Monthly Archives: November 2005
Denmark in December
I am off to Copenhagen tomorrow to attend the Digital Arts & Culture conference. There are a few papers that speak directly (more or less) to my current/future research of the relationship between gamers and designers (specifically in the case of MMOG’s for myself). As well as a bunch of other interesting works. Check out the abstracts if you get time, theres a nice diversity in topics from pure design, to narrative and art in games. Otherwise, ill do a post-mortem when i get back.
CFP: She’s Such a Geek
I could think of a few people who would be interested in this =)
Geeks are taking over the world. They make the most popular movies and games, pioneer new ways to communicate using technology, and create new ideas that will change the future. But the stereotype is that only men can be geeks. So when are we going to hear from the triumphant female nerds whose stories of outer space battles will inspire generations, and whose inventions will change the future? Right now.
Female geeks are busting out of the labs and into the spotlight. They have the skills and knowledge that can inspire social progress, scientific breakthroughs, and change the world for the better, and they’re making their voices heard, some for the first time, in Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders’ book She’s Such a Geek. This anthology will celebrate women who have flourished in the male-dominated realms of technical and cultural arcana. We’re looking for a wide range of personal essays about the meaning of female nerdhood by women who are in love with genomics, obsessed with blogging, learned about sex from Dungeons and Dragons, and aren’t afraid to match wits with men or computers. The essays in She’s Such a Geek will explain what it means to be passionately engaged with technical or obscure topics ˜ and how to deal with it when people tell you that your interests are weird, especially for a girl. This book aims to bust stereotypes of what it means to be a geek, as well as what it means to be female.
More than anything, She’s Such a Geek is a celebration and call to arms: it’s a hopeful book which looks forward to a day when women will pilot spaceships, invent molecular motors, design the next ultra-tiny supercomputer, write epics, and run the government.
We want introspective essays that explain what being a geek has meant to you. Describe how you’ve fought stereotypes to be accepted among nerds. Explore why you are obsessed with topics and ideas that are supposed to be “for boys only.” Tell us how you felt the day you realized that you would be devoting the rest of your life to discovering algorithms or collecting comic books. We want strong, personal writing that is also smart and critical. We don’t mind if you use the word “fuck,” and we don’t mind if you use the word “telomerase.” Be celebratory, polemical, wistful, angry, and just plain dorky.
Possible topics include:
· what turned you into a geek
· your career in science, technology, or engineering
· growing up geeky
· being a geek in high school today
· battling geek stereotypes (i.e racial stereotypes and geekdom, culturalanalysis of geek chic and the truth about nerds, the idea that women have to choose between being sexually desirable and smart, stereotypes about geek professions such as computer programmers)
· sex and dating among geeks
· science fiction fandom
· role-playing game or comic-book subcultures
· the joys of math
· blogging or videogames
· female geek bonding
· geek role models for women
· feminist commentary on geek culture
· women’s involvement in DiY science and technology groups
· Stories from women involved in geek pop and underground cultures. These might include comic book writers, science fiction writers, electronic musicmusicians, and women interested in the gaming world.
· women’s web networks and web zine grrrl culture
· Issues of sexism in any or all of the above themes
Editors: Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders are geeky women writers. Annaleeis a contributing editor at Wired magazine and writes the syndicated column Techsploitation. Charlie is the author of Choir Boy (Soft Skull Press) and publisher of other magazine.
Publisher: Seal Press, an imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, publishes groundbreaking books by and for women in a variety of topics.
Deadline: January 15, 2006
Length: 3,000-6,000 words
Format: Essays must be typed, double-spaced, and paginated. Please include your address, phone number, email address, and a short bio on the last page. Essays will not be returned.
Submitting: Send essay electronically as a Document or Rich Text Format file to Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Payment: $100 plus two books
Reply: Please allow until February 15 for a response. If you haven’t received a response by then, please assume your essay has not been selected. It is not possible to reply to every submission personally.
Putting the Word Out
I have been thinking about ways to get the people from around town who play and study games in all its various forms (arts, literature, cinema, sociology, design etc etc) together. Although we have periodic gamecode meetings, and igda monthly meetings among other ‘functions’ I was tossing the idea around with mike about other ways to get people together without it being overly formal. I have been thinking about having a game night potluck where those who are interested in studying games, talking about games and playing games (pc and ps2) can get together in a casual atmosphere, hang out, eat, play and chat.
