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This Digital Life: Reality and Fiction Blur

This won't be a long post, unfortunately, but I think everyone needs to take a moment to reflect on the significance of this Olympics. No, I'm not talking about the sports and the athletes and the achievements. I'm talking about the digital sleight of hand that was used to make everything appear perfect, when in actuality there has been just a little bit too much sheen and shine.

For me, it started last night while watching a special bit on NBC about how China has forced everyone to change their behavior and attire in Beijing. This approach has been lauded as great and revolutionary. "Look, honey, the Chinese people all look Westernized now!" Except for one little problem: they were forced or coerced into these changes, sometimes using nationalism, and sometimes sheer brute force. That's somewhat disturbing from a civil rights perspective. But now we're starting to hear details about the Opening Ceremony and how they were manipulated digitally to portray things in a better light.

From an information security perspective, it concerns me greatly that so much digital manipulation has occurred. We're not just talking about bleeping out bad words on a time delay, nor are we talking about the magic of television (such as levitation tricks using wires we can't see). Instead, we're talking about entire series' of events simulated digitally instead of being performed live, and time-based manipulation of the sequence of events simply to drive up ratings. Specifically:

* Did NBC Alter the Olympics' Opening Ceremony? It seems that NBC manipulated the sequence of events in their telecast of the Opening Ceremony in order to drive up viewership. It is alleged that they held off showing the entrance of Team USA until a much later time. This is one of those manipulations that is just idiotic. Did they seriously think that people would suddenly stop watching the minute they saw Team USA? I mean, for me, personally, I stopped watching as soon as the teams started entering the stadium. 3 hours of sheer boredom that is! :)

* Olympic Opening Ceremony Fireworks Were (Partly) Faked This manipulation is somewhat disturbing, because nobody would have known if the Chinese hadn't disclosed it. Apparently the "footsteps" firework show was filmed in advance and then edited into the live coverage of the Opening Ceremony. From a security perspective, everybody should take note: this takes to a new level the amount of distrust we ought to be placing in what we see with our own eyes. If you're not physically present, then you cannot trust what is shown. We're used to some "television magic" making things work, such as green screens and the like, but this is one of the first times I recall that a live presentation was significantly altered using digital manipulation. It's kind of scary, actually.

* China Olympic ceremony star mimed This isn't overly remarkable, but it's still annoying. Remember the cute little girl singing the Chinese anthem? Apparently she was lip-synced. Ok, no biggie, right? Well, actually... she lip-synced to someone else's singing. Oh, sigh. That's so Hollywood (or is it Disney?)! One clear trend here is that the Chinese are putting the visual presentation of the Olympics ahead of the truth and reality of it, whenever possible anyway.

* Windows BSoD takes the Gold at the Beijing Olympics This one is just amusing, not the least of which because it couldn't be covered up live (I wonder if it was visible during the broadcast, though? Here's another case to investigate around digital manipulation of reality...). Apparently one of the Windows systems supporting the Opening Ceremony had a Windows Blue Screen of Death, which got projected on the ceiling of the stadium. Check out the pics in the link. Very funny. :)

So, enough complaining from me. I suppose some day we'll find out that the Opening Ceremony really took place in a sound studio and that the athletes don't have to even show up in person to compete any more. If it's alright by everyone else, I'll just sit here and mourn the loss of trust in that which is presented as "live" and "reality." In television and business, apparently nothing is sacred.


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» Faking the Ceremony Follow-Up from The Falcon's View
In follow-up to my post on China faking some of the Opening Ceremony, the BBC has a great article up with more info on the story. Here we were led to believe that a common girl from a local school... [Read More]

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