The Glider as Hacker Emblem

glider emblem

This is delightful. A sort of logo for hacker culture. Not hackers as in criminals (hacker culture calls those people ‘crackers’ among other things) but hackers as in lateral-thinking technology heads.

The graphic … is called a glider. It’s a pattern from a mathematical simulation called the Game of Life. In this simulation, very simple rules about the behavior of dots on a grid give rise to wonderfully complex emergent phenomena. The glider is the simplest Life pattern that moves, and the most instantly recognizable of all Life patterns.

I love this emblem because it really does reference so many things I adore about the internet, what’s happening on it, and the culture that I believe to be the beating heart of it.

Here’s some of the explanation from Frequently Asked Questions about the Glider Emblem

The glider is an appropriate emblem on many levels. Start with history: the Game of Life was first publicly described in Scientific American in 1970. It was born at almost the same time as the Internet and Unix. It has fascinated hackers ever since.
In the Game of Life, simple rules of cooperation with what’s nearby lead to unexpected, even startling complexities that you could not have predicted from the rules (emergent phenomena). This is a neat parallel to the way that startling and unexpected phenomena like open-source development emerge in the hacker community… The glider fulfils the criteria for a good logo. It’s simple, bold, hard to mistake for anything else, and easy to print on a mug or T-shirt. It could be varied, combined with other emblems, or modified and infinitely repeated for use as a background

I’ve been going on and on about how the internet has given rise to a “game layer” to the world we live in: a sort of subcutaenous skin of data that connects everything, and mirrors the logic of our world. (Hence the number of friends you have on MySpace; the location you’re twittering from in Twitter; which songs you listen to the most on your iPod; the ability to track a UPS package at every turn; and on and on). Everything we attach to the network becomes more data, and if it’s data, it’s game-able.

Hacking itself is a kind of game, and the culture is very playful. I can’t get enough of this idea that “play” and “game,” once expanded some in their meaning and context, show us entirely new frames of reference that help explain what’s happening in the world.

SF Weekly on Jane McGonigal

Excellent article on JM’s ideas about how game situations can unlock incredible problem-solving potential in groups of people, and can be applied to anything from medicine to politics.

San Francisco – News – Future Games – sfweekly.com

McGonigal designs games for a living, and she believes they point the way toward civilization’s next step forward. Her games are sprawling extravaganzas that suck in thousands of players and force them to pool their talents to become, essentially, one big networked brain. In the young and burgeoning genre of alternate reality games, otherwise known as ARGs, the players’ collective intelligence is applied to cracking codes, solving puzzles, and completing complex tasks doled out by almighty “puppetmasters.” McGonigal is one of the people who pulls the strings.

The Rise of Letting Go

I recently did a presentation at the very excellent DigitalNow conference, in Orlando. It’s a conference for leaders of professional associations, who have a vested interest in virtual community building and keeping their constituents engaged, even in the splintered information-saturated “Web 2.0” world.

I combined a couple of previous years’ IASummit presentations and added a few new things to try and create an interesting picture that tries to re-frame the situation in several ways, hopefully adding some clarity and helping spark some new ideas for them.

Here’s a pdf of the deck: The Rise of Letting Go: How the Net Generation can teach us to lose control and like it. (Warning: it’s about a 20MB file!)

Second Life of Warcraft

SnoopyBrown Zamboni at Electric Sheep Company has started a geek-roots initiative to bridge the somewhat divergent virtual world experiences at World of Warcraft and Second Life.

Second Life of Warcraft Wiki Is Up

Check it out, lend your thoughts, and if you’re excited please get involved! This can be as big as we all make it. Looking for more WoW guilds and Second Life builders to throw in their hats.

Real Worlds & Game Rules

This sounds right up my alley … I’m fascinated with how various things in ‘real’ life behave with game-like logic and rules.

Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds

Half-Real is an attempt at creating a basic theory of video games: In the book I discuss what video games are and how they relate to non-digital games, how players learn to use a game, how players imagine the world of a game, and why video games are fun.