tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-76936332977985113332016-03-13T10:05:04.599-07:00Peasant MuseJeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.comBlogger135125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-22205676467738988772016-02-22T19:57:00.001-08:002016-02-22T19:58:08.621-08:00Over at Cyborgology: Distance as Authentic<div style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-CiLBxn6HoC4/VsvYG0DX-HI/AAAAAAAAJlU/rU7NQuSVOMk/s1600/imgres.png" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" src="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-CiLBxn6HoC4/VsvYG0DX-HI/AAAAAAAAJlU/rU7NQuSVOMk/s400/imgres.png" /></a></div><div style="text-align: center;"><br /></div>A quick note that Cyborgology published my short essay, <i>Distance as Authentic: Modernist Tropes of an Amish Woman on the Internet</i>. &nbsp;It is a critique of the narrative framing employed in a recent <i>Atlantic</i>&nbsp;interview with a woman, Emma, who grew up in an Amish community and, at the age of 18, left that community to seek a new life in the modern American setting. &nbsp;Emma is asked several questions about her adjustment to living in our modern, connected world and what sort of insights she can provide as someone who grew up without online technology being omnipresent in her upbringing. &nbsp;The following is a quote from the piece:<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><i>But the Atlantic interview does more than explore current anxieties related to the Internet; it taps into older conceptions of modern identity even as it subtly alters these conceptions for its own post-modern use. By suggesting that Emma’s perspective allows us to better evaluate our condition in the ‘connected world’, the Atlantic interview reveals its own indebtedness to turn of the century modernist projects that favor ahistorical identities and introduce anxieties tied to the production of modern citizens.</i></blockquote>&nbsp;Read the entire essay over at <a href="https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2016/02/22/distance-as-authentic-modernist-tropes-of-an-amish-woman-on-the-internet/" target="_blank">Cyborgology</a>.Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-57222287444500851852016-01-19T10:08:00.002-08:002016-01-20T15:07:15.627-08:00Analysis of Sinai (SPI, 1973)<div style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="375" src="https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/qDcm44SvkFs?rel=0" width="500"></iframe></div><div style="text-align: center;"><br /></div><div style="text-align: left;">Finally took some time to sit down and record my ever-brewing thoughts on Sinai, the SPI wargame from 1973 that depicts the various Arab-Israeli conflicts up to that period. &nbsp;I find Sinai to be a fascinating example to explore as it offers so many facets to analyze. &nbsp;There is the more formal design genealogy interpretation, in which Sinai can claim to be one of the first commercial hobby wargames to tackle a 'contemporary' topic and even indulge in hypothetical forecasting of potential 'future' conflicts. &nbsp;There is also the materialist interpretation, in which the rules, game board, and pieces used to play the game are seen as means of constructing a theme or enforcing a specific viewpoint of the conflict via procedural mechanics or design aesthetics. &nbsp;But for myself, the most interesting interpretation is that related to the role Sinai plays as both a secondary AND primary source of the conflict depicted.</div><div style="text-align: left;"><br /></div><div style="text-align: left;">I originally gave this presentation as part of the <a href="http://weirdshift.com/" target="_blank">Weird Shift</a> 'Micro Talks' event held in Portland a few months ago. &nbsp;Assuming my audience would have no prior knowledge of wargames like Sinai, I spent the first portion of my presentation going over a very brief history of wargames in general before launching into my general analysis.</div><div style="text-align: left;"><br /></div><div style="text-align: left;">With this project, along with my <a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2014/09/thinking-with-history-in-wargame-design.html" target="_blank">previous look at the My Lai card</a> in GMT's <i>Fire in the Lake</i>, I'm beginning to put together enough examples to at least have a half-way decent essay in the works. &nbsp;Still a back-burner idea, especially since I'm closing in on finishing my dissertation, but I believe there is enough there worthy to discuss and examine.</div><div style="text-align: left;"><br /></div><div style="text-align: left;"><br /></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-70699251977634093112015-04-27T18:22:00.002-07:002015-04-28T07:40:13.952-07:00Understanding 'Sinai': Three Angles<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-05DOZZqwTZM/VT-buBs8kbI/AAAAAAAAGHk/a579b4ztVck/s1600/Sinai%2BPost.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-05DOZZqwTZM/VT-buBs8kbI/AAAAAAAAGHk/a579b4ztVck/s1600/Sinai%2BPost.JPG" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i>(I wrote this to be transmitted on Twitter, so please forgive the lack of standards like transitions or rhetorical flourishes that are often just so much wordplay. Still, I felt this is substantive enough to be posted here for, perhaps, a different audience. - JA)</i></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Last night on I dropped (<a href="https://twitter.com/jsantley/status/592555281076199424" target="_blank">on Twitter</a>) &nbsp;‘three angles’ being used in my personal project on SPI’s <a href="https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/5241/sinai" target="_blank">Sinai</a> (1973) but didn’t really explain them. I'm going to try to explain them in more detail now.</span><br /><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" lang="en">Chipping away at my SPI ‘Sinai’ project. Thinking 3 angles: immaterial labor, inward turn of narrative, and mimesis. <a href="http://t.co/ORnIwhQ70M">pic.twitter.com/ORnIwhQ70M</a><br />— Jeremy Antley (@jsantley) <a href="https://twitter.com/jsantley/status/592555281076199424">April 27, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" charset="utf-8" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">First: specificity. Only looking at modern turn in hex-and-counter wargames, when they focused on contemporary or future-based conflicts. 'Sinai' is among the first (to my knowledge), mass-produced commercial wargames in this trend.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Second: Immaterial labor via Dyer-Witheford/de Peuter's <a href="https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/games-of-empire" target="_blank">'Games of Empire'</a>. How are manual wargames same/different from the biomachines comprising virtual games analyzed in 'Games of Empire'? How does Sinai, produced at the beginnings of neoliberal ideological ascendency in the 1970's, reflect these, then, nascent ideals in its production and actual play? What were the latent networks of immaterial labor surrounding both the play and modification of Sinai?</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Third: inward turn of narrative. How does Sinai, as a representative of early 1970's wargame design, fit into the centuries trend of inward narrative development most commonly examined in literature? Given the healthy community of players and the wealth of variations/additions created for the game, what does this early example of a 'modern' hex-and-counter wargame have to offer with regards to study of play and narrative?</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Fourth: mimesis. Looking at the culture of wargame copies, from acquisition of 'unpunched' copies to worn copies proudly burnished by experienced players. Yet beyond: idea of folkloric transfer of experience through touch and how Sinai, through powerful mimetic properties, reveals both the <a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/10/games-word-part-i-epistemic-reservoir.html" target="_blank">'epistemic reservoir'</a> and capacity for <a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2015/04/a-memory-that-is-desire-and-gaze.html" target="_blank">'kaleidoscopic theatre'</a> inherent in 'modern' wargames.</span>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-9126022563234445582015-04-07T12:12:00.002-07:002015-04-07T12:18:41.665-07:00A Memory that is Desire and Gaze<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-CCQIuEHVevo/VSQrE3a2zGI/AAAAAAAAGF0/OC7cwq_PY2M/s1600/TR.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-CCQIuEHVevo/VSQrE3a2zGI/AAAAAAAAGF0/OC7cwq_PY2M/s1600/TR.png" height="400" width="353" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I've been reading Robert Bolano's <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Third-Reich-A-Novel/dp/1250013933" target="_blank">The Third Reich</a></i>&nbsp;in off-again, on-again spurts, and recently came across a section (or passage, as my seventh grade English teacher would say) that captured my attention:</span><br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I walked the beach when all was Dark, reciting the names of the forgotten, names languishing on dusty shelves, until the sun came out again. But are they forgotten names or only names in waiting? <i>I remembered the player as viewed by Someone from above, just the head, the shoulders, and the backs of the hands, and the board game and counters like a stage set where thousands of beginnings and endings eternally unfold, a kaleidoscopic theater, the only bridge between the player and his memory, a memory that is desire and gaze.</i>&nbsp;How many infantry divisions was it- depleted, untrained- that held the Western front? Which ones halted the advance in Italy, despite treachery? Which armored divisions pierced the French defenses in '40 and the Russian defenses in '41 and '42? And with what key division did Marshal Manstein retake Kharkov and exorcise the disaster? What infantry divisions fought to clear the way for tanks in '44, in the Ardennes? And how many countless combat groups sacrificed themselves to stall the enemy on all fronts? No one can agree. <i>Only the player's memory knows.</i>&nbsp;(Emphasis mine)</span></blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Bolano's <i>The Third Reich</i>&nbsp;is a novel about a German tourist, named Udo, who brings two things to his holiday in Spain; his beautiful girlfriend, Ingeborg, and a copy of Avalon Hill's famed strategic war game, <i>'<a href="http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1563/rise-and-decline-third-reich" target="_blank">The Rise and Decline of the Third Reich'</a></i>. Udo is quite the competitive <i>'Third Reich'</i>&nbsp;player, having won several tournaments in Germany, and part of his vacation plans involve playing through and refining a new, 'killer' strategy of his own design for the German forces. At the point of the novel from which the above quote is taken, Udo is entering the final stages of long, drawn-out malaise that keeps him from returning to Germany, his only activity centering around a game of <i>'Third Reich'</i>&nbsp;set-up between himself and a badly burned and disfigured local, whom Udo befriended earlier, known only as El Quemado. What began as a sort of learning game in which Udo believes he cannot lose has, at this point, transformed into a cunning match between two players of equal skill.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Several elements of the quote strike me as worth deeper investigation. To begin, there is the idea put forth of a 'player's memory' that is reflective but also speculative. It eternalizes, memorializes those 'forgotten names' while also recognizing that such ossification is futile, or at best nostalgic, because new fates await such 'forgotten names' with every game. Furthermore this reflective/speculative perspective comes about through the telescoping of play, demonstrated through Bolano's evocation of 'Someone' looking over the player's shoulder, just as the player looks over the figurative shoulders of units and divisions portrayed in cardboard-counter form on the game board. Interestingly the quote also hints that the scene described is that of solitaire play, a mode quite common for aficionados of war games. &nbsp;There is a sense that the telescoping effect of play allows the solitaire player to become mobile within the endless perspective afforded, their own identity, like the counters below, both forgotten and in waiting.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-UMxbDsJnlRo/VSQrQrt4YJI/AAAAAAAAGF8/_z3VHlfMr0o/s1600/pic1901729_md.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-UMxbDsJnlRo/VSQrQrt4YJI/AAAAAAAAGF8/_z3VHlfMr0o/s1600/pic1901729_md.jpg" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">But what grounds this floating, endless perspective? I believe this answer comes from Bolano's metaphoric descriptor of the war game as 'kaleidoscopic theater'. Kaleidoscopes utilize refraction to generate novel patterns, just as the play of war games generates novel outcomes of battles or, as is the case of <i>'Third Reich'</i>, entire World Wars. &nbsp;Yet the kaleidoscope works only along a fixed perspective, offering novel configuration within a limited plane of view. War games operate along similar lines, utilizing a fixed perspective to offer novel configurations within the confines of a limited plane of view dictated by rules, materials, and, most importantly, the player's memory <i>which is desire and gaze</i>. &nbsp;</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">When Udo questions 'which armored divisions pierced the French defenses' or 'what infantry divisions fought to clear the way for tanks in '44, in the Ardennes', his recompense is to state that while impotent groups cannot agree on sufficient answers only the player's memory can act as a sort of arbiter of truth, no matter how temporarily or ephemeral such truths turn out to be given the endless churning of play. Access to this truth, to this players memory, is provided by the war game itself which Bolano describes as the 'bridge between the player and his memory.' One cannot access this memory unless they play the game and engage in the act of kaleidoscopic theater. Hence the desire, hence the gaze.</span>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-85582755334549686262014-09-27T20:38:00.001-07:002014-09-27T20:42:12.681-07:00Thinking with History in Wargame Design<div class="separator tr_bq" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-CDdB-1qbScY/VCd-j4ny8iI/AAAAAAAAGAM/6WVBXB7DtwU/s1600/FitL%2BPM%2BPic.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-CDdB-1qbScY/VCd-j4ny8iI/AAAAAAAAGAM/6WVBXB7DtwU/s1600/FitL%2BPM%2BPic.jpg" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">(Trigger Warning- discusses the My Lai massacre and contains some graphic imagery.)</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">One of things that interests me most about board games, and war games in particular, is how online forums become places where designer intent and player expectation meet and often clash over how particular mechanics or design choices are correlative to the actual event or perceived operation of how war works. (A good example being rules for lines of supply, or handling morale checks for units)</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Recently I've been very caught up with playing GMT's newest entry into their Counterinsurgency (COIN) series, <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0CCAQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gmtgames.com%2Fp-450-fire-in-the-lake.aspx&amp;ei=Q4AnVLXMBYnYoASw0YCAAQ&amp;usg=AFQjCNEhW5XTkm8wxkMUZmy93bW4urAhXQ&amp;sig2=BRfRdkUmjK4SyxTMxDtvHg&amp;bvm=bv.76247554,d.cGU" target="_blank">Fire in the Lake</a>, which is about the Vietnam conflict. As with any game that holds as its central focus a controversial war, there will always be points of friction between popular perceptions of that conflict and the ways in which the designer (or in this case, designers) uses mechanics and rules to highlight themes they believe to be inherent within that conflict. Vietnam is still a relatively recent conflict in American memory, and this proximity in memory allows design abstractions to take on heightened forms. As a counterpoint consider the Second World War, one of the most (if not the most) gamed conflicts in short history of commercial wargaming. Time has dulled the controversy over playing the Axis powers, and while some may cringe at the thought of what moving a SS counter means in the meta-narrative of reflection that occurs outside of gaming, few actively protest the presence or option of commanding these forces. This is even more true for conflicts like the American Civil War, or the famed battles of Napoleon's era.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/07/connections-conference-slides.html" target="_blank">In a presentation I gave at Connections 2012</a>, a conference that seeks to blend together the worlds of professional and commercial wargaming, I discussed how abstraction in design does a marvelous job of compressing time but that it is a mistake to assume that design also compresses what cultural historian Carl Schorske called <a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/6274.html" target="_blank">'thinking with history'</a>. The rules for supply or the efficiency rating of a particular unit are loaded with meanings that speak to a lot more than what simply occurs on a game map.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">To bring it back to 'Fire in the Lake', here is an event card depicting the infamous My Lai massacre.</span><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-9upswY7frcs/VCd-w6WiX5I/AAAAAAAAGAU/kH_4vWQJ2F8/s1600/My%2BLai%2BCard.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-9upswY7frcs/VCd-w6WiX5I/AAAAAAAAGAU/kH_4vWQJ2F8/s1600/My%2BLai%2BCard.jpg" /></a></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">All of the COIN games are driven by the play of these event cards. They contain a faction order, represented here by the colored circles at the top of the card, and usually, but not always, a shaded and non-shaded event effect. Depending on what order a particular player's faction holds when it's their turn, they can choose to conduct 'Operations' on the board or opt to have a card's event text take effect. It's entirely possible, and often occurs, that players can choose to never utilize a card's particular event text and, instead, focus on using their 'operations' to improve board position. Yet because COIN games utilize these event cards for both driving the action on the board and injecting a sense of 'periodization' tied to the conflict depicted, they become exemplars of the complicated nexus intersecting abstracted design and 'thinking with history'.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Putting this altogether raises an interesting question: what does it mean to have a My Lai card in a game about Vietnam? This was a question raised in a 'Fire in the Lake' forum post on BoardGameGeek (hereafter BGG) titled, <a href="http://boardgamegeek.com/article/16263307#16263307" target="_blank">"Card 119: My Lay Downplaying the Truth?"</a> The original poster, Darren Kerr, took offense that the card, and the larger description of that card in the accompanying playbook, was intentionally misleading.</span><br /><blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The notes in the play book describe the My Lai massacre as a platoon led by Calley killing 22 civilians. However, this is a grossly misleading description of the actual scale of the massacre that occurred on March 16, 1968 where over 300 civilians were murdered.</span>&nbsp;</blockquote><blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I am not trying to make a political point, because for every one Calley the US Army has many more individuals like Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, but I would be interested in knowing why the designers went with a description that would appear to be deliberately misleading.</span>&nbsp;</blockquote><blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I appreciate that the card relates to Calley's court-martial for which he was found guilty of murdering at least 22 people, however, using that as the justification for apparently downplaying the extent of the My Lai massacre does an injustice to those who were murdered.</span>&nbsp;</blockquote><blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Games are games, but the truth is usually the truth. In this case, the truth is clear and should be told as a salutary lesson for current and future generations.</span></blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">For clarity's sake, here is the 'My Lai' entry found in the playbook for Fire in the Lake.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-UTLtDOhtbhU/VCd_jbQ4NCI/AAAAAAAAGAc/qD_3BcLrP2I/s1600/My%2BLai.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-UTLtDOhtbhU/VCd_jbQ4NCI/AAAAAAAAGAc/qD_3BcLrP2I/s1600/My%2BLai.jpg" /></a></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Reaction to the forum post on BGG was swift and vociferous. Mark Herman, noted game designer and one of the two minds behind the creation of Fire in the Lake (Volko Ruhnke, who created the COIN series, being the other), <a href="http://boardgamegeek.com/article/16260709#16260709" target="_blank">asserted that it was never his intention to mislead anyone</a> and that the card text was meant to focus on the historical conviction of Lt. Calley. "We chose to include the event, our choice, to highlight this type of horror." Others contested Herman's response. "This card does not do a sufficient job of highlighting the horror," <a href="http://boardgamegeek.com/article/16261945#16261945" target="_blank">wrote Jonathan Harrison</a>, concluding that, "[it] rather presents a much diminished and consequently misleading view on [the massacre]."</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">If we return to Kerr's original qualm, that the My Lai card purports a reality that is disingenuous to the 'truth' of the event, the nexus of design and 'thinking with history' becomes more clear. Kerr believed the abstraction of the card betrayed the gravity of the historical event. In a later response to the forum thread, <a href="http://boardgamegeek.com/article/16263307#16263307" target="_blank">Herman brought forth a rationale expressed in game terms</a> for why the card accurately reflects the scope and magnitude of the event.</span><br /><blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Just to be clear, the Playbook description is as I described it, but the card itself is quite powerful… to quote…</span>&nbsp;</blockquote><blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"Massacre: Set a Province with US Troops to Active Opposition. VC place a Base and a Guerrilla there. AID -6"</span>&nbsp;</blockquote><blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">This card could represent an 8 point swing in the game as it allows the insurgents to take a 2 value province with Active Support across the entire spectrum to Active Opposition. In addition the base is worth another point to the VC with a guerrilla defender that can then be rallied into three more for a total of 4. Essentially the play of this event can create appropriately huge issues for the US at least that is what we were going for.</span></blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Rhetoric in a wargame, as shown by Herman above, draws not only upon the perceived reality depicted but also how that reality can be abstracted into game mechanics. The event text of the My Lai card becomes a type of shorthand for what actually occurred, although the space between the card, its ludic effect, and intended purpose is such that while these purposes are joined in the card's function they do so in a loose manner that allows interpretation and debate to take place. The card becomes a secondary and primary source on the role My Lai held in popular and scholarly assessments of the Vietnam War. The forum posts sampled above demonstrates this fact. This notion is further reinforced by the appearance of another forum post, <a href="http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1224693/card-119-my-lai-not-downplaying-truth" target="_blank">"Card 119: My Lai NOT Downplaying the Truth"</a>, that formed on BGG not long after the Kerr thread came into existence.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I find this sort of debate, of exploring the space afforded by abstracted design being tied to 'thinking with history', to be a fascinating potential for historians and cultural observers alike. While many games come under scrutiny for how their mechanics are tied to historical occurrences, <a href="http://rupazero.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Imperialism-Memory-Insufficient.pdf" target="_blank">with the example of Puerto Rico coming to mind</a>, the wargame's long standing link to the idea of truth through play (giving these games a quantifiable value of being an <a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/10/games-word-part-i-epistemic-reservoir.html" target="_blank">'epistemic reservoir'</a>) gives these debates a much more pointed focus.&nbsp;</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"></span>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-90348971444521815332014-09-05T09:40:00.000-07:002014-09-05T13:00:01.191-07:00Gated Conversions<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-1_9iu3nSPn4/VAnjjYzRihI/AAAAAAAAF-Q/Z8l1VX-1X0g/s1600/Shankly_Gates.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-1_9iu3nSPn4/VAnjjYzRihI/AAAAAAAAF-Q/Z8l1VX-1X0g/s1600/Shankly_Gates.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_F.C.#mediaviewer/File:Shankly_Gates.jpg" target="_blank">Shankly Gates at Anfield, Liverpool via Andy Nugent</a></td></tr></tbody></table>I took a break from Twitter recently, partly because several family members shuffled in and out of my house over the last week and partly because I tried to focus my efforts towards completing a long overdue dissertation chapter. &nbsp;But the allure of the infinite timeline proved difficult to resist and I decided to scan my Twitter lists the other day to see if anything interesting occurred during my absence.<br /><br />Two words, sandwiched into one, kept appearing: GamerGate.<br /><br />If you have any interest in video game culture, then you probably already know what I’m talking about. &nbsp;In case you don’t know, here are some more detailed posts for your perusal:<br /><br /><a href="http://ellaguro.blogspot.ca/2014/09/on-gamers-and-identity.html" target="_blank">On 'Gamers' and Identity</a><br /><br /><a href="http://thiscageisworms.com/2014/09/02/a-conversation-about-concerns-in-videogame-journalism/" target="_blank">A Conversation about Concerns in Videogame Journalism</a><br /><br /><a href="http://dropouthangoutspaceout.tumblr.com/post/96624745941/gamergate-as-reaction" target="_blank">#gamergate as reaction</a><br /><br />If pressed to summarize GamerGate in a sentence or two, here is what I would say: GamerGate is a belief, held by an indeterminate number, that collusion exists between games journalists and games developers and that this nexus is corrupting games, or at least moving them towards a trajectory abhorrent to self-defined ‘gamers’. &nbsp;Yet to put the GamerGate controversy in such succinct terms suggests the movement possesses cohesion, which it certainly does not. &nbsp;One has only to survey <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/gamergate" target="_blank">#GamerGate</a> to see the variety of opinions expressed. &nbsp;But a couple of developments caught my eye and seemed worthy of further exploration. &nbsp;The first was the start, and subsequent termination, of an Indiegogo campaign to create a legal fund for exploring the potential abuses between Games journalists and developers. &nbsp;The second was the posting of a Gamer Manifesto, anonymously written but edited by ‘Gamers’. &nbsp;What these examples demonstrate is that there is a desire, on behalf of some, to begin formalizing and structuring relationships within so-called Gamer Culture. &nbsp;It is, as Geertz would call it, an effort at ‘internal conversion’, an attempt to utilize rationalization as a defense against the intrusion of modern and post-modern critiques and ideals.<br /><br />Last year, spurred by what is now a periodic outbreak of sexism/racism/transphobia from so-called ‘gamers’, Daniel Joseph wrote a post titled “<a href="http://dropouthangoutspaceout.tumblr.com/post/50472859975/videogames-are-the-gardens-of-the-bourgeoise" target="_blank">Videogames are the gardens of the bourgeoisie</a>"&nbsp;in which he argued that bourgeois values necessitated the creation of ‘spheres’ of activity separated from ‘real life’. &nbsp;“Mass produced hobbies, mediated through gatekeepers like trade and enthusiast press is one reason why “games” became a private sphere,” Joseph concludes, later adding that this private nature conjures within individuals the need to protect games from the pressures of capitalism. &nbsp;Using Joseph’s theme, I explored in my own post, “<a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2013/05/games-truth-and-defense-of-private.html" target="_blank">Games, Truth, and Defense of the Private</a>”, the idea that the rise of bourgeois values correlated with the belief that games could become an arbiter of truth.<br /><br />But now, a year later and with the rise of GamerGate, I wonder if we are witnessing something new, something that goes beyond the need to wall off games from the public. &nbsp;Videogames may be the gardens of the bourgeoisie, but what GamerGate reveals is that some feel compelled to venture out of their gardens and establish, in the public sphere, a nascent, rationalized belief in what games should be and how relationships around those games should be structured.<br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-wIaRNYiv1sA/VAnlel6dTrI/AAAAAAAAF-g/f14wtVRD8h0/s1600/geertz.jpeg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-wIaRNYiv1sA/VAnlel6dTrI/AAAAAAAAF-g/f14wtVRD8h0/s1600/geertz.jpeg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Clifford Geertz</td></tr></tbody></table>Geertz observed what he termed ‘internal conversion’ in Balinese religious ideals during the 1950’s, that is the process by which the traditional Balinese faith sought to take on elements of the Weberian ‘rationalization’ inherent in the established religions of Christianity or Islam and begin codifying their own belief as a defense against the intrusion of said established religions. &nbsp;In doing so they introduced a ‘distance’ that demanded greater and more concrete articulation of the sustaining links between belief and practitioner. &nbsp;Problems of meaning, which before addressed issues in a fragmentary manner, become “conceptualized as universal and inherent qualities of human existence.” &nbsp;What is good? &nbsp;What is evil? &nbsp;Geertz suggests that these broad questions subsume narrower concerns inherent to the pre-rational conversion (such as ‘How do I uncover a witch?) and in doing so bring forth the “radically disquieting suggestions” of the broad questions to the fore. &nbsp;This, in turn, demands that answers be brought forth in a form equal to the “sweeping, universal, and conclusive manner” the broad questions introduced.