Saturday, December 22, 2012

Professor in Media and Communication Studies Job

A position is available for a Professor in Media and Communication Studies with a focus on digital humanities at the Department of Culture and Media Studies, Umeå University Faculty of Arts  in North Eastern Sweden. The Department has approximately 70 employees and offers a unique combination of subject areas and a creative environment for meetings and collaboration between culture, art, literature and communication. We carry out research and education within media and communication studies, journalism, drama, theater and film, ethnology, history of art, cultural analysis, literary and museum studies.

The Department provides seven renowned professional programs with many students. We educate strategic communicators; journalists with specializations in culture, scientific or sports journalism; culture analysts; culture entrepreneurs and scriptwriters, as well as for work within the museum and cultural heritage sector. Departmental research within the discipline of media and communication studies is focused upon the relationship of media and journalism to sociological and cultural issues such as gender and ethnicity, risk, sustainable development, the aging population, school, disabilities, surveillance and crime. Other research areas include digital media and citizen participation; communication of science, technology and environment (VTM); news management and photo journalism.

The appointment is a part of the Faculty of Arts’ long-term investment in the Humanities and Information Technology (digital humanities) as research areas.Therefore applicants whose research relates to issues within media and communication studies relating to digital media and expressions will be prioritised. We are looking for a person with the commitment and ability to drive the development of the research and education environment within the subject of Media and Communication Studies. As part of the appointment, there is an emphasis upon individual research and research group leadership. In addition to developing personal research, the applicant is expected to initiate and lead research projects and applications, and to supervise Ph.D. candidates. The applicant will also be expected to take chief responsibility for advanced seminars. A certain amount of teaching at both first-cycle and third-cycle education can occur.

The position will be in close cooperation with HUMlab ( HUMlab is the meeting place for Humanities, Culture and Information Technology at Umeå University. It offers an internationally strong environment and infrastructure for research and development within the area. The appointed will have his/her main basis in the Department, but also a secondary affiliation with the HUMlab.

A long-term strengthening of research is highly prioritised at the Faculty of Arts. Therefore academic skills, the ability for independence and analytical work, in addition to initiating research and work within research groups, are important factors for the appointment. Further requirements include documented pedagogical skills and solid experience of teaching and supervision at both first and third-cycle levels. Great emphasis is also placed upon cooperation and leadership skills, administration abilities and the ability to work with external partners within society and industry.

This includes the task of informing about research. Additionally, the ability to teach either in Swedish or English is a requirement for the appointment. If the person offered the position does not have a command of Swedish upon appointment, after a few years he/she must be prepared to take on board administrative and pedagogical tasks that require the ability to communicate in Swedish.

To be eligible for the position as professor the applicant must have proven academic and pedagogic capabilities and competence as reader within media and communication studies or an equivalent relevant subject (for further information see Higher Education Ordinance, Chapter 4 Section 3 in addition to the Umeå University Appointment Rules for teachers at Umeå University), see

Greatest importance will be attached to the evaluation criteria of academic capability and research initiation and leadership. Great emphasis is also placed upon pedagogic competence. In addition to this, other evaluation criteria are attached, such as cooperation and leadership skills, administrative competence and the ability to work with the surrounding community.

The appointment is located in Umeå and high attendance at the department is a requirement.

The application should be formed in accordance with the directions set out by the Faculty of Arts.

The application may be submitted either electronically (.pdf or Word format) or in paper form (3 copies).

Additional information is available from the Head of Department, Kerstin Engström tel. +46 (0) 90 786 69 29, e-mail Contact person from HUMlab: Director Patrik Svensson,

Union information is available from SACO, +46-(0)90-786 53 65, SEKO, +46-(0)90-786 52 96 and ST, +46-(0)90-786 54 31.

Your complete application, marked with reference number 311-1027-12, should be sent to (state the reference number as subject) or to the Registrar, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden to arrive 14 January 2013 at the latest.

We look forward to receiving your application!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Benjamin's Aura

"As we saw in connection with the Dauthendey portrait, the auratic return of the gaze does not depend upon the photographic subject’s direct look at the camera (or, for that matter, the later injunction against that direct look which voyeuristically solicits the viewer as buyer [see SW, 2:512]). What is more, in the above formulation and elsewhere Benjamin attributes the agency of the auratic gaze to the object being looked at, thereby echoing philosophical speculation from early romanticism through Henri Bergson that the ability to return the gaze is already dormant in, if not constitutive of, the object" - Miriam Bratu Hansen (1949–2011).
The entire essay, Benjamin's Aura can be downloaded from here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pandit Ravi Shankar has Left his Body

Pandit Ravi Shankar (Bengali: রবি শংকর; born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury, 7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012)

It is with some emotion that I begin this day. The first thing I read was a message from an online friend in India telling me the news that Pt. Ravi Shankar has passed on. While in recent years I have moved on to other sitar players, Pt. Shankar was were it all started for me. My father had a record of his music, which as a child I listened enraptured by the sounds. The Sounds of India (1968) was not just the amazing music of Ravi Shankar, but between each piece he spoke, about 'microtones' and 'ragas'. It seemed to me like a technology from another planet or some lost ancient civilization. Allmusic reviewer Adam Greenberg recommended listening to the album for "Shankar's amazing abilities" but singled out the album for its historic value as a work that introduced Western listeners to Hindustani classical music using short lessons before each performance. I would lie on the floor with the speakers at each side of my head and lose myself in the music.

