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Next Up On The Reading List: Kittler

I was going to read Zizek’s The Parallax view (since it was the third book bought at the same time as the other two) – but after reading a handful of pages, I realized my head just wasn’t into it. I need to be in the right frame of mind to read Zizek, as much as I love his work.

So – poking around my bookshelf of the many “to read” titles that have been collecting dust, I stumbled upon Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. I am only in the Translator’s Introduction, but so far am quite happy at how it connects to the last two books I’ve read in terms of media & tech history. While I have never been a big fan of psychoanalysis (or Lacan), I am a closet structuralist fan, and quite look forward to seeing what Kittler has to say, and how it fits in with the rest of what I have been reading.  “Not a Review” to come.

Random Thoughts on ‘Always Already New: Media, history and the data of culture’

Finished reading Lisa Gitelman’s Always Already New: Media, history and the data of culture a few days ago. I have to say, I was quite pleased with it on a few levels. First of all, I bought in at the same time as Hayles’ How We Think. It was completely haphazard – I love Hayles’ work, and Gitelman’s book was recommended to me by a colleague – so it was much to my delight that in the opening pages, Gitelman discusses Hayles’ work – and wraps the book up with thoughts on the digital humanities.

Other than happy connections, I really liked how Gitelman set up the direction of the book. Interesting, clear and pretty to the point that history is not absolute; that it can be told from many perspectives and can (and often should) be cognate of the peripheral contexts that contribute to creating that history. The ‘example’ chapters were really interesting – I never knew that the phonograph was originally invented as a dictation/playback object. As a sociologist, it made me a bit warm and fuzzy to read about the social forces that shaped it into a musical device. Of course, I know that social and economic elements impact/influence/shape the form and function of objects, but often, history tries to be “about the facts” in a way that does no account for the nuanced ways that history is shaped. Indeed, Gitelman talks about the difficulty in tracing such histories of  technologies (and objects), since often, it was only the ‘facts’ and milestones that were documented – not the subverted appropriation of the object over time until it is fully re-purposed as was the case of Edison’s phonograph.

I admit to being a bit confused heading into the section on ‘The Question of the Web” as she began with a part on the materiality of card stock and bibliographic content as ‘proof’ that could be constitutionally protected (referring to the 1968 court case of United States v. O’Brien and the burning of a draft card). But as I read along into the transition of digital copies, then digitally created content, I had my “hmmm … aha!” moment I enjoy so much when reading. The last section on the book focused on ARPANET and the development of the web… at first I was a bit ‘oh no, not this … again … ‘ but Gitelman brought be back by focusing not on the technological development (that I’ve read more times than I care to count) but on the process of documenting the process of development.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book – there were a few passages that I marked with a sticky tab for future reference – I would definitely recommend it for a good, thoughtful weekend read.

History of Games International Conference: working with, building, and telling history

Program is up and it looks greatJune 21-23, 2013. Montreal, QC. Bad timing for me personally (daughter’s high school graduation and kazillion affiliated events start the 21st) but will do my best to get to as many panels as possible – at least it’s local!! 

The International Conference on the History of Game is the first event dedicated in its entirety to the ongoing research on the history of games in all its shapes. It brings together many researchers working in such disciplines as media archeology, preservation, museology and the formatting of history, as well as industry professionals. The development of games in the digital era represents the main object of inquiry, but historical research on all ludic manifestations will also be presented.

This is Not a Review: My thoughts on Hayles’ “How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis”

Finished reading Hayles’ How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis about a week or so ago and overall, I have to say I really enjoyed it …  of course with a few “buts” in there for good measure. I really like Hayles’ writing style. I personally find it complex but not complicated. I find her tone very accessible even if I have to stop and think after a paragraph once in a while – I like being forced to ponder what I just read before moving on. The opening chapters got me thinking about the differences between traditional and digital humanities, how they can work together in a complimentary ways,  about the different types of reading on and offline and the differences and values of them, the growing trend of interdiscplinary and networked research groups and what that brings to ideas of collaboration and results, and ultimately, the debate between narrative and database moving forward in thinking about structures of information.

As always, I was left highlighting and taking notes for future use – one of my favorites is the idea of “epistemic actions” – which, following Hayles “are understood to modify both the environment and cognitive-embodied processes that adapt to make use of those changes” (p. 98). One of the main goals in the opening chapters addresses ‘attention’ and how it is shaped and therefore, in turn shapes what is being attended to (in the case of the text, media and texts for the most part) … my favorite passage:

Weaving together the strands of the argument so far, I propose that attention is an essential component of technical change…, for it creates from a background of technical ensembles some aspect of their physical characteristics upon to which to focus, thus bringing into existence a new materiality that then becomes the context for technological innovation. Attention is not, however, removed or apart from the technological changes it brings about. Rather, it is engaged in a feedback loop with the technological environment within which it operates through unconscious and nonconscious processes that affect not only the background from which attention selects but also the mechanisms of selection themselves. Thus technical beings and living beings are involved in a continuous reciprocal causation in which both groups change together in coordinated and indeed synergistic ways” (p. 104)

It is particularly that last sentence that grabs me and makes me want to push my research further into this direction, beyond the avatar and back to my original line of inquiry of human-tech interactions and the ways it alters the very concept of identity.

I hate to admit it, but as I got further into the book, it seemed to lose something for me. The first two “interludes” (all the way up until midway through the 5th chpt actually), I started to lose focus. Chapters 5, 6, 7, & 8 were interesting, but I felt they were ‘examples’ of sociotechnical change, and how the role of the concepts of narratives and databases play within it, but each chapter felt extremely descriptive without that ever-craving “wrapping up” of ideas – purpose and point – in each chapter. This was harshest in the final chapter. A fantastically descriptive chapter entitled “Mapping time, charting data: the spatial aesthetic of Mark Z. Danielewski’s Only Revolution”. The chapter really made me want to read Only Revolution and experience this project in time/space/materiality for myself, but as the chapter was coming to an end, I realized that the book was almost finished, and there were only a handful of pages left. When I put the book down, I was left with the feeling that I had read 4 really great ‘examples’ of different arguments the opening 4 chapters developed, but I was left with wanting it tied up in a bow for me at the end. I wanted her to tell me how each chapter worked in terms of restructuring the way we think, perhaps it is wrong, but I wanted it spelled out for me – I wanted to hear HER conclusions, not be left pondering my own … what if I was wrong? What if I missed a key point? What if I just ‘didn’t get it’?!!! … but then, perhaps that is the whole point.

CfP – Vienna Games Conference – FROG13 “Context Matters”; 27-28 September 2013

The Call for Abstracts of the 7th Vienna Games Conference FROG13 (27-28 September, 2013) is out. Vienna’s annual Games Conference offers an open international platform for leading game studies researchers and scholars, game designers, researchers and scholars from various other fields, education professionals, and gamers from around the world. The topic of the FROG13 is “Context Matters” and we are looking for contributions that explore, study and examine the contextual and situated aspects of game, design and play. Be a part when the magnificent Vienna Town hall converts into a vibrant playground for players, fans and games researchers.  

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Call 4 Abstracts

7th Vienna Games Conference

Future and Reality of Gaming – FROG13

Submission Deadline: 25 May 2013

CfP in detail: http://bupp.at/en/service-en/frog/frog-2013/

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CONTEXT MATTERS!

Exploring and Reframing Games and Play in Context

Vienna City Hall, Austria, Friday 27 to Saturday 28 September 2013; http://bupp.at/frog

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