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New Media and Digital Humanities

New Media and Digital Humanities

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In this book, Branden Hookway considers the interface not as technology but as a form of relationship with technology. The interface, Hookway proposes, is at once ubiquitous and hidden from view. It is both the bottleneck through which our relationship to technology must pass and a productive encounter embedded within the use of technology. It is a site of contestation—between human and machine, between the material and the social, between the political and the technological—that both defines and elides differences.

A virtuoso in multiple disciplines, Hookway offers a theory of the interface that draws on cultural theory, political theory, philosophy, art, architecture, new media, and the history of science and technology. He argues that the theoretical mechanism of the interface offers a powerful approach to questions of the human relationship to technology. Hookway finds the origin of the term interface in nineteenth-century fluid dynamics and traces its migration to thermodynamics, information theory, and cybernetics. He discusses issues of subject formation, agency, power, and control, within contexts that include technology, politics, and the social role of games. He considers the technological augmentation of humans and the human-machine system, discussing notions of embodied intelligence.

Hookway views the figure of the subject as both receiver and active producer in processes of subjectification. The interface, he argues, stands in a relation both alien and intimate, vertiginous and orienting to those who cross its threshold.

In this book, Astrid Ensslin examines literary videogames—hybrid digital artifacts that have elements of both games and literature, combining the ludic and the literary. These works can be considered verbal art in the broadest sense (in that language plays a significant part in their aesthetic appeal); they draw on game mechanics; and they are digital-born, dependent on a digital medium (unlike, for example, conventional books read on e-readers). They employ narrative, dramatic, and poetic techniques in order to explore the affordances and limitations of ludic structures and processes, and they are designed to make players reflect on conventional game characteristics. Ensslin approaches these hybrid works as a new form of experimental literary art that requires novel ways of playing and reading. She proposes a systematic method for analyzing literary-ludic (L-L) texts that takes into account the analytic concerns of both literary stylistics and ludology.

After establishing the theoretical underpinnings of her proposal, Ensslin introduces the L-L spectrum as an analytical framework for literary games. Based on the phenomenological distinction between deep and hyper attention, the L-L spectrum charts a work’s relative emphases on reading and gameplay. Ensslin applies this analytical toolkit to close readings of selected works, moving from the predominantly literary to the primarily ludic, from online hypermedia fiction to Flash fiction to interactive fiction to poetry games to a highly designed literary “auteur” game. Finally, she considers her innovative analytical methodology in the context of contemporary ludology, media studies, and literary discourse analysis.

A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife

We purchase video games to play them, not to save them. What happens to video games when they are out of date, broken, nonfunctional, or obsolete? Should a game be considered an “ex-game” if it exists only as emulation, as an artifact in museum displays, in an archival box, or at the bottom of a landfill? In Game After, Raiford Guins focuses on video games not as hermetically sealed within time capsules of the past but on their material remains: how and where video games persist in the present. Guins meticulously investigates the complex life cycles of video games, to show how their meanings, uses, and values shift in an afterlife of disposal, ruins and remains, museums, archives, and private collections.

Guins looks closely at video games as museum objects, discussing the recontextualization of the Pong and Brown Box prototypes and engaging with curatorial and archival practices across a range of cultural institutions; aging coin-op arcade cabinets; the documentation role of game cartridge artwork and packaging; the journey of a game from flawed product to trash to memorialized relic, as seen in the history of Atari’s infamous E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial; and conservation, restoration, and re-creation stories told by experts including Van Burnham, Gene Lewin, and Peter Takacs.

The afterlife of video games—whether behind glass in display cases or recreated as an iPad app—offers a new way to explore the diverse topography of game history.

Software and Everyday Life

After little more than half a century since its initial development, computer code is extensively and intimately woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. From the digital alarm clock that wakes us to the air traffic control system that guides our plane in for a landing, software is shaping our world: it creates new ways of undertaking tasks, speeds up and automates existing practices, transforms social and economic relations, and offers new forms of cultural activity, personal empowerment, and modes of play. In Code/Space, Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge examine software from a spatial perspective, analyzing the dyadic relationship of software and space. The production of space, they argue, is increasingly dependent on code, and code is written to produce space. Examples of code/space include airport check-in areas, networked offices, and cafés that are transformed into workspaces by laptops and wireless access. Kitchin and Dodge argue that software, through its ability to do work in the world, transduces space. Then Kitchiun and Dodge develop a set of conceptual tools for identifying and understanding the interrelationship of software, space, and everyday life, and illustrate their arguments with rich empirical material. And, finally, they issue a manifesto, calling for critical scholarship into the production and workings of code rather than simply the technologies it enables--a new kind of social science focused on explaining the social, economic, and spatial contours of software.

In this challenging but exhilarating work, Sha Xin Wei argues for an approach to materiality inspired by continuous mathematics and process philosophy. Investigating the implications of such an approach to media and matter in the concrete setting of installation- or event-based art and technology, Sha maps a genealogy of topological media—that is, of an articulation of continuous matter that relinquishes a priori objects, subjects, and egos and yet constitutes value and novelty. Doing so, he explores the ethico-aesthetic consequences of topologically creating performative events and computational media. Sha’s interdisciplinary investigation is informed by thinkers ranging from Heraclitus to Alfred North Whitehead to Gilbert Simondon to Alain Badiou to Donna Haraway to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

Sha traces the critical turn from representation to performance, citing a series of installation-events envisioned and built over the past decade. His analysis offers a fresh way to conceive and articulate interactive materials of new media, one inspired by continuity, field, and philosophy of process. Sha explores the implications of this for philosophy and social studies of technology and science relevant to the creation of research and art. Weaving together philosophy, aesthetics, critical theory, mathematics, and media studies, he shows how thinking about the world in terms of continuity and process can be informed by computational technologies, and what such thinking implies for emerging art and technology.