In 1989 I was selected for an exchange program to work for two months on The Times of India newspaper in Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmadabad, Bombay and Bangalore (as they were known then). I was in Mumbai when on 26th January 1990 Ravi Shankar performed at St Francis Xavier school. My fellow exchange student from rural Queensland was not interested in seeing the performance so I went by myself, A scared 20 year old out into the vast night of the megalopolis. I found the school and watched and listened for 7 hours as Pt Ravi Shankar just blew my world apart. I was amazed. I had never seen anything like it. Somehow I got the idea that I wanted to learn to play the sitar.

I returned to Australia and studies. I met a girl who had a sitar in her cupboard. I remember she was a hippie and she agreed to lend it to me for an indefinite period. I think I had it for about 2 years. I had no idea what I was doing. in my summer holidays I worked in the local hospital, in the psychiatric section. One of the psychologists there was a follower of Osho and had been in India a lot. She had books on playing the sitar and I borrowed them from her. I now had information about ragas (this was in Toowoomba Queensland - not a center for music outside the dreaded Country and Western amalgam). About the same time I found the Monterey Pop Festival film on VHS and played the performance by Ravi Shankar endlessly:

Ravi Shankar - Festival Monterey Pop 1967

I finished university and went to Brisbane to begin life as a poet (yea.....really). I found a teacher of sitar, a very chaotic Hare Krisna devotee. He was the first of many influences in the sitar. I returned to India in 1996-1997 and spent a lot of time going to concerts of classical Hindustani music. I purchased the sitar I currently play in 2010 and while I am no expert, I can make it sound pretty. To be a true sitar player one must abandon so much of the world. To call Pandit Ravi Shankar a musician is to lessen the calling he took up. To live in the divine sound, as is the way in Indian classical music, means you follow the Nada Brahma. It is your teacher. Eventually it can becomes you. I trust Ravi Shankar found that union.

Radio France le jeudi 26 juin 1986 au studio 106 de la maison de la radio
b)jod(Vilambita,Madhya,Druta,Jhata) i)solo ii)avec tabla en cautala
Ravi Shankar : Sitar
Kumar Bose : Tabla
Vidya Bataju : Tampura
Jeevan Govinda : Tampura
An Mp3 of this performance can be downloaded from here.

Recent image of myself playing sitar. I was given a gift when I witnessed Pt. Ravi Shankar perform live. It remains with me to this day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monumentality, Perspective, the Iconic and Remediation in the Design of Digital Narrative Works

In the influential study on screen media The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft, Anne Friedberg convincingly argues, “the computer screen is both a ‘page’ and a ‘window’, at once opaque and transparent. It commands a new posture for the practice of writing and reading – one that requires looking into the page as if it were the frame of a window” (Friedberg 2006 19). My analysis of the spaces that result from design can be equated with the visual composition of the page/window, according to perspective and monumentality, the iconic and remediation. Firstly, a scene from a window can include monumental emphases upon objects that result in the viewer assigning significance to them within the overall scene. Monumentality, as I explained in Chapter One, is the coded organization of space where hierarchies are attached to “the strong points, nexuses or anchors” (Lefebvre 2007 222), resulting in the meanings of that space. These points establish what can be termed representational space, providing both meaning and guidance for reader navigation and interpretation.[1] Representation space is “directly lived through [by] its associated images and symbols, and hence the space of ‘inhabitants’ and ‘users’” (Lefebvre 39). I equate monumentality in the works with “non-verbal symbols and signs,” which evoke “not ‘stories’ but suggestive markings” and “trigger reactions” (Nitsche 2008 44). The ‘suggestive markings’ within monumentality organizes the reader’s temporal experience of space as a fundamental element in design. The results are emphases on particular features and these influence representational space, foremost through the provision of procedurality and focus in the reading of narrative. Interpretation of the monumental points occurs in relation to each other and defines the character of representational space. As I explain in the following analysis, a monumental point relates to other monumental points, forming a relational grid of meaning/s within representational space. Design techniques for the creation of monumentality include repetition (a single element repeated multiple times within a space), perspective (emphasizing dimensions, proximity or scale), auditory (sound placed at important points within the space) and objects and elements of space (doors, furniture, ornaments) that are associated with characters and are expressed (and therefore linked) in dialogue.
Perspective is a particularly important codified system in the design of the works, where point of view is manipulated, resulting in both meaning and restrictions in reading. In the following analysis I explain how perspective is not only visual, but emerges in the spatial as the result of audio and haptics (touch simulation) in the works. Audio establishes the perimeters of representation space, and in doing so it sets the temporal and spatial perspective/s experienced by the reader in reception. Firstly, the audio in the works establishes spatial perspective by breaking up the representational space and marking out significant monumental points for the reader, which establishes the order of narrative.  Audio establishes spatial perspective with spatially arranged “sounds [that] can be heard coming from outside and behind the range of peripheral vision, and a sound of adequate intensity can be felt on and within the body as a whole, thereby dislocating the frontal and conceptual associations of vision with an all-around corporeality and spatiality” (Kahn 1999 27). As a result of the arrangement of audio in design, the conceptually dissociative and embodied properties of sound have the potential to contribute to a representational space which includes the reader. Furthermore, the design of the audio immerses the reader in a physical relation to narrative, as Kahn states, by detaching vision as a conceptual apparatus and rendering the body a site for experience, understanding and spatiality. The positioning of the reader in representational space by design is linked to focalization, or “the perspective in terms of which the narrated situations and events are presented” (Prince 32). In responding to the sonic space of the works, temporal and spatial focalization becomes part of the procedural arrangement of narrative in design. In my examination of audio as a part of design I argue temporal perspective is a result of the focalization in narrative created by audio. The material dimensions of the digital works include the “temporal and spatial relationships [that] are essential to our understanding of [the] narratives and go beyond the specification of a date and a location” (Bridgeman 2005 65). Representational spaces in the works include the reader, as an embodied agent, as a character, or as a perspectival presence in the works. Placing the reader within the representational space of the works results in a restricted or guided experience of narrative.
In the acknowledgement of the page dimension to the digital works, remediation is central for how representational space is negotiated in reading. Remediation, as I have already described, is “the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 273) in “the mediation of mediation” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 56). This refashioning can influence the reception of the digital works in terms of reading as a historical and acquired practice. Each reference to an older medium in the digital is also a reference to the reception practices associated with that form. This historical awareness is an important element in reading representational space in the works. Remediation in design is thus meaningful due to the non-verbal qualities it brings to the works. In the digital works each instance of remediation adds perspectives to reading, as a remediated video, a book, or a phone, with each providing a distinct point of view within overall narrative structure. Due to the simulative nature of remediation in the digital works, each example of remediation comes with a perspective on narrative. A virtual-book supposes the physical act of reading and a home video supposes a viewing subject. As I explain in the following analysis, the objects in the digital works are related to themes in design and interaction with them results in reader perspective as part of narrative. What emerges from the triad of object, theme and perspective is the reader physically entering into a relationship with the digital work and performing it according to the structure of its design via its objects.
The object-theme-perspective triad in the digital works develops from the signification of Charles S. Pierce, as “a cooperation of three subjects, such as a sign, its object, and its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in any way resolvable into actions between pairs" (Pierce/Houser 1992 411). Space is defined in the works by the interactive elements that operate in narrative according to a triad of object-theme-perspective. The iconic sign is the basis for this triad in reading, which, as I have already clarified in previous chapters, “is a sign fit to be used as such because it possesses the quality signified” (Peirce New Elements Vol. 2 307). The object-theme-perspective triad is activated in the digital works when the object/s within the work are related to a narrative theme and any interaction with the object/s by the reader results in perspective/s on that theme. Repetition enforces the iconic in the works, as it creates meaning at the level of the material according to emphasis. In the design of the digital works, the repetition of a picture, a sound or a word is often meaningful according to its physical manifestation as multiple. This repetition results in the reading of forms and combinations as patterns, based on emphases.[2] Repetition is thus one element in meaningful design that guides reading, and which often spills over from the representational world of narrative into the inhabited world of the reader.  My primary example of this cross over between the narrative function of design and the role design plays in the physical work is monumentality. These exchanges between the physicality of design and the meaning of narrative according to monumentality hold elements of interactional metalepsis.

