Why 3D Video Games Might Actually Be Good for Your Child

Why 3D Video Games Might Actually Be Good for Your Child

The late film critic Roger Ebert famously declared that video games could never be art, much to the outrage of die-hard gamers everywhere. While the artistic value of classics like ‘Portal’ or ‘Doom’ continues to be a matter of debate, another group of skeptics about the value of video games – namely medical researchers – are starting to come around to the idea that becoming engrossed in the virtual world of a video game may have value beyond pure fun.

Recent research in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and cognitive science has found evidence that playing certain video games can be like exercise for the brain.

Studies from the past decade have found that individuals who frequently play action games like first-person shooters outperform non-gamers on a variety of perceptual and cognitive measures – visual acuity, decision-making, object tracking, and task switching to name a few. Even players of casual video games, such as ‘Bejeweled Blitz’ or ‘Candy Crush Saga,’ report memory improvements and quicker response time as a result.

Now, researchers have discovered that playing 3D video games – those that immerse the player in a three-dimensional world with a more true-to-life, first-person perspective – may boost memory and stimulate the brain.

A new study published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience, trained college students with either a simple 2D game (‘Angry Birds’) or an intricate 3D game (‘Super Mario 3D World’). The subjects had little to no experience with video games before the experiment, and were instructed to play for a half-hour per day for two weeks. After the training period, the groups took memory tests designed to activate the brain’s hippocampus, which is highly involved in the formation of new memories and becomes stimulated when navigating an unfamiliar environment.

“It’s sometimes called explicit or declarative memory, but what it really comes down to is your ability to remember details of things that have happened to you – and that’s where the hippocampus comes in,” said study author Craig Stark, professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California at Irvine.

For instance, structural MRI studies have found significantly larger cortical volume in the posterior hippocampi of London cab drivers – individuals with extensive navigation experience with first-hand knowledge of tens of thousands of streets – relative to control subjects. Stark and his colleagues wanted to determine whether exploration of a virtual world would lead to similar effects in the hippocampus through the use of a 3D video game.

The group that played ‘Super Mario 3D World’ improved their scores by about 12 percent after the two-week training, with performance correlating with the amount of exploration achieved in the game’s environment, while the 2D ‘Angry Birds’ cohort showed no significant progress. To get an idea of the magnitude of this boost, a typical score on these memory tasks has been seen to drop the same amount from ages 45 to 70.

“The amount that we were able to boost people’s memory performance by playing video games represents about 20 to 30 years of cognitive decline,” Stark explained in an interview. “But it would be the sort of thing that would require constant maintenance, like going to the gym. If you work out really hard for a month, that’s great – but it won’t last the rest of your life.”

Indeed, after two weeks of no gaming, the boost in memory performance seen in 3D gamers had already started to dissipate. But Stark, whose research focuses on how the circuitry of the hippocampus changes with age, plans to further investigate how video games and other stimulating, enriching experiences can help ward off cognitive aging in an older population whose memory is on the decline.

“I don’t necessarily think there’s anything magical about 3D games themselves,” he said. “I think they’re tapping into a lot of things – they’re complex, fun, engaging and immersive – and I think that’s what is really driving [the improvements in memory].”

While specific brain training games do exist to supposedly build up memory or concentration, Stark believes that more broad-spectrum approaches like complex video games, language classes, or even traveling abroad, may be more beneficial for brain health. Living a “cognitively engaged lifestyle” as he calls it, that also captivates our imagination and sense of wonder is a natural way to draw on a number of different brain processes and potentially improve functioning as a result.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Harsh Mander: If JNU union leader is tried for sedition, I too should be charged with the same crime

Harsh Mander: If JNU union leader is tried for sedition, I too should be charged with the same crimePhoto Credit: IANS
73.1K
Total Views

It was a stirring evening of resistance, solidarity and hope.

On Saturday, I joined several thousand students, teachers and political leaders outside the office of the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal University in Delhi, to protest the arrest of the JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, and the presence of the police on the campus. Armed security forces were visible everywhere on the campus. The university had begun to resemble a cantonment under siege.

The university management had turned off the electric power connections at the meeting site to prevent the use of the loudspeakers, in a ham-handed attempt to foil the protest. The students used makeshift battery-operated mikes instead, and the voices of the speakers still carried far because the large crowd of students was disciplined and quiet. Intermittently, students cheered each of the speakers, raised their clenched fists in slogans, and celebrated their unity and defiance. It has been a long time since I felt surrounded by the heady optimism of youth, camaraderie and idealism as I did this evening.

