What I learned in Boating School is…

When I signed up for history of the information age last semester, I was not entirely sure what I was getting myself into. I believed the class would primarily be about computers and the impact that they have had on the world, as well as how the infrastructure that maintains this age was invented and implemented. I did not expect for a class that started with the advent of the printing press and went all the way up to the development of the online culture that we know today. On reflection that makes sense. The information age is all about how fast information spreads, and Gutenberg’s printing press redefined how information could be spread.

Considering this class dealt with a non-standard topic for history, it makes sense that the class would implement non-standards means of assessment. The break from writing another major paper was a relief to say the least and gave me several unexpected opportunities to flex creative muscles that the history department has not given me the chance to use before. I made a silent film and discovered a love for video editing, which I have lamented not exploring sooner. I created more infographics than I can shake a stick at, but among those infographics I was able to talk about the late actor Stefán Karl Stefánnson, a beloved figure for his as Robbie Rotten on the children’s TV show Lazytown. Making an infographic all about the memes he spawned was a unique experience, but it gave me an opportunity to demonstrate a lot of trivia that I had picked up in following his story.

We also got to design the lessons, which made this course far more student driven than any other class I have taken thus far. Everything, from the discussion questions to the readings to the activities were all designed by us. This not only was a chance for me to get some practice in lesson design, something that as a teacher I need, but it also gives the class a sense of ownership over the whole thing. The lessons, the projects are all things that we created. No other class is going to be taught the same way, because future classes are going to propose different ideas and use different materials to teach it. I think by the end of the class people were starting to get over-reliant on infographics as an activity but using a visual medium to express our thoughts to the class certainly was effective in showing what we thought and letting individuals’ personalities shine.

The most important discussions had were the ones toward the end of the class, especially those about the Dark Web and digital ethics. For most people, the Dark Web is this nebulous concept of a hidden online world that acts as the seedy underbelly of the world wide web. Learning that the Dark Web has noble uses was eye-opening, although in hindsight it makes sense. It is essentially incognito browsing amped up to 11, and while that does allow certain bad elements to use the internet for truly horrific ends, it also allows the oppressed and threatened to tell their stories and get vital information they need to fight back against the administrations or individuals who can harm them. Meanwhile, digital ethics is a field that needs to be developed more substantially as the technology and culture of the internet continues to grow at a rapid pace. Learning how technology can be used to subtly oppress people, and how false information can spread so rapidly were both important truths that needed to be learned and spread, and figuring out how to fix these problems, and the myriad of others that the internet creates, needs to be a priority for us as a species.

I’m genuinely glad that I decided to take History 427 this semester. It has been a departure from the norms of the history department, but right now that is what I needed. Taking the time to talk about issues that affect us as individuals and users of the internet is different than a lot of the classes I have taken, which focus on ancient civilizations or bygone wars. But talking about memes, about fake news, about the information age, has been a more personal experience than the ones that I have had during my years at UMW, and I think it has helped broaden my experiences and helped prepare me to work to solving the problems, and embrace the opportunities of the information age.

Doublelift: Esports All-Star

TL Doublelift- Esports All-Star

League of Legends is a five versus five multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game that was released by the studio Riot Games in 2009. Over the last ten years, League of Legends has become one of the most popular video games in the world, with over seventy million players worldwide at its peak. Each team of five players selects a character, called a “champion” from a pool of nearly two hundred choices, and fight to destroy the other team’s base. League of Legends is currently in the midst of its ninth competitive season, and in the next few weeks the Mid-Season Invitational tournament will start, with the best teams from each region competing for prizes and for much-sought after spots at the World Championship in October.

In the last nine seasons of competive play, a handful of professional players have become famous in the community. Names such as Insec, Imaqtpie, xPeke, and Alex Ich were famous in the professional circuit in its early years, and current players such as Uzi, Perkz, Bjergsen and the Unkillable Demon King, Faker are renowned as some of the most skilled players in the world. Among these famous players, one of the most popular is the North American player Yiliang “Peter” Peng, or as he is known in-game, Doublelift.

Doublelift is one of the most veteran players in the North American division of the professional League of Legends circuit, the LCS. He has been a prominent presence in the league since 2011, when he signed on with the team Counter Logic Gaming. Compared to most players, Doublelift has enjoyed an incredibly long career. Even among the best of the best, Doublelift has been around for longer than most, and unlike many of the pros from the early days of the league, who have since been eclipsed by younger and more skilled players, Doublelift has remained among the best in his position and has arguably only gotten better.

