New Media Production Wk 9

Tonight we have 2-3 primary objectives. First, I would like to discuss Shipka, and what “A Composition Made Whole” means to you. I am especially interested in hearing from our folks outside of the R/C community.

In doing so, I imagine that we will talk about your potential assignment sheets, due next week.

Also, I am tempted to share some of my most recently completed article, “Toward a Technical Communication Made Whole,” co-authored with Megan M. McIntyre.

After we finish discussing Shipka, I want to spend some time tonight having fun with Photoshop. We haven’t played with technology in quite awhile, and I wanted to return to photo-editing before we begin focusing more exclusively back on web design and content management. Just in time for Halloween!

We might also consult:

Rhetoric and Gaming 9.2 / The Research Project

Project 2 Reflection

So far this semester, I have asked you to think about video games in terms of two common concerns of the humanities: art/aesthetics and gender/race. In the first project, we explored whether/how games facilitate higher-level aesthetic experience: can they generate powerful emotions? Can they question how to best live a life? Can they deliver a unique perspective on our world? Can they lead us to critique existing poltical, economic, or social relations?

In our second project, I initially asked you to compose a project that extended (or responded) to the work of Anita Sarkeesian, who’s Feminist Frequency series examines the overwhelming misogyny and sexism that appears in many AAA (big budget, mass marketed) video games. The last time I taught the course, I was far more authoritarian on this topic, forcing students to examine the representations of race and gender in different genres. This time, I gave you far more freedom in developing your own topics. I will say I am pleased with the variety of the projects you have developed–while the quality of the videos might have been a bit underwhelming–each project provided us with a different lens for thinking about games.

  • Dylan, Antonio, Matt, and Nick’s project articulated 3 popular tropes for male characters in games. The three they focus on are the warrior, the chief, and the lost soul. I think I would have liked for the presentation to do a bit more work to tease out what distinguishes these tropes from each other–but, even without it, we see that male characters are often framed as independent, myopically driven, courageous, authoritative figures. They are strong, both physically and mentally. The chief is the hero in the style of John Wayne (see below)–the lost soul more of an anti-hero in the style of Robin Hood, Batman (The Dark Knight), Wolverine, or Victor Frankenstein. Overall, male characters are motivated by either a sense of justice or a sense of revenge. Our heroes are less Sherlock Holmes and more Batman. So, as I play future games, I can think about what kind of hero I am asked to play. I can also, of course, ask how (many?) female protagonists compare to these male tropes.
  • Ryan, Miranda, and Michael’s project focused our attention on the role of death in video games. I will admit that I found this project the most interesting, if only because it asked a question I had not previously considered: to what extent to videogames reflect upon the violence they contain? How many prioritize uncomplicated enjoyment or valorization of war? How many call that enjoyment into question and ask us to consider the horror of war? One might call this the difference between John Wayne and Jon Rambo (or, more generally, “modern” war movies of the 1950′s and 1960′s that champion heroes of WWII and the “postmodern” war movies of the 1970′s and 1980′s that brutally critique the atrocities of Vietnam).
  • Alan, Justin, and Chet’s group addressed the third term in the liberal humanist trifecta: class (along with race and gender). I thought the project could have been a bit clearer in its purpose, but what I got out of it is a question about representations of class in games. Are the rich always the villains? Why are poor people poor? Of course, these are questions that also dominant our discussions of politics and exacerbate the contemporary divide between left and right, blue and red, democrat and republican (i.e., are poor people poor because socio-economic structure denies them adequate opportunity to succeed or because they lack the work ethic and/or ability to rise out of poverty?). At the very least, this line of questioning led me to consider how games reflect these basic political orientations and their resulting narrative tropes.
  • Jordan, Kiele, Drea, Chris, and Elizabeth’s presentation was, thus far, the most reflective of my origin intentions. They pick up where Sarkeesian left off, examining whether indie games are more sophisticated in their treatment of gender than AAA games. They also had the most rigorous methodology, articulating four clear criteria for their study: abuse, playability, role, and appearance. They advance (and confirm?) a hypothesis that indie games would be more progressive in their representations. Like Dylan, Antonio, and Matt, I believe they leave us with a useful framework for approaching other games.

