toying with the singularity

Seth has a chapter in the newly published book The Internet of Toys: practices, affordances and the political economy of children’s smart play, edited by Giovanna Mascheroni and Donell Holloway (Palgrave 2019).

Titled ‘Toying with the singularity: AI, automata and imagination in play with robots and virtual pets’, the chapter explores the various and layered ways in which imagination and imaginative processes intersect with the development, promotion and everyday reception of play with new playful digital technologies. It takes the author’s research on the prototyping of a robotic gaming platform as a central case study.

The book is a ‘thought-provoking volume’ (Sonia Livingstone), and ‘a landmark collection’ (Nick Couldry).

Malaysian connections

Seth visited Malaysia this week, hosted by the Faculty of Creative Industries at UTAR (Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman), where he is external examiner for the BA Games Design course. He also shared research ideas and projects with members of the Centre for Immersive Technology and Creativity, and gave a talk to the students on design for postdigital play.

Games Design students, and Faculty of Creative Industries staff, including Kevin Tan (Head of Dept of Game Studies) and Dr David Tneh Cheng Eng (Dean of FCI).

Office for Postdigital Research: launch event

Tuesday January 22nd

The research groups AMT and Transforming Creativity invite Arts and Humanities staff and research students to The Office for Postdigital Research – a research collection and a space for experimental digital media research.

As a research space the Office houses contemporary gaming and VR hardware and software. It is used for small-scale and experimental research on digital gameplay and for testing interactive art installations. At present it is equipped with a PC and Vive VR and games, a PS4 Pro – also with VR headset and software. It also holds a growing collection of visual, playful and smart media technologies from pre-electronic immersive media such as stereoscopes to mobile game devices, camera-drones, digital toys, and interactive art. These two aspects share a concern with alternative and experimental trajectories in digital media art, design, and play, with the theory-practice continuum, and with the material and embodied character of postdigital media culture. The Office space and collection emphasise the interplay between information environments, their physical manifestation, and their embodied use.

The Office is managed by AMT and Transforming Creativity but welcomes PhD students and other colleagues to collaborate on project-based partnerships.

Contact: Seth Giddings s.giddings@soton.ac.uk  Jussi Parikka j.parikka@soton.ac.uk

The Office is T2005 on the first floor of the South Side Building at Winchester School of Art. Walk right down to the end of the corridor and it is on the left. Refreshments will be provided.

2pm – 3pm (drop in)
T2005: VR, AR and Hybrid play
The Boardroom: Samantha Schäfer: current research (poster); Seth Giddings: screening of microethnographies of postdigital play.

3pm – 4:30pm
The Boardroom: Alessandro Ludovico and Megen de Bruin-Molé will lead a discussion on issues and approaches in research on postdigital culture.

4:30pm – 6:30pm
T2005: More games and VR

Does it come with a spear?

Megen de Bruin-Molé’s article ‘”Does it come with a spear?” Commodity activism, plastic representation, and transmedia story strategies in Disney’s Star Wars: Forces of Destiny’ has been published in a special issue of Film Criticism 42(2) 2018, on Film and Merchandise. It is available here.

Addressing the tensions between Disney’s presentation of its girl-focused Forces of Destiny Star Wars series on YouTube and its reception by fans and consumers, Megen focuses on the design and marketing of the show’s doll line, tracing its ‘plastic representation’ within the broader contexts of Star Wars transmedia, commodity activism, and paratextual erasure.

PlayThings

In October Seth Giddings was invited to present at a research bootcamp run by the Interacting Minds Center at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. Titled PlayThings: understanding play with toys, the bootcamp aimed to develop tools for studying play and the material environment through the lens of toys:

From imaginary transformations of sticks into guns and magic wands, over function and role specific toys like dollhouses and pirate hats. From rough and tumble play facilitated by playground architecture, too elaborate emergent creations and narratives emerging from construction projects with sand, LEGO or MineCraft blocks. Toys enable, inspire and sometimes supply constraints for play but also act as social and physical invitations to join into interactions with players and the world – and for researchers to observe and decode how play unfolds.

For his contribution, ‘Everyday moments of postdigital play,’ Seth screened videos from his microethological research into children’s play across virtual and actual gameworlds, focussing on LEGO, and led a discussion on methodological approaches to exploring play with objects and environments.

Interactive digital storytelling

Samantha Schäfer recently presented at The International Conference for Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) at Trinity College Dublin, 5th – 8th December 2018. Samantha presented her PhD work on choice-making, agency and authorship in interactive narrative environments with a focus on video games and transmedia storytelling at the doctoral consortium. The feedback she received, as well as thematic discussions of some of the conference presentations, will help inform and refine her methodology, which combines ethnography and textual analysis.

Other presentations to the doctoral consortium tackled theoretical and methodological approaches, with from topics ranging from transmedia entertainment education, participatory storytelling, story and character generation and dramatic agency to more practice-based approaches to VR and game studies.

One of the keynote speakers, Janet Murray of Georgia Institute of Technology, provided insights into the ways the field of interactive digital narrative has developed in the past decades. The setting of Trinity College was fitting for a narrative conference such as ICIDS, not least due to the historical character of the university and the city itself. A quick trip to the Old Library, for instance, was a must for many conference attendees. During the conference dinner, people had the opportunity to reflect on the past days and experienced the intimacy and effectiveness of oral storytelling by a skilled traditional Irish storyteller.

The conference proceedings for ICIDS 2018 can be found here.

Office for Postdigital Research

The Office is open for research! Watch this space for a formal launch event, but contact Seth or Jussi if you are interested in using it.

The Office for Postdigital Research is a research collection and a space for experimental digital media research.

As a research space the Office houses contemporary gaming and VR hardware and software. It is used for small-scale and experimental research on digital gameplay and for testing interactive art installations. At present it is equipped with a PC and Vive VR and games, a PS4 Pro – also with VR headset and software.

The Office also holds a growing collection of visual media technologies from pre-electronic immersive media such as stereoscopes to mobile game devices, camera-drones, digital toys, and interactive art. The parameters of the collection are set by research interests and curiosity rather than taxonomical rigour, more Wunderkammer than museum.

These two aspects share a concern with alternative and experimental trajectories in digital media art, design, and play, with the theory-practice continuum, and with the material and embodied character of postdigital media culture. The Office space and collection emphasise the interplay between information environments, their physical manifestation, and their embodied use.

The Office is managed by the AMT and Transforming Creativity research groups at WSA but welcomes PhD students and other colleagues to collaborate on project-based partnerships.