Research Questions

When I conceived the topic of the paper, at first I had no idea. And one day when I played a “free-to-play” card games called Hearthstone, I realized that maybe I could start with games like Hearthstone. I felt depressed during those days because I lost a lot of games. I met many players with “legendary cards” and they beat me easily even if I had the advantage at the beginning. “Legendary cards” were available if you paid much money. I was confused. I was told that it was “free-to-play” but the situation was different. So my first research question is relevant to the features of these “free-to-play” games: are they really “free-to-play” games? If not, what are they?

Then I retrospect my personal experience in Hearthstone. I got the answer. No, “free-to-play” games are not free at all. In fact, they should be called “pay-to-win” games. Want to win? Please pay much for your powerful items. One or two dollars won’t work. Just need a little bit more—more than the average. Otherwise, do not play. Indeed, this situation is what I saw before in some “free-to-play” games: the key to win in these games is paying more money than the average players. However, I noticed that in Hearthstone, it seemed that some players didn’t pay but they play well and they also have good cards. I felt confused. What happened to them? Is it possible to win without paying much money in some of “free-to-play” games? I tried to find the answer because I thought that should be in the argument and I opened Hearthstone. And I noticed that players could also get rewards by accomplish tasks which was called “quests” in this game. So the answer is obvious: even for players who don’t want to pay much money, they have alternatives instead of paying money. I mean, they need to spend more time than average players in accomplishing tasks and get rewards, otherwise, they will be beaten by players who pay much. So the definition of “pay” is not only paying money, but also spending more time. More money and time than average are the costs of playing “free-to-play” games. And if people want to be powerful, the cost should be more than the average.

Wait a minute. After I found answers to all these research questions mentioned above, I should get the conclusion: “free-to-play” games are not worth playing. However, the reality is opposite. Many players are willing to pay for their items. And some games in this category could easily get a huge amount of profit. Why do many people want to pay more than the average players for these “free-to-play” games even if this sort of game is only “free-to-play” in facade? What’s the motivation of paying in these games?

 

Well, these two questions aren’t easy to answer.  But when I wrote the outline of the paper, I got some inspiration. I realized that money and time created divisions in these “free-to-play” games, and obviously in these games something like social classes came into being. What do different divisions in “free-to-play” games reflect?

In order to answer this question, I made a comparison. It’s not easy to be a millionaire in the real world; but in these games, just by paying a little bit more money and time, people could be powerful and strong. In other words, they may be at a higher “social class” in games than they are in the society. For example, in some games, you may be at level 100. It’s pretty good, isn’t it? Very powerful. But in the real world, it’s way too hard to approach the same “level”. So there’s a mismatch between the level in games and the social class in the real world. That’s why many people are willing to pay more money and spend more time than the average players in these games: comparing with the social class and the level in games, it’s much easier to be a better person in games, isn’t it?

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Research Question

The driving question for my paper is: how has the advancement of technology evolved and how has society evolved with it.

I want to look at society’s obsession with technology and how it benefits us and how it does not.

My sisters are aged 13 and 11, and the age gap is pretty big. Though we are friends we never have actually been too close so I never had anyone to turn to or talk to about my feelings. Middle and High school also were not exactly the greatest time for me. Because I had switched schools so abruptly in fifth grade, I did not really have many friends. I had a few friends but I turned to some online communities that I spent time on. There were people like me and they did not judge me at all. I had made lots of friends, friends in Amsterdam, Ireland, Hawaii, and other interesting places. This even lead me to my passion in drawing. They supported me, gave me advice, and I became a better artist. I was aware of the fact that they could be online creepy people but they had become my close friends. Without them I would have been succumbed by feelings of loneliness and depression.

