Archive for the 'Cyberlaw Project' Category

What is my point?

Posted in cyberlaw, Cyberlaw Project on December 8th, 2006

I have been working with a fellow student on our projects. We have met to go over code issues when his blog wasn’t aligning properly (I’m an old hand at html) and have had a few discussions about our projects. After the in-class discussion, he e-mailed me on a matter that had been troubling me – what is the goal of my project?

A student pointed out that if I simply wanted to advocate for cafeteria plans, pitting the childfree against parents isn’t the best way to accomplish that. They’re right. Yet when I considered scrapping the whole Childfree Issues thing and focusing on the plan itself, the idea left me cold. It was more than just the fact that I would have to start from square one. It just wasn’t my goal.

My classmate’s email helped me hone in on the problem:

LT,
i had some thoughts on your project. i think your benefits issue and invisibility issue are kind of tension with one another and it’s probably best to focus on one for the purposes of the project. the benefits issue as you express it doesn’t seem to have a lot of appeal to parents or companies – they’re not getting anything out of this – as i understand it, you’re appealing to their basic sense of fairness, which is especially difficult if they’re not sympathetic to the childfree issue. i’d think the best way to get support on the cafeteria plan would be to show how this could benefit all kinds of employees, i.e. giving them more choice, as opposed to making it a “childfree rights” sort of issue.
the problem with that kind of argument is that it makes the childfree constituency more “invisible.” my gut reaction is that the best idea is to compartmentalize the benefits and childfree-awareness issues into separate projects.
hope this helps,
XXXXX
The invisibility I had mentioned is my project. However, getting the childfree recognized as an interest group is a project that can last for years, probably decades.

The first step is to get people to self-identify. While there is a vocal childfree community, the majority of people who will choose to have children do not join it. I have friends who don’t want kids, and they do not make friends on that basis, or even attach a label to it. It is not something they seek out. Furthermore, as a commenter on my blog noted:

The childfree person is seen as disparaging the lifestyle choices of parents and syblings of alternate views by speaking out about not having children. . . .Many childfree people simply decline to talk about it to avoid arguments that have no fundamental solution because it would equate with the “your living your life wrong” arguments that generally have no result other than to fracture relationships.

If the real challenge is to get people to admit to ones around them that they don’t want children, (the compounding effect being the recognition of that subgroup by society) then first one must change society itself to make it more of an acceptable choice and erase that stigma. It is a cyclical process – one feeds into the other. It also happens to be a process I started a long time ago, the first time I went on CNN to discuss my choice. By being just a normal couple speaking openly about a very personal decision, Vinny and I hoped to break stereotypes and make Americans realize that some people just don’t want kids.

Obviously, this aim is a bit large for a single semester project. What I am trying to do is the second step – getting those who do self-identify to speak more openly and address the issues that are common to all of us.

My goal, simply put, is motivation.

People complain frequently on childfree discussion boards about various unfair policies, such as taxes, employee benefits, stork spots, etc. I have noticed for some time the lack of any sort of organization to channel the frustration people were feeling into action. By creating that channel, I can harness the energy that is already out there and translate it into visibility, into advocacy. If people call talk shows, write letters to the editor, and talk more about these issues, even the small subset of childless people who already self-identify as childfree can make more of an impact than they are now.

This is why my project is two-part and two-stage: the blog to last long after class and the website to begin advocacy on a single issue. It can help to get the ball rolling, show people what to do and embody the future of my project for the purposes of the course.

Since the goal is motivation, divorcing the dichotomy from the project is counter-productive. I don’t want workplace benefits, I want childfree people to start feeling less invisible, or at least to see that visibility is within their power.

I’m not sure how well I can compartmentalize – it is certainly possible to create a separate project just to hone in on the benefits package. Perhaps I can package this separate project as a tool for those I am trying to motivate.

One thing is for sure. Nothing ends when I hand this in.

(In case you’re wondering, the poster is from Australia, which spells sibling differently)

Second Life, Part Two (Project Fest)

Posted in cyberlaw, Cyberlaw Project, Second Life on December 8th, 2006

I entered Second Life today, probably at the expense of the Constitutional Law work sitting in front of me. It feels strange to be doing something so closely related to how I previously entertained myself, even if it is for a course.

On the syllabus there was scheduled a “Second Life Fest” for both the law and extension school students, apparently mandatory for the latter. I suppose I am not up to date on their altered syllabus, since there were not too many people there. Fortunately, I did run into a few ‘at-large’ participants who were interested in discussing the projects (although they had not done projects of their own) and was able to observe those portions and representations of ES projects that were stationed in Second Life. I viewed websites advocating warnings before an avatar enters a mature area, a project about Second Life, specifically Linden Labs owning the creations of the users.

The person who asked about my project had already seen the video, but I was able to discuss it more. I realized that my project was requiring a little too much in the way of explanation, and created a gateway page for entering the website and blog… I might have to refine it, but it forced me to state more clearly what I am trying to accomplish. I also altered the text on the “What Can I Do?” page of the site to reflect the aim, which is a very abstract goal of sheer awareness… More on that later.

