The Minecraft Generation

Minecraft

Illustration by Christof Neimann

“One day last fall, I visited Gus, a seventh ­grader in Brooklyn. He was online with friends on a server they share together, engaging in boisterous gladiatorial combat. I watched as he typed a command to endow himself with a better weapon: “/give AdventureNerd bow 1 0 {Unbreakable:1,ench:[{id:51,lvl:1}],display:{Name:“Destiny”}}.” What the command did was give a bow-­and-­arrow weapon to AdventureNerd, Gus’s avatar; make the bow unbreakable; endow it with magic; and name the weapon Destiny, displayed in a tag floating over the weapon. Gus had plastered virtual sticky-­notes all over his Mac’s desktop listing the text commands he uses most often.

The game encourages kids to regard logic and if-then statements as fun things to mess around with. It teaches them what computer coders know and wrestle with every day, which is that programs rarely function at first: The work isn’t so much in writing a piece of software but in debugging it, figuring out what you did wrong and coming up with a fix…”

This “you’re on your own” ethos resulted from early financial limitations: Working alone, Persson had no budget to design tutorials. That omission turned out be an inadvertent stroke of genius, however, because it engendered a significant feature of Minecraft culture, which is that new players have to learn how to play. Minecraft, as the novelist and technology writer Robin Sloan has observed, is “a game about secret knowledge.” So like many modern mysteries, it has inspired extensive information-­­sharing. Players excitedly pass along tips or strategies at school. They post their discoveries in forums and detail them on wikis. (The biggest one, hosted at the site Gamepedia, has nearly 5,000 articles; its entry on Minecraft’s “horses,” for instance, is about 3,600 words long.) Around 2011, publishers began issuing handbooks and strategy guides for the game, which became runaway best sellers; one book on redstone has outsold literary hits like “The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt…

The single biggest tool for learning Minecraft lore is YouTube. The site now has more than 70 million Minecraft videos, many of which are explicitly tutorial. To make a video, players use “screencasting” software (some of which is free, some not) that records what’s happening on-screen while they play; they usually narrate their activity in voice-­over. The problems and challenges you face in Minecraft are, as they tend to be in construction or architecture, visual and three-­dimensional. This means, as many players told me, that video demonstrations have a particularly powerful explanatory force: It’s easiest to learn something by seeing someone else do it. In this sense, the game points to the increasing role of video as a rhetorical tool. (“Minecraft” is the second-­most-­searched-­for term on YouTube, after “music.”)

Read the whole article at the NY Times website here.

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Konono No. 1 – Congotronics

Konono Nº1 is a Grammy-winning musical group from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. They combine three electric likembé (a traditional instrument similar to the mbira) with voices, dancers, and percussion instruments that are made out of items salvaged from a junkyard. The group’s amplification equipment is equally rudimentary, including a microphone carved out of wood fitted with a magnet from an automobile alternator and a gigantic horn-shaped amplifier. The group achieved international renown beginning in 2005, with its DIY aesthetic appealing to many fans of rock and electronic music. They played this same year at the Eurockéennes festival in France.

In 2011, Konono N°1 took part in the Congotronics vs Rockers project, a “superband” including ten Congolese and ten indie rock musicians (also including members of Deerhoof, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Kasai Allstars, Skeletons and Juana Molina), who collaborated to create a common repertoire and performed at 15 major festivals and venues in ten countries.

The group’s founder Mingiedi Mawangu stopped touring with the band around 2009, and entrusted his duties as band leader and lead likembe player to his son Augustin Makuntima Mawangu, who is further developing the sound of Konono’s electric thumb piano by using various effect pedals.

Mingiedi Mawangu died on April 15, 2015, aged 85.

Thanks to my pal, Stephen Hopkins, for the link.

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Enter the Museum of Endangered Sounds

MUSEUM OF ENDANGERED SOUNDS

“Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV.”

The brainchild of one Brendan Chilcutt, this site aims to fix all that. Most of the sounds preserved here come from the 1970s and later – Space Invaders, VCRs, dialup modems – but the interface has them all set to loop and you can play any or all of them simultaneously. Or as the site helpfully suggests, “If you like industrial music, try turning on all the thumbnails at once!”

http://savethesounds.info/

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