[1] Such representation in the materials of digital media can be related to how “users of cyberspace have bought into the ‘spatialized’ scenario, complete with its imperialists overtones, by using frontier framework” along with the “highlighting and re-inscribing [of] suburban values” in such representational spaces as The Sims (Flanagan 2000 76). Flanagan’s argument takes up the re-inscription of values upon space that frame particular narrative possibilities. This is highly relevant to the present study.
[2] Emphasis as non-verbal meaning is discussed by Katherine Hayles (See Hayles 1999: 28, 98, 248 and 2005: 173, 182, 189).

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Connecting the Dots: movement, space and the digital image

Friday, 12 April 2013
Location: CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT


Jenna Ng (CRASSH)


The conference aims to investigate how we might understand and theorise space in relation to the digital image. Building on the recent 'sensory turn' in visual scholarship, the meanings, materialities and values of the image suggested through the interconnectedness of visual and other sensorial relations have revived discussion of the image's transcription of space. Part of this discussion concerns a shift in thinking about visual production and consumption, particularly from mobile media, as happening in movement. At the same time, this shift coincides with the development of digital imaging technologies as digital photography and cinema facilitate new experiences and consumption in movement, in the process encouraging new ways of understanding space and images. The objective of this conference is to bring together scholars in the fields of digital media, architecture, anthropology, design, visual studies, cultural studies, game studies, and any others who are interested in space and digital media to expand on what has so far largely been a 'visual discourse' and to facilitate a dialogue from diverse perspectives about questions of space, movement, the sensorial and the digital.

Confirmed speakers

  • Alan Blackwell, University of Cambridge
  • William Brown, University of Roehampton, London
  • Sean Cubitt, University of Goldsmiths
  • Seth Giddings, University of West of England
  • Asbjørn Grønstad, University of Bergen
  • Markos Hadjioaonnou, Duke University
  • Monique Ingalls, University of Cambridge
  • Trond Lundemo, Stockholm University
  • Lisa Purse, University of Reading
  • Aylish Wood, University of Kent  


Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH),  University of Cambridge.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Finnish/Suomi Freak Noise Folk Compilation

"The music contained here is the sound tracks to a thousand journeys and a million shelters. As we absorb the fragments of our lives in the Digital Empire, we so often lack the sound to step between each momentary space, independent of the machines that control us. The genius of this compilation is in giving us the means to alter total consciousness and vision in city, town, room or field. The music is timeless with jazz folding folk into ritual, raga, soul, chant, wail, steady, noise, groove. Nothing bends twice upon the same step. Loose shanties by lost sailors. This is space music for those still left loving the Earth. Pulse transmission windows to other worlds. Where tribal acoustics meet 1960s American cult TV themes. Way back where, deep in the forest, we left something behind. Somehow it now lies just below the surface in the back streets and taiga of Finland. The world promised us is today as primitive as it is cyberspace, breath and wood and gut string as digital and electric. Technologies of sound go so very deep. These tracks are coded properly; the order is maintained after download to portable device and the flow when played is a wild clockwork journey of sound. Careful attention has been paid to the upward rise and plateaus. There can be little doubt; that which is contained here produces change in the human unit. Beyond the mind there is a universe of possibilities. These sounds are a portal to those states. Traveling around my urban space listening to these bursts of realness, headphones, I felt elated, calm, empty, entranced and even blissful. I remembered things I did not even know I had forgotten. I tasted again the green spaces of freedom and origin.

