Sunday, December 10, 2006

Open Source Spying

Tonight I watched Casino Royale, which has an online game on its official site that prominently advertises both its cheat codes and the PDF of its instruction booklet. (Advertising this degree of user-unfriendliness and non-intuitive play seems an odd gambit for attention in a saturated transmedia market.) When it came to game play in the film's story, of course, we were disappointed to see the great 007 spy playing poker in Casino Royale rather than the traditional, more glamorous baccarat, which is also a fun game to watch because the house has a statistically lower advantage than in most card games. Of course, the subject matter of this posting is much more in the purview of my fellow CGIE panelist and professional James Bond film expert Ulf Wilhemsson.

When it comes to the use of computers by the movie's sleuths, the movie shows many of the same bonehead cinematic cliches about high-tech human-computer interaction, which are being catalogued of late by the writers for Drivl. For example, when James Bond logs in, there seem s to be a lot of sickly green 3-D vector graphics of building geometry that whirl around his screen in memory-sapping spiderwebs. In contrast, it seems that M and the rest of the group in the main British Intelligence office have color screens and are wisely eschewing fancy graphics in favor of Google and online news sources, which appears to give them a quicker view of the impending intelligence threat on an airport runway.

Clive Thompson recently wrote about the seemingly oxymoronic trend toward "Open-Source Spying." Apparently, intelligence agencies used to covert practices that are tied to hierarchical need-to-know undistributed management strategies are discovering the advantages of a "need to share" distributed organizational model that takes advantage of freely available data that simply is not being aggregated intelligently. (Thanks to Suzanne Bolding of the Humanities Core Course for the link!) Regular readers of Thompson's blog Collision Detection will be happy to know that it is back online after a long hiatus caused by a technical glitch.



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