Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vector graphics vs. Raster graphics

Vector Graphics vs. Raster Graphics


What are they?
A vector graphic is composed of points connected by curves or lines (called “paths”) determined by angles. They can be colored within the closed shapes formed by paths.

(Image credit:
The heart is formed by connecting points with paths, and once it is a closed shape, it is filled with a single color.

Pros: The best thing about vectors is that because they rely on angles and ratios of distance between points which can be consistently applied, no matter how big or small you resize your vector image to be, it will always maintain that same perfect degree of crispness, clarity, and smoothness. This makes vectors the ideal choice for logos, which often must be repurposed at a range of sizes and which tend to be smooth and simple, with fine detail less of a stylistic imperative. Vectors also take up smaller file sizes than your “regular” (raster) image, as the computer only has to remember the endpoints which form lines, not all the data actually in between them. In programs that support vectors, vectors are easily edited by moving around the points that determine the paths, and the image’s colors (which are solid colors within closed shapes) can be easily changed.

Prime example: Text!
a a
Many people are unaware that text is made up of vectors—thus, the smooth lines at any size.

Cons: Because vector images are essentially lines and the solid colors in between them, they lend themselves better to more simplistic designs and color schemes. Solid colors can only be used within the defined spaces of closed shapes, so minute detail and rich shading are better left to another medium (that of raster images). Image manipulations of the awesome, exquisite Photoshop sort are curtailed by the more restrained palette and scope of the vector. Vectors are also compatible with fewer programs (in non-compatible programs they must first be rasterized).

Program of choice: Adobe Illustrator is designed for vectors.

Tip: Aside from text, vectors are most commonly and aptly used for logos: that is, relatively simple designs with smooth lines that will need to be reproduced in a variety of sizes.
(image credit:

Common file formats: AI, PDF, and EPS.


What are they?
Raster graphics, also known as bitmap graphics, are composed of a grid of square pixels of color.

Pros: Most images out there, and certainly types of images like photographs and paintings, are rasters. Images with fine shading, a rich range of colors, and detail that can’t be reduced to simple, smooth lines are characteristic of raster images, since raster images are made up of thousands of individual pixels, each of which can be colored differently. This allows you to have total control in image manipulation to an exquisite degree of detail. Raster graphics are also compatible with the most amount of programs (even all the way down the line to Paint).

Prime example: Photographs!

(Image credit:
This kind of image detail and nuance of shading wouldn’t be possible with vectors.

Cons: Raster images are fine at their original size and smaller, but when enlarged their pixels will become stretched, which translates to a blurry and, well, pixilated image. And because rasters images have to record all the information (the individual pixels) that makes up a line and what is inside of it (vectors memorize just the endpoints of paths, with a solid color inside), they have much larger file sizes than vectors.

Program of choice: Adobe Photoshop.

Tip: When you’re looking for images to use in a project, it’s always a good idea to try to use images that are originally large. (To more easily find these, when running a Google image search, click “Search Tools” and select “Size” à “Large.”) It’s no problem to size raster images down, but sizing a smaller image up will make it blurrier and more pixilated: better to just start with something bigger.  

Common file formats: PSD, PNG, TIFF, JPEG, BMP, and GIF.

A note: While Adobe Illustrator is designed for vectors, and Adobe Photoshop is designed for rasters, you can go between the two programs and formats. It is easier to convert a vector (which is simpler and composed of less data) to a raster in Photoshop, and can be convenient if you want to blend or add special effects to your graphic which aren’t well-supported by vectors. When importing a vector into Photoshop, a pop-up will ask if you want to rasterize the vector; or you always have the option of rasterization (even of text) by right-clicking on the vector layer and selecting “Rasterize layer.”

Less successful, though still quite doable, is converting rasters to vectors, either by drawing paths (via the pen tool) within your image by hand, or selecting within Paths à Make Work Path, which will render the lines of your image as vector paths for you. You will be able to capture the generalities of the image in its basic outlines, but the inner colors and patterning richness will not translate the other way around.

In summary: Vectors are good for lines. Rasters are good for what lies inside those lines. The choice is yours.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gender in Gaming Culture

Gender in Gaming Culture

If you’re anyone who’s spent a little bit of time on the more social side of the internet (and I do mean Reddit, 4chan, Tumblr, and other such sites, not just Facebook and Twitter) you’ll have heard of the term “gamer girl”. Honestly these days it’s not used as much as it has been, and perhaps for good reason.

