Monthly Archives: September 2008
I have to ‘register my subject’ for my doctoral work. This should by done no later than your third semester in the program (I’ve just past the border of late). The idea is that you file an official document so that the department is able to keep track of the works that have been done, and current works in progress. Theoretically, a good thing, however – I have to submit my project’s title. There are simple guidelines on the form: (translated loosely) the title must be concise and give an exact idea of the research. Hmmmm so simple yet so hard! I have been playing with a few key words that my advisor and I agreed had to be in the title, but I am struggling with finding that balance between pure (informative) function and sassy wit. … I’ll let you know how it goes!
I am reading about the cinematic “close-up” for this week’s class on the figure in film, and it got me thinking about the role the ‘close-up’ plays in telling a story, the subtleties is invites, and what it does (instigates) in terms of the spectator’s relationship with the film/character, and what – if anything – carries over (or not) into the player/avatar relationship I’ve been yammering on about for the last 3 years.
The idea that the close-up expresses something that cannot be fully ‘acted’ by an actor – that muscle movement and other physical elements that are just outside the actor’s control give something extra – something internal – to the scene. Essentially, this is the key of ‘photogeneity’ – that it only exists within movement which is (technically) only capturable by the cinematic process, which therefore differentiates the cinema from the other arts. The argument is that while a photograph can “capture” reality, it does not demonstrate it in its fullness. That a smile is not really a smile in a photograph, because a smile is an continuous act (… but I am getting off track). Even though the cinema ‘films’ reality, by using such techniques as the close-up, it is drawing the spectator into an interaction that is beyond or outside the scope of ’real’. The close-up does not exist in every day life, so – I would argue – the emotions it instills in the spectator are heightened emotions that are not typically found (to that extent or in that manner) in their daily lives. Nonetheless, it creates an intimacy between the spectator and the acted character on the screen that is essential (i would argue again) for purposes of spectatorial identification.
In Jacques Aumont’s text “The Face in Close-up” (in The Visual Turn: Classical Film Theory and Art History), he talks about the use of the close-up as both a ‘tool’ and a ‘symbol’ (p. 141). I like this idea – especially when I try to think about the game avatar and its dual role as tool / representation (don’t get me started here – this is completely inarticulated at the moment .. but I am trying to work towards moving away from the game avatar as pure representation – and away from simply a navigational tool – but it’s a quest I may fail in the long run – but until then …). So – thinking that the close-up can function as both a tool and symbol, where does that leave the avatar? And in what particular states of the game (or play?). One of the downfalls of computer animation, is the lack of (realistic – and I use that term loosely) facial expressions. When the player is confronted with a gamic close-up, they are faced with a dead, empty gaze. Does this necesseraily mean that the player is less invested in the emotional relationship with their avatar? I know that this is quite a jump from the few sentences above – but perhaps this is something to think through to see if I can make point A connect with point B.
This (haphazzardly) brings me to questioning what visual elements are borrowed from cinema that enables (or enhances) the player / avatar relationship, what cinematic elements don’t work and what elements are unique to game design to draw in the player (to draw the player into the relationship or the narrative – I haven’t thought that through too much yet). At this point, it’s simply something to think about as I work through the semester’s readings, while thinking of ways of fitting my work into it all.
Ahh, the glorious autumn – most often touted as my favorite season (having my birthday in there might influence the matter) – however, I am not much of a fan of the warm days cold nights. While perfectly well for living, it is bad for one’s immune system! Let’s see what new products are on the market for this year’s ‘cold’ season shall we =)
I have been trying to wrap my brain around some material that I am supposed to submit to my advisor by Friday for a Monday morning meeting. I have everything in bits and pieces, but have no real idea as to how to get the ball rolling (a continuation of my earlier post about flood gates etc..). Every day, I look at the bits and pieces, and theoretically I KNOW what I have to do, but for some reason, I am blocked. I read and re-read my 4 page proposal outline, and think that it is simply a job of fill in the blanks (since the outline makes pretty good sense). If I “know” what to do – why can’t I do it?
In response to my brain blockage, I spent some more time on Amazon.ca, and bought a few more books. I am not sure when I will have time to read them what with my reading heavy PhD seminar on The Figure in Film, a new writing project that I will chat about once I am able, and my chosen duties for getting gameCODE into full swing for the fall semester. Nonetheless, they will be fun to have around for those days when all I can think of doing is procrastinate.
Today’s book list: Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role-Playing Games by Barton; Gamer Theory by McKenzie Wark; How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics by N. Katherine Hayles; Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft® Reader (edited collection) Hilde G. Corneliussen (Editor), Jill Walker Rettberg (Editor); Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media by Mark B. N. Hansen; I, Avatar: The Culture and Consequences of Having a Second Life by Mark Stephen Meadows.
CISSC BOOK LAUNCH
GROWING UP ONLINE: YOUNG PEOPLE AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES
When: October 7th, 16h00 – 17h00
Where: LB-612 (McConnell Library Building)
Concordia University, Montreal, QC Canada
Sandra Weber is Professor of Education,Concordia University.
Shanly Dixon is a PhD in Humanities candidate, Concordia University.
I bought two new books this week – both of which should have already been on my bookshelf. Mind you, the list in my “to buy later” section of amazon is a little old and a little long. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to reading (in full) Andrew Darley’s Visual Digital Culture: Surface Play and Spectacle in New Media Genres and Anne Friedberg’s Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern. I have read other works by Friedberg and quite enjoy her writing style, so I think it will be a fun book to go through.
