Catherine Flick: Publications, Media, and Thoughts

I'm super excited to announce this publication, as it's the first major one from my new project I am working on with Anders Drachen (Southern Denmark University), David Zendle (University of York) and Sebastian Deterding (Imperial College London). We have teamed up with Unity Technologies, makers of the Unity game engine, gaining access to several years worth of data about where, when, for how long, and what people play, and how much they pay for In-App Purchases where these are enabled. This amounts to billions of hours of extremely valuable gameplay data; the types and amounts of data that have not been accessible before to academia.

One of the key things we want to do with this project is to showcase the value of opening up game development data (telemetry, transaction, etc. data) to research. And this first published paper sets the scene really well. There's been no real research done on mobile gameplay using anything other than self-reported data; this is notoriously unreliable compared with actual telemetry data from the games themselves – and usually confined to a small number of games. With the Unity dataset, we have access to this data for over 2 million mobile games.

We were interested in seeing what mobile gaming cultures exist across the world, i.e. what countries play in similar ways? And we were also interested in seeing whether the commonly held understanding that East Asian countries (e.g. China, Japan, South Korea) form a “monolithic bloc in terms of how they play games” compared with the rest of the world would hold true within this landscape.

Fast forward through a lot of very pretty graphics of the world and clusters that were originally named after Greek letters, then animals in the areas described, but returned to boring alphabetical identifiers in the revisions, and we found basically that there are 8 clusters of play cultures, with (largely) European countries playing similarly to China; India playing similarly to developing countries in Africa, Central and South America, Central and South Asia, and the Pacific Islands; the USA and Canada playing similarly to Russia and Japan; and a set of wealthy east Asian territories (Singapore, South Korea, Macao and Hong Kong) with a high standard of living having the highest saturation of playtime per capita and with the “most extreme” gamers – “the top 1% of players in these countries account for almost 58% of total playtime”.

What this means is that there are some surprises in how the world games – going into this I expected European countries to play similarly to the USA and Canada given a shared Western capitalistic lifestyle; this was not true, and the USA and Canada played more like Russia and Japan than European countries. Similarly we showed that East Asian countries cannot be treated like a bloc. We ended up raising more questions than we answered – why are these differences there? In charge of interpretation, I went down a lot of rabbit holes looking to see if there was anything obvious that could explain some of the clusters. Places where US military outposts lie or popular holiday destinations might explain the clustering of Caribbean countries with the USA, but other clusters are quite curious. What factors cause Guinea, Vietnam, and a series of small Pacific Islands to play mobile games similarly? Our initial forays into questions of economics, religio-cultural factors, and others showed very different contexts to these countries. We hope that further research might answer these questions.

You can access the paper for free here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-26730-w

Citation: Zendle, D., Flick, C., Halgarth, D. et al. Cross-cultural patterns in mobile playtime: an analysis of 118 billion hours of human data. Sci Rep 13, 386 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-26730-w

#publication #mobilegames #gameplay #unity #futurevirtualeconomies

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I was honoured to receive a medal and listing as part of the OpenUK New Years Honours List which recognises “the 100 top UK open source influencers” of 2023. I'm not exactly sure how I managed to come on Onalytica's radar there but considering I have been on maternity leave since June I'd say I've done pretty well!

Anyway thanks to OpenUK and it seems I'm in great company so it's also a nice way to meet some new and interesting people :)

In terms of open source/open technology I've been using Linux since the late 90s, and have “grown up” a lot of the discussions about things like licencing, etc. I'm not a huge fan of the Free Software approach, but I respect the ideals of it. I wrote my 2004 Honours year thesis on the incoming Trusted Computing initiative from Microsoft and how its lack of openness would be bad for computing – you can read that here, and I've always dabbled in writing and using open source software (though I tend to release my terrible stuff under the MIT licence). I used to work for Freshmeat as an editor too, for those who remember The Old Days before App Stores. So yeah I have a rich history in this space, but what have I been talking about recently that might have picked me up for this list? Maybe it's the criticism of augmented reality, Web 3 and the cryptosphere that has flagged me up. Maybe they have some idea of what I might be doing this coming year, since I'm “Generation Next”. Anyway, if you know, let me know! I'd like to know!

