games and history

Seth was asked to contribute a short article for the launch issue of ROMchip: a journal of game histories. The editors asked ‘what could the history of games be?’ to which Seth’s answer was ‘the history of games could be a history of technology.’ The article is here, with a longer version online here.

research-practice: creative coding

Transforming Creativity’s open programme of creative research / practice workshops was kicked off in fine, generative style at Winchester School of Art by Andy Lapham. An initially apprehensive-looking group of staff and postgraduate researchers from across the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Web Science were soon tweaking RGB values and alpha channels and sending lines, circles and sine waves bouncing all round their laptop screens.

researching the superblock

In June Seth Giddings was invited to participate in a two day workshop at RMIT Europe in Barcelona. Cities as Playgrounds: new models for urban play, civic engagement and sociality, organised by Larissa Hjorth and Clancy Wilmott, aimed to ‘consider the possibilities of action research and co-design experiments’ in and around the Superilla located next to RMIT Europe’s HQ. Superillas are urban developments in Barcelona that reroute car traffic and open up the streets for pedestrians, playgrounds and socialising. This workshop took the idea of the superilla, and some direct research engagement (i.e. games) in and with them, as a starting point for considering playful futures for the city.

Other participants included Ellis Bartholomeus, Andreas Rosales Climent, Jill Didur, Emma Fraser, Larissa Hjorth, Troy Innocent, Sybille Lammes, Colleen Macklin, Tomasz Majkowski, Roger Paez, Miguel Sicart, Bart Simon, Manuela Valtchanova, and Clancy Wilmott.

My own contribution included a short provocation, ‘The city is already a playground’, and a presentation on my microethnographic study of children’s postdigital play in playgrounds, and the Lightbug project.

shock and rumble

The Transforming Creativity Research Group is hosting a seminar with two leading scholars in the fields of game studies, haptics and digital media. All welcome!

Shock and Rumble: environments, bodies, VR and other postdigital media
with David Parisi (College of Charleston) and Darshana Jayemanne (Abertay)

Monday 8th July 3-5pm in the Harvard Lecture Suite (Winchester School of Art)

Darshana Jayemanne:  ‘Expanding Mimesis: Embodying V.R.’s Uneven Developments in “Ready Player One” and “Ra-One”‘.

“He’s a nerd from a different century” proclaimed Time Magazine about then Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey in 2015. The magazine devoted its cover to an image of Luckey floating amniotically and strapped into the VR apparatus before an idyllic beach scene. The image clearly sets an agenda for the technology: a powerful effect of similitude (being somewhere more like a beach than has heretofore been possible), and a normative idea of which bodies and whose desires will be most appropriate for such transportation. In this paper, I will complicate this agenda of similitude with Walter Benjamin’s concept of mimesis which, as Miriam Hansen has argued, is in fact comprised not only of similiarity and concentration but also play and distraction. This underwrites Benjamin’s historical perspective on mass media, in which the human body is not unproblematically incorporated as in the Time cover image but through processes of ‘volatilisation and recomposition’. Two films which envisage the relation between V.R. and the body – “Ready Player One” (2018) and “Ra.One” (2011) – will be read to show how V.R.’s potentials are unevenly distributed, and how culture is a formal problem for research on the form.”

Darshana Jayemanne is Lecturer in Games and Arts at Abertay University and the author of Performativity in Art, Literature and Videogames (Palgrave MacMillan 2017) and a Co-Investigator in the AHRC/ESPRC-supported “Reality Remix” project on the Next Generation of Immersive Experiences. Recently, he was a jurist for the International Games Festival’s Award in Narrative Excellence and has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinkers.

David Parisi: ‘Before and Beyond Rumble: The Perpetually Deferred Dream of Hyperreal Haptics in Videogames’ 

Since its beginnings in the late 1960s, the project of bringing touch feedback to computing has aimed at the wholesale transformation of the mediated sensorium, serving as an attempt to upend vision’s hegemony by building interfaces that bring the tactile body into computer-generated worlds. Such a transformation depends on not just the development and design but also the domestication of haptics technologies–the steady spread of digital touch out from research labs into the home. Thus far, in the project’s fifty-year history, it has fallen far short of achieving this goal. We still seem to be waiting, perpetually, for haptics to arrive. However, while we’ve waited, videogame controllers, smartphones, and wearables have quietly smuggled haptics technologies into the sensory fabric of daily life, with subjects continually decoding and deciphering a range of vibratory messages. In this talk, I detail the goals imagined for haptics by first generation researchers in the late 1960s and 1970s, marketers of videogame controllers in the mid ’90s, and developers of next-generation haptic gloves and bodysuits for VR today. These narratives imagine a haptic interface that would mimic audiovisual technologies in capturing and simulating the real. Against this backdrop, I show how rumble has consistently been described as an imperfect and soon-to-be-overcome instantiation of haptics that fails to deliver on the categorical promise of haptics. I suggest that, due to this perceived failure, we have downplayed rumble’s significance as a technology of digital touch, overlooking the ways communicative subjects have already to adjusted themselves to a new regime of tactile semiotics.

David Parisi is an Associate Professor of Emerging Media at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. His book Archaeologies of Touch: Interfacing with Haptics from Electricity to Computing (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) investigates the past, present and possible futures of technologized touch, weaving together accounts of tactility from psychophysics, cybernetics, electrotherapy, virtual reality, cybersex, and mobile communication to provide a comprehensive overview of the ways that touch has been radically transformed by its encounters with technoscience. He is also the co-editor of the Haptic Media Studies issue of New Media & Society. His research on haptics has been featured in Game StudiesThe Wall Street Journal, VicePlayboyLogic MagazineImmerseand the podcast Stroke of Genius.

Please contact Seth Giddings if you have any questions: s.giddings@soton.ac.uk

creative research workshops

The Transforming Creativity Research Group is initiating an open-ended series of creative research / practice workshops for group members and others, workshops that will place creative practice itself centre stage as a research methodology. The aim is for researchers to explore alternative modes of knowledge generation and dissemination to the scholarly article and presentation, and for creative practitioners to explore how their practice can address and answer research questions. Future workshops will include zine production, audiovisual presentation, cross-media publishing, microethnography, and risograph printing. 

We are kicking off with Creative Coding: Adventures in Generative Design on Wednesday 26thJune, 1pm to 4pm. This introductory session will be run by Andy Lapham and requires no previous experience of coding. See this Eventbrite link https://www.eventbrite.com/e/creative-coding-tickets-62635691038 for more details and to register your interest.

handheld cinema

The Bill Douglas Museum at the University of Exeter has uploaded ‘Handheld cinema, or the other successful toys that move,’ Seth’s report on his recent study visit to their archive of twentieth- and twentieth century cinema toys. Studying toys and games marketed as models of, or merchandising for, mainstream cinema, he asks:

Could these toys be seen […] not as the evolutionary beginnings of cinema, nor as harbingers of future digital media, but rather as fully part of cinematic culture. Or, more ambitiously, how might our understanding of the emergence, development, and future of cinema be advanced if we regarded cinema itself as a subset of a toy culture rather than the other way around? If we picked up and ran with Iona Opie’s playful suggestion that cinema was merely ‘the most successful of the toys that move’: what other material, technical, imaginative and experiential dimensions of a para-cinematic genealogy of ‘toys that move’ might we find?

PhD games

Seth led a workshop for the WSA PhD intensive week in March… It outlined the cultural and formal specificities of games as a medium and encouraged the gathered researchers to model their PhD project, methods, research journey, or concepts as a board game, card game, Lego model or toy.

The introductory slides are here.

And here are some pictures: