Thursday, June 30, 2005

Summer is here and the time is right for playing in the streets



Blogging will be a bit slower over the coming weeks. However it will continue (of course). Summer is (sort of) here and the routines of academic work give way to family, music, writing, reading...all at odd hours and in odd places.
The above image is from two summers ago. I hope to be doing some busking over the coming weeks as well.
Happy summer holidays to all northern hemisphere readers.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I am in Print!!

It seems that by the end of this summer I will be again a published poet. This is something I lived for ten years ago, but then when I started spending a lot of time in countries where few people spoke English I decided music was a much better way to communicate. I still think there is a lot of truth in this. I have always been writing poetry and other forms of word arrangment but have not been thinking so much about publishing it.

But recently I sent some recent poems to the very cool people at Digitalis Industries and they kindly chose to include one in "Pine Meoquanee":

"...the first annual digitalis anthology of works with multiple writers. Contributors include musician friends of digitalis (keith wood, james blackshaw, christina carter, michael donnelly, james barrett, michael anderson, robert horton, and spencer grady)..."

"Meoquanee" is from the Chippewa language and means "wears red". I am james (which means "One who supplants" from Hebrew), michael is based here and I've known the dude for years and christina is famous and I met her last year. The others I do not know directly but Keith Wood is from Hush Arbors and james blackshaw is james blackshaw . michael anderson runs BlueSanct recordings and plays in (or maybe is) Drekka. Robert Horton has made Angel Humming Through A Wire, which sound pretty interesting and Spencer Grady is in Rameses the Third.
How was that for a brief tour of the luxuriant undergrowth of wild creative endeavors that is Foxy Digitalis and associated wonders. Many thanks to Brad and Eden.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Allaannonser versus Blocket

There is an interesting case of digital law emerging in Sweden. The marketplace website Blocket.se which managed an impressive 1 238 000 hits in April 2005 alone is taking the makers of the search motor allaannonser.se to court as they claim that the allaannonser search motor prevents those that pay for advertising on the blocket.se from being effective. Furthermore the allannonser.se search motor searches 25 such Swedish sites and those that advertise on less known sites gain the vast audience that blocket.se promises with its huge readership. Blocket.se states there is a parasitic relationship created through the portal access gained.

I see this as a boundary dispute in cyberspace. If one cannot build a search motor that trawls through the whole of the World Wide Web then we are seeing an enclosure of what should be common space. There is no reproduction or mirroring involved here, just linking. A website which provides a service can fully expect that service to be undermined with an improvement in technology. Just as Netscape died a death by neglect. Sweden currently has not legislation or precedent in linking and property law. Looking at the United states situation, linking, according to The Richmond Journal of Law and Technology (1997) (attributed and quoted under Fair Use):

{8} In addition to understanding the distinction between different types of links that might be implemented in a given WWW page, it is important to understand some other interesting technical characteristics of the WWW. First, HTML documents are strictly limited to plain (ASCII) text. They do not contain images, sounds or other non-textual elements. In order for an image to be displayed concurrently with the document, a link to the image element (either local or remote) is necessary. Even somewhat simple web pages, then, might contain a large number of links to elements that make up the page's formatting.

{9} Second, links only identify the location of a target element, such as an HTML document or an image, and are not the element themselves. Embedding a link in an HTML document is not the same as actually placing the element in the document. Third, it is the user's browser that interprets the HTML instruction identified by the link. So, when the browser encounters a link, it initiates the network connection to the referenced element, facilitates the transmission of a copy of the element to the user's computer, and then processes the element so that it can be appropriately displayed (or, in the case of an audio file, heard).


This is pre-The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which states somewhat less ambiguously:

Limitation for Information Location Tools Section 512(d) relates to hyperlinks, online directories, search engines and the like. It limits liability for the acts of referring or linking users to a site that contains infringing material by using such information location tools, if the following conditions are met:

! The provider must not have the requisite level of knowledge that the
material is infringing. The knowledge standard is the same as under the
limitation for information residing on systems or networks.

