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Category Archives: Lakshmi’s section

There is an evident paradox between the necessity of both chaos and regulation on the Internet. According to me, this is the quintessential limit of participatory democracy and this is precisely what representative democracy was made for: to curb the spread of pernicious ideas that don’t serve the common good. It is even more complicated with the Internet because it was build upon chaos, it is part of his DNA (cf. “hacker ethic”). And, more importantly, this “public space” is no longer governed by states, but by companies that provide Internet access or services. Rancière’s “paradox of democracy” doesn’t really apply to Youtube or Facebook because regulation is not handled by governments but by private entities that were not chosen by the people. Queer politics is definitely an interesting reaction to that (see the “free the nipple” movement on Twitter).

If Software and Digital Media are eating the world, then Big Data are the molars chewing through it. “Big Data” in Data Science refers to analyzing and processing enormously large data sets captured by computers by using complex algorithms, or “things one can do at a large scale that cannot be done at a smaller one, to extract new insights or create new forms of value, in ways that change markets, organizations, the relationship between citizens and governments, and more,” (Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier, 6).

In the following paper, I argue that Big Data puts video games as an artform into crisis. I argue that although Big Data offers the promise of clear and new insights into society, Big Data threatens the future Video Games by offering a huge intellectual and financial incentive for developers to prioritize offering incremental improvements on current video games, rather than taking risks to experiment and innovate video games’ “narrative architecture”. And despite the progress in video games since the advent of these newly developed analytical capabilities, Big Data threatens the evolution as video games as an artistic medium.

In Game Design as Narrative Architecture, Jenkins claims that “there is no one future of games” (Jenkins, 2). Jenkins argues that games are an “emerging medium”, comprised of “spaces ripe with narrative possibility,” and that, “the goal should be to foster diversification of genres, aesthetics, and audiences, to open gamers to the broadest range of experiences” (Jenkins, 1). He describes numerous ways that games have a huge potential to be a new space–a new medium of art–for creators to conceive of new means of building worlds and stories that are enacted, embedded, and spontaneously emerge, which he calls “narrative architecture”. Jenkins claims that these new, innovative forms of “narrative architecture”, have the potential to change the way we experience the very notion of play and narrative.

However, although games have the potential to be incredible spaces for artistic innovation in narratology, I claim they are historically, and inherently dependent on capitalism. For example, in class, we had the opportunity to play what many argue are the two most disruptive, pioneering video games in “narrative architecture” developed for the public in the past century. One was Myst, a graphic, adventure, puzzle, RPG video game. The other was Doom, which many say was the origin of the first person shooter genre, also was one of the first three-dimensional graphics games. And while both of these games represented huge shifts in the narrative architecture of popular games, it’s important to remember that these games that they were developed in commercial contexts. Myst was the best selling game of the 21st century. And since its debut, 10 million copies of Doom have been sold. Some of the most influential and “game-changing” (excuse the pun) examples of narrative architecture in the Digital Age have been created for commercial purposes. And for good reason–video games are incredibly expensive to make. In the past 10 years, the cost of developing a single video game has increased from an average of $1-4 million in 2000 to $20 million in 2010 because of increasing competition and technological advances that have skyrocketed production costs in the industry.

As Digital Media has become pervasive in society, an application of Big Data—Predictive Analytics—has increasingly been embraced by the private sector to, essentially, foresee events before they happen. These predictions are based on variables and correlations–“or the quantification of the statistical relationship between two data values”. For example, “an algorithm that can spot a hit song, which is commonly used in the music industry to give recording labels a better idea of where to place their bets” (58).

In class, we discussed that Big Data’s rise is representative of society emphasizing, increasingly, value on the “what” as opposed to the “why”. Mayer-Schonberger and Cuckier argue that, “correlations show what, not why, but as we have seen, knowing what is often good enough…these non causal analyses will aid our understanding of the world by primarily asking what rather than why…” and, “causality won’t be discarded, but it is being knocked off its pedestal as the primary foundation of meaning. Big Data turbocharges non-causal analyses, often replacing causal investigations” (68). In other words: society is changing, and Big Data and correlation are progressively becoming the primary ways in which we think about the world. High quality data is unnecessary if we have access to big quantity data. The qualitative is replacing the quantitative. The importance of “why” is giving way to the prominence of “what”.

