Skype

OpenCalais Metadata: Ticker: 
SYTNO
Blair (Shelley Hennig) and her friends are puzzled by the anonymous caller in their Skype chat.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Ghosts have leveled up from haunting houses to haunting the internet in “Unfriended,” a found-footage horror film set entirely on one computer screen. The story revolves around a group of friends’ interactions on Google, iMessage, Skype and Facebook as they talk to each other even while being tormented by a ghost. The concept of cyber-haunting and the webcam gimmick sound dumb, but “Unfriended” takes advantage of its central premise with surprising cleverness. 

The film opens with the main character, Blair (Shelley Hennig), watching the suicide video of her deceased cyber-bullied classmate, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman). Blair’s boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), calls her on Skype, and the rest of their friends soon join them.

When a mysterious seventh person joins the call using Laura’s account, the friends assume the mystery user is a glitch or an internet troll. When the stranger threatens to kill them if they leave the call and begins to reveal how they have secretly sabotaged each others’ lives, the teens realize the entity is Laura’s vengeful spirit. One by one, Laura attempts to brutally murder each friend as their relationships with each other crumble apart.

“Unfriended” demonstrates a striking understanding of how modern audiences actually use the Internet. Even as she’s Skyping her friends, Blair simultaneously sends messages, chooses new songs to play on Spotify and browses Facebook. It isn’t distracting — it’s realistic. 

Director Levan Gabriadze and screenwriter Nelson Greaves exploit audiences’ familiarity with the online world by twisting the familiar and innocuous sounds of Facebook notifications and incoming Skype calls. Under their direction and script, the sounds become malevolent alarms.

The film starts off slow, but once it gains momentum, it develops into a roller coaster ride fraught with thrills and jump scares. The actors do an excellent job arguing, screaming and crying as Laura’s revenge unfolds. It’s unfortunate that Gabriadze poorly presents the characters’ deaths. Their webcam feeds glitch and freeze during those scenes, making it hard to understand what is going on. 

The script also has its fair share of purely humorous moments. The characters act like real teens, teasing one another and making dirty comments. Laura occasionally takes control of Blair’s Spotify account and plays happy-go-lucky tunes with titles and lyrics that ostensibly match the events on screen but clash with the horror that is actually unfolding. Some of the friends’ arguments draw a few laughs, too.

“Unfriended” suggests that the line between the bullies and the bullied is blurrier than it seems. All the characters appear to be genuinely nice at the start of the movie. Eventually, Laura shatters the audience’s perception of each character by charging them with various acts of lies and deceit. Each teen is equally a victim and a perpetrator of bullying. “Unfriended” illustrates the idea that anyone can bully someone else and asks people to consider how their actions affect others. Some parts of “Unfriended” don’t work. Blair relies heavily on a sketchy website’s instructions for how to interact with angry ghosts, rendering her just another dumb teen in a long line of dumb teens in horror movies. Whenever the characters try to flee Laura, they have to take their laptops so their webcams can stay on their frightened faces. It’s an unwelcome reminder that we’re watching a movie, and these people aren’t real.

“Unfriended” provides some effective scares and thoughtful social commentary throughout its brisk 82-minute runtime. It’s an innovative take on the found-footage genre worth watching. After it’s over, the ring of a Skype call might make chills run down your spine. 

  •  
  • Title: Unfriended
  • Running time: 82 minutes
  • MPPA rating: R
  • Score: 7/10

From the mountains of Libre, Colo., in his self-built dome home, artist Dean Fleming will be answering questions via Skype at the UT Visual Arts Center on Thursday. The exhibit, “Travels in North Africa and Greece,” showcases the artist’s work and allows students to journey through the paintings of his travel sketchbook. The exhibit consists of many different paintings of colorful geometric shapes and designs. 

Art history professor Linda Henderson is the curator of the exhibit and will host the talk with Fleming. Henderson believes Fleming’s art searches for another realm of space through shape.

“What we see in this exhibition is his discovery of the way, if he alters the grid or starts stretching things, the space will start moving,” Henderson said. “He would really like these works to shake your confidence in the 3-D world as you know it.”

Xochi Solis, director of events and public programming at the center, helped coordinate the upcoming talk with Fleming. 

“[Fleming] just had hip surgery, so it will be a Skype interview, but he’s looking forward to it,” Solis said. “Dr. Henderson flew in [from Berlin] for this event.”

Henderson and Fleming have worked together before in reaching out to students. Fleming lectured when his work was featured at the 2004 Blanton exhibit “Twister: Moving Through Color, 1965-1977” and also gave a lecture to one of Henderson’s classes a year ago. 