In ‘writing’ news, I am working on piecing together something comprehensible for my advisor to see where I am at in terms of my thesis outline, research direction, and relevant reading notes. The trouble for me is that I am having a hard time knowing where to begin (towards comprehensibility). I have always been the type to flounder in chaos until the the moment the dam breaks and I become incredibly productive – but working towards breaking that dam is always the hardest challenge I seem to face. While I have always been one to take as many classes as I could, and load up my schedule, the course on the figure that I am taking is pre-occupying me (in a good way). There is alot of reading weekly (as any PhD course should be) and since alot of it is new to me (damn me for switching disciplines at this stage! lol) I am finding it alot of work to go from reading as new information (sponging up everything I reading) and being able to approach the readings with a critical mind. I do think in the end, come December, it will all come together. I see alot of material in this course (and area of study) that could be very useful for some parts of my thesis.
Last year, I had commented a few times about how my program often talked about the “death of cinema” at the merciless hands of the digital (sometimes directly, sometimes this was my impression of the paradigmic shfts we discussed…). Last week, I read an article that, while seeming painfully familiar, I really enjoyed. Thomas Elsaesser’s “The New Film History as Media Archeology“ in the journal Cinémas. For me, it is refreshing to talk about change in technology from a non-linear perspective, and to approach the introduction of new technologies simply as movement – but not necessarily negative (or positive).. just .. different .. Thats not quite what Elsaesser says, but I walked away from reading that article feeling satisfied with the direction the article was headed.
There is a full day symposium titled “THE PHILOSOPHY OF IDENTITY IN THE VIRTUAL” (April 23). It is part of the 3 day conference on Virtual Reality. Although there is a design / technical slant, I am absolutely excited about the potential of the symposium. Directly from the symposium’s website, here is the preamble:
Difference, Relation and Identity are three notions that are fundamentals for the success of Virtual Reality technologies (VR and AR). The aim of this symposium is to conceptualise the Identity of an individual as a scientific concept whilst acknowledging the fact that Identity cannot be studied without considering the other two notions. The pros and cons of designing identities for or within VR become obvious upon admitting that representating any Self will be interpreted at some point by someone having his own values, opinions and experience in life. Members of our society that self-procure, attribute or redistribute Identity in the Virtual World bring about psychological enquiries in relation to user intentionality, specific uses of VR applications or general modifications to our ways of communicating. Usability issues addressing the problem of Identity have not yet been integrated into long-term visions of society and our needs. The Chair of the session is thus open to all existential, ethical and epistemological issues having to do with Identity in Virtual Communities.
What a great way to start your morning! If you need external storage and enjoy taking the head off a teddy bear, this is for you. The teddy bear usb drive – not to be used around children under the age of 5
The first meeting of the fall semester for gameCODE takes place this coming Friday (Sept, 12th), 12:00pm, 11th floor Hall Building, Concordia University, Rm H-1122 (i am pretty sure!). This meeting aims to be an informational meeting to meet and greet new faces, discuss the goals and itinerary for the fall and any other relevant ramblings, followed (of course) by drinks at McKibbins. If you are interested, and in Montreal, feel free to drop by.
Cannot believe that it is September already. It’s ok – as it has always been my favorite month. Always the start of new classes, new faces, new projects… or perhaps the fact that my birthday, my mother’s and my youngest daughter’s birthday are this month (actually, they share theirs, and mine’s the day before!).
I am enrolled in my last formal class of my university education this semester, so it is a momentous occasion. I must admit, one that makes me a little nervous. It seems that I have been in a classroom, listening to lectures and preparing papers, presentations etc forever. Although I still have my comprehensive exams in January, and a thesis to write, the next time I have to sit through a class, it may very well be my own (wishful thinking perhaps? lol). I am taking a class on “The Figure” at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim’s School of Cinema. Below is the course description. I am a bit nervous to delve into the course material, as at the moment, I only have a layman’s idea of what “the figure in film” means. I am looking forward to though, so it should be good.
FMST 803/2 Seminar in Film and Moving Image Theory
Special Topic: The figure in film.
In aesthetic theory related to the visual art disciplines, figuration denotes the act of representing through figures, that is, shapes or forms of bodies or objects. In rhetoric and literary theory, figuration refers to the use of words to connote meanings that deviate from regular use and is closer to visual than verbal types of expression. Film scholars and practitioners have recurrently been drawn to the term ³figure,² whether as an aesthetic and formal element of films, a rhetorical strategy of cinematic representation or address, a metaphorical representation of the human body, or an allegorical dimension of film discourse and of the audiovisual culture in general. Yet the term keeps eluding a strict definition.
This seminar examines the figure in the cinema as an element that brings together the conceptual and sensorial components and activities involved in filmmaking as an artistic praxis and blurs the distinction between linguistic and visual discourse. The course investigates the ways in which figuration-directly or indirectly-has been used as an analytic approach to film and as a specific strategy of representation in a number of filmic and audio-visual practices.
The seminar is structured into three parts. The first part illustrates the relations that the figure establishes between cinematic techniques and linguistic codes, different artistic practices and theories, various phases of the filmmaking process. The second part of the course examines the process of figuration in relation to a crucial issue in contemporary aesthetic theory and philosophy: the status and the function of the artwork in a postmodern culture that rejects totalizing or transcendental notions of representation and within an audio-visual environment that is ingrained in the virtual system of new media and information technology. In the third part of the seminar students will apply the notion of figure to a case study of their own choice, which may be a film or a filmic corpus, an audio-visual form or style, a theoretical approach to film. The project will be presented in class and further developed in an essay paper.