Games, Development, Art and Story Telling.

October 10th, 2010

I have been looking at the intersection of games, MMO’s, virtual environments and art for a few years now.  It would be interesting to have a conversation about the future of the form as desktop game development continues to take hold and under-represented populations see it as a viable form of storytelling.

It would also be interesting to play some games from the show (games as art)

—update with notes—

Notes from Memory:

If you have not played it yet, look at passage by Jason Rohrer (download and play), it takes no more than 5 minutes and expresses the idea of an aesthetic experience in the game play, it is not the same as reading about it, watching video of it or watching it being played.

If you liked the game I demo’ed during the Dork Shorts it is called Every Day the Same Dream by Molleindustria.   On top of being beautiful the process of playing teaches and facilitates the aesthetic experience.

Game Development tools are cheap and run on low end machines for examples see Scratch by MIT (which is also a visual programming language but lends itself very well to moving and interacting with sprites on the screen) and Game Maker which is now available for the Mac and the PC and provides a simple development environment that can be introduced to young audiences as well as non-programming audiences.

In curating the show Learn to Play there were several basic lessons regarding art and games.  The subject is still somewhat contentious among both groups (artists and game developers) and there has always been a degree of crossover. L2P specifically looked for art at the point of interaction, one of the side effects of this is similar to that of conceptual art in that the experience is not always visual or obvious.  Game Developers seem (like many creatives) to want to see much of what they do as culturally relevant and artistic, artists have long employed game like features in both interactive and other work.  Our greatest takeaway was that the fundamental stories in games are still essentially controlled by the hegemony, or in this case by the white male game developers.

This is unfortunate for two reasons, the first is that the tools are so simple and the skills used in creation of games so valuable that essentially everyone should practice them at some point (and in fact my art students will all be required to make video games this semester). The second is that this is such a powerful medium for expression of stories and transmission of understanding.  The industry feels like it is gridlocked and stuck in blockbuster mode where it cannot deviate from the stories that have been told. This is sad and unnecessary.

Moving forward we want to reach out to underrepresented communities and teach the tools that will encourage them to put forth their stories.

THATCamp Sessions: A Collaborative Canvas

October 10th, 2010
THATCamp Bay Area 2010 Sessions

Learning after THATcamp

October 9th, 2010

Once a person sees the possibilities of mixing tech & humanities what’s a realistic avenue for acquiring the skills necessary to do digital humanities projects and research? Is it worth it to go back to school for a computer science degree? What about one of the new digital humanities undergrad programs? Is open courseware/iTunesU a viable option for acquiring skills and ways of thinking? What about just jumping in with an idea?

Starting a new project with insufficient resources (like skills) can quickly get you overwhelmed/putting things on hold/walking away. DH Answers and twitter are good places to go for help but how does one become a digital humanist?

There are links between this proposal and the ones on mentoring and failure that I proposed earlier, but here I’m really asking about traditional vs. non-traditional pathways to learning.  After this weekend, how do we keep learning?

Mapping the digital humanities

October 9th, 2010

I would like to dedicate a session to creating a conceptual map of the digital humanities, both as we represent them at THATCamp Bay Area, and as we collectively understand them.

This particular THATCamp is unique in that it’s the first not hosted at an academic institution, the first to consciously try to include not only non-academics, but also cultural workers from many different sectors.  I think it’s a rare opportunity to make a map of the Zeitgeist.

We could map not only the disciplines we represent (literature, history, geography, dance, music, art, etc.), but also the “modes” in which we work (academic, museum, library, non-profit, for-profit).  And perhaps there are other coordinates we could bring to bear as we try to draw The (or A) Big Picture of DH.

I don’t have a particular mapping technology in mind: as far as I’m concerned, a cool-looking doodle on butcher paper (maybe captured by a cell-phone camera) would be good enough, as long as the ideas are good.  But with all the mapping savvy I suspect we have in the group, maybe someone can offer something more high-tech.

Simple User Experience Research

October 9th, 2010

We’d like to talk about user research in the nonprofit context.

We hope to have a straightforward and productive conversation about effective user research — without going into too much industry jargon or elaborate procedure. We’re thinking it would be useful to have a beginner’s session for people who have a nagging sense that you “should be” doing user testing on your website or web apps, but aren’t sure exactly what that really means.How much does it cost? What is the most effective way to get feedback about a site? How many people do you have to talk to? Do you really have to write down everything they say?