<br /><br />Of course, there are inherent issues for any culture engaging in such an ‘internal conversion’, or ‘rationalization’, of their beliefs. &nbsp;A brief selection from a larger article on Mari peasants in 19th century Russia highlights these issues:<br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-hB6gxsHCtRM/VAnmnpd0y3I/AAAAAAAAF-s/-0NcrNsy0zI/s1600/Mari%2BQuote%2BSM.jpeg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-hB6gxsHCtRM/VAnmnpd0y3I/AAAAAAAAF-s/-0NcrNsy0zI/s1600/Mari%2BQuote%2BSM.jpeg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">From "Big Candles and 'Internal Conversion': The Mari Animist Reformation and Its Russian Appropriations" by Paul Werth in <i>Of Religion and Empire: Missions, Conversion, and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia</i></td></tr></tbody></table><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div>What interests me here is the idea that in borrowing the “idiom of religion employed by official Russia” the Mari both utilized a colonizing discourse inherent within that religion and fell victim to its conceptual modes. &nbsp;In trying to assert their unique belief they ended up assuming viewpoints that integrated them into the colonizing discourse they tried to fight.<br /><br />GamerGate appears to be following the same path, at least with regards to the two examples, that of the Indiegogo campaign and the Gamers Manifesto, mentioned above. &nbsp;By utilizing the colonizing discourse inherent in games to provide a Weberian rationalized view of what Gaming culture should be, a culture which is replete with contributions by misogynistic and paternalistic forces, the advocates of GamerGate can’t help but fall into the same conceptual modes that underlie such a discourse. &nbsp;These modes no longer address fragmentary concerns, like those that prompted Daniel and myself to write blog posts last year, but rather attempt to bring together universal and inherent qualities of Games into focus so that the problems those qualities bring to light can be addressed. <br /><br />The rallying cry for supporters of GamerGate is that of ‘corruption’ brought about by the perceived collusion between games journalists and developers. &nbsp;Corruption is a handy conceptual mode to base the rationalization of Gamer culture, at least from the view of GamerGate supporters, because it does away with all the messy fragmentation of previous complaints (Feminism is ruining games! &nbsp;Transgendered people are ruining games! &nbsp;Fake Gamer Girls are ruining games!) and, instead, suggests that the larger problem stems from a collected erosion of Gaming ethics.<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-bG8tNIsjt30/VAnkbinZPpI/AAAAAAAAF-Y/W4c-3lCEp0I/s1600/dcxwgetv29qxvptz7hsh.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-bG8tNIsjt30/VAnkbinZPpI/AAAAAAAAF-Y/W4c-3lCEp0I/s1600/dcxwgetv29qxvptz7hsh.png" /></a></div><br />This is, essentially, what the Indiegogo campaign to establish a ‘<a href="https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lawyers-against-gaming-corruption-canceled" target="_blank">Lawyers Against Gaming Corruption</a>’ legal fund for investigatory purposes holds as central to its existence. &nbsp;By asserting a juridicial solution to the corruption issue, the ‘Lawyers Against Gaming Corruption’ wish to utilize one of the most pervasive patriarchal institutions available to find and perhaps punish the ‘true’ offenders. &nbsp;In an example that could have been taken straight from Girard, ‘Lawyers Against Gaming Corruption’ offered GamerGate supporters a rationalized process for finding the scapegoat that will absolve them all from the corruptive influence of gaming today and restore the supposed community to its more pristine state. &nbsp;Instead of having to answer critiques leveled at gaming culture as a whole, the ‘Lawyers Against Gaming Corruption’ offer a way to funnel anxieties prompted by these critiques into the far more defensible position of identifying and fighting corruption.<br /><br />This logic becomes especially insidious when the corrupting forces are linked to those who raised the critiques in the first place, thus making attacks on female writers, for example, both a natural extension of the corruption ideal and capitulation to the patriarchal conceptional modes built into the colonizing discourse surrounding games. &nbsp;In trying to defend gamer culture from critiques of patriarchy or misogyny under the larger guise of corruption, the creators and supporters of ‘Lawyers Against Gaming Corruption are utilizing the very same justifications patriarchy and misogyny embody.<br /><br />This becomes even more noticeable upon examination of the <a href="http://pastebin.com/ZJFkSz2K" target="_blank">Gamer Manifesto</a>, posted to Pastebin on 2 September 2014. &nbsp;Even though it purports to extol virtues of harmony and inclusion, the manifesto nonetheless offers up a tiered, almost caste like structuring of Gaming culture:<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq">“There are three parts to this industry that we feel must be addressed for the general health of video games as a whole: the role of the consumer, the developer and the supplier. This trifecta makes up the core of the industry and thus each piece must be improved for games to continue to evolve.”</blockquote>At the core of this conceptualization, however, is one ‘truth’; that games “should be about the enjoyment of the player.”<br /><br />The Manifesto states that gamers should add to the future of gaming, not demonize its past. &nbsp;That Developers, while recognizing that misrepresentation and under-representation of certain populations is a real problem, should not be required to change their own game’s vision and idea. &nbsp;That Suppliers, which is an unusual term for journalists or critics, should not be pressured by outside influences to “change their opinion to fit an overarching agenda.” &nbsp;In short, the Gamer Manifesto outlines a structural basis for how gamer culture as a whole should proceed and operate, all while articulating the need to avoid outside pressures that, as the Manifesto explains, are related to the corrupting influences in gaming today:<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq">“It has been said that gamer culture is in the throes of death. This isn’t true. It has merely grown impatient as a wall of both divisiveness and radical ideologies have kept it from progressing further.&nbsp;</blockquote><blockquote class="tr_bq">This article, this gamer manifesto has been made with the desire to break down that wall. It is both our branch of peace to those who believe we mean only harm and a battering ram to those who think we will simply comply with how corrupted video game culture has become.”</blockquote>For the writers and editors of the Gamer Manifesto, seclusion in their walled off, bourgeois gardens no longer provides adequate protection from what were once fragmentary issues now brought together under the aegis of corruption. &nbsp;Instead they must enter the public sphere and begin the process of 'internal conversion', of providing rationalized interpretations of gamer culture that both promotes distance between gamers and their games while also allowing structural links to surmount the distance, such as the concept of ethics or corruption above, so that the relationship between games and gamers can be harmonious and free from 'divisiveness and radical ideologies."<br /><br />One important feature for Geertz and his notion of 'internal conversion' is that it is not a totalizing event, nor does it necessarily involve all the members of the cultural group in question. &nbsp;Therefore we can look at the disparate nature of GamerGate yet still understand some of the larger forces feeding the movement and its expressions. &nbsp;That the 'Lawyers Against Gaming Corruption' and the Gamer Manifesto are not representative of the whole of gaming culture is obvious. &nbsp;Yet the fact that these two examples not only put forth a sophisticated response but also attempted to outline and address what is perceived to be the larger illness of gaming is worth noting. &nbsp;What will happen from here on out is anybody's guess, but it is entirely possible that we are witnessing a decided shift in the evolving articulation of gaming culture.<br /><div><br /></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-11178682717535687292014-05-16T11:50:00.000-07:002014-05-16T12:14:21.585-07:00Fear and Loathing in Kansas<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Y2t6X1yYN_0/U3ZUlUHD6mI/AAAAAAAAF7c/QhTAcREKoNo/s1600/Fear+and+Loathing.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Y2t6X1yYN_0/U3ZUlUHD6mI/AAAAAAAAF7c/QhTAcREKoNo/s1600/Fear+and+Loathing.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/33015957@N07/3261080939/" target="_blank">Photo via Dain Nielsen</a></span></td></tr></tbody></table><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">This past winter, during a three-week long trip to my hometown in Lawrence, Kansas, I carved out some time to meet and have coffee with my advisor. &nbsp;Only a few weeks previous I passed my qualifying exam to become ABD in History, and she wanted to go over a few of the finer points related to actually writing a dissertation, <i>the</i> task that loomed large with my oral trial by fire now quickly fading. &nbsp;We spoke on chapter writing, on motivation, on the need to stay focused- and after these topics were exhausted our talk moved on to the more mundane aspects of life; daily chores, grading, and, most importantly, the grind of dealing with a Board of Regents in Kansas that has proved, time and time again, to possess antipathy, if not outright animosity, towards teachers and staff at the various institutions of higher learning under their purview.</span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I should add this last jab at the Board of Regents are both my words and my interpretation, not hers, and the reason for such a clarification is thus; it is now possible for any employee at an institution governed by the Kansas Board of Regents to be fired if their use of social media is deemed <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/05/14/312524014/in-kansas-professors-must-now-watch-what-they-tweet" target="_blank">"contrary to the best interests of the university."</a></span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Let that sink in for a second- "contrary to the best interests of the university."</span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">It would not be a gross mischaracterization to call this the most draconian social media policy ever adopted by a governing institution of higher education. &nbsp;Its bureaucratic vagueness is a prime example of the adjectival descriptor 'byzantine', and the simplicity of the statement belies the vast range of interpretations allowed. &nbsp;What exactly constitutes the best interests of the university? &nbsp;Who decides what this best interest entails? &nbsp;Perhaps most importantly, is it possible to reconcile hallowed notions of 'academic freedom' with such an interest? &nbsp;The Board of Regents would have you believe the two can coexist, but anyone with such a Sword of Damocles hanging over their head would beg to differ.</span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Bob Dylan famously remarked in his song, 'It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)', that "if my thought dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in the guillotine." &nbsp;With the adoption of this policy the Kansas Board of Regents moved one step closer towards actualizing Dylan's eloquently articulated fear. &nbsp;Their reasoning, I suppose, is that if you can't actually see the thought-dreams of staff and teachers alike then the next best thing is to sharply punish those dreams when they take form in social media. &nbsp;A public execution would send as subtle a message as this policy, but given that the Board of Regents does not yet possess the power of capital punishment such measures, to them no doubt, seem reasonable and entirely appropriate.</span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I wonder what else seems reasonable and entirely appropriate? &nbsp;It seems reasonable and entirely appropriate to assume that anyone with academic talent, even in this harsh employment climate, will think twice about accepting a position at an institution of higher learning in Kansas. &nbsp;It seems reasonable and entirely appropriate that such a policy flies in the face of pedagogical literature suggesting that professors embrace social media as a way to better connect with their students. &nbsp;It seems reasonable and entirely appropriate to recognize that this policy is just another step towards nullifying tenure.</span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">It also seems reasonable and entirely appropriate to recognize that this policy makes Kansas the laughingstock of the nation. &nbsp;Again. &nbsp;As if this state that was once the focal point of progressivism really needed another reminder that those days are <i>long</i> gone.</span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">All is not lost, however. &nbsp;Philip Nel, at his blog 'Nine Kinds of Pie', <a href="http://www.philnel.com/2014/05/16/whatnext/" target="_blank">articulates measured responses</a> those working at such institutions can take to fight this policy. &nbsp;Several other incensed academics across the spectrum of institutions affected are banding together to express their dismay at such a policy. &nbsp;It is comforting to know that people will stand up and assert what is right, no matter the consequences.</span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I wish I could be like Antony in Shakespeare's <i>Life and Death of Julius Caesar</i>, able to slyly claim that I come to bury Kansas, not to praise it. &nbsp;Sadly, there is little to praise and the only thing being buried is any hope that the Board of Regents can meaningfully care for the staff and teachers at the institutions under their charge.</span></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-60017640627680772014-03-31T19:01:00.002-07:002014-04-01T07:43:59.865-07:00Mimetic Acts Across Cultural Mediums<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-fMw9Hr2FUWg/UzodIOMTfHI/AAAAAAAAF6A/tYNXYeU1JwI/s1600/Palm+Reflection.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-fMw9Hr2FUWg/UzodIOMTfHI/AAAAAAAAF6A/tYNXYeU1JwI/s1600/Palm+Reflection.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottkinmartin/293555190/" target="_blank">Palm Tree Reflection</a> via Scott Kinmartin</td></tr></tbody></table><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Because I refuse to let myself get too wrapped up in this subject, I want to briefly talk three things I came across today that have a central theme- mimesis.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Those three things were:</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">1. <a href="http://rutherfordchang.com/white.html" target="_blank">The White Album project</a></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">2. Daniel Joseph's <a href="http://dropouthangoutspaceout.tumblr.com/post/81304795707/did-you-know-about-the-similar-games-i-asked-did" target="_blank">reaction</a> to Leigh Alexander's post on <a href="http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/214122/Threes_clones_and_cornflakes_A_view_on_casual_games.php" target="_blank">clones of <i>Threes</i></a></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">3. 1966 <i>New York Times</i> Article on Old Believers</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Rutherford Chang collects copies of The White Album; original pressings to be exact, though the condition can be of any quality. &nbsp;He delights in the variance of the same, seeing within every aged copy a different story or set of circumstances behind its appearance. &nbsp;His collection, now numbering 944 as of writing, is the embodiment of mimesis and some of the deep delights- but also insecurities- &nbsp;mimetic objects given form present for modern society. &nbsp;For Chang, the idea of the White Album collection is to document the collected experience of each individual pressing from 1968, and the variance between the copies, raw differences creating mimetic fuzz around the original form of the copy, complete for him the experience of that mimetic object in total.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Daniel Joseph's piece, reacting to Leigh Alexander's post about Threes and game 'cloning', hint at the insecurity mimesis produces for the cultural medium of games. &nbsp;Using Marx's concept of the 'general intellect'', Joseph suggests that the ease of cloning casual games, like Threes, is becoming more apparent simply because this form of the larger game medium is no longer resistant to such causal cloning via the traditional safeguards of "sophisticated platforms, rigorous copyright laws, and a high capital investment." &nbsp;He concludes, "As it happens games belong to everyone while so many still are scrambling for the scraps of this knowledge to survive."</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i>Threes</i>, as a mimetic object on multiple levels (not only as a source of inspiration for clones, but also &nbsp;considering its digital distribution method via the Apple app store), reveals how the perceived notion of the copy, in this case the games 2048 and 1024, highlights what Plato articulated long ago as the flaw of the mimetic act. &nbsp;Here I'm quoting Marcus Boon from his work, "<a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/features/boon/In-Praise-of-Copying-by-Marcus-Boon-HUP-free-full-text.pdf" target="_blank"><i>In Praise of Copying</i></a>":</span><br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"…Plato's mistrust of mimesis, and of the artist- the mirrored image, and event the craftsman's object, [was because he believed these forms] confuse the ignorant as to what is essential. &nbsp;At the same time, it is the Platonic belief that the outward appearance of something indicates its essence which continues to generate much of our confusion about what a copy is. &nbsp;When we say 'an original,' we usually mean something in which the idea and the outward appearance correspond to each other. &nbsp;There is no distortion in the relation of appearance to essence, to "what a thing is." &nbsp;Copies, then, for Plato and for us, most of the time are distortions of this relationship. &nbsp;The mirror produces the sun, yet it is not the sun. &nbsp;Basicreplica.com produces a Louis Vuitton bag, yet the article is not a real Louis Vuitton bag." (20)</span></blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The mimetic potential available to casual games reveals not only the unsettling distortion between idea and outward appearance (found in the example of <i>Threes</i> and its 'clones'), but also that the essence of the casual game, by the very fact that it is *so* open to the mimetic act, allows it to escape arbitrary and imposed restrictions on its form and enter what Joseph calls the 'general intellect.'</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">With Chang we see the delight mimesis summons; yet with Joseph, and by extension Alexander, we also see the insecurities mimesis brings into cultural forms. &nbsp;For the final example under consideration, we will see how the emergence of Old Belief into American culture combined both the delight and insecurity of mimesis as exemplified in the question of assimilation.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hFKYQnNpXng/UzocJEcHv_I/AAAAAAAAF54/7plJGpd942I/s1600/OB+NYT+1966.jpeg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hFKYQnNpXng/UzocJEcHv_I/AAAAAAAAF54/7plJGpd942I/s1600/OB+NYT+1966.jpeg" height="315" width="500" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">What strikes me about this two-paneled, front page photograph is that it manages to create a visualized tableau capable of being interpreted though the lens of mimesis. &nbsp;On the left, we have an Old Believer family set against the backdrop of what appears to be a modest, middle-class house. &nbsp;The caption juxtaposes the 'traditional beard' of the man with the fact that he currently works in an assumed modern soft-drink factory. &nbsp;On the right, we have a photo of Old Believers, clad in flannel shirts and mesh-style baseball hats, assembling furniture for the Excelwood Products Company. &nbsp;Again, their beards mark them as conspicuous even though their boss, unseen but heard in the caption underneath, praises their behavior. &nbsp;</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">While the scene would indicate the success of the Old Believers in assimilating into their new American culture, the headline and subsequent sub-title hint at 'distortions' between the assumed original, a bona fide American citizen, and the copy, an Old Believer immigrant from Turkey. &nbsp;In particular the phrase 'leaning to new ways' suggests that some residual dissonance still exists between the traditional composition of Old Believer lives and the values/mores of the modern as grounded in the space of domestic and factory settings. &nbsp;There is delight in the copy act itself, as American culture via the house and factory appear to be converting the Old Believers, yet there is also insecurity about what these 'copies' will bring into American culture and whether or not the Old Believers will allow the mimetic act to so completely remake their lives.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Obviously these are loosely connected threads of thought, but it appears to me that viewing the interaction and transformation of a cultural space through the lens of mimesis provides deeper insight into the fundamental nature of said cultural space.</span>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-55109401243003177762014-03-27T09:49:00.001-07:002014-03-27T10:06:44.999-07:00Thirty Pieces of Silver<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-jNGXUbYZfoY/UzRVRxTnwMI/AAAAAAAAF5o/7tDQrEPSGMk/s1600/518px-Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Pact_of_Judas_-_WGA06789.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-jNGXUbYZfoY/UzRVRxTnwMI/AAAAAAAAF5o/7tDQrEPSGMk/s1600/518px-Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Pact_of_Judas_-_WGA06789.jpg" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Quick post today, as I have only a few rambling thoughts regarding Malcolm Harris' recent opinion over at Al Jazeera on <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/3/nate-silver-new-mediajournalismwebstartups.html" target="_blank">"Why Nate Silver Can't Explain It All"</a>.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">First off, it's a terrific read (let's be honest- I don't usually post about something unless I think it's terrific) so take some time to peruse his prose now.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Second, while I wholeheartedly agree with Harris there are parts of his argument that could definitely be expanded. &nbsp;I realize opinion pieces can't tackle every subject or point of proof under the sun, but the underlying angst regarding Silver and his new venture, <a href="http://fivethirtyeight.com/" target="_blank">FiveThirtyEight</a>, is really nothing new. &nbsp;It's part of a much longer history in which rationality claims an objective presence in the face of subjective metaphysics.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Harris calls the work of Silver and his associates 'Actually Journalism', hinting at the larger issues involved; namely, the view that numbers are key to an objective view of reality. &nbsp;He ties this to the late 20th century epistemological shift against privileged knowledge- but this is a much, much older trend than just the late 20th century.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Numbers being equated to truth, or at least a way to uncover a buried truth, is nothing new. &nbsp;To use a recent example, look at Vietnam and how McNamara, together with his 'Whiz Kids', used 'objective' data to plot out bombing missions and take measured 'body counts' as proof of progress. &nbsp;Go back further and look at Sergei Bulgakov's essay in 1905 on 'Basic Problems on the Theory of Progress' in which the Russian intellectual lambasts the, then, current fascination with positivism and a grand 'Theory of Progress'. &nbsp;Go back even further and you see the debates between followers of Aristotle and Pythagorus on the role of numbers to act as objectifiable observations.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Leaning on the thoughts of Bulgakov, mentioned above, we see direct parallels between Harris' argument and the concerns of the long-dead member of the Russian intelligentsia:</span><br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"The theory of progress argues, consequently, for a final identity between casual necessity and rational purposiveness, in which sense it is, as we have already said, a theodicy. &nbsp;Its goal is thus the discovery of a <i><a href="http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/the-ncaa-bracket-checking-our-work/" target="_blank">higher reason that is simultaneously transcendent to and immanent in history</a></i>, the discovery of the plan of history, its goal, movement towards this goal, and the forms of this movement." (Emphasis is mine)</span></blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Calling the 'theory of progress' a theodicy certainly rings true with the work being carried out at FiveThiryEight. &nbsp;Silver may never calculate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but that doesn't stop him, or his enlisted cadre of number crunching 'Whiz Kids', from acting like the monks who did with their own observations on sports or the minimum wage.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">To me, there is no coincidence that Silver's rise is deeply tied to the more recent emergence of 'money ball' and the quantified self. &nbsp;Baseball became the new proving ground for the classic debate between rationality and metaphysics; managers and scouts preferring to 'go with their gut' or the 'eye test' over cold, objective, and quantifiable numbers. &nbsp;For many Baseball fans the stadium was a sort of cathedral, so it was all the more shocking to some when believers in the objective heresy of 'Sabermetrics' began posting their expanded theses on clubhouse doors- even more difficult to accept that they might be right or have insight far beyond the accepted, traditional methods. &nbsp;</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">However the numbers tossed around weren't definite truths- they were only probable outcomes. &nbsp;They provided insight, yes, but they were far from the objective pillars of truth that some claimed in their presence. &nbsp;Yet the idea that a constellation of statistics could reveal a deeper insight into reality proved irresistible, especially for cash-strapped ball clubs, and this most recent affirmation on the power of 'objective' reasoning, in part, allows Silver and his colleagues a 'privileged' position in the realm of journalistic inquiry.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">(Case in point: when FiveThirtyEight launched, it did so with a piece on the odds related to March Madness. &nbsp;The indebtedness Silver owes to sports vis a vis his rise in popularity can be clearly seen.)</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The implications of this kerfuffle in Baseball (which is still being played out today) resonate even more now that FiveThiryEight purports to use its 'objective' insight to cover a variety of fields. &nbsp;Harris is right to call this phenomena 'Actually Journalism', but the only thing we can actually be certain of is that this trend is far from recent and draws upon a much longer tradition.</span>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-38451771960781333732014-03-26T16:28:00.001-07:002014-03-26T19:41:47.370-07:00Hills, Lines, and Wargames<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-X8duojPZq50/UzNfjlnULWI/AAAAAAAAF5M/A-dWblneRyM/s1600/Table_of_Surveying,_Cyclopaedia,_Volume_2.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-X8duojPZq50/UzNfjlnULWI/AAAAAAAAF5M/A-dWblneRyM/s1600/Table_of_Surveying,_Cyclopaedia,_Volume_2.jpg" height="400" width="314" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The other day <a href="https://twitter.com/ckunzelman" target="_blank">Cameron Kunzelman</a> tweeted about a post by Simon Ferrari titled "<a href="http://simonferrari.com/2010/03/31/hills-and-lines-final-fantasy-xiii/" target="_blank">Hills and Lines: Final Fantasy XIII</a>" and written in March of 2010. &nbsp;It really is an excellent post that examines some of the design subtleties in FF XIII that buck the trend (at least, up to that point) for how many JRPG's operate.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Specifically, Ferrari outlines what he calls the 'hills and lines' of FF XIII's design choices. &nbsp;'Hills' represent the way in which FF XIII slowly ramps up the intensity of battles in order to acclimate players to the complex subsystem of 'paradigms' used in combat. &nbsp;Here's Ferrari's own words:</span><br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"A level will begin, say, with an encounter of two soldiers, then it will add a third soldier. Then the player will face, say, two slimes or a larger enemy such as a behemoth. After these smaller hills have been ascended, the final battle before a checkpoint will combine those enemy types: three soldiers and two slimes, or three slimes and a behemoth, etc. By slowly adding challenges and then combining different types of challenges, the game tests the tipping point where the player has to finally change her dominant strategy and develop a new cycle of paradigm shifts."</span></blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Combined with this progressive introduction to the combat system is the fact that FF XIII contains few 'punishments' for those who just barely survive battles or lose them entirely. &nbsp;Win and everyone in your party is rewarded with full health. &nbsp;Lose and the game merely restarts you at the moment just before your combat encounter. &nbsp;This simple design decision means that players are less likely to become obsessed with 'save points' or fear the loss of progress and earned XP just because a battle turned sour. &nbsp;It creates a smoother experience, as players are not overly punished for failing to succeed.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Ferrari drives home this point by way of an intriguing graphic. &nbsp;The line to the left is FF XIII, while the line to the right is 2009's <i>Demon Souls</i>.