A final word on what to do with this information. Those who follow me on facebook or have taken me before are likely aware of my mantra: “every dollar you spend is a vote for the world in which you want to live.” Don’t want to live in a world in which civic entities stop producing viable drinking water? Then don’t drink bottled water. Don’t want to live in a world in that perpetuates corporate welfare? Then don’t shop at Walmart. Don’t want to support the ALCU? Don’t buy your car insurance from Progressive. Want to support the ALCU? Buy your car insurance from Progressive.

My point is that, whether you are on the left or the right, with a little research you can look into both what political organizations businesses choose to support and what underlying socio-economic/political factors a business contributes to. Understand that in the era of late/global capitalism, your dollar is probably more effectual than your vote (but you should DEFINITELY vote).

Thanks to new media, and especially social media, you have another avenue for agency. Writing complaints on social media has definite impact on what projects developers pursue. Do not think, for a second, that the controversy surrounding GamerGate hasn’t reached executives at gaming companies. The Bechdel test didn’t cure all movies of sexism, but it did have a clear impact on movies and got things moving in a positive direction. It attracted attention. You have, via twitter and the #hashtag, the same power to contribute to social change. DON’T WASTE IT.

The Research Project

At this point in the semester, I want to amend the syllabus a bit to reflect reality (we have 7 weeks left!). I am going to cut back on the Rhetoric and the Real World unit and move into the research project.

Over the next 4 weeks, I will ask you conduct research on video games and “X.” “X” can be just about any other academic, social, or cultural domain. Research needs to be academic in general. I expect a number of the projects will advance from Bogost, so Videogames and Politics, Videogames and Advertisement, or Videogames and Education. Some of these might continue the work of Project One or Two–Such as Videogames and Art or Videogames and Gender/Race/Class. This research can extend from McGonigal and SuperBetter, such as Videogames and Physical Health. This research work can be more narrowly defined, such as MMORPGs and Race, or First-Person Shooters and the Nietzschean Ubermensch, or Survival Horror Video Games and Psychoanalytic Theory (that one has been done). This research can really be about anything you want; next Thursday I will ask you to prepare a 200 word proposal that speaks to your intended topic. I will provide each student with a list of readings germane to that topic. You will be required to find additional readings.

As you are aware, I am not a big fan of providing specific requirements for topics. But I will provide a few:

  • I am looking for a paper in the neighborhood of 3000 words (8-12 pages typed, double-spaced)
  • I am looking for you to read between 350 and 400 pages of material for your research. Note: this is not a “source count,” but a page count. I will ask you to develop a reading journal, similar to the gaming journal for project one

For homework this weekend, I want you to read the first 76 pages of McGonigal’s Reality is Broken. We will discuss this in class on Tuesday (and I will provide a bit more materials for the research project).

Walter Ong: Writing is a Way of Being

Lecture notes on Ong:

Below are my lecture notes on Ong. Here’s the quick version: Ong, along with Eric Havelock, were among the first scholars to argue that literacy was more than a tool that simply communicates what human think. Rather, literacy is a transformative agent that shapes how/what I think. And, in turn, what I value (and even, at worst, who I value).

Below Ong details 14 different ways writing changes our brains, and the corresponding shifts to reason, ethics, subjectivity. Basically, writing affords us far more nuanced vocabularies–whereas the oral Greek culture might have 2 words for death, a literate culture might have 50 (I do an exercise with students where I ask them for all the words they know for anger. Then remind them that ancient Greece had just one word).

Writing also individualizes us: speaking brings us in proximity. Writing distances.

Writing also leads to a different, more exacting, sense of Truth.

Similarly, writing transforms knowledge into an object distinct from a person. It objectifies.