The campus has many students’ unions, reflecting a wide range of ideological opinion, from many shades of the Left, socialist, centrist and right-wing politics. There is usually sharp rivalry and competition between these various student groups. But after Kumar’s arrest, all these student unions came together at this protest, except the student wing of the BJP – the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. What was also unusual about the protest was that large section of the JNU teachers’ union also joined and supported the students’ protest.

In a corner of the massive student gathering, a small number of students of the ABVP raised slogans and black flags supporting the police action against the student leaders. Their numbers were too small to drown out the speeches from the podium. The ABVP students’ counter-slogans formed only a kind of background score to the evening’s events, which in a strange way I did not find discordant (except when the students assaulted one of the speakers).The exercise by this small minority of students of their right to protest only further reinforced the larger student demand to defend the spaces for democratic dissent and debate inside the campus of all shades of political opinion.

Many speakers celebrated the unique place that JNU has carved out for itself in India’s public and intellectual life, and indeed in nation-building. Every tongue spoke in the vast and diverse land of India could be heard somewhere in the hostels of this university. Every community from every corner of the country has contributed students to this campus. Every colour of political opinion would find its adherents in this campus. Democratic debate is central to the university’s ethos. I have often been invited by JNU students from diverse unions for after-dinner debates, and each time I accept, I am struck by the numbers of students who voluntarily gather for these meetings, listen carefully, and engage and passionately debate with me and other speakers late into the night.

The right to dream

When my turn came to speak during Saturday’s protest, it was late into the evening. I began by declaring that a country is infinitely poorer if its young people are prevented from their free right to dream and dissent, because throughout history and across the planet, the journey of creating a more just and humane world has begun always with the dreams and also the challenges and disagreements of its young people. If Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNU Students’ Union President, is anti-national, and before him, if Rohith Vemula of the Hyderabad Central University was anti-national, then I declared that I too am anti-national.

By all credible accounts, the meeting of February 9 that set off this storm had been organised not to uphold separatist politics but to protest against the principle of the death penalty awarded to Afzal Guru, convicted for his role in the Parliament attack of 2001. I recall my own writings at the time he was marched to the gallows. At that time, I wrote in the Hindu: “The hanging of Afzal Guru on 9 February, 2013 raises a thicket of debates – ethical, legal and political – about justice, law, democracy, capital punishment, and a strong state. What is the quality of true justice? Is it enough for it to be lawful, fair and dispassionate, or must it also be tempered with mercy?”

I went on to say that the High Court’s reference in its 2003 judgment to “the collective conscience of the society” being satisfied by awarding the death penalty to Guru caused me great unease, because the only legitimate reason for a court to award any punishment should be the fair application of the law to the evidence placed before it, not the appeasement of alleged majoritarian public opinion. I also expressed my anguish at the distressing failure of official compassion and public decency in denying Afzal Guru’s wife and teenaged son the chance to meet him for the last time before his execution. The haste and secrecy of the execution also unconscionably denied him his last available legal resource, affirmed by the Supreme Court in the Kartar Singh case, to seek judicial review of the rejection of his mercy petition.

I had concluded: “Many believe that the belated execution signalled a strong and decisive state, especially to the ‘neighbouring country’. One glance at the daily reality of this neighbouring country will reflect the brutalising wages of years of “decisive” politics of militarism and public vengeance. It is not a weak, but a stable, mature and confident democracy which can display compassion even to those we may believe have most wronged the country.”

Unsurprisingly, I was attacked savagely on social media by trolls of a particular political persuasion, casting me to be “anti-national” for months. But at least I was not booked for sedition. It worries me deeply that today this same debate – that raises most fundamental questions of public ethics and law – initiated by students in a university, instead of being welcomed, is treated as criminal sedition, for which the principal organiser is at the time of writing in police remand.

A mischievous claim

There is little doubt that Kanhaiya Kumar could not have either raised or supported slogans against the Indian nation, because these were never part of his politics, or those of AISF (the All India Students’ Federation) of which he was a member in JNU or the Communist Party of India, of which AISF is the student wing. The charges against him are transparently a mischievous attempt to use untruths to stoke popular majoritarian and hyper-nationalist sentiment against both him and the university that had elected him to lead its Students’ Union.

However, it is important to add that even if there were some Kashmiri students who did raise slogans expressing disaffection against India and in support of independence for Kashmir, the fitting response to this would only have been open public debate in which students and teachers heard their views and challenged these, not to charge these students with the grave colonial crime of sedition that could result in their imprisonment for up to 10 years. Universities are places where young people must feel free to challenge the received wisdom of the times they live in. Their minds and hearts must be freed of the fetters of fear and the obligation to conform to powerful or dominant opinion. It is in universities that students the world over have fought colonialism, unjust wars, tyranny, hate and unequal social orders. Governments and indeed majority opinion may be pitted powerfully against their views, but a democracy requires the stout defence of their right to profess and debate these ideas, even by those who are opposed to these ideas. Universities in a democracy cannot be allowed to become places where the institution’s leadership allows police to walk in and arrest students at will, and where dissent by students or indeed teachers is demonised and criminalised.