</span><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-etsmwvBgAd8/UzNcIm_JvRI/AAAAAAAAF44/a06BVGB9WwY/s1600/cocoonpulse.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-etsmwvBgAd8/UzNcIm_JvRI/AAAAAAAAF44/a06BVGB9WwY/s1600/cocoonpulse.jpg" /></a></div><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"Black lines represent progress without death. Red lines indicate time spent on a failed attempt at any segment of the game. Final Fantasy XIII proves that “hard” is not “the new good.” Gentle games have just as much to offer us as brutal games do. Difficulty, like everything else about a game, serves a distinct expressive purpose. Painstakingly clawing one’s way up a mountain isn’t “better” than joyously bounding over a hill. They’re just different."</span></blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Ferrari goes on to examine how this very structured path in FF XIII gives way to a more open concept once the player transitions from the 'introductory' world of Cocoon to the more 'free-form' world of Pulse. &nbsp;Again, I'm only summarizing Ferrari's argument here and I definitely encourage you to read his post in full.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">What struck me about Ferrari's argument is how he establishes the link between these hills and lines and how the structure of the two are integral to how a player experiences and learns a particular game's design system. &nbsp;This got me thinking- what would the hills and lines of a typical board wargame look like? &nbsp;What lessons can those of us who study board games take away from Ferrari's topographical metaphor?</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Here is my own version of Ferrari's line graphic, but this time from a wargamer's perspective:</span><br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-6wnRcRxW3BI/UzNcZiCYukI/AAAAAAAAF5A/Btq9OsrzhGU/s1600/Wargame+Line+Graph.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-6wnRcRxW3BI/UzNcZiCYukI/AAAAAAAAF5A/Btq9OsrzhGU/s1600/Wargame+Line+Graph.jpg" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Wargames represent some of the most complex game systems produced for the textual medium. &nbsp;(I'm thinking here of examples such as Advanced Squad Leader or The Campaign for North Africa) &nbsp;Players have to mentally assimilate dozens of rules and even more exceptions to those rules in order to operate the design as the creator intended. &nbsp;Upon setting up the board and pushing counters around for the first time, many players probably perceive they are making mistakes but that their 'course corrections' mean they will arrive at the end of the game having aligned, generally, their experience with the intent of the design.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">My own anecdotal experience with wargames, not to mention those experiences recounted in forum posts at BoardGameGeek or ConsimWorld, suggests that <i>many</i> wargame sessions are more like the graph on the right rather than the one on the left. &nbsp;You start off correctly then somehow mess up several rules which, surprisingly, still allow you to continue playing. &nbsp;Along this twisted path you might actually get a few rules right, yet regardless of what you get right/get wrong you still arrive at an ending that may or may not align with the designers original intent. &nbsp;In both cases you achieve a full experience, but without an omniscient guide to gently correct your play you will, more often than not, mess things up and create an arc that ultimately deviates from the 'correct' experience.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Instead of a smooth arc, or even a spoke-like arc depicted in Ferrari's graphic above, wargames tend to promote an amorphous blob. &nbsp;There are implications for allowing the player this sort of freedom to create their own arc, and a brief look at what this means for a player's larger game experience illustrates this point.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The guided experience is both an advantage and disadvantage for video game design. &nbsp;It is an advantage insofar that the player will always track along the experience arc intended by the design. &nbsp;They may not like it, as is the case for many games, but they ultimately can do little to alter that arc without instituting their own 'house rules' that have zero enforceability within the coded structure of the game. &nbsp;This consequence leads to the main disadvantage of video game design. &nbsp;Many players target designers when airing their frustrations with a video game because when placed in a determinist system enforced by code it is easy to see designer error- rather than player error- when following through the experience arc.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-lSC6eTCGYng/UzNhEkmdriI/AAAAAAAAF5Y/2RRsQTBkqsU/s1600/photo+(1).JPG" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-lSC6eTCGYng/UzNhEkmdriI/AAAAAAAAF5Y/2RRsQTBkqsU/s1600/photo+(1).JPG" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Sample page of rules from GMT's 'Roads to Moscow'</span></td></tr></tbody></table><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Wargames in particular, and boardgames in general, appear to be the inverse of a video game; the player must manually assemble the rule-set, on the fly, when following through the experience arc. &nbsp;Mistakes are made, some game breaking and some just simple errors of omission, yet the game will never directly tell you the experience you perceive is wrong. &nbsp;You can fumble and trip but in the end you will eventually have a winner and a complete game experience. &nbsp;Players are also far more likely to blame themselves, rather than the designer, when they discover their play is riddled with errors. &nbsp;Foisting assembly of the experience arc, or blob as it were, to the player means that evaluation of play often centers on the player themself and not the designer. &nbsp;This might mean that a player never really achieves the correct arc as determined by the designer, but is also means the player is more likely to evaluate their own play-experience rather than the systems underlying that play-experience.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">In a larger sense this means that video games are exemplars of a positivist ideal. &nbsp;Systems reinforce your play until you demonstrate correct behavior and are able to 'feel out' the larger experience arc as intended. &nbsp;Wargames are more like exemplars of a sort of 'faux-positivism' in which the players themselves reinforce their play and must discover if they are demonstrating correct behavior or not. &nbsp;Video games embrace teleology; wargames, while definitely possessing a sort of 'hidden' teleology, nonetheless leave ultimate assembly of such teleology to the player. &nbsp;Video game systems embrace a Panglossian attitude towards play. &nbsp;Wargame systems decidedly reinforce the original designer's Panglossian view, but it's no guarantee that the player will discover this 'best of all possible worlds' through their interpretation of the systems presented.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Now obviously a lot of this changes once a player masters a particular wargame's intricate rule-set. &nbsp;Mastery allows a player to perceive the intended experience arc, refining the once blob-like interpretation into something more defined. &nbsp;Having attained this perception the player can then, rightfully, critique the design instead of their interpretation of the design. &nbsp;Here the video game experience and the wargame experience merge, but it is important to remember that the wargamer can reference the variety of 'blob experiences' encountered before to the actual, uncovered design arc. &nbsp;Those who play video games have no such recourse, and can only make crude comparisons of systems between separate design arcs (analogous&nbsp;to, say, comparing the different cover mechanics amongst FPS games).</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">These are only some brief thoughts on the implications of design across two game mediums, but it is my belief that more serious consideration on what constitutes the tabletop vs. digital game experience needs to be discussed. &nbsp;The idea of 'hills and lines' are just one method of breaching the gap. &nbsp;We should be cognizant of other methods so that our larger understanding of games across all mediums achieves even deeper meaning.</span>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-8447765096540188172014-02-18T20:21:00.000-08:002014-02-19T09:19:07.501-08:00Post-Modern Secrets<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-zsKkAOR4rVY/UwQvX0D-DlI/AAAAAAAAF1k/9ZdS8U1McZ8/s1600/guess-who_Oct-02-2011_0231.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-zsKkAOR4rVY/UwQvX0D-DlI/AAAAAAAAF1k/9ZdS8U1McZ8/s1600/guess-who_Oct-02-2011_0231.jpg" /></a></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">It's been a while since I've posted anything here at Peasant Muse, so why not break the silence by discussing the new kid on the social media block- <a href="https://www.secret.ly/" target="_blank">Secret</a>.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I discovered Secret via <a href="http://www.splatf.com/2014/02/secret-thoughts/" target="_blank">Dan Frommer's 'SplatF'</a> and decided that if it was worth his time to mention it, it was worth my time to at least check it out. What's funny is that I tried to download the app myself by searching for 'Secret' on the App Store. That gave me returns like this:</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-cS4XrsmmOmA/UwQqGSqfFGI/AAAAAAAAF1A/79SJfHGob5Y/s1600/secret.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-cS4XrsmmOmA/UwQqGSqfFGI/AAAAAAAAF1A/79SJfHGob5Y/s1600/secret.jpg" height="400" width="225" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Turns out you have to search for '<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/secret-speak-freely/id775307543?mt=8" target="_blank">Secret - Speak Freely</a>' in order to find the app, making efforts to download this new attempt at freeing yourself from the constraints of traditional social media an ironic proposition from the start- you have to know the <i>secret</i>&nbsp;of how to download Secret.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The premise of Secret is this: you reach into your soul and uncover a hidden truth or pithy pearl of wisdom and reveal it, anonymously, to your other friends who also use Secret. If enough of these other Secret friends (more like Secret Contacts, since that list is what the app asks to consult on your first use) 'love' your shared secret (expressed by tapping a heart icon), then that secret will begin to permeate the screens of your friend's friends (contact's contacts) who also use the app. There is also some sort of 'magic sauce' involved (algorithms stewed in 21 secret herbs and spices) for determining the exposure of any given secret revealed.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-qXSUyjSljrQ/UwQtqI-SBMI/AAAAAAAAF1M/Bva6qOfXjpM/s1600/secret+II.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-qXSUyjSljrQ/UwQtqI-SBMI/AAAAAAAAF1M/Bva6qOfXjpM/s1600/secret+II.png" height="400" width="225" /></a></div><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I want to share a few thoughts about Secret, and what I think it means in the larger trend that is social media evolution.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">- Anonymity, <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117060/quotes?item=qt0414275" target="_blank">that 'warm blanket' as Max would say</a>, is nothing new for social media, but finding a way to make anonymity stable enough- or, more properly, finding a stable way to channel the latent forces behind anonymity- is something Secret is trying to do. Social media is fast moving out of what I will call its 'Classicist' era, best characterized by static pages broken up into discrete identity fields (my timeline, my photos, my messages). Twitter was an early force that signaled the waining influence of Classicist thinking, despite the borrowings from Classical elements of form and design, and its new conception of asynchronous following and correlating firehose-like delivery of content suggested a new way for social media to grow.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Instagram became the exemplar of what I will call the 'Modern' era of social media that Twitter presaged, a definable shift from the previous period made possible due to mass adoption of smartphone technology. It demonstrated that a narrow focus- in this case, photography- could generate a level of engagement on par with more traditional, 'Classical' social media platforms.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Snapchat, in my opinion, heralded another shift in social media. To keep the metaphor going, I would call the ephemerality Snapchat offers a clear indicator signaling the emergence of a 'Post-Modern' era. We know what a big network (Facebook) looks like and we know what a niche network (Instagram) looks like; the pressing question, at least to me, now lies in exploring the aesthetics of our social media use. Ephemerality is one such aesthetic turn. Anonymity, or at least the sort of channeled anonymity offered by Secret, is another.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">(I should mention that my use of the 'classical/modern/post-modern' metaphor is intentional. There is no doubt, in my mind, that the crisis of identity encountered at both the emergence of the modern in Western society, roughly 18th-20th centuries, and the emergence of the post-modern, roughly the late to early 20th-21st centuries, bears a striking resemblance to the crisis of identity associated with social media use in the past decade. These labels might not be appropriate given the short and dynamic timescale involved, but their loose meaning here more than suits my rhetorical need.)</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">- That being said, the anonymity of the sort pedaled by Secret seems to me to be nothing more than a veil. When you see a secret that originated from someone in your contacts list, you can't help but engage in a modern day version of 'Guess Who?'. Remember the search term I had to use to find 'Secret' in the App Store? 'Secret- Speak Freely'? The directed aesthetics of the app suggest you can 'speak freely' through use of anonymity, yet if the only people who see your 'secrets' are your contacts there are questions of just how warm a blanket Secret's anonymity provides.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-asqBjB1AB9s/UwQunMMw00I/AAAAAAAAF1c/A6EL8osCNBM/s1600/anon.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-asqBjB1AB9s/UwQunMMw00I/AAAAAAAAF1c/A6EL8osCNBM/s1600/anon.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stianeikeland/3696386615/" target="_blank">Photo via Stian Eikland</a></td></tr></tbody></table><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Again, it is an issue of the aesthetic design. You could post something truly secret, something no one could possibly know, but unless it is something that can generate 'love' (clicks) that 'secret' is going nowhere. I suppose part of the 'magic sauce' mentioned above helps pluck announced secrets from obscurity and promotes them to the mainstream, but then that brings up essential questions related to the sort of 'secrets' the 'magic sauce' favors. &nbsp;In fancy terms, knowledge of how the 'magic sauce' works would constitute an evaluation on the epistemic hierarchy Secret uses to categorize a 'secret'. It would be an insight into the aesthetic judgement 'Secret' renders on secrets.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">But I digress- my main point here is that there is, to a point, an imbedded game involved with Secret's anonymity. You want to post revealing things, or maybe just something fun, but you want to do so in a manner that clues your immediate readers in on your true identity. It is an identity puzzle you place before others. The fun of solving the puzzle- or trying to solve it- can then be expressed by clicking the 'love' heart.&nbsp;</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">You could avoid this game and post something truly cryptic, something no knows about you. Yet, again, the aesthetic design of 'Secret' will render its judgment. If it doesn't generate reaction among your contacts via clicking of hearts, the shared secret goes nowhere and it is almost as if it were never uttered at all. I could definitely see some cathartic use for Secret, but something tells me the designers of the app don't want this to become a *heavy* atmosphere. They want it to be light and fun and the aesthetic expression of anonymity Secret allows reinforces this ideal.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-nWZQory7KiU/UwQt0InSctI/AAAAAAAAF1U/L5VwGCyHEtI/s1600/secret+III.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-nWZQory7KiU/UwQt0InSctI/AAAAAAAAF1U/L5VwGCyHEtI/s1600/secret+III.png" height="400" width="225" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">An actual secret from one of my contacts.</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Keep in mind what I said above- the real challenge Secret faces is making the anonymous experience engaging and, above all, stable.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">- Last observation: since I'm talking about aesthetics, I think it is interesting to contrast Secret's anonymity experience with that provided by Snapchat's ephemerality. Snapchat gives you an image, a moment, and then you have fading, unreliable memories of that image. Secret gives you an ongoing unreliable fragment, a clue, and asks you to reconstruct the image of the original sender. With Snapchat, images lead to words as you try to describe the moment. With Secret, words lead to images as you try to uncover the blanket of anonymity.</span>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-75169910549905690192013-10-08T09:28:00.000-07:002013-10-08T09:38:26.328-07:00Arrival of the Russian Sorcerer<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WlwZVLYI4sU/UlQuPlWS7xI/AAAAAAAAFy8/9MzT066qf7M/s1600/Maximov.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="345" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WlwZVLYI4sU/UlQuPlWS7xI/AAAAAAAAFy8/9MzT066qf7M/s640/Maximov.jpg" width="550" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">'<a href="http://www.tretyakovgallery.ru/en/collection/_show/image/_id/203" target="_blank">Arrival of the Sorcerer at a Peasant Wedding</a>' - Vasily Maximov, 1875</td></tr></tbody></table><div><br /></div>For the 19th century Russian peasant family, few elements could portend the future success or failure of a wedding more so than the presence of a local witch or sorcerer.&nbsp; Vasily Maximov addressed such an event in his 1875 painting, ‘Arrival of the Sorcerer at a Peasant Wedding’, with a mix of astonishment and fear depicted on the various guest’s faces.&nbsp; The bride, standing with her groom at the left edge of the painting, stares with wide eyes as a confidant- perhaps her mother- whispers in her ear, providing sage advice on how to deal with the unexpected- or perhaps invited- guest.&nbsp; Other wedding participants give the imposing sorcerer, himself covered in snow and sporting a penetrating gaze, clear berth, while the local village priest (seated to the right of the wedding couple and bathed in an obscured source of light) casts a defiant scowl towards the newly arrived personage.&nbsp; While the feeling of tension is palpable to the viewer of Maximov’s painting, his subject matter succinctly touches upon many themes associated with the role of the witch/sorcerer in Russian peasant life beyond those of fear or brooding sense of comeuppance.<br /><div><br />For starters, the witch/sorcerer is a figure placed on the threshold of the sacred and the profane, their powers a curious mix of both benevolence and malevolence that, surprisingly, helped maintain established norms of communal behavior.&nbsp; They were primarily fixtures of the locality they inhabited, a fact borne out by the relative diminution of power they experienced the further they traveled from their established residence.&nbsp; As figures who utilized largely unknown arcane procedures, their presence paradoxically engendered a vast matrix of power and knowledge manifested by peasants who either sought their help or feared their involvement in daily life.&nbsp; Compared to the mystifying power of Christianity, embodied in the village priest, local witches/sorcerers instead promoted an understanding that reified peasant power in contrast to the relative reduction of power peasants encountered when dealing with anointed church representatives.&nbsp; Finally, the Russian tradition of witchcraft favored male practitioners over female ones, although both sexes were equally capable of manifesting magical power, a fact that puts the oft repeated wisdom of predominantly female involvement in witchcraft, derived from the Western European experience, in a comparative light.</div><div><br />Of all these characteristics, the ‘threshold’ aspect of witchcraft is perhaps the most important.&nbsp; Russian folk belief is full of thresholds, whether it is the bathhouse (a place where one gets clean and where divination and other practices involving potentially unclean spirits can occur- it’s also where most traditional births happened), the hearth (a place where bread- a sustaining, transformative substance- is made and where the house spirit, the <i>domovoi</i>, also lives), and even the fence surrounding a church (the inside being the realm, predominantly, of Christianity and the outside the realm of unclean or shamanistic forces).</div><div><br />Witches and sorcerers occupy a similar threshold position.&nbsp; They partake in both this world and the more mysterious world where spirits and other unknown forces govern.&nbsp; As such, they act as a sort of regulator or control mechanism for unexplained phenomena that plagued traditional societies.&nbsp; Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, in his book <i><a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1987-07-26/books/bk-1598_1_emmanuel-le-roy-ladurie" target="_blank">Jasmin’s Witch</a></i>, states that, “Witchcraft…has always existed as an instrument, either benign or maleficent, for the purpose of manipulating the world of the peasantry- or by which that world imagined it was being manipulated.” (5)&nbsp; The presence of the witch or sorcerer, while sometimes unpleasant, nonetheless offered a way to cope with events that would otherwise have no reasonable explanation.</div><div><br />And because many malevolent issues could be explained by the intervention of witches or sorcerers, their presence in a village facilitated a sort of perverse attitude of mutual respect.&nbsp; Since anyone could avail themselves of the witches or sorcerers trade, members of a community were more likely to uphold established rules of conduct lest they anger someone and become the target of spells or other unpleasant effects.&nbsp; This produced a foucauldian effect of disciplinary behavior, yet the means to enforce this discourse was available not to the few but to the many.&nbsp; Much like the M.A.D. doctrine governing nuclear weapons use throughout most of the 20th century, the local witch or sorcerer maintained order by the very promise of mutual destruction.&nbsp; Le Roy Ladurie again: “The fear of being bewitched is the beginning of wisdom.” (13)</div><div><br />There is also the issue of how the witch or sorcerer straddles the threshold of being good or evil.&nbsp; Several terms in Russian exist to designate the various categories of those imbued with supernatural abilities; <i>ved’ma </i>(witch), <i>koldun</i> (sorcerer), <i>vorozheia</i> (fortuneteller), <i>otgadchik</i> (diviner), <i>znakhar’/znakharka</i> (magic healers), just to name a few.&nbsp; While some labels were clearly skewed towards malevolent practices, such as the <i>ved’ma </i>or <i>koldun</i>, it was not always so cut-and-dry as to what separated the practices of the local witch or the local healer.&nbsp; Both used the same materials for their craft- either various herbs and grasses, or perhaps tomes of knowledge that covered topics arcane or medicinal.&nbsp; Charms (<i>zagavori)</i> or amulets (<i>nauzy</i>) could be obtained by both the witch and the healer, and it seems possession of these effects could cast one in a light of maleficence or beneficence depending on the opinion held by the local community.&nbsp; If both the witch and the healer could make a love potion, who is to say that one is bad and the other is good?</div><div><br />Of course, the real reason why witches or sorcerers could have such a normalizing effect on traditional society and be cast among one of several roles was precisely because they were an integral part of the society in which they lived.&nbsp; Their power stemmed from the fact that everyone knew they were a witch or sorcerer, their reputation predicated on a devotion to locality.&nbsp; Think of the Good Witch of the North, or the Wicked Witch of the West as found in the Wizard of Oz. &nbsp;These are broad geographical regions, but the deliberate choice to center these characters in an approximation of locality clearly aligns with the actual situation many exposed to witchcraft experienced.&nbsp; Witches or Sorcerers that traveled away from their homes experienced a diminution of their power commensurate with distance.&nbsp; To put it another way, it’s difficult to be afraid of a distant witch if their powers are not known first hand.</div><div><br />Compare this to a similar Christian counterpart of witchcraft- the hermit or aesthetic.&nbsp; These personages gain power through their distancing and exclusion from the locale of society.&nbsp; Even the pilgrimage, one of the more devout acts of piety a believer can undertake, relies on the concept of the distant to convey power and understanding associated with the faith.&nbsp; This is meant to demonstrate a sense of the far reaching effects of Christianity, the fact that its wide base of power can be viewed in locales far from ones own.&nbsp; Witchcraft is the inverse of this relationship.&nbsp; While the witch or sorcerer draws upon a similar wide base of power through access to supernatural means, it can only manifest these powers in an acute fashion by remaining tied to a specific locale.&nbsp; This, again, ties back to the variety of roles played in Russian society by those marked as being capable of wielding supernatural power; if one person’s witch is another person’s healer, then only reputation and first-hand experience could be the determinant factor in classification.</div><div><br />This unique property of locality meant that the witch or sorcerer embodied the traditional version of branding <i>par excellence.</i>&nbsp; The interesting thing about brands is that they exist within a matrix of understanding and power.&nbsp; Brands exude a meaning, but that meaning is mediated through the outside observer who places on that brand their own hopes, desires, and expectations through a bonding process.&nbsp; Marcus Boon, in his book <i><a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/features/boon/" target="_blank">In Praise of Copying</a></i>, demonstrates that bonding-via-branding is a form of ‘contagious’ magic that channels mimetic desire.&nbsp; When we see a celebrity lovingly touch a Louis Vuitton bag (the example Boon uses to describe his concept), the ‘contagious’ power of that celebrity is transferred to that bag and thus enhances our desire to own a copy of that bag.&nbsp; In the case of witchcraft, the peasant knows the power of the witch or sorcerer and seeks to procure or identify a potion, amulet, or charm that mimetically copies that power for the peasant’s own use or avoidance.<br /><br />Yet if we prod the underlying reasons why the witch or sorcerer conveys such bonding-via-branding power, then we come to the conclusion that it is the understanding manifested by the peasant- not the witch- that gives the potion, amulet, or charm ‘contagious’ mimetic presence.&nbsp; The abundance of peasant maxims or folklore regarding detection of witches or the explanations of their magical effects attest to this matrix of understanding and power.&nbsp; The following examples are drawn from Linda Ivantis’ work, <i><a href="http://books.google.com/books/about/Russian_Folk_Belief.html?id=-s36xYcqG1EC" target="_blank">Russian Folk Belief</a>:</i>&nbsp; Traditional Russian belief held that witches or sorcerers possessed a tail, marking their alleged pact with unclean forces that imbued them with magical power.&nbsp; In the Penza Province, a sorcerer or witch could be revealed by making a fire using aspen wood on Holy Thursday; once the fire burnt out, the sorcerer or witch would come begging for the ashes.&nbsp; Sorcerers or witches could also be identified by their clothing, their smell, or use of riddles in speech.</div><div><br />Identification of witchcraft and those who practiced it was a primary concern for many in traditional Russian peasant societies.&nbsp; Such was the pervasive fear of ‘spoiling’ (a common term that peasants used to describe the effects of witches or sorcerers) brought about through witchcraft that no arena of life was safe from its pervasive influence.&nbsp; Of paramount concern was the potential ruinous spoiling of a new couple at their wedding.&nbsp; Jealousy or spite held by a member of the community over the nuptials of a soon to be married couple could easily lead one to enlist the services of the local witch or sorcerer in creating a potion or amulet, often made from something personal with regards to the couple in question (like hair, or clothing), that would cause death, infertility, or any number of ill effects.&nbsp; As a precaution, the often safest course for potential newlyweds was to simply invite the witch or sorcerer to the wedding as an honored guest.&nbsp; There were many tales in which a place of honor would be accorded to both the village priest and village witch- Maximov’s painting is a testament to the awkward presence of both.&nbsp; Failure to do so could either open a couple to the malevolent intent of others, or risk drawing the wrath of the local witch or sorcerer whose invite was spurned.&nbsp; The latter is most likely the occurrence depicted in Maximov’s painting.&nbsp; The sorcerer, arriving late to the scene as evidenced by his snow covered boots and shoulders, no doubt is making his presence known so as to affirm his potential to inflict harm.</div><div><br />This leads us to one of the more interesting aspects of Russian witchcraft.&nbsp; Unlike the experience in Western Europe or America, most documented cases of witchcraft in Russia involved men and not women.&nbsp; Whereas up to 80% of witchcraft documentation in Western Europe involved women as the primary suspect, this ratio was reversed in Russia. &nbsp; There is some speculation that this was due to the fact that marginalization of position for females, a factor that led many to embrace&nbsp; or be forced into the identity of a witch, was less prevalent in Russian traditional society.