Archive for the ‘Roger Travis’ Category

h1

#TransformDH

May 3, 2013

It’s difficult for me to get behind the idea of transforming something (DH) that I don’t really believe exists in any meaningful sense; in a more important light, though, perhaps DH will only really exist in transformation. This piece is certainly a great read if you’re frustrated by people who pretend they know what DH is.

We wanted to think about the institutions that were forming in this ever more amorphous thing called digital humanities. We didn’t want the ways of engaging knowledge that were important to us to be left out. We felt it would be too easy to say that we were doing something other than DH, whether that be new media studies or critical cultural studies with a focus on the digital; instead, we wanted to bring what Juhasz calls “necessarily radical traditions,” which have nourished us, into the DH field in which we also felt at home.

h1

The New York Times goes after online learning

February 19, 2013

This is written in the negative, but I’m hoping we who believe in the power of online learning have enough traction now to turn it around. What the attrition rate exposes is how desperate the need is for us to find a way to help undergrads learn how to learn.

The research has shown over and over again that community college students who enroll in online courses are significantly more likely to fail or withdraw than those in traditional classes, which means that they spend hard-earned tuition dollars and get nothing in return. Worse still, low-performing students who may be just barely hanging on in traditional classes tend to fall even further behind in online courses.

h1

Aesthetics and Mechanics

January 31, 2013

The more I follow this little spur of the digital humanities railroad called game studies, the more I find myself sympathizing–and even collaborating–with art historians. Chris Solarski helps me understand why.

Video games rely on the very same design principles — perspective, form, value, etc. — which classical artists employed to create the illusion that the television (or canvas) is a window into an imagined world. These design techniques also serve a second purpose equally applicable to game design, which is their aesthetic value, and application in visual narratives.

I’ve a bone to pick with Solarski’s notion that games’ interactivity is unique, but I’m increasingly aware that games do configure their interactivity uniquely–even my beloved parallel to homeric epic relies on an analogy of configuration that applies centrally to the bard and much less to his audience, who could never sing the tales the bard sings. The barrier of entry to game-performances is much, much lower, and Solarski’s piece may help us describe the available performances more thickly.

h1

Roger on Rulesets and the Humanities

January 30, 2013

Frankly, my new language is “games precede humanities.” I’ll be trying to take that on the road this summer. From my latest post at Play the Past.

The codification of the essentially humanistic analysis available to every player of BioShock into writing articles for scholarly journals in order to win promotion is a ruleset of its own, but I want to persuade you that if we mistake that ruleset for the essence of humanistic endeavor, the humanities really are doomed.

h1

Gaming culture’s complicity in a lamentable confusion

January 15, 2013

There’s a trend here that’s making me very unhappy, of gaming culture actively perpetuating the lunatics’ conflation of “shooters” with “video games.” Consciously or un-, gaming culture writers are trying to rope Flower, Journey, and Papo & Yo into a conversation in which they don’t belong.

Still, bit by bit, video games are being demonized. And even though no true connection has been made, the more they are deferred in such a manner, the more it will be difficult to convince parties otherwise that games are not the cause of society’s ills.

I think the conversation about violent games, and the one about violent media in general, is one we’re overdue for. I’ll bring my copy of the Iliad. I’ve argued before, and I continue to think the prosocial effects, for adults, of such media far outweigh any adverse effects. But as I say I think that’s a conversation worth having. The one we’re having now, where one person is thinking of Call of Duty and another is thinking of Barbie Horse Adventure isn’t, as far as I can tell.

h1

Open access, for anyone who still doesn’t understand why the academic publishing industry needs reform.

October 26, 2012

Just, yes. I like that it’s colored blue, because I’ve been shouting this until I’m blue in the face.

h1

Epic Life: Roger’s case for the humanities, through gaming

October 22, 2012

I have no idea how many people read this blog who don’t also read Play the Past, but it probably makes sense to tease my Epic Life series a bit, since it’s directly on topic for what Anke and I are trying to accomplish here, as well.