“When he talks to students it is so inspiring because he believes so much in the power of art and its ability to affect people in a positive way,” Henderson said. “What’s so great for art students and students in general is to hear about somebody who believes so strongly in goals.”

Studio art freshman Connor Frew enjoyed the Fleming exhibit, saying he appreciated the way Fleming’s art correlates with goals he has in his own art and related Fleming’s art to a project he did last semester.

“We were doing this project with foundations, where we were working with what [Fleming] was basically doing,” Frew said. “I’m a big fan of structural stuff, and that’s something I enjoy a lot.” 

Henderson said Fleming’s message to students is a positive one. According to Henderson, Fleming is interested in students and is always eager to speak.     

“He’s had really wonderful interactions with students,” Henderson said. “There’s so much for students to learn, but also there’s this larger message of believing in art and following your dream — that kind of vision, that belief in possibility is really important.”

Fleming has also inspired Henderson as an educator.     

“For me as a scholar, he’s really inspiring,” Henderson said. “His mood and his attitude say that art can change the world.” 

Photo Credit: Colin Zelinski | Daily Texan Staff

More than 20,000 campus phone landlines will be replaced on campus with Voice over Internet Protocol by spring 2015, as part of an initiative by the Information Technology Services office.

Voice over Internet Protocol is a technology that allows users to communicate through computer networks using both phone calls and text messages. Essentially, any device that can access the internet can be used to communicate as a traditional telephone would. Faculty and staff could integrate their work phone into their cell phone, allowing them to receive office calls on their mobile phone and also allowing them to see which line the call is coming from. 

The system in place now, though functional, needs to be refurbished, according to IT Service management coordinator John Lovelace.

“The existing phone system is still in service, but is over 20 years old and nearing the end of its useful life span,” Lovelace said.  “It relies on dedicated copper cabling running across campus, much of which would have to be relocated, at high costs, due to current and planned construction projects if it remained. The new [voice] system was purchased as a replacement.”

Black Box Network Services is the company contracted to implement the project. Lovelace said the current system costs $15 to $25 a month, while the new voice over system will cost around $5 per month.

Scheduled to be completed in spring 2015, the project has already begun and more than 2,500 lines have already been converted.

The project is broken down in four phases, each approximately six months in length, Lovelace said.

“Phones are currently being deployed to those buildings which are part of the first wave and the team is assessing buildings in the second wave to determine what will be required to convert the phones to the new service,” Lovelace said.

The same technology being implemented at the University is the service that companies such as Skype and Google Talk provide.

Lovelace said he thinks anyone who calls one of the new phones will not notice a difference unless they have a phone with high definition audio capabilities, including some smart phones. If both parties have this technology they’ll notice a better sound quality than before.

Journalism junior Ingrid Vasquez uses Skype when she works in the financial aid office to advise students. The office uses Skype daily in their advising process.

“We use Skype to [text] chat with actual counselors to get assistance with certain issues a student might have,” Vasquez said. “And that way they are able to continue doing their normal job, and don’t have to necessarily get up and leave their office to come and help us
in person.”

BRUSSELS — Cisco says it is challenging Microsoft’s $8.5 billion takeover of Skype at the EU’s top court to ensure Microsoft won’t block other video conferencing services.

In a blog post Wednesday, Marthin De Beer, the head of Cisco’s video conferencing division, said “Cisco does not oppose the merger, but believes the European Commission should have placed conditions that would ensure greater standards-based interoperability.”

He said Cisco, which offers the WebEx teleconferencing service, wants the European Court of Justice to get the Commission to create open standards for video conferencing, similar to what exists for mobile phone calls.

Such standards would eventually allow WebEx users to make calls to users of Skype and other services like Google Voice.

De Beer said that without these standards, Microsoft could end up with sole “control (of) the future of video communications.”

BRUSSELS — Cisco says it is challenging Microsoft’s $8.5 billion takeover of Skype at the EU’s top court to ensure Microsoft won’t block other video conferencing services.

In a blog post Wednesday, Marthin De Beer, the head of Cisco’s video conferencing division, said “Cisco does not oppose the merger, but believes the European Commission should have placed conditions that would ensure greater standards-based interoperability.”

He said Cisco, which offers the WebEx teleconferencing service, wants the European Court of Justice to get the Commission to create open standards for video conferencing, similar to what exists for mobile phone calls.

Such standards would eventually allow WebEx users to make calls to users of Skype and other services like Google Voice.

De Beer said that without these standards, Microsoft could end up with sole “control (of) the future of video communications.”