Friday, June 03, 2005

Imminent Summer School

The ICT Summer School is about to begin. Tonight I train it to the big city.
Here is the course literature and a short piece I wrote in response to the readings:

Reading list:Books
Windows and Mirrors
Jay David Bolter and Diane Gromala
MIT Press 2003.
[focus on chapter 1-4]

Remediation. Understanding New Media
Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin
MIT Press 1999.
[focus on page 1-86 and 230-271]

First Person : New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, ed.
Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan
MIT Press 2003.
[focus on chapter I and II, page 1-69.
These two chapters can also be found on the web: (right-click and choose "Open in New Window")
(Chapter 1 = "Cyberdrama" and Chapter 2 = Ludology". Read also "Introduction")]

Thoughtful Interaction Design. A Design Perspective on Information Technology
Jonas Löwgren och Erik Stolterman,
MIT Press 2004.
[focus on chapter 1, 2 and 4]

or in Swedish:

Design av informationsteknik. Materialet utan egenskaper
Jonas Löwgren och Erik Stolterman,
Studentlitteratur 2004.
[focus on chapter 1, 2 and 4]

Reading List: Articles
Playing Research: Methodological approaches to game analysis
Espen Aarseth
paper presented at the Digital Arts and Culture Conference (DAC) in Melbourne 2003.
Download here

Identity and Learning in Cyberspace
Morten Søby
chapter from: Sandbothe M./Marotzki W. (hrsg.): “Subjektivität und Öffentlichkeit”
(Herbert von Harlem Verlag), Köln, 2000)
Download here

Thus far I have read with pleasure Löwgren and Stolteman, the chapters from First Person (including Jane McGonigal's excellent "Notes Toward a More Pervasive Cyberdrama"), Bolter and Grusin's "Remediation", and Aarseth on Game Studies.
Personally I see myself as approaching these diverse subject areas from the basis of language and cultural studies with a distinct sympathy towards concepts of art and artistic expression. I enjoy the insights into the design side of digital text production and being a follower of N Katherine Hayles writings I hold with the materiality of the artefacts being in direct relation with the story it tells or the game it plays (story it plays, game it tells??).
I wonder about the concept of remediation in respect to abstraction and "aberrant use". The emergence of GIS and Alternate Reality Gaming in recent years further clouds the horizon of immediacy, remediation and hypermedia. There seem to me to be so many divergent steps between a map on paper and GIS tracking. Why should it be construed in such a relatively linear progression as remediation seems to me to be? I feel concepts of visuality and digital literacy could be applied here with an emphasis on blending rather than a renewal or revision. Aberrant use is touched upon in Aarseth’s paper in relation to ‘bugs’ in a game becoming gaming strategies once the player has become more familiar with the field of play. Can the unintended being accommodated within remediation?
I did however agree strongly with Bolter and Grusin in that unless it can usurp dialectic relations such as, I believe, Virtual/Real “Like their precursors, digital media can never reach this state of transcendence, but will instead function in a constant dialectic with earlier media, precisely as each medium functioned when it was introduced.” (p50).
Of these texts it is Aarseth’s “Playing Research: Methodological approaches to game analysis” which comes closest to my own research. I am working on how readers/players engage with a digital text and compose a story around their negotiation of the structures of the digital artefact. In my thesis work I am looking at four online cybertexts (one by Michael Joyce), but digital games are never very far away when dealing with this stuff.
My primary criticism of all the texts I have read so far is a heavy emphasis upon material form and relatively little addressed to the user/reader/player of these texts. What cognitive processes are engaged when a digital text such as SIMS2 is played? What are the boundaries for the story or stories which emerge from a long stretch of play in a Sims world? From my first reading of “Remediation” I did not get a strong feeling of why “New media” is so different. It does utilize features of “old” media but aren't the dramatic differences where our interests lie.
Löwgren and Stolteman provided me with new knowledge as I have not so far had the opportunity to study the design aspect of digital artefacts. This new tact for me was at first confusing and it took some time before I could banish my affection for the randomness of art and digest the reflexive precision of design. By chapter three I was enjoying the text and have had some new ideas for my own work inspired by it. Perhaps this is akin to where we are in regards to ‘New Media’ just now; the struggle for definitions of the 1990’s has died down and the solid work of critique, theory and practice has begun.
I will be reading Bolter and Gromola’s more contemporary “Windows and Mirrors” on the train to Stockholm tonight. I look forward to discussing this more over the coming week.

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