&nbsp; Many women, up to the end of the 19th century, lived in extended households that ensured a means of subsistence.&nbsp; Due to the enforcement of serfdom, and the relative lack of mobility this produced, a women's role in the family and traditional kinship-based networks was more secure than that held by women in the more highly mobile world of Western Europe.&nbsp; Also, the presence of a codified demonology, which was crucial for those in Western Europe seeking to identify the hallmarks of potential witches, simply did not exist to the same extent in popular Russian thought.</div><div><br />While gender difference was one divergent factor of Russian witchcraft when compared to the Western European experience, many of the other qualities highlighted above- the reliance upon locality, the branding-as-bonding mimetic power, the witch as product of a highly specialized peasant matrix of knowledge- demonstrate that witchcraft shared many similarities across geographic boundaries as well.&nbsp; One last similarity should be added to this list; the growth of witchcraft trials in both Russia and Western Europe signaled the rise of an increasingly powerful and centralized bureaucratic state.&nbsp; As authorities sought to bolster their networks of power, the witch became a convenient scapegoat upon which defining aspects of the modern state- surveillance, normativity, and control of population- could be built.&nbsp; Local, popular knowledge became supplanted by textual decrees and investigations, meaning that articulation and definition of the witch by those removed from the local ultimately displaced both the witch and the locale they inhabited from positions of power.</div><div><br />Of course, Maximov’s painting features no presence of Tsarist officials, only that of the local peasantry.&nbsp; In seeking to get at the truth of the experience, Maximov has ironically depicted a romanticized version of that experience.&nbsp; This same romanticizing trend regarding witchcraft continues today, but it is important to realize that all stories about witches harken back to a time when dichotomies between good and evil were more fluid and the witch, far from being a convenient foil for fairy tales, represented a complex and necessary function in traditional society.</div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-554201406275696922013-07-26T18:54:00.000-07:002014-01-21T09:48:40.568-08:00Ladders, Builders, and the AHA<div class="page" title="Page 1"><div class="section"><div class="layoutArea"><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-YD0JEAWY2hw/UfMh5Zha5TI/AAAAAAAAFs0/qHivCVHbtb0/s1600/Ladder+to+Nowhere.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-YD0JEAWY2hw/UfMh5Zha5TI/AAAAAAAAFs0/qHivCVHbtb0/s400/Ladder+to+Nowhere.jpg" height="348" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/coreytempleton/4429989513/" target="_blank">'Ladder to Somewhere' by Corey Templeton</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div class="column"><span style="font-family: Georgia, 'Times New Roman', serif;">If you've ever watched Chappelle Show, then you probably know the series of skits titled, 'When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong'. If you're an academic historian, or a graduate student in history, then you've probably read the recent <a href="http://blog.historians.org/2013/07/american-historical-association-statement-on-policies-regarding-the-embargoing-of-completed-history-phd-dissertations/" target="_blank">AHA recommendation</a> to have institutions embargo completed dissertations from digital release for up to six years. There's been a lot of responses, both pro and con, about the issue, but for me all I can think is that the AHA might be the most recent candidate for another episode of 'When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong'.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br />Why do I feel this way? A few reasons below:</span><br /><ol><li><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I have no doubt that the AHA, in its own mind, has the best interest of junior scholars in focus when they grapple with and think about policies to pursue in protecting nascent scholar's interests. Junior scholars represent the future of the profession, and it makes absolute sense for the AHA to deal with professional issues in a way that makes life for junior scholars better, not worse.</span></li><li><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">That being said, I also have no doubt that the committee behind the 'Embargo' policy tried to 'Keep it Real' by framing their appeal as a means to protect future junior scholars' access to monograph publishing. But in many ways, trying to equate protection of junior scholars through tacit support of a notion that accessibility is detrimental to their career is where 'Keeping it Real Goes Wrong'.&nbsp;</span></li><li><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">One word never mentioned in either the AHA proposal, or <a href="http://blog.historians.org/2013/07/why-put-at-risk-the-publishing-options-of-our-most-vulnerable-colleagues/" target="_blank">William Cronon's recent support of this proposal</a>, is prestige- and if you are talking about monograph publishing being related to tenure or advancement in the profession without also acknowledging the linkage this process has to prestige, then you're missing a very crucial part of the entire process.&nbsp;</span></li></ol><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I've seen the responses, on Twitter and in the comments field for both the AHA announcement and Cronon's support piece, and they essentially fall into two camps. The first camp, what I would term the 'Ladder' group, may feel that the entire publishing system is misguided or essentially enforcing a protectionist scheme on academic work, but they are on the ladder of either a tenure track job or current book deal. (Or they are of a group that hopes to one day be on the ladder) A lot of them sympathize with issues in the system, but for them to get ahead they have to follow the current system's rules- they have to climb the ladder. Why? Because in order to get promotion at a Division I school or seek recognition by their older, tenured peers who often sit on Tenure and Promotion Committees, they feel they have to publish a book.<br /><br />The second camp, what I would term the 'Builder' group, feel that new digital paradigms are providing increased opportunities for scholars to share their works with wider audiences and this means that several cherished notions of 'scholarly work' need to be rebuilt, or remodeled, in order to accommodate the profession to changing standards. Some of the 'builders' have tenure, while others do not. Some of them are in the academy, others are not. Many of them have personal academic blogs, or perform work that is very public in its outreach and scope. Why? Because for them, the idea that one's work should be hidden behind paywalls, or made to be consumed by only a small subset of the academy, is anathema to their desire to build new structures. For the builders, publishing a book is okay- but so is sharing your work online. They see OA ideals as a blueprint for what their building should look like, what the future of a digital profession could look like.<br /><br />But- and this alters what I said above- there is also an amorphous third camp, those who are feeling out whether they should be on the ladder or helping the builders. Some of them want to be in the academy, and that means they need to start climbing the ladder. Some of them want to build a new academy, and that means eschewing the ladder not because it is bad but because it takes energy away from building. There's even a fourth camp, those with tenure- but they are largely immune to the direct implications of this debate, even though their voices carry weight for how those implications play out.</span></div><div class="column"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br />What every camp is concerned about, except for those who already have it, is prestige. The ladder folks want to climb towards it. The builder folks want to build new conceptions of it. The rest of us are wondering if we can ever have it at all.<br /><br />My sympathies lie with the builder group, because I come from a niche area of history that the ladder does not often reach. I study Russian history, and my dissertation focuses on Old Believers. In my department, many, many students enter to study American history. A smaller subset come to study Western European history. An even smaller subset, far smaller than the other groups, come to study East Europe/Russian/African/Asian history. Although I have not made efforts to shop it, I'm under no illusions that publishers are clamoring to take my dissertation manuscript and shepherd it through to monograph form. I'm not Robert Crummey, or Roy Robson. I'm just Jeremy Antley, a guy who is tackling a small portion of the work those two, comparative giants also discuss. (If you don't know who I'm talking about, then I've sort of made my point already) What publisher wants to invest 20k or more in a book that, literally, a few dozen will find serious interest, with the added possibility that a few hundred more might have casual interest, in reading?</span></div><div class="column"><span style="font-family: Georgia, 'Times New Roman', serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="column"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I don't have a track record. I don't have enough prestige to get noticed by large publishers right off the bat. I'm not attending Yale, or Columbia, or Harvard, or Princeton. I'm a product of a less&nbsp;prestigious&nbsp;state school, which I think is a fine institutions with good quality professors in a variety of fields. While I have no doubt that I can climb the tenure ladder of academia if given the chance, I also know that those kind of opportunities, especially in my chosen field of Russian history, are few and far between- especially if I'm&nbsp;competing&nbsp;against other candidates from top flight institutions. If I don't have sufficient personal prestige when applying for jobs, those jobs will default to looking at the prestige of my institution or the prestige of those under which I've studied. There's a little joke I tell folks who ask me what I study- I tell them it's 'Russia+', as in 'Russia + American History' or 'Russia + Women's Studies' or 'Russia + Insert Field Here'. For me to have a realistic chance of getting a tenure track job, I can't just be a Russia guy. I have to build a broader base. As Kurtis Blow once said, 'these are the breaks.'</span></div><div class="column"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br />Here's another rub; I also tackle the subject of games in an academic way. While some have given me praise for the work I do, I've also had some measure of scorn applied as well. Trust me, I would love to write a paper concerned with the intersection of history and games like Twilight Struggle, 1989, and Andean Abyss. But the momentum isn't there yet- the ladder just does not extend that far.<br /><br />So, for me, any policy that endorses a view of hiding my work just so it will be more attractive to publishers feels a bit absurd. If I had a firm grasp on the ladder, perhaps I would feel differently. But I don't, and I don't see many willing to extend that ladder for someone they don't know who researches in fields not widely accessible or even considered legitimate at all. That's why I sympathize with the builders, because I've achieved a modicum of success in following their path. My two published articles, one on <a href="http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-2/going-beyond-the-textual-in-history-by-jeremy-antley/" target="_blank">History embracing games</a> and the other on <a href="http://www.mdpi.com/1999-5903/4/4/1037" target="_blank">Textual Dualism in Russian history</a>, both came about because I was willing to publish early versions of my thoughts in blog form. I received feedback from these public outings that, in turn, helped shape my larger, revised arguments that were peer reviewed and published in journals embracing an open access ethic. I've been able to attend conferences outside the strict purview of History because others read my publicly shared work and thought it worth supporting. I've been given the opportunity to write for <a href="http://www.playthepast.org/?author_name=jantley" target="_blank">Play the Past</a> and have essays published on <a href="http://thenewinquiry.com/author/jeremy-antley/" target="_blank">The New Inquiry</a> website because my work was open and accessible.<br /><br />I built my reputation in public view, because to do so in private would have given me none of the opportunities above. I'm a builder because that's the only way someone like me can gain an audience and, subsequently, gain prestige.<br /><br />I could have hidden my work, could have silently chipped away at it until it was fully baked and ready to be consumed. I could have done all of this in the hopes that the final unveiling would grant me the prestige I rightfully believe should be awarded. I could have outstretched my hands in the hopes that when I opened my eyes the ladder would be there for the climbing. Maybe that's the best way to keep it real. But my gut tells me that if I did those things, my keeping it real would go wrong.<br /><br />As a final note, in what has been an already rambling post, I want to say that just because I'm for the builders doesn't mean I'm against those who climb the ladder. I don't want to force my ideas on anybody. To be fair, this is an extremely tough time for academics and it's hard to tell someone to suffer for principles I believe in that may cost them a job, especially if that person has a family or other obligations they need to support. Everything I've said above is, in the words of Royal Tenenbaum, 'just one man's opinion'.<br /><br />I think <a href="https://twitter.com/dancohen/status/360899409002766336" target="_blank">Dan Cohen is right</a> in that what people are reacting to is the fact that the AHA made their policy with little discussion involved. Now we are discussing it, and that's definitely when keeping it real can't go wrong.</span></div></div></div></div><div class="page" title="Page 3"><div class="section" style="background-color: rgb(100.000000%, 100.000000%, 100.000000%);"><div class="layoutArea"><div class="column"></div></div></div></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com4tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-61505454222988843482013-06-25T17:26:00.000-07:002013-07-07T11:51:45.442-07:00These Games are a Riot<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div class="MsoNormal"><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4HNZRB4JtUA/UcowiSqukHI/AAAAAAAAFrw/Lnij75hoZS8/s1600/Art+of+Riot.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4HNZRB4JtUA/UcowiSqukHI/AAAAAAAAFrw/Lnij75hoZS8/s1600/Art+of+Riot.JPG" /></a></div><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"When does a crowd become a riot?" asks Ronald Paulson in his essay-lecture <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Riot-Ronald-Paulson/dp/1934084069" target="_blank">The Art of Riot in England and America</a></i>, to which the answer is "When it gets out of control." What appears, on face, to be a cheeky answer to what many would assume is a rhetorical question actually brings about a complex field of interactions and expectations on behalf of those who would analyze riots and their articulations in life and art. Paulson's essay focuses on depictions of riot as found on engravings and in literature from the 18th century onward in both English and American culture. Over the course of his 121 page analysis he outlines a 'taxonomy of riot', an attempt to balance what we know about real riots against various artists' representations of those riots, that takes at its core three elements: actual riots, fictive riots, and the aesthetics of riot.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Taking a cue from E.P. Thompson, Paulson seeks to "outline the myths of the insurgents' (the 'radicals') imagination- the formal structures that shaped 'riots', in particular traditional forms of 'crowd ritual'." As an event, riots are both festive and seditious. They are defined in relation to the in-place social order, symbolized in our modern era by the presence of police. Yet the most important aspect of the riot is its affective/effective impact, a subjective measurement that depends wholly on the presence of aesthetics in relation to spectators- both those depicted in the artist's rendition and the outside viewer gazing upon the artist's rendition. The presence of the spectator is crucial for Paulson, who defines aesthetics as the philosophy of spectatorship. After all, a riot would have little impact were it not for the affective power (as opposed to its often diminished effective impact) it holds over those who are witness to its events.<o:p></o:p></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Paulson's work raises interesting questions when extended beyond the engravings and novels covered by his essay. What happens to his analysis when the taxonomy of riot shifts to the medium of games?</span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">That's a question I would like to address now, using three examples that span analog and digital mediums: Brian Train's <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Battle for Seattle</i> board game, as well as Rockstar's <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i> and 2K Games' <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Spec Ops: The Line</i> video games. What makes these artistic depictions of riot intriguing is how they take the spectator of the player and transform that player into a participant of the riot with a viewpoint that is, nonetheless, wholly defined by the aesthetically influenced spectator experience. The player literally controls an event that is the antithesis of a controlled state.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">These ludic depictions also shift the interpretation of riot beyond Paulson's investigation on how festive and seditious acts depicted representation, or the relation of the individual to society as a whole. With the emergence of ludic riots, the interpretation now centers on concerns of a post-Cold War society in which new questions are raised regarding the re-articulation of liberalism and the relation of society to the individual. This seeming reversal (because ludic models are hardly reactionary in their approach) of riotous depiction in our current era still, nonetheless, draws upon the rich history and legacy of riot as encountered in the Western tradition.</span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-wRXrUGsBeLQ/Ucot2VEHvqI/AAAAAAAAFrI/bkwKTS5eoWE/s1600/Riot+Pic+copy.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-wRXrUGsBeLQ/Ucot2VEHvqI/AAAAAAAAFrI/bkwKTS5eoWE/s1600/Riot+Pic+copy.png" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">On the left, a scene from the upcoming game <a href="http://www.riotgame.org/" target="_blank">RIOT</a>. On the right, '<a href="http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/90066421" target="_blank">The Zenith of French Glory</a>' by James Gillray</span></td></tr></tbody></table><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Paulson notes that whereas pre-18th century depictions of riot generally used scenes from the Passion narrative of the Bible, the rise of Humanism/Enlightenment ideals transformed depictions of riot into "a form of burlesque that repeated the Passion as farce." After the French Revolution, when the potential transformation of riot into revolution was fully realized, depictions of riot carried with them this psychic weight of revolutionary memory. It became harder to depict popular violence in a positive light after the events of late 18th century France (a sentiment Paulson attributes to Ian Haywood's <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Bloody Romanticism</i>) because "the pleasure and festive air of riot is evacuated in revolution, which is without ambivalence."<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Ludic riots continue this tradition, utilizing forms that vacillate between actual and fictive depictions placed on the border of what we might call burlesque interpretations. Their representations are often filled with 'revolutionary memory', meaning that the player frequently engages in action that goes beyond limited expressions of pleasure and festive sedition found in riots, moving, instead, towards a more forceful expression of violence that is 'without ambivalence.' All the games examined here begin in riot but either progress towards or allow the player to engage in something much more deadly.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YZsIKpuPasA/Ucou1gl6GRI/AAAAAAAAFrU/wJHhYnlYTo0/s1600/Battle+for+Seattle.png" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="400" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YZsIKpuPasA/Ucou1gl6GRI/AAAAAAAAFrU/wJHhYnlYTo0/s400/Battle+for+Seattle.png" width="263" /></a></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Let's begin with Brian Train's 2000 release of <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><a href="http://www.apolitical.info/seattle/" target="_blank">Battle for Seattle</a></i>. Dedicated to 'the violins in the streets', Train's ludic riot is actually a representation of a real riot that occurred in Seattle during the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting held there. Two players take on either the role of the 'Authority' (representing the Seattle Police Department, Washington State Troopers, or the National Guard) or the 'Protester Factions' (representing a loose coalition of Anarchists, Environmentalists, Radicals, Liberals, Organized Labor, and Yahoos). The goal of the game is to for each side to gain enough points on the 'Exposure Index', representing favorable publicity and image leverage, to qualify for a win.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">There is a limited combat system, in which the Authority player can attempt to disperse or arrest protesting groups or crowds. The protester faction can counter-attack, potentially forcing Authority units to be returned to the 'force pool'. Only the Authority player can 'escalate' the conflict, which allows the Protester player the option of building 'barricades' and the Authority player the option to call in additional police units and utilize 'special munitions', like tear gas or rubber bullets.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">From an aesthetic viewpoint, <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Battle of Seattle</i> gives both players a clear sense of order and the breakdown of that order through the unified blue of the Authority pieces versus the multi-hued and diverse Protester factions. The map, which utilizes a point-to-point system, emphasizes some spaces over others. For example, the Protester gains more 'exposure' by having units occupy the Convention Center rather than the adjacent Seattle University space. This designation that some spaces are more valuable than others also reinforces the notion of spectatorship; one's exposure is increased if actions take place in noted areas, as opposed to nearby, but less important, areas considered distant from the real center of action- the WTO talks being held downtown.<o:p></o:p></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-iorlrgmVMWk/UcoyXJmxYCI/AAAAAAAAFsQ/KUuX5T6jd4E/s1600/countersc.bmp" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-iorlrgmVMWk/UcoyXJmxYCI/AAAAAAAAFsQ/KUuX5T6jd4E/s1600/countersc.bmp" /></a></div><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Conversely, the Authority player must battle to keep its exposure from decreasing by losing 'control' of the situation either through Protestor 'victories' or through excessive use of force via 'special munitions' use/calling in state troopers and national guard units. The ability of the Authority player to engage in 'escalation' hints towards an acknowledgement of 'revolutionary memory'- after all, the Authority player will only escalate the conflict in an attempt to forestall a complete breakdown of control which could allow for far more dangerous situation to develop. (One of the higher levels of victory for the Protester details a situation in which WTO delegates run scared in the streets) Regardless of which side the player is on, their ability to win is directly indexed to the opinion of 'spectatorship' represented by the 'Exposure Index'.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">So far, <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Battle of Seattle</i> demonstrates several degrees of continuity with the sort of riots examined in Paulson's essay. However, one clear difference is that the players of this ludic riot go beyond mere spectators- they become active participants in this fictive depiction of an actual riot. The presence of the WTO as the catalyst for the riot depicted also shifts the question of what the riot represents. Unlike the previous two centuries, this riot is not a question of an individual's place in relation to the state, rather it's about an individual's place in relation to supra-national forces, represented by the WTO, which have called into question the role of liberalism in the post-Cold War world order. All of the various Protester factions see in the WTO personification of agendas that seek to reshape their oft marginalized role in the larger liberal conception of society. This theme of the riot as a means to question and re-evaluate the terms of liberalism continually resurfaces in the other games examined here.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Yet it should also be noted that <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Battle of Seattle</i> maintains the festive and seditious air particular to the composition of riot. In the designer notes, Brian Train states that, "although this game attempts to model some of what happened in Seattle, it is also partially a SATIRE on the events, perhaps best displayed by the irreverence of the Random Events Table." This irreverence can be seen clearly through use of the Goofy holding an M-16 graphic used to denote National Guard Units, or the 'Coffee Break'/'Hey Beavis…' events found on the aforementioned Random Events Table. Even though the design carries strong connotations of rising violent potential, the entire game is cloaked in burlesque swatches that continually remind the players that this is a construct primarily centered on abstracted spectatorship. Violent outbreaks are always on the horizon, yet never amount to an actual spilling of blood.</span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-sP_C9wmyg4Y/UcovLnDLWhI/AAAAAAAAFrc/TpPm_gsxd24/s1600/SOE.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-sP_C9wmyg4Y/UcovLnDLWhI/AAAAAAAAFrc/TpPm_gsxd24/s1600/SOE.jpg" /></a></div><div class="MsoNormal"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Things change decidedly once you start playing <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i>. Released in 2002, <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i> contains the relatively simple plot whereby the player represents a member of an underground organization bent on the destruction of the 'American Trade Organization' (a rather thinly veiled reference to the World Trade Organization), another supra-national group that ostensibly controls America and that sets off the action of the game by declaring a 'state of emergency' in response to escalating riots against ATO authority. Constructed as an 'arcade'-type game, the player is given a set amount of time to run around various levels and inflict the most amount of damage via destruction of property and elimination of police forces sent out by the ATO. Different weapons, ranging from baseball bats to rocket launchers, are scattered throughout the level, the acquisition of which greatly increases the player capacity to deal out destructive damage. There is no goal other than to rack up points for a high score, and the entire game is depicted in rather cartoony elements with the figures and weapons used taking on exaggerated appearances.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">There is a clear attempt by the creators of <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i> to have their game also play off of the WTO riots in Seattle. As such, several elements found in <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Battle for Seattle</i> carry over here. There is the question of an individual's relation to the ATO, and the use of cartoonish animations and over-the-top voice overs (throughout the game, an announcer spouts out phrases like 'Smash the Corporation!' or declares opportunities like 'Smash windows for bonus score!') give the game a festive and seditious burlesque air. (Consider that the first level puts the player in a shopping mall, full of 'innocent' people running around, which could be seen as a farcical take on the bizarre scenes of when shoppers race through a store during Christmas sales) Yet the deadly seriousness ATO police forces utilize in their hunting down of the player place this game almost beyond burlesque and into the territory of true revolution. Were it not for the fact that the core design elements of <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i>center on the arcade aesthetic, which emphasizes action over narrative, the earnestness of the situation could be seen as a tete-a-tete in which the player explores the potential ramification of the ATO's influence on the reshaping of liberal ideals.<o:p></o:p></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="398" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/yv4fdDgJTUw?rel=0" width="530"></iframe> <br /><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Spectatorship takes on new meaning when one combines the riot atmosphere with arcade gameplay found in <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i>. Beyond the numerous 'spectators' that constantly run around the game universe, the one-upmanship and competitive aspect involved in attaining high scores means that <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i> could potentially have several player-spectators waiting in line for their turn to participate in the rioting. The inherent nature of the arcade style means that part of the enjoyment comes from playing against others, and in this way one can say that <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i> actually emphasizes the role of the spectator in its fictive display of riot. Unlike <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Battle for Seattle</i>, the bulk of spectator influence is sourced in real life and not abstracted, giving <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i>greater access to the affective impact the real Seattle riots brought about.