Monthly Archives: September 2007
Which is my translation from the french term ‘l’art in situ’. After attending a very interesting lecture on site specific and site dependent art forms such as monuments and gallery work, I started thinking about video games and play. The general idea behind this art type is that there is a relationship between the art piece and the location in which it is placed. In the cases of monuments, the relationship is an explicit one – the monument usually depicts a specific event usually at the specific location. For gallery pieces, it is the idea of artwork being created specifically for gallery space – in an attempt to create a specific gallery experience (which some have said – sorry I don’t have my references with me at the moment – that gallery work has dissolved the idea of ‘studio work’ since the studio is not the primary showing space…but I am babbling).
But what interested me was another kind of site specific art – art that is built to be in a sort of cybernetic relationship with the space it is in and the spectator. The examples used in class were a gallery exhibit called mirrored cubes (actually untitled I believe) by Robert Morris, as the spectator walks around the cubes, they only actually see the space they are in through the reflections on the mirrors. Another interesting example was of four steel slabs that weighed literally a ton – are leaned up against each other in a ‘house of cards’ style. The art is dependent on it’s relationship with gravity …
In terms of my work on avatars and identity, I have been thinking around – so far not very successfully – about the site specific relationship players (spectators) have with their avatars (the art) within the game space (the site). At this point, I am just thinking about the relationship a player has with the digital space but in terms of l’art in situ – is there more to it than simply an idea behind the action?
After a good birthday weekend, it is time to get back into work as the semester kicks in. On the reading list for this week is Francesco Casetti’s Theory, Post-theory, Neo-theories: Changes in Discourses, Changes in Objects (in the Journal Cinemas, XVII, 2-3, July 9, 2007: 33-44). This reading follows the talk he gave last week. I am also reading some art history articles on the ‘trompe l’oeil’ and site specific art (Rosalind Krauss’ “La Sculpture dans le champ elargi; Johanne Lamoureux’s”Lieux et non-lieux du pittoresque” and Miwon Kwon’s “Genealogy of Site Specificity“). And two articles by Christian Metz (Le cinema, langue ou langage and Probleme de denotation dans le film de fiction). All in all a nice week of reading.
On the work side of things, the AoIR conference is coming up on us fast, and power point slides must be made – bullet points fashioned, key points outlined, excerpts & images uploaded. I have the semester’s assignments plotted out on my dry erase calendar – so this week is dedicated to starting new file folders, sketching outlines and jotting down draft ideas.
After much ballyhoo’in about increasing my need for more hard drive space (i am so ashamed of what I currently have, I will not divulge my current digital storage capacity), I am happy to say that my first birthday present this year (given to me by my great bf) is a nice 500g external hard drive - oh gone are my storage woes!
I have had an offer to publish my Master’s thesis (Pixels, Parts & Pieces: Constructing Digital Identity) by VDM Publishing. After much discussion and scrutiny over the contract, I am sending off the author contract today. Originally, they wanted to publish it as a ‘scientific volume’, but after reading it in full have decided that there is a larger audience out there for it, and have bumped it to a ‘specialized interest’ book. There is a little work to be done, the back cover text, an author bio and pic (!!). But it is all relatively minor tweaking. What a great birthday present – my thesis in a nice little bounded package.
Spring Edition of the journal “Intermedialites” (No. 9) – Jouer (click on the 9th image in to get a ToC) is a journal put together by the “Centre de Recherche sur l’Intermedialites” (please forgive my lack of accents). It has some good texts on play, fiction, narrative and other interesting Game Studies related topics. The website is well designed, with a great “Article Abstract” pop-up feature as well.
As I am talking to a friend about her LoTRO experiences (her first mmo), I am nostalgic about my old EQ (and other mmo games that I have listed here more than once, so I won’t list them) days. So much of my research questions came out of those years/experiences, and value those times more than I can ever really express to anyone (without being institutionalized).
