 1:31 hours) – The short answer is that the evil god is capitalism.  This is a great video essay about the history of Japan, and how it’s interpreted through the metaphors of Japanese mythology.  Through this lens, Japanese history is a sequence of false gods, each rising and falling–from the Shogunate to Christianity to state Shinto, and now capitalism.  The game isn’t mentioned in the video, but it finally makes sense to me why Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is about a bunch of old immortals feeding on the life force of a populace doomed to die young–although I suppose that same story could have been written from an American perspective as well.

Link Roundup: May 2023

FYI, my last post about AI art got a lot of comments on Pillowfort, if you’re interested in that conversation.  And, I have another post queued up, so look forward to that.

Free Stuff is Good, Actually | Unlearning Economics (video, 1:24 hours) – An economist runs down the evidence in favor of social spending such as education, healthcare, and universal basic income.  It really is a free lunch, so there’s no excuse not to take it.

I don’t have much to add except that, in the US individual market prior to Obamacare, the adverse selection death spiral ran its full course for some populations.  People like my husband would not have been able to purchase individual health insurance at any price because of adverse selection.  People complained about how insurance companies loved Obamacare, and yes I expect that insurance companies do not like adverse selection, and I happen to agree with the insurance companies on that one.  Restore the mandate to buy health insurance.

Games and Online Harrassment Hotline, Take This Heads Explain Why the Industry Needs Another Culture Shift | IGN – The author speaks with Anita Sarkeesian and Eve Crevoshay about current work trying to improve company culture, going beyond standard DEI initiatives.  Employees’ fear of doing something wrong, and companies’ fear of liability appear to be major obstacles.  It’s also interesting that when they made a Games and Online Harassment Hotline, they got a lot of calls from the people who had caused harm and didn’t know what to do about it.

Sexism certainly comes in all sizes.  There are acute examples of sexism and abuse that need to be handled by firing people–but workplaces can also have a chilly climate arising from a hundred small behaviors.  I think when people only hear about the acute examples of abuse in the news, they end up being very defensive even about little things–and that makes it difficult to improve workplace culture before the crises occur.

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Link Roundup: April 2023

Some links on AI art – I included some of these shoutouts in my comment section, but might as well include in my link roundup as well.  The reason I was thinking about AI art was because Great American Satan has been writing in its defense.  I also saw a video by Jack Saint (21 min), which was in opposition to AI art, but also concluded that the problem was capitalism.  I thought one of the interesting points Jack Saint made was about the use of AI in animation, which is an art form that arguably takes too much work.  Most people will basically never animate anything, and when people like Jack Saint do solo animation projects, it can take a major toll.  This is why I’m not very convinced by the idea that AI makes things too easy.  Maybe it makes some things too easy, but other things it could make more reasonably easy.

Adastra: The Best Furry Visual Novel Made Me Come Out as Gay and Now You Have to Hear About It | Keith Ballard (video, 3:14 hours) – So, funny story.  I thought I’d watch some Myst Let’s Plays so I could see what I remembered wrong about the series.  And I got sidetracked because the player was obviously a furry and probably gay.  Clearly that’s what Myst was missing–furries.

Anyway, this is the sort of media analysis that includes a summary of the visual novel being discussed–that’s why it’s so long.  Adastra is a political drama where the player character is abducted to an alien society and participates in a contest between two successors to the throne.  It’s also an 18+ romance.  It sounds like this story has a great alignment of text and subtext: the characters are literally gay, but also metaphorically gay in their relation to society.  Despite the common prejudice against furries, some of the smut they write just sounds so sincere and wholesome.

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Link roundup: March 2023

Although I don’t always plug it here, I run a monthly ace journal club on my other blog.  This month’s article was about asexual experiences coming out.  It might be worth a read if you want an overview of asexual coming out experiences and how they sometimes differ from gay coming out experiences.

Chat GPT is a blurry jpeg of the web | New Yorker – A relatively pessimistic article about Chat GPT that describes it as a copy of the internet, saved with lossy compression.  The author asks, “how much use is a blurry jpeg, when you still have the original?”  I think this a great starting point to understanding the state of the art chatbots.  The chatbots have strictly less knowledge than what you can find on the internet–albeit in more a form that may be easier to process.  Perhaps the megacorps are right, and the best application is search engines.

The Problem With Masterworks | The Plain Bagel (video, 19 min) – If you’ve ever seen sponsored ads on youtube for Masterworks, an art-based investment scheme, you might have thought it sounded scummy.  Sounds scummy, is scummy, this video gives the scoop on that.  Apparently they skirt through regulation loopholes, which gives them a lot of leeway to report returns in a misleading way.  I actually unsubbed to a channel because they accepted a sponsorship from Masterworks.

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