Second Life – Part One (A Changing Society)

Posted in cyberlaw, Cyberlaw Project, Second Life, The Internet, Wikis on December 8th, 2006

The course has simultaneously been going on as an extension school course and a project for the internet community at large. Many of the meetings have been taking place in Second Life, a virtual community. In the beginning of the course, we were instructed to download the program and create an avatar. We were later paired up for tours of Second Life (but of course by then I had begun exploring on my own).

I was a beta tester for the Sims Online. In college, Sim City was about the best way to waste time; a shared addiction to that game united me with another young dormer who is now (11 years later) my husband. When the Sims was released I was nearly as enthusiastic, and would spend way too much time teaching my Sims to cook, making sure they slept. The Sims Online was a place to unite with others playing the game. You could join up and make pizza for profit, combine your profits to buy land and build a house.

When the beta test was up, I was offered the chance to stay on, keep my character and her money and all she had accomplish. Perhaps at the cost of all I had accomplished. A monthly fee plus my spare time was too high a cost . . .

Second Life, on the other hand, is free and far less addictive. Instead of doing repetitive tasks to earn money, you can create and share items, which people do, freely. Since an item can be replicated, it is far more of a collaborative environment. You can earn money in-game, and I’m sure people do, but many people are just there to learn, to create, and to share.

It does have a strong connection to many other things in the course, such as Creative Commons, Copy Left, the GNU Software License, and Wikis, especially Wikipedia. People operate by something other than market forces, in a decentralized way to build upon what each other has created and improve it. This is more than just technology, this is a change in culture itself fostered by that technology. Perhaps those of us who marvel at the technological age we are living in will not see it until the future, but we might be living though changes larger than we realize. . .

Class Discussion

Posted in cyberlaw, Cyberlaw Project on December 5th, 2006

The video of my presentation to the class is posted here. I presented starting at 1:38 Tuesday.

Our class uses the question tool – a means by which the students in the class submit and vote on questions to the presenter. I didn’t get to address all the questions during my presentation, but posted the discussion here.

My Project – Cafeteria Benefits for Childless Workers

Posted in cyberlaw, Cyberlaw Project on November 29th, 2006

My project is beginning to take shape. I am sending out a plea to various leaders in the childfree community and asking them to contribute. Although I still have a ways to go, the prototype for the website is here. The plan is to make the website a collection of information and opinions on cafeteria plans – including sample letters to employers and letters to the editor, arguments on both sides (and responses), the podcast series posted below, and hopefully a discussion via its companion blog.

The blog, Childfree Issues, will hopefully have a mandate to carry on after it serves as the launching place and forum for this one. The idea is to collect discussion on advocacy issues in a single area. While there are great social organizations such as No Kidding already out there, and much discussion on these issues on various childfree discussion board, hopefully this can create a centralized launching pad for more advocacy. In this vein, I have asked various leaders of No Kidding to participate – including those in Canada who might add an international perspective to what is now a domestic project. Hopefully we will be able to craft this separately, so as not to create a conflict of interest with the group’s purely social mandate.

I have also sought, and received assistance from the creators of what I see as the best childfree-related internet projects. This includes Adult Spaces – a podcast that addresses all sorts of childfree issues, UnScripted – the Childfree Life, a high-quality zine with articles about all sorts of topics of interest to the childfree, Purple Women – a team blog with contributions from a range of childfree women and their friends, and the Childless By Choice Project – a massive research project leading to a documentary and a book. I lost a week due to a death in the family, and was forced to tighten up – I had originally planned to ‘play’ with different media and create a compilation of different media for the final project. The fact that collaboration is encouraged makes this much easier, and more fun.

Podcast Again

Posted in cyberlaw, Cyberlaw Project, podcast on November 8th, 2006

I should also add a link to the class podcast blog:

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/cyberonepodcast/

Which includes the podcasts of the student participants, including the extension school students. It seems a lot of people have chosen issues within cyberlife to advocate – which I suppose makes sense – the cyber medium of presentation will be especially apt. However, I am having trouble getting invested in these issues as a listener. I suppose I just find real-world issues more compelling. Is this evidence of a problem we discussed earlier – the inability to perceive it as real?

Maybe so, but the fact that I have been through these discussions and thought about these issues may indicate that I have considered them, then made up my mind about where my values lie.

Podcasting – Take Two.

Posted in cyberlaw, Cyberlaw Project, podcast on November 7th, 2006

It appears that the later option – hosting it here – isn’t a realistic option. Each harvartd.edu address is permitted one blog. Which means that when this course is over – I’ll either have to erase it, forego another opportunity to use it, or attempt to gracelessly transition it to another blog. I’ll probably do the last one.

But while I am waiting, I might as well upload the files I have created for the new podcast:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4 – class project

Episode 5

Podcasting

Posted in blogs, cyberlaw, Cyberlaw Project, podcast on November 7th, 2006

Our projects are starting to take shape. I am rehashing the assignment from before in order to tailor it better to the goal of empathetic argument. This is especially apt for my project, since empathy with the other side is all around. What argument requires more empathy than one that is – ostensibly – anti-child? Although I am choosing a moderate position and topic – equal benefits for childless workers – the opposition is still essentially the pro-parent pro-child lobby.