The jazz mind. To step off from practice into improvisation. To make the unrepeatable, or in other words the impossible. When music began to be written down and ‘musician’ became a profession and no longer a class, the magic left it, as craft mutated into serial production. The scales changed as they are changing again now. Today anyone with a dry space, electricity, a hard drive, screen and motherboard can do it. Magick is now made upon the Bebop skulls of our ancestors. This is music from a dream city. An auditory passport you use without moving. Suddenly faces fit patterns, your blood seems to be made of warm honey. Beauty is in atoms, light and the fall of a hair across a bare shoulder. Shaded for a time from the long hot dry contemplation of the mind. You can only live with Life for so long. Then blindness sets in and you move according to habit, the dull radar of the day to day. Desires pushed back and feelings left simmering or blunted with the plethora of distractions and anesthetics on offer today. But does anyone really deserve that? I am away from there. Olen vapaa mies!

Forty (40!!!) tracks, passages of sound, aural time. We Have No Zen! have scratched harder and broken open the sheltered world of Finnish/Suomi Freak Noise Folk with this outstanding compilation. It may change your life."

James Barrett (aka Nada Baba)
Stockholm, Sweden October 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Keepers of the River

Screenshot, "The Burden of Dreams" (1982) a feature-length documentary and making-of directed by Les Blank, shot during and about the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo, filmed in the jungles of South America.

"The question of hearsay had a deeper dimension and required research of an entirely different kind. [Arguing for their title to the land] the Indians could only claim that they’d always been there; this they had learned from their grandparents. When, finally, the case appeared hopeless, I managed to get an audience with the President, [Fernando] Belaúnde. The Machiguengas of Shivankoreni elected two representatives to accompany me. [In the President’s office in Lima] when our conversation threatened to come to a standstill, I presented Belaúnde with the following argument: in Anglo-Saxon law, although hearsay is generally inadmissible as evidence, it is not absolutely inadmissible. As early as 1916, in the case of Angu vs. Atta, a colonial court in the Gold Coast (today Ghana) ruled that hearsay could serve as a valid form of evidence.

That case was completely different. It had to do with the use of a local governor’s palace; then, too, there were no documents, nothing official that would have been relevant. But, the court ruled, the overwhelming consensus in hearsay that countless tribesmen had repeated and repeated, had come to constitute so manifest a truth that the court could accept it without further restrictions. At this, Belaunde, who had lived for many years in the jungle, fell quiet. He asked for a glass of orange juice, then said only Good god, and I knew that we had won him over. Today the Machiguengas have a title to their land; even the consortium of oil firms that discovered one of the largest sources of natural gas [in the world] directly in their vicinity respects it." Werner Herzog, On the Absolute, the Sublime and Ecstatic Truth

Monday, November 19, 2012

Place in Digital Narrative

The representation of place in interactive digital texts is an important element in how narrative functions. In examining the literature, Eva Kingsepp (2006) analyzes place according to the narrative of the text in relation to the historical genre of “Nazi-ness” in the computer games Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Medal of Honor: Underground. In Kingsepp’s approach, the representation of place within narrative is dependent upon “locations […] identified through a number of visual signs that together with connotations to other mediated visual representations, such as film and photography, establish a feeling of being in a certain place” (Kingsepp 67). The establishment of place in reading, according to Kingsepp, is dependent on the preexisting narrative associations, which are part of the “connotations to other mediated visual representations” (67). Places in the narrative are not points within the work where features are located, as these are spatial and part of design. A place addresses the reader in a representational sense, according to pre-existing narrative associations, where recognizable features depict or simulate elements of a location, either specifically such as Chicago or Cairo, or in terms of genre. A place that fulfills the requirements of genre functions on the level of depiction, in the sense of ‘village on the Nile’ or ‘a home’. The reader can often interact with these representations according to particular sets of pre-existing narrative elements, such as identifiable places (i.e. bar, lounge, hospital, generic Egypt, home, ancient ruin, colonial hotel).
         Place is not only a semantic label related to genres, even within the representational space of the digital works. Place is experienced and understood in the digital works, as “we tend to identify traces of circumambulatory movements that brings a place into being as boundaries that demarcate the place from its surrounding space” (Ingold 32). Navigation is a central element in this mode of reception. My reading of place in the digital works is profoundly dialogic, in a similar sense to that described by Ingold. When drawing on the work of Christopher Tilley (1994 25) and Lefebvre (1991 117-118), Ingold describes the role of place in human existence as

place-binding. It unfolds not in places but along paths. Proceeding along a path, every inhabitant lays a trail. Where inhabitants meet, trails are entwined, as the life of each becomes bound up with the other. Every entwining is a knot, and the more that life-lines are entwined, the greater the density of the knot. Places, then, are like knots and the threads from which they are tied are lines of wayfaring” (Ingold 33).