At first glance, it’s actually quite difficult to pin down what it means to be a ‘gamer girl’. We can’t simply include all females that play games, as this also might include that person who procrastinates by playing solitaire. A statistic floating around is that women comprise of 47% of gamers as of 2012, but are still viewed as a distinct minority. I will generally say that a girl gamer is a female who plays games on a regular basis, either for fun or for sport, and feels that she has her own niche in the gaming community.

Unsurprisingly, the term “gamer girl” has a lot of negative connotation associated with it. Some claim that it originated from male gamers who have their own distinct views about females who are gamers. The fact that it’s more of a negative term comes from the idea that serious male gamers, by and large, are also stereotyped in a negative way by society in general, and that they need to blow their frustrations and their feelings of being misunderstood off on someone else. Use of the descriptive ‘girl’ accomplishes two things: one, solidifies women as the minority because it has to be specified that they’re not actual gamers, they’re girls. Two, it glosses over the difference between younger women
and women over 30, both of which do participate in the gaming community.

This negative connotation is reflected in females’ own opinion of it. Many, when asked, preferred to not be called a “girl gamer” – yes, they are girls and they like to play games, but the term itself makes them uncomfortable and separates them out from those whom they consider to be equals.

Image by
At the same time, though, many gamers also disapprove with the idea that female gamers must be, in essence, male gamers that just happen to have female body parts. Criticism of each other simply leads to tearing apart of what female gaming communities do exist, which is kind of the opposite of what needs to happen. For example, if you play Sims as a female, no matter how passionately you feel about it or how long you spend playing it, you’ll probably be grouped in with the gamers on the left because Sims isn’t a “real” game.

One of the prevailing schools of thought amongst female gamers is that it shouldn’t matter what they have in their pants: they like to play games, and that’s it. Hence, they dislike the term “girl gamer” because it specifies something about them that they don’t feel should make a difference. This again goes back to trying to eliminate the idea that female gamers are a minority in the gaming community, despite the fact that the actual ratio of male to female gamers is about equal. Oftentimes people with this opinion say that the most important thing is whether or not the person is actually good at playing: their sex is irrelevant. One unfortunate side effect of this, however, is that sometimes female gamers find it prudent to hide their genders from their fellow gamers to avoid unwanted attention or negative reactions.

I don’t want to blame this problem on male gamers, but at the same time I do. There’s a subsection of Reddit specifically for girl gamers that’s just chock full of examples of girl gamers getting insulted and discriminated against on account simply of being female. It’s become a norm to get a few “get back in the kitchen” comments thrown at you as a female gamer, which would certainly deter a lot of people from participating in games that are male-dominated.

This leads to a fundamental problem with the video game industry in general: that games are, in general, directed towards the male audience. Take a look at Grand Theft Auto V, possibly the year’s most anticipated release. Although GTA has always been known for its misogynistic portrayal of women, as Johnny Chiodini says in his video, “That’s not an excuse.” Just because it’s a game known to be incredibly sexist and not in general geared towards women does not give it the right to be glossed over in discussions such as these. He goes on to say that if the gaming community in general wants to be acknowledged as a serious art form and pastime, it needs to include consideration of the politics involved in making games, which includes serious thought given towards the 47% of gamers that are women.

So where do we stand? It’s hard to definitively take a side because this issue is so muddled and confusing. I think it’s easy to say that most of the general public would say this is an issue, but there will always be the die-hards who say that gaming is a man’s realm and that women aren’t as interested in it anyway, so why should we care if our significant other is running over prostitutes in some stupid game? Maybe we shouldn’t. But I think this is an issue worth considering, and I’ll simply end with a challenge: think of a game that has a female protagonist that is not sexualized or bearing the typical “damsel in distress” label in some way that is popular with both genders. Now think of a game with the same requirements, but with a male protagonist. I would guess that it’s a lot harder with females, and although there are some (Metroid comes to mind, as well as Tomb Raider, although it can be argued that even Samus, under all that armor, is just another sexy female video game character) it’s clear that there’s a large disconnect. At the same time, the success of these games show that it’s also possible to appeal to all types of gamers with a female protagonist and that it might be something worth looking into in the future. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is tumblr just for hipsters and instragram?

 Is it just for hipsters and instagram pics? A look into the world of microblogging
By Maryanne Bowen

I saw this question and laughed, because it is no doubt the stereotype about blogging site better known as "tumblr".  Though it would be easy to launch into my own views on this matter, since I have been using tumblr for the past three or more years, I figure it would be better to start with some real information.

