The Internet and Anonymity

These are some thoughts I wanted to share after reading this post about mIRCs and the creation of anonymous online identities, which was then briefly discussed in a Social Technologies lecture last week. Our lecturer mentioned that this was becoming less common online due to sites such as Facebook/Twitter which encourage authenticity. This creates a culture of people being more open online.
However I believe there are still cases of people adopting online personas in the world of online gaming, even outside of MMO games where a fictional avatar and role play aspects are encouraged (or deliberate RP forums and IRCs such as Gaia.) The nicknames adopted for online gaming are often carried on into related areas such as forums, until several different networks may know and recognise you by this name. Even people whom you have revealed your real name to might prefer to call you by your IGN (in-game name) or ‘handle.’

I’ve recently finished reading ‘Psychology of the Internet’ by Patricia Wallace, which explores the rise of online culture. One phenomena she highlighted is the loss of inhibition when talking under a nickname, which an lead to what she calls ‘extreme reactions’. Although the book was written over a decade ago one problem in online gaming which has become a very hot topic of late, a culture of institutionalised sexism which is only just being researched by people such as Anita Sarkeesian. This is something I’ve occasionally experienced, (I wonder if it is caused by the ‘group culture’ effects explained in Wallace’s book; much like peer bullying in children, people feel it is okay because ‘others do it’.) I should also mention that the not very gender specific handle I use for online gaming causes most people to assume I am male, even though in smaller communities with their own servers I am rarely participating in a particularly male-dominated culture.

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Update on my Uncanny Valley Research and thoughts

I actually wrote today’s posts several days ago, but between an exciting but time-consuming video-editing job over the weekend followed by illness I haven’t had time to rewrite them properly and post them, so here goes.

I’ve been continuing with research on The Uncanny Valley, whilst David and I start to put together an appropriate survey on the subject, and I’ve turned up a fair amount of interesting information. Some books that I have read on animation only describe the concept in passing, and suggest that the only way around it is to create models with obviously cartoon-like features. While this does solve the problem it doesn’t advance animation as a field any.

Many articles describe a completely human appearance as the ‘holy grail’ of animation, and several techniques such as the Emily Project have attempted to overcome this using facial motion capture. (The process is explained here.) Others have gone for a hyper realism effect, which isn’t realist but is detailed enough to transcend the Uncanny dip and would probably be placed somewhere on the upward curve (This is just a guess, though I would like to use some examples in the survey and see what people think.) A good example is this demo clip ‘Agni’s Philosophy’ shown by Animation/Game company Square Enix at E3 2012.

I showed this clip to some of my family, and for the first few scenes of the short film they were convinced that it was live-action.
It shows what animation (especially for games) will be like in 5-6 years time, perhaps, though at present this kind of level probably won’t be possible due to the constraints of technology and the time needed to build this.