These convergences of experience and habitation are named and these names represent the sum total of what makes the place. Places that are both inhabited and imagined in the physical world are represented in the digital works. Interaction (mainly navigation and manipulation of objects), and language are the methods by which the reader inhabits the places within the representational space. Bakhtin in “The Problem of Speech Genres” (95-99) describes the assignment of genres solely based on the perceived identity of the addressee. However, many of the criteria mentioned by Bakhtin, such as social hierarchy, reader, listener, public or private, are contextualized by place. An example of this contextualization is taken up by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson in their use of Bakhtin’s related analytical concept of chronotope, time/space, to unpack the role of place in the hero/heroine trope: Introducing the break with the home as a place introduces the elements of chance in the relationship. (Morson and Emerson 379). In operating outside of genre classifications place is an organizing principle within representational space; it is lived through, understood and negotiated at the same time. In the digital works the representation of elements related to gender and class extends the representational scope of place into the specifics of society, culture, history etc. Close reading place somewhat removes the reader from the experience of the place, and by resorting to such tools as genre, it allows for the representational aspects to be analyzed.
The representation of place in the digital works of this present study is addressive. This addressivity progresses from the iconic elements and first-person perspective dealt with in the previous chapter. In their work with virtual worlds as a means to foster civic engagement, Eric Gordon and Gene Koo draw on the work of Malpas (1999) and Tuan & Mercure (2004), to identify place as “experienced space” (Gordon and Koo 206). As the site of experience, place becomes an organizing principle;

“Place can be produced through happenstance (the space of a first kiss), through narrative (the space of childhood that is persistently articulated with story), through familiarity (the space one lives each day), or through representation (the space of art or advertising). This identification with place is an important method of organizing personal experience and social actions" (Gordon and Koo 206).

In relation to the experience of the digital works as reading, the iconic features described in the previous chapter enter narrative in the representation of place based on reader identification. The experience of space in the works via navigation and the iconic elements in the works, such as virtual objects, create a sense of identification with the elements of place. The experience of the space by the reader is addressive according to the representations of place. An example of this recognition and experience is the lounge area in Façade, as a set of iconic representations, and the source of reader identification with a place. The reader negotiates the space created by design, as a series of interconnected and interrelated places, where space “is created by events, rather than being merely a location where events occur” (Muse 2011 191). The result is the role of place in reading, which is “not the writing of a place, but rather writing with places, spatially realized topics” (Bolter 2001 36). In this sense, place is narrated not as an object, but in the subjectivity gained by the experience of the work. Within its addressive elements the identification with place is associated with genres.
Genres function in reading the digital works by fusing characters with locations. An example of this is how places in Façade feature qualities that are assigned to the feminine and masculine characters as separate and specific places. The result is the infusion of space with meanings that are related to the genres of gender, in specific stereotypical and culturally specific ways. As I explain in the following analysis, the resulting narrative address is composed of coordinated written and visual components, character’s voices, incidental or diegetic sound. Navigation takes on meaning as the character fuse with the places represented in narrative, which in this study include class and gender. Similarly, Jenny Sundén argues in relation to narrative performance in early text-based MultiUser Dungeons (MUDs), “identity is experienced simultaneously as “self ” and “other” in embodied and imagined spaces” (Sundén 2002 80). This split between the subject and object exists in the embodied and imagined spaces of interactive texts. In other words, digital texts are “storied places” consisting of “carefully structured places to explore, and inhabit” (Sundén 2006 281). I argue separation between self and other in relation to reading the digital texts is diminished in the representation of place. The fusion with place is a defining addressive element that guides reading. The characters are fused in narrative with the places they occupy in a similar to how, “the inhabitant of the virtual world is a part of that world almost like a programmed extension” (Muse 205). The character and the program are one in digital interactive narratives.  This fusion includes the representation of place according to gender and socio-economic class.
The representation of place, and its associated elements are frames in reading narrative. Frames take on different meanings specific to the narratives of the works that must be distinguished. The frame is as much about reader contexts as it is about the work itself. As Terry Eagleton points out,

Reading is not a straightforward linear movement, merely a cumulative affair; our initial speculations generate a frame of reference within which to interpret what comes next, but what comes next may retrospectively transform our original understanding, highlighting some features of it and backgrounding others (Eagleton 67).

Eagleton provides, in “what comes next may retrospectively transform our original understanding”, a concentrated focus on the interpretive end of the dialogic network in reading. Frames of reference are related to pre-existing narratives within the digital works in the sense of dialogic addressivity. Address in the works establishes pre-existing components for narrative as a frame to events and actions. As I explain in my analysis, place is one such framing technique. To expand my account of place as a framing element in reading, to conclude this chapter I briefly illustrate how this can be applied to another frame for interactive narrative. Colonial nostalgia frames the reading of Egypt by dividing places according to colonial and the Other. These places outside the colonial are an interconnected network of dangerous and unstable sites in the narrative of the work. In both cases context is provided by framing, which controls and directs reader responses to narrative based on the conditions these frames represent in the texts.
Finally in relation to the representation of place in the texts, beyond the spatial dimensions outlined in the previous chapter, sound should also be understood as addressive. In address sound is symbolic representations, one of which is the representation of place. The example I discuss at length in this chapter is the use of accented and gendered voice as audio in Last Meal Requested and Façade, and how each is used to represent place and class. The accents in Last Meal Requested and Façade are attributed to the characters, as well as situating them in the places they occupy in narrative. In Façade recorded speech is standardized North American educated pronunciation, indicating a middle class affluence to the characters and thus establishing that particular context for all reader interaction with them. As a contrast, the accents of recorded speech in Last Meal Requested are linked to representations of South Central Los Angeles and the deep south of the United States. These are non-standardized dialect pronunciations that are connected to lower class and uneducated speakers. Class distinctions are signified by the accents of characters, which positions them in the larger defining category of place. Through references to place, sounds invite particular interpretations in the reading of the narratives.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Archived Videos from Machinima Expo 2012

