Last week’s class was one of the most interactive and beneficial learning experiences for me this semester. I was able to take part in various types of play such as monopoly and the Rock Paper Scissor Test and learn about how various individuals deal with their gaming addictions. Van Cleave makes it apparent that there has been great debate over what constitutes an addiction (v). Moreover, he reveals his story pertaining to his own addiction to the game World of War Craft. I can definitely relate to the World of Warcraft experience, not as a gamer but as an individual who watched someone close to me suffer the loss of many  good things in life due to his gaming addiction. For the sake of this reflection, I will use Van Cleave’s components of addiction (salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflict, and relapse) to analyze how gaming affects the lives of many individuals in today’s society, with great emphasis on an old friend  “John” – he is a prime example of someone who reached “the darkest side of the digital world” (v) and whose life quickly collapsed as a result of his gaming addiction. For starters, John experienced salience and I could see it every time I was in his presence – World of Warcraft “[became] the most important activity in [his] life… and dominated [his] feelings and behaviour” (Cleave vii). We would be out for dinner (an hour away from his game), and he would already be planning how he could make money by selling his character in the game; all of his attention was focussed on this game oppose to other things in his life that were more important. Furthermore, John was not aware that his addiction took precedence over his life and due this unawareness he victimized himself whenever anyone would attempt to speak to him of it. He would defend himself as he explained it was not for his own interest but rather a means to make money. However, it is important to note here that he quit/got fired from his job due to his inability to wake up in time for work as a result of playing World of War Craft late at night; something that started as a fun activity to take part in during his spare time became his world and his other priorities fell off.  The conflict component was one that was most apparent to me as conflicts with other priorities in his life became greater – he withdrew from soccer which was one of his favourite hobbies, his social life was at bear minimum, he no longer worked at his respected job, and loss touch with his family. The tolerance component Van Cleave speaks was also clearly evident as he truly was “spending increasing amounts of time spent online engaged in this behaviour” (vii).  It is important to note that this tolerance did not come at random but rather was a buildup of emotional satisfaction obtained as a result of playing the game; he was truly aroused and I believe he used this game as an escape from his everyday problems. Little did he know, it was the game that was the direct cause of his everyday problems.

          It was very hard for me to empathize with John as I had not possessed any addictive behaviours at that moment in time. However as I grew older, I became a smoker and I can now say, although it is not a gaming addiction, addictions are hard to pinpoint in oneself and it is a habit that is extremely hard to break. What is important is that one recognizes the addictive behaviour and seeks help from those who are willing to help them oppose to victimizing oneself.

          While taking part in the monopoly board game in class, although I was having fun, I did not occupy the feeling that I could not walk away from the game. My heart rate and pupil size was the same before and after playing the game. I did not notice any change in skin or respiration. I will note, however, that I was looking forward to playing with my peers but it never got to the point (and I don’t think I have ever let anything in my life) get to the point where there are out of ordinary physiological responses to a game.

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I really enjoyed reading Mike Sukhu article “Figuring the Human in AI and Robotics”. It provided a very good analysis of the article and he made very good points. He touched on the four categories Lucy Suchman presented in her article: agency, embodiment, emotion, and sociability, all of which facilitated me to make my own judgements on how human properties can be transferred into artificial intelligence. I really liked how Mike tackled Suchman’s description of agency as “operating outside the boundary” – he clearly stated that if someone were to predict your every thought and action and speech you would be operating within the boundary of their rules. This is very true because this is exactly one of the few aspects of robots that distinguish them from humans. Robots do not have the mental brain capacity to articulate their own thoughts and action without the aid of human assistance – if they did, they would no longer be a robot as they would possess a key human qualities making them human themselves. I personally don’t believe robots possess emotional abilities because they do not know what it feels like to express its true emotions – it does not have true emotions. Again, as mike points out, emotion is a trait that is created by humans to replicate human emotions at given times. I would agree with his stance that although you can provide a robot with countless emotions, the robot cannot make a conscious choice to express them individually without the help of the human to probe these emotional responses. Mike also draws attention to the making of KISMET, where engineers were able to integrate the concept of sociability which is the ‘source that allowed the robot to interact with other human being … and become more humanlike and less machinelike. I find this to be astonishing that a robot can actually socialize with other humans and uphold a conversation. Sociality is a huge human function and attributing it onto robots shed like on modern day progression of technology; if such a human need can be passed onto a robot, what else will robots be provided with in the near future to bring them to the human side. I really appreciated how mike ended his reflection by briefly pointing out his interpretation that “we can always develop many human-like robots each with different aspects that tackle some-sort of human quality trait; however, the robot can only be as smart as the person who designed it”. I highly agree with his stance. However, I am not closed off to the possible future technological advancements that could potentially provide robots with more and more human qualities.

