Tuesday, October 16, 2007

AM Radio

I've been getting a lot of e-mails from people who heard me talking about videogames on KNX radio, but since they don't have a podcast of the broadcast or have mispelled my name, I have almost no sense of the edit of my comments that actually aired. I'm used to dealing with print journalists, so it was disquieting to be immediately saying things that could potentially be on air, and the reporters seemed to think that the panel that Barbara Cohen and I had arranged was somehow about trite topics like videogames and violence. I know that they aired me talking about counternarratives in game play and Jim Munroe's "My Trip to Liberty City." I also felt compelled to point out that the argument about the use of media to represent possibly corrupting anti-social acts actually went back to Plato and Aristotle (and their arguments about mimesis and catachresis respectively).

We had a full standing-room-only crowd for "Serious Play: The Practices of Everyday Life in Videogames and Virtual Worlds" with Ian Bogost, Tom Boellstorff, and Jonathan Alexander, so I hope that it was accurately represented in the media. The funny thing about the phone call with the radio station was that the panel had absolutely nothing to do with out-of-the-ordinary violations of social norms. We explicitly devoted our attention to how computational media represented the mundane, the everyday, the routine, etc.

Ian Bogost showed a clip from the game trailer above to emphasize how unit operations are deeply procedural and as rule-based as seemingly "boring" games about routines of counting sand or waiting in line would be. His analysis looks at "the logics of ordinary people" and how they express the deployment of "tactics," to use Michel de Certeau's terms, in response to what de Certeau calls "strategies" from those who shape policies and the environments in which we live.

Tom Boellstorff spent a lot of his talk on definitional work. For example, he wanted to sharply distinguish "virtual worlds" from either games or digital expressions of self for which there wasn't a clear "afk" or "away-from-keyboard" state.

Jonathan Alexander expanded on our theme about the mundane by playing "College Saga" to the delight of the undergrads in the room, a video that recasts everyday life from dorm rooms, lecture halls, and cafeterias in terms of the idioms of game play in Final Fantasy.

It was a lively discussion afterwards in which Boellstorff took issue with Alexander's ideas about technological synthesis from Donna Haraway's vision of the cyborg to explain how a chapter of his book contested the cyborg scenario in favor of his own argument about the centrality of gaps in embodiment. Alexander responded by saying that we adopt the character of the cyborg not by meshing perfectly with virtual worlds, but instead by being transformed by what we take out of them. And I pointed out to Boellstorff that as Facebook was taking on more real-time and embodied applications, it may not remain a non-virtual world for long.

You can check out a podcast here.

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Blogger Lupton said...

The Serious Play event was terrific. The presentations were lively and packed with ideas, but not too academic. I understand that some folks from Infomatics came, and that they really liked what they heard. I went javascript:void(0)
Publish Your Commentaway intrigued by the idea of courting boredom through games involving tending and waiting -- but not tempted, yet, to create an avatar on Second Life. I have enough lives already, between work, home, and the blogosphere!

8:36 AM  

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