And it is this shift in values–a large part due to Big Data–that I argue puts video games into crisis. We will increasingly see videogames focus on the “what” as opposed to the “why”. In the past year, the most popular video games (in order) were Titanfall, Call of Duty: Ghosts, NBA 2K14, and the Lego Movie video game. And compared to Myst and Doom of the 21st century, these commercial games are hopelessly populist and incredibly uninventive. Two of these games are franchises, one of them is a franchised game from a film, and the last is a first person shooter game. For the past several years, innovation has been primarily defined by incremental improvements in graphics and features, as opposed to substantial shifts in the narrative architecture of video games. In other words, the most popular way of escaping the ordinariness of everyday life and exploring the frontiers of the human imagination is to play video games defined by convention.

I claim that a large reason why is because of our shift toward trusting the insights of Big Data over the inspiration of ourselves. Big Data allows game publishers to mine their customers’ data, and tell their developers to churn out new games based on with quantitatively informed recommendations. Game developers who used to run creative studios are now being increasingly coerced into turning a profit and using their creativity to industrially manufacture narrative architecture. Furthermore, I predict that the video games will increasingly mimic the transformation of other creative arts into industries like music and movies. Just as there are pop songs and indie songs, independent films and movie franchises–we will increasingly see pop video games influenced by customer data, and independent video games influenced by experimental aspirations. And just as movie studios run test screenings of movies and musicians use algorithms to help produce songs–video game developers will increasingly use Big Data as an authority on customers desires that will determine content.

However the future of video games won’t necessarily be totally dystopian–just as we’ve seen an increasing popularization and datafication of video games, there has been a developing and increasingly flourishing movement of artistically oriented and independently developed video games that challenge larger systems of control. For example, indie games like Dys4ia, Journey, and To The Moon are helping redefine how we think about the potential of games as an artform. Additionally, new mediums for videogames themselves—like Oculus VR and Bounden—are introducing increasingly interactive elements into gameplay that will increasingly challenge our conceptions of reality and gamespace. In other words, despite the increasing tendency for game developers to succumb to data-driven approaches to game development, these new innovative indie gamers might save games as a medium.

In sum, although video games have the potential to challenge us with their narrative architecture, Big Data threatens this possibility by enticing developers to create by data. And despite the progress of indie video games, I claim society, as a whole, is moving toward larger systems of control through our newly developed analytical capabilities. Perhaps Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier said it best; “As the world shifts from causation to correlation, how can we pragmatically move forward without undermining the very foundations of society, humanity, and progress based on reason [and creativity]?”

Works Cited

Mayer­Schönberger, Viktor, and Kenneth Cukier. “1: NOW” + “4: CORRELATION,” BigData: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), 1­18 + 50­72

Jenkins, Henry. “Game Design as Narrative Architecture”,1-15.

 

Blog Links In Conversation With This Piece

http://blogs.brown.edu/mcm-0230-s01/2015/04/02/games-games-games/

http://blogs.brown.edu/mcm-0230-s01/2015/04/03/embedded-narratives-in-modern-games

Alejandro Knoepffler

MCM230: Assignment 3

Post-Digital Memory

Looking back, I think the topic that I was trying to take a stab at in this post was “how is digital media disseminated?” In this course, we have discussed means of communication and distribution of digital commodities and networked ideas, but something that I have felt distanced from is the disconnect between the creation and dissemination of digital media, and how it affects my relationship with the digital. I tried to link the creation and the ease of spreading digital media to stereotypes, but I now think it goes a lot deeper than that, and after reading Cramer’s “What is Post-Digital,” Nakamura’s “Digital Circuits” sprung back into my mind. I feel that the argument on what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget is so important in analyzing what is Post-Digital. In both the creation and the dissemination of Post-Digital material, what we choose to remember and forget plays an important part in our shaping of culture. I feel that Post-Digital means the digitalization of memory.