Finally, by increasing memory, writing allows for a kind of syllogistic reasoning that would be almost impossible in a purely oral world. While dialectical argumentation might have its roots in orality, it is only in literacy that we can dissect premises (clauses) and generate conclusions.

  • Writing separates the knower from the known (24). In articulating this, Ong means that writing not only serves to generate objectivity (in the scientific sense), but also leads us to conceptualize knowledge itself as an object, a thing, a materiality.
  • Writing separates interpretation from data (25). Oral cultures do not have the sense of precision and exactitude literates expect (transcription).
  • Writing distances word and sound (25).
  • Writing distances the source of the communication (the writer) from the recipient (the reader), both in time and in space. (25-26)
  • Writing distances the word from the plenum of existence. (26) In other words, writing decontextualizes.
  • Writing enforces verbal precision of a sort unavailable in oral cultures. (26)
  • Writing separates past from present. (26)
  • Writing establishes “administration” (26). See below for an explication.
  • Writing separates logic from rhetoric (27).
  • Writing separates academic learning from wisdom, making possible the conveyance of highly organized abstract thought structures independently of their actual use or of their integration into the human lifeworld (27).
  • Writing creates high and low languages (27).
  • Writing creates expansive vocabularies in the high dialects (28).
  • Writing intensifies abstraction as it becomes more abstract (28).
  • Writing separates being from time. (28)

Basically, “administration” refers to hierarchy. Literally, Ong means that administration produces officials in charge of overseeing (top-down) different elements of society. There’s not one homogenous collective, or one total ruler. “Rule” begins to be organized, ontologized, broken up into categories. This gets complicated pretty quick–but if you think about Aristotle’s metaphysics, then you see what Ong is talking about. Aristotle began to think ontology/reality by creating categories, hierarchies, thought trees, for things (the whole genus/species thing). That is, according to Ong, a product of the way that literacy helps organize[administer] thought. So for thought, so for social-political organization.

Decontextualization is also in play here. Put simply, oral thinkers think associatively. If you say “tree,” they will begin seeing the tree in connection to all the other things that inform tree (bird, grass, sun, wind, leaves, etc). Literate thinkers don’t do this. They pull the tree out of its environment to focus on it as an individual entity. They “divide” (one of Ong’s favorite words) the tree from its lived environment. And–here is the connection to hierarchy, metaphysics, ontology, Aristotle–they start to break the isolated tree into its various parts.

Literate thinkers are very good at this kind of critical analysis: breaking things into parts. Determining what parts are essential to the object, and which are accidental (determining essential and accidental qualities is the foundation of Aristotle’s metaphysics and all modern science/thought; my own research argues that purely “literate” or “essentialist” thinking is bad and that, hopefully, technology can lead us to retain literacy’s benefits while also rediscovering the ethical compassion/associative thinking of orality).

One thing to mark here, too. Ong is often attacked by multicultural scholars as dismissing the intellectual capacity of oral cultures. This is probably true. I read Ong as a theorist rather than an anthropologist. He isn’t articulating how people actually thought as much as detailing two different ways of thinking about thinking. And he is trying to make us realize that the way we think isn’t “natural,” but rather a learned, evolutionary, technological, cybernetic process.

Which means, of course, that we can learn to learn otherwise.

A good example of “administration” would be law. In ancient Hebrew culture, law was administered by a judge in the moment. He would hear both sides of a case and make a reasonable judgement.

But, once you have literacy, you start writing laws down. Now the judge has a much different function s/he applies a previously determined set of codes and procedures (abstract principles) to a specific situation.

In oral law, there is no pre-existing procedures. Sure, there’s codes and commandments, but compare the ten commandments to the legal libraries of today. Boom. Ong in a nutshell.

Lifeworld isn’t fancy. It just means the world in which you live. If there’s anything tricky to it, it would be that as literate westerners, it is impossible for us to appreciate how much the process of abstraction impacts the way we negotiate the world.

For instance, when a literate person encounters a tree, they don’t simply encounter the tree. They begin to think through the tree, to dissect it, to administer/organize it. ALL. THE. TIME.

