got game

I had the pleasure of visiting Tim Lenoir’s How They Got Game class at Duke earlier this week. They have a nice ‘game lab’ setup not only focused on game play and demonstrations, but also on recording and analyzing. Sorry for not having any photos. For instance they can record gameplay in HD quality. I liked the space – a reconfigured (mid-size) classroom with quite a few screens around and a clever use of space. Also they seem to have a well functioning control system (to route image sources for instance). Students presented planned work using the different dispersed screens (which were also mirrored on some of the other screens). The main topic was gender and computer games, and the students were discussing their projects. Part of the assignment is doing a video podcast.

I appreciated the time they took with each game. Not just showing or playing briefly, but actually focusing on the games in question as well bringing in both analytical and production-related aspects. It was a relatively short session and I did not have time to talk to the students extensively, but it seemed like an energetic and mixed class. I also did a brief presentation of HUMlab.

another cave!

Today I visted the second CAVE in three days. This time at Brown – a five-wall one. I was not least impressed with the low-threshold tools that they are developing here in relation to the creative writing program. I am mainly thinking of the cave writing tool which makes it possible to integrate different kinds of content (models, text, processes etc.) in an on-screen enviroment that can also be run on the cave. Great stuff. See here and here.

Review of “Game Cultures: Computer Games as New Media” by Jon Dovey and Helen W. Kennedy

I have just finished reading Jon Dovey and Helen W. Kennedy, Game Cultures: Computer Games as New Media. Helen Kennedy is familar to many in HUMlab after visiting us in 2005 and presenting the seminar Gender Technicity and Computer Games.  

I really enjoyed Game Cultures, and it was especially interesting because the first half of it was read in parallel with Marie Laure Ryan’s Narrative as Virtual Reality from 2001. Dovey and Kennedy share Ryan’s focus on embodiment in game texts but they take it further as a subject in itself, rather than as a part of Ryan’s structural approach to Narrative. The triumph of Game Cultures is the critical term ‘technicity’ as adapted from Tomas (2000):

Technicity refers to that part of our identity formed and expressed through our relationships with,and competencies in, technology. To be subjects within the privileged twenty first century is to be increasingly caught up in a network of technically and mechanically mediated relationships with others who share the same tastes/attitudes, pleasures and preferences. Technicity is thus an important site of cultural hegemony in the 21st Century through which new formations of dominance and alterity are generated. (Dovey and Kennedy 2006:17)

Technicity permits analysis of dialogue between players and games and between the various discourses taken up within games; as text (and according to Dovey and Kennedy there is room for games as text and they take a hybrid approach to game analysis), as play and as cultural system/s. I see the hybrid approach of Game Cultures as a positive development in game research, it embraces rather than demarcates territory that is uncertain and dynamic and this is very appropriate considering the fluid nature of games.
Some faults I can see with Game Cultures? I don’t mean to whinge…but I will. The biggest thing that got to me was, why aren’t there any notes to the text? Second, the most detailed analysis of a text using the tools described in Game Cultures comes in the form of a sociology style study of a game development company. It is interesting to get this perspective, especially with a gender critique approach, but I would have liked to have seen more reception and interpretation or community response studies in the text. Maybe such work will develop out of the masses who should (and probably are already) reading Game Cultures: Computer Games as New Media.

Speaking of pictures

Big Mac and little MacAfter some time trying to get a whole day (nearly 300,000 edges nodes and 41,000 edges) of the weblog dataset data to visualize, I finally produced the first ‘accurate’ picture. This is day 1, English blogs, run in GUESS with multiple edges and at 30% of the original size and before changing layouts (still does not want to do that). My next steps for the whole dataset are to remove the disconnected nodes and change the layout. I did not think it would be so difficult, but the dataset is being stubborn. Still, the process is exciting! Today is the first day that I have had much success with the entire layout and I wonder if it is due to using a larger screen. I am in the lab using the new 30″ Mac. SO NICE! Much faster and easier to see details. (Photo above: my new MacBook Pro 15.4 beside lab’s new 30″ Mac – heaven or what!) I have looked briefly at some of the larger networks and one interesting pattern I have seen is most of the larger clusters are based around livejournal users. I really don’t know a lot about this platform, but will look at it more carefully. This may not be so surprising as it can not be said that I am visualizing a network, rather what I think I am seeing are artifacts (traces) of conversation. More about what is actually visualized soon!
Day 1 - whole

[tags] GUESS, HUMlab, weblogs, Mac [/tags]

HASTAC event: Lynn Hershman Leeson

Information about an upcoming HASTAC event with Lynna Herschman Leeson. If possible we will run this on screens in HUMlab (Nov 30, 9 am CET). If not we will do a screening of the recorded version later. More information here. The event involves the Stanford Humanities Lab and Stanford Humanities Center among others.