Since I embarked on my academic career, I have been increasingly hard pressed to find the time to dedictate myself wholly to playing mmorpg’s. Sure, researchers go in, play to level 20 and write about the gameworld. IOr interview high level players – or even play someone else’s high livel character … In many ways, this is similar to an anthropologist’s work where they go into a culture for 6 weeks, then go home and theorize about their experiences and interviews etc etc. And there is nothing wrong with that approach. But I don’t just want to visit an mmo – I want to live it. And with that, I have to be prepared to accept the face that a research question or idea may not arise from my new experiences. I am not sure how I feel about choosing a game, and going in with a set question – looking for answers that can be found within my experience combined with my corpus of literature… I know this is not a new rant for me, I just don’t know how to deal with it yet.
As a gamer-turned-academic sometimes I miss just being a gamer. It reminds me of a talk one of my past professors gave in a seminar – you know that you are a ‘real’ sociologist when you can no longer not think like a sociologist. When you can no longer turn off your informed, critical perspective in social situations etc. I feel like I have been hit with a double whammy – I am afraid I lost the ability to simply “PLAY” games as well as the ability to simply “BE” in a social situation. I admit – this is not discipline specific – I have heard people say that they did not study cinema because they wanted to be able to enjoy movies – same for art, literature etc.
So, as I sit here and enviously enjoy the enthusiasm of my friend, (re)living the great and tragic moments of mmo life vicariously through her, I wonder whether I should find a new mmo or go back to an old one – all I know is that I don’t want to be writing about my mmo experiences from 1999 – 2005 for the next 15 years.
As part of the inaugural year of the ‘Doctorat en Etudes Cinematographique’ at Universite de Montreal, the faculty have put together a doctoral seminar series. Theoretically designed to be ’round table discussions’, today’s was more a meeting and debate of the minds with a group of interested spectators. I have to say, that as someone who is not yet immersed in film theory, I was blown away by the dialogue and dynamics of the two speakers we had today; Francesco Casetti and Martin Lefebvre.
They tackled questions and debated over the claim that ‘cinema is dead’, the purpose of theory in film studies, the question of experience and ’encounters’ with the object of study in terms of methodology, the question and process of ’truth’… I only wish that I could have sat there and listened to the two great minds talk about the movement towards a new paradigm of film theory, where scholars share their ideas, work them out and develop them together … a paradigm where not everyone agrees, but can respect and work with each other’s ideas.
All in all, it was a great experience – even if I was tired from sitting in two 3 hour seminars earlier that day.
I am reading Edward Casey’s Giving a Face to Place in the Present: Bachelard, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Irigaray (from The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History) and so far, I am impressed with a few of the ideas he sews together – something I wish I had read before I wrote my MA thesis, but I have to let go of that someday
There are a few ideas (so far – I am not finished reading the chapter) that have me thinking. Firstly, the idea (from Bachelard) that space trumps place in terms of memory. This is my interpretation of pages 288-9. If we think about it, when we search in our memory, we can reconstruct the place and space of events, but often, time becomes distorted and loses its hierarchical dominance on the flow of events, situating memory (and one’s inner self) in the concreteness of space/place. This has me thinking about memories of a virtual/digital nature. On page 288 Casey writes: “he (Bachelard) is holding that there is a valid sense of place for nonsensible items; place can be nonphysical and yet still count fully as place“. For me, this is an important sentence if I am trying to situate the “reality” of mmorpg experiences and memories. No grand results at the moment though, simply something that made me go “hmm”.
Secondly, there is a great talk about home and house, dwelling and memory in terms of place. In describing memory of space and geometry of one’s home, he quotes Bachelard to express memory as iterated by habit: ”We are the diagram of the functions inhabiting that particular house” (p. 291). As a functionalist at heart (shhhh!) I really like the idea of this. Our memories are created through a collection of functional patterns that define our physical space, and I would venture our digital spaces as well. When I think of my online activity (and I have blogged this before – will dig it up later) the patterns of my website visiting creates a map of activity and memory that could be physically sketched out to create what I consider to be my personal ‘home’ online.