Happy new year!

#awards #media #openukhonours23

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I was interviewed at my university for this episode of a new crypto documentary back in March this year while 5 months pregnant, it was a lot of fun as I've never been filmed for a documentary before! I decided to splash out on a fancy Seraphine maternity dress and spent about an hour ironing all the damned pleats on the dress, and I actually put on lipstick and had a proper pamper session beforehand, so it was nice just for that! (I never wear makeup!)

Anyway they asked a lot of questions, at the time the Ethereum merge was highly unlikely, but they seem to have not put in most of the questions that I was asked about that/the environmental cost, so that's good. I think it's actually a reasonably measured tone they take. I'm not the only “voice of reason”, fellow crypto sceptic David Gerard says some very sensible things in there too, and given what's happened to the market since I sort of end up feeling a bit bad for the more purist artists, but I note that Stoner Cats are still selling for a minimum of about $65 worth of ETH so I suppose that isn't too bad, though it is an order of magnitude less than what they started at.

Another behind the scenes thing from my perspective – they wanted me to give a lecture to a group of students and film that. But my computer science/computing/business computing students are all shy and so didn't want to show up (I literally invited over a thousand students, 2 showed up). Instead the press officer and I managed to wrangle in a few students who were hanging around the building – most of the students in the film are either fashion or pharmacy students who had NO idea what I was talking about. They also did a great job of not looking too bored when the camera was on them. Thanks students!

To watch, you can sign up for an Insight TV subscription here: https://watch.insight.tv/the-blockchain-life or you can watch for free without signing up on a “web3” platform “MyCo” which has some silly “get paid to watch stuff” type thing going on which I'm pretty sceptical of, but you can ignore all of that and just watch it on their streaming site at https://myco.stream/videohome?v=639d6d419e602d711e4636dd

#media #documentary #NFTs #crypto #TV

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I was interviewed for the BBC World Service's Business Daily podcast by Leanna Byrne about cryptocurrencies where I talk about how different coins came to be and also about the environmental impact of Bitcoin. Somehow I was missed off the list of interviewees, oh well :)

You can listen here or search for it where you find podcasts. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3ct3178

#radio #crypto #podcast

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This chapter is co-authored with Kyle Worrall, an IGGI PhD student who works in procedurally generated audio. It is part of a book The Language of Creative AI that looks at different aspects of Creative Artificial Intelligence, broadly defined.

We take a virtue ethics approach (and specifically a Vallor-ian approach) to look at Creative AI and what the potential ethical issues might be. We identify several different ethical issues, primarily copyright, replacement of authors/artists, bias in datasets, artistic essence, dangerous creations, deepfakes, and physical safety, and discuss the potential for mitigation of these issues.

It is important to not view this chapter simply as a list of ethical issues and how to solve them – but as a starting point for discussion about what kind of society Creative AI techniques will be creating, and, more importantly, what kind of society Creative AI practitioners want to create through their artistic practice and use of AI tools.

The book is behind a paywall, but you can access the accepted version of the paper here: https://liedra.net/misc/Flick_Worrall-Ethics_of_Creative_AI.pdf

Citation: Flick, C., Worrall, K. (2022). The Ethics of Creative AI. In: Vear, C., Poltronieri, F. (eds) The Language of Creative AI. Springer Series on Cultural Computing. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-10960-7_5

#publication #ai #ethics

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This paper is a comprehensive analysis of NFTs according to the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. I have been wanting to write a paper like this for quite a while and then it took quite a while – in the wild world of crypto everything moves very quickly. I even had to rewrite the paper drastically after reviews came in because Ethereum went proof-of-stake, completing “the Merge” that had been vapourware for so long. Anyway, I finished it after months of research, hundred of references, and thousands of words of writing, just before going on maternity leave – and here we are.