This experience has lead me to want to understand the good in social media even though the obsession with it is bad. Like why is it that someone online can mean as much to you as someone in person? How does that relationship establish itself? and how can it be so impactful? (It is also good in that it allows distant family and friends to keep in contact and stay updated on each others lives. I can keep in touch with my papa and mamma in Florida and my cousin in New Jersey and they always look at my picture updates. And I’m always looking at theirs. 🙂 )

Yet in ways social media is bad. In person friendships have basically become online friendships. Why is that we are so afraid of talking to someone in person? Why do people hate phone calls now? Is it because they just do not want to face the other person? Why is online bullying so effective when sometimes we don’t even know the person? (p.s. online bullying pisses me off.) A guy broke up with some girl at my high school and she and her friends harassed him on facebook so much he deleted it. Some guy even asked me out by adding that he was in a relationship with me on facebook… (lol.) Why is internet drama such a big deal? I do not understand why people feel the need to digitally attack people who are grouped under an assumption.

Yes the internet and the use of laptops and iPads and communication devices have their pros and cons, but do the pros outweigh the cons? What can we do to reduce the cons so that we do not put any lives in danger and still teach our children that it is okay to be different?

Research Question: How are Anxiety Disorders Correlated with the Brain?

Anxiety disorders, like other disorders, are not a choice to have and people cannot just decide to turn it on or off. People cannot control the anxiety they feel when they are put in certain situations. Anxiety disorders are often brought up due to environmental factors that include excessive fear (which could be caused by a traumatic experience), which then can lead to post-traumatic stress or phobias. This means that when put in certain situations, people with an anxiety disorder feel an excessive amount of fear. They feel anxious when they are put in situations that are not necessarily dangerous, like meeting someone for the first time (“Psychological Treatments for Panic Disorder”). Even though symptoms of anxiety disorders are shown due to an environmental factor, they are still closely correlated with the nervous system. This both has to do with what happens in a brain when there is excessive anxiety, along with the nature vs nurture debate (that there may be a genetic factor to anxiety disorders).

Exposure therapy is a type of therapy that helps ease the extensiveness of an anxiety disorder. A stimulus that causes fear is exposed in a safe environment, and the fear responses are slowly suppressed (Gallagher). When this fear-inducing stimulus is created, some neurons in the amygdala are activated. The amygdala is the part of the brain that deals with the emotions a person has (which explains why a fear-inducing stimulus would affect the amygdala). With exposure therapy, these neurons can be silenced, meaning they are less active and the response is not as strong.

Even though the amygdala plays a large role in anxiety disorders, other parts of the brain are also involved. The brainstem, diencephalon, and insular cortex may also be included in the process (Bergland). These parts of the brain could sense the body’s inner signals of danger when basic survival is threatened. When someone feels an excessive amount of panic or fear, this may be due to a part of the brain outside of the amygdala. Although outside world information is filtered through the amygdala to generate fear, signs of danger from inside the body can provoke fear even without an amygdala present.

Anxiety disorders can leave to many other emotional and physical problems. For example, children or adolescents who had anxiety disorders have a higher risk for depression, suicide, a poorer quality of life, social difficulties, and increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease (DeSousa et. all). In children especially, anxiety disorders can involve dysfunctional processes in various emotional and cognitive processes, each of which is in turn regulated by several brain regions that may support anxiety disorder pathophysiology. This includes the amygdala (as mentioned before) along with the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia.

Anxiety disorders are partially due to the genes that run within a family and are heritable. However, there is also an environmental to how prevalent these disorders are. For example, a person many have an anxiety disorder from their genes, but it wouldn’t affect them until a specific environmental factor came about and caused them to feel the extreme fear and anxiety.

 

Bergland, Christopher. “Decoding the Neuroscience of Fear and Fearlessness.” Psychology Today. N.p., 6 Feb. 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

DeSousa, Diogo, Giovanni Salum, Maria Rosário, Daniel Pine, and Gisele Manfro. “Pediatric Anxiety Disorders.” Scielo. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Gallagher, Siobhan, and Jennifer Kritz. “Neuroscientists Determine How Treatment for Anxiety Disorders Silences Fear Neurons.” Tufts Now. N.p., 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

“Psychological Treatments for Panic Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder.” Oxford Neuroscience. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

The Audio Sampling Controversy

Listening to a song in popular music, whether it is on the radio or in one’s own personal collection, one cannot help but to hear a piece of another artist’s music embedded within. This can be subtle to the point that it goes unnoticed by the average person. It could be in the vocals, a guitar lick, or something as small as the drum kick that only comes in once every 3 bars of music. But it is, in essence, a rip off of the original artist. This is called sampling. The perspective of the original artist varies case by case. Some are ok with the idea of hearing their voice or drum beat incorporated into other songs. Others are furious that their work has been copied and pasted into someone else’s work for their own benefit. The key objective behind this paper is to ask the question: When is it justifiable to sample without permission?