Production, Consumption, and Design Interventions

With many new forms of digital media–including such popular social media as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr—the people formerly known as the audience no longer only consume but also produce and even design media. Jonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer term this phenomenon collaborative media, and in this book they investigate the qualities and characteristics of these forms of media in terms of what they enable people to do. They do so through an interdisciplinary research approach that combines the social sciences and humanities traditions of empirical and theoretical work with practice-based, design-oriented interventions.

Löwgren and Reimer offer analysis and a series of illuminating case studies—examples of projects in collaborative media that range from small multidisciplinary research experiments to commercial projects used by millions of people. Löwgren and Reimer discuss the case studies at three levels of analysis: society and the role of collaborative media in societal change; institutions and the relationship of collaborative media with established media structures; and tribes, the nurturing of small communities within a large technical infrastructure. They conclude by advocating an interventionist turn within social analysis and media design.

An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression

In Phantasmal Media, D. Fox Harrell considers the expressive power of computational media. He argues, forcefully and persuasively, that the great expressive potential of computational media comes from the ability to construct and reveal phantasms—blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination. These ubiquitous and often-unseen phantasms—cognitive phenomena that include sense of self, metaphors, social categories, narrative, and poetic thinking—influence almost all our everyday experiences. Harrell offers an approach for understanding and designing computational systems that have the power to evoke these phantasms, paying special attention to the exposure of oppressive phantasms and the creation of empowering ones. He argues for the importance of cultural content, diverse worldviews, and social values in computing. The expressive power of phantasms is not purely aesthetic, he contends; phantasmal media can express and construct the types of meaning central to the human condition.

Harrell discusses, among other topics, the phantasm as an orienting perspective for developers; expressive epistemologies, or data structures based on subjective human worldviews; morphic semiotics (building on the computer scientist Joseph Goguen’s theory of algebraic semiotics); cultural phantasms that influence consensus and reveal other perspectives; computing systems based on cultural models; interaction and expression; and the ways that real-world information is mapped onto, and instantiated by, computational data structures.

The concept of phantasmal media, Harrell argues, offers new possibilities for using the computer to understand and improve the human condition through the human capacity to imagine.

Media Art Histories

In Relive, leading historians of the media arts grapple with this dilemma: how can we speak of “new media” and at the same time write the histories of these arts? These scholars and practitioners redefine the nature of the field, focusing on the materials of history—the materials through which the past is mediated. Drawing on the tools of media archaeology and the history and philosophy of media, they propose a new materialist media art history.

The contributors consider the idea of history and the artwork’s moment in time; the intersection of geography and history in regional practice, illustrated by examples from eastern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand; the contradictory scales of evolution, life cycles, and bodily rhythms in bio art; and the history of the future—how the future has been imagined, planned for, and established as a vector throughout the history of new media arts.

These essays, written from widely diverse critical perspectives, capture a dynamic field at a moment of productive ferment.

Contributors
Susan Ballard, Brogan Bunt, Andrés Burbano, Jon Cates, John Conomos, Martin Constable, Sean Cubitt, Francesca Franco, Darko Fritz, Zhang Ga, Monika Gorska-Olesinska, Ross Harley, Jens Hauser, Stephen Jones, Douglas Kahn, Ryszard W. Kluszczynski, Caroline Seck Langill, Leon Marvell, Rudy Rucker, Edward A. Shanken, Stelarc, Adele Tan, Paul Thomas, Darren Tofts, Joanna Walewska

Thanks to advances in molecular science and microscopy, we can visualize matter on a nanoscale, and structures not visible to the naked eye can be visualized and characterized. The fact that technology allows us to transcend the limits of natural perception and see what was previously unseeable creates a new dimension of aesthetic experience and practice: molecular aesthetics. This book, drawing on an exhibit and symposium at ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, documents aesthetic developments in what Félix Guattari called the “molecular revolution.”
    
Just as artists in the Bauhaus movement began to use such industrial materials as metal, Plexiglas, and alloys as raw materials, artists today have access to new realms of the molecular and nano. The industrial aesthetic of machinery and material has been transformed into an aesthetic of media and molecules. Molecular Aesthetics suggests ways in which art can draw inspiration from the molecular sciences—and ways in which science can use art to make experimental results more intelligible and comprehensible. The authors of the essays collected in the book discuss the creation of molecules of remarkable beauty and the functional properties that stem from a few geometrical principles of molecular design; address the history of molecular structure representation; examine the meaning of molecular aesthetics for scientists; and compare chemical structures to artworks.

Tweens in a Virtual World

Millions of children visit virtual worlds every day. In such virtual play spaces as Habbo Hotel, Toontown, and Whyville, kids chat with friends from school, meet new people, construct avatars, and earn and spend virtual currency. In Connected Play, Yasmin Kafai and Deborah Fields investigate what happens when kids play in virtual worlds, how this matters for their offline lives, and what this means for the design of educational opportunities in digital worlds.

Play is fundamentally important for kids’ development, but, Kafai and Fields argue, to understand play in virtual worlds, we need to connect concerns of development and culture with those of digital media and learning. Kafai and Fields do this through a detailed study of kids’ play in Whyville, a massive, informal virtual world with educational content for tween players. Combining ethnographic accounts with analysis of logfile data, they present rich portraits and overviews of how kids learn to play in a digital domain, developing certain technological competencies; how kids learn to play well—responsibly, respectfully, and safely; and how kids learn to play creatively, creating content that becomes a part of the virtual world itself.

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