High dialects means something like “academic discourse.” He is acknowledging that English isn’t one homogenous language. There’s a big difference between someone like me and a student in your class. Sure, we are both literate, but could you really say we speak/write the same language?
Or, in Aristotelian terms, we are of the same genus, but are very different species.

Which gets into how this kind of thinking can quickly become genocidal. Because, at some dark unconscious level, we can come to understand that those who don’t “write” the “right” way are a different species. A sub-species. Less than Human (with a capital H). But that’s another lecture for another time.

Rhetoric and Gaming 8.2 Bogost, Rhetoric, and Procedurality

We’ll talk more about Bogost next week, after you have completed Project 2. In today’s class, you’ll take a quiz that will highlight some key terms. But I wanted to take a minute to explicate what I see as a problem with Bogost’s treatment of rhetoric, and, consequently, his framing of procedural rhetoric. This isn’t a “problem” in the sense of “Bogost’s theory doesn’t work.” In fact, I think he provides us with a valuable way of seeing (as Burke would call it) procedural arguments. Rather, because he defines rhetoric according to a logocentric Aristotelian tradition, and pays too little attention to Burke’s concept of identification, he misses an opportunity to address a wider scope of rhetorical effects than simply “to change opinion or action” (29).

Briefly, I would reduce the debates Bogost traces regarding rhetoric (and especially visual rhetoric) to a discussion as to whether rhetoric has to advance arguments. Bogost reads classical rhetoric as built on the back of dialectic and argument (via Aristotle’s response to Socrates’ and Plato’s condemnation). Contemporary rhetoric, he argues, is more invested in style. He writes:

In contemporary rhetoric, the goal of persuasion is largely underplayed or even omitted as a defining feature of the field, replaced by the more general notion of elegance, clarity, and creativity in communication. (20)

Let me go on record as saying he is half right. Contemporary rhetoric isn’t always concerned with persuasion (though much of it still is). But the second half of that sentence makes me want to pull my hair out. To be fair, Bogost isn’t a rhetorician by trade–his work lies at the intersections of philosophy and technology, and I would excuse him a bit if he is not completely familiar with the nuances of another field. But I get the sense, especially from his cursory review of Burke, that reviewers likely suggested that there is more depth to contemporary rhetorical studies than he acknowledges.

So, if contemporary rhetoric isn’t concerned about persuasion or style, then what is it’s concern? I would argue that rhetoric, inspired by Burke and 20th century philosophy/theory (a number of kinds here: phenomenology, continental, postmodern, poststructuralist, feminist, postcolonial, critical, etc.), has taken the process of identification as its central concern. Full disclosure: my work takes identification as its central concern (though I refer to it as “ethics”) and I consider myself a contemporary rhetorician. But I do not think I am alone in this endeavor by any stretch of the imagination.

Let’s look at Bogost’s discussion of Burke:

The influential twentieth-century rhetorician Kenneth Burke marks an important change in the understanding of rhetoric. Because people are inherently separate from one another, we seek ways to join our interests. Burke identifies this need as the ancestor of the practice of rhetoric. He extends rhetoric beyond persuasion, instead suggesting “identification” as a key term for the practice. We use symbol systems, such as language, as a way to achieve this identification. Burke defines rhetoric as a part of the practice of identification, as “the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or induce actions in other human agents.” While rhetoric still entails persuasion for Burke, he greatly expands its purview, arguing that it facilitates human action in general. Persuasion is subordinated to identification [...] and using rhetoric to achieve an end is only one possible use of the craft for Burke. Rhetoric becomes a means to facilitate identification and to “bridge the conditions of estrangement that are natural and inevitable.” (20-21)

This is an admirable summary of Burke’s work–though I will argue it underplays some of the more radical dimensions of Burke’s rhetoric. First, though, I would suggest that the “other ends of rhetoric” suggested by Burke disappear from Bogost’s book after this paragraph. A few pages later, (procedural) rhetoric is summarized thusly:

Following the classical model, procedural rhetoric entails persuasion–to change the opinion or action. Following the contemporary model, procedural rhetoric entails expression–to convey ideas effectively. (29).

Notice how identification has disappeared.

What I would emphasize is that Burke’s concept of identification isn’t necessarily a conscious product of authorial intent or agency. Burke, influenced by psychoanalysis, Marxism, and phenomenology was interested in the unconscious (his work anticipates Zizek’s sociological reading of Lacan). Rhetoric becomes the study of how a collective group of individuals becomes a “we.” Without a prior sense of a “we” (such that persuasion isn’t subordinated to identification as much as identification is prior to persuasion), there can be no exchange dialectical or otherwise. And, in the wake of the holocaust, Burke’s work was particularly attuned to the ways in which any creation of an “us” by necessity operates by engendering a “them.” Identification is impossible without its counterpart, division. Burke’s rhetoric is an attempt to attend to this process It is not necessarily an attempt to stop the process (for Burke it is indispensable), but an effort to create increasingly inclusive senses of “us” and to minimize the violence identification wrecks upon “them.” This for me is “ethics” in its most basic sense.

Again, my point here isn’t to bash Bogost or his concept of procedural rhetoric. As we will see in the coming weeks, I find both to be interesting, innovative, and useful. But I do want to highlight his rather impoverished sense of contemporary rhetoric, and to suggest that we can better understand procedural rhetoric once we attend to how videogames always operate by placing us within particular identities (particular senses of “us”). This, I believe, compliments Bogost’s discussion of videogames and ideology (3, 71-79).

Reading Notes/Quotes

Traditional take on classical rhetoric (17-19).

Problems with Visual / Digital rhetoric (21-28; 34-35).

Procedural rhetoric isn’t about “content” but “processes”; distinction between procedural rhetoric and serious games (48, 54-59)

Example of an enthymeme as a truncated syllogism (36). Bogost makes a direct connection between the enthymeme, interactivity, and procedural rhetoric (43).

“This is really what we do when we play videogames: we explore the possibility space its rules afford by manipulating the game’s controls” (42-43). Games like SuperBetter or sf0 attempt to refashion the real world with the expanded “possibility space” we afford game worlds: making it easier to experiment with new ways of operating or interacting with reality.

For videogames as artistic expression meets interesting choices, see 45.

Key to understanding Bogost’s definition of rhetoric is how he differentiates himself from Fogg: 60-61. Compare to his discussion of the processes that interest him (5).

Rhetoric and Gaming / 8.1 / Bogost and Reading Theory

Via request, I have extended the due date on the second project to next week, providing you with one additional weekend to work together. But I will start on our next units this week: both the unit dealing with rhetoric in the real world and the unit focusing on research.

To get us started, I want to work with Ian Bogost’s Persuasive Games and his focus on procedural rhetoric. While not an overly dense or intentionally opaque book, it is difficult, and I imagine, for some of you, this might be the first time you have encountered a theoretical text.

Working from that assumption, I want to introduce a few procedures for reading more difficult prose.

Identify the Problem

All texts are responses to problems, usually multiple problems. A key to penetrating and appreciating an academic text is to identify the problems it addresses. Sometimes, these problems will be explicit and easily identifiable. Other times, they can be more implicit. But as you are reading–and particularly as you are reading introductory material, be on the look out for the problem an author hopes to solve.

Have Google at the Ready

When you are reading theoretical texts, it is extremely helpful to have a search engine and/or wikipedia at the ready. You’ll want to search quickly for key terms and names you don’t recognize.

I emphasize “key” because you don’t want to fall into a hole searching for every term you don’t recognize. Try to focus on the one’s the author emphasizes.

Searching for names can be particularly important because it can help you to identify the author’s problem. Often, writers are working with or against other writers. Being able to map the relationship of an author to other writers/movements/problems/solutions can be extremely helpful.