With the digitalization of memory, what we chose to remember is critical in shaping our world view and our actions. I feel that Cramer refers to “transportation” (Cramer, 700) as the defining factor and the grace of digital/ new platforms. This ease of transportation of ideas and media allows us to do so much, without even having the time to process it in our mind. For example, I could just send an e-mail without having to move the comfort of my bed, and the lack of physical contact and transportation of my body can be easily forgotten, and transformed into the much quicker transportation of my message to its recipient. We can remember the dangers of new media, but so easily forget them. Cramer explains that “after Edward Snowden’s disclosures of the NSA’s all-pervasive digital surveillance systems, this disenchantment has quickly grown from a niche ‘hipster’ phenomenon to a mainstream position” (Cramer, 701). When we choose to remember that we can be easily tracked and that all our data is being stored without our explicit consent, we choose to take action, change the way we act on the internet and change our business models. On the other hand, I feel that a lot of the return to analog in Cramer’s chapter stems from an understanding of old hardware that forgets the limitations and remembers the creation process. People are posting pictures of polaroid photos taken with an iPhone on Facebook. I find that there’s a disjoint here in the creation and the dissemination of this item that remembers the process of taking a polaroid, but doesn’t honor that sort of indexical and personal nature of a single existing photo. The memory that is digitalized when it is uploaded to Facebook, is one that chooses to harken back to the past but forgets dangers of transporting this image into the digital.

We can even more easily forget in the Post-Digital, and I feel that so much fear stems from invisibility. We have so many and such advanced means of communication in the United States that we can create “fictions of agency” (Cramer, 710) to create false power of knowledge over a body of data. We can assume things about the digitalized objects, such as data is post-racial, unbiased and sterile that can be detrimental to outcomes and conclusions. We need to be careful because in the digitalized world, we can be swayed by marketing and companies into thinking what they want us to. The “Intel Inside” campaign proved that a corporation could change our knowledge and memory of their product by gaining our trust trough commercials featuring clean, bunny people. However, Nakamura is very eye-opening and points out that if we actually look inside of Intel, “instead we see Asian women, Latinas, and Navajo women and other women of color. Looking inside digital culture means both looking back in time to the roots of the computing industry and the specific material production practices that positioned race and gender as commodities in electronics factories.” (Nakamura, 937). These roots can be so easily forgotten either for our comfort or our convenience, that our memory can become falsely conclusive. These “fictions of agency” can shape our memory and reframe our human history.

I believe that the Post-Digital expands from digitalization of data and media to the digitalization of human memory. This digitalization of memory is allows for so many instances of remembering or forgetting in the creation and dissemination of digital media. These dangers can include forgetting a loss of rights of distribution of your own personal data, or the invisibility of race and gender as labor commodities. Information and data thought history is incomplete, but we need to realize the ease that someone can control our perception of visible information in this day and age.

wallespace

The analog and Cramer’s “blue” digital in harmony, from Disney Pixar’s “Wall-E” (2008).

Appendix

Original Post:

“How do we get to know digital media? How do we explore a space and a technology that is new to us? The extension of stereotypes seems to be how we approach a new space.

When the cinema first premiered, Commedia Del’Arte was something that was depicted so that the audience could grasp onto something. Commedia Del’Arte consisted of archetypes/ stock characters such as Colombina (a flirtatious, singing maid), and Arlecchino (a bouncy, tickle clown) which can be set up in different ways. Think of it as a puppet show with recognizable characters. The story could be changed, but the characters stay the same, thus keeping the spectacle recognizable and fun for the audience.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D3zwJbDn1M

Nakamura talks about how the Navajo women worked on the early computer chips and how the chips strike a resemblance to the traditional tapestries. The women were getting paid well, and had good working conditions, and were allowed to express their creativity, but I can’t help but feel that this notion that a group of people are “good at something” could be very wrong.

For example, in the video we watched in lecture on Monday, the only workers depicted were Asian. Is this so that people feel safe or are able to rely on Asian people because they think that Asians are good at being precise and technical?

Apple’s design video for their new macbook features a Jonathan Ive’s British accent. He is the VP of Design, but was this an aesthetic choice? Does the British accent carry some kind of power play? I think that perhaps people are more inclined to listen to a British accent because it could seem more trusting, knowledgeable, etc.”

Nakamura, Lisa, Indigenous Circuits. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, p. 919-994, Digital Article.

Cramer, Florian, What is Post-Digital, Np: Np, p. 699-712, Digital File.

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Beltrán’s essay Undocumented, Unafraid and Unapologetic was the reading that struck me most form this week. I’ve been familiar with people sharing their lives on the internet; I think a lot of the people in my generation had access to and probably read articles and watched videos in which bloggers or vloggers (video-bloggers) have shared personal life stories. (“Draw My Life” Youtbe video, for example). Stories of personal struggle are abundant on the net, but it was very enlightening to read that undocumented immigrants (young people specifically) shared their lives on the internet, when they have little to no exposure in real life.

