Monday, October 28, 2013

Game On 2.0 Exhibition at the Museum of Technical Science Stockholm

The exhibition Game On 2.0 is organized by the Barbican Center in London and opened last Friday at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm. I experienced it today, moving through more than 100 playable games on consoles, handhelds, arcade boxes and personal computers from the past 50 years of interactive computer games.

GAME ON 2.0 - Ontario Science Centre Exhibition from CNW on Vimeo.

Highlights of Game On 2.0 include an original 'Computer Space' by Nutting Associates (1971) captured in this video of actual play.


I was very impressed by the audio used in Computer Space. Computer Space was the world's first commercially sold coin-operated video game and video game system of any kind (predating magnovox odyssey) It's the first coin-operated arcade game to use a video display to generate graphics via video signal (predating Magnovox Odyssey). It was built by Nolan Bushnell (a founder of Atari and Chuck E' Cheese).

Also featuring in the exhibtion is a Magnavox Odyssey, the world's first commercial home video game console. It was first demonstrated in April 1972 and released in August of that year, predating the Atari Pong home consoles by three years. It is a digital video game console, though is often mistakenly believed to be analog, due to misunderstanding of its hardware design. The Odyssey lacked sound. 

Here are a few detail shots of the Odyssey from the one on show in the exhibition.

The following are two examples of Computer Space (1971) in original green and ruby arcade cabinets. Each stand almost 2 meters tall and has an other-worldly feel to them. But I suppose that was the idea back in the day.

Of course as everyone knows, the first real computer game was Spacewar, which Computer Space was based on. This is acknowledges in the exhibition:

 Some of the oldest games in the exhibition are handhelds. 

The other outstanding feature of the Game On 2.0 exhibition are the sketches, models and drawings from some of the biggest games ever made.

Finally, another highlight I want to mention here from Game On 2.0 is a simple piece of nostalgia. It is Galaga in an original arcade cabinet. I played Galaga at skate rinks, shopping arcades, as well as in bus stations as my parents dragged my brother, sister and I around Greece and Turkey on a 6 month hippie odyssey in 1982. Suddenly in the National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm I was 13 years old again as I assumed the rapid fire hunched posture I knew all those years ago. This time my two sons were beside me, and we each played a round of Galaga. It was a magic moment.

The Game On 2.0 exhibition runs from 25 October 2013 – 27 April 2014 at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm. Take the Bus 69 to Museiparken from the stop near Sergels Torg oppostite the Åhlens. I recommend it to all, and plan to return myself. It is a popular account of computer games that avoids any difficulties or the darker sides of gaming. I noticed the absence of the Wolfenstein games, but due to the Nazi imagery maybe this was too difficult.

Be warned that at high demand times (like now) you buy a 50 minute slot of time at the exhibition. These have to be booked once you have purchased your tickets. The staff say this may change later in the year, but it depends on how demand goes. Fifty minutes is not enough to see the whole exhibition. The rooms are not that large and they are filled with games. I could have easily spent 4 hours there.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Notes from Symposium: Perspectives on Sound Design (University of York Friday 5 July 2013)

Some of my notes from a symposium I attended in the summer on sound design in films. The speakers included Dr Patrick Susini, Larry Sider, Prof. Davide Rocchesso, Dr Gianluca Sergi, Neil Hillman and Andy Farnell. It was the first time I had ever been to an academic event that only included male speakers, even though it was organized by a woman.

We must break this restricted circle of pure sounds and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds (Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noises, 1913)

One hundred years ago futurist artist Luigi Russolo invented mechanical synthesizers, called Intonarumori, capable of producing and controlling noise-sounds.
This, together with the emergence of recording technology, marked the beginning of Sound Design.

Nowadays the term Sound Design is used in many domains: academic research, university courses, commercial websites, film credits, job descriptions, etc.
But what does it mean to ‘design sound’? How does it differ from music? What are the disciplines and skills involved?

This symposium brings together leading international academics, researchers and practitioners to discuss the definition and boundaries of the emergent field of sound design.

This is a unique opportunity to delve into the interdisciplinarity of the field and to gain an appreciation of the interconnections between different perspectives on sound design.

Larry Sider

Peter Sellers (Director) - "sound is about place, not space"

Sourced sound? - Sound Editor, Sound Design.

Track editing - composition, montage.

harmonizing with the image, same aesthetic color, push/pull audience into/out of the image.

"how does this effect the audience?

"Starts with reality, a door that opens and closes and squeaks, and you quickly go beyond that"

Sound is a way in to the film as image.

Sound design - "all the processes, all the conceptualizing, all the technology, that creates the bubble of their [the audience] own ideas, their own experience"

Listening sessions - play random bits of sound, (sound art, radio exerts, film sound).

