Stallman, Richard. “The GNU Manifesto.” The New Media Reader. By Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: MIT, 2003. 543-50. Print.

Turkle, Sherry. “Video Games and Computer Holding Power.” The New Media Reader. By Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: MIT, 2003. 500-13. Print.

Video games

Video Games - CC Flickr IdeoNexus

My favorite part of Sherry Turkle’s “Video Games and Computer Holding Power” was her assertion that the outcry against video games didn’t only stem from the video games themselves:

“Not all of the arguments against video games can be taken at face value, for the debate is charged with feelings about a lot more than the games themselves.  Protest about video games carries a message about how people feel about computers in general” (500).

This is true for many elements of the tech-savvy world we live in.  People are afraid of what they can’t understand, so they project blame onto the technology for all the world’s problems.  People hate video games the same way they hated television and the way they hate the internet.  They’re positive that they’re corrupting America’s children and that no one will have any useful skills because they spend all their time facing a screen.

I’d argue that this is not only untrue, but irrelevant in the modern world.  As jobs shift more toward computers and away from human labor, tech-savvy people are needed to keep up the machines that do our work for us.  Being familiar with technology is a prerequisite today, and the fears are almost completely baseless.  While there are potentially dangerous elements of the internet, it’s not training children to be lazy and mindless.  It’s full of useful tools of knowledge like Wikipedia and blog tutorials, social interactivity spaces like Facebook and forums, and they’re a practice space for all sorts of real world skills like writing, programming, web design, and a billion other things.

A product of that online world are software systems like GNU, which falls into the greater category of Freeware.  Like Linux, it’s free to download and use, and can be modified by anyone as long as they don’t restrict usage of those modified versions.  Basically, it’s free to anyone as long as they can use it!  The cool thing about collective efforts like these is that the contributors are creating a product that is available to anyone who has a compatible computer, and they’re not expecting any payment for their efforts.  Programming isn’t easy, and the pro bono work that goes into a product like this is an argument for the positive side of technology.  It’s like a charitable contribution to anyone who chooses to use it, and it’s able to evolve as other users choose to modify it for other purposes, so it keeps being molded in useful ways.  This way the software doesn’t die out as soon as the next big thing comes out, and it can continue being useful.

-Lianne

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