It is for these reasons that I declared that if Kanhaiya Kumar is charged with sedition, I demand that I be tried for the same crime. And I know that I am not alone in this demand.

[“source-Scroll”]

How the New York Fashion Week came to be

How the New York Fashion Week came to be
Photo Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP
8.5K
Total Views
New York Fashion Week kicked off this week. Celebrities, designers and bloggers (and the increasing number of “slashies” that embody all three) have descended on the Big Apple to drink champagne, admire eye-wateringly expensive clothing, and air kiss one another.

Kim Kardashian was set to make her first public post-baby appearance at husband Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion show. West was to debut his new album The Life of Pablo (formerly known as WAVES).

After a short hiatus from the event, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s cult brand, The Row, will make a hotly anticipated return to the American runway on February 15.

And you can bet that Anna Wintour will watch, sphinx-like behind her enormous Chanel glasses, as close friend Marc Jacobs brings the week to a triumphant close with his climactic show.

For a certain kind of person, New York Fashion week is a “must”. For those of a certain age, income and social status, the event is not just a fixture on the social calendar but a high point.

Even for those who aren’t in possession of that enviable trifecta (including me), the slavish devotion the event inspires is familiar through many fictionalised and semi-fictionalised explorations of New York City (think Sex in the City, Gossip Girl, Project Runway, and The Real Housewives of New York City).

But how did it all get started? Why did it begin? Was there even a New York Fashion Week before Anna Wintour?

Fashion Press Week

New York Fashion Week has not always been exalted or esteemed. The event is actually a relatively recent phenomenon: it can be traced back to 1943, when it began as Fashion Press Week. Up until that point, American women overwhelmingly purchased American-made copies of French designs, and thus the American fashion industry was overshadowed by its Parisian counterpart.

Eleanor Lambert, 1963.  Source: Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Eleanor Lambert, 1963. Source: Council of Fashion Designers of America.

During the Second World War, however, access to the Gallic centre was cut off by the German occupation. This presented the American fashion industry with a unique opportunity, and Eleanor Lambert, the canny director of the New York Dress Institute, took advantage of this by clustering the American fashion shows into a single “event” to promote home-grown design.

To be clear, these weren’t the first ever fashion shows. From the turn of the century, many individual fashion labels and stores hosted their own shows in department stores and hotels throughout Paris and New York in a bid to drum up business. But Fashion Press Week was the first coordinated fashion event to showcase numerous designers of the same nationality.

New York Press Week, 1943.
New York Press Week, 1943.

Even more importantly, the event also proved the effectiveness of this new approach. Although the initial response wasn’t encouraging – only 53 of the 150 journalists Lambert invited to the first Fashion Press Week attended – the impact of the event was strong and swift.

In its wake, the American press heaped praise upon local designers such as Claire McCardell, and New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia boasted that:

the only reason Paris set styles all these years was because buyers like to go there on holiday.

Paris, London and Florence

Unfortunately, LaGuardia’s smug sentiments were premature. Having watched New York’s Fashion Press Week from afar, other sartorial centres began to replicate the event.

The Coincidental Dandy. Source: Flickr, CC BY-NC
The Coincidental Dandy. Source: Flickr, CC BY-NC

In a bid to reclaim its former dominance, as soon as the war ended the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture organised the first seasonal showings of Parisian couture to the international press. Along with the emergence of Christian Dior and his sensational “New Look”, this bi-annual event – which commenced in 1945 – was pivotal in re-establishing the Gallic capital as the sartorial leader of the Western world.

In the immediate post-war period, showings in London also created ripples (although not the tidal waves that Paris did). In January 1942, the London couture industry established its own official organisation, The Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers, which began to host fashion shows after the war.

Bettina Ballard attended these events in her role as fashion editor of American Vogue, and recalled in her memoir In My Fashion (1960) that:

the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers gave handsome and very social parties.

Unfortunately, at this stage the British weren’t so good at sealing the deal, and Ballard noted “the whole couture performance was carried on […] in a rather grand detached manner” as they “never pressed for publicity or even tried to make the buyers buy”.

From the early 1950s, this trio was joined by a fourth fashion market – Italy – which established the “Big Four” that fashionistas still follow today. Seeking to attract bountiful American money to an impoverished and deprived Italy, Giovanni Battista Giorginiorchestrated Italy’s first fashion shows with considerable aplomb.