The key messages are that NFTs are currently unethical to implement.

The ethical issues that arise [...] include issues of harm, well-being, discrimination, fairness, intellectual property rights, privacy, quality of work, competence of those involved, legal issues, the ability to give and receive critical review, lack of education for users, personal gain over public good, security, maintenance and end-of-life for NFT ecosystems, and ensuring the public good is the key concern when developing, deploying, and maintaining NFTs.

In the Recommendations section of the paper I suggest some mitigations for those who want to persist in implementing NFTs, though they are not for the faint of heart – they initially require a test of whether the same experience can be delivered with already-existing technology due to the underlying problematic aspect of speculative cryptocurrencies that drive the NFT ecosystem.

There also needs to be a reasonable path to not implementing NFTs:

Developing a responsible, ethical approach to the project requires the flexibility to not engage in development of an NFT-based project should it become impossible to find a way to solve or mitigate the ethical responsibility. Reflection at too late a stage will likely lead to financial or momentum pressure on continuing with the project. Therefore, this should be an initial step and engage with a wide variety of stakeholders in order to ensure that pre-existing biases can be exposed and mitigated along the way.

I hope that you enjoy this paper, I really enjoyed writing it, and appreciate the reviews I received and the thoughtful discussion I had with colleagues along the way.

You can access the paper for free here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666659622000312

Citation: Flick, C. (2022) A critical professional ethical analysis of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), Journal of Responsible Technology, Volume 12, December 2022. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrt.2022.100054

#NFTs #crypto #ethics #blockchain #cryptocurrency #publication

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This is a record of my media appearances from 2021-2022 and before I started this blog.

2022

2022-11-27 Sunday Sequence, about crypto/FTX. BBC Radio Ulster, 1h17 in 2022-11-21 Twitter collapse, BBC Radio Leicester, Jack Rafferty 2022-11-26 Scientists' view on Twitter v Mastodon Swiss national radio, in German 2022-10-11 Should I join Mastodon? A scientists’ guide to Twitter’s rival Nature Magazine Chris Stokel-Walker 2022-10-11 Crypto/FTX crash Radio 5 Live, 2h21 in 2022-10-07 People are fleeing to Mastodon from Elon Musk’s Twitter, but is it ready for Prime Time? i news. Chris Stokel-Walker 2022-10-01 Twitter/Musk BBC Radio Leicester, 2h08 in 2022-09-24 LinkedIn Ran Social Experiments on 20 Million Users Over Five Years New York Times. Natasha Singer 2022-09-17 Crypto Speculation Falls Out of Favor With Game Studios Bloomberg. Emily Nicolle 2022-06-13 BBC News 24, on LaMDA AI bot “sentience” (8.45pm) 2022-06-13 BBC Radio Ulster, on LaMDA AI bot “sentience” 2022-07-06 Podcast “Ethics and Video Games” on Why video game companies need ethicists (also on Apple and Spotify) 2022-05-19 BBC Radio 5 Live for a whole hour (!) talking about Bitcoin and sports club NFTs/coins. 2022-11-05 BBC Radio 4, Today programme, on Elon Musk/twitter 2022-11-05 BBC Radio 5 Live, Wake up to Money, on Elon Musk/twitter 2022-10-05 Bitcoin BBC World Service, Business Matters, 26 mins in 2022-04-27 The problems with Elon Musk’s plan to open-source the Twitter algorithm MIT Tech Review, Chris Stokel-Walker 2022-04-26 Significant contributions to Climate Replay's Games Industry Guide to NFTs including a pledge for individuals/studios/publishers in games to not implement NFTs 2022-04-26 BBC Radio Leicester – Ben Jackson – on Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter (5:05pm) 2022-04-26 BBC Radio 5 Live “Wake up to Money” on Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter 2022-09-04 British Museum’s carbon splurge on ‘demeaning’ NFT scheme The Telegraph. Olivia Rudgard. 2022-01-04 NFTs in video games Doing our Bit podcast, IGDA Climate SIG 2022-02-04 Who Hurts Most in $600 Million Axie Heist? ‘Not the Venture Capitalists’ Bloomberg Kristine Servando, Emily Nicolle, and Jamille Tran 2022-03-31 An artist claims an Andrew Yang–backed NFT project screwed him over Input Magazine. Chris Stokel-Walker. 2022-03-25 The Edited Latecomer's Guide to Crypto – a collaborative annotation of the NYT article The Latecomer's Guide to Crypto by Kevin Roose, by 15 leading critics of crypto, led by Molly White. 2022-03-22: Want fries with that Ape? NFT restaurants are officially a trend. Input Magazine. Chris Stokel-Walker. 2022-03-20: Crypto isn't decentralised. It's actually run by a handful of big wigs exploiting low-paid workers, says long-time internet academic. Markets Insider. Natasha Dailey. 2022-02-22: An NFT Bubble Is Taking Over the Gig Economy, Wired UK. Chris Stokel-Walker. 2022-02-19: NFTs, Cryptocurrencies and Web3 Are Multilevel Marketing Schemes for a New Generation, Wall Street Journal. Christopher Mims. 2022-02-12: Andreessen's Dixon Spies Riches in Web3. Others See “Rubbish”, Bloomberg. Emily Nicolle. 2022-02-04: WWF's decision to fundraise via NFTs puts capitalism above conservation, The New Statesman. India Bourke. 2022-02-02: WWF UK faces backlash over 'destructive' plans to sell 'eco-friendly' NFTs, Sky News. Victoria Seabrook. 2022-01-24: Metaverse and Apple AirTags, BBC Radio Leicester, 08:30am, Jimmy Carpenter. 2022-01-20: Apple AirTags, BBC News 24, 12:30pm, Geeta Guru-Murthy.