There is a lot of gray area to this issue. There are laws in place to help rectify the matter. But, is this enough to keep all parties happy? Even in the event that strict permission is given, there have been parties that have felt wronged. An article by Molly Mcgraw helps shed some light onto this issue. She tells the story of David Johnson and Jan Hammer. “David Earl Johnson who allowed computer-keyboardist Jan Hammer to sample his drum sounds on rare, eighty-year-old Nigerian conga drums. Later, after Johnson recognized his drum sounds running through the entire Miami Vice soundtrack, he sought payment for what he perceived to be his contribution to the composition. He was told by Hammer’s manager that he wanted ‘money for doing nothing’ and the American Federation of Musicians refused to take his case.”(1) In this case, there was arguably nothing done wrong by Hammer. He asked for permission to use Johnson’s drums sample and Johnson gave it. Johnson could have been more specific about the limit of usage of these. But even the legal system has no test case that a court can use in a copyright case. Each lawsuit must be individually decided on a case-by-case basis based on whether the sample used is original to the plaintiff. The law states that “Originality denotes only enough definite expression so that one may distinguish authorship, i.e., there must be an identifiable element of personality.”(1) So, with these safeguards in place, it makes it easier for artists to win in a lawsuit against copyright infringement. However, the problem lies in whether or not the original artist’s music can be discernable on the track. Frank Zappa was the first to fully protect a full album from copyright infringement from sampling down to the wave pattern level. It requires more effort and money to get this type of protection than what is provided at default from simply recording and distributing an album. Should the law be changed to protect the artist further by default? This issue definitely deserves some more legal attention to decide what the right decision is.

Footnotes:

  1. “SOUND SAMPLING PROTECTION AND INFRINGEMENT.” SOUND SAMPLING PROTECTION AND INFRINGEMENT. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.law.berkeley.edu/journals/btlj/articles/vol4/McGraw/HTML/text.html&gt;.

Apocalyptic Fears: Research Question

I began my research to identify one basic question: what is fear? I started with the idea of apocalyptic fears and how they are rationed through a sense of fact. This simply means that fears are evolved from factual data. For instance, one is not afraid of an actual “Zombie Apocalypse,” but what they are afraid of is a viral outbreak or a deadly disease that could spread across the globe like a fire. Fear can be a broad area to focus on because so many fears are associated with many different things for different individuals. However, it is important to know what fear is or is not. Fear is a cognitive perception of one thing or another. In an anatomy class, you can learn about “the flight or fight response” which is induced by fear and danger to either run away or fight. The initial response is in the amygdala, located in the brain, that signals to the adrenal medulla, which is located just above the kidneys, responsible for hormonal secretion, including adrenaline. Furthermore, these organs result the natural response of fear in a given situation. Although, as mentioned previously, it is a perception issue, so a fear to one person may not be a fear to another.

It is also important to figure out what application fear has. For example, depending on how one is raised can determine how one perceives the application of fear what is important to be afraid of or restrain from. Religion is one building block of how this can be viewed. According to Richard Eckersley in his essay about apocalyptic fears, he illustrates that “Fundamentalism refers to the retreat to the certainty of dogmatic beliefs, whether secular or religious. In an extreme form, this is ‘end time’ thinking.”[1] Here, Eckersley shows a view from a Christian standpoint that this belief is to illustrate the fear of the Rapture taking place. So, depending on family belief systems, it can influence how one perceives the apocalypse to take place.