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">But what about the issue of revolutionary memory and the stain popular violence carries in our modern milieu? Paulson, again taking a cue from Ian Haywood, states that after the French Revolution, artistic depictions of riot dealt with this stain by allegorically shifting the context of riot to that of natural catastrophes. The fear of riot was displaced by aesthetizing it into an earthquake, or flood, or fire. By evoking a deliberate cartoonish style, <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i>finds a way to aesthetize its depiction of riot in a way that neutralizes the violent impulses made manifest. This cartoonish aesthetic can also be tied to what Paulson identifies as a <a href="http://www.victorianweb.org/philosophy/sublime/burke.html" target="_blank">"schematic version of (Edmund) Burke's sublime"</a> found in many articulations of the aesthetized 'nature' riot (often containing a spectator within the scene who is safe from the tremendous event),</span></div><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"…which leaves the viewer outside the picture as secure as the observer within, a mere mediator of the human effects of the natural catastrophe. Burke's 'delight' and 'terror' refer not to the terrified victim, but to the safe spectator who can identify with the source of danger, sublimating terror into delight." (74)</span></blockquote><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">While <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">State of Emergency</i> uses arcade aesthetics to facilitate this sublimation of terror into delight, <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Spec Ops: The Line</i>(from 2012) utilizes different allegorical techniques to twist this delight back into terror. While the previous two games discussed above featured already developed riots containing large numbers of participants, <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Spec Ops: The Line</i> is unique in that it features a developing riot of just three people. In a remarkable analysis, titled <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><a href="https://gumroad.com/l/fsdz" target="_blank">Killing is Harmless</a></i>, Brendan Keogh (<a href="https://twitter.com/BRKeogh" target="_blank">@BRKeogh</a>) explores how this game situated in the shooter genre actually pushes the genre forward by bringing the central actor into greater focus- the player:</span></div><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">There’s no shortage of shooters that want to be about something. But very few shooters are brave enough to look in the mirror—or to force the player that enjoys shooters to look in the mirror—and question what they see. Not to pass judgment. Not to ask them to change their ways. Just to understand what is going on here. (4)</span></blockquote><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Spec Ops: The Line</i>is a game that centers on three member of Delta Squad: Captain Martin Walker, Lieutenant Adams, and Sergeant Lugo. The player controls Walker, but the other two members accompany him through much of the story, acting as sources of additional firepower in conjunction with their role as a type of Greek chorus in questioning and reflecting on the transformations Walker undergoes as the drama progresses. Their mission- and by extension, the mission the player undertakes- is to enter the city of Dubai, wrecked by sandstorms of unimaginable intensity, and look for traces of the 33rd Battalion who entered Dubai six months ago and has not been heard from since. Yet, as Walker and his squad mates progress further into Dubai they concurrently move further away from their original mission. What begins as a search for survivors turns into a merciless quest to hunt down the commander of the 33rd- Colonel John Konrad.<o:p></o:p></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Tnx9hAihZAs/UcoxT2YewyI/AAAAAAAAFsA/NHy-wiqeGQg/s1600/spec-ops-the-line-hanging-dead.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Tnx9hAihZAs/UcoxT2YewyI/AAAAAAAAFsA/NHy-wiqeGQg/s1600/spec-ops-the-line-hanging-dead.jpg" /></a></div><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">What starts off as a controlled experience quickly descends into uncontrolled chaos. Delta Squad, and the player controlling them, slowly transform into a riotous presence in Dubai. Seemingly a force of counter-riot, or the restoration of order represented by their military/police function, Delta Squad begins by killing masked Arabic men in the opening chapters of the game, but then moves on in later parts to killing members of the 33rd, effectively making them not preservers of order but, rather, instigators of a riot that quickly becomes an uprising. Keogh observes this progression, and the impact it has on the narrative:</span></div><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Of course, it is worth noting that while the enemies I face become less othered as the game proceeds, the Arabic people are never less othered themselves but merely replaced with more relatable Western enemies (more relatable to a Western audience, at least). On one hand, this is certainly problematic. Nothing that The Line does works to de-otherise Arabic people so dramatically othered in other shooters and media more broadly. But, on the other hand, by replacing them with US soldiers halfway through the game, The Line forces the player to realise they are—have always been— shooting humans. How many players draw that connection back to consider the ‘insurgents’ of the early levels as human, however, is questionable. (23)</span></blockquote><div class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">As Walker becomes increasingly obsessed with finding Konrad, engaging in more atrocious acts along the way, his own body is transformed through injury, first with cuts and bruises and later with half his face becoming black and burned. The further Delta Squad travels into Dubai, the more their speech and reactions to events become strained and disjointed from their earlier, sanitized military speak. 'Fire on my target' and 'Moving to clear' become 'Got one' and, later, 'Got the fucker', the changes in audible speech and personal appearance an aesthetic effect meant to impress upon the player, the spectator, that Delta Squad is moving from the seditious and festive air inhabited by many shooters towards a more violent uprising that riotous behavior induces. Dubai might have been consumed by calamitous sandstorms, a clear parallel with the allegorical shifting of riot discussed earlier, but instead of sublimating terror into delight, the journey through Dubai reveals that this allegorical shift was only a cover for the real riot occurring through player action. The delight that <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Spec Ops: The Line</i> is just another shooter transforms into terror as the game continually reminds the player that they are complicit in the plot unfolding, even if they have little choice in how that plot develops.<o:p></o:p></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xoFXAsc7GZw/UcoyCXvn03I/AAAAAAAAFsI/wP7XOhtA3Oo/s1600/spec-ops-the-line-e3-2012-screenshots-1.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xoFXAsc7GZw/UcoyCXvn03I/AAAAAAAAFsI/wP7XOhtA3Oo/s1600/spec-ops-the-line-e3-2012-screenshots-1.jpg" /></a></div><br /></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The setting of Dubai, and the use of American soldiers as primary actants, again demonstrates that the central issue of this particular riot relates to questioning the role of liberalism in a post-Cold War order. Being a location that symbolizes the intrusion and extension of Western capitalist ideals, having <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Spec Ops: The Line</i> depict Dubai as laid low by both natural catastrophe and Western-sourced sociopathic motives calls into question the goals and expectations of liberalistic influence. To make matters worse, had the player and Walker, working in tandem, not entered Dubai and engaged in riotous behavior, some semblance of liberalistic good might have been salvaged. Yet once the player and Walker begin on their narrative path, the inevitable progression from order to riot to revolution must occur, moving the festivity of the shooter towards a situation that is without ambivalence.<o:p></o:p></span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Clearly, the depiction of riot has well-defined articulations in the medium of games. Many of the elements analyzed by Paulson- the aesthetics of riot and the presence of the spectator- are also utilized in ludic riots, although their ultimate goals and techniques used to achieve an aesthetic effect on the spectator differ from the engravings and even novels examined in <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">The Art of Riot</i>. While the games examined here are done so in a somewhat cursory fashion, there is a clear path here for others to pursue. The art of riot is alive an well in games, both analog and digital, and examination of how these riots are created and ludically depicted reveals something deeper about ourselves and our society.</span><o:p></o:p>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-61182159293733991322013-06-13T14:41:00.000-07:002013-06-13T14:46:48.032-07:00Drones on the Brain<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-fe00KNJmFx8/Ubo8KIxnCiI/AAAAAAAAFp8/yLnepgURt78/s1600/and-now-for-something-completely-different-1.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-fe00KNJmFx8/Ubo8KIxnCiI/AAAAAAAAFp8/yLnepgURt78/s1600/and-now-for-something-completely-different-1.jpg" /></a></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">A short update to highlight work of mine published elsewhere:</span><br /><div><ol><li><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><a href="http://www.reactionzine.com/morally-guided-drone-strikes/" target="_blank">Morally Guided Drone Strikes</a>&nbsp;- Over at re/Action Zine, I've written a post about playing the card game DRONE, recording my games using Vine, and what sort of moral questions this combination of play/record summons regarding our understanding, or lack of understanding, on the sort of impact drone warfare presents.</span></li><li><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><a href="http://murmurationfestival.tumblr.com/post/52713874238/dronefire" target="_blank">Dronefire</a>&nbsp;- A short story (gasp, fiction!) I wrote for <a href="http://www.thestate.ae/" target="_blank">The State's</a> '<a href="http://murmurationfestival.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">Murmuration: A Festival of Drone Culture</a>'. &nbsp;It was heavily influenced by a recent reading of Nabokov's <i>Pale Fire</i>, so I hope the reader can forgive my blatant mimicry.</span></li></ol></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-7793887752512046222013-05-21T13:11:00.002-07:002014-01-21T10:04:55.497-08:00Games, Truth, and Defense of the Private<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-641lw2dZBdk/UZvT30CphaI/AAAAAAAAFpU/2BDkNFNihew/s1600/VanDusen_Botanical_Garden_maze.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-641lw2dZBdk/UZvT30CphaI/AAAAAAAAFpU/2BDkNFNihew/s1600/VanDusen_Botanical_Garden_maze.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VanDusen_Botanical_Garden_maze.jpg" target="_blank"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Image of VanDusen Botanical Garden Maze, via Wikimedia Commons</span></a></td></tr></tbody></table><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">So it's no secret that I know lots of people who read more than me, who know more about various subjects than I do, and who make arguments that are pretty much right on. </span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><a href="https://twitter.com/Daniel_Joseph" target="_blank">Daniel Joseph</a> is one of those people.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Before you read this post, go check out <a href="http://dropouthangoutspaceout.tumblr.com/post/50472859975/in-relation-to-that-gorz-quote-i-would-say" target="_blank">his take on games, the separation of games into a 'private' sphere, and personal sovereignty</a>. It's good, and it's important to state up front that I think Daniel is on to something here. But I'm not going to just parrot his words and add more, because the whole Marxist take on the subject is just something I'm not well enough versed in to add anything of value.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Instead, I want to take some of Daniel's points and talk about games and truth. This is more of a riff, just like Daniel's post, so know that these ideas are evolving and definitely in need of some evaluative critique. I'm hoping as other read this, they can bring in their own perspective and help me sharpen my own.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I think that Daniel is right to see in games (or, to be more accurate, gamers that play games) an activity that has clearly been separated, clearly been demarcated, from what we might call 'public' life. Playing a game is a private act to many, even if they turn around and spout all sorts of opinions on the subject all the time. By 'private', I don't mean a hidden activity- I mean a personal relationship between a person and an object of culture that they, generally, pursue in settings one wouldn't label 'public', i.e. your house, or basement, or even on a friend's couch.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I also think that mass production of games brought the various forms of entertainment out of a publicly shared sphere (I'm thinking here of Baseball in the glory days, way before consoles or even commercially produced board games) and into one's own home, or basement, or shared with a close friend on their couch. While we certainly still have organized sports, I'm hesitant to classify them as 'games' in a 'private' way. Most viewers of organized sports are 'fans', not 'gamers'. But if we want to talk about <em>Bioshock: Infinite</em>, <em>Twilight Struggle</em>, or the latest Twine creation, then I'm much more comfortable with calling these 'games', because players not only participate in the culture- they also have a hand in shaping how the culture around these artifacts comes into form.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">But there's another reason why I think games are largely seen as 'private'; they have been, and still are, arbiters of truth. Human agency mediated through gameplay produces truth that is applicable to situations outside the strict, deterministic boundaries of ludic reverie. Sometimes this truth takes on abstract form. If you play 'Go', for example, you're not necessarily learning directly applicable military tactics, but you are learning basic strategic and tactical lessons. Other times, truth from games takes on a much more directly applicable form, such as the reasoning behind Christoph Weickmann's 'Great King's Game'. A far more complicated version of Chess, Weickmann's game had pieces that were modeled after positions found in 17th century German political-military circles. If a lower ranking piece captured a higher ranking piece, it could take on that pieces 'attributes'- in effect, it could become promoted to a higher position.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Yet beyond this design mechanism, Weickmann also saw the 'Great King's Game' as a means to quickly evaluate candidates for service to the King. What would previously take years of personal observation, with Weickmann's game one could evaluate a person's inner qualities in a matter of hours or days. <a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/10/games-word-part-i-epistemic-reservoir.html" target="_blank">Play became an arbiter for truth</a>. It's no coincidence, at least to me, that the at the dawn of the modern age, when bourgeois values began their ascendancy, we see games take on more direct linkages to the production of truth. It's also no coincidence that this direct linkage manifested itself at a time when public and private spheres of activity, and how to best regulate these spheres, became the central focus of governments across Europe. The rise of liberalistic ideals then could be seen in tandem with the rise of games, increasingly shuttled into 'private' corners of life, as the two are inextricably linked through their assertion of truth derived from 'private' activity.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Another point: when Daniel discusses how games became seen by gamers as an activity whose interaction was strictly held in the bounds of a "private garden, their summer cottage," we can find a direct parallel to that of Fin de siècle Austria, and the bourgeois retreat to country garden estates. Here I borrow from Carl Schorske and his essay 'The Transformation of the Garden' (found in his book, Fin de Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture).</span><br /><blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Wherever European artists made the difficult attempt to grapple with an existing order, as they so often did in the nineteenth century, social realism emerged as a dominant literary mode. …Yet Austrian literature found other media to refract the problem of relating cultural values to a social structure in transition. The image of the garden was one such medium. Since ancient days, the garden has served Western man as a mirror of paradise to measure his temporal state. As it appears at crucial points in Austrian literature, it helps us to mark stages in the developing relationship of culture and social structure, utopia and reality. Within its narrow confines, the garden captures and reflects the changing outlook of Austria's cultivated middle class as the ancient Empire approached disintegration.</span></blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Schorske then goes on to explore the novel <em>Der Nachsommer</em>, written by Adalbert Stifter in 1857. In it, the hero-character, Henirich Drendorf, comes from a bourgeois family whose patriarch instills in his children the inner qualities of self-improvement through intellectual interests. Henrich desires to become a scientist, an occupation different from his father who was a merchant, and his quest to classify botanical species leads him to discover the <em>Rosenhaus</em>, a 'Paradise Regained', located in the countryside. It's owner, Freiherr von Risach, was a peasant-turned-nobleman by way of the Austrian civil service, and he built the <em>Rosenhaus</em> for "contemplation and practical activity on his own circumscribed domain, enriching his understanding and imparting, to those who would learn, his formula for a perfected and harmonious existence." Schorske goes into more depth, further on, about the true purpose of Risach's <em>Rosenhaus</em>:</span><br /><blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Risach conducted his utopian estate on principles combining the practical prudence of Daniel Defoe with the classic sublimity of Johann Winckelmann. He integrated nature and culture into a single continuum. The <em>Rosenhaus</em> garden, central symbol of this integration, was designed not merely for aesthetic effect. Unlike the gardens of the country houses of city people, "where one cultivates unfruitful shrubs or at best bushes bearing only ornamental fruit," Risach's garden mingled flowers with vegetables to produce "feelings of domesticity and usefulness." Nature was perfected by science into art: purged of weeds and insects, the <em>Rosenhaus</em> garden bloomed "clean and clear." Risach's estate was thus no parturient paradise for a pleasure-seeking <em>homo ludens</em>. <em>Nature naturante</em> was curbed and perfected in accordance with God's intention that Adam fulfill a task in the Garden of Eden: "to dress and to keep it." Utility and beauty result from man's self-conscious and disciplined effort to activate nature's bounty.</span></blockquote><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">But, as Henrich discovers, not all is well at the <em>Rosenhaus</em>. Risach, it turns out, has severe contempt for his servants, micromanaging them to the utmost degree and seeing in their uncouth ways an inseparable gap between his cultured demeanor and their uncultivated manners. Schorske notes that Stifter's novel demonstrates that, "the cost of progress in higher culture was deeper cleavage in the social structure," a sentiment echoed later when Schorske also remarks that, "Stifter showed that the social structure grew more radically stratified and less integrated as <em>die Wissenden</em> (translated as 'the knowing') progressed in the realization of their cultural ideal."</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">While it might seem that my digression into Schorske above was a detour away from Daniel's post, consider that games could be seen as a gamers retreat to a 'private garden, their summer cottage'. In an attempt to escape from the totality of a life ruled by capital, we can clearly link the vehement defense of the 'private sphere' of games by gamers to the intrusions of those from the outside. This would also explain why so many gamers turn away from notions of 'gamification', which could be directly seen as analogous to the gardens of the country houses of city people that produce 'unfruitful bushes' or, at best, 'ornamental fruit.' Only in a sphere made private, in contrast to the public, can gamers cultivate the sort of garden that blooms 'clean and clear.' Instead of corruption, gamers can find 'utility and beauty' that result from a gamers self-conscious and disciplined effort to activate a game's bounty. This is possible because games are arbiters of truth and, as a corollary, beauty.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">So lets recap what's been discussed so far: games, with the birth of the modern period, achieve direct, actionable linkages to the production of truth, which also coincides with the rise of liberalistic practices of which capitalism is a part. As capital facilitates the mass production of games, themselves cultural artifacts, these forms of entertainment that were previously limited to the shared 'public' sphere become absorbed and encapsulated in 'private' spheres by the rise of a new type of cultural actor; the gamer. The gamer, in turn, sees in games a way to cultivate a utility and beauty, but only if the the uncultivated others, located in the 'public' sphere of activity, can be successfully distinguished from the <em>die Wissenden</em> (gamers). This is facilitated by a creation of the 'private' garden of games, of which gamers hold court and vehemently protect their domains from the intrusion of the public in various forms, be they claims of sexism, transphobia, or any number of other issues of which constitutes the concerns of the 'public' sphere.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">What makes this defense of games so visceral for gamers is that their cultivation is a cultivation of truth. And if the public comes at these games, and by extension gamers, challenging the sort of truth these games produce, then the ultimate threat is not to the game but to the gamer who cultivates play of the game in his or her own private sphere. Games have become the extension of the grand compromise liberalism invokes on those who see themselves as bourgeois- gamers feel righteous indignation because the core issue is demarcating what they feel should be private from what others feel is a public issue. This wouldn't even be an issue, however, if games didn't hold such access to the production of truth.</span>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-38179374621159024422013-04-22T06:48:00.000-07:002013-04-22T12:57:38.884-07:00Thoughts for Sale<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-8A2M8KcP8p4/UXTAEjGIQZI/AAAAAAAAFf0/JlVKg2eK1JY/s1600/Peasants_breaking_bread.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-8A2M8KcP8p4/UXTAEjGIQZI/AAAAAAAAFf0/JlVKg2eK1JY/s1600/Peasants_breaking_bread.jpg" /></a></div><div class="p1"><br /></div><div class="p1">Today I am releasing an ebook/pdf titled '<a href="https://gumroad.com/l/peasantmuse" target="_blank">Thoughts from the Peasant Muse</a>'.&nbsp; It contains 23 essays, most of which originally appeared here on my blog.&nbsp; I've decided to sell it through Gumroad, and for the price of $3 (or more if you feel generous) you will receive epub, pdf, and Amazon compatible versions of the ebook.&nbsp; It contains 55,000+ words spread over 140 pages, and each essay has an explanatory preface that provides background information on what motivated me to write the piece.&nbsp; The topics covered span book reviews, Russian history, digital culture, games, and even a episode review of Boardwalk Empire.&nbsp; In short, there's something for everybody.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">Why am I selling essays I've made available for free on my blog?&nbsp; In part, I wanted to gather a compilation of my best pieces as something to hand my committee when I submit my portfolio.&nbsp; I also wanted to see how difficult it would be to create my own ebook- and it turns out it wasn't that hard.&nbsp; But the main reason I wanted to gather my thoughts, place them in a nice format, and sell them is that there are people who enjoy my work- giving them the option to purchase an ebook provides a way for them to directly support me.&nbsp; I will never place ads on my blog, nor will I change the Creative Commons license from its current CC-BY form.&nbsp; I highly encourage anyone to take my work, remix it, change it, do whatever, because I am a firm believer that making one's work freely available for others to use in their own pursuits is one of the greatest contributions that can be made to maintain and grow the cultural commons.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">Yet it is an inescapable fact that writing for my blog does cost me time and money.&nbsp; I, generally, enjoy eating and paying my rent.&nbsp; My dogs enjoy eating as well.&nbsp; So I'm offering the one meaningful thing I have to offer- my thoughts.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">Now to be clear- every essay contained in this compilation can be freely accessed, here, at Peasant Muse.&nbsp; My other essays that have been published at the likes of <a href="http://www.playthepast.org/?author_name=jantley" target="_blank">Play the Past</a>, <a href="http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/no-accidents-comrade/" target="_blank">The New Inquiry</a>, and <a href="http://www.themediares.com/pages/grammar/glass-meme-game.html" target="_blank">The Media Res</a> are also freely available.&nbsp; Nothing is stopping you from gathering these posts and making your own compilation of my work.&nbsp; But I would ask that if you enjoy reading what I write, please consider purchasing a copy of 'Thoughts from the Peasant Muse'.&nbsp; It would mean a lot to me, and it would also help me pay my bills.&nbsp; And eat.&nbsp; And let my dogs eat.&nbsp; My car also needs some work.&nbsp; You get the idea.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">So now that you know why I've put an ebook together, I thought it would be a good idea to explain *how* I put my ebook together. &nbsp;(For all the images below, click to enlarge)<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-aZSQw1JD3H8/UXU_CrNnsbI/AAAAAAAAFgU/oxxmIB-7Q1U/s1600/Pages+Example.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="400" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-aZSQw1JD3H8/UXU_CrNnsbI/AAAAAAAAFgU/oxxmIB-7Q1U/s400/Pages+Example.png" width="387" /></a></div><br /></div><div class="p2">I used two programs, Pages '09 and <a href="http://calibre-ebook.com/" target="_blank">Calibre</a>, to construct the layout of the ebook/pdf and convert it into various formats.&nbsp; Using <a href="http://images.apple.com/support/pages/docs/ePub_Best_Practices_EN.zip" target="_blank">this template</a> provided by Apple for making ebooks in Pages, I was able to easily make chapters and have a table of contents automatically update as I added more material.&nbsp; There were some issues with using Pages, however.&nbsp; For one thing, the images I used as headers would shift to the left margin, even if I centered the image, when I converted the document into an epub file.&nbsp; After much searching through the forums, I discovered a workaround.&nbsp; After placing the image, (which as to be 'inline' and not 'floating', as epub doesn't support floating images) you have to create a center-justified 'chapter subheading' just under the picture for it to remain in place after conversion.</div><div class="p1"><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xg6OVt3Dt_M/UXU-xr3yEBI/AAAAAAAAFgE/XiypmpbBGOk/s1600/Chapter+Subtitle+Edited.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="302" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xg6OVt3Dt_M/UXU-xr3yEBI/AAAAAAAAFgE/XiypmpbBGOk/s400/Chapter+Subtitle+Edited.png" width="400" /></a></div><br /></div><div class="p2">Other than that, the process of importing text and then setting up block quotes or hyperlinks was incredibly easy.&nbsp; While the template provides an 'index' and other pages, I just made my index section another 'chapter'- and did the same thing for the 'About the Author' page.&nbsp; After I had the layout set up as I liked, I used Pages to convert it into an epub file.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">One thing about the cover- using Pages, your cover will not stretch to fill the page.&nbsp; It will instead create a smaller image (because it has to be 'inline' and not 'floating') that makes your cover look small on the various reading devices.&nbsp; Solving this problem is easy though- it involves using Calibre, which was the other piece of software I utilized in making my ebook.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">Calibre is a wonderful piece of open source software.&nbsp; It can act as a library for all your various ebooks, and it also syncs with reading devices that are plugged in to your computer.&nbsp; Once I had my Pages-to-epub conversion complete, I would import the epub file into Calibre.&nbsp; One of the better features of Calibre is the ability to convert one type of file into another- although the results will vary if you're using a file type (like pdf) that isn't easily adjustable.&nbsp; Taking my original epub file, I would have Calibre convert it into another epub file.&nbsp; This sounds counterintuitive, but by doing this I could select my own cover image which allowed me to escape the 'small' cover image utilized by Pages.<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-aSb4g5P2aNI/UXU-7Tf96WI/AAAAAAAAFgM/H3lEDUpMhlA/s1600/Calibre.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="281" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-aSb4g5P2aNI/UXU-7Tf96WI/AAAAAAAAFgM/H3lEDUpMhlA/s400/Calibre.png" width="400" /></a></div><br /></div><div class="p2">Calibre also has the ability to convert epub files into Amazon friendly files, which includes the latest AWZ3 file-type along with the older MOBI standard.