After reading this classmates’ reflection pertaining to the three guest speakers it is evident that they displayed great knowledge and a source of inspiration to him. Unfortunately I was ill and unable to attend class this day. However, Gianluca’s reflection provided me with great information to catch me up. He noted that all three motivational speakers incorporated play into their routines while training which I found to be a positive way at looking at fitness. One reason why I dislike physical fitness is because I view it as a task or chore. Instead, I too need to see the fun and playful aspect attached to this sport and view it in a more positive light. What really caught my attention, partially why I chose to respond to this reflection, was the inspirational response this classmate got from the male trainer. By simply reading this reflection, I too could sympathize to his story which was ultimately touching and very motivating. I really appreciated this man’s courage to overcome great hardships. More specifically, his ability to conquer his sense of estrangement from family and society, physical deterioration and an overall unhealthy lifestyle and succeed in the army and become a trainer and speaker – it is very encouraging. It is stories like this which have a significant impact on its listeners. Furthermore, Gianluca expressed in his reflection that the male trainer used the negativity from those who doubt him as a means to rise above. It reminded me that there are always going to be people in this world, sometimes even those who are most dear to you, doubt you and fill your mind with negative energy – it is this negative force that keeps one achieving their goals; it is this same influence that destroys an individual. This reflection was an overall good reminder of the importance for health and personal fitness in living a healthy and confident life. I will use this male trainer as a motivational force driving my dedication towards a better life – a life more spiritually, physically, and mentally stimulating.

The mimesis activity done in class was a great way to portray the processes of mimesis. It facilitated me to obtain a better understanding of the various “modes of operation” (Gibbs 193) in which mimesis exist. Anna Gibbs articulates mimetic communication as a ‘pervasive sharing of form’ that seems to be ‘the fundamental communicational principle running through all levels of behaviour’… and connected to other rhythmic processes in the natural world” (187). Going back to the activity, we were blindly assigned pieces of paper which informed us of our task for the exercise – the paper either had a story with which we were expected to act out the specific behaviour or a blank paper which indicated that we were strictly reenacting our peers behavior. Initially, it sounded silly, as so it seemed as there was no order to our movements, gestures, and facial expressions but rather confusion and simply blindly doing as we were told, so to speak. However, as the activity progressed I noticed the “corporeally based forms of imitation” (Gibbs 186) that took place and I associated it with our social functioning in society. One of my peers was given a paper that asked her to act out a situation in which she was confused and trying to understand why she had received such a horrible mark on a school assignment. Through her facial expressions and body movements, I quickly came to the conclusion that she looked rather confused and was certainly contemplating something. According to Gibbs, “people are expert readers of faces, and these communications are more often understood than not” (191). A prime example where this is depicted in my everyday life is when I can simply look at the look on my dad’s face after a stressful day at work – it is written all over his face and through his body movements. He walks rather sluggish; his eyes look tired and at times watery. There is no smile but rather a frown. When he talks, the little he does, you can hear the anger and frustration in his voice. However, when he has a good day, his facial expression, body language, and verbal communication drastically changes – He walks in with a smile; his eyes are bright. He paces through the house in a cheerful manner; he gives the family hugs and kisses and his body isn’t tense but rather relaxed. His verbal communication further confirms his content mood as he laughs and tells jokes. According to Gibbs, “sight depends on our other senses which indicates the importance of sensory cross-modalization – or synesthesia – in mimesis” (Gibbs 202) and this is portrayed in my above example. Not only can I see his content or discontent but I can hear and feel it. Depending on my dads mood which encompasses varying facial expressions, gestures, and vocalizations upon walking into the house after work, I subconsciously “converge emotionally” (Gibbs 186).  Outside of my family, I experience mimesis through my relationships with friends and my boyfriend. Gibbs would agress as she believes “mimetic communication contributes to the generation of the ‘affective social tie’  as “it is what binds parent-child, peer, friendship, and love relationships” (Gibbs 202). Furthermore, since “mimesis makes symbolic thought possible, since symbolic thought [is what] originates in externalized acts” (Gibbs 201) based on the action or lack thereof, I can determine the type of mood my friend(s) is in and my response, whether verbal or physical, is in line with what I received – I subconsciously mimic their state. Going back to the activity, I noticed that I would mimic certain actions without even questioning it. For example, someone decided to stand along the wall which quickly resulted in most of the class, including myself, joining in. When our teacher asked why we had stood against the wall my simple answer was “mimesis”. I did not know why it seemed like the right thing to do at that time since everyone was doing it. Watching movies is a prime example when mimesis is present in my life. It is through watching movies where I “see an action performed [and] the same neural networks that would be involved if [I] were to perform it [myself] are activated. One movie where this was Taken – as I saw men punching one another it was as though I too could feel the results of the punch. At times it would be so “painful” that I would temporarily look away. Mimesis was a very enjoyable topic to learn about and I strongly feel the activity was a great way to put mimesis into perspective. More specifically, it enabled me to draw a connection and identify mimesis portrayed in everyday life.