Reading the testimonios of these people really struck me. One of the struggles an outsider or and immigrant faces is paradox of being uncomfortable not fitting in, and being uncomfortable losing one’s identify and roots to conformity. Communication on the internet seems to allow one to actually keep who they are, but with exposure and exposé this is not the case. The exposé brings down individuality because the content is open and disseminated to people who could have no relation to the original content creator. I’m curious to see if the DREAMer networks consist mostly of immigrants or if the communities have a diversity. If the undocumented immigrants are just surrounding themselves with themselves, the their discourse will not “allow them to articulate political alternatives that can be shared across time and space.”

Cramer defines ‘Post-digital” as a condition in which digital technology is no longer new media. And, conversely, where ‘new media’ is no longer by definition digital.

Actually, what he says is that progress and innovation in the post-digital era relies on hybrid practices that combine old and new media. But are such hybridations necessarily a source of empowerment? For example if we think of the influence of channel surfing on media multitasking in the sense of Jenkins, that involve both analog and digital content, are we more able to develop critical thought? (not to mention task performance)

When Professor Chun talked about Mother in her lecture in March, it reminded me of the Ray Bradbury short story “There Will Come Soft Rains,” which describes an automatically functioning house in the fallout of a nuclear holocaust and its subsequent destruction in a fire. The eeriness of the story comes from the description of the automatic toaster, self-cleaning oven, and operator-less vacuum as they continue to operate without their creators. And while Mother is one step behind Bradbury’s vision of the “house of the future,” it still presents many similar implications. What would happen if Mother became widespread? After a certain period of time, people would stop looking at it as strange–it might even become ubiquitous; a fact of life. In this case, the smartphone-centered trend in technological overhaul of day-to-day tasks would become even more far-reaching. I am offering this thought as a slight condemnation of the degree to which we rely on forces outside our own control to manage the lives that very much determine our happiness and sense of the world at large. To me, the very idea of a machine called “Mother” was nothing short of disturbing.

How does a group that has existed “under the radar” for its entire history go about changing their image in the public eye in such a way that not only gathers widespread support but also sparks meaningful political change? By queering the political landscape, according to Cristina Beltran’s article. This very idea is sort of alien to me, I’ve heard the word thrown around but I didn’t know what it meant in the context of political action. But thinking about it, new media provides perfect avenues for inverting, shifting, or otherwise rearranging the very ways people look at political issues, especially ones that deal with immigration reform. When DREAM activists decided it was time for their voices to be heard, they came out of the shadows on the Internet, exposing themselves to a network that can track and access their information. This decision to wave their flag in the face of a machine that doesn’t allow for them to exist makes the DREAMers not just visible but only impossible to ignore. Paired with a resonating message, they created a truly innovative and powerful grassroots movement.

I’m interested in the various modes of essentialism that have been discussed throughout several readings in this course. Kirschenbaum, of course, provides us with an in-depth analysis of screen essentialism—the process of effacing every element of a digital technology beyond its screen. Lisa Nakumura discusses the essentialization of Navajo women of color and the biopolitical stakes thereof, discussing a deliberately disseminated imaginary of women of color as “natural” fits for the sorts of affective labor or “women’s work” required by the tech industry. I’m curious, too, about other forms of essentialism that occur on Terranova’s ‘outernet’—I’m thinking about outsourced labor, for example, as a mechanism for the collapsing and effacement of individual difference and alterity.

Professor Chun’s lecture on big data reminded me of a site called DoNotTouch.org. When you visit the site, you become a participant in a worldwide game of mouse-moving. Your cursor is recorded as it moves through various obstacles, maps, and pictures. Then, about an hour later when the information has processed, your cursor becomes one of the hoard, navigating through this online space.

What’s really interesting, though, are the patterns of behavior that form amongst the little flitting arrows. Mainstream patterns emerge, but so do counter-movements and some jumbled circles. when observed individually, the cursors retain some semblance of uniqueness. But as a whole, they are more than predictable. I feel as if it is this principle, applied to much more complex behaviors, that drives big data as we know it today.