Pauline Oliveros - deep listening?

don't romanticize the process, but it is like a magic.

sound and image - get them going the right way, it is an ecstasy (David Lynch)

sound must work with all the other elements of the film.

"are you going to noise it up now?" - the stage of production influences the nature of production.

Sound traditionally comes last.

if sound comes in last, its role is much more narrowly defined.

sound and editing can be done side by side -  feedback between both can then result.

syncronicity - the bottom line in any film project.

real life is synchronous - Peter Kabalko (Austrian film maker)

Apocalypse Now -  opening sound of helicopter in darkness, where am I? (Space not place).

remix, found film -  a form of alchemy

Egoless Programming

Davide Rocchesso

Basic Sonic interaction Design.

Design - always based on a loop, a continuous aeration that can be explicitly tested

SKETCH (represented) - hearing - EXPERIENCE

Sound and Music Computing: Research trends and some issues (Widmer et al. 2007)

* sounds as computational materials (Vallgårda and Sololer 2010)

family of basic design methods - rooted in design history, systematic perceptual training through hands-on activity (Bauhaus). exercises or problems with objectives and constraints, demonstrations and inter-subjectvities, action-perception loop, interactions gestalts (Svanaes 2000)

reduce interactions with elementary blocks that can be explained and experimented with.

Bauhaus -  combinations of art, science, technology

Moholy-Nagy - visions and emotions, time and space, multi-sensory qualities.

Albers - colors and emotions, Book on color interaction.

Experimental Phenomenology
- discovery supported by inter-observations. group agreement.
- pillars of experience outside the lab environment

Building abstract artifacts (Hallnäs and Redström 2011)

Closest analogue to paper and pencil with sound design is use of voice, by way of imitation.

interactions can be performed by rough prototypes.

Having a sound model is very important, because a model means perimeters and these can be manipulated.

Models - Friction, Crumpling, Rolling, Streaming, Breathing, Beating etc. set up model on inter-observational consensus, (this is 'rolling' sound).

Rhythmic Interaction - matching speed with accuracy and consistency with adaptability, sparing attention and effort (Dahl 2005). Virtuosity turns fatigue into joy of performing (Sennet 2008).

Entertainment - clapping (C. Erkut)

Sonic interactions with hand clap sounds (A. Jylhä and Cumhur, Erkut)

basic design exercise : cutting vegetables. (Rocchesso et al.)

models were often more effective that referent sounds (e.g. rolling marble on a grooved piece of wood). HOWEVER -  signification is limited and there is a need for judgement regarding how far you can take the referent.

models of emotion -  axes of action, arousal and valiance,

Clinical analysis - moves away from abstract design.

Gesture -

a) music gesture

b) manual gesture

c) audio feedback

azimuth (vertical) is useful for spatial judgements based in audio

horizontal is not useful or spatial judgements based in audio

Sound Design Toolkit (Rocchesso).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Images of Syrian Female Fighters

Frankenstein’s Monster Comes Home: The ‘Two Cultures’ in Remix

Just published in Authorship Vol. 2 No. 2 (2013) is a piece by me, Frankenstein’s Monster Comes Home: The ‘Two Cultures’ in Remix


Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley (1818) is the starting point for this reading of remix in relation to authorship and its implications for creative work. The monster in Frankenstein has no single author, or father, and is damned by his mixed parentage as much as by his inability to recreate himself. Alone, he falls into the waste as a product of the divide between poetry and science. The ‘two cultures’ coined by C. P. Snow (1956) address this same divide and lament its dominance in mid twentieth-century intellectual life. But contemporary remix culture that relies on digital media closes this gap as poets now write code and artists are technicians. In my close reading of five remixes I show that origin is no longer relevant in the mixed material realization of processes that are performed or ‘re-authored’ in reception. In these remixes the creator reinterprets by changing the context of remixed elements in the works. The result is textual hybrids that are remixed further in reception.


And from the Editors:

This issue contains a very interesting special topics section on "Remix
in Authorship" which is guest-edited by Nelleke Moser of VU University
Amsterdam, and which comes out of a seminar held there exactly two years
ago today. The issue also includes an article on periodical culture in
1920s Argentina by Geraldine Rogers, and our very first review.

If you or someone you know might be interested in reviewing, or if you
have a book for review, please contact Lisa Walters of UGent will be
handling our correspondence on reviewing.

As always, my particular thanks go to Jasper Schelstraete for carrying
out the technical duties associated with an online journal; to Gert
Buelens for serving as our chief editor; to everyone who graciously
agreed to peer review these articles; and especially to our contributors
and guest editor.

