Sunday, 28 July 2013

Ban tabletop gaming..?

Following that post on banning Warhammer from last week, look what's just turned up at Slashdot.

A request for details of the web filter that may be introduced in the UK reveals it could also block "esoteric material". What does esoteric mean..?

Choose your dictionary. From the entry at Wiktionary:

  1. Intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest, or an enlightened inner circle.
  2. Having to do with concepts that are highly theoretical and without obvious practical application; often with mystical or religious connotations.
  3. Confidential; private.

That's pretty open. Could it cover niche interests - like wargaming and roleplaying - not always shown so positively? Or dungeons, dragons and made-up worlds, god-emperors and grimdark sci-fi? Could it just collect them up accidentally? Or not so accidentally..?

That's even before we get to "violent material".

In fact, it looks like it could be extended to cover any non-mainstream interest. Blocking an interest could mean it vanishes or declines. It could mean whole areas of knowledge being hard to find or access, maybe lost. With a tool like this you could remake a world.


Loquacious said...

How does one of the UK citizens /folks express disdain and disapproval for this idea? It seems the only way around this is a loud and furious clamor. I'd love to know how to register such.

Porky said...

Disdain is right. Human beings are better than this.

There's a link to the official petition and a Facebook page here. I'm almost certain the first is for UK subjects, citizens and/or nationals only.

That range of possible terms for who the people of the UK are could also be part of the problem. What is a nation, country or state today in the context of the UK? Or even Britain?

We've been compared to the Soviet Union by at least one respected historian, Norman Davies. It seems to be getting harder to argue the opposite case.

Marc Pavone said...

I don't know about esoteric interests disappearing completely. I started playing D&D, WH40K, Car Wars and all those other games before the internet existed.

Interest in esoteric hobbies will not disappear, people will just be required to put some effort into finding the things they like again.

Porky said...

Finding something again is one thing, but what about finding it for the first time? Think how much we each didn't know before the internet, or couldn't know. How much do we still miss even with it, and largely unfiltered?

What about all the things that might enrich the life of any given person - or give it a defining meaning - or just offer an ideal solution to a particular problem? How do we draw on the riches of hundreds, thousands or millions of years of human experience if we don't know what we're looking for?

Cultures seem to be turning into tightropes already. Who does that benefit? How about this: are we as people losing depth, strings to our bow, dimensions? Forget the hollow men, we may be the flat.

Laughing Ferret said...

You should be very careful over there. There's already many countries who got the go-ahead to effectively have their own state-approved limited internet. This was one of the scariest ideas in Orwell's 1984: the control of thoughts by the limitation & selection of knowledge. Let it go too far and there's no way back.

What would be next.. sites that are offensive to one religion or another? or religions in general? Political viewpoints? Depending who holds the reins to this law no telling what it may do. Insert Neimoller warning here.

So I'd say bitch kick & moan. Here in the US we don't have that problem... our government would never consider banning or limiting the internet: they want it wide open and free so they get a better picture of who you are and what you think when they record and spy on everything u see, read & say ;)

I had an idea to solve any ban/filter issues for porn long ago. i'm not a computer-guy so I don't know if it's too troublesome to work, but seems simple enough: have any porn site register it's domain with a new type: "(dot)porn"

Simple and easy to filter it then- people/parents could set their computer to just not allow it to access a dot-porn location. No need for government to be involved, it'd remain personal choice and since it's by domain type, impossible for a filter not to catch it. Problem solved. People that want to 'ban' it can ban it from their house, those that don't don't have to.

But then, people behind such laws aren't really trying to protect the sensibilities of the offended, they're looking for a source of power and control.

Barking Alien said...

Ha! If American history has taught us anything, once you ban something it becomes THE thing to do.

Prohibition anyone?

Marc Pavone said...

@Laughing Ferret: I've heard a good argument against your .porn domain name. I too thought something similar like .xxx would be a great way to aid in parental control of the internet.

Problem is, what if a group got enough stock in an internet provider? Then they decided they disapproved of anything on a .xxx domain. So they decided to severely limit the access to a .xxx website, say only 20 customers could access it at a time, or they lowered transfer rates to dial up speeds at 900 baud? It gives the powers that be too great an opportunity to abuse their power.

Laughing Ferret said...

Mark Pavone: I could see that could be a problem. I suppose you could prevent it by passing laws that prohibited such things, to regulate it.. but regulate has become a dirty word as we let out the steam in our race to recreate the Gilded Age. So even with a regulation in place someone would come along and scuttle it when no one is watching so they can milk it for greater profit.

Porky said...

Some very good points I think. This is dangerous ground. It may be a slow and creeping danger, but it's one that seems to undermine a large part of who we are, and the long and painful work of previous generations.

That it's dangerous shouldn't be a surprise now - we've been here before many times. Witch hunts, bans and paternalism are nothing new. How do we forget? Are we learning history? Other resolutions may well exist if we're willing to look, and think. But again, who benefits from any given example?

Re domain names, I think something like that was actually debated a while back. Another key issue is definition - what criteria are used to decide which sites have to move, that is, how do the people draughting the law or set of guidelines draw a clear distinction between sites or types of site, between the 'extreme', the 'soft', the simply 'erotic' and the kind of apparent 'titillation' seen at various supposedly family-friendly sites like online editions of national newspapers?

What about 'reasonable' or even 'necessary' explorations of the human physical form and physiology, like life drawing or scientific research?

Can we actually agree on what concepts like 'extreme', 'soft', 'erotic' and 'titillation' mean? What exactly is 'reasonable' or 'necessary'? A lot of widely-respected works of art and mainstream forms of entertainment feature nudity for example, the latter also plenty of suggestion, if not actual simulation, or what we assume is simulation.

Even Mr Cameron seems inconsistent.

On the other hand, I agree that 'regulation' has become a dirty word. It may be well be that a certain amount of well-thought-out regulation is an essential part of getting along. A free-for-all in any given area is probably not in our best interests, more the interests of the biggest players.

Ideally, any regulation is a stopgap, or provisional scaffolding, until we're smart enough to build a better way.

bombasticus said...

Looks like your summer is turning out like mine. Hope all's well!

The Spooky Whisk said...

Popped in to say Happy Halloween, and see what you're up to.

Porky said...

Thanks for checking up. It has been a busy summer, but all's well enough beyond a constant churn of work. That means I've not been getting much done, and gaming time has been cut right back. The inspiration is spilling over though, which is always the way, and a few new projects are in progress and in the queue. It's hard to believe summer is nearly over and hallowe'en as close as it is, close enough to see the Spooky Whisk again. I like the look. Then it's winter. Still, there's a lot to enjoy in the autumn, and the change of seasons is always invigorating.

I'll be back on track here soon enough, maybe slowly at first, and ideally some time this week. I hope all's well where the both of you are too, that things are just perfect.