Global gaming networks are heterogenous collectives of localized practices, not unified commercial products. Shifting the analysis of digital games to local specificities that build and perform the global and general, Gaming Rhythms employs ethnographic work conducted in Venezuela and Australia to account for the material experiences of actual game players.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Flux Conference Panel Proposal

Here is the proposal for a panel on Actor-Network-Theory that my buddies Bjorn and Michael and I have put together for the flux postgraduate conference run by the cinema studies department this November.
Panel: Assembling the ANT: Ventilators, Maps, Videogames

This panel seeks to bring together diverse work within cultural and media studies that utilises the framework outlined by Bruno Latour and Actor-Network-Theory. This approach broadly redefines sociology through an inclusive methodology that attempts to capture movements; it is an act of tracing associations between heterogeneous elements. Crucially, it redefines our understanding of the social world, arguing that the heterogeneity found in such associations is not exclusively composed of human ties, and that focusing solely on the human entails a fundamental misunderstanding as it ignores the participation of objects, technologies and non-human entities in the social world; from mechanical ventilators, GPS technology and videogame algorithms.
Keywords: Actor-Network-Theory, Bruno Latour, Non-humans

Machine Breaths
Bjorn Nansen

The term flux operates as a kind of metonym for the mutable conditions of postmodernity, suggesting a range of movements, fluidities and becomings. These familiar tropes saturate our current milieu, and cluster prominently around conceptions of the body, identity and self as something able to be constructed, changed and transformed through modes of consumption and a range of fashion, dietary and exercise practices. Even more radical are the potential transformations enabled through medical technologies of transplantation, prosthesis and reconstruction.

As such, both essential and regulated images of the self are abandoned in favor of choice, agency and flexibility. Inherent to these notions is a popular celebration in possibility and a common sense perception of technology as instrumental. Alternatively, technology is framed as autonomous, threatening and destructive to the human; this view is aligned with a sense that fluidity translates into fragmentation and erasure. The mechanical ventilator is a technology generally framed within this dialectic; either radically destabilising human life, creating new and ambiguous states such as brain-death; or as a simple prosthetic device, serving an instrumental purpose through simulating the function of breathing for patients whose own ventilatory abilities are diminished or lost.

Bruno Latour argues, however, that this perpetuates a false dichotomy; humans and technologies are not separate, but continuous and co-emergent; and objects mediate and act within the social world. Latour’s inclusion of non-humans invites us to re-assess the ways entities are mutually constituted through their relations, and how each participates in defining and redefining each other.

I want to deploy Latour’s methodology and idiom to consider the reconfigured and distributed ontology of the human-mechanical ventilator relation; to trace the tensions between enabling and attenuating bodily practices; and to discuss how this relation complicates notions of fluidity and choice privileged in contemporary life.
Keywords: Actor-Network-Theory, Embodiment, Medical Technology,

Objective Memories: On Assembling Things through Locative Media
-Michael Dieter

Locative media has routinely been understood through theories concentrated on spatial analysis and the virtual annotation of urban landscapes. Such discourses often rely on a utopian desire to recover stable relations and place-bound modes of community in a global era characterised by the flux of compressed networks of time-space. Paradoxically, these practices rely on the very technologies of reproduction and simulation that Andreas Huyssen understands as being ‘leading players in the morality play of memory.’

My paper will apply the recent work of Bruno Latour on political assemblies, ‘matters of concern’ and object-orientated democracy in order to examine the instrumental position that projects like Proboscis’ Urban Tapestries or Milk by Ieva Auzina and Esther Polak maintain in relation to imagining technologies. In particular, I want to examine how a reflexive approach, inspired by actor-network-theory, might bring into consideration the function of new media in these works as non-human actants. That is, if such projects are based on a reflexive approach to memory, the role of forgetting or disappearance should not be overlooked, especially concerning the material apparatus itself. This is of critical importance, I will argue, in order to distinguish the function of mobile and digital devices from the imperatives of control, surveillance and commercial spectacle characteristic of the contemporary urban experience.
Keywords: Actor-Network-Theory, Locative Media, Memory.

Analysis through Design: Examining the Technological and Social Actors in a Videogaming Ecology
-Thomas Apperley

This paper will argue that – rather than ‘great graphics’ or a ‘compelling story’ – the key to a videogames’ acceptance and adoption by an audience is the appropriateness of its design in relation to the context of its play. Through an ethnographic examination of two situated videogaming ecologies in Melbourne, Australia and Caracas, Venezuela I maintain that factors aside from narrative have a crucial role in shaping the experience of play. Of particular importance are the interoperability of the gaming technology, which takes effect in the relationship between software and hardware, and the capacity of the game to be played across a network. This points to the role of both the technological and the social in shaping the videogame experience, and being equally important as narrative or visual concerns when selecting what game is played in a given context or situation. The paper will argue that the practices involved in the consumption of videogames constitute a complex ecology, formed by the interplay of both the social and the technological contexts of their play. I will examine the influence of technology and the social on shaping the experience of play through Latour’s (2005) notion of Actor-Network-Theory. Using Latour’s notion as a starting point I will outline, and argue in favor, of a theory of videogames based on design, that incorporates narrative and visual aesthetics as elements without privileging them, using the game Gunbound: World Champion (softnyx, 2005) as an example of the utility of this framework.
Keywords: Actor-Network-Theory, Media Ecology, Situated Gaming, Videogame Design.

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About Me

This blog started as a PhD blog, for my project 'Global Rhythms: Video games and the Transformation of Play'. It finally become a book. This is a "historic" record of the trials a tribulations.