P2 Lecture 4


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Presentation file for lecture 4 in the Theories and Interpretation of Interactive Media course by professor Frans Mäyrä.

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P2 Lecture 4

  1. 1. Theories and interpretation of interactive media 4 / Vuorovaikutteisen median teoriat ja tulkinta 4 Frans Mäyrä Professor of hypermedia, esp. digital culture and game studies University of Tampere, Hypermedia Laboratory frans.mayra@uta.fi
  2. 2. Lecture 4: Transformation / new media: How to conceptualise the media change?
  3. 3. Outline • Fidler’s theory of ‘mediamorphosis’ • 30-Year-Rule, media co-development, resistance and failures • Dead Media, media archaeology • Language of new media derived from old media • Remediation • Computer spaces • Historical virtual realities • Media evolution and degeneration views • Game studies and debates
  4. 4. The concept • ‘New media’ is like ‘hypermedia’ (hyper: over-, superior-), it is relational concept that is defined through difference to the ‘common’ or ‘old media’ • Studying the history and evolution of new media is fundamentally faced with a paradox: when new media is known and can be studied, it is already old, rather than ‘new’ • If ‘newness’ or novelty is the only decisive characteristics, then there is no much room for analysis or critique • New media appears just as the constant gesture to provide tools of communication and areas for collaboration that are somehow ‘different’ from what has been available earlier
  5. 5. Mediamorphosis • Roger Fidler’s book Mediamorphosis: Understanding New Media (1997) approaches the new media ‘transformations’ from a mass media studies perspective • According to Fidler, undergoing is the “greatest transformation of human communication since the emergence of written language” (p. xvi) • ‘Mediamorphosis’ means “the transformation of communication media, usually brought about by the complex interplay perceived needs, competitive and political pressures, and social and technological innovation” (p. xv) • Adopts Paul Saffo’s (1992) 30-Year Rule on how new cultural ideas take root: first decade, little perceived need; second decade, increasing penetration; third decade, final acceptance
  6. 6. Principles of mediamorphosis 1. Coevolution and coexistence: all communication media coevolves as an adaptive system, influencing all other forms of media 2. Metamorphosis: new media emerge through metamorphosis from old media (which rather than die, will adapt and continue to evolve) 3. Propagation: emerging media propagate dominant traits from earlier media, spreading through various communication codes/languages
  7. 7. Principles of mediamorphosis (2) 4. Survival: both media and media enterprises have to adapt in changing environment 5. Opportunity and need: technology is not enough, but there must be social, political and/or economic reasons for new media to be developed 6. Delayed adoption: commercial success of new media always takes longer than expected - usually one human generation (20-30 years) to reach widespread adoption
  8. 8. Predicting the contemporary media change • Fidler predicts increasing convergence for the third, final acceptance phase of digital media • Telephone, television and computers will fuse into ‘teleputers’; digital communication will be increasingly intimate and interactive; email will combine nearly all forms of digital media into it • Since 1997, some convergence development is already apparent (e.g. multipurpose phone-computers) • At the same time, Fidler still relies on separation of broadcast, document and interpersonal domains • Unlikely that anyone would separately go off to purchase news into one’s tablet PC/newsreader - media streams are already mixed and socially filtered in multiple ways
  9. 9. Failed ‘new media’? • E.g. British Videotex systems in 1960s-1980s: commercial, centralised ‘online services’ failed to attract homes (cf. France’s Minitel success, when terminal was provided free) • Interactive television services were expected to be the ‘killer applications’ of digital television • Fidler talks about the technomyopia associated with such failures: short term impacts are overestimated, then the dominant mood completely turns around and underestimates the long term effect
  10. 10. Archaeology, dead media • Within the field of media archaeology of media cultural studies, particular attention has been put to the early predecessors of electronic media • See e.g. Dead Media Project (1995-2001): http://www.deadmedia.org/notes/index-cat.html • Erkki Huhtamo has theorised (and collected) particularly early visual media • Media archaeology opens up interesting parallels between forgotten, obsolete forms of media culture and the ‘new’ or emerging ones • Often makes the claim that the apparent ‘novelty’ is actually something that has already been an element in media decades or centuries ago Phenakistoscope simulation source: www.wikimedia.org.
  11. 11. Language of New Media • Lev Manovich (2001) has developed media archaeology’s basic approach into a broader theory of new media, and proposes five key principles for new media: 1. Numerical Representation (makes data programmable) 2. Modularity (discrete samples as independent objects) 3. Automation (scripting, artificial life, AI agents) 4. Variability (media as personalised, differentiated in use) 5. Transcoding (translation into other media objects) • Manovich’s theory is particularly helpful in identifying film studies’ value for understanding visual new media, less for capturing its communicative or web-like characteristics
  12. 12. Cinematic new media • Screen, composition and montage can be seen as key elements in cinematic art • The modular collections of individual screens can be arranged in multiple ways • The experiments of Russian avant-garde cinema can point towards understanding ‘database poetics’ better • Contemporary (mobile) micro movies and clip collections (e.g. YouTube) also follow the aesthetics of early cinematic experimenters