Each player in League of Legends, like a football player, has a position they play. Doublelift fills the position of AD Carry, which is short for Attack Damage Carry. Doublelift primarily plays characters who deal large amounts of physical damage with ranged attacks, such as Jinx, Lucian, and Vayne. An AD Carry is usually paired with a Support player, whose job is to help out their team and protect the AD Carry while they are growing stronger over the course of the game.

Until 2015, Doublelift’s empty trophy case was a meme among the community, and despite being recognized as a high-caliber player, he was never able to reach the world championship. That changed in the summer of 2015, when Counter Logic Gaming defeated Team Solomid in the summer finals 3-0, and secured passage to the world championships. Although Counter Logic gaming was eliminated in the group stage and missed out on the bracket stage, it was regardless the organization’s first trip to world’s and was a point of pride for the team.

Despite this, Doublelift left Counter Logic Gaming during the off-season. The reasons are still not entirely clear, but it is likely a matter of tension between Doublelift, other players, (primarily his support Aphromoo) and the team’s leadership. Doublelift was quickly signed by Team Solomid, which had just rescrapped most of its roster apart from its star player Bjergsen, and produced a comical video to announce the signing.

Doublelift was lent to the struggling Team Liquid at the tail end of the 2017 season in order to save the team from being relegated from the LCS due to their dismal performance that year. Doublelift singlehandedly saved the team, and prior to the 2018 season, TSM parted ways with Doublelift, who immediately signed with Team Liquid. With a revamped roster, consisting of several of Doublelift’s former teammates from Counter Logic Gaming such as Xmithie and Pobelter, Liquid placed fourth during the regular season and made their way to finals.

A week before the championship, tragic news broke that Doublelift’s older brother, Yihong Peng, had attacked their parents, killing their mother and seriously injuring their father. The fans of the professional scene turned out droves of support for Doublelift, and for several long days, the question that was burning in everyone’s mind was if he would play in the finals. No one would have blamed him for taking the time to mourn, but Doublelift announced that he would be playing in the finals, and Liquid took a dominant 3-0 victory over 100 Thieves.

Doublelift remains one of the most popular players in the League of Legends community. For every year since 2013, except for 2017, Doublelift has been voted by the fans to represent the North American league at the All-Star event. He also is a popular presence on the streaming platform Twitch.tv, although professional players often do not get the time to stream as often as full-time content creators such as imaqtpie or the Fortnite celebrity Ninja. Doublelift has also become one of the most consistently successful players in the league. Doublelift has won the last seven playoffs in the North American LCS on three different teams (each season has a spring and summer playoffs) and while that has not always transitioned to success internationally, Doublelift has been recognized as easily the most talented player in his position in the United States.

Doublelift has been involved in the League of Legends scene for eight years, and he has consistently been employed by some of the best and well-funded teams in the league. Team Liquid has recently added Dinsey to its sponsors, and the team was endowed with a substantial amount of funds for building an all-star roster, which led to the “Paid by Steve” meme circulating in reference to Liquid’s owner, Steve Arhancet. While many talented names have entered and exited the League of Legends arena, Doublelift has been consistently one of the best and most popular players in all of the league and has been able to make a living from prize support from competitions, his contract as a player, and revenue from Twitch streaming.

Pop Culture Revolution

The media culture that began in the twentieth century has experienced continual evolution since the end of the second world war. The medium of choice has continaully shifted over the years, with television being the medium of choice from the sixties to the start of the new millenium, but since about 2010 or so the internet has eclipsed it as the medium of choice. The start of the internet age in particular is worth discussing here because the growth of online culture, and especially the medium of Youtube, has fundamentally altered the way people interact with culture.

During the mid-2000’s American Idol created a musical phenonemon, and it brought in millions of viewers every week, myself and my family included. Fast-forward to 2012, and a new phenomenon began. A Korean artist who was previously unknown in the west uploaded a music video. And yes, as the repressed memories begin to flood back, the artist in question is PSY, of Gangnam Style fame. In 2012, this video eclipsing one billion views was a huge deal, and at the time was the most viewed video in the platform’s history. There was a time where Gangnam Style had broken the platform’s viewer count. At present, it is only at fifth, with a staggering 3.3 billion views (Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You is currently in first, with about 4.1 billion views).