Regenerative Presence: Remixing the Archives of Lynn Hershman Leeson
November 30, 2006


In this special, invitation-only interaction, the SHL, in collaboration with artist Lynn Hershman, will preview work from one of their ongoing projects, Life to the Second Power (L2). The theme will be “Regenerative Presence: Remixing the Archives of Lynn Hershman Leeson.” This Second Life interaction will be recorded from the perspective of one online avatar at the preview, and will be archived on the HASTAC website afterwards as a digital video. Secondary viewers will also gather in groups at Stanford, Duke, and the U.K. to watch the proceedings live onscreen, and to discussion the presentation afterwards. .

The L2 project will re-animate the existing archive of artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, now physically housed in the Special Collections Library at Stanford University. Hershman Leeson has been an award-winning media artist for more than 30 years. Her rich body of work includes feature films such as Conceiving Ada and Teknolust , experimental video, photography and drawings, interactive real-time projects, performances, and installations. She works in overlapping genres that explore questions of identity, presence, and the human body in relation to technology. She is a pioneer in interactive computer and net-based media arts and has won numerous awards, grants and fellowships. Her work has appeared at Sundance, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and many other venues around the world. Hershman Leeson is Professor Emeritus at University of California, Davis, and is A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. The Henry Art Gallery of Seattle recently curated Hershmanlandia, a major international museum retrospective of her work that will tour in 2006-08.

L2 will go to the next step, building a living archive of Hershman’s work inside the 3D online world Second Life. Converting the archive into a digital format of hybrid genre will allow users of the content to dynamically revisit the past while simultaneously expanding the audience for this material. This project will use mixed reality and media convergence across multiple channels, through which users will be invited to participate in a deeper exploration, investigation and contemplation of both the nature of archives and the context for documentation of contemporary art.

Cave/Dive at Duke

I arrived in Durham, North Carolina, yesterday evening. I was already quite aware of some of the momentum, facilities, people and leadership present here, and I have been very impressed so far. I will report more later.

This morning I ventured into a six-sided CAVE for the first time. Something I should have done a long time ago, I guess, but it has not actually happened before. They have a very nice setup here and Rachael Brady is the key person who actually took time for me. Her vision has shaped much of the creation of the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment (DIVE). I got to see a few project and some student work. I liked the space and it seems like the activities here have a nice focus – which not least includes involving students and student creativity. I like that. They do work with the medical school, experimental perception work, and some work with the humanities and arts (about a third). I was happy to get to experience Bernard Frischer’s Colosseum Project in VR (I have seen it demonstrated in “2D” earlier).

Rachael and I talked about cost models, sustainability, volume rendering, the distinct quality of CAVEs, tracking and the scientific visualization community moving in a more illustrative/abstract direction. I also asked her about sensoring/tracking technology in relation to the planned expansion of HUMlab. One excellent suggestion was to get webcams and install them in the ceiling (thus covering a fair bit of space and providing a cheap and open-ended solution).

new computers

I have not seen them, but I know for a fact that our new Macintosh Pro Workstation (4GB memory etc.) and the accompanying 30″ screen have now been installed in the lab (including some post-production software). I am looking forward to checking them out when I get back to Umeå. We are also in the process of installing a new powerful game computer (with a massive 8800GTX/HTDP/768MB graphics card) and a new scanner computer (including a new slide scanner). Should be fun! And this is just the beginning! But as Nathan said in relation to some recent information about our planned expansion: “I’m glad to hear that not only is the expansion physical but academic and cultural as well.” It is clearly not only about technology, but it would not happen without the technology (or could it?).

Postdoctoral scholarships

Only one week left. Last date for application: 30 November.

HUMlab has received external funding for a new initiative to support research in digital humanities – in particular in the areas of participatory media, electronic literature, digital cultural heritage and digital art. The postdoctoral fellowships are for one year with a possible extension for another year. Read more here.

Archaeology and new media

Over the last year I have had the opportunity to get a better sense of the intersection between archaeology and new media. It seems to be an energetic intersection, and I have been impressed with the work of Michael Shanks and Chris Witmore (among others). Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with Ruth Tringham at Berkeley and some of her students and graduate students.

Archaeology is an interpretive discipline. It is also a performance art.
We create past worlds from what we and others find

We create the gaze of people who might have lived in those worlds

We create their vision out of our own imagination and experience

What we create can be poetic, playful and inspirational if we dare to allow it

(from Ruth’s website)

I really enjoyed talking to them and getting sense of their work. Also I always appreciate being able to “sample” spaces and their space is energetic, personal and studio like.