We are always looking for new, quality submissions; please pass the word
to anyone with relevant material! We will continue to publish twice
yearly; our next issue, which will include some of the keynotes from
UGent's Reconfiguring Authorship conference last fall, will likely be
out in a few more months.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blockholm: Crowdsourcing City Planning with Minecraft

The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design has announced a project where the topographic site for Stockholm has been reproduced in Minecraft and people are invited to rebuild the city virtually.

Blockholm opens on 24 October and allows people to realize the city they always dreamed of. It is interesting as it allows a form of modelling and design rarely practiced on a large scale in city planning. According to the website (not my translation):

Blockholm - A new Stockholm in Minecraft

In architecture, work is in digital tools and models. What happens when these tools become available to anyone? Maybe we can see where the road will be, the house was to stand. Building a model in three dimensions and show how we think. In Block Holm will all be with. A simple method, the same for all, we can build a new city, block by block. We have cleared the city of all past. There is something scary, yet liberating in to start anew.

How can we change our city?

Can the game be a way to show what we think and what we want? In Blockholm we build all side by side, adult children, our dreams and ideas. Everybody has the same conditions but with different starting points. We can test ideas and forms without preconditions, possible and impossible. We have a new way to have a conversation with each other and with policy makers.

The digital mirror image

- By maintaining the road network, we can orient ourselves in this amazing reflection. The basic structure is the same, but everything is different, says Markus Bohm, artist and project manager:
- We want to create a meeting between the game's realities and current urban planning and architecture. Minecraft has become a great platform for creativity and we want to show new ways of working, new ways to organize.

The world's largest Architecture and Design Projects

Each property in today Stockholm is an identical plot in Blockholm.
- We have generated approximately 100,000 construction sites. It will be the world's largest architecture and design projects in terms of number of participants. We will release district for district to allow the city to emerge piecemeal. All participants will work side by side and see how the city is emerging from within. There is a huge process that anyone can follow. In an interactive map on the internet, the construction of blocks islet seen in real time, says Mats Karlsson, architect and project manager.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Abandoned Public Library Detroit 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Consumption and Distribution of Audio Culture in the Global Online Marketplace

I know this is regressive, but I still love it. The Black Angels, Don't Play With Guns (fuzz and thunder)
"Marginality is today no longer limited to minority groups, but is rather massive and pervasive; this cultural activity of the non-producers of culture, an activity that is unsigned, unreadable, and unsymbolized, remains the only one possible for all those who nevertheless buy and pay for the showy products through which a productivist economy articulates itself. Marginality is becoming a universal. A marginal group has now become a silent majority" Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life p. xvii.
Online streaming of music is becoming the normal mode of consumption in many communities. Streaming removes the accidental element of finding music that was present with Mp3 blogs and once upon a time, record shops. Even the Forced Exposure catalog allows you to mix and match. On programs such as Spotify there are recommendations for similar music, based on record label classification -  in other words holding you pretty much in the structure determined by the companies that are taking 70% of proceeds on the service.

Streaming services like Spotify were always an attempt to find a business model that could function to the satisfaction of the labels in the infected climate of what was supposed to be 'post-Pirate Bay' marketplace, following the conviction of the three main players behind it. It was the publishing companies, studio owners and major record labels that wanted the Pirate Bay stopped and for a model to be introduced that would continue a capital flow in a market dominated by the Internet. Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon were in the right place at the right time. This does not solve the problem of artists not making money or "the showy products through which a productivist economy articulates itself".

“We’re punks because we’re restless,” Ek said recently. “We’re punk but in a positive way. What we’re about is trying to build something for the long term… Our mission is to bring all the music to every single person on the planet.” What would this entail, bringing "all the music to every single person on the planet”? It would basically lock us into a muzak-style delivery system where blandness is added to every note.

If all the music is available, what about the music that is not? There will always be music that is beyond the reach of easy delivery (thank goodness!) such as that brought to us by musicologist Christopher Kirkley who has put out two albums of Saharan cell phone music, under his excellent label Sahel Sounds. Mr Kirkley has to travel, and search and work for this music to be more accessible for more people. If it was otherwise, the music would not be the same as it is today, a voyage into the far sonic realms that bring the mind into a new experience. This still relies on the Internet, but it does so with a Do It Yourself (DIY) aesthetic that runs true of many folk cultures and genuine marginal communities, such as the Punks of 77.

Punk was about finding a relevant form of musical expression for what (mostly young) people where experiencing in the hard times of 1976-78 (as is depicted in this contemporary German documentary looking at the first wave of punk/anarchist culture in London in 1977). Today the online streaming of music is the same business as always just under a different brand name.  “We’re back to the same revenue levels as during 2004, and if the development continues in the same way we’ll be back on turnover similar to those during the “golden days” of the CD in just a few years,” says Universal Music Sweden’s MD Per Sundin.