Watch live streaming video from themachinimaexpo at

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Immanent Knowledge

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Understanding Machinima: Essays on Filmmaking in Virtual Worlds

In what may be a new genre of academic machinima, we are introduced to the forthcoming collection of essays and interviews on machinima making, viewing and theorizing from Continuum Press; "Understanding Machinima: Essays on Filmmaking in Virtual Worlds" edited by Jenna Ng. The machinima explains the origins of the book project, outlines its underlying theoretical perspectives and gives some insight into why everyone interested in machinima should read it.

As an unprecedented event in academic publishing, the collection is augmented with an dynamic online media collection that readers can access through QR-codes embedded in the text. While reading about machinima the reader can go to films, images, links and written texts that support the book chapters.

"In this groundbreaking new collection, Dr. Jenna Ng brings together academics, award-winning artists and machinima makers to discuss and explore the unique and fascinating combination of cinema, animation and games. Machinima makes for a very cost- and time-efficient way to produce films, with a large amount of creative control, by combining the techniques of film making, animation production and the technology of real-time 3D game engines.

With an opening preface by Henry Lowood, the leading academic studying Machinima, as well as a closing interview with Isabelle Arvers, a French machinima artist and activist,, the collection features theoretical discussions addressing machinima from non-gaming perspectives. The various functions of machinima are also discussed, via game art and documentary, while also exploring the application of such machinima making in a Cultural Analysis course at Umeå University."

Friday, November 09, 2012

Addressivity in Digital Narratives

Beyond the level of design, Last Meal Requested, Egypt, Façade and Dreamaphage function as complex communicative acts or utterances in reader engagement. As part of this engagement, the concept of dialogic addressivity explains how these works incite the interpretive responses from a reader that create narrative meaning. I outlined in Chapter One the basic concept of addressivity as adapted from the work of Mikhail Bakhtin. Bakhtin qualifies all communication in terms of addressivity, always with an intended recipient and fashioned with “the quality of turning to someone” (Bakhtin 1986 99). This address defines the style, mode, sentiment and contexts of narrative, as “every word is directed toward an answer and cannot escape the profound influence of the answering word that it anticipates (Bakhtin 2002 280). By understanding the digital works as utterances that are contextually defined by addressivity, it becomes possible to see in each, “the influence of the anticipated response, dialogic echoes from other’ preceding utterances, faint traces of changes of speech subjects that have furrowed the utterance from within” (Bakhtin 1986 99). I equate the ‘furrows’ from within the utterance with the possibilities for interpretation and responses in representation. Two examples dealt with in this chapter of how ‘dialogic echoes’ are introduced into the reception of the digital works are in the speech accents as indicative of class in Last Meal Requested and gendered elements demarcating places in Façade. These features provide external context for the reader, in relation to the works as complex assemblages of social, cultural, historical and literary referents. From these factors it is possible to establish addressivity as a means by which the works can be understood in reading.
Addressivity is grounded in the idea that literature seeks out identities in how it evokes and refers to contexts. Literature does this through, “composition and, particularly, the style of the utterance depend[ing] on those to whom the utterance is addressed, how the speaker (or writer) senses and imagines his addressee, and the force of their effect on the utterance” (Bakhtin 1986 95). In the digital works, the addressee is expected to understand and respond to particular references and representations that are grounded in cultural, social and historical assumptions. These assumptions include concepts of gender and identity as well as the class structure of North American society in Facade and Last Meal Requested. In the digital works language operates in relation to these contexts in its broadest possible sense, taking in images, spaces, bodies, sounds and writing, and these create the conditions of identity that fit within the reception of the works. In this reception it is necessary to consider language “not as a system of abstract grammatical categories but rather language conceived as ideologically saturated, language as a world view, even as a concrete opinion, insuring a maximum of mutual understanding in all spheres of ideological life” (Bakhtin 2002 271). Language as ideologically saturated and representing a world view is cohesive in and of itself. This language relies on the images and ideas grounded in broader social and cultural contexts, but it is individual and whole at the point of its expression. An example of this context/individual duality is the class aspirations of Trip in Façade draw upon middle class North American identity from the late 20th century, but at the same time is an expression of individuality for the character in relation to the character of Grace.
Addressivity in narrative depends upon the ideological qualities of the utterance in how they anticipate an answer from an addressee. This anticipation of a response, as I explained in Chapter One, is part of the works as interactive media that communicate with a reader. The works demonstrate that “understanding and response are dialectically merged and mutually condition each other; one is impossible without the other” (Bakhtin 2002 282). Communication in the works is defined by ideology, which operates across the media represented in the works (i.e. video, spaces, written text, audio, images), and unites them as texts. In the digital works of the present study, ideology is expressed in the representation and references to class and gender as themes in narrative. In this sense the works are dialogic, in a model that “represents readers as shaping the utterance as it is being made. That is why utterances can belong to their speakers (or writers) only in the least interesting, purely psychological sense; but as meaningful communication, they always belong to at least two people, the speaker and his or her listener” (Morson and Emerson 1990 129). These are expressed through genres and stereotypes, with a focus on the representation of places within narrative. Genres are represented in the digital works according to Bakhtin’s concept of dialogism, whereby meaning is associated with the context the utterance represents, not only in time and place, but also as a historical and material example of a particular social act of communication. The genres I discuss in the works are expressed in accents, gendered places, and representations of class.