I truly enjoyed the class on optical illusions. When given various optical illusions, I had three very different experiences. The first illusion I experienced was the spinner. When spinning the object on the floor, the initial illusion at that moment I perceived it to be a full circle with white and black stripes. As it slowed down, I then observed the circle to be ¾ black until eventually half the circle looked black and the other half looked plain white when it had stopped spinning. The second optical illusion I was given was an elephant with “many” legs. Initially I saw what looked like seven legs. Then I did a retake and noticed the elephant had four legs. Lastly, I was given an image with a picture of a circle with a dot in the center. After staring at the dot for ten seconds, I moved the picture back and forward – I perceived the inner circle moving in one direction while the outer circle moved in another direction. The one experience that was common among the three illusions was the feeling of be tricked. I felt as though my eyes deceived me – it was very irritating yet fascinating. At times I became annoyed at the mere fact that I was second guessing myself. I would look so attentively yet I still was not completely certain about anything. When I finally figured out the illusion, my aggravation towards the activity quickly turned into a joke. I found it amusing that something so simple could have such a drastic effect on me. This experience made me question many things about my world and reality. For this activity in particular I knew I was given an illusion and therefore I was adamant on coming to terms with the trickery so to speak. However, when I think of my life and all that I see and experience, I cannot help but question how do I know that what I am seeing is really there? How do I know that what I am seeing is actually what I believe it to be? Moreover, how do I know if it is an illusion or not? I am so use to trusting my eyes and I never gave it any thought that my eyes could possibly be deceiving me. This may sound a little farfetched but I believe this can be related to magic and paranormal experiences. Whether magic and paranormal experiences exist or not, for certain individuals they seem real. People have sworn by psychic, mentalist, and hallucinating experiences etc, stating them to be real as they experienced it firsthand. But if our eyes that we rely on so heavily could deceive us so simply, what else can? All I have is questions – is the paranormal nonsense or is it something we just have not learned yet? I personally believe we take our senses for granted. Engaging with these optical illusions was an eye opener and I realized how much I depend on my eyes and my other senses. We should not be ignorant to think that everything we see is a true representation of the world. In class we watched Beau Lotto’s video on Optical Illusions where he engaged us in a colour game puzzle – it was baffling. He discussed that our brain uses our past experience to generate perceptions about the world. He explained that shadows can lie and they do often. Furthermore, I was informed that our brain imposes the colour into the world. With that said, do we use our day to day experience to create our own reality? What do we see that is real and how do we know that it is real? Seeing is not necessarily believing. Bruno Latour explains that optical illusions are used to provide truths about our world and he uses the term situated knowledge to explain that people have a different perspective depending on their place and we know things based on our past experiences, our culture, language, age, race, and gender. We were not born understanding all of our senses. More specifically, according to Sacks, “we were not given the world: we make our world through incessant experience, categorization, memory and reconnection” (114).  Furthermore, “we have spent a lifetime learning to see” (114). With that said, if we were stripped of one of our senses, we would have to relearn how to understand our world differently through other sensory modalities. Hence, perception is not necessarily reality – we construct our own reality. So, the main question becomes how do we determine what is real versus what we construct to be real?