Read with a pen, never a highlighter

Studies have shown that reading with a highlighter does absolutely nothing to increase retention. Reading with a pen, however, can be extremely beneficial. I recommend using the pen for two things:

  • First, either underline or mark the margin in any significant place.
  • Second, at the top of any page that contains a mark, write a few word that indicate what the mark is about–even if it just repeats words from the marked passage. The idea is to create a “flip index” of main ideas across the top of the page.

Preparing for Class Discussion

When I prepared as a student, I would try to mark off three things as I read:

  • A passage I didn’t understand
  • A passage of critical importance to the author’s problem/solution
  • A passage that got my attention, made me laugh, made me growl

If you come to class with even two of these three passages, you will rock any class discussion.

Write it Up

A final point: when you finish reading something, you should always write a brief 3-5 sentence summary of it somewhere.

New Media Production / Week 7

Editing Audio

In terms of sound editing, it seems like Audacity is still the best choice. It is a free, open-source project available for both PC and Mac:

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Here’s some tutorials for working with Audacity. I’m sure you can go to YouTube to find some screencast tutorials as well.

If you have a Mac, then you also have the choice of Garage Band, which (if I remember correctly) is still included for free with any Mac computer. Here’s a few screenshots:

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 11.10.08 AM

The image shows a project in Garageband. I created this project from the new project screen, using “vocal” as my input choice. I can easily adjust the volume of the piece. Using the “browse” tab on the right, I can find a number of filters. I can then double click on the small selection in the top section to open the audio region area on the bottom. This lets me manipulate the sound track (cutting parts out, stretching them, adjusting volume, etc).

One more image:

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 11.10.36 AM

Notice the blue button in the bottom right corner? That opens my media browser. So here’s the really cool part: Garage Band will open the audio file for any movie you have in your media browser. You can edit (and layer, if you want background tracks!) in GarageBand, and it will make the changes automatically in iMovie. Like a God Damned Professional! Here’s a tutorial for creating voiceovers in Garageband for iMovies (5 minutes). Here’s a link that walks through this a bit on an iPad.

And, while it doesn’t have anything to do with the project, this “create your own ringtone” demo is pretty cool.

Unfortunately, if you are using a PC, you don’t have free access to a program that can emulate iMovie/Garage Band. You can use the USF Apps portal to connect to Adobe Premier and Adobe Soundbooth, but I don’t recommend it (definitely not if you use Brighthouse Cable for your Internet provider, you might be able to swing it with Verizon). While the USF Apps portal gives you free access to any program, Premier is incredibly large and taxing; past students report that it crashes frequently when you try to access it online.

You can still edit movie audio in audacity. The Audacity project site has some information on how to do this. It requires you install and additional download, called the FFmpeg library.

File Formats

A final word on video file formats: there is a variety of them, but it is helpful to know which ones are the most agnostic and compatible. Generally speaking, if you have the option, then you should save/convert/export (whatever) using the .mpg (or .mp4) extension. This is the universal standard.

iMovie, if I remember correctly, will by default use the .mov extension. This is less universal, and unless someone has a video converter program or quicktime on their computer, they may not be able to view the video (almost every computer has one of those things, but not *every* computer).

MovieMaker, if I remember correctly, will by default use the .wmv extension. This extension is no longer supported by Mac, so unless they have downloaded FlipForMac converter, Mac users will be unable to watch your video.

Here is an obnoxiously long list of video file formats.

New Media Production / Week 6

On tonight’s agenda:

Homework

Rhetoric & Gaming: 6.1 Project 2 Proposal

In today’s class I want your groups to produce a project proposal. The following should be a google doc that is shared with me. The proposal should include the following elements:

  • Group Names
  • Project Description: medium, a 2-3 sentence summation of your aims. What is your research question (and, if you can’t frame your goals in terms of an open-ended question, then we might have a problem).
  • Methodology for selecting games to be included in your study. You should point to the methodologies of another study if possible.
  • A tentative list of games that this methodology has produced.
  • Methodology for analyzing games. Give me a description of what you will look at/for, whether you will play the games, how you will collate your data. Your methodological discussion should point to other articles/studies. At this time, you should include a list of things you have read or will read to help validate your findings. In the final project, I will ask for you to justify why you looked for what you looked for–are your results valid?
  • A hypothesis: what are you expecting to find?
  • A project time chart, outlining goals, due dates, etc. I will ask each group member to keep a log that charts the hours they have invested on the project in this document starting today until you turn it in. The log should be the last section of the document. I have attached a sample proposal and log that you can copy/paste.

