creatures in Cologne

Seth Giddings was invited to give a talk at Beyond Humanism: cyborgs – animals – data swarms, the Cologne Summer School in Interdisciplinary Anthropology, a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School of the Humanities, University of Cologne September 23rd-27th 2019.

Entitled ‘AI and other animals: ontologies and ethologies of the cyborgian everyday’, the talk addressed artificial intelligence and artificial life in videogame play; forms of nonhuman agency that have transformed everyday media culture and could be regarded as harbingers of an emergent posthuman world. It took play with synthetic animals – zoomorphic videogame characters and robot toys – as an extended case study, bringing together two broad streams of critical posthumanism: technoculture and inter-species relationality. It argued that studying playful artificial animals offers insights into established and emergent cyborgian relationships between the nonhuman and human: relationships of play and being played with, of training and being trained, nurturing and being nurtured. And that the animality of AI and A-Life entities is real and not metaphorical, opening up ontological questions of AI: what kind of speciation gives rise to particular agents, what habitats and what kinds of behaviour characterise their existence? What anthropological or ethological methods might we employ to study these behaviours? And how is the status of both ‘animality’ and ‘intelligence’ achieved from the cyborg assemblages of code, digital hardware, animated imagery, bodies and minds in play?

New Publication: Gothic Remixed

We are pleased to announce the imminent publication of Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture, by ‘Transforming Creativity’ researcher Megen de Bruin-Molé.

The book explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix and related modes, including adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, and postmodernism. De Bruin-Molé argues that popular remix creations are the ‘monsters’ of our age, lurking at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Taking a multimedia approach, case studies range from novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, to television programmes such as Penny Dreadful, to popular visual artworks like Kevin J. Weir’s Flux Machine GIFs.

Gothic Remixed will be published by Bloomsbury Academic on Halloween 2019. Join us for launch events at Winchester School of Art on Thursday, 31st October (5pm in LTA; booking via Eventbrite), and on 14th November at The Second Shelf bookshop in London.

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.

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 media research

Seth has an article in the launch issue of the International Journal of Creative Media Research. ‘Configuring the 15 second dancers: distributed creativity in design for postdigital media’ tracks the human and nonhuman mobilisation of creativity in the design and testing of an experimental smartphone game app, and the ‘configuration’ of its players.

He is a member of the journal’s editorial board and spoke at the launch event at Bath Spa University on 26th March. The journal is open access and aims to push forward approaches to and possibilities for publishing creative media-based research.

Ludic economies

Seth Giddings and Alison Harvey (University of Leicester) co-edited a special issue of the journal Games and Culture. Published in November 2018 the issue argues that the study of digital games–their milieux of production, cultures and contexts of play, user-generated production, and spectatorship should be applied as a primary heuristic in understanding the cultural economy of neoliberal late capitalism–as well as vice versa. The articles address a range of issues relating to both mainstream profit models including digital distribution platforms and mobile games as well as peripheral game economies such as game jams and indie production (full introductory abstract here).

The special issue has its origins in the first MA Global Media Management symposium in 2015: Ludic Economies.