! If the provider has the right and ability to control the infringing activity,
the provider must not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to
the activity.

! Upon receiving a notification of claimed infringement, the provider
must expeditiously take down or block access to the material.



It will be interesting to see how the Swedes decide. If they follow the The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which is most likely then allaannonser.se is sunk. The outcome of this case could be of particular influence to the cyberscape emanating out of presently fairly open Sweden.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Waste Land: Collage, Hypertext and the Nodes of Meaning

This is an essay I completed last week for my Postmodernism Postcolonialism course work unit. I have now finished the majority of my course work so this is good. Although this is a bit long, I wanted to put it here as I enjoyed writing it and also the days I spent reading and thinking about T.S Eliot, Vivian Eliot and Ezra Pound were profound indeed.



The Waste Land: Collage, Hypertext and the Nodes of Meaning.


The Waste Land is a collaborative work created by T.S. Eliot who wrote the text/s, Vivien Eliot who both wrote and edited and Ezra Pound who edited and collated the various manuscripts together to create the poem first published in 1922, the same year as James Joyce’s Ulysses. The text itself is comprised of a variety of language discourses ranging from interiorized monologue and intimate daily speech to elegy, mythology and a World War One marching song. These are collaged together around themes related to mortality and the possibilities of death/life in/after life/death. In this essay I wish to explore the issues surrounding the dispersive prose narrative of The Waste Land in regard to Pound’s concept of language nodes or “the Vortex”. In reference to this I construct here a metonymic reading of The Waste Land and conclude in the relevance of such a reading to the recent adaptation of the original authoritative text as an online hypertext publication of the work. In this discussion I do not intend to detract from T.S Eliot’s designation as author but rather to examine the space between the original text, its primary editor Ezra Pound, and the philosophies of literary production that may have influenced its production and the course it set in English literature over the proceeding years. Its continued relevance today is furthermore embodied in its place as a hypertext on the World Wide Web.

Pound’s Vorticist theory of writing is the basis for this essay as a metonymic reading. In Gaudier-Brezeska (1916) Pound wrote:

The image is not an idea. It is a radiant node or cluster; it is what I can and must perforce, call a VORTEX, from which and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing. In decency one can only call it a VORTEX. And from this necessity came the name “voritcism”.” (Perloff 1981:160)


The relationship between the form and the idea being fluid and flowing is consistent with metonymy as a blended space of meanings. The metonymic sequences of The Waste Land produce a profound and often individual understanding for each reader. Separately each of the five parts of text could be construed as having very different meanings to that of the whole, as would each of the shorter single image poems discussed below. Combined they provided a deeply immersive poetic experience and in its entire form it has come over time to symbolise a malleable discourse around twentieth century western culture.

In understanding Pounds concept of “radiant node or cluster” the importance of his long study of the Chinese language should be acknowledged. In 1908 Ezra Pound benefited from the estate of Ernest Fenollosa when he received the orientalist's very large collection of unpublished scholarly papers. He had already developed a strong interest in both Chinese and Japanese literatures and was translating Chinese as early as 1903. His use of what he understood to be Chinese characters as ideograms emerged out of his imagist period (1912-14) as exemplified in the famous poem In a Station of the Metro(1916):



With this in mind The Waste Land may be read as a constructed series of “one image poems” that combine in a metonymic structure to provide the potentially great number of cohesive readings which can be applied to it.
There is not a sequential development of narrative/s in The Waste Land, rather it presents a flow of images and exchanges that seem to hang together by the thread or “dried tuber” root of their origins. This is accomplished through an extensive system of reference and appropriation of historical, mythological, religious and literary sources and to the structural collage technique initiated by the Eliots and finished by Pound. The reader is met with a cascade of vegetative, corporeal, and urban imagery that all seem to exist outside time in a permanent state of decay and death but never climaxing in total dissolution, merely the suspended animation of the desert, watery preservation or the living dead. Each of the five parts in turn progresses analogically from a biblical ‘man drawn from the soil’ and childhood thematic (interiorized, thought base, nervous) to ‘alienated urban individual’ (language, self, sense perception) to the ‘profane world minus the creator.’ (city, nature, society). These themes are developed in relation to each other spatially and result in the metonymic meaning so characteristic of the work.