In terms of playing the games, I expect each of you to invest about 4-5 hours a week into this project for the next few weeks (this is due the Thursday of week 8, so that’s a total of 12-15 hours of work). So, while I understand that you can’t play every game in the study, I expect you to play some games.

Also, there’s an approximation for how much time you will spend researching and writing about the games you don’t play. If all you are doing is looking at character models, then this might take 10 minutes a game. I would expect, then, that each person would look at 25 games or so. A group of 4 would look at 100 games.

If, beyond appearance, you delve into the script to look at dialogue, then that will take more time. How long is difficult to estimate. This is something I will take into account during final grading.

New Media Production / Week 5

MEmorials

First, I want to let Michelle present her MEmorial.

Shipka

Second, I want to spend time thinking about Shipka’s Toward a Composition Made Whole. I got the page numbers wrong in the homework section last week (I meant for you to read to page 38), but I still think we can trace out what Shipka means by making composition whole.

In a few weeks, when we are finished with the Kalman project, I will ask you to design a “wholistic” assignment (preferably for FYC, but it could also be for any other class you teach). The assignment sheet will have to include a discussion of Shipka (so be on the look out for quotes that might serve as the basis of an assignment).

On delicious, I have been keeping a tag with this project in mind, my inspiration tag. This is where I store project ideas, things I might try here or in my undergraduate new media class. As we are working on the Kalman project, I will ask you to keep your eyes open for projects that inspire you. Tweet them to me (or, if you use delicious, just tag them and share with me).

A few very different projects to stimulate your imagination:

Kalman Project

First, I want to watch something. Or somethings.

I am drawn to Kalman’s work because I am interested in the extent to which new media can help steer us away from “thinking” and toward “feeling.” By us, I mean to frame both scholars and teachers (K-Grad School). In short, I believe our institutions place too much emphasis on the power and importance of thought (research, knowledge, etc) and not enough on feeling, which I would connect, via Levinas, rhetorics of pathos, Ulmer + Barthes’ “sting” of the punctum, feminism’s validation of subjective experience (the ME of a MEmorial). Ultimately, I believe cultivation of feeling is key to developing an ethical rhetoric, one less based on agonism/argument and more sensitive to cooperation/tolerance.

But that’s my spin on Kalman. Today, I want you to think through her work in order to develop what you have read into a “wholistic” assignment. To help do this, I am going to ask that you play a little bit of code switching, translating Kalman’s products into a potential process: specifically, I want you to create a recipe for how to make a Kalman. Use the genre of the recipe as literally as you see fit.

So, right now, working in groups of two, I will ask you to make a short video (2 minutes) detailing your recipe. The video needs to have at least one audio track. Preferably two (one track of dialogue, one track of intro/outro music). The video should involve at least one still image. The video needs to follow Stockman’s rules for video that doesn’t suck.

OMG I DON’T KNOW HOW TO MAKE A VIDEO. Yes, you do. It is easy. If you are on a PC, then you have Windows Media Maker. If you are on a mac, then you have iMovie.

Homework

Hi all, I ran out of time last night, and I realize things might be confusing. Let me try to clear things up. Right now, we are working on 4 things.