The first, held in his sumptuous Florentine villa in February 1951, was not a success (180 pieces by numerous Italian designers were viewed by just eight American buyers and a lone fashion journalist – an even worse turnout than Lambert’s first endeavour in New York).

But its successor in July 1951 was a triumph, with 200 American buyers and journalists in attendance, and the event was thereafter established as essential for the fashion-minded.

By the early 1950s, the advent of these rival fashion shows had diluted the sartorial impact of New York’s pioneering event. The annual trips to Paris that LaGuardia had gloated were no longer necessary during the war were back with a vengeance by the late 1940s.

Even worse, they were now the gateway to yet more European options. As Bettina Ballard explained of her own annual migrations:

although Paris was the main objective of each trip, it was also the door to all Europe. I very soon found, along with the postwar travel-starved buyers and the fashion press, how pleasant it was to travel on an expense account with the legitimate excuse of looking over new fashion markets.

American Design for American Women

In the 1970s, the tide began to turn for American fashion. Critical in fostering a renewed respect for American design was the landmark fashion show held in 1973, the so-called Battle of Versailles. Ostensibly a fundraiser for the then-leaky French palace, the event – once again cooked up by the enterprising Eleanor Lambert – pitted five American designers (Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass and Anne Klein) against five French designers (Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy).

Play

The Versailles ‘73 show went down in fashion history.

In front of a crowd full of celebrities, socialites and aristocrats, the Americans stole the show, proving that they could not only compete – but actually win – against their old French rival (and on French soil, to boot).

More broadly, the advent of second-wave feminism during the 1970s also repositioned American ready-to-wear as the ideal solution for the new “working woman”. This development boosted its popularity with both American women and the American press, and generated effusive praise of anything all-American.

A round-up of the New York collections in a 1976 issue of American Vogue, for example, now boasted:

American Fashion at the Top of Its Form: Racy, Freewheeling … Casual!

This newfound legitimacy was solidified when the more informal and improvised fashion shows of the postwar period became slick, professional events. The term “Fashion Week” actually wasn’t adopted until remarkably recently: the French Fashion Federation held the first “Paris Fashion Week” in 1973; the British Fashion Council organised its inaugural “London Fashion Week” in 1984; and the Council of Fashion Designers of America waited until the early 1990s to debut “New York Fashion Week.”

It also was during this period that the American shows – which had previously been scattered across town – were centralised in one location (first in “the tents” in Bryant Park, then in Lincoln Centre, and from 2015 shows have been split between the Skylights at Moynihan Station and Clarkson Square. Increasingly, the event is becoming decentralised again, with shows held at a variety of off-site venues throughout the city).

But although last to adopt the term “Fashion Week”, New York remains the first stop during fashion season (every February and September, back-to-back fashion shows are held sequentially in New York, London, Milan and Paris).

Yet New York’s leading role is fitting. Certainly, New York has become one of the great fashion centres of the modern world, a place where trends are forged and significant money is made. But New York is also where the concept of “Fashion Week” was first conceived and executed, a history neatly mirrored in its prestigious opening slot.

[“source-Scroll”]

YouTube Launches Pakistani Version, Paving Way for Ban to Be Lifted

YouTube Launches Pakistani Version, Paving Way for Ban to Be Lifted

The Supreme Court’s ban in place since September 2012 applied to YouTube’s global and localised sites.

The new site, youtube.com.pk, is currently live but inaccessible inside Pakistan, and the government and Google hope its creation will mean the Supreme Court will lift the ban, even if only partially.

Content on the local site can still be regulated, and a senior government official told AFP Wednesday Pakistan’s telecommunication authority could ask Google to remove content it deems objectionable.

If Google complies, it could meet a condition set by the Supreme Court for lifting the ban.

“The understanding is that on the localised version offensive and blasphemous content could be blocked by Google on the government’s request,” the official said.

A Google spokesman confirmed that governments are allowed to request the removal of YouTubevideos that violate local laws.

“We have clear community guidelines, and when videos violate those rules, we remove them,” the spokesman said.

But the Internet giant said it would review requests before taking videos down.

“Government requests to remove content will continue to be tracked and included in our Transparency Report.”

Islamabad has been in intermittent talks with Google for several years over the issue, another source close to the matter said, without providing a specific timeframe for the unveiling of YouTube Pakistan.

“We are in a very near-term sort of thing. The roadblocks have been removed,” the source said.

A Supreme Court official meanwhile said the next court hearing about the ban is in two weeks.

Users in Pakistan continue to access YouTube using proxy servers and Virtual Private Networks.

Blasphemy is a contentious issue in Pakistan and the country has seen violent riots sparked by content considered offensive to Islam.

In 2010 Pakistan shut down Facebook for nearly two weeks over its hosting of allegedly blasphemous pages. It continues to restrict thousands of online links.