&nbsp; You can also use Calibre as an ebook reader, and I would often send my working files over to Calibre to be converted and proofed for formatting errors.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">For pdf conversions, I just used the default export tool found in Pages.&nbsp; Since pdf files are really just images, you can put in much nicer formatting items like page numbers or lines across the page to separate sections of text.&nbsp; (Epub/Amazon need to be able to adjust the text based on a users desired font size, hence the inability to incorporate nicer formatting styles)&nbsp; You are also given more liberty to play with pictures and their placement into the text with a pdf file, but since I wanted some degree of continuity between the versions I decided to include only minor changes to the pdf version of my ebook.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">Now some of you might not have Pages- in that case, I suggest using <a href="https://code.google.com/p/sigil/" target="_blank">Sigil</a>.&nbsp; Sigil is another open source software tool used for creating ebooks.&nbsp; It's a little more stripped down UI-wise, but if you are adept in HTML and/or CSS you can pull off much more interesting tricks with your ebook formatting using Sigil.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">I should mention one other minor issue using Pages presented; my converted epub file, when displayed on iBook devices, contained hyphenated words.&nbsp; The Amazon file did not, and the pdf didn't as well, but the epub file viewed on iBooks would create hyphenations when the word line exceeded the space provided on the screen.&nbsp; From my own limited knowledge of what was going on behind the scenes, it would appear that Pages epub conversion tool inserts 'soft-hyphens' into the very code of the epub file.&nbsp; I wasn't able to find a way to strip these 'soft-hyphens' out of the file through Calibre, so those who view my ebook on their iPhone or iPad will have to deal with hyphenated words.&nbsp; It doesn't look elegant, but if it bothers people they can just load up the pdf version of the ebook and see nice, clean formatting.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">I am almost certain that had I used Sigil to create the ebook text, the hyphenation issue wouldn't be a problem.&nbsp; Live and learn, I guess.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">Going through this process only affirmed to me how easy it is to make one's own ebook for all sorts of uses.&nbsp; I know that when I get back to teaching students, I will give them the essays/handouts in this form because 1) it's easy and 2) giving students essential files in formats that they are more likely to use increases the chance that they will actually use them.</div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p1">So that's about it.&nbsp; If you have questions over anything I've gone over, drop me a line in the comments or through my email (jantley AT gmail DOT com).</div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-34661434128531166582013-04-15T11:42:00.000-07:002013-04-15T16:18:50.654-07:00Board Stiff with Formalism<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-lSryqQ4bBlg/UWxIfQv6kkI/AAAAAAAAFAE/Xs4-_1j5xS8/s1600/3655619312_f47a31dd75.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-lSryqQ4bBlg/UWxIfQv6kkI/AAAAAAAAFAE/Xs4-_1j5xS8/s1600/3655619312_f47a31dd75.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/darkb4dawn/3655619312/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Photo via Henrik Berger Jørgensen</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">There's nothing like being fashionably late to a party, or a debate about formalism and games.&nbsp; Oh, wait- I mean, a debate about formalism and digital games.&nbsp; Because if you've read all the posts and back-and-forth's, you probably noticed one thing; it almost entirely centers on the medium of digital games.&nbsp; Which is not a bad thing, really.&nbsp; It just happens to be a shame, because the topic is larger than the digital and should, rightfully, include the medium of board games.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">First off, I want to be clear that I'm not going to discuss the grand old question 'are games art?'<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Personally, I find that question to be inane and a complete waste of energy.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span><a href="http://colleenmacklin.tumblr.com/post/47982808290/que-es-mas-macho" target="_blank">Others agree</a>. &nbsp;I'm totally certain that others disagree vehemently, but that's my stance and you won't convince me otherwise.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">What I want to investigate here is an altogether deeper issue.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Why, in all this debate on the question of formalism, have board games been mostly ignored?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Because it seems to me that the board-based brethren get short shrift when it comes to the debates circulating around the larger topic of 'games'.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Raph Koster, who let loose a salvo in the formalist fracas with his '<a href="http://www.raphkoster.com/2013/04/09/a-letter-to-leigh/" target="_blank">A Letter to Leigh</a>', does mention board games, but he also cloaks their presence, and by extension the absence of other 'non-games', under larger issues of player agency and 'gameness'.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>While I don't agree with Koster's overall assessment, which I detail below, I do want to make clear that by bringing board games into the conversation Koster has done the debate a huge service.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Zack Morris time out: Pop quiz- what makes a game a game?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Would you be amazed to know I'm playing a game right now?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>It's called, 'Write a Blog Post' and I'm currently kicking the ass out of it.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>I'm winning in every way, despite having no defined objectives (if I finish, did I really complete the game?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>If I quit writing my blog post, have I not achieved some sort of win state?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Does it go on, ad infinitum?), and the only person playing is myself.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>I just earned bonus points for writing this.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>End Zack Morris time out.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Specifically, let me address one particular board game Koster brings up in his post- Brenda Romero's <i><a href="http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1012259/Train-(or-How-I-Dumped" target="_blank">Train</a></i>.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Koster categorizes this 'game' as one that "uses the fact of engaging with it at all to accomplish its effect," before asking if this type of 'game' is really just embracing 'narrative moves' over "game-like moves."<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>He questions the aesthetic, implying that it is "something that should probably only be done once, marveled at, and then moved past."<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>By suggesting that <i>Train</i> is a game where "the only moral move is not to play," Koster questions, at a very fundamental level, if the aesthetic of play in this type of game is not merely a twist, a sort of trick of narrative, thus making it not a game at all.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">But is the only moral move not to play?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>To me, this is very indicative of a 'formalist' critique.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>This is something board games have to constantly deal with, probably more so than digital games, because many players categorize the board games they play according to very formalist schemas.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Caylus is a worker placement game, Twilight Struggle is an area control game, Agricola is part of the larger family of Euro games, and so forth.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>It's easy to think of board games this way.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But that's not the whole story.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>If you take a look at many reviews of games, they focus on more than mechanics- they ask deeper questions of story, of theme, of how the game actually plays.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>These reviews, without explicitly stating it, ask, "How does this game give me a narrative to interact with?" - which, in my mind, is something deeper than a formalist critique.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>It's a humanist critique.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>How does this game make me react as a human?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Formalism is a product of the rational.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Humanism is a product of the metaphysical.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Returning to the question, "Is the only moral move (of <i>Train</i>) not to play?", my answer is: no.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>It's not just no, it's a hell no.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Why?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span><i>Train</i>is about providing the player a sense, terrible as it is, of the sort of grotesque, normalizing effects that focusing on transporting Jews to concentration camps presents to those attempting to maximize and make efficient such transportation.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Playing <i>Train</i>isn't supposed to be pretty, or even fun.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>It's meant to be torturous, it's meant to make you ask and question the source of your own humanity.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span><o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Did you take glee, ignorantly, of moving the most amount of people to the end of the line?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Probably.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>And when you discovered the true purpose of the game- moving representative figures to their representative death- did you recoil and become sick at the idea?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>The ethical answer is yes.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But would you have encountered this full range of quandary, of questioning your own humanity, if you simply refused to play the game out of moral concerns?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>To be honest, the moral question brought up by Koster assumes you know what the game is about before you play it.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But that posits perfect knowledge, which *any* game must assume you don't possess at the first go-around.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>So my answer is that if you want to know what this game is about, you absolutely have to play it.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>And in doing so, in playing the game of <i>Train</i> as it was meant to be played, perhaps you can affirm a part of your soul and it's place among the larger population of humanity.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Does this deny player agency?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Does <i>Train</i> embody the qualities of gameness?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Is this just a trick of narrative?<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Asking these sort of questions, to me, is sort of like the old adage: If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>If you have to ask do these qualities make <i>Train</i> a game, you probably shouldn't play it.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>I say this in no affront to Koster, but I do think asking these sort of questions is indicative of the formalist trap of evaluation.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Which is, to say, I think this falls along the same issues as asking if 'games are art'.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Should you only play <i>Train</i> once?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Perhaps.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Does that mean you can't watch others play it, see their reactions, and take that experience in conjunction with your own?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Brenda Romero designed the game, has seen it played many times- and I'm pretty sure her answer would be 'no'.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Because, in a metaphysical sense, watching others play <i>Train</i> can be just as powerful as playing it yourself, even if that game lessens its 'gameplay' effect after one session.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Now I'm fully aware that opening your argument with a game like <i>Train</i> is a bit like dropping a hydrogen bomb to solve an ant problem in your house.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>It's a bit of overkill.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But I make this example as a way to demonstrate that similar metaphysical games, like so many Twine examples, can easily be sunk in this same formalist quicksand without considering, truly, their full effect on the player, or even those not playing but merely observing a Twine game being played.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>If your evaluative criteria is that "You can't do better at <i>Train</i>", then you have blatantly favored the rational over the metaphysical.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Which is fine, to a point.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But it certainly isn't applicable to the nebulous category that we call 'games'.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Games are, by their very nature, a blending of the rational and the metaphysical.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Board games tend to draw this blending out in a way that video games do not, so easily, reveal.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Because with board games, you have to address the form they present at a basic level. But you absolutely have to go past that for any real critique.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>You have to go past mechanics to consider the humanist perspective.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Koster says 'art games' and AAA are about control, that "they are…more about the author than the player."<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss player agency the way Koster is comfortable doing, especially with regard to deeply personal games- like Dys4ia.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>As a player of these of games, am I not affirming my place in the broader perspective of humanity when I play a deeply personal game?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Why is the narrative effect a hindrance in Twine games, but for other games- like Andean Abyss or Twilight Struggle- the narrative effect adds to their luster and allure?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>When you step out of the strictly rational bounds of critique, when you go beyond the form of the game, you enter into a territory much less defined by exclusives or schematizations.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>You enter into the being of the player themselves, their ability to take what is presented and draw their own lessons from the act of play.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>I can think of no greater surrendering of control than to let someone bring his or her own interpretation to the fore.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Koster calls this process out "as rhetoric and not…dialectic," with the consequence being that Twine games (or really any deeply personal games) "move against the fundamental current of gameness."<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But I think this makes the mistake of placing the game on a central pillar and reducing the role, the agency, of the player who approaches this pillar.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Koster says, "the unique power of games, to me, lies in the conversation between player and designer."<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But I disagree- the unique power of games lies in the conversation between the player and themselves while interacting with a designers interpretation.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>If we place the game on the pillar, as is the tendency of the formalist critique, then we are accepting the supremacy of the rational over the metaphysical.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>If we place the player on the pillar, then we reaffirm the humanity in the game and accept the presence of the metaphysical in conjunction with the rational.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>In the end, the pillar disappears under this ideal and we no longer are bound by rhetoric. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span>We become the dialectical.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Play is not something that begins when the game starts and ends when it is put away.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Play is the process of using a rhetorical device to engage in a dialectic with ourselves.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>That's why I can't agree with Koster when he says, "games have had nothing to say for so long."<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>They have so much to say that it's easy to just link this outpouring strictly to mechanics and then reject what the game has to say by rejecting the mechanics linked to its outpouring.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>When you imply that Twine games impose a narrative rather than have the player construct a narrative, that critique is easy to accept or recognize because the mechanics of Twine are rather straightforward.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But to look only at mechanics and not ask the deeper, metaphysical questions of what play in this medium produces as far as conversation between the player and themselves is to miss a very large part of why games exist at all.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Or, to put it another way, to frame a game experience as between a player and designer is to favor, exclusively, the mechanical over anything else.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But if we frame a game experience as between a player and themselves, we can elude the trap of formalism and go straight to the dialectical process play intrinsically produces.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">But I've digressed far too much from my main question- why have board games been largely left out of this formalist debate?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Why are digital games entering this phase now?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>I think, in part, digital games are coming to terms with the *way* in which they are played.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>When people begin to critique the effectiveness of Bioshock as a first person shooter, what they are really critiquing is the necessity of using a standard game controller to interact with the digital medium. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span>Digital games have long been experiences mediated through various controllers, and this recent 'piercing of the veil' with regards to Bioshock should be seen as a turn away from the formalist obsession with mechanics, and the controllers that facilitate them, towards a bigger question of how does this formalist 'roadblock' hinder or not hinder the conversation the player is having with themselves while playing the game.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><br /></div><div class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt; margin-bottom: 0in; mso-layout-grid-align: none; mso-pagination: none; tab-stops: .5in 1.0in 1.5in 2.0in 2.5in 3.0in 3.5in 4.0in 4.5in 5.0in 5.5in 6.0in; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">That's why board games can, and should, provide the digital game critiques with an exemplar of how to negotiate around various formalist roadblocks.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>So many players of board games ask these sort of questions every time they play.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>While many do, admittedly, frame this inquiry around a mechanical theme- does the card driven mechanic of Twilight Struggle enhance the gameplay experience?- the larger questions asked go to the heart of what it means to interpret the game experience as a player.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>The various 'controllers' utilized in board games are hardly fixed in place, and the numerous mods or house rules scrawled on box tops are a testament to the wide degree of flexibility board games enjoy over their more rigid digital cousins.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Now I would be the first to admit the board game/digital game relationship is not a 1:1 experience, and there is only so far comparative analyses can go in these sort of endeavors.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>But the links are there, waiting to be explored.<o:p></o:p></span></div><div class="MsoNormal" 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UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" Name="Bibliography"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading"/> </w:LatentStyles></xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 10]><style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-language:JA;} </style><![endif]--> <!--StartFragment--> <span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">So while I find myself almost totally at odds with what Koster presented in his 'Open Letter', I nevertheless admire his insistence on bringing the question of board games back into this larger debate.</span><!--EndFragment--> Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com6tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-15639551678743462392013-04-11T11:49:00.002-07:002013-12-11T10:24:34.694-08:00Elsevier is an honorable company...<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-7e668BpvZUg/UWcFO_5_3XI/AAAAAAAAE8s/jMUJgRqTWxA/s1600/Woodcut_illustration_of_Porcia_Catonis_counseling_Marcus_Junius_Brutus,_Julius_Caesar's_death_at_the_hands_of_Brutus_and_Gaius_Cassius_Longinus,_and_Porcia's_suicide_-_Penn_Provenance_Project.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-7e668BpvZUg/UWcFO_5_3XI/AAAAAAAAE8s/jMUJgRqTWxA/s1600/Woodcut_illustration_of_Porcia_Catonis_counseling_Marcus_Junius_Brutus,_Julius_Caesar's_death_at_the_hands_of_Brutus_and_Gaius_Cassius_Longinus,_and_Porcia's_suicide_-_Penn_Provenance_Project.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woodcut_illustration_of_Porcia_Catonis_counseling_Marcus_Junius_Brutus,_Julius_Caesar's_death_at_the_hands_of_Brutus_and_Gaius_Cassius_Longinus,_and_Porcia's_suicide_-_Penn_Provenance_Project.jpg" target="_blank">Woodcut on the Death of Julius Caesar</a></td></tr></tbody></table><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Sometimes you need a play to <a href="http://blog.mendeley.com/press-release/qa-team-mendeley-joins-elsevier/" target="_blank">understand the times we live in</a>. &nbsp;So, I present to you an excerpt from <i>The Death of Open Access</i>:</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">ANTONY:</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"></span> <br /><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Friends, Scholars, Countrymen, lend me your browser's window!</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>I have come to bury Open Access, not to praise it.</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>The evil that ideas do lives after them,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>The good is oft interred with their dismissal;</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>So let it be with Open Access.&nbsp; The noble Elsevier</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>Hath told you Open Access was ambitious;</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>If it were so, it was a grievous fault,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>And grievously hath Open Access answer'd it.</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>Here, under the leave of Elsevier and the rest-</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>For Elsevier is an honorable company;</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>So are they all, all honorable companies-</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>Come I to speak in Open Access' funeral.</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>It was my friend, faithful and just to me;</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>But Elsevier says it was ambitious,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>And Elsevier is an honorable company.</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>It hath brought many articles home to Rome,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>Whose ransoms did the general idea-coffers fill.</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>Did this in Open Access seem ambitious?</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>When that the poor have cried, Open Access hath wept;</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>Yet Elsevier says it was ambitious,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>And Elsevier is an honorable company.</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>You all did see that on the Internet</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>I thrice presented it with kingly paywall access,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>Which it did thrice refuse.&nbsp; Was this ambition?</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>Yet Elsevier says it was ambitious,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>And Elsevier is an honorable company.</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>I do not speak to disprove what Elsevier spoke,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>But here I am to speak what I do know.</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>You all did love it once, not without cause;</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>What cause withholds you then to mourn for it?</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>And men have lost their reason.&nbsp; Bear with me;</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>My heart is in the coffin there with Open Access,</span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>And I must pause till it come back to me.</span></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-47930875448095765492013-03-25T08:57:00.000-07:002013-03-26T13:25:19.487-07:00Calling in a Drone Strike on War Games<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-s0kmy9P_Yh4/UU4vWn7qGhI/AAAAAAAAEw8/xiVsHB6hfkg/s1600/Damascus+Steel.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="320" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-s0kmy9P_Yh4/UU4vWn7qGhI/AAAAAAAAEw8/xiVsHB6hfkg/s320/Damascus+Steel.png" width="313" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><i><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Illustration from '<a href="https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=nWsZAAAAYAAJ" target="_blank">Krilof and His Fables</a>', 1869</span></i></td></tr></tbody></table><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">There is a Russian fable from the 19th century that goes like this: a peasant, at the local market fair, happened upon a fine blade of damascus steel in a pile of otherwise crudely wrought iron.&nbsp; Congratulating himself on such a bargain purchase, the peasant took the blade home and made use of it in all sorts of base manners- repairing fences, chopping wood- so that it soon became nicked and dull and otherwise a pale shadow of its former self and purpose.&nbsp; One day a hedgehog found the blade, carelessly discarded, under a bench inside the peasant's hut.&nbsp; The hedgehog asked the blade, " Are you not ashamed of the ignoble life you have served?"&nbsp; The blade replied, "The shame is not mine- the shame is borne on he who knew little of the feats I could perform!"</span></div><div class="p2"><br /></div><div class="p3" style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">***************************</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">On 6 March, Rand Paul took the senate floor on a <a href="http://www.paul.senate.gov/?p=press_release&amp;id=727" target="_blank">filibuster ride</a> not seen in recent memory.&nbsp; His purpose was to delay the confirmation of, now, CIA Director John Brennan, due mainly to questions revolving around the possible use of Drones to conduct targeted killings of US citizens on US soil.&nbsp; In his opening remarks of what would become a 13 hour speech, Paul summoned another 19th century tale for metaphor- Alice in Wonderland:</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"They say Lewis Carroll is fiction. Alice never fell down a rabbit hole and the White Queen's caustic judgments are not really a threat to your security. Or has America the beautiful become Alice's wonderland? 'No, no, said the queen. Sentence first; verdict afterwards. Stuff and nonsense, Alice said widely - loudly. The idea of having the sentence first? 'Hold your tongue, said the queen, turning purple. I won't, said Alice. Release the drones, said the Queen, as she shouted at the top of her voice."</span></blockquote></div><div class="p2"><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-izew8ARGwhE/UU4yFGgATPI/AAAAAAAAExM/ITqAMPvUkyI/s1600/Alice+Pic.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="301" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-izew8ARGwhE/UU4yFGgATPI/AAAAAAAAExM/ITqAMPvUkyI/s320/Alice+Pic.png" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><i><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Illustration from '<a href="https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Alice_Gerstenberg_Alice_in_Wonderland?id=mitCAAAAIAAJ&amp;feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsImJvb2stbWl0Q0FBQUFJQUFKIl0." target="_blank">Alice in Wonderland</a>', 1915</span></i></td></tr></tbody></table></div><div class="p1"><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, via a Drone launched from a secret base in Saudi Arabia, signaled a new threshold being crossed in the eyes of Paul and others.