World Bank: gold farming (etc) paid poor countries $3B in 2009

A research arm of the World Bank has produced a comprehensive report on the size of the grey-market virtual world economy in developing countries — gold farming, power-levelling, object making and so on — and arrived at a staggering $3 billion turnover in 2009. They go on to recommend that poor countries be provided with network access and computers so this economy can be built up — a slightly weird idea, given how hostile most game companies are to this sort of thing.

Add in a global union drive among the gold farmers, and you’ve got the plot of my last young adult novel. Funny old world.

Jobs in the virtual economy include micro-tasks like categorizing products in online shops, moderating content posted to social media sites, or even playing online games on behalf of wealthier players who are too busy to tend to their characters themselves. The study estimates that the market for such gaming-for-hire services was worth $3 billion in 2009, and it suggests that with suitable mobile technologies even the least-developed countries could benefit from this emerging virtual economy.

“Developing countries’ roles in the digital world have been mostly limited to users and consumers, not producers. But today, a growing mesh of digital services is giving rise to a new layer of entrepreneurial opportunities with very low entry barriers,” said Valerie D’Costa, Program Manager of info Dev.

Tim Kelly, info Dev’s Lead ICT Policy Specialist, said, “Some of the poorest people in the world are already connected to digital networks through their mobile phones. The study shows that there are real earning opportunities in the virtual economy that will become accessible as mobile technology develops. This could significantly boost local economies and support further development of digital infrastructure in regions such as Africa and southeast Asia.”

While the virtual economy unlocks a plethora of business opportunities, it should be noted that not all these activities are viewed positively. According to the info Dev study, certain business ventures and services offered may actually detract from the experience of other Internet users. For example, harvesting and selling online gaming currencies or mass clicking “Like” on corporate Facebook pages can create an unfair environment where legitimate game play and user opinion loses value and is represented inaccurately.

Converting the Virtual Economy into Development Potential (Thanks, Tim!)

How emacs got into Tron: Legacy


Here’s a great account of the good, nerdy thoughtfulness that went into generating the command-line screenshots for Tron: Legacy; JT Nimoy decided that he’d go for a mix of l33t and realistic, and landed on emacs eshell and posix kill:

In addition to visual effects, I was asked to record myself using a unix terminal doing technologically feasible things. I took extra care in babysitting the elements through to final composite to ensure that the content would not be artistically altered beyond that feasibility. I take representing digital culture in film very seriously in lieu of having grown up in a world of very badly researched user interface greeble. I cringed during the part in Hackers (1995) when a screen saver with extruded “equations” is used to signify that the hacker has reached some sort of neural flow or ambiguous destination. I cringed for Swordfish and Jurassic Park as well. I cheered when Trinity in The Matrix used nmap and ssh (and so did you). Then I cringed again when I saw that inevitably, Hollywood had decided that nmap was the thing to use for all its hacker scenes (see Bourne Ultimatum, Die Hard 4, Girl with Dragon Tattoo, The Listening, 13: Game of Death, Battle Royale, Broken Saints, and on and on). In Tron, the hacker was not supposed to be snooping around on a network; he was supposed to kill a process. So we went with posix kill and also had him pipe ps into grep. I also ended up using emacs eshell to make the terminal more l33t. The team was delighted to see my emacs performance — splitting the editor into nested panes and running different modes. I was tickled that I got emacs into a block buster movie. I actually do use emacs irl, and although I do not subscribe to alt.religion.emacs, I think that’s all incredibly relevant to the world of Tron.

jtnimoy – Tron Legacy (2010) (via JWZ)

CWA: Two interesting perspectives on Islam and polygamy

CWA is the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Now in it’s 63rd year, the conference brings together scientists, politicians, activists, journalists, artists, and more for a week of fascinating conversations. It’s free, and open to the public. Think of CWA as the democratic version of TEDtalks. I’m at the conference all this week and will be posting and tweeting about some of the interesting things that I learn.

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On Tuesday at the Conference on World Affairs, I watched a panel about Sharia Law. I’m indulging my inner cultural anthropologist and trying to attend panels outside my areas of work. (Also, I keep ending up speaking on panels during the same time slot as the science-centric panels I’d like to watch.)

The three speakers—Tricia DeGennaro, a political scientist and mid-east expert with the World Policy Institute; Pakistani geopolitics researcher Azmat Hassan; and Oberlin College Islamic studies professor Mohammad Mahallati—all focused on the aspects of Sharia Law that aren’t well-understood or talked about in the West.

Namely, the fact that Sharia Law isn’t really one monolithic thing. What the concept of “Sharia” means, what the laws are, who practices it, even whether it’s enshrined in civil law at all, or simply followed on a personal household-by-household basis—the speakers said it all varies from place to place and from time period to time period.

In modern Iran, women are stoned to death in the name of Sharia Law. But the same law was responsible for granting women rights that were, in historic times, unprecedented—such as the right to own property. In one place, Sharia Law are government-mandated policies that restrict personal freedom. In another place, Sharia has nothing to with the government, and is about how individuals choose to define their relationship with their god. There’s a lot of irony here. And a lot of contradictory beliefs about what Sharia Law is, which, primarily, boil down to differences in local culture and context.