Fear is always a response to a situation or in anticipation of that situation. Fear has many responses including freezing, chills, sweating, and screaming. If you think about the last time you were seriously scared, what happened? Your body could have jumped in response to the situation, you began to be terrified of the situation, or maybe you could not physically move because you were so scared. These are only a few of the responses. Fear is closely associated with anxiety too. You can physically feel the response of anxiety: heart rate increase, overwhelming feelings, depression of what might happen. So, with fear being so closely associated with anxiety, it can effect how one handles a situation, whether they dwell on it or let it go. A lot of depression issues are due to anxiety, with can be a response to how one handles fear. Depression is a big issue in the U.S. along with many other countries, but I believe it’s because of the fear of the unknown. Fear tactic have been placed on every person in one way or another. In Christianity, the fear of the Rapture is always in the forefront of people’s minds. When Year 2,000 came, many people believed that the Rapture would take place, but it didn’t. People actually committed suicide or caused violence in response to what they believed to be an apocalyptic time. It’s interesting and scary to see how far people will go if they think it’s the end of days.

All of these examinations and thoughts have led me to the research question: Why is fear of the apocalypse relevant?

[1] Eckersley, Richard. “Nihilism, Fundamentalism, Or Activism: Three Responses To Fears Of The Apocalypse.” Futurist 42.1 (2008): 35-39. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.

Bitcoin: Defining a Societal Role through Virtual Currency Pitfalls

As technology progresses in society, it seems as though each advancement is both a high-tech marvel and an invitation for further complexity. New electronic devices and intricate computers are constantly being introduced. In addition, there is a trend of ever-increasing digitization of files, records, any other systems in society. As technology continues to intertwine itself in nearly every aspect of our daily lives, the potential for technical failures and the need for regulation is imminent. The virtual currency bitcoin is no exception to this foreshadowing. Originally created in 2009, bitcoin is an entirely Internet-based currency without a central operator. The technological nature of bitcoin makes it especially susceptible to system failures, which could have long-term effects on the production of and confidence in the currency. In researching bitcoin, my aim is to discover how this virtual currency optimally fits into society, and evaluating its technological barriers is an integral part of determining this role.

One of the primary obstacles associated with bitcoin is protecting its user anonymity. The bitcoin system is designed to be completely anonymous; all transactions are recorded in a public register, but specific transfers cannot be traced to a single user’s identity. However, it is always possible that this anonymity could be breached through computer hackers. Accidental user errors or negligent use of personal information could also easily expose a customer’s identification.

A second caveat to a virtual currency is the potential for theft. Just as keeping large amounts of cash on hand can be a dangerous invitation for thieves, bitcoins can only have so much technological protection. A user’s bitcoin supply is held in a virtual “wallet,” which can be backed up and secured in various ways, such as using an online wallet securement service. However, as with any digital file, a bad virus or computer hacker can cause the complete loss of a bitcoin supply.

In addition to issues with anonymity and theft, bitcoin could also fail by way of a denial of service. Because there does not exist a central entity that controls bitcoin, the production of the currency is left to the individual “mining” computers. Essentially, these miners have the ability to block any given bitcoin transaction. In an extreme case, and with the necessary hi-tech computer equipment, a single individual could cause the destruction of the entire bitcoin system. Although seemingly unlikely, this scenario is plausible given governments who wish to implement regulation, or people attempting to blackmail bitcoin-accepting merchants.

These three main technological obstacles could have a significant impact on the developing role of bitcoin in society. Any concern over the security and legality of bitcoin will likely decrease the confidence of users. If this loss of confidence causes a panic to ensue, bitcoin users will sell their holdings, and demand will drop lower than supply in the bitcoin market. Additionally, because the supply of bitcoins will eventually be capped at 21 million, the value of the currency will actually increase. However, if industries become heavily reliant upon bitcoin, this will create general decreases in price and a deflationary spiral. The mere potential for this result may be enough for businesses and industries to give up their use of bitcoin. The technological barriers of bitcoin and consequential user reactions offer a way in which its societal role may be defined. The possibility of failure associated with such a new and developing currency reveals a common hesitance in its use, and may also suggest its popularity as more of a speculative investment rather than reliable currency.


 

1Grinberg, Reuben. “Bitcoin: An Innovative Alternative Digital Currency.” Hastings Science & Technology Law Journal 159 (2012): 175-81. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.