&nbsp; Drones are reshaping the way we conduct warfare and surveillance, both at home and on the numerous fronts pervaded by American interests.&nbsp; Yet beyond the legal and moral issues raised by Drone 'signature' strikes, there are larger questions on how Drones reshape the very notions of war and control, not to mention how the influence of liberalism created an environment where drones could thrive.&nbsp; In seeking answers to these questions one has to reconcile the rise of drones with the relative decline of war games as tools for conducting war and recognize that in the difference between these two lies the human drama of reconciling rationality and metaphysics.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p3" style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">***************************</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">But, one may ask, what is the connection between drones and war games?&nbsp; Here we turn to the Sequester or, rather, what the Sequester portents for the future of war gaming in the US military.&nbsp; In a recent article by the New York Times, '<a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;ved=0CDUQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2013%2F03%2F11%2Fus%2Fpolitics%2Fmandatory-cuts-could-open-path-to-deeper-defense-trims.html%3Fpagewanted%3Dall&amp;ei=UDVOUYTJHMrTigKxkYHwAQ&amp;usg=AFQjCNEpOih0vk9DuMSH-Y9PaHof8KzLzQ&amp;sig2=NXOtmPcoBY_t6c9DBF_Qkg&amp;bvm=bv.44158598,d.cGE" target="_blank">Mandatory Cuts Could Open Path to Deeper Defense Trims</a>', the point is made that while various aspects of the military machine under sequestration will be reduced in scope and cost, the savings these cuts produce will be put to greater use in expanding other, more timely programs such as special operations forces, offensive/defensive cyberweapons, and, of course, building more drones.&nbsp; One area already targeted by sequestration is travel funding available for military personnel to attend war gaming conventions.&nbsp; Rex Brynen notes the <a href="http://paxsims.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/professional-gaming-conferences-feel-the-sequestration-axe/" target="_blank">consequences of these cuts</a> at PaxSims:</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"As budget sequestration takes a bite out the discretionary spending by the US military, one casualty has been conference and workshop participation—including conferences on professional wargaming. Most military personnel (and other personnel at DoD institutions) have had support for conference participation severely restricted, if not suspended altogether.</span>&nbsp;</blockquote><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The MORS special meeting on professional gaming that had been scheduled for 26­-28 March, for example, will now be postponed to next fiscal year. Similarly, the Connections 2013 conference, scheduled for July 2013, is also struggling to attract the usual number of US military participants given the absence of government travel funding."</span></blockquote></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">This comes on the heels of a process already underway in which the top war gaming institutions of the military, the National Defense University (NDU) and its nested subsidiary the Center for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL) face reductions amounting to a third or more of their budget.&nbsp; Michael Peck, <a href="http://kotaku.com/5957752/washingtons-war-on-wargaming" target="_blank">in a post for Kotaku</a> on 5 Nov 2012, made this observation re: cuts at NDU and CASL:</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"(NDU and CASL's) downfall illustrates what one source told me; that this is an example of the military shunning rigorous strategic thinking and focusing on narrow short-term issues instead. We didn't have enough rigorous political and military thinking in the days before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the results speak for themselves. There is still reason to question whether the U.S. has a clear sense of why and how it will fight the next war…Wargaming can't answer all questions. But it can help us ask the right ones."</span></blockquote></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Why is the military so keen on cutting war game programs and institutions, whose total budget amounts to less than the cost of a few Predator drones?&nbsp; Here we need to examine the nature of war as conceived through the use of war games and compare that to the one espoused by drone ideology.&nbsp; And the best way to do that is to consider how each attempts to create their own 'Borges Map', a 1:1 representation of reality placed on top of lived reality.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p3" style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">***************************</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Consider the war game.&nbsp; Philip von Hilgers, in his history of 'Kriegspiel' in Germany, notes that war games allow one to play with various military hypotheses without being bound by the constraints of time.</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"The war games and map exercises did not simply dissolve temporal references through a symbolic system, but allowed a temporal extension to occur that seemed to correspond to the hypothetical situation. It was precisely because war games granted time unlimited space that what was not planned could occur."</span></blockquote></div><div class="p2"><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-cH-V-ZW5g3s/UU4zKEYyrFI/AAAAAAAAExU/R6YFKvDqz1o/s1600/wells3.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-cH-V-ZW5g3s/UU4zKEYyrFI/AAAAAAAAExU/R6YFKvDqz1o/s1600/wells3.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Image from H.G. Wells' '<a href="http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3691/3691-h/3691-h.htm" target="_blank">Little Wars</a>'</span></td></tr></tbody></table></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Essentially, war games facilitate construction of a Borges Map through unlimited extension of time.&nbsp; Running various scenarios and potentials, the military mind can better map out all possible outcomes and create appropriate responses that will minimize casualties while inflicting maximum possible damage to the enemy.&nbsp; Compared to other military technologies, the war game allowed planners to layer multiple representations of reality on top of the actual reality of battle.&nbsp; The uncertainty of conflict, what many term the 'fog of war', becomes less obscure when one can eliminate the constraints of time.&nbsp; Despite its pursuit of rationalistic modeling, the war game nonetheless creates a space where metaphysical thought can mingle with the rational and produce a synthesis that not only affirms the humanity of the players but also places that humanity at the center of decision making.&nbsp; Descartes famous maxim, 'I think, therefore I am', could easily become, 'I think, therefore I (war) game'.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Compare this to the ideology of Drones.</span></div><div class="p2"><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--jZXcbzF_3Y/UU40WIDGNlI/AAAAAAAAExc/y13aQpFIBpw/s1600/Drone.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--jZXcbzF_3Y/UU40WIDGNlI/AAAAAAAAExc/y13aQpFIBpw/s1600/Drone.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gotellmama/6155430295/" target="_blank"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Image courtesy of Mr_CRO</span></a></td></tr></tbody></table></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Frederik Rosen, in his preliminary draft of '<a href="http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Drones%2C%20control%20and%20responsibility.pdf" target="_blank">Extremely Stealthy and Incredible Close</a>', argues that drones raise the stakes in seeing and knowing, which in turn raises questions on moral and legal obligations with regards to their use.&nbsp; Drones become, "a medium for proximity" made manifest through their extended flight times, arrays of surveillance gear, and numerical, even exponential, growth in use.&nbsp; Instead of placing the drone along a historical trajectory of tools that kill from a distance, Rosen suggests its proper role should be seen in the historical trajectory of "seeing the enemy in war: a history moving from hilltops and watchtowers to the use of binoculars, balloons and airplanes and then on to radar, night vision, satellites."&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">If we accept Rosen's placement of the drone in terms of a way to 'see' the enemy, then the conflict between war games and drones becomes much sharper.&nbsp; Whereas the war game achieved its Borges Map through the unbinding of time and hypothesis, the drone eliminates this distinction through its marriage of time and surveillance and creates a Borges Map made up of a single layer- the drone's gaze- instead of the multiple layers brought about through war gaming.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">So even though war games grant time unlimited space, drones, bound by the laws of physics, cannot make such grand bargains with time and, in fact, have no need to bargain at all.&nbsp; With drone ideology, how could something not planned occur?&nbsp; The constant surveillance aspect of the drone eliminates this need to bargain with time and ushers in a 'just in time' delivery system for political and military officials.&nbsp; When a viable target appears, you fire a missile at them.&nbsp; Suspicious targets can be surveilled for days, and if their behavior fits a terrorist profile then it's a snap to carry out a 'signature' strike. We know the American government has gone great lengths to legally justify drone use, a move that, supposedly, marks our regime as a rule of law society and exemplar of liberalism writ large.&nbsp; Combined with the market-like ability granted by drones to target and deliver explosive payloads with maximum efficiency and minimal downtime, the drone becomes just another extension of technology that would be as comfortable in an Amazon warehouse as it is in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, or the vastness of North Africa.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">This makes the drone the greatest champion of neoliberal practices, even as it calls into question the liberal regimes that foster its use.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Yet beyond this fusion of market principles in drone design, there are other, deeper factors to consider when comparing these perpetual skyrim death dealers to war games. War Games are for planning the future; with drones, the future is now.&nbsp; War Games allowed a healthy mix of the rational and the metaphysical to coexist; drones have no such affinity for the metaphysical, as their entire purpose is clothed in rational, panglossian hues.&nbsp; A drone heaves off the metaphysical impact of a missile strike onto the operator in a room, far away from the scene of rationalistic discourse the drone embodies. &nbsp;No wonder that drone pilots feel stressed- they are running a machine that is devoid of metaphysics, the soul of humanity, by design.&nbsp; Whereas the war game allowed the rational and metaphysical to interact, the drone, with its supra-rational operation, cleaves this union in two and leaves metaphysical questioning solely to the operators, who more often than not find their soul torn asunder under the strain.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The Kill List, through its very existence, obfuscates the purpose of war games even as it makes the role of drone ideology perfectly clear.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Perhaps Paul was right.&nbsp; Maybe America has become more like the Wonderland depicted in Lewis Carroll's fanciful tale.&nbsp; Drone ideology certainly made 'sentence first, verdict later' a plausible doctrine.&nbsp; Yet in all the bluster and filibuster about the impact of drones on our way of life, we should be mindful, like the hedgehog above, of the discarded damascus blade and ask ourselves, "is the shame borne on those who knew little of the feats war games could perform?"</span></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com4tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-1469798109925707632013-03-04T07:52:00.000-08:002013-03-25T09:44:17.335-07:00Idea for a Reading Group<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-bdLPrb8cEFI/UTTCsilddvI/AAAAAAAAEws/xTJlhTlX9r0/s1600/foucault.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-bdLPrb8cEFI/UTTCsilddvI/AAAAAAAAEws/xTJlhTlX9r0/s1600/foucault.jpg" /></a></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i>(Update: I've created both a <a href="http://foucaultdiscussiongroup.wordpress.com/" target="_blank">website</a> and a <a href="https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/foucault-discussion-group" target="_blank">discussion forum</a> for this project. &nbsp;I hope to start around March 18th, so stop by and take a look! - JA)</i></span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br />There's one thing I've noticed recently: my research efforts increasingly turn towards questions of the self and the way we relate to reality and ourselves through the observation of others.&nbsp; This was one of the points touched upon by David Lyon in his <a href="http://videostreaming.gc.cuny.edu/videos/video/486/" target="_blank">keynote speech</a> at Theorizing the Web, but it has also come up in my recent analysis of <a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2013/02/ephemerality-is-snap.html" target="_blank">Snapchat</a> and my larger dissertation work on the immigration of <a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/search/label/Old%20Belief" target="_blank">Russian Old Believers</a> to Oregon in the 1960's.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">In the past couple of months, I read through Foucault's last two College de France lecture series- <i>The Government of Self and Others</i> and <i>The Courage of Truth</i>- both of which deal with the notion of <i>parrhesia </i>(frankness, a sense of truth-telling) and how it has evolved over time to suit different needs for different truth regimes.&nbsp; I think there is a lot of good material here to discuss, not only for the selfish reasons listed above but also for anyone interested in larger questions of how digital technology- through all of its manifestations and infiltrations- affect notions of the self and methods of veridiction of the self sourced through observation/reflection of others.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">To that end, I would like to propose forming a reading group to analyze these two lectures-series delivered by Foucault.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I'm still thinking about how it would work, so nothing is set as of yet. &nbsp;I've used Google Groups before, so that would be my default platform to host a discussion board, but I'm open to any other alternatives.&nbsp; I would like to take between three to six months to read both books, with my preference being to the latter if only to promote deep, rather than surface, reading.&nbsp; The larger goal would be to simply discuss the ideas of the lecture and hopefully make some meaningful connections to the diverse disciplines we all study.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">For those of you without ready access to these books, I have a workaround that should help anyone out.&nbsp; Right now I'm gauging interest, so if this sounds like something you would be willing to do let me know either via Twitter (<a href="https://twitter.com/jsantley" target="_blank">@jsantley</a>) or leave a comment below.</span></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-27775806399835777822013-03-02T12:12:00.001-08:002013-03-07T09:37:30.113-08:00My Theorizing the Web 2013 Presentation<span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Here are the slides I used for my Theorizing the Web 2013 presentation: "Creating a Modern Feudal Order". &nbsp;Feel free to download the slides and listen to the audio track, explaining these slides in greater detail, found below. &nbsp;If you want to download these slides, you'll need to <a href="http://www.slideshare.net/jsantley/data-serfdom-tt-w13" target="_blank">visit the Slideshare page</a> and click on the 'save' button just above the slides. &nbsp;There is some ghost writing on slides 3 and 4, which I cannot solve via re-uploading, so if you would like an uncorrupted copy of these slides, get ahold of me on Twitter (<a href="https://twitter.com/jsantley" target="_blank">@jsantley</a>) or leave a comment below. &nbsp;The audio track can be downloaded as well.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="421" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="http://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/16884194" style="border-width: 1px 1px 0; border: 1px solid #CCC; margin-bottom: 5px;" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="512"> </iframe><br /><div style="margin-bottom: 5px;"><strong> <a href="http://www.slideshare.net/jsantley/data-serfdom-tt-w13" target="_blank" title="Data Serfdom in the Modern Age">Data Serfdom in the Modern Age</a> </strong> from <strong><a href="http://www.slideshare.net/jsantley" target="_blank">Jeremy Antley</a></strong> <br /><br /><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F82221070&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe> <span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Update: Below is the rough cut of the Theorizing the Web 'Room B' recording. &nbsp;Cue up to 43:05 to see my presentation.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" scrolling="no" src="http://videostreaming.gc.cuny.edu/videos/video/483/embed/?access_token=shr00000004834202824667494452187858802371441" style="border: 0px; margin: 0px; padding: 0px;" width="562"></iframe><span style="font-family: Georgia, 'Times New Roman', serif;"><br /></span></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Also, the Slideshare above does not include a video clip on slide 20 that I intended to show during my presentation. &nbsp;Because I was rushed for time, I didn't play it. &nbsp;However, you can find the clip below. &nbsp;My point in showing it was to demonstrate how a scene played for pure hilarity in 2003 now has a more sobering meaning for 2013, when one considers the data serf situation. &nbsp;But it's also still very funny.</span><br /><br /><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="316" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/tnzdD5_zwxg" width="562"></iframe>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-2061866682295444422013-02-18T21:04:00.000-08:002013-05-29T09:53:41.507-07:00Pin the Modern on Old Belief<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div class="p1"><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-xIz_45TgBGo/UV8gLgMBv_I/AAAAAAAAE7M/xG7Qv-dFSeM/s1600/Smithsonian+OB's+Large.png" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="320" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-xIz_45TgBGo/UV8gLgMBv_I/AAAAAAAAE7M/xG7Qv-dFSeM/s320/Smithsonian+OB's+Large.png" width="316" /></a></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Consider the image above.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">I discovered this image while reading the recent <a href="http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/For-40-Years-This-Russian-Family-Was-Cut-Off-From-Human-Contact-Unaware-of-World-War-II-188843001.html" target="_blank">Smithsonian.com article</a>, widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, about a Russian family that fled deep into the Siberian wilderness in the late-1930's, only to be 'discovered' by Soviet geologists in the 1970's conducting aerial surveys in the remote, Soviet hinterland.&nbsp; It's a fascinating story, and what especially appealed to me was that the family discussed were Old Believers, a religious group that split off from Russian Orthodoxy in the 17th century over doctrinal and ritual changes made by, then, Patriarch Nikon.&nbsp; Old Believers are often marked by their sometimes strict adherence to the traditional means, rituals, and accouterments of Orthodox worship.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Yet even that description of Old Belief is rather cursory, as the <i>raskol</i> (translated into English as 'schism') of the Russian Orthodox church was about more than making a three-fingered sign of the cross or changing the religious books used for the services; it was about the changing nature of the state, the increasingly centralized trend of concentrating power under the Tsar and the corresponding decline of local authority that steadily occurred after rule by the Golden Horde had been forcibly cast off by the Grand Princes of Moscow.&nbsp; Old Belief is a tough subject for many to comprehend, its incarnation in historical and contemporary sources alike often relying on cliched or simplistic understandings in order to convey meaning about this religious group to modern audiences.&nbsp; The Smithsonian article is no exception, and that's why the image above struck me with such poignancy.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">It's not so much that the image, or the caption contained underneath, is wrong or misleading.&nbsp; If you read the article, you understand that 40 years in the wilderness left this Old Believer family with little more than handmade hemp cloth for use in making clothes.&nbsp; What is striking about the image is that you, the reader, can choose to 'Pin It', or add it to your Pintrest wall of images.&nbsp; In a subtle way, the Smithsonian's use of the 'Pin it' button on these images helps reinforce the notion that Old Believers are stuck in time and full of a sort of noble backwardness that both grotesquely fascinates and reinforces the primacy of the modern viewer.&nbsp; As is so often the case with documentary sources on Old Belief, there is a tendency of the contemporary viewpoint to see these religious practitioners as a sort of distant mirror of the modern, a distance whose measurement soothes the modern psyche in affirmation that the progress of life is truly that- progress.&nbsp; The very fact these religious practitioners appear to be outside the modern makes them an intense focus of the modern.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">For Imperial, and later Soviet, authorities and functionaries, this sort of intense focus is nothing new.&nbsp; Douglas Rodgers in his excellent book, <span class="s1"><u><a href="http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100781430" target="_blank">The Old Faith and the Russian Land: A Historical Ethnography of Ethics in the Urals</a></u></span>, describes two groups of Old Believer communities in the town of Sepych that maintained their religious traditions even as they consistently updated their ethics and interpretations of belief in the face of changes brought about through Soviet and post-Soviet rule.&nbsp; While his in-depth study provides many points that would fit the theme discussed here, I want to focus on one particular historical episode described by Rodgers- that being the emergence of a textual community in the 1960's between the Old Believers of Sepych and Soviet archaeographers (those who study the practice of publishing written sources) seeking out traditional religious books and manuscripts.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">While discussion of religion was generally considered taboo for Soviet scholars, archaeographers claimed that analysis of traditional religious texts, often found in Old Believer communities due to their reverence for pre-Nikonian sources, could be used to uncover a "nation-based critique of of the visions of socialist modernity." (166) Rogers notes that,</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"Finding these original manuscripts, scholars hypothesized, could revolutionize the study of Russian history, language, and literature in the post-war, post-Stalin years, when it was becoming politically possible to talk about Russian national history and traditions." (166)</span></blockquote></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Scholars would pour into Old Believer communities like Sepych every spring, looking for and sending back to their home institutions any sufficiently old religious texts or books various families or elders in a community willingly handed over.&nbsp; Some elders, initially wary of the Soviet scholar invasion into their often private and secluded lives, turned this relationship to their advantage, collecting names, calling cards, and patronage with a zeal equal to that of the book collecting Scholars that sought their texts in the first place. &nbsp;</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Yet, as Rogers notes, "the textual community that grew up between archaeographers and Old Believer elders was laced with inequality and power relations." (169) Some elders told Rogers of their purposeful avoidance of the scholars, hiding in their houses and refusing to answer the door when they knocked.&nbsp; One woman even produced for Rogers a shrill impersonation of the scholars and their constant demands of 'Give us the book!&nbsp; Give us the Book!'&nbsp; Ultimately Rogers concludes,</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"…early field archaeography's focus on finding and preserving national tradition- born of a particular moment int eh Soviet academy, crystalized in unexpectedly close relationships with Old Believer elders, and exemplified in the material durability of 'book culture' (<i>knizhnost'</i>)- does not capture central aspects of the Old Belief as <u>lived practice</u> in the twentieth century." (172, emphasis mine)</span></blockquote></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Roy Robson, one of America's top Old Belief scholars, sounds a similar note in his book, <span class="s1"><u><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Old-Believers-Modern-Russia-Robson/dp/0875809987" target="_blank">Old Believers in Modern Russia</a></u></span>:</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"Consequently, we can understand the Old Belief as an ongoing relationship between the symbols of pre-Nikonian Orthodoxy and the lives of the old ritualist faithful." (9)</span></blockquote></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Even though the tendency for outside observers is to see Old Belief as essentially trapped in a bygone era, the real crux of Old Belief is reconciling the needs of the ever-contemporary community with that of the rituals and beliefs that form the core of their religious expression.&nbsp; Old Belief is constantly adaptive, even as it holds dear those elements that mark it as antiquated and distinctly anti-modern to those looking from the outside in.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Keeping this point in mind, let's return to the Smithsonian article introduced above.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">In framing the setting of this tale of rediscovery, the article opens with a depiction of the Siberian forest as "the last and greatest of Earth's wildernesses."&nbsp; This puts the reader in a mindset to accept that what they will read occurs beyond the frontier of modernity, in a place untouched by roads, factories, and electricity.&nbsp; When the Soviet geologists initially encounter the 'lost' family, the focus of the narrative centers on their disheveled appearance and clothes made of patches and sacking material.&nbsp; Here the family in question is revealed to be Old Believers, members "of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century."&nbsp; Already, the family in question acquires a patina of backwardness not solely dictated by their impoverished homestead.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">For entertainment, they would recount for each other their dreams.&nbsp; Having long ago lost their only metal kettles to rust, the family was forced to utilize birch-bark baskets that could not be placed on a fire thus severely limiting their ability to cook food.&nbsp; One member of the family, a son named Dmitry, is hailed as the workhorse of the family, possessing "astonishing endurance" and the ability to "hunt barefoot in the Winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders."&nbsp; For American audiences, parallels to the noble savage ideal of Native Americans is easy to grasp and, indeed, the article implicitly makes this connection through its depiction of the primordial forrest and the family that struggled mightily against the forces of nature, all the while maintaining surprising ability to survive and even keep track of complicated phenomena like time despite the lack of modern technology.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-d2vbr1xbUG8/USMDj9I3AZI/AAAAAAAAEvw/Jq4ehN1EkZ4/s1600/Red+Cloud+Woman.jpeg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="320" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-d2vbr1xbUG8/USMDj9I3AZI/AAAAAAAAEvw/Jq4ehN1EkZ4/s320/Red+Cloud+Woman.jpeg" width="206" /></a></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">This last point is especially important, as the American cultural context heavily pervades the Smithsonian article.&nbsp; Philip Deloria has a fascinating introduction in his book, <span class="s1"><u><a href="http://www.kansaspress.ku.edu/delind.html" target="_blank">Indians in Unexpected Places</a></u></span>, about the 'Expectation and Anomaly' photographic depictions of Native Americans possessed in American cultural identity construction.&nbsp; Opening with a picture of 'Red Cloud Woman in Beauty Shop', Deloria notes, "even in the wake of decades of stereotype busting, a beaded buckskin dress and a pair of braids continues to evoke a broad set of cultural expectations about Indian people." (3)&nbsp; He later adds, "broad cultural expectations are both the products and tools of domination and…they are an inheritance that haunts each and every one of us." (4)</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Indeed, later in the Smithsonian article, the Old Believer family is described as being marveled by modern artifacts such as television and cellophane wrapping.&nbsp; Yet despite the introduction of the modern into these 'timeless' Old Believer's lives, three of the four children succumb to kidney failure (a consequence of their primitive diet) while Dmitry, having possessed 'astonishing endurance', falls prey to pneumonia "which might have begun as an infection he acquired from his new friends."