One part of Sharia Law that you’re probably familiar with—it allows a Muslim man to have up to four wives. Azmat Hassan and Mohammad Mahallati offered two different ideas of what this law really means. The differences between their interpretations—and between the way most Westerners understand it—are a great example of how diverse Sharia really is.

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Cyril Diaz & His Orchestra’s calypso voodoo taboo

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Here’s Cyril Diaz & His Orchestra playing Margarita Lecuona’s “Tabu,” circa 1958. This terrific track, along with three other Diaz tunes from the era, is included on the newly-issued Cyril Diaz & His Orchestra “Voodoo EP” vinyl from Sound Way. If you buy the 10″ vinyl for £7.99, you get the MP3s for free. Smart. From Soundway Records:

This four track EP, limited to 1500 copies, sees Soundway head to Trindad for 4 original 1950s instrumental calypso recordings from Cyril Diaz who became renowned for the “rich and smooth tone” of his tenor sax playing. On this EP Soundway presents four of his tracks including the traditional Cuban standard ‘Tabu’, the Haitian inspired ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Serenal’ with it’s alternate version ‘Chive Soup Merengie’ both derived from Trinidad’s Latin music tradition; parang.

Cyril Diaz & His Orchestra’s “Voodoo EP” (via Dusty Groove America)

Watch the Conference on World Affairs from home

CWA is the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Now in it’s 63rd year, the conference brings together scientists, politicians, activists, journalists, artists, and more for a week of fascinating conversations. It’s free, and open to the public. Think of CWA as the democratic version of TEDtalks. I’m at the conference all this week and will be posting and tweeting about some of the interesting things that I learn.

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A couple of people have asked about whether it’s possible to watch, or listen to, recordings of Conference on World Affairs panels online. I’m pleased to report that this is, in fact, the case. There’s a live stream—available in video or audio-only versions—from two of the 12 venues this week. Today, you can use it to tune in to panels like:

• 11:00 am Mountain Time on the UMC Center Ballroom stream: Free the Slaves — a plenary speech by sociologist Kevin Bales. I talked with Bales quite a bit last night, and I think you’ll find his approach to the issue of slavery very interesting. One of his current projects—using computer algorithms to identify predictive social and political factors that lead to slavery—is a story that I hope to bring to BoingBoing later this year.

• 2:00 pm Mountain Time on the UMC Center Ballroom stream: Swarm Activism: Social Media and Revolution.

• 3:30 pm Mountain Time on the UMC Center Ballroom stream: What’s Up, Doc: Documentaries in the 21st Century

• 4:00 pm Mountain Time on the Macky Auditorium stream: Ebert Interruptus showing of “A Serious Man”. This is a long-standing feature of the Conference on World Affairs. Usually lead by Roger Ebert—although he’s turned over duties to Jim Emerson this year—the Interruptus is a movie screening where anyone in the audience can, at any time, call for the film to stop so that they can ask questions or make comments.

There’s also audio and video from lots of past years available online in the CWA archives.

CWA: Your language is your worldview

CWA is the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Now in it’s 63rd year, the conference brings together scientists, politicians, activists, journalists, artists, and more for a week of fascinating conversations. It’s free, and open to the public. Think of CWA as the democratic version of TEDtalks. I’m at the conference all this week and will be posting about some of the interesting things that I learn.

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In English, we use “I am” statements to describe our current biological state, things that are happening to us, or events that we are experiencing. We say, “I am hungry.” We say, “I am dying.”

But that’s not how it works in Irish. Yesterday, during a panel called There’s Perception, and Then There’s Reality, Irish storyteller Clare Murphy talked briefly about how the language you speak alters the way that you perceive the world. The Irish equivalents of “I am hungry” and “I am dying”, for example, would literally translate into English as, “Hunger is upon me” and “Death is beside me.”

I was a little disappointed that this topic wasn’t explored further during the panel session, but the cool thing about the Conference on World Affairs is that the conversations I have outside the panels are every bit as interesting as the official discussions.

Over the course of the day on Monday, I spoke with several people—panelists, as well as conference volunteers and organizers—about the links between language and worldview. In one of those conversations, Emily Gunther, a conference volunteer and sign language interpreter, told me about some of the ways that Deaf culture and American Sign Language intertwine.

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Yuri’s Night art contest call for entries: Win a Zero-G flight on the Ilyushin 76!

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(Photo: I co-hosted one of the previous year’s Yuri’s Night events, in Houston. It was a blast. Plastered cosmonauts plastered me with Yuri Gagarin stick-on tattoos.)

The folks behind Yuri’s Night, an annual global space party that celebrates peace through space exploration, are looking for your creative help to design an awesome new ad campaign to get people to care about space. Yuri’s Night’s Loretta Hidalgo-Whitesides invited me to be one of the judges and I happily accepted. This year’s celebration is a special one: it marks 50 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human to leave earth for space.

Loretta says,

The Space Exploration Advertisement Competition will award a 4-day tour of Moscow, Russia, including a microgravity flight in an Ilyushin-76 aircraft, to an artist, designer or creative individual who creates a print ad which best captures the wonder of space and demonstrates the potential to best inspire the public. The winner will be judged by a celebrity panel of space notables, but entries will also be eligible for a fan-voted People’s Choice Award with another exciting set of prizes.

My co-judge is Ariel Waldman of Spacehack.org, about whom Pesco blogged recently. Contest details follow, along with word of two additional contests you can enter with even more totally awesome space prizes:

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