Casey goes on to discuss Bachelard’s ‘concrete topoanalysis’ by outlining four concrete traits when discussing the “in” of inhabitation The one that has me going “hmm” again is the concept of ”in” in relation to its pairing with “out” Casey writes that it “cannot be reduced to the ‘here/there’”( P, 293). It is not a simple dichotomous relationship in/out – here/there – but rather a fluid relationship of space and being. The little “hmm” inside my head is pointing me towards random ideas of immersion, hybridity of digital space – inhabiting a virtual world while simulatenously physically existing in ‘meatspace’. Again, I have nothing more at the moment than random thoughts, light bulb moments and ponderous hmmms.
The second doctoral seminar that I am taking this semester is called “Mobile Cinema” (and it is cross listed as Art Actuel [french] I believe). I took this course thinking it would focus on the line of thinking that the cinematic experience is altered through mobile technologies (before I saw the course description below). Fragmented viewing impacting elements such as narrative, flow and even aesthetic (since the peripheral view is no longer a darkened cinema) as the movement one experiences during, say, viewing a movie on your ipod on the bus alters the overall aesthetic experience.
But instead, I was pleasantly surprised after the first seminar to find out that the course is actually more about the impact of technologies on perceptions of reality; creating what is often called ‘augmented reality ‘ and/or ‘mixed reality’. From the course outline and introductory seminar, we are going to look at how technologies alter the perceptions of space and time and immersion (among other themes such as mapping, and interactivity). Although I have read alot of material surrounding these themes from a communications and sociology bend, it will be interesting to learn more about this from various perspectives. Since the course is cross listed with the Art History department, we will be reading works on technologies and developments of perspective as well as the use of space in various art forms (sculpture, site-specific art etc.).
I am excited, as I already have my final project topic planned!
Here is the course description (in french) from the seminar schedule:
“Approche spécifique d’une recherche : le cinéma mobile
Le séminaire sera l’occasion de revenir sur l’histoire et la théorie des dispositifs de présentation de l’image, depuis le trompe-l’œil et le kinétoscope jusqu’aux « pervasive games ».”
I downloaded the game client a week or two ago – waiting for the time when I would be able to dedicate a few solid days of gameplay, since I am playing on a 10-day free trial offered up by a good friend. Realizing that I would probably wait for ever with that standard, I decided to at least load up the game and create my first avatar. My first impressions – in terms of avatar creation – were not overly enthusiastic. For the most current mmo of the day, I was hoping for more customization in terms of aesthetic and diversity (I couldnt give my elf black hair … dark dark brown – but not black). I wouldn’t have expected The Godfather to have more customization elements! That and the fact that I could not choose to play a female dwarf made me question how they managed to sustain their people!
My first impressions of the in-game world were a bit better. Graphics were on par with what I expected – keeping in mind that I am running it on an old Nvidia graphics card, surely with the newest technology the images would be smoother – but I am not sure where else mmo’s can go in terms of aesthetics. The images, artwork, lighting and shadowing all appear … normal … along current mmo standards.
I didn’t play beyond the first introduction quest – having me follow some guy to the gates and whatnot – and I was playing on a laptop with no mouse – so my avatar looked like she couldnt decide whether to run to the left or the right. But I will reserve my gameplay commentary (in terms of mechanics and intuitive design) until I play on my desktop and make a few levels.
My questions going into this are really quite simply. Cutting my teeth on EverQuest in 1999 (oh the nostalgia!), then playing Dark Age of Camelot from release to its first expansion, Horizons (wonderful tradeskills – lonely world), (following my partner playing Star Wars Galaxies), LineageII beta, a short stint in Guild Wars and World of Warcraft (am I still paying for that account!?), I am looking for signs of innovative gameplay, unique design, interesting game element (tradeskills, craftsmanship, PvP, PvE, etc) that seperates LoTRO from the herd. For all the enthusiasm of my above mentioned friend, I wonder how far LoTRO goes to take that next step towards being the first game in a new generation of mmo’s.