I mean in Epic Life to take the formulations I made in that last post, about where a rules-of-the-text reading can get us, towards an understanding of how describing this great chain of practomime in relation to our lives in culture, as the job of the humanities, may allow us to measure at least with qualitative precision the kind of learning outcomes (call it παιδεῖα [paideia] if you want) humanistic study can effect: critical thinking, contextually-sensitive analysis of cultural heritage materials, historically-sensitive analysis of contemporary cultural performance. If my notion of text as ruleset has traction, not only performances in the Iliad and the Academy and in Skyrim, but also performances on Facebook and Twitter, are on the one hand legible both as performances of rulesets and as, themselves, iterated rulesets, and on the other hand susceptible of development in both capacities, according to analysis that is at the same time performance within the ruleset of a discipline, itself an iterated ruleset of the study of the humanities that goes back through Plato to the homeric bards themselves in such passages as the “Embassy to Achilles,” where the bards analyze the warrior-code, in the voice of Achilles, just as Plato will later analyze the work of the bards in the voice of Socrates.

Further posts in the series: here, here, here, and on Wednesday!

h1

Big Data and the End of Theory

October 5, 2012

The case here is way overstated, but I think the fundamental point is sound, and breathtaking. (You’re going to give me significant push-back here, Anke, I’m sure, though!)

“All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

So proclaimed statistician George Box 30 years ago, and he was right. But what choice did we have? Only models, from cosmological equations to theories of human behavior, seemed to be able to consistently, if imperfectly, explain the world around us. Until now. Today companies like Google, which have grown up in an era of massively abundant data, don’t have to settle for wrong models. Indeed, they don’t have to settle for models at all.

One thing I already see changing is that there’s a much shorter distance even in the humanities between data and analysis, a distance that used to be covered by theory. Or maybe I’m out to lunch. In my classroom, though, my students and I spend much less time hypothesizing and much more time analyzing. “The End of Theory”? Certainly not. The transformation of the role of theory, perhaps.

h1

The Magic of Interactive Digital Media. . . as ideology?

September 22, 2012

I’m absorbed these days with questions of how ludic artifacts can use their manifest interactivity (the thing that in my view differentiates them from non-ludic artifacts like traditional film and novel) to do new things. The examples are starting to pile up: BioShockNo Russian” in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and the controversial ending of Mass Effect are the examples that stand out for me among mainstream games thus far, but it definitely seems like games that actually use their interactivity in thematic ways are growing more frequent.

As a quirky, but I think very important side note, I found this piece by Alex Stone about the role of choice in the arsenal of a magician’s tricks very revelatory:

Another familiar force is known as Magician’s Choice, the equivoqué. The idea is to set up multiple paths to the same endpoint. In the simplest version, you deal two cards down on the table and ask the spectator to “remove” to one of them. If your volunteer removes to the card you want to force, you say “Ok, that’ll be yours.” If, however, the spectator points to the other card, you eliminate it, saying “Great, we’ll remove that one.” (Here you’re exploiting the ambiguity in the meaning of the word remove.) Either way the spectator winds up with the same card.

Two things spring to mind: “ludic” films like The Usual Suspects (along with ludic epics like, say, the Odyssey, and, more importantly to me at least, every narrative digital game ever that convinced you that you were making real choices. The great frontier of making this illusion of choice manifest to the player is the one I’m excited to think we’re facing, and I take hope that the makers of games will be able to do a very great range of thematic things with it from the incredible variety of forces (of this illusionist type) one finds in traditional works of art: from the different ways Shakespearean comedies end with a marriage to the construction of the forum of Augustus as a traditional Roman family-home.

I’m suggesting that ideology can be viewed as a magician’s force, and that the connection may mean that narrative games have access to the machinery of ideology in a way they’re only beginning to explore. Worth pondering, maybe.

h1

Philip Roth and Wikpedia: the moribundity of the author

September 16, 2012

I kind of had a feeling. The view of authorship with which Philip Roth grew up, and which in my view is peculiar to Western culture ca. 1800- ca. 1980, isn’t compatible, thank goodness, with modern information-flows. A blogger named Oliver (aka quominus) who works for the Wikimedia foundation, writes in a post that’s far more persuasive than letter of Roth’s to which he’s responding:

Lets go through his account again, shall we?

“I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed.”

False. There was absolutely no misstatement in the article. What the article claimed at the time he wrote this open letter was that “Kakutani and other critics were struck by the parallels to the life of Anatole Broyard, a writer and the New York Times literary critic in the 1950s and 1960s who was of Louisiana Creole mixed-race descent and passed for white”.

If I’m right that Plato designed the first video game, perhaps Barthes designed Wikipedia?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.