 

Losing one of your senses would be extremely difficult, especially because for our entire lives we have become so accustomed to functioning using all of our senses.  The article “To See and Not See” depicts a man by the name of Virgil who was blind for his entire life, and then, years later, was provided with the luxury, for lack a better word, of seeing. As expressed in the article, it is extremely difficult to either lose one of your senses or gain a sense that you previously did without.  If there was one sense that I could do without, I would choose the sense of smell. I would be deprived of smelling the aroma of food, cologne and fragrances of nature, etc . but I think my vision would compensate  for  the things I cannot smell.  Although I believe smell to be an important sense that I have grown very fond of and accustomed to, I do not believe my life would be significantly impaired as a result of this loss. Occularcentrism would be a sense that I do not think I could do without – a sense that would negatively impact my life – To lose this sense I would lose a sense of value and self-worth.  Being able to see has facilitated me with a better understanding and place in this world – I have spent my “lifetime time learning to see” (114). I am aware of my surroundings –both small and large, sight has provided my life with a certain level of meaning. Consequently, losing my sense of sight would mean I lose understanding and meaning. As mentioned in the article, “we are born with a full complement of senses, and correlating these create a sight world from the start, a world of visual object and concepts and meanings” (114). Imagine a life of darkness – how would you cope? How would you feel? Personally, I would feel a sense of despair, angst, alienation, and isolation for the mere fact that I know what it is like to see – I would feel a literal sense of loss. A life of darkness, in my opinion, would be very different for an individual who was born blind and one who became blind later in life. In relation to Virgil, who was born blind and became newly sighted, one becomes accustomed to a life without sight and “learning to see demands a radical change in neurological functioning and with it, a radical change in psychological functioning, in self, in identity” (141). Hence, when he was able to see, it was not as simple as a man opens his eyes and he sees (115).  So, for an individual whose vision is restored, they would have to learn new habits and ways of actually seeing.  Seeing is one aspect of vision, but identifying and “deciphering what [you] are seeing (117) is completely different and of high importance to me. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Darkness comes in different forms. One form is literally no light; a dark world. To this point, I believe it is a world where the imagination takes over. Your imagination becomes your reality, which, in effect, may not be actually be real. There’s also the safety issues, limitations and restrictions that are associated as a direct result of with being blind. For example you cannot drive if you are blind and hence become dependent. Dependency is therefore a consequence of blindness. So to answer the question briefly and concisely, what will it mean to lose one of your senses, I believe I am ultimately losing my sense of identity – my sense of direction, independence, meaning, and value in life would severely diminish.

 

On the surface, food, cooking, and eating involve the five basic senses but as we look at the process deeper we would see that it combines so many other senses. Food is not only our source of nutrition; food gives us a sense comfort, a sense of home, and a sense of community. As humans we gather around food, not just the eating of the food, but we also bond over shopping, preparing and consuming of food. In the program I watched, it highlighted fresh local ingredients – this is a new movement in food. Since the organic movement began people have wanted more free range, hormone free, and grass fed food. This type of food gives people the idea that they are getting the most nutritious food.  It harkens back to the days when things were simple and food was too; it gives them a sense of nurturing for their bodies and communities. We are building that sense of community by bringing the consumers closer to the point of origin of our food. By knowing where your food comes from and who produces it gives us also a sense of economic and community responsibility.  Since the addition of many hormones and preservatives to our food, we have realized the need for fresh fruit, vegetables and meats.  It is our social responsibility to share with each other the healthiest ways of living.  By turning to organic, some have made a conscientious decision to change their lifestyles to include better options.  The program featured two men preparing a meal together.  One of the men had more experience than the other and was imparting his knowledge of crafting healthy options with fresh local products.  Sharing the knowledge of food and healthy ways to experience it with others builds a sense of community and helps all to live a healthier lifestyle.  They were making a fresh tomato salad with mozzarella cheese. The colors of the tomatoes were inviting and vibrant.  The freshness and look of the ingredients reminded me of a hot summer day filled with fresh fruits.  They also used lots of fresh basil and a hint of garlic, these aromatic ingredients compliment the tomatoes and mozzarella without over powering the delicate ingredients. Cooking brings people together, it gives us a sense of unity.

cooking video: http://www.youtube.com/user/halfhourmeals?v=Tad8pWSmLGI