Thursday, November 13, 2014

Anonymous trolls and online gaming

Wil Wheaton, actor, writer and gamer, makes it clear:  "It's time to name names".  

His subject is gaming:  where people online anonymously produce venomous words and threats of violence.  He writes in The Washington Post:
To be sure, anonymity online has it uses and is very important. Governments hoover up people’s telephone and e-mail records without oversight, and companies track astonishingly granular personal information. If we want dissent in places where it would otherwise be quashed, whistleblowers to come forward, investigative journalism, and people who can feel like their authentic selves, they need tools like the Tor browser and GnuPGP to let them speak their minds with impunity. In the age of total-information awareness, citizens need certain protections.  
But in the gaming community, those protections aren’t necessary, and they aren’t helping. Anonymous trolls have made the gaming community toxic — especially for women — and upended the industry at a time when the games we play are finally being recognized as the incredible works of art that they can be. While I don’t believe bad actors represent gaming culture’s mainstream, I feel sure they wouldn’t issue rape and death threats, or harass other gamers, if they would be held accountable for their actions.

Wheaton highlights the principles of sportsmanship and full knowledge that the opponent is a living person, and that the situation of competition is temporary.  So it does matter how we react to the results of the game:
I’ve seen players fight for every point in tournaments, then graciously congratulate each other, regardless of who won. I’ve sat down with complete strangers — just like the random person I’d likely encounter online — and had an absolutely wonderful time being obliterated by them, because not only were they more skilled than I was, they were also nice and decent human beings. 
Wheaton's pitch for funding his independent online show, TableTop, is framed by this spirit:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sacred Ground

Another of our current Christian Formation series is our book study, Sacred Ground:  Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America by Eboo Patel.

One of Patel's defining points is the concept of "sacred ground".  Patel writes in his introduction:
The strangest part of the Cordoba House debate for me was the idea of sacred ground.  The people opposed to Cordoba House insisted that the blocks around Ground Zero constituted a holy area.  Those who believed Cordoba House ought to stay in Lower Manhattan liked to point to the nearby strip joint and off-track betting parlor and say that that patch of land is just like any other.  "Why can't you just move it ten or twenty blocks away?" a CNN anchor asked me on air at the height of the controversy.  But that would still be sacred ground, I thought to myself.  A hundred miles north, a thousand miles south, two thousand miles west---it's all holy. 
I believe every inch of America is sacred, from sea to shining sea.  I believe we make it holy by who we welcome and by how we relate to each other.  Call in my Muslim eyes on the American project.  "We made you different nations and tribes that you may come to know one another, " says the Qur'an.  There is no better place on earth than America to enact that vision.  It is part of the definition of our nation.... 
Pluralism is not a birthright in America; it's a responsibility.  Pluralism does not fall from the sky; it does not rise up from the ground.  People have fought for pluralism.  People have kept the promise.  America is exceptional not because there is magic in our air but because there is fierce determination in our citizens.  "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults," Alexis de Tocqueville wrote.  Every generation has to affirm and extend the American promise."

What are the places that we consider sacred?  Why so?  What makes them sacred?  

Patel seems to be suggesting that one part of honoring sacred ground is honoring pluralism:  a land with many peoples.  How do people embrace their "responsibility" for seeing and holding things sacred; redeeming assumptions and broken relationships with people different from them?