(While reading this extract from my PhD Thesis I recommend listening to Negativeland by Neu)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Possible Thesis Cover

This is a mock up I did today as an idea for the cover of my PhD thesis. It should be published early in 2013 if all goes well. I wanted to have an image that refers directly back to the process of writing and research. The unmade bed at the bottom of the image, and the corner desk piled high with books, discs, artifacts and instruments speaks of how I have been living the past 7 years.

Please Lord make it end!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Combination of Thesis Extracts on Remediation

On a simple level remediation, “the representation of one medium in another” (Bolter and Grusin 44), introduces the reception practices associated with both old and new media for Dreamaphage. The remediation of a book calls upon the reading practices traditionally associated with that particular material form (reading left to right in English, type script arranged on flat pages arranged in order, a set sequence of pages etc.). In Dreamaphage, five three-dimensional virtual objects, which in form and function resemble printed books, compose the majority of the work. The reader opens the cover, turns the pages and reads the lines of printed text in the virtual-books from a first-person perspective as one does an actual book. However, due to the Flash programing, the virtual pages can only be opened one at a time in an order starting from the first page. In this way randomness has been precluded from reading. Despite the clear simulation, the books in Dreamaphage do not make it possible for the reader to “learn how to participate in the construction of a text, searching in ways the author might never have anticipated, yoking ideas together which were to be located at different points in the work” (Rhodes and Sawday 2000 7), according to the traditional design of the codex book. Rather, the simulated books of Dreamaphage restrict reading by controlling order and positioning the reader in a temporal relationship with narrative that is grounded in a shared representational space.

The concept of remediation (Bolter and Grusin 1999) is just one historical dimension that makes close reading relevant to the analysis of digital literature. Remediation is “Defined by Paul Levenson as the “anthropotropic” process by which new media technologies improve upon or remedy prior technologies. We define the term differently, using it to mean the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms. Along with immediacy and hypermediacy, remediation is one of the three traits of our genealogy of new media” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 273). As I go on to explain through my analysis, remediation has the effect of the awareness of media according to historical praxis in reading. I examine address, the prefaces, perspective and the representation of place in the works as making reference or including remediation. Finally, emerging from the historical, it is not the temporality suggested by interactive media that creates tensions between digital technology and close reading, rather it is the process of interactive meaning making that is problematic for traditional close reading methods. The digital works are interactive, fluid, and dynamic, and as I demonstrate in my analysis, open to close reading that accounts for these factors. For this reason the methodological points for close reading digital literature outlined by Ciccoricco (2012) are useful for this present study.

Remediation is a central element in how representational space is negotiated in reading narrative. Remediation, as I have already described, is “the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 273) in “the mediation of mediation” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 56). How this refashioning can influence reception should firstly be understood in terms of reading as a historical and acquired practice. Readers’ respond to remediation with an awareness of media as representing sets of historical practices and responses. Each reference to an older medium in the digital is also a reference to the consumption practices associated with that form. This historical awareness is an important element in reading representational space in the works. Remediation in design is also meaningful due to the qualities it brings to the works. In the digital works each example of remediation adds perspectives to reading, such as a video, a book, or a phone, with each providing a point of view within the overall narrative structure. These remediated elements perform functions within digital narrative similar to characters, with a medium providing a point of view in the overall structure of the text. Due to the simulative nature of remediation in the digital works, each example of remediation comes with a perspective on narrative.

The lack of a hard or fast boundary is a characteristic shared by the digital prefaces, in a general sense of remediation, which builds upon Genette’s “undefined zone” regarding the reader approaching the text. The preface produces an image of an interior and exterior in relation to the work, offering rules and advice in regards to the reader’s approach and interpretation. The rules of the prefaces are one key element in the performative reading of the works. Each preface functions in relation to the text it introduces, as a guide for reading, including discounting, qualifying, explaining, and contextualizing elements of the work for the reader.

The prefaces embody the remediation of print, which contributes significantly to how reading is introduced. Remediation, or as Bolter and Grusin summarize it the “mediation of mediation” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 56), guides reader attention by introducing the historically and culturally familiar in the representation of print. I contend that this introduction is part of reading the texts, and more specifically it directs reader attention and agency in the authorial prefaces. Thus remediation historicizes the digital works and contextualizes their reading beyond the material instantiations in a set of established reception practices. Remediation accounts for the materiality of addressivity, which in the prefaces exhibits a strict adherence to the conventions of print media. This prescriptive function can be attributed to what Bolter and Grusin explain as,

“The representation of one medium in another [...]. What might seem at first to be an esoteric practice is so widespread that we can identify a spectrum of different ways in which digital media remediate their predecessors, a spectrum depending on the degree of perceived competition or rivalry between the new media and the old” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 45).

In contemporary digital media the practice of remediation is so widespread that it exists in a totalizing spectrum. All forms of media refer back to established forms of mediation, or as Marshal McLuhan pointed out, “the 'content' of any medium is always another medium” (McLuhan 1964 8). For this reason remediation is not taken up in detail in the previous chapter, as it is a basic element in digital media today. In the prefaces, the remediation of the works themselves is clarified and explained by the authorial voice, and this includes references to spatial configuration (including depth, layering and design), which harmonize the various media forms in the works (video, three-dimensional spaces, written text, audio and still images), and represent movement and the passing of time for the reader.