First off, let's start with the basics:

Wiki says: "Tumblr is a blogging platform that allows users to post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio to their tumblelog, a short-form blog. Users can follow other users, or choose to make their tumblelog private. The service emphasizes ease of use."

It goes on to add that tumblr was founded by a man named David Karp in 2007, there are 175 employees, it has its headquarters in New York, and "hosts over 130.5 million blogs." It was also bought about by Yahoo! June of 2013, something which caused much upset in the community, but we'll save that for later.

So just what is tumblr?

Essentially, it's a "short-form blogging" site, where users can upload large quantities of small posts and share them with their "followers."  The main interface is called the dashboard, where users see their own posts, and all the posts of the people whose blogs they "follow." Posts can include everything from images, to text to links, to short video clips, and can be tagged (#just like twitter) which allows other users to search for them.  Posts can also be queued, so you can delay your posts to a certain time or day.  Finally, the user's actual blog can very easily be edited with HTML, which allows for a wide variety of customization and creativity. Below are a few screencaps from my own tumblr.

ABOVE: the top of the dashboard, which shows the ease at which a post can be made as well as how posts can be managed. On the right site, blog stats are posted, included the number of posts, followers, activity, a list of blogs the user follows, and also the liked posts.  Tags can also be accessed from here.

ABOVE: An example of what the dashboard can look like as the user scrolls down.

Let's Talk Tags

Aside from the dashboard, tags are the primary way that users find content on tumblr.  All a user has to do is go to the top right corner, and type what they want into the "Search tags & blogs" box, and BAM, all the posts that were tagged with whatever you searched.  They show up with the most recent posts first, and can be searched back to what is presumably the beginning of tumblr.  While this sounds like a great database for all the information you could ever need, with over "130.5 million blogs" the sheer amount of posts one will find in a tag makes it difficult to impossible to weed through all the "junk posts" to get to anything real.  Take the tag "Syria" for instance.  Right now it's full of home videos from political activists, anti-Obama slogans, opinions, and of course the occasional link to a news article. Switch to a tag like "cats" though, and you get cellphone photographs, memes, paintings, and of course gifs.  

It would be a little easier to sort for the tags though if users could look for more than one tag at a time, for example #syria, #news; or #cats, #gif.  But unfortunately, such a thing is not yet possible, making tumblr's tags impossible to dig through unless the user has quite a lot of time on their hands.

So Who Uses tumblr?

Here comes our second big question--what sort of audience does tumblr cater towards?  According to an article in the Economist, tumblr is the most popular site on the internet for those aged 13-25.  Now this does not at all mean that tumblr's users fall entirely within this age category, but the younger demographic definitely dominates this site.  

Probably what makes tumblr so appealing is the ease with which original posts can be created and shared.  Users can generate a network of followers to share anything and everything, and in doing so, talk opinions, or post art and photography.  In this case, it is like a "stealthy angry" facebook--it operates almost like a social networking site that you don't have to worry about your boss finding. 

Some articles that offer interesting opinions about tumblr:
The Economist
TechCrunch (definitely worth a read)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

How To Search by Image: by Callan Carow

Google has a special feature you may not have noticed—it’s “Search by Image,” which allows you to search the web using an image (whether it’s from your own computer or something you found online), rather than your typical word or phrase. And it’s super easy to use! Here are the four ways to search by image:

1. Drag and drop

When you’ve found an image you want to search, just click and drag it from it’s location on your computer, or from where you found it on the web, to the search bar at

2. Upload it from your computer

If you already have an image saved on your computer, you can easily upload it. Go to, and click the camera icon in the search bar. Then select “upload an image.” Simply select your image, wait for it to load, and begin your search.

3. Copy and paste the URL

If you find an image on the web that you want to search, simply right-click it and select “Copy Image URL.”

Then go to, click the camera icon in the search bar, and select “Paste Image URL.”

4. Download the extension for Chrome or Firefox

For super fast image searching, download the Chrome extension or the Firefox extension (both are free and quick to download):

 Once it is installed, you can right-click any image on the web and select “Search Google with this image” next to the camera icon.

Lastly, a couple of things to remember:
  • More general images will bring up better results when you search them on the web. For example, you will probably get better results if you search a photo of a famous landmark than if you search something personal like an original art piece.
  • Any images that you search (including those you upload from your computer) will be stored by Google. Google’s website says stored images are used “solely to provide and improve our products and services,” but if you’re worried about privacy, be careful what you search.