  13. 13. Remediation • An influential theory of new media and media transformation presented by Bolter & Grusin in their Remediation (2000) • New media tries to improve the old media, and simultaneously is affected by old media forms in dialectical, anxious manner • Apparent remediations of perspective painting, photography, film, and television in contemporary new media • Every attempt to appear as natural (media immediacy) is easily also conventional, whereas trying to appear original, media will play with our fascination with the medium itself (hypermediacy) – “Transparent digital applications seek to get to the real by bravely denying the fact of mediation; digital hypermedia seek the real by multiplying mediation so as to create a feeling of fullness, a satiety of experience, which can be taken as reality.” (p. 53)
  14. 14. Computer spaces • Some theories position computer’s key ‘new media’ capacity in its being able to provide an illusion of space behind its screen • This is crucial particularly to computer games • The first commercial computer game was named Computer Space (1971) - based on Spacewar! game (Slug Russell & co, MIT, 1961-62) • The spatial perception was initially not based on three- dimensional graphics, but rather on 2D spatial representation being interactive: it was possible to experience consequences from one’s actions within the constraints of spatial representation
  15. 15. Spatial interactivity • In addition to static spatial representations (renaissance perspective in paintings, murals), there exists tradition of interactive representation (e.g. shadow play, puppetry) • Graphical computer screen provided new kind of dynamism into “puppetry” in these new, virtual spaces Image sources: http://users.lmi.net/ione/ren.jpg & www.wikimedia.org.
  16. 16. Twisty little passages • Computer spaces do not need graphics to be highly evocative • The first classic text based adventure game was ADVENT, or “Colossal Cave Adventure” (Crowther, 1976; Crowther & Woods, 1977) • Nick Montfort (2003) provides an overview of how text based dungeons developed into interactive fiction • Famous commercial production from Infocom (1979-89) • Text based interactive spaces and interactive fiction as an art form has continued to live in the Web non-commercially
  17. 17. Historical virtual realities • Marie-Laure Ryan (2001) has described how computer-based virtual realities can be approached in terms of narratives, possible worlds theories and poetics • When immersed in story, the fictional world acquires presence as an autonomous reality (“mental simulation”) • Narrative immersion may be 1) spatial (sense of place), 2) temporal (caught by the flow of events), 3) emotional (lost within emotion towards fictional characters) • Ryan does not pay attention to immersion into (non-narrative) action, which is arguably the most typical game-based form of immersion today • Cf. theory presented in Ermi & Mäyrä, 2005 See: http://www.uta.fi/~frans.mayra/gameplay_experience.pdf
  18. 18. Media Evolution • Transformations in media can in evolutionary sense be conceptualised as progression (towards more complex, or “higher” media forms) or as degeneration • Typically, positive progression is taken for granted • Richness and complexity of converging digital media is taken as a prime proof of its advanced character • Technical improvement should be differentiated from the social institutionalising of new media • Significance, value and utility of media is entangled within cultural, social, political, economic and technical debates and processes
  19. 19. Degeneration view • Critics of media culture include both politically conservative and leftist-liberal thinkers • Neil Postman’s critique was principally targeted to television culture, and how everything is under its influence is transformed into entertainment • Postman also argues that ‘childhood’ will disappear in post- literate culture since there is no longer similar restrictions for underage access to information • Rise of computers and particularly games has also been associated with decline of literacy • Computer and video games have also been attached due to what has been considered their excessively violent character
  20. 20. Computer & games literacy • Discussions on computers and games is often locked on debating their ‘effects’ • Many, particularly US based academics have put forward research that points out how games are actually based on principles of problem solving and skill acquisition, sometimes also on advanced team-work • The cognitive principles apparent in the design of good games are also the key principles for good learning • Cognitive ethnography into virtual game worlds can reveal complex learning processes and rich literary practices (See Constance Steinkuehler, “MMO’s as Educational Technology”*) *Source link to a draft article: http://website.education.wisc.edu/steinkuehler/papers/Steinkuehler_edtech.pdf
  21. 21. Ludology • In contrast, ludology (humanities based game studies) is aiming to understand the ontologies and structures of games as forms of art and culture • Ludology involves studying games “as games” (Frasca 1999) • Key theories involve the discussion on cybertext by Espen Aarseth (1997) and analysis of games’ dual character and the classic game model by Jesper Juul (2005) • Cybertext is an ergodic text that requires non-trivial effort from the reader (player) • Juul’s theory balances players’ “real”, rule-bound interactions with the “fictional” reality constructed in game world • Key classic theorists: Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens, 1938), Roger Caillios (Man, Play and Games, 1958)