Furthermore the prefaces themselves are remediated elements that frame the reception of the multimodal digital works. The references to remediation in the prefaces are attempts by the authorial voice to control responses to the works based on established reception practices associated with the older media.  All forms of media refer back to established forms of mediation, or as Marshal McLuhan pointed out, “the 'content' of any medium is always another medium” (McLuhan 1964 8). In the prefaces, the remediation of the works themselves is clarified and explained by the authorial voice, and this includes references to spatial configuration (including depth, layering and design), which harmonize the various media forms in the works (video, three-dimensional spaces, written text, audio and still images), and represent movement and the passing of time for the reader. Furthermore the prefaces themselves are remediated elements that frame the reception of the multimodal digital works. The references to remediation in the prefaces are attempts by the authorial voice to control responses to the works based on established reception practices associated with the older media.

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Machinima Expo 2012 (program and links)

Watch live streaming video from themachinimaexpo at
Monday, November 12th, 2012
12:00am        Expo Screening Reels start. Shops Open.
Jury reel, Screening reel, Honorable Mention reel and more.
Complete list available at
Reels run 24/7 at Manhattan Reverie sim in Second Life or via Expo Livestream.
Special VideoDome (by Thoth Jantzen) showings begin as well. VideoDome is situated above Central Park in Manhattan Reverie Sim.
All specialty shops for our sponsors (Muvizu, 3Dconnexion, Reallusion, Moviestorm and Open This End) are now open in the Manhattan Reverie sim in Second Life.

November 16th, 2012 (FRIDAY) Focus: Machinima Craft and Tutorials
(Note: All events take place live in the virtual world of Second Life at the New York Manhattan Reverie sim and simultaneously via the Expo Livestream)
Introduction by Ricky Grove
9AM - 10:00am    -iClone presentation     John Martin of Reallusion

10 – 10:30am    -Muvizu presentation         Barry Sheridan of Digimania

10:30 - 11:00am    -Second Life Tutorial     Cisko Vandeverre, SL filmmaker
11:00 - 11:30am    -Unity3D presentation     Joe Robins of Unity3D

11:30 - 12:00am    -ipi Soft Tutorial         Pavel Sorokin of ipiSoft

12:30 – 1:00am     -MovieStorm             Shirley Martin, Moviestorm

1:00 – 2:00am    -Live Music/Dance Party
+ Joe Farbrook Installation Art Island visit (link tba)

November 17th (SATURDAY) Focus: Machinima Panels and Discussions
Introduction by Pooky Amsterdam
8:30am         Keynote Address by Torley Linden

9 - 9:45am         Topic: Machinima as Movie - The Big Picture
-A conversation between Douglas Gayeton & Jason Silva

10 - 10:45am         Topic: The Machinima is The Message -
Politics and Machinima
-Joseph Delappe, Fanny Starr, Helen Starr and Joliz Cedeno

11 - 11:45am         Perspective on New Machinima Platforms /
New Perspectives on  Classic Machinima Platforms
-Tom Jantol, John Martin, Bruce Wallace, Joseph Kwong ,
LaPiscean Liberty

12 - 1pm         Break & Band (live music) The Follow

1 - 1:15pm         Topic: Machinima Sound & Music
(Intro with Ricky Grove & Phyllis Johnson)
1:15 - 1:45pm     Topic: Composing for Film
-Claus Gahrn -Richard G Roberto -Phil Rice -Ricky Grove -
Phyllis Johnson

2 - 2:45pm         Topic: Is There a Realistic Market for Machinima?
-Paul Marino -Warren Schultz -Dean Takahashi -Jeff Ramos

3 - 3:45pm         Topic: The Machinima Series - Dream & Reality
-Chris Burke -Flufee McFluff -Olibith Gnome -Saffia Widdershins

4 - 4:45pm         Topic: Got Real Life?- Non Fiction or
Documentary Machinima
-Daniel Moshel -Draxtor Despres -Judy Kriger -Freeta Kayo

PLUS: Live Interviews with select members of the machinima community from Second Life
– It’s New York with Reporters Rysan Fall & Pooky Amsterdam

November 18th (SUNDAY)
The 5th Annual Expo Awards 2012
(Note: Each award-winning film will be screened live after each award is announced)

9:00 AM     Introduction by Ricky Grove

9:15 AM    The 2012 Machinima Expo Awards Ceremony
(Kinte Ferguson & Lauren Weyland Presenters)

• The Peter Rasmussen Award (for outstanding contributions to the Machinima community)

• OPEN THIS END Award (special cash prize to outstanding film from the 10 Jury nominated films)

• JURY Prize Winners (3 films)

Solid Gold Tiny Dancers (musical interlude)

• Grand Prize Winning Film Q & A with the Director of Grand Prize

• Closing Lock-Note Address from Will Wright

(Approximate ending of Awards Ceremony is around 11:30am - pacific time)
• Post Show Party! (location TBA)

November 18, 2012
6pm        Jury films added to screening reels
All reels continue 24/7 at Manhattan Reverie Sim and at Machinima Expo Livestream. VideoDome continues screening.

November 26, 2012
12am        All Screening Reels Closed. Manhattan Reverie sim closed.

This program can be downloaded from here as a PDF.