But perhaps the biggest change that has come with this new media age is not the way news networks or famous musicians have interacted with it. Rather, it is the way that regular people have been able to turn the platform into a livelihood. People have made careers off of Youtube with all manner of content. Youtube has offered a platform for people to present their music, art, opinions, or their sense of humor and created a medium for these creators to make a living from their work. And while creators have recently been suffering from Youtube’s often opaque policies and losing out on ad-revenue, many have been able to supplement their income using platforms such as Patreon, and are able to sustain themselves on donations from their fans.

Mass media has changed over the last century, and will continue to do so. But it can be argued that Youtube has been a more impactful development in the arena of popular culture than anything else in the past century.

Advent of Ads: The Growth of Communicated Consumerism

The discussion of advertising has long roots in the USA. While today the ethics of native advertising, or advertisements disguised as articles that have become worryingly present in online publications, radio and television advertising has been an entrenched part of media consumption for nearly a century now. The McChesney reading discusses how the Radio Act of 1927 and the later Communications Act of 1934 changed the landscape of broadcast media in the nation and effectively stopped any hope for these mediums to become useful public goods instead of commercial endeavors. This was also the last major political debate of such a topic, however that may very well need to change in the near future as Internet Access becomes more and more necessary to participate in society and perform as basic functions as apply for jobs and file one’s taxes.

This transitions into a discussion of the birth of a consumer culture built on television in the 1950’s, and how that culture looked to distance itself from the unchecked capitalism of the 1920’s that led to the Great Depression. Samuel describes television as the first mode of communication whose financial model was supported not by sales, but by advertising. Radio and print were at first meant to be sold as products to consumers and were only later supplemented by advertisement, but not so with television. Samuel also describes how advertisement came to find children as a fruitful target, another debate whose relevance is still alarmingly relevant in the context of 2019.

As an aside, has anyone else had issues accessing the video? The link is requesting a login that I cannot use. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thank you.

Phoning in the Telephone- Thursday Readings

The two readings for today covered the telephone. The Frahm article covers the role played by women operating American phone systems during the first world war, and the David article discusses the telephone monopoly of AT&T and its implications on the industry.

The Frahm article gives an in-depth look at why the United States sent their women overseas to run their phone lines during WWI. These women were privy to state secrets and often were sometimes within bombardment range on the front lines of the war. With native French women unable to speak English, and the American soldiers unable to effectively operate the phone boards, the government turned to female operators from the US and brought over several hundred women to work the lines. As a whole, these girls were white, relatively well educated, young and employed. The ability to speak French was critical, as was experience on a phone board, but many women were brought over solely for their lingual skills and trained on the job. Compared to many of the other women in positions such as nursing, they were relatively young, but as Frahm points out, they were often also overseen by supervising older women in order to maintain good behavior. The value of these operators for the war effort cannot be underscored, because telephone lines were so critical to coordinating allied operations during WWI. Losing communication lines could spell disaster if logistic networks were compromised, and so these women were crucial components in keeping the military functioning.

Switching gears to the domestic and business side of the phone, David discusses the business model of AT&T and how the company often came under fire for predatory practices, although as he points out, charges were never pressed against the company. Many of the practices used mirror those of other monopolists of the era, such as John D. Rockefeller, primarily slashing prices well below their market value as a means of driving out competition from the marketplace. This approach proved highly successful, securing AT&T a commanding share of the market, and also a healthy return of 46% for their investors. While David does admit these models can have benefits for the consumer, at least in the short term, over time the over-dominance of a company becomes highly detrimental, and allows a company to provide subpar service. As AT&T itself admits, they lost out on a great deal of market share simply because they were not providing sufficient quality of service or coverage.

Beginnings of Daily Journalism in New York

Halsey’s piece sheds light on how and why New York’s newspaper industry got started. With the shortage of paper discussed last week allieviated after the revolution, printing presses were now able to begin to produce materials for public distribution- only at first there was not much to distribute. Early publications were very small scale and extremely mundane. Periodicals had low reach due to the limited ability to produce volumes, an issue that would only be solved after more advanced printing press technology was imported from Britian later in the nineteenth century. There was also little content and what was there had a very low reach. Most of the content published was about ship arrivals, and privately-bought ads, a service that as Dr. McClurken pointed out in class, bolstered the revenue of newspapers until relatively recently with the birth of websites like Craigslist. Eventually, with the birth of the professional journalist and the increasing speed of printing press technology, as well as lowered operation costs, papers were able to be generated in larger volume and sold to larger audiences. This would later pave the way for industry titans such as Hearst and Pulitzer to become titans in the newspaper industry at the tail end of the century.