If anyone is interested, or anyone who reads this knows anyone else who would be interested, please drop me an email at email@example.com . At this point, its looking like it will happen just after the holidays, before everyone heads deep into next semester =)
Upcoming GameCODE Talk
Playing with Violence: Player’s’ social construction of violent video game play
Department of Applied Human Sciences
Violence as a spectacle has been used as a form of leisure entertainment throughout the ages (Goldstein, 1998). From Roman gladiators to the modern day boxing events, society has maintained an interest in viewing spectacles of violence. Digitally generated violence in games is the present-day version of these spectacles, the biggest difference being the interactive nature of the “gaming” experience.
The majority of research has focused on possible negative outcomes of game play, such as increased violent behavior, addiction, and development of a sedentary lifestyle. Little is known about the cultural implications of this as a leisure practice, especially from a “gamer’s” perspective. This presentation explores players’ social constructions of “gaming” and the socio-cultural implications of “playing with violence”
Friday November 254:00 – 6:00 pmRoom H-1120 – Henry F. Hall buildingConcordia University1455 de Maisonneuve Boulevard West.Montreal, QC
I was happy today when my doorbell rang and there was a handsome UPS guy handing me my new phone. It takes pictures, makes videos and hopefully rubs my feet when I’m tired too! But in all seriousness, the gadgetery aside, I must say, I preferred the learning curve (low) and useability of my old phone. I am not complaining, but it just reminded me how quickly we reach our comfort level with things. Surely there will be a few embarassing rings and beeps in my near future as I figure out how to change everything to the way I had things.
Cultural Identity, Globalization and the Digital Divide
I am working on the last book for my Sociology of Culture seminar. Its a decent read – a world beyond difference: cultureal identity in the age of globalization by ronald niezen. I had to write a summary of chapter 4, (anti)Globalization from Below concerning the different strategies distinct societies use to identify and distinguish themselves within a global context, and what role the internet plays in maintaining ‘indigenous’ communities.
Here is my review:
Chapter 4 – (Anti)Globalization from Below addresses the issue of how distinct societies and ‘indigenous peoples’ maintain their cultural identity within an increasing state of globalization. For ‘distinct’ communities to remain distinct within a global context, they must communicate their ‘distinctness’ to the global community. This can occur when the community in question either rejects difference, and actively ‘work against the interests of a wider pluralism’ or they can find ways to compromise and work towards a collective willingness to change through negotiated peace [p. 58]. Essentially, this chapter will demonstrate the two sides of the anti-globalization activism coin – one side that harnesses the current tools of debate, and the other that rejects them completely.
To do this, Niezen compares a ‘radical Islamic reform movement in Mali West Africa’ with, as Niezen describes it, “creative uses of democratic values and electronic media by those who sometimes refer to themselves as ‘indigenous peoples’” [p59], specifically a Nordic indigenous group called the Sami’s and the Canadian Crees.
Niezen begins with the extreme example of the Islamic village of Dar al-Salam. As a response to increasing globalization and dilution of Islam, the founder of the reform movement, Seydu Idrissa, created an environment with no contact with the outside world for children and women and minimal contact for adult males. The movement follows a ‘rigid orthodoxy’ that not only encompasses spirituality but also emphasizes valued aspects of community life seen to be challenged by the outside world. [Niezen notes a reliance on elders as one of the primary values challenged].
The goal of the movement was not to keep technology and other beneficial elements of contemporary society out, but to strongly filter any influence that was not directly related to the forwarding the orthodox views of Islam of the movement. Technology was accepted in some agricultural and medical cases, but only when deemed vital to the overall survival of the community.
This was not a community that existed for hundreds of years in isolation, rather it was one that was created out of globalization – or in response to globalization. In an attempt to maintain a pure Islam, it was deemed necessary to create a strict ‘distinctness’ distinguishing between those ‘who were willing to sacrifice their freedom for an elect community’ [p.65] and those who did not. In this blatant rejection of the globalized emphasis on individualism, the isolation of Dar al-Salam is one that strives to maintain a collective ideal within a larger politicized country.
This isolation is an example of anti-globalization that stands in contrast to the concept of the collective ‘indigenous people’ around the world. A term meant to signify distinction, it acts as a unifying term that encompasses many different ‘distinct’ peoples around the world who consider themselves to be ‘self-determining’. This idea of a global collective has allowed individual societies to negotiate for their people within the larger political climate of their country, as well as on an international level as well.
Niezin provides us with the exceptional case of the Sami people, native to Scandinavia and northern Russia, to demonstrate how a closed society (as one that has definite boundaries of entry) can exist within a global context using the technological and bureaucratic tools made possible by the very entity they are fighting – globalization.
