P2 Lecture 6


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Lecture notes for Theories and Interpretation of Interactive Media (P2) course by professor Frans Mäyrä.

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P2 Lecture 6

  1. 1. Theories and interpretation of interactive media 6 / Vuorovaikutteisen median teoriat ja tulkinta 6 Frans Mäyrä Professor of hypermedia, esp. digital culture and game studies University of Tampere, Hypermedia Laboratory frans.mayra@uta.fi
  2. 2. Lecture 6: iPhone / convergence: Interpreting the ongoing fusion
  3. 3. Outline • Many forms of convergence • Production / media ownership based convergence • Stylistic media convergence • Technical: convergence devices • Meaning in design • Convergence culture • Media and information ecologies • Meaning in technology • Conclusions
  4. 4. Convergence and (new) media • Media convergence is often taken as one of the main characteristics or consequences of new media • Related to digital/numeric technology at the technical infrastructure level, but perhaps even more importantly to the uses and cultures surrounding media • In technical terms, convergence means increasing fusion of multiple, previously separate media • Media convergence can also be perceived in economic processes leading into mergers between music, film, print, games and online media industries • The contemporary multi-channel production processes of news is an example of “production convergence” in action
  5. 5. Transitions in convergence • As multimediality and multimodality increase, previously separate media elements gain different significances and uses • E.g. textuality, audiovisuality and interactivity are shifted when combined in different ways • Text or image that dynamically responds to user actions requires new strategies of reception, analysis and critique • Genre boundaries become blurred: interactive novels, dynamic images, web texts, online services and games are rich sources of reflection into our chancing relations with our media • Can lead also into aesthetic or stylistic convergence of otherwise distinctly different media
  6. 6. Stylistic convergence • Cooke (2005*) has studied the visual convergence from 1960 to 2002 in print, television and the Internet news • Points out how the general trend in all three has been towards “scannable design”: – “phrase is derived from audience-centered research conducted within technical communication to describe page/screen designs where information is visually structured to improve reader accessibility […]. Spatial cues that group related items together, for instance, are characteristic of scannable design because they enable the eye to quickly grasp the relationship between items.” (p. 29) • All news media look alike, all have “condensed” information visualisation style, facilitating urgent, scan-and-go lifestyles Source: *)Lynne Cooke, quot;A visual convergence of print, television, and the internet: charting 40 years of design change in news presentation.quot; New Media & Society, 7(1): 22-46.
  7. 7. Technical convergence • From technical viewpoint, digital media is having particular effect on media transitions through ‘convergence devices’ • E.g. television may be able to access the Web (iTV browser), gaming console may play HD video/movies (PS3, Xbox 360), a phone may play music etc. • Convergence devices embody ‘digital convergence’, but usually fail in usability in comparison to single-purpose technical mediums • On the other hand, standards in data transmission, structuring and sharing (e.g. XML) made it possible to access same data through different devices
  8. 8. Example: iPhone as a phone “iPhone is a revolutionary new mobile phone that allows you to make a call by simply tapping a name or number in your address book, a favorites list, or a call log.” - “Visual Voicemail allows you to go directly to any of your messages” - “2-megapixel camera and an advanced photo management application” Source: http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/index.html#phone
  9. 9. Example: iPhone as a iPod “iPhone is a widescreen iPod with touch controls that lets you enjoy your content — including music, audiobooks, videos, TV shows, and movies — on a beautiful 3.5-inch display” - “The iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store on iPhone puts a music superstore in your pocket.” Source: http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/index.html#ipod
  10. 10. “iPhone features a rich Example: iPhone as HTML email client and Safari — the most a Web terminal advanced web browser ever on a portable device — which automatically syncs bookmarks from your PC or Mac. Safari also includes built-in Google and Yahoo! search. iPhone is fully multi-tasking, so you can read a web page while downloading your email in the background over Wi-Fi or EDGE.” Source: http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/index.html#internet
  11. 11. Another example: PS3 “PS3 delivers the next generation of interactive entertainment. Enjoy Blu-ray Disc movies, cutting edge High Definition games, easy music, video and photo storage, free access to PLAYSTATION®Network and much more.” Source: http://uk.playstation.com/ps3/
  12. 12. Meaning in Design • Affective relationships coded into e.g. iPhone design are only partially related to its value as (multi-) medium • The haptic and other sensory characteristics of its physical design embody the principles of “pleasurable products” • Studies like Funology (Blythe & co. 2004), Pleasure with Products (Jordan