Ars Technica critiques the new HBO documentary about the South Korean gaming addiction/baby death case. Sam Machkovech takes Love Child to task for presenting a one-sided story with a nightmarish view of technology.
Amazon is piloting a tv show called Hysteria, which is all about scary stuff happening online, according to The Verge. It focuses on
a town where a strange "psycho-physiological illness" causing violent fits and spasms appears to be spreading through social media. How is that possible? It's entirely unclear for now, but perhaps it's something like a really bad meme.
Fearsome digital media is well established by now after a generation's worth of scary stories and popular immersion in cyberspace. Let's see how this show trades upon that familiarity.
Well, when i was 4, my dad bought a trusty XBox. you know, the first, ruggedy, blocky one from 2001. we had tons and tons and tons of fun playing all kinds of games together - until he died, when i was just 6.
i couldnt touch that console for 10 years.
but once i did, i noticed something.
we used to play a racing game, Rally Sports Challenge. actually pretty awesome for the time it came.
and once i started meddling around... i found a GHOST.
you know, when a time race happens, that the fastest lap so far gets recorded as a ghost driver? yep, you guessed it - his ghost still rolls around the track today...
and so i played and played, and played, untill i was almost able to beat the ghost. until one day i got ahead of it, i surpassed it, and...
i stopped right in front of the finish line, just to ensure i wouldnt delete it.
The FBI has generated some useful ways that Google's self-driving car could be scary.
First, you might have a car bomb*, if "autonomous cars may be used as 'lethal weapons.'" The Googlemobile would thereby become "be more of a potential lethal weapon that it is today.” As one source observes, "There could soon be self-driving car bombs." Or:
a driverless car could become a fantastic weapon. A terrorist could load one up with a bomb and send the model on its way with on one inside.
Second, more impressive car chases would result:
“bad actors will be able to conduct tasks that require use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road which would be impossible today.”
One nightmare scenario could be suspects shooting at pursuers from getaway cars that are driving themselves.
Here's a list of previous Infocult posts on the many ways we fear the GOOG.
The story poses itself as a cry for help from a young man increasingly scared of Facebook content seemingly coming from his dead girlfriend. Formally, it's a sequence of paragraphs arranged in chronological order, each linked to a screen capture of some creepy bit of Facebook activity. The narrator sets up each graphic, then reacts to it.
For example, here is one of the early exchanges. "Nathan" is the story's narrator, the boyfriend; "Emily" is the supposedly dead girlfriend:
Note the anonymizing features, which add a documentary feel to the story. And note, too, the final open text box, which gives an extra sense of ongoing conversation.
Later the exchanges become more like a ghost story. For example, this screenshot shows Emily complaining about temperatures - of the grace, most likely:
Phil Sandifer offers a nice description of a creepy level in a 1990 video game.
He begins with an ominous title, "The Execution Of All Things (Mega Man 3)". Then, after some text, things get disturbing:
[A]fter beating the eight Robot Masters in Mega Man 3, the player is forced to replay four of their stages. The stages exist this time in a ruined form - platforms have been blasted out of existence, it’s pitch black where it used to be day, and in every case the place has largely gone to the dogs, which is to say, become a lot harder. But what’s really notable are the bosses - eight identical junkheap looking robots (two for each level) who, when you encounter them, are inhabited by the spectral presences of the Robot Masters from Mega Man 2.
This is a fascinating idea, rerunning the level but in a sense of decay. It cuts against the cheerful superficial style of many period games.
This decrepit level also, as Sandifer concludes, is based on both memory and a sense of the game series' termination.
"Render ghosts": James Bridle thinks we have another way of haunting digital media. These are people's images that we recycle through multiple uses far removed from their origins. For example, Lena Söderberg becomes Lenna, widely used test image. Stock photos are another instance of render ghosting.
They inhabit a space which exists only in the virtual spaces of 3D computer rendering software, projected onto billboards, left to rot and torn down when the actual future arrives; never quite as glossy or as perfect as our renderings of it would like it to be, or have prepared us for.
A blogger committed murder and covered it up, partially to boost readership. She also did this for the sympathy, as the victim was her son, apparently. It's another real-life Gothic horror tale.
The crime involved poisoning over a long period of time, sickening the little boy. Descriptions of his suffering elicited expressions of emotional support and many server hits for the alleged murderer's mommyblog:
Investigators suspect the single mother may have poisoned her child at least twice, once before his seizures and again when his sodium spiked...
But they also suspect his medical abuse went back much further — fueled by the social media attention she gained on Facebook, Twitter and blogs, according to local news reports.
The murder took place in hospital and involved salt, that classic banisher:
In January, the boy was admitted to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York, when doctors noted that his sodium levels were shooting up in a way that was “metabolically impossible” for his body to do on its own. Assistant District Attorney Doreen Lloyd said in court on Tuesday that Lacey Spears would wait for hospital personnel to leave, then inject high doses of sodium into the Garnett’s gastric feeding tube.
This is a horrible story. One aspect of the horror is the jarring antimaternal sense of mother murdering a child. We might recall a similar, fictional story at the center of The Sixth Sense (1999).
There is also the Muchausen-by-proxy element, whereby a person creates a false (because inflicted, not organic) illness in order to win sympathy.
And, of course, the fearsome internet dimension. This was done for a blog, after all, that hated and feared subfloor of the internet.
Here's a nice fearsome internet passage from Thomas Pynchon's most recent novel, Bleeding Edge.
The speaker is the heroine's father, and you could understand this as part of the venerable "old man shaking fist at sky" trope:
"[Y]our Internet... this magical convenience that creeps now like a smell through the smallest details of our lives, the shopping, the housework, the homework, the taxes, absorbing our energy, eating up our precious time. And there's no innocence. Anywhere. Never was. It was conceived in sin, the worst possible. As it kept growing, it never stopped carrying in its heart a bitter-cold death wish for the planet, and don't think anything has changed, kid." (420)
But this is also a Cold War thing. This passage stems from a rant about the 1950s:
"Everyone thinks now the Eisenhower years were so quaint and cute and boring, but all that had a price, just underneath was pure terror. Midnight forever. If you stopped even for a minute to think, there it was and you could fall into it so easily. Some went nuts, some even took their own lives."
And those "some" are the ones who created the internet: "Yep, and your Internet was their invention..."