Recently in The Guardian, former front-person with Talking Heads and leading figure in the second-wave of (New York) punk David Byrne made some dire predictions on how unlimited streaming of music will effect music culture. 
"The inevitable result would seem to be that the Internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left. Writers, for example, can't rely on making money from live performances – what are they supposed to do? Write ad copy?"
As an artist of some success I understand that Mr. Byrne sees the money problem with Spotify as the cornerstone of culture and growth. However I do not think the money problem is where the real danger lies in a service that desires to deliver "all music to everyone".  Streaming music will suck creative content out of the world because could well be the world. It will determine the perimeters for cultural expression. This brings me to my next point.

 Here's to the Future
"Bob Dylan is endlessly cited in discussions of innovation, and you can read about the struggles surrounding the release of Like a Rolling Stone in textbooks like The Fundamentals of Marketing (2007)."

This weekend I discovered two bands that on first listening to I am surprised I liked so much. The Black Angels and Thao and The Get Down Stay Down are two United States, (presently) West Coast acts that do their thing so very very well. The Black Angels have refined the late 1960s fuzz garage guitar sound with psychedelic overwashes to a degree one could have only dreamed of back in the day when we huddled around the latest import release of the Nuggets series (1984-89). The Black Angels revive the instruments (original Rickenbacker guitars,  effects boxes, must have cost a fortune), the images (psychedelic posters include the image of Nico as their logo) and the hippie trippy lifestyle with lyrics like

I hear colors running through my mind
I can feel it dripping in my eyes
I see colors ancient spectrum lives
In through me they enter, make me shine
So bright.
We could be in San Francisco without the conflicts and causes. The music of The Black Angels is exciting the first time your hear it. But I have found after a listening a few times it sticks in your head, but does not give anything new, and it follows a very predictable pattern.

Thao and The Get Down Stay Down are an equally brilliant, super-tight, folk-noise outfit that present poetic songs that soar and swoop on par with classic examples of the genre (Incredible String Band, The Band, The Carter Family, Bob Dylan and more). This is talent, no doubt about it. But it is technical talent  that is well presented and easy to consume. Thao creates quirky videos where she expresses her hipster self ("Thao arrives for the first day of rehearsals with the Get Down Stay Down prepared for anything...except music" - ha ha....because its not just the music, its a life and remember please avoid panic buying).

Similarly if you consider an artist such as Larkin Grimm, we have a timeless attitude to the production of music. When I saw Larkin some years ago, I felt she was channeling Buffy Sainte Marie. I suspect this is a general sense of nostalgia for these and many other contemporary acts (Thinking First Aid Kit etc). Those that take us back are those getting the major promotion. What about the distasteful Robin Thicke, who brings a 1960s gender politic with him, and he even looks and sounds the part as well.

When we listen to these acts that draw so heavily on some of the past high points of mass musical consumption are we paying for the museum? Is this consumption are the streaming services becoming more like the museum of music, in an attempt to get us back to "the 'golden days' of the CD". If this means forcing people to listen to the same music they were listening to in 1989 (CR-R was marketed in 1990), then that is what the labels seem willing to do. I believe this is what will kill real original creativity. Not ready availability, the creation of a mass minority, to evoke de Certeau again from my opening quote, and a resulting softening of edges and a mixing of styles for the purposes of marketing. It becomes a question of collecting a certain number of cultural signifiers and you have a 'edgy' act, as is refelected in (the serious I think) comment from the below video:

banjo? check
gang vocals? check
bearded man? check

However, I will continue listening to Thao and The Get Down Stay Down and The Black Angels as what they do is great, I would even say they are reassuring in these uncertain times (that is the idea I suppose). But I am worried we will see more culture that uses old tools, old tunes, old structures old images to reach present-day paying (trapped?) audiences. While more contemporary art forms and creative movements (such as remix) are forced offline and underground. This is a mass conservatism that does not have renewal as part of it structure. It recycles on and on and on edlessly (like a copy of Mojo Magazine). There is no change. I believe a lot of Indie labels share this gloomy perspective as they attempt to find a niche with some degree of originality in a hostile market. In the streaming world the DIY of classic punk is replaced by senseless name-dropping that means an image is as about as deep as the rebellion becomes, and associated renewal, goes by the wayside. Attitude is replaced by lifestyle, and hope by ambition. This says nothing about the times we live in today.

Thao and The Get Down Stay Down - We The Common (Live)