Recently, the streaming service Twitch TV offered Pokemon as a massively multi-player game. Anyone with Internet access may – at least for a moment – control the game, and thousands have tried. As always in life, not everyone has the same goals, so allowing thousands to sit in the driver’s seat means that the results are not straightforward – they tend to oscillate between chaos and stasis. xkcd summarized the situation eptly (click on the image to embiggen it):
That so many would seek to play when no individual can achieve very much is not a new discovery in human psychology. NYNEX, the main local phone company in New York and New England (now part of Verizon), ran a technical trial of interactive telecommunications back in the 1990s, renting 15 minutes each week on a local Manhattan cable channel in the early hours of Sunday mornings, which they called Joe’s Apartment. They had taken film inside an apartment, walking in every direction, and then cut the film into short discrete pieces. The film showed only the apartment, nothing more. The discrete pieces were then assembled at run-time, in an order determined by a TV viewer using only their landline or mobile phone. A viewer could phone in and using the phone keypad, control the movement of the camera (left, right, forward, etc). This control of the camera was only apparent. In reality, the viewer was controlling the selection of which discrete piece of film would be seen next. Any one viewer only retained control of the camera for a few minutes.
Despite the simplicity of the set-up and the lateness of the hour, and much to NYNEX’s surprise, the program attracted thousands of viewers, all seeking to wrest control of the camera. No doubt a large number of viewers were people who’d spent the evening in close proximity with alcohol.
The Agents and Intelligent Systems Group in the Department of Informatics was pleased to host last week a research seminar by Clement Guitton, a PhD student in the War Studies Department of King’s College London.
Clement’s PhD is a study of the issue of attribution in cyber attacks. He explained that conventional wisdom is that attributing an attack is a problem that is primarily technical, that it is impossible, and that each case is unique. By looking in detail at recent attacks, he has been able to demonstrate that each of these conventional views is mistaken: Attribution is primarily a political problem, not a technical one; it is often not impossible and is sometimes very easy; and many cases are similar to one another. This was a very interesting seminar which led to an interesting discussion of what advice one would give to a young cyber-attacker eager not to be identified!
The KCL Tech Society is running another in its very popular series of student-led learning sessions tonight, Teach Me X. This session will be led by James Bellamy and is on mobile app development using iOS. The session is at 6-7 pm tonight, Monday 19 February, in room K3.11 at the Strand campus of KCL. Details from the Facebook page.
The Department of Informatics at King’s College London is proud to support this event through the provision of free pizza – since whoever heard of anyone coding without access to pizza!
Great progress is being made on our EPSRC inter-disciplinary seed-funding research project, Bridging the Gaps, which aims to strengthen the many connections between Informatics and other disciplines at King’s College London. More information here. Please contact us if you want to be involved.