The Sami people have, in a way, worked from within the system to distinguish themselves as separate from it. Through political pressure (politics of shame) and demonstrating a strong presence in international forums, the Sami people have established a sort of “cultural parliament” that allows them to control the educational and cultural aspects of their community’s autonomy. This form of ‘cultural parliament’ also exists in Belgium, where the Flemish people maintain the same type of cultural control within the larger political state. Niezen points out that this type of ‘distinct’ and often ‘traditional’ community strikes a hybrid chord in that those who aim to protect their indigenous status must do so through the very institutions they are working to separate themselves with.
In the example of the James Bay Crees, the internet becomes an important tool to promote the longevity of their native language, creating web-tools that allow Crees to communicate in their mother tongue.
This is also an area that the Sami’s have embraced. Developing online communities allows a culture to maintain ties through language and communication despite geographic limitations. But although these digital communities allow indigenous people to coalesce, it also redefines who they are through the digital medium.
For a people that are traditionally defined through their natural connection with their native land, cyberspace creates a form of ‘universal’ identity by being online. As Niezen states “The digital divide is in the process of becoming part of a wider phenomenon in which cases for protection of distinct societies can only be presented through globally uniform avenues, in other words, in which distinct societies are made essentially similar through their strategies of defence” [p. 79]. This is to say, in a sense, that by being online, their distinctiveness becomes a little less … distinct.
The question then becomes, is isolation – in the sense of Dar al-Salam – really the only viable option for a community to remain untouched by globalization? Or is the hybrid form of indigenous people demonstrated throughout the chapter a worthwhile compromise in a fast-changing world? And where do the communities who don’t have digital access stand in keeping their culture alive and unharmed by globalization?
The Haves and Have-Nots: Open source ideas without the skills
I had a discussion recently with Mike about his ideas on open-source concept mmog’s. My only real argument was that to make something open-source was still only opening the possibilities of change and participation to those who had the skills to do so. I admit that my understanding of open-source is quite rudementary, but if i wanted to contribute to the structure and direction of my community (in terms of the mmog scenario) i would not have the technical ability to do so.
A year after gamecode’s TikiWiki woes, i am learning to appreciate what Mike was trying to offer us as a group. The ability of each member to add to and develop the space with a relatively small learning curve is a step in the right direction. At times, I resent having to go through those who have the skills to get my ideas online. This is in no way a diss to the people who have worked hard on our group’s site, but I miss the freedom to add at will on the tiki wiki and it made me think a bit more about what mike was saying recently about why couldnt we offer players the tools to ‘make’ their own avatars… why do our choices have to be from a stable of predesigned (and limited) characters… i am told its not truly a technological limitation but a design choice.
More on this later….work calls
Who Owns What
After a beer or two and another great conversation with Mike, I have been driven (asked?) to post a link to a good discussion over a Terra Nova that took place a little while ago. We were having a conversation about distinguishing the difference between actual technological limitations (re: Taylor’s article) the choice of a designer to not offer players the tools to create their own avatar.
So this brought us to the Marvel vs NCSoft court case. Marvel was disgruntled over the fact that players were creating characters (avatars) that were in likeness of their copyrighted. The argument is that NC Soft provided the tools for the players to create their own characters – of which the players created characters in likeness of Marvel heroes. Marvel cried copyright infringement – and someone (read the full thread) stated that that was like sueing Crayola for providing children with crayons that they can draw superheroes with. Needless to say, Marvel lost that round.
More on Mmog’s
Or ‘moog’s as I have heard it pronounced. In my first paper on avatar’s and identity (cutely titled Pixel People), I struggled through describing and defining the game world for my non-digitally minded professor at the time. If only I had known of Wikipedia then. They have this long page defining MMORPG‘s. I am curious about some of the input as ‘factual’ information (notably the section on social impacts of a seamless world… but you can read that and decide for yourselves.)
They also distinguish between MMOG‘s, MMOFPS and MMORTS. Now … not even getting into the concept of Virtual Worlds, this seems to be splitting hairs.. The only thing that distinguishes these acronyms is the game’s genre. Which reminds me of a long lost conversation at a long since past gameCODE meeting, about the state of defining genres… the collapse and mutation of them, and how – if at all – we should redefine them. There has been stuff written on this .. maybe i’ll try to dig it up and post the links. It is all connected. Language is grappling to keep up with the pace of change in the vid game world. Even Wikipedia gives a short listed dictionnary of ‘terms and acronyms‘ used in mmorpg’s.