The 1925 second edition of The Waste Land is dedicated to its co-creator/editor Ezra Pound as “il miglior fabbro”; the better craftsman. Pound was a founding member of the Vorticist movement in 1914 adapting and redefining its art driven, proto-fascist principles to the realm of literature, and particularly poetry. In 1921 and 1922 Pound made major changes to the text in editing The Waste Land, the most dramatic example being Part IV Death by Water which he edited down from over 80 lines to just 10. It would be unlikely that the “craft” Pound applied to the text was not deeply influenced by his own philosophy regarding language and in particular his Imagist-Vorticist ideas. The concept of “radiant node or cluster” applies well to The Waste Land when we consider a metonymic reading of the work. As a compositional text in terms of authors, technique and themes no single line of procedural or sequential narrative can be established though the 435 line poem. Rather small particles (often just two lines) of text are the independent nodes which combine to build up the greater poetic. In these there are clear compact moments of distinct imagery which combine to give the poem its overall atmosphere or one could even say meaning/s. Such powerful nodes as “That corpse you plated last year in your garden, / Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?” (71-72) provide points upon which the reader’s attention hangs as they negotiate their path through the topography of The Waste Land. From such a feature on the landscape the reading can transverse out through networks of meaning centred upon such themes as death and vegetative interconnectedness. From the vegetative node there is a connection to the dual theme centred on water (drought/flood) and the further associations with life and death.

To begin identifying themes in The Waste Land it is memory projected as narrated direct speech which opens the poem. The famous seasonal opening, “April is the cruellest month, breeding “ (1) is followed by recollections of a group (perhaps a family) in a holiday-like atmosphere “coming over the Starnbergersee” (8), taking coffee in the Hofgarten (10). From here it returns again to the opening lines powerful organic imagery of plants, rocks and water. Magic is then taken up within this theme through both plant and rock; “Here is Belladonna, The Lady of the Rocks,” (49), and the presence of Madame Sosostris provides it with a material system; the Tarot. The city is also introduced here as the “Unreal city” (60), another form of a material system, and presents as a recounting of a nightmare vision from Dante’s Inferno: “A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many / I had not thought death had undone so many” (62-63). This city is operating under the system of time, as embodied by the Saint Mary Woolnoth clock. Time is constructed as a system that can only be avoided by death, “With a dead sound on the final stoke of nine.” (68). From this a further relation is constructed with both history and memory containing the sprouts of death; “That corpse you planted last year in your garden, / Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?” (71-72). This development of the vegetative theme in conjuncture with the temporal propels the reader from the manifestations of human recollection (time, history) into the nature of being human, that is hope, memory and death.

The trope of ‘System’ runs into the title of the second part of the poem, The Game of Chess, but in Part II the players are also the narrators or authors of the game as much of it is direct quotes from speaking subjects. One of the primary themes in The Game of Chess is the orientation of an inside/outside binary as arranged around the self. Here the domestic emerges from a mythological theme based around Ovid’s Metamorphosis; “The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king” (99), along “withered stumps of time” (104). The narration moves from mythological change and duality to two contempory urban people in a room “in rats’ alley” (115). The context or origin of these lines is understood to be speech recorded as prose from conversations between Tom Eliot and his wife Vivien, “My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.” (111).It could be either one of them speaking but their combined attention progresses outwards from thought (interior, thinking), to noise (sense, intermediate, speaking) to natural phenomenon; “what is the wind doing?” (119) to society; “walk the street with my hair down, so.” (132-133). From this taxonomy of perception the direct speech of the two goes on to become the speech of many. The climax of this collaged progression provides a spatial context not stated directly in the work; a public house and the gossip of drinkers bringing the world of their troubles and sorrows from outside to within, the recognized location of such a statement as “HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME” (165). The same time that governs by Death at the clock of Saint Mary Woolnoth also governs the recounting and gossip of the tavern. As night falls the public house empties out into the street and Part III comes; The Fire Sermon and here it is the city that contains all, both the dead and the living. Whereas Joyce’s Ulysses is founded heavily on an allegory of pre-Christian mythology, Eliot’s city (a narrated London) is the topography for an early Christian grail quest. A prayer ends Part III and Death by Water embodies further reference to classical themes in what became under the Eliot-Pound production process the heavily edited Part IV.



Comprised of only 10 lines Part IV is the turning point of the poem. Death by Water takes the form of a brief elegy for Phlebas the Phoenician (Phlebos Gr: “vein”) which recollects the fictitious tarot card of “the drowned Phoenician Sailor” (47) of Part I. The implied binary between blood and water is clear in Part IV, although the binaries actually written of here are “profit and loss” (314), “rose and fell” (316), “age and youth” (317), “Gentile and Jew” (319). The future is invoked in the elegiac form by reference to the dead as “O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, /Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.”(320-321). This direct address to the reader places the intention of future (“look to windward” implying both the -future- direction to be sailed toward and lush rain –life- receiving side of an archipelago) as a challenge, or as a question. It is as if we are the still living by the grave side and the consideration is to be ours. This oral theme returns us to the opening of The Waste Land where memories are invoked and the events of a life are recounted in hindsight. This circular closure achieved through the return to the opening theme of recollection and memory brings us to the final Part V of the poem, What the Thunder Said.

The theme of the final section of the poem is a metaphysical cosmology based upon principles of a divine presence or absence in the world. Future and history seem to have crumbled by the time the reader comes to Part V; “He who was living is now dead / We who were living are now dying / With a little patience” (328-330). Destruction as manifest in the afflictions of time (decay, drought, age) rages across the material world which alternates between bone dry desert and flood. Hindu and Christian imagery intertwine around the ruins of the great cities and human perception is constructed as the prison in which we all sit, “We think of the key, each in his prison / Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison” (414-415). In a clear reflexive moment the poets own voice appears in the fourth last line to claim that by “These fragments I have shorn against my ruins” (431) but this in turn is cast aside with a twist for in the final line the only truth seems to stand as "Shantih shantih shantih" (435), Sanskrit which translate roughly as "The Peace that passeth all understanding", even presumable the understanding of poetry. In this the narration steps outside itself for a final abysmal moment of clarification and folds in upon itself like a vortex.

'Flow’ or ‘Direction’ as a theme can be read in “A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many / I had not thought death had undone so many” (62-63). The great movement towards death which the narrative voice seems struggling to be to be outside of as in such couplets as “There I saw one I knew and cried “Stetson! / You who were with me at the ships at Mylae!” (69-70) are part of this flow or directional theme. In Part II The Game of Chess the flow of images continues along a movement from day to night, from inside to outside, from thought to sense perception in the dialogue of the speakers and in the movement from the private house to the public house and then into the street. This movement is maintained in Part III The Fire Sermon in the pathways of the city taken by the wandering witness and in more intimate exchanges such as “Bestows one final patronising kiss, / And gropes his way finding the stairs unlit” (247-248). Again here is a leaving into the night, the flow from the sensual body into the loneliness of a darkness that is imagined as death-like. In Part IV we meet death directly in the elegy of Phlebas the Phoenician and the circle between inside and outside, day and night, thought and thing is near to closing. The Zen koan-like couplet: “We think of the key, each in his prison / Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison” (414-415) brings the dream vision of the poet to an end. Uniting the image with the thing in the thought of it and with this juncture is the realization that the poet too is in the crowd shuffling across London Bridge towards death. The poem offered as “fragments …shorn against…ruins” (431) are ruins in themselves and the flow of life to death, as in the flow from day to night, cannot be avoided or even negotiated with through such vehicles as poetry.

The adaptation of a text from one medium to another can, in a type of radical textual intervention, expose elements of the text at its most basic levels. During his life T. S. Eliot made an influential audio recording of The Waste Land (1946) in what Virginia Woolf described as his "sepulchral voice". In 1968 the original manuscript was rediscovered and published with the editing process coming under closer scrutiny, revealing among other things the role of Vivien Eliot (d.1947) in the production process. Recently The Waste Land has been adapted as an online hypertext and the metonymic structure of the poem is brought to the fore through a text that can be read in many directions due to clickable links and multiple revisions upon Eliot’s original notes. In the hypertext adaptation of The Waste Land the nodes as metonymy are transformed as portals which lead to parallel readings of the “one image poems” comprising the greater work. As well as this the exterior or contextual sources that were once necessary to understand the many historical, literary and classical references in the text (outside the footnotes and introductions of critical editions) are interwoven into the hypertext adaptation.

There are several hypertext versions of The Waste Land on the internet but in terms of metonymy the edition found at http://world.std.com/~raparker/exploring/thewasteland/explore.html is more applicable due to its strong sense of contextual references and more extensive and maintained links. In this adaptation the 435 lines of the original poem have been transformed into thousands of lines, including linked books of the bible (also as audio), the Aeneid of Virgil, images of the church of St Mary Woolnoth, the works of other poets (Chaucer, Whitman, Baudelaire) and the personal sources for Eliot for the imagery of the poem. In a metonymic fashion one linked word or phrase leads to larger networks of information and associations. The below screenshot provides an example of how three windows of text can be run simultaneously both in reading the original text as well as the metatext provided from internal hypertext links:



The main white coloured window is the text of the original poem, with links on phrases or words in the text as well as commentary (yellow), Allusions (brown), Draft material (pink) Cross references (“Xref” in blue), Eliots notes (“Eliot” in yellow), exercises for students (“?” in olive), and Miscellaneous (“Misc.” in turquoise). The brown window to the right hand side of the screen displays material from choices made in the colour coded links in the main window and the smaller window at the bottom of the page is for links chosen from within the actual body of the poem. The small pink window in the bottom left hand corner of the screen brings in choices from outside The Waste Land, such as help with the document set-up and information about the site’s creators.

To outline a reading strategy for the hypertext The Waste Land I will follow a single line of metonymic association from line 60 of the original text; “Unreal City”. According to the cross reference link there are multiple cross references for both the words ‘Unreal’ and ‘City’ in the original text of The Waste Land. The word ‘Unreal’ is repeated three times in the text, twice in conjunction with ‘City’. The word ‘City’ occurs in seven other contexts in the poem and is found twice in line 259. Eliot’s own note draws the association with Charles Baudelaire's poem Les Sept Viellards (The Seven Old Men), in particularly the lines; “Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves, Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant.” A translation is also provided in the hypertext adaptation; “Swarming city, city full of dreams / Where the spector in full daylight accosts the passerby.” There is also a link which opens in the same window to the original Baudelaire poem in both French and English. The “Allude” link provides the same information about the Baudelaire association. From the Poetry hyperlink in the text a window opens to where some present day aspiring Ezra Pound has re-edited the punctuation because “I was personally having a small problem following Eliot's thoughts on lines 60-68 because of the interjection of the narrator's thoughts on death's undoing of so many into the description of the flowing crowd”. (Exploring The Waste Land File: pq060.html September 29, 2002). Within this shadowy editorial voice there is present an echo of the formation of the original text over the dividing 80 years.