  • First, keep up with SuperBetter and with sf0. Our 4th project is Rhetoric, Gaming, and the Real World. Next week, we’ll open class sharing what quests we have done.
  • Second, there is the Kalman recipe–the assignment we worked on in groups last night. This project has two aims: 1) to get you thinking about what Kalman is doing, and how you might do something similar, 2) to get you working with a video editing software. These videos should be 2 minutes. We will look at these in next week’s class.
  • Third, there is Project 2, the Kalman project. This is a longer project, in which you will make a Kalman. You may follow the recipe your group made, or you can make something new. You will have until October 17th to make something. That something could/should involve:
    • A place
    • A dominant narrative
    • A subjective experience / a walk
    • Details
    • Whimsy
    • ?
  • Fourth, and finally, there is the Shipka project. This is project 3. We will start this project after the Kalman project. Project 3 asks you to design your own project. I want to plant this seed early, so you are looking for inspiration and thinking about possibilities for the next few weeks. If you were teaching a course in new media, what might you teach?

Rhetoric & Gaming 5.1: Race and Gaming, Tricky Terms

This week I wanted to open our discussion of race and gaming by explicating out a few important binary terms. This is my response to Factual Feminist’s response to Sarkeesian’s video, in which I flush out a bit of what is covered in Jonathan Mann’s response to the response to Sarkeesian’s video. Here goes.

Factual Feminist – Are Gams Sexist?
Auto-Tune Rebuttal

First, it is important to recognize a distinction between causation and correlation. In her response, Factual Feminist points to a study that concludes there is no causal relationship between video games and violence. It is true that there is no definitive consensus as to whether video games cause violent behavior. As far as I know (and I don’t claim definitive knowledge), while most studies suggest there is a causal link many studies that claim it does as there are claims it does not, there are others that suggest there isn’t (though the methodology on some of these are questionable at best). But, for the purposes of argument, let’s admit that one has proven any causal relationship between playing violent video games (or watching violent movies or playing “cowboys and indians / cops and robbers / knights and dragons”) and committing acts of violence.

Even if there is no causal link, this does not mean there is not a strong correlation. In quantitative and qualitative research, correlation speaks to how likely something is to be associated with something else. If you find pancakes, there is a .97 correlation chance that you will find syrup (hey, some people like chocolate chips and/or whip cream). And it should not be surprising that the correlation between violent video games and violence is very, very high.

What do we make of this? Why, if the correlation is so strong, isn’t there a causal argument? Because it is impossible to determine whether you are drawn to violent video games because you are violent or are made violent by exposure to games. It is something of a chicken and the egg scenario. There is also, of course, the fact that the overwhelming majority of people exposed to violent media won’t transform into serial killers or school shooters. Put quickly: since Columbine, video games have made a great scapegoat whenever there is a public tragedy. If we just blame it on games and bad parenting, then we don’t have to confront either 1) the dark horror in human nature that drives us to kill or 2) the political and material conditions that provide easy access to firearms.

1 and 2 are meant to be provocative. And they introduce the second binary I want to work through before we begin talking about race: essentialism or materialism. This morning, I found the following article on my facebook feed: “The Best States for Raising Black Children Have One Disturbing Thing in Common.” The article created an index for raising all children and featured graphs that displayed the best and worst states according to the index.

When you look at the data, you will probably instantly invent a rationale for what you are seeing. I would argue that this rationale will likely fall across one of two poles:

Essentialist
In an essentialist argument, you would argue that there is something essential to black people (whether natural or cultural, nature or nurture) that produces these economic conditions. These conditions are caused by their essence.
Materialist
In an materialist argument, you would argue that these economic conditions are the result of the institutional, political, cultural, and racial forces surrounding black people. These conditions are caused by the world around them.

To recall Thursday’s discussion: part of my job is training you to recognize and dissect arguments, to evaluate evidence, and to recognize logical fallacies. That’s rhetoric. Part of my job is also training you what will get you fired, and what you cannot, in our contemporary cultural context, say without causing a shit storm. So let me be clear in indicating that what I say next is not an expression of my personal convictions (which I would rather not expose) but rather a warning regarding our current cultural context: making any kind of essentialist argument in our contemporary culture is quite likely to get you fired.