2021

2021-11-03: Cryptocurrency scams, BBC Radio Leicester, Jimmy Carpenter 2021-11-02: Cryptocurrency scams, BBC Radio 5 Live 2021-10-14: Cryptocurrency not worthless enough? Coinbase launches NFT marketplace, Verdict UK. Eric Johansson. 2021-08-01: Bitcoin, BBC Radio Ulster “Sunday Sequence” 2021-06-02: NFTs, BBC Radio Leicester, Jimmy Carpenter 2021-05-28: Bitcoin, BBC Scotland “The Seven” (TV) 2021-05-21: The iMac revolutionised our world – and now it's back to do it again, The Telegraph. Stephen Armstrong. 2021-04-21: “Britcoin”, BBC Radio 5 Live, “Wake up to Money” (prerecorded) 2021-04-20: “Britcoin”, BBC Radio 5 Live, “Wake up to Money” 021-04-20: “Britcoin”, BBC Radio Leicester, Jimmy Carpenter 2021-02-17: Dogecoin, BBC Radio 5, “Wake up to Money” 2021-01-29: WhatsApp is adding eye, fingerprint, and face scanning – but says it won't have any access to biometric data, Business Insider. Isobel Asher Hamilton 2021-01-26: Bitcoin, BBC Radio Leicester, Jimmy Carpenter

#media #radio #tv #podcast #newspaper

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I resurrected a blog that will basically track my media and publications because it is becoming a little tedious to faff about with editing raw HTML on my web page and have it degrade nicely when things get older. I'd like a record that will extend past readability on a single page, thanks!

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to get into this whole Fediverse malarkey, so this blog also publishes to it; you can follow me @cflick@blog.liedra.net from your favourite Fediverse client (I use Mastodon, where you can follow me @CatherineFlick@mastodon.me.uk).

This isn't going to be particularly swish or anything, but I thought it might be a nice way to mess about with ActivityPub (and boy was getting this installed a palaver). I'll upload a few of my more recent papers here and put in a record of my media appearances until now as well.

Follow this blog on the Fediverse: @cflick@blog.liedra.net Want to comment? Copy me in: @CatherineFlick@mastodon.me.uk