Gears of War

One of the best commercials I have seen for a game in a while. Every time it comes on, we all go silent and watch the dark visuals slink by to the haunting sounds of this song. (the extended version is pretty good too). When we first heard it, there was a feeling of eerie familiarity – then I found out it was originally done by Tears for Fears in ’83…

And according to the game guru in this house, the gameplay is absolutely amazing and the graphics are stunning.

Another Milestone

As the year comes to an end, I have passed another milestone in my life – home owner. We have purchased a nice, ground floor 7 1/2 apartment with a large (relative for Montreal) yard, built in 1925 with all the original wood work. In all my adult years, living in and around downtown Montreal, I never thought we would actually own anything, and had made peace long ago with being resigned to paying rent for life. And now, that has all changed… it is weird to think about home ownership in the city. Growing up, I always thought about owning a home to mean a two story house with a front yard, a garden and a forest in the back. Noise was not a factor when you “owned your own place” and now, being a city girl for more than 10 years, owning your own home has nothing to do with noise level but everything to do with resale value, not paying out to the proverbial man and renovating for yourself and not some money grubber….

All in all, it has been quite a busy what with the CGSA in September, my mother’s second wedding in October, the Trials & Tribulations symposium in November, and buying a condo (moving is worse than I remember!). But at least I now have my own office (once I unpack it) to write my thesis in a sunny sunny beautiful room of my own.

Back to work!

Symposium PR

What started out as a small symposium driven by our interest in the uniqueness of digital research methods (as space & tool). When all was said and done, as mentioned a few posts ago, the symposium was deemed a success on several levels by all those who attended. Each person walked away with a different idea and some (like myself) walked away inspired. I was happy today to find an article in the Concordia Journal about the symposium. It feels strange to read about it from a journalist’s perspective.

Since we were talking methods..and other stuff

I just bought Zygmunt Bauman‘s “Identity” book and was reading the introduction by Benedetto Vecchi. I really liked the way Vecchi described Bauman’s method.

…the methodology he brings to bear on the subject aims above all to ‘reveal’ the myriad connections between the object under investigation and other manifestations of life in human society. Indeed, this sociologist of Polish origin finds it essential to gather the ‘truth’ of every feeling, lifestyle and collective behavior. This is only possible if you analyse the social, cultural and political context in which a particular phenomenon exists as well as the phenomenon itself” [p. 2]

What it means to be a sociologist:

For a sociologist, this means perceiving sociology not as a discpline ‘separate’ from other fields of knowledge, but as providing the analytical tool to establish a lively interaction between it and philosophy, social psychology, and narrative. [p.3]

And finally from identity to nostalgia:

…recourses to identity should be considered an ongoing process of redefining oneself and of the invention and reinvention of one’s own history. This is where we find the ambivalence of identity: nostalgia for the past together with complete accordance with ‘liquid modernity’ [p. 7]

Is it simply the nature of digital research?

One of the things that struck me during the symposium, is that the majority (although not all) of the research methods we discussed reflected some form of auto-ethnographic work. During a small conversation with Jeffrey Bardzell, I proposed that it was because of the nature of digital research – it was done ‘through a computer’. He was as confused as I was by my own question.

I have been wondering, was the large portion of auto-ethnographic work due to the fact that it was a social sciences and humanities based crowd? Or was it due to the fact – as was my thought – that the “field site” is essentially a solitary space or rather, because entry to the field site is done through a computer, which implies some sort of personal element? I know this is not very clear… how to rephrase this ….

Does alot of digital community and play research start with the researcher because the nature of the research requires that they researcher bear some level of participant in order to observe the phenomena they are studying?

Any ideas on this would be great, as I am trying to put my finger on why so much work that I read in digital studies (that is non quantitative) starts from the inside out.

Researching my digital self – whose identity is it anyway?

After hearing the in progress and messy methodological issues of some of my most respected colleagues, I am inspired to get my hands dirty again, eager to move forward with a project I had once felt was methodologically difficult.

After Marci Araki’s presentation on Saturday at the T&T symposium, I was reminded of the never-ending nagging question that my thesis advisor has been annoying me with for the past 2 years – whose identity are we talking about. Ms. Araki’s presentation demonstrated the fluid interchangedness of identity (play) that any gamer or ‘virtual world’ participant experiences when they become deeply immersed in the world they are in, through the skin of their avatar. There was some contemplation of identification between herself and her avatar – how was she to refer to herself, and her avatar when speaking about her experiences in Second Life. Admitting that the in-world experiences were her avatar’s, yet she experienced them through her, but not necessarily as her completely. This idea that the experiences are shared experiences with our physical and virtual selves is originally what my work had been aiming towards defining… the player/avatar relationship. Negating the idea that the avatar is simply a conduit or a vehicle for the player to be embodied within the game space (and I do include Second Life in the scope of games but only in that it is a space of entertainment), there is indeed something bigger happening than a simple navigation tool. However, my conundrum has been a methodological one. How can I get to the intangible relationship between the player and their avatar without delving into psychology literature?

For quite some time, I had abandoned the task, and instead have been working on another part of my digital identity project (namely elaborating and describing – in detail, the process of identity construction in mmog’s). But Marci’s talk, along with the rest of the symposium’s inspiring presentations, pushed me to work on finding a method that would get allow me to work towards finding an answer in how to look at the player/avatar relationship, aiming towards defining “whose identity” it is when I am always talking about “identity construction in mmog’s”.

To begin, I have decided to follow in the footsteps of many of the presenters at T&T, and begin with an autobiographical approach. I have decided to sit down and write a reflexive autobiography of my game play that led me to develop my avatar. From my perspective, my version of events – that will inevitably include non game related events to contextualize the events and circumstances that occurred within the game space. As a separate document, knowing that Velixious, my barbarian shaman for many years in EverQuest does not possess memory, she possesses a history nonetheless. My aim will be to recount her story – contextualize her life within the scope of her events. It is then my hope to be able to take both documents, lay them beside each other, and look at how they intertwine. From there, I hope to be able to define the relationship between myself as a player with outside influences, and myself as a barbarian shaman, with in-game influences that impact identity of each ‘self’ equally.

Trials & Tribulations – an ending with a smile

It is over. The conference – or rather – symposium, that I have been organizing with my colleague, on digital research methods. I would like to post in depth about the presentations and the discussions, but I will do so when I am rested and refreshed.

It has been a wonderful marathon. We could not have asked for anything more. The detail oriented (or obsessive compulsive as some might say) tendencies that my colleague and I both possess paid off greatly. But most of all, it was stimulating and inspiring – it motivated me to work rigorously on the sprint to the finish line of my MA. I was inspired by the friendliness, the collaborative – ness (if thats a word) and overall shared perception of what we all wanted the symposium to be and made it so. As it was small (we had at most 35 people I believe) – people stayed for every panel, participated in the social events and quite honestly, really connected. In some ways, I am very sad that it is over. But very very (ad infinitum) happy that we, Shanly and I brought this to the table and it was brought to life by each and every person who attended the symposium.