&nbsp; The amazing discovery of this lost family ends on a discordant note about the dangers of such anti-modern behavior, and the reader is left with a sense of security in knowing they won't fall prey to such calamity given their safe proximity to modern life.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">We could stop here, declaring that this article is simply a 'one-off' occurrence of the American audience being introduced to such a strange and foreign group.&nbsp; However, my own research into the immigration of Old Believers from Turkey to Oregon in the 1960's suggests this viewing of Old Belief as a distant mirror of the modern possesses a lasting and enduring legacy, albeit one with an interesting twist.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">On 3 September 1959, the famous Icon painter Pimen Sofronov sent a letter to Tatiana Alexeevna, then a member of the Tolstoy Foundation, regarding the plight of Old Believers living in Turkey and seeking relocation to the West.&nbsp; The Tolstoy Foundation was known for it's dedication in helping groups of Russian emigres receive safe passage to Western nations in order to escape the clutches and propaganda efforts then being waged by the Soviet government.&nbsp; During the late 50's and early 60's, the Soviets put increasing pressure on the Turkish Old Believers (a group that originally immigrated to Turkey during the 17th century) to 'Return to the Homeland' with lavish promises of land and the freedom to worship as they chose.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The Turkish Old Believers reached out to Sofronov mainly because the pressure to return to Soviet Russia was compounded by their need for additional marriage partners.&nbsp; With their numbers dwindling, the Turkish Old Believers could no longer find suitable candidates for marriage, their beliefs having severe restrictions on the blood relation of potential couples.&nbsp; In his letter, Sofronov states, "They are the oldest emigrants. …Their "stanitsa" is like a small island of ancient Russia which remained unchanged since the days preceding the era of Peter the Great.&nbsp; Nothing similar to this group of people can be found anywhere else, neither in Russia, nor abroad."</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">He ends his letter with a curious statement regarding the gullibility of the Old Believers: [They] are completely unaware of the Soviet reality and therefore can be deceived more easily than others."&nbsp; Quite literally, they are so distant from the modern forces embodied in Soviet propaganda that they will easily fall prey to their machinations.&nbsp; It is no longer a question of measuring modernity through the distant presence of Old Belief- it is now a battle between two nations in the assertion of the modern on this "small island of ancient Russia."</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Made aware of this situation, the Tolstoy Foundation began petitioning US authorities for a special allowance to let these Turkish Old Believers immigrate to the United States, despite the fact their total numbers exceeded the, then, established quotas of allowable immigrants from Turkey.&nbsp; In a 21 March 1963 memo to Abba Schwartz, senior administrator for the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs in the State Department, the Tolstoy Foundation framed the Old Believers as "an ideologically strong and firm group of 250 persons in their rejection of any Communist offers and promises continued to await assistance from the West," before ending with a 'throwing down of the gauntlet' to American authorities:</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"It seems in the U.S. interest- if only in counteracting Soviet propaganda and one of the USSR strong cold war weapons that 'the West does nothing to help effectively human beings in distress'- to authorize the admission of this group of 250 persons…"</span></blockquote></div><div class="p2"><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-cv7lViJ5NsY/USMExICFXCI/AAAAAAAAEv8/bfZJX0btHjg/s1600/Schwartz+Memo+Letter.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="500" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-cv7lViJ5NsY/USMExICFXCI/AAAAAAAAEv8/bfZJX0btHjg/s400/Schwartz+Memo+Letter.jpg" width="458" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Photo of Document taken by Me, found at the Tolstoy Foundation Archive</td></tr></tbody></table><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Here we have a subtle twisting of the 'distant mirror' portrayal found in both the Smithsonian article and Soviet archaeographers quest for Old Believer religious texts.&nbsp; The Turkish Old Believers are definitely 'pre-modern' in their way of life, even to the point of being incapable of seeing through Soviet deceptions targeted towards them, yet the West can act as a modernizing force for this timeless group through demonstrating their willingness to assist them in immigration and placement into the 'correct' modern setting.&nbsp; In the face of impending Soviet repatriation, on 12 April 1963 Attorney General Robert Kennedy authorized the admission of the Turkish Old Believers into the United States under 'parolee' status.</span><br /><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p2"><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; margin-right: 1em; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-n7dZWkvpmKY/USMFWQaP9XI/AAAAAAAAEwE/UUOEcBFzJg4/s1600/NYT+OB+article+1966.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="360" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-n7dZWkvpmKY/USMFWQaP9XI/AAAAAAAAEwE/UUOEcBFzJg4/s640/NYT+OB+article+1966.jpg" width="560" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Photo taken by Me, found at the Tolstoy Foundation Archive</td></tr></tbody></table><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The New York Times ran a front page story on 27 April 1966 about the Old Believers with a focus on their adjustment to American life in New Jersey.&nbsp; (While the Turkish Old Believers were initially settled in New Jersey, later that year most of the group would immigrate to the Woodburn area of Oregon in order to live a more secluded life, away from the Westernizing influence of the heavily populated East Coast)&nbsp; Compared to the images found in the Smithsonian article above, these Old Believers look to be well-adjusted to the modern lifestyle, even as they still possess beards 'in accordance with Old Believers' tradition.'&nbsp; With the subtitle 'Old Believers Leaning to New Ways', one can tell that the acculturation process is far from complete, even as the article would have the reader believe that the modern influence of America is pulling this distant group from the past and into the present.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Whereas the Smithsonian 'Pin it' photo acts as an assuaging force depicting the modern lifestyle as truly progressive, the New York Times photos represent the other end, or result of this assuagement, depicting the distant Old Belief as catching up, even though their distinctive qualities remain.&nbsp; Despite these differences, both sets of photos present the same 'Expectation and Anomaly' discussed by Deloria with his 'Red Cloud Woman in Beauty Shop'.&nbsp; We see the Old Believer as modernizing, yet the expectation of their backwardness makes their acculturation process all the more strange, all the more anomalous.&nbsp; Even with the distance removed, the Old Believer still acts as a measuring stick by which the modern can judge itself.&nbsp; The gaze may soften in a modern setting, but the intense focus remains.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Obviously, the depiction of Old Belief through outsider accounts is a complicated matter that could take up far more space than afforded here.&nbsp; Yet it is worth noting that American cultural attitudes, despite their seeming modernity, possess powerful influence over our conception of the other in relation to ourselves.</span></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-4497842091694935612013-02-03T19:42:00.001-08:002013-03-25T21:39:54.556-07:00Ephemerality is a Snap...<div class="p1"><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-GFG50aPxu48/UQ8oOxsu5yI/AAAAAAAAEuo/ZH1h37aCTCo/s1600/Ephemeral.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="320" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-GFG50aPxu48/UQ8oOxsu5yI/AAAAAAAAEuo/ZH1h37aCTCo/s400/Ephemeral.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/monster/466981669/" target="_blank">Photo by Steve Bailey</a></td></tr></tbody></table></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">…but the truth certainly is not.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><span class="s1"></span><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Preparation for my upcoming <a href="http://www.theorizingtheweb.org/2013/" target="_blank">Theorizing the Web</a>&nbsp;presentation on data serfdom has me reading about notions of truth and comparing those notions to how various data platforms guide users in constructing their data selves.&nbsp; While I have a good handle (at least, in my own mind) on how Facebook, Twitter, and their ilk create conditions favorable for the development of data serfdom, novel services/platforms like Snapchat introduce a new variable in the data self equation that, I believe, has interesting implications on both the development of the data self and the 'lived reality', or verisimilitude, the data self supposedly projects and provides.&nbsp; That factor is ephemerality, and it's implementation forces us to consider how 'Snaps' alter the role of truth in the social media landscape.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">In the post <a href="http://www.samladner.com/why-does-snapchat-matter/" target="_blank">'Why does Snapchat Matter?'</a>, Sam Ladner addresses a central issue the picture-sharing platform obviates through its service, that being the existence persistence of photos, likes, and comments shared on the Internet.&nbsp; "Snapchat allows you to turn the Web back into regular conversation, shared with only those “present,” and not recorded for anyone else to hear," Ladner argues, as she frames the function, or affordance, of disappearing content as enabling a return to pre-Web discursive practices.&nbsp; Instead of deciding 'Should I take a picture of this?', Ladner states that Snapchat allows one to make the perfectly acceptable choice that something is of little archival value, hence the desirability of ephemerality, and that this lack of 'documentary pressure' (what Nathan Jurgenson has termed the <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/print/2012/01/the-facebook-eye/251377/" target="_blank">Facebook Eye</a>) reduces the cognitive load associated with other platforms and their existence persistence stance on shared content.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Granted, the disappearing nature of Snaps (the term used by Snapchat for the photos you take and share) certainly reduces cognitive load- but it also has additional, far-reaching effects regarding the ability of the user to engage in <i>parresia</i>, or truth-telling.&nbsp; This is something I would like to explore in greater detail below.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ABc7RkASCYg/UQ8ptGz8atI/AAAAAAAAEvA/gjnkpktaLgE/s1600/tumblr_m8ppfaPk2R1rbj6m8o1_500.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ABc7RkASCYg/UQ8ptGz8atI/AAAAAAAAEvA/gjnkpktaLgE/s1600/tumblr_m8ppfaPk2R1rbj6m8o1_500.jpg" /></a></div><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">To begin, what is <i>parresia</i>?&nbsp; Here I am utilizing discussions crafted by Foucault for his 1982-1983 lecture series on 'The Government of Self and Others', in which he both elaborates the meaning of <i>parresia</i> and charts its evolution of use through antiquity and up to the modern era.&nbsp; <i>Paressia&nbsp;</i> is actually a Greek word which describes the quality of free-spokeness, although it means much more than having a glib tongue.&nbsp; It denotes that the one with free-spokeness speaks the truth, even to the point where utterance of such truth means possible mortal danger to the speaker.&nbsp; Foucault states that <i>parresia</i> is "a truth-telling, an irruptive truth-telling which creates a fracture and opens up the risk; a possibility, a field of dangers, or at any rate, an undefined eventuality." (63) Those who engage in <i>parresia</i> form truth on two levels; the statement itself is true, but the one uttering <i>parresia</i> thinks, judges, and considers that the truth expressed is genuinely true.&nbsp; It is not rhetoric, whereby one arranges facts to <i>persuade</i> another to accept a position- it is an expression of pure, believed truth, which is beyond rhetoric and situated more properly in the realm of philosophy.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Another characteristic of <i>parresia</i> is that one does not come equipped, naturally, with the ability to use such a discourse.&nbsp; It has to be proven, fought over, so that the utterer of <i>parresia</i> is assured that others will listen to them and heed the truth they bravely proclaim.&nbsp; Yet, <i>parresia</i> is not so above reproach that it cannot be subverted, cannot be twisted to suit needs that are less than altruistic.&nbsp; Plato, himself, questioned how Democracy could co-exist in harmony with <i>parresia</i>, given that such pure truth-telling might not be accepted by the representative bodies summoned to debate the pressing issues of the <i>polis.</i>&nbsp; It is entirely possible to have bad <i>parresia</i>, he concludes, false truth-telling that borders on flattery.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Foucault stipulated that bad <i>parresia</i> contained three elements.&nbsp; First, it allowed anyone to speak.&nbsp; Ascendency, the process of jousting with others for recognition, no longer matters in those places where bad <i>parresia</i> reigns.&nbsp; While this was a necessary precondition for those who utter good <i>parresia</i> (one needs to be heeded, after all, for the truth to have any effect), in the converse situation ascendency is moot because anyone can speak.&nbsp; This leads to the second element of bad <i>parresia</i>, that being the situation where speakers won't give their 'true' opinion but, rather, they sustain the prevailing opinion.&nbsp; Foucault notes that, "the bad ascendency of anybody is achieved through conformity to what anybody may say and think." (183)&nbsp; The third, and final, characteristic of bad <i>parresia</i> extends from the conformity found in the previous characteristic; by pleasing others, the utterer of bad <i>parresia</i> ensures their own safety and success, thus circumventing any potential danger.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"Such is the mechanism of bad <i>parresia</i>, which is the elimination the of distinctive difference of truth-telling in the game of democracy." (183)&nbsp; Foucault states that this is the real danger of bad <i>parresia </i>before elaborating what Plato saw as the main consequence of democratic man lacking a <i>logos alethes</i>, or discourse of truth:</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"In the anarchy of his desires he will want always to satisfy greater desires.&nbsp; He will seek to exercise power over others, power which is desirable in itself and which will give him access to the satisfaction of all his desires." (201)</span></blockquote></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">While there is quite a bit more to the analysis by Foucault on the notion of <i>parresia</i>, (highly recommend you check-out the entire lecture series) there is enough here to begin asking questions about how <i>parresia</i>, or rather how bad <i>parresia</i>, operates on a social media platform where ephemerality is the central feature.&nbsp; Let's return to the analysis of Ladner, described above.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Without complicating this post with the particulars of data serfdom on non-ephemeral platforms (NEP's), like Facebook or Twitter, one essential point must be made regarding the nature of data self verisimilitude promised by these platforms; they trap users in unchanging expressions that promote stasis and formation of the ossified self, so as to make marketing easier and more accurate (even as this ossification creates asynchronicity between the data self and the lived self).&nbsp; Conflict arises when users question the veracity of their data selves, because we have reached the point where shareable information can be accessed and indexed to such a degree that the resulting amalgamation alienates users from the platforms they dutifully toil upon.</span></div><div class="p2"><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-s2p7iJtwpvk/UQ8q5ZvFipI/AAAAAAAAEvI/X6y1PYRwB4M/s1600/Network+II.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-s2p7iJtwpvk/UQ8q5ZvFipI/AAAAAAAAEvI/X6y1PYRwB4M/s1600/Network+II.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/marc_smith/6879167109/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Photo via Mark Smith</a></td></tr></tbody></table></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">This is what Ladner means when she discusses the lessening of 'cognitive load' associated with NEP's, the fact that persistent existence routinely exposes users to embarrassment and even greater liability.&nbsp; There is no longer the question of 'should I document this?' or 'what is the best moment to document?', questions inherent to actualization of the 'Facebook Eye', but rather a general freeing of the self to engage in frivolity, to rest assured that the ridiculous (or not) Snap just sent won't be around for others to critique tomorrow, or the whole sequencing of tomorrows that will inevitably follow.&nbsp; The benefits are immediate for Ladner: &nbsp;</span></div><div class="p1"><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">"Snapchat came and took out the garbage that you put in a particular pile.&nbsp; You don't even have to think of that pile.&nbsp; It is simply gone.&nbsp; How liberating!"</span></blockquote></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Yet, I ask, what are the implications?&nbsp; It's fine that Ladner sees Snapchat, and ephemerality in general, as a sort of automated trash pickup service, but this begs the question: if you liken it to garbage, what does that say about the content and its purpose to begin with?&nbsp; Granted- this is the larger point Ladner is trying to make.&nbsp; But I also think this garbage analogy hints at a general condition on the type of information ephemerality will promote. &nbsp;</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">The genius of Snapchat, and ephemerality in general, is that it frees the lived self from the constraints of the data self.&nbsp; Whereas NEP's continually have users conflate the truth of their utterances encoded in likes and retweets to that of their lived reality, producing disruptive asynchronicity, platforms that embrace ephemerality tell users, "Don't worry about the conflation of your data and yourself- the data will disappear, leaving only your true self behind."&nbsp; However, while ephemeral platforms may claim to solve the data self conundrum, in reality they provide only a more ameliorating experience for the user to engage in bad <i>parresia</i>.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">As it stands now, most uses of social media don't promote the practice of <i>parresia</i>- they promote forms of communication that claim legitimacy in the name of <i>parresia</i>.&nbsp; In actuality, social media promotes bad <i>parresia</i> because marketers, who pay the bills for many social platforms, demand flattery over truth.&nbsp; But the linkage of legitimacy to what <i>parresia</i> stands for, the unabashed, total belief in what someone is uttering, is what all social media platforms will claim to exercise.&nbsp; For NEP's, this linkage comes from their claim that the data self is symphonic with the lived self, that the data will reveal a truth of your existence that was once completely unknown.&nbsp; Ephemeral platforms point out the flaw in this reasoning, as persistence existence of data will continually pose as a liability, and suggest that the way to actual <i>parresia</i> is through elimination of the data itself.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Thus, when Ladner claims that Snapchat allows users to "turn the Web back into regular conversation" one can see the sort of validity these ephemeral platforms derive from linking themselves to notions of <i>parresia</i>.&nbsp; But I would counter Ladner here, and suggest that ephemeral platforms only feel like a more authentic, digital version of ourselves because they present a novel way for us to engage in bad <i>parresia</i>.&nbsp; Snapchat doesn't encourage one to send photos of value, only photos of frivolous value.&nbsp; There is no ascendency involved with Snapchat.&nbsp; Sure, you might be selective in who you decide to send or receive Snaps- but there is no preferring one over another, no quality meaningfully marking one as anything more than an equal of another.&nbsp; It's all so <i>frivolous</i>, so YOLO, that anybody can speak, anybody can take a snap and send it to anyone without a care for anything more. &nbsp;</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Of course this ephemerality, while very liberating in practice, also means that there are no consequences tied to the data shared.&nbsp; This is how Snapchat directly contributes to the formation of bad <i>parresia</i>.&nbsp; The data you send melts away after mere seconds, leaving only a vague notion that any data was shared at all.&nbsp; Recall what Foucault, quoted above, said was one of the central characteristics of <i>parresia</i>, that is "a truth-telling, an irruptive truth-telling which creates a fracture and opens up the risk; a possibility, a field of dangers, or at any rate, an undefined eventuality."&nbsp; Ephemerality eliminates this fracture, or at least seals it far, far quicker than NEP's.&nbsp; There is no danger, no undefined eventuality in sending a Snap. &nbsp;</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Recipients of Snaps may, if they are quick enough, take a screenshot, but here Snapchat upholds its ephemeral teleology and informs you that your picture has been kidnapped from the palace of forgetting and locked away in the dungeon of existence persistence.&nbsp; This reinforces Snapchat's linkage to notions of good <i>parresia</i>, as the ephemeral platform tells those whose Snap's have been captured, "There is a traitor in your midst, one who would violate the true expression of yourself in order to possess a shadowy, asynchronous piece of your data self."&nbsp; And since ephemeral platforms hold claims to veridiction through opposition to the data selves created by NEP's, this 'informer' aspect of having Snap's captured completes the false-loop of presumed good <i>parresia</i>.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">As an evolving feature, we will have to wait and see how Snapchat (and the inevitable emergence of cloned services) continues to play with notions of verisimilitude tied to the larger issue of truth-telling.&nbsp; Given that ephemeral data has a low value to marketers, one wonders how Snapchat will monetize its service given the demands of profitability in the marketplace.&nbsp; It's not entirely out of the question that Snapchat is using ephemerality to lure in droves of potential data serfs, and once the demesne has reached suitable size who knows what gates will be shut and what data will take on a less than ephemeral existence.&nbsp; Regardless, ephemerality represents a new take on the social media question.&nbsp; We should be careful to not overlook its impact on how we see social media integrated into the notion of <i>parresia</i>.</span></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com4tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-7693633297798511333.post-28930906316754466152012-12-21T12:46:00.000-08:002012-12-21T17:18:37.187-08:002012 Retrospective<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-yYQjo4iV2_c/UNTI0NzPfvI/AAAAAAAAErc/lwoiKHkXR_o/s1600/2752696822_5717ac10da.jpeg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-yYQjo4iV2_c/UNTI0NzPfvI/AAAAAAAAErc/lwoiKHkXR_o/s1600/2752696822_5717ac10da.jpeg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/linkey/2752696822/" target="_blank">Photo by .:Camilo:.</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">As 2012 draws to a close, it's time for a Peasant Muse (and personal writing) retrospective.&nbsp; Below you'll find my top posts of the year, with a brief explanation on what that post (or series of posts) meant to me.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i><a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/02/between-reality-cyberspace.html" target="_blank">Between Reality &amp; Cyberspace</a> -</i> This post was a response to Mr. Teacup's assessment of PJ Rey's 'There is No Cyberspace'.&nbsp; In it, I tried to elaborate the frictional points that existed between the web and reality in an <i>augmented reality</i> conception.&nbsp; This was one of my first attempts to discuss concepts of asynchronicity and 'textual dualism', concepts that would feature prominently in my <i>Future Internet</i> article discussed below.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i><a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/search/label/Data%20Serfdom" target="_blank">The Data Serf Series</a> -</i> One of the two trends to evolve in my thinking this year dealt with what I've termed 'data serfdom'.&nbsp; In two posts, <i><a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/06/from-data-self-to-data-serf.html" target="_blank">From Data Self to Data Serf</a></i> and <i><a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/08/creating-modern-feudal-order.html" target="_blank">Creating A Modern Feudal Order</a></i>, I discuss the larger implications of both the quest for verified data by owners of data platforms and the increasing vassalization these data platforms pursue in siloing their services for users.&nbsp; This is a topic I plan on investigating further in the coming year.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i><a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/10/games-word-part-i-epistemic-reservoir.html" target="_blank">Games and the Word</a> - </i>The first part of a longer, three-part series, <i>Games and the Word</i> begins with 'The Epistemic Reservoir' and a look at how board games went from <i>dualist</i> (in which the ludic reality depicted contained no direct linkages to real world situations) to <i>de jure</i> (as opposed to <i>de facto</i>) <i>augmented</i> constructions beginning in the 16th century with Christoph Weickmann's 'The Great King's Game'.&nbsp; This is another piece that probes <i>dualist</i> versus <i>augmented</i> realities, but it also highlights the other trend in my thinking this year- how board games differ from their digital cousins.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i><a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/10/dark-definition.html" target="_blank">Dark Definition</a> - </i>This is a post where I call for a more ethnographic approach in studying linking behavior in both online and offline settings.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i><a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/10/meanwhile-on-boardwalk.html" target="_blank">Meanwhile, on the Boardwalk</a> - </i>This was a personal favorite of mine this year.&nbsp; I felt that this third season of <i>Boardwalk Empire</i> was the best yet, and the episode I discuss here was definitely a highlight.&nbsp; I've never done this sort of 'television critique' before, but it was very fun to write and I might try more of this next year.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><i><a href="http://www.peasantmuse.com/2012/12/coding-mystique-vs-banality-of-cardboard.html" target="_blank">Coding Mystique vs. Banality of Cardboard</a> - </i>Even though I just posted this, it has become one of my most popular essays on the site.&nbsp; In light of the recent MoMa acquisition of video games for their exhibit space, I ask why board games were left out.&nbsp; This is a continuation of my thinking regarding the differences between board games and video games, and, surprisingly, I'm finding the metaphysical aspect of board games to be their defining quality.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Yet beyond posts I've written here, 2012 was a great year in that I had two articles published in peer-reviewed journals.&nbsp; A post that I originally debuted here, <i><a href="http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-2/going-beyond-the-textual-in-history-by-jeremy-antley/" target="_blank">Going Beyond the Textual in History</a></i>, made it's way to the <i><a href="http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/" target="_blank">Journal of Digital Humanities</a></i> for their special 'Gaming' section in the second issue.&nbsp; Also, my 'Theorizing the Web' presentation on <i>textual dualist</i> reality in Russian history was published in the special <i><a href="http://www.mdpi.com/journal/futureinternet" target="_blank">Future Internet</a></i> journal issued dedicated to the conference.&nbsp; <i><a href="http://www.mdpi.com/1999-5903/4/4/1037" target="_blank">Textual Dualism and Augmented Reality in the Russian Empire</a></i> is probably the piece I'm most proud of, professionally, as it manages to blend my love of Russian history with current thinking on digital trends.&nbsp; It also put my concepts of <i>mobility</i> and <i>asynchronicity</i> at the fore, and I'm excited to hear what people think as they read my article.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Last, but certainly not least, I also had an essay published on <i><a href="http://thenewinquiry.com/" target="_blank">The New Inquiry</a></i> website- <i><a href="http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/no-accidents-comrade/" target="_blank">No Accidents, Comrade</a></i>.&nbsp; Here I examine the Cold War board game <i>Twilight Struggle</i> and ask how this game contributes to the dominant 'chance' narratives embodied in popular understandings of that period.&nbsp; I was extremely happy to work with such a talented group over at <i>The New Inquiry</i>&nbsp;(<a href="http://thenewinquiry.com/features/subscription-drive/" target="_blank">consider subscribing</a>)<i>,</i> and the resulting essay came out far better than I had ever hoped.&nbsp; Next to my <i>Future Internet</i> article, this essay is dear to my heart.</span></div><div class="p2"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;"><br /></span></div><div class="p1"><span style="font-family: Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;">Everyone have a great rest of 2012!</span></div>Jeremy Antleyhttps://plus.google.com/105144248699925491828noreply@blogger.com0