I, Avatar: Reading Review in Progress

I am reading the book I, Avatar: The Culture and Consequencese of Having a Second Life – yet another book that has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, and I was struck by a few things. First of all, I am really enjoying it so far. To be honest, when I first received the book in the mail (thank you internet!) and browsed through the pages, I was a little sad that it reminded me of an avant garde comic book than an academic text. I mean, it looks cool, and innovative indeed, but I think I had misunderstood what the book itself was – or what its intent was. I had flipped through the book a few times, but mostly to look at the pictures and layout then the actual text.

Now that I am over its aesthetic feel (which is quite cool if I allow myself to admit it), my second issue was that I am not necessarily interested (directly) in Second Life both personally and in regards to research. It is not that there isn’t a vast amount to experience and learn about human nature in social digital environments, but I have always been more interested in goal-oriented digital spaces (yes .. games – straightforward, no mistaken it, games… I have been told that there are games IN Second Life, but for me, they are not the focus or purpose of the space/place, but again, my focus has always been on how we construct identity in structured worlds – and what kinds of identity are developed in these worlds in particular – to paint a VERY loose picture of my research interest). All that being said, I am really enjoying the fast pace feeling of the writing. It is punchy, straightforward and to the point – sentences are clear and concise.  What I do find odd (and perhaps admire) is that there are no references! Of course, the book is an auto/ethnography of avatar, but the in the beginning, when Meadows gives definitions of community, of avatars and genres of virtual worlds, my instinct was to flip to the back and see who he ‘used’ (especially hoping to do some lateral reading on the matter – hoping to see things I haven’t read yet). But nope! Nothing! Between the acknowledgements and the index … nothing! No references.

In some ways, it is every writer’s dream to be able to simply write a book out of their head. I mean, I am positive Meadows has done his homework – read a book or ten – the definitions he uses are familiar, I have read variations of them 100 times before in many texts, but his are so clear and well written – but as an academic – I am uneasy … no, perhaps uneasy isn’t the right word here – but I have a hard time reading without seeing a reference to an idea (let alone the fact that there isn’t a quote to be seen – other than discussions between avatars). I remember feeling the same way when I read Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role-Playing Games… how can someone write a history with scarcely a reference!

All that being said, I am still intrigued by this book. He has a fabulous drawing of player perspectives showing the point of view of the player depending on what view they use – first person, third person etc – the drawing is so simple, I sat there for a moment staring at it wondering why I had spent pages of text in most of my papers trying to describe exactly what each perspective gave to the player.

I am still only halfway through the book – and it is a small book, but for an entertaining, yet thought provoking (at least for me and my work) relatively quick read, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in ethnography, digital culture, avatars and players.

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CFP: Interacting with Immersive Worlds

Interacting with Immersive Worlds:
Second Brock University Conference on the Interactive Arts & Sciences
BROCK UNIVERSITY, ST. CATHARINES, ONTARIO
JUNE 15-16, 2009

The primary focus of the conference is to explore the growing cultural importance of interactive media. All scholarship on, and creation of digital
interactive media (including but not limited to computer games and interactive fiction) will be considered in one of four broad conference
streams:

  • The Challenges at the Boundaries of Immersive Worlds stream features creative exploration and innovation in immersive media including ubiquitous computing, telepresence, interactive art and fiction, and alternative reality.
  • The Critical Approaches to Immersion stream looks at analyses of the cultural and/or psychological impact of immersive worlds, as well as theories of interactivity.
  • The Immersive Worlds in Education stream examines educational applications of immersive technologies.
  • The Immersive Worlds in Entertainment stream examines entertainment applications of immersive technologies, such as computer games.

We welcome the submission of abstracts for a 20-minute presentation plus a 10-minute discussion. Send a 500-word abstract plus a brief biographical statement. Please include a separate cover page with the following:

• Author’s name and affiliation
• Email
• Mailing address
• Title of presentation
Since all abstracts will be anonymously reviewed, include the title of the paper on the abstract but not the author’s name, affiliation, email or mailing address.

Deadline extended – deadline for receipt of abstracts is February 2, 2009

Getting On Pace

I can’t believe that we are already nearing the end of the month! How fast time flies. It seems that I am still recovering from the holidays – the holiday pace that is. The plan for this semester looks fantastic on paper – gym every morning (now that I am not attending classes), home, shower, coffee and work for a good solid 6 or 7 hours until the girls get home, freeing up evenings and most weekends… Yup … looks great on paper!  Unfortunately, that isn’t quite how it has been working. My work hours have been disjointed and I haven’t actually stepped inside the gym this year yet. It is not like there is not enough time nor ample work on my plate.

It is all about transitions I suppose. I have been talking to a colleague about trying to find my ‘academic’ rhythm. I have been in university since 2002 – working straight through summers to try and get through as fast as possible. For the last few years, I had found a pretty good flow – reading my required course materials and managing some ‘lateral’ reading and extra-curricular activities (research groups, conferences). But now that I have arrived at the point that I was rushing towards – my PhD – and more specifically – life after required coursework – I am not sure how to manage things. For seven years, my life has been determined by ‘homework’ and paper deadlines.

So – for this week I have to finish at least one of two abstracts I am working on for CGSA and AoIR; two article reviews for an upstart online journal; work diligently on my thesis proposal (as my first full draft is due very soon) and I have a paper I wrote in December that I have been editing that I have put on pause until I could wrap my brain around the ideas I was trying to work through (rather unsuccessfully the first time ’round).

In all of that, I have alot of reading I want to do. Working on my proposal, I have realized that I haven’t been keeping up on the literature that surrounds my research topic as much as I would like to – and it is showing in my proposal. Last night I dusted of my copy of ‘Digital Culture, Play and Identity: A World of Warcraft”  and checked out a few relevant chapters. I am glad I did – as it sparked some ideas in my head to continue the toil that is my proposal! On that note – coffee is ready – back to work for me!

Happy New Year

Always nice to go away on vacation, but always nice to come home =)

Happy New Year – 2009 … wow! I started blogging in January of 2004 – making this month digital_conversations’ 5th anniversary! Have alot planned for this year, have to take my comprehensive exams this spring and write my thesis proposal. If all goes well, I will be in ‘redaction’ (writing) by early summer. This is the part I have been looking forward to. I get to start my research, which in my field, means playing a few select games. I will start with Oblivion – giving it an honest try and a critical eye (critical in respect to my research questions and framework). I think it would be a good time also, to start thinking about submitting a piece of writing to a journal … such an intimidating process. As someone who has been on the reviewer side of things, I am scared as heck to hand my work over to peer-review eyes! Such is (academic) life right? =)

For now, I will watch my daughter play Animal Crossing on the Wii and enjoy the last two days of Christmas vacation.