Working out the Title

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!


Ramblings on the Cinematic “Close-Up”

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.

Change of Season

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 =)

When In Doubt – Procrastinate

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, 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.

Book Launch


When: October 7th, 16h00 – 17h00
Where: LB-612 (McConnell Library Building)
Concordia University, Montreal, QC Canada 


In this cutting-edge anthology, contributors examine the diverse ways in which girls and young women across a variety of ethnic, socio-economic, and national backgrounds are incorporating and making sense of digital technology in their everyday lives. Contributors explore issues of gender, identity, access to technologies, social and parental regulation, and cultural issues allowing cell phones, blogging, the production and consumption of websites, social networking and gaming to take on new significance in current theories, public discourse, and policy issues. The voice of youth culture resonates throughout the book as they adapt, adopt, and blend new technologies, providing valuable insight into their experience and challenging some currently held notions

.Author Bio (at time of writing):
Sandra Weber is Professor of Education,
Concordia University.
Dixon is a PhD in Humanities candidate, Concordia University.


Reading ‘n Writing

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.

Virtual Reality International Conference

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.