To that end, I have created this week’s podcast – what I believe is the 11th and final take. Download it here.

I do like the idea of podcast as a medium. I would be happy to start a blog for my project, but I’ve been running one for over a year now to a similar end – involving the childfree community in an aggregation of information and commentary. I don’t think that my single issue would make for a distinct blog, nor for that matter, a distinct podcast.

The trouble with creating a podcast instead is that it has been done – and done well. The childfree community is nascent, and still only has a few major organizations behind it. However, it has a great zine and a fantastic podcast. I would not want to duplicate their efforts.

However, as Adult Spaces addresses news (as does my blog) I could create a complimentary podcast to focus just on issues. There is still zero organization toward that end – just disjointed commentary on various discussion boards, and one very well-written book. (Burkett – the Baby Boon)

Right now I’m just running into some technical difficulties. The obvious choice for hosts would be Harvard – but does my blog access expire when I graduate? I would not want this to be a project with an expiration date. I attempted to host it on the same account as my main blog, but I currently can’t find a way to upload mp3 files. Hopefully as I sort out these issues, my plan will be refined.

Scratch Pt. 2 – the experience of programming.

Posted in Cyberlaw Project, Scratch on September 25th, 2006

Part of the assignment is to make a feedback journal about my experience with the scratch game. Two birds, one stone. I made about three or four trial games before my final version. I had originally made a simple driving game, but only got as far as designing the car’s motion on the road. I designed a background that gave the perspective of a road disappearing in the distance, and attempted to convey the motion with yellow dashes moving down the center. Despite multiple attempts using many, many different approaches, I was unable to get them to move evenly down the center – instead they bunched, and lagged. I did know from subsequent experience that there are occasional errors in the program – things not moving as they are directed to. However, these errors were rare and temporary, and I was only sure they were not my own because the next time around things went quite smoothly.

I realized that even if I were able to overcome my difficulties, I would still end up with a game that merely replicates many others available. I left the program for what it originally as intended – an experience that produced not a result in the form of a game, but gave me a body of knowledge. I decided then that with no programming experience of this kind, I might be better off using m strengths and designing a game that is less than complicated in its program, but had its uniqueness in the creativity of the graphic design and subject matter. When half asleep in the middle of the night, it dawned on me that I could also create something that, rather than being a temporary assignment, could be of usefulness to me. I had become addicted to Set, a puzzle game played with a deck of cards. I began designing my own online version, with the added bonus of never having to shuffle again, and being able to play this non-verbal game any time I had my laptop (I’m one of those people that functions better in verbal tasks if I am also multitasking the other parts of my brain).

This, too failed. I could not quite figure out how to get the program to randomly choose a card and put it into the designated spot. realized that the tasks that are very simple in real life – shuffling and dealing – are quite a different matter when starting from, well, Scratch. They actually require a body of assumptions and instructions much more difficult than even a peanut butter sandwich construction. Besides, the game could only go so far – since it wasn’t my original design – and I had found a god Java program in the meantime. Again, i did not merely want to duplicate what was already available. Especially not at the expense of a whole lot of work. Finally, i settled on an idea that I had been bandying about since I first learned of the project – incorporating my classmates into the program. This way I would certainly not been duplicating anything else; I would produce something that would be at least of some interest. I would also get to incorporate a skill I had already been working on – graphics design – and a bit of humor.

My original design was to have the avatar try a maximum of three doors out of five to find the goal. After a long time spend attempting to get the game timer to ‘wind down’ each time a selection is made, I gave up on this idea. The mechanism by which this was accomplished seemed simple, and there were not ways to really tweak it to fix he problem. I am still unsure whether the program was in error or I was making a mistake I could not find, but either way I was at an impasse. With on-campus interviews and the press of Tribe’s Con Law looming, I changed the object. To simplify it further, picking the wrong door would end the game.

I did what I knew – worked with cropping and pasting the pictures of my classmates and creating instructions with text pasted into the background images. I merged the included sounds into the game, balanced out the delays in a process that sounds so simple but was indeed a hard-won result borne from much trial and error. I could not find a simple image of a fountain to use (the goal is the purple fountain that my classmate insists is in the Pentagon, where he interned) so on a whim I created one from, er, scratch. I originally thought it would be a failed enterprise and I would end up giving up and finding an image, but within the graphics program I was using I managed to take simple shapes, color, and transparency and create a serviceable purple fountain. After that, I had become familiar enough with the program to realize what it was capable of and best at. I created three simple animations for my husband’s amusements. Two graphics within the game of a girl jumping lead to a simple animation of her jumping across the screen. Much effort eventually generated a away to properly time chimes and percussion. I needed a background , and randomly chose a moon. After that, of course I had to add a cow. Twenty seconds in, and every thirty after that, he loops overhead to the sounds of mooing, which makes my husband crack up every time (me too.) So I then designed a simple animation called ‘hey diddle diddle’ and one of a punch of puppies jumping and barking. Although the jumping girl was posted to the class wiki for the hell of it, the other two were actually done after the class was over, just for fun.

I eventually had to force myself to stop and work on my other classes and OCI.