A New Year

Looking at the calendar, I am amazed at how fast time flies. As the cliché goes, the older one gets, the faster time seems to go by. My oldest daughter (15) is starting to feel this and has recently asked me to explain it. Of course, I did my best to tell her about levels of activity, forms of memory and anything else I could think of that would remotely make logical sense, but in the end, it just something we ‘feel’, since time is … well … linear time, with the same amounts of intervals between wach tick.

On that note, as I wrap up 2007 by ticking off items on my ‘to-do’ list, I am putting together my 2008 list as well. I will only be so lucky if those two lists do not overlap. For course work, this, my second semester in my PhD program, I am taking three classes; a pre-requisite undergraduate foundation course (since my academic background is not film studies) – Filmic Analysis (poor translation perhaps), which is essentially a film studies ‘methods’ course. I am taking the doctoral seminar, which is biweekly, and has been home to some pretty good conversations about representation and film and the spectator’s experience (among other things). Finally, I am taking a joint seminar with the Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 university. The class will have 2 guest lecturers from Paris and 2 lecturers from Université de Montréal, with each professor teaching 3 classes on a topic of their choice. Topics include Cinema & Photographie: the speed of images; Stanley Cavell: the type, the actor, the character; ‘Mise en série et mise en mouvement des images: les commencements de la série culturelle de l’image mouvante (sorry, didn’t translate this one) and ‘Several epistemological problems raised by the analysis of film (poor translation again, sorry). This seminar is also being given simultaneously in Paris, with the same professors exhanging teaching times.

On a personal work level, I am aiming towards submitting a piece that I had written on the historicity of blogging as a technique of the self for a perfect cfp for an edited collection called New technologies of the self, mobilities and (co-)construction of identity which is due March 1st, 2008. I am also aiming to submit to AoIR 9.0 which is being held in Copenhagen this coming October. The theme this year is Rethinking Community, Rethinking Place. Our presentation from this past AoIR on course websites and community would have been quite apropos. Other projects that loom but have no place or date at the moment is a Trials & Tribulations 2.0 (as per the support demonstrated after holding the first one – a conference on ‘works in progress’ concerning research in cyberspace). As well as getting something written and submitted for a journal of some sort – Perhaps Eludamos or Games & Culture but perhaps before I do that, I will see how my coursework goes and the preparation for my first set of comprehensive exams (oh how I shudder!).

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End of Semester, Holidays…

And other things that take me away from blogging.

The last few weeks has been filled with alot of reading (re: my last post) and writing (I am supposed to be working on my last paper of the semester as we speak – it is due tomorrow!). Along with schoolwork, like most other people, I have been preparing for the holidays; frantically gift shopping for my family who live 1,000km’s away; preparing for my now past annual holiday pot-luck – which was a success I am happy to say; and preparing the house for my mother-in-laws stay with us for a few nights.

All that being said, while working on my paper today, I read Diane Carr’s chapter on Space, Navigation and Affect in the collection “Computer Games: Text, Narrative & Play” (polity press, 2006). It was a nice, quick read that gave me some useful terms to attach to some of the things I have been describing in my object materiality in virtual reality paper. What I liked the most about this chapter, is that it talks about cinematic identification, but pipes up that we must not get trapped into thinking that it is transferrable unto gameplay as is. I have been working on ideas that follow this line of thinking.

It is always nice to be able to point to a reference and say ‘see, this is what I mean, I am not making this up’. Sure it is nice to invent new things; to be the first one to utter what everyone has been thinking. But I live (and work) in a field that, as many of my colleagues have stated more than once, stands on the backs of giants. In order to build our case, we must always point out to what has been done before us, how it leads to what we are thinking/working on, and then we can say a few original words hoping to push the knowledge train a little step forward.

Working in Another Language

I was raised in a fluently bilingual (French / English) home. I went to primary and Jr. High school in French, and took advanced French in High School and as my ‘second language’ in my first year of my Bachelor’s degree at the University of New Brunswick, where a second language was a graduating criteria. My partner of 13 years is French, and my children (11 & 15) both attend a French alternative school.

When I chose to do my PhD at the University of Montreal in French, I didn’t really think that it would be too difficult. I was given permission to submit all of my work in English, since alot of the literature in my field is written in English – and I believe that the selection committee could tell that they would be faced with atrocious grammar had they required me to submit formal, academic papers in French.

The fear of writing in French aside, I never thought I would have such difficulty with my readings. I have read in French for almost 30 years. What I didn’t consider, was the level of texts I would be required to read. In the beginning of the semester, the selected readings were clear and straightforward. I thought I had it covered.

Sadly, I was quite mistaken. I am working on an extra ‘reading’ course (covering foundational film theory) and I innocently assumed that I could consume the texts in my now methodological manner – first reading, quick skim, looking for key words and ideas. Second reading, reading around the core ideas in the text and third reading taking notes and writing ideas that were inspired by the text. When in a theory heavy field (as my Master’s program in Sociology was) this was the only way I could get all of the required reading done and still have a bit of time to do some further lateral reading.

What I didn’t anticipate was my inability to even ‘skim’ a French text. The language structure is different than English (obviously) and it often requires me to read every sentence to make sure I do not miss some obscure negative three phrases down. During one of my first readings, I didn’t even know what to highlight – I couldn’t distinguish turns of phrase or metaphors. With one of the texts, I had found an English translation and after reading the first few pages – realized I had completely missed the point of the article. This led me to change my reading technique. Sadly, my new technique is quite time consuming. I read each sentence, then translate it out loud and then think about it then take notes. This would not seem so daunting if I did not have over 300 pages to go through.

On an upside, by the end of this process, my ability to read (and translate) a French text will (should) have greatly improved.

(another) Video Game Documentary

Via Grand Text Auto: There is a 5 part series on the Discovery Channel called Rise of the Video Game. Although the first two parts have already aired – I am hoping to catch at least one part. I only hope that Discovery Channel’s programming is not country/region specific. *it seems to be so /sigh

From the “About” page;

Rise of the Video Game is a comprehensive and progressive exploration of the past, present and future of video games and video gamers. From the early days of Pong to today’s ever-popular Halo 2, and from Atari 2600 to Nintendo to PlayStation, Rise of the Video Game tells the story of the people, the ideologies and the technology behind video games and how they have exploded into a cultural phenomenon. The evolution of gaming has seen the pendulum move from the days of games replicating society, to society replicating games. Featuring interviews with giants in the gaming industry of yesterday and today, this five-part series examines the evolution of the video game and its cultural impact on the world of entertainment today.