This session will cover techniques of free and low-cost user research, including the use of tools for remote screensharing sessions with participants. If appropriate we could have a more technical session that really gets into the details of the interview procedure.

Beyond Close Reading? Literary Studies in the 21st Century

October 8th, 2010

In the wake of a turn away from nation-based frameworks and toward more regional, transnational, and/or comparative approaches to literary studies, a number of literary critics have proposed alternatives to close reading, a fundamental part of literary studies in the United States since the rise of the New Critics to prominence in the middle decades of the twentieth century.

Franco Moretti’s and Peter Middleton’s calls for “distant reading,” the championing of “not reading” by Martin Mueller and Pierre Bayard, and the search for “communications circuits” pioneered by Robert Darnton are signs that people interested in books are actively working to develop approaches that can bridge a gap between New Critical fidelity to the page and the vast amount of material now available to be read.

If others are interested, I would enjoy the opportunity to discuss this work. Is something like a theory of “not reading” useful or is it only leading the humanities further down the path into obscurity and irrelevance? Where does technology fit in? What kind(s) of skills does one need in order to successfully “distant read” a text? The ability to construct visualizations seems to me to be useful. I’ve been exploring Processing, SIMILE Timelines, GoogleMaps, and ArcGIS in order to see what I might be able to learn about literary history using these tools. How have these tools worked for you?

Sounds Online

October 7th, 2010

I am interested in how sound is shared online and in examining its status in the social media arena – beyond the commercial and promotional purposes connected to the music industry. What are the most effective tools (soundcloud? IA? youtube without images? etc.) and what metadata sets can be used for this?

…and a Bit of (Narrative) Theory

October 6th, 2010

I’m interested in hearing/sharing ideas regarding the structure of online linked data from the point of view of (historical) narrative theory. Some of the questions that I find relevant in looking at how historical sources are available online, disseminated across institutional repositories, commercial enterprises, and the social media jungle, are:

  • What are the main “narratives” underlining the presence of digital cultural heritage content online?
  • How is “official history” challenged? And, is it really?
  • What are the implications of a fragmented authorship model that social media and collaborative tools seem to embody (or at least, suggest and make possible)?
  • What are the implications of an expanding use of Creative Commons licenses?
  • How do digital literacy and the conditions of online access worldwide  relate to the democratization of knowledge that linked data aims at achieving?
  • In other words, “who” is telling “what” (and to whom) in making linked historical data available online?

My main theoretical references are very much rooted in the modernist tradition (Phenomenology, Frankfurt School, Structuralism, but also Dada, Surrealism, Situationism and Punk), and my practices are eclectic and very media-oriented. I am deeply interested to learn of different approaches and problems being faced in a variety of fields, since I do not believe that theory can only exist closed off in a seminar room.


October 6th, 2010

Would there be interest in a session on mentoring? I had been looking forward to notes from the “virtual mentoring” session at THATcamp New Mexico last weekend, but I guess that session didn’t happen.

Maybe something like a list of people and projects that would welcome help – something that would make it possible for the less-experienced to gain some, and then then pass that on?

Geographic Analysis + Text Mining + Big, Messy Data

October 6th, 2010

I’m interested in the intersection between geographic analysis and text mining large, messy data sets. I know that a fair amount of work has been done on this in various private and public sectors (maybe the CIA could hold a Bootcamp session for us!), but I’m not sure how much has been done specifically in humanities research. I also want to move beyond metadata-level analysis and into the actual mass of text. How can we map not just the places mentioned in, say, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but all the places in every Irish novel published during the 1910s, along with their relative frequencies and contexts of nearby words and other places?

Think of Google Books, and their automatically-generated map in the About This Book (see an example here) section that gives you a geographic sense of what places are being named. I’ve always found this only superficially interesting, since I have no idea how it was generated and it makes no qualitative distinction between the various places (whether they occur 2 times or 2,000 times for instance, or in what context). Especially in the case of historical research, the quality of the data can often be a limiting factor in applying Named Entity Recognition or place name extraction (to say nothing of disambiguation between identically-referenced places/names/words). What specific techniques are being used most effectively right now? Do we need to use more advanced Natural Language Processing or can we use more inelegant blunt force? How can we apply these techniques in the context of raw, messy, humanistic data?

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