Although the newly integrated content of the hypertext adaptation is in many ways somewhat simplistic and quantifiable, the relationship to the method of metonymic reading, collage, ideograms and the Vortex is coherent. A hypertext adaptation could be made of any poem, but the nature of The Waste Land encourages a genealogical development from the 2002 hypertext adaptation of the text to the original published poem of 1922. The poem’s thematic system of discourse and its metonymic nodal structure in turn encourages re-readings and re-interpretations. The Waste Land today is a historically important text, developed collaboratively; it is dispersed in the sense of both language discourses (speech, elegy, mythology, song) and production (the Eliots, Pound) as being a collage. “The Waste Land” of today has come down to us as a cultural and literary node developing from early Vorticist and imagist philosophies to the hypertext of 2002.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Price Rise Hurts CD-R Culture

From the 1st July here in Sweden all blank DVD's and CD-Rs will go up in price. Go up in price by a very large amount. A CD-R will now cost 18 kronor if the retailer passes on the full tax recommended under law. Apparently this is a strategy suggested by the Anti-pirate Bureau to attempt to stem the flow of illegal copying of CD's from downloads.
I can understand this strategy and I wish them luck with it. Although I don't think making a product more expensive is going to stop an activity that is based around the Mp3 file format which is supposed to be transferred to the Mp3 player which almost everyone in this country owns one of (not me...But man do I want one).
The thing that hurts me in all this is that I am part of the CD-R culture which is basically musicians making their own CD's, and selling them through small labels they run themselves. This movement is growing by the day and is a very beautiful thing. This new law will make it very difficult for the Swedish grassroots home studio culture to develop.
Of course there is just ordering CD's on the internet from Germany by the hundred.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rupert Murdoch on "the natives"

I just stumbled upon a recent speech (April 13 2005) from my ex-fellow Australian Rupert Murdoch, who owns a newspaper or two. It seems Rupert has become aware of something called the Internet and that he needs to do something abut it if he is to continue to make so much money. So he called his editors together in a meeting reminiscent of a council of the Admiralty before an important battle (he even mentioned Napoleon in the speech!!) and outlined his vision. Murdoch's vision sounds like a colonizer's agenda, I quote;

"as someone searching for answers to an emerging medium that is not my native language"

"The digital native doesn't send a letter to the editor anymore. She goes online, and starts a blog. We need to be the destination for those bloggers. We need to encourage readers to think of the web as the place to go to engage our reporters and editors in more extended discussions about the way a particular story was reported or researched or presented."

"To carry this one step further, some digital natives do even more than blog with text they are blogging with audio, specifically through the rise of podcasting and to remain fully competitive, some may want to consider providing a place for that as well."

"We may never become true digital natives, but we can and must begin to assimilate to their culture and way of thinking. It is a monumental, once-in-a-generation opportunity, but it is also an exciting one..."

Batten down the hatches Mr Christian and prepare for boarders!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Multimedia travel blog: by a government broadcaster

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is running a real time multimedia travel blog (with a short title)Trans-Siberia A Rail Journey from Vladivostok to Moscow with Seven Stops in Between.
It also seems to be almost live moblogging as well. As of today the couple running the blog (Emma and Simon) are in Irkulsk. It features Mp3s for download and pictures. Great to see some inovation in what up until recently has been a fairly traditional national broadcaster (radio and TV).

What doe the Internet Look Like for Kids

What does the internet look like for kids? Very cool.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Waste Land: Hypertext, Collage and the Nodes of Meaning.

I am really tired now but I have started my next piece of work. Two essays; the first of which is:

The Waste Land: Hypertext, Collage and the Nodes of Meaning.

The Waste Land is a collaborative work created by T.S. Eliot who wrote the text/s and Ezra Pound who edited and collated the various manuscripts together to create the poem first published in 1922, the same year as James Joyce’s Ulysses. The text itself is comprised of a variety of language discourses ranging from interiorized monologue and intimate daily speech to journalism, mythology and a World War One marching song. These are collaged together around themes related to mortality and the possibilities of death/life in/after life/death. In this essay I wish to explore the issues surrounding the dispersive prose narrative of The Waste Land in regard to Pound’s concept of language nodes and its relevance to the recent adaptation of the authoritative text as two online hypertext publications of the work. Through all of these points runs the thread of what Marjorie Perloff describes as “metonymic sequences in which the whole is something else than the sum of its parts” (Perloff 1981: 180).

No rest for the wicked.........

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Weary Way Homeward


Myself near a fort built in 1659


I am about to leave Sodertorn for Stockholm Central to catch the train home tonight. We have just come back from a great day trip out among the islands of the Stockholm archipelago. I am so tired but I will get some coffee soon and hope to make it to the train.
It has been a great week (8 days) at the summer school here I will write up much more about it in the next few days on the HUMlab blog.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

UBUWEB RIP

Some most sad news:

Dear Friends,

The UbuWeb Project -- a decade-long experiment in radical distribution of avant-garde materials -- has finished. Founded in 1996, the project has been a success beyond anyone's wildest expectations. As of Spring, 2005, it averaged over 10,000 visitors daily and hosts nearly a terabyte of artworks in all media by over 500 artists.

The site will be donated to a university shortly, where it will be archived intact for posterity. Please note that the site will no longer be updated. A URL linking to the archive will be posted on this page.

The editors wish to thank you for supporting this experiment and, as a result, may a thousand flowers bloom in its wake.

Sincerely,
The Editors

Monday, June 06, 2005

Words from Haninge

Today I am beginning my third day here at Sodertorn University College in Haninge just on the outskirts of Stockholm. The past two days have been busy with some great lectures, two workshops and many many converstaions with interesting people. Saturday began with the usual welcomes and an outline by Patrik Hernwall who is a PhD researcher and teachers here at Sodertorn who leads some very interesting projects.
Following this came Jay David Bolter with the keynote address "The Aura of Digital Artefacts". This was an interesting critique of the economy of meaning around digital artefacts using Walter Benjamin's concept of Aura. I will post more notes on all the speakers from this conference as soon as I have time.
Yesterday was day 2 of the summer school and the theme was "Digital Story, Performance, Game" and the speaker for the main presentation of the day was Espen Aarseth. This was great as it really clarified so much for me in relation to Game Text and Narrative. I have even had to adjust many of my beliefs following Espen's talk, workshop and the conversations I managed to have with him during the day.
Notes on all this will follow.
Now it is almost 9am and time for more: A lecture by Michael Joyce and a day of "Digital Story, Performance and Game II"

Friday, June 03, 2005

Blogging as research network

This is an article based around an Q & A interview I did with the very hard working Mikael Hansson. It is in Swedish with me discussing blogging as a research network and teaching tool. In the same section are several other articles with academic bloggers and about academic blogs.

Imminent Summer School

The ICT Summer School is about to begin. Tonight I train it to the big city.
Here is the course literature and a short piece I wrote in response to the readings:

Reading list:Books
Windows and Mirrors
Jay David Bolter and Diane Gromala
MIT Press 2003.
[focus on chapter 1-4]

Remediation. Understanding New Media
Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin
MIT Press 1999.
[focus on page 1-86 and 230-271]

First Person : New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, ed.
Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan
MIT Press 2003.
[focus on chapter I and II, page 1-69.
These two chapters can also be found on the web:
http://www.electronicbookreview.com (right-click and choose "Open in New Window")
(Chapter 1 = "Cyberdrama" and Chapter 2 = Ludology". Read also "Introduction")]

Thoughtful Interaction Design. A Design Perspective on Information Technology
Jonas Löwgren och Erik Stolterman,
MIT Press 2004.
[focus on chapter 1, 2 and 4]

or in Swedish:

Design av informationsteknik. Materialet utan egenskaper
Jonas Löwgren och Erik Stolterman,
Studentlitteratur 2004.
[focus on chapter 1, 2 and 4]


Reading List: Articles
Playing Research: Methodological approaches to game analysis
Espen Aarseth
paper presented at the Digital Arts and Culture Conference (DAC) in Melbourne 2003.
Download here

Identity and Learning in Cyberspace
Morten Søby
chapter from: Sandbothe M./Marotzki W. (hrsg.): “Subjektivität und Öffentlichkeit”
(Herbert von Harlem Verlag), Köln, 2000)
Download here

Thus far I have read with pleasure Löwgren and Stolteman, the chapters from First Person (including Jane McGonigal's excellent "Notes Toward a More Pervasive Cyberdrama"), Bolter and Grusin's "Remediation", and Aarseth on Game Studies.
Personally I see myself as approaching these diverse subject areas from the basis of language and cultural studies with a distinct sympathy towards concepts of art and artistic expression. I enjoy the insights into the design side of digital text production and being a follower of N Katherine Hayles writings I hold with the materiality of the artefacts being in direct relation with the story it tells or the game it plays (story it plays, game it tells??).
I wonder about the concept of remediation in respect to abstraction and "aberrant use". The emergence of GIS and Alternate Reality Gaming in recent years further clouds the horizon of immediacy, remediation and hypermedia. There seem to me to be so many divergent steps between a map on paper and GIS tracking. Why should it be construed in such a relatively linear progression as remediation seems to me to be? I feel concepts of visuality and digital literacy could be applied here with an emphasis on blending rather than a renewal or revision. Aberrant use is touched upon in Aarseth’s paper in relation to ‘bugs’ in a game becoming gaming strategies once the player has become more familiar with the field of play. Can the unintended being accommodated within remediation?
I did however agree strongly with Bolter and Grusin in that unless it can usurp dialectic relations such as, I believe, Virtual/Real “Like their precursors, digital media can never reach this state of transcendence, but will instead function in a constant dialectic with earlier media, precisely as each medium functioned when it was introduced.” (p50).
Of these texts it is Aarseth’s “Playing Research: Methodological approaches to game analysis” which comes closest to my own research. I am working on how readers/players engage with a digital text and compose a story around their negotiation of the structures of the digital artefact. In my thesis work I am looking at four online cybertexts (one by Michael Joyce), but digital games are never very far away when dealing with this stuff.
My primary criticism of all the texts I have read so far is a heavy emphasis upon material form and relatively little addressed to the user/reader/player of these texts. What cognitive processes are engaged when a digital text such as SIMS2 is played? What are the boundaries for the story or stories which emerge from a long stretch of play in a Sims world? From my first reading of “Remediation” I did not get a strong feeling of why “New media” is so different. It does utilize features of “old” media but aren't the dramatic differences where our interests lie.
Löwgren and Stolteman provided me with new knowledge as I have not so far had the opportunity to study the design aspect of digital artefacts. This new tact for me was at first confusing and it took some time before I could banish my affection for the randomness of art and digest the reflexive precision of design. By chapter three I was enjoying the text and have had some new ideas for my own work inspired by it. Perhaps this is akin to where we are in regards to ‘New Media’ just now; the struggle for definitions of the 1990’s has died down and the solid work of critique, theory and practice has begun.
I will be reading Bolter and Gromola’s more contemporary “Windows and Mirrors” on the train to Stockholm tonight. I look forward to discussing this more over the coming week.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

New Games: Here's to Immersive Narrative

Judging by the E3 Games fair this year things are just getting faster, more interactive and more player driven in computer games.
The yet to be available new game Spore is descibed as a Single Player Massive Online Role Player by Will Wright, designer of the Sims. Here is a link for short video on the conference.
Why am I interested in this?
My planned paper for the summer school IT and the Humanities is, at this very uninformed stage: Sims2 as Narrative Engine.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Lessig Reports from the World Social Forum on Copyright and Justice

"More than a hundred thousand had descended upon Porto Alegre, Brazil, to attend the World Social Forum, a conference intended to offer a progressive alternative to the much smaller, and much more famous, World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, Switzerland"
Lawrence Lessig was in Porto Alegre and defines in this article the relationship between social justice, free trade and copyright laws.
The core of Lessig's reasoning in the copyright debate: "Not only is the reach of the law dramatically larger because copyright now regulates all rather than a minority of work, but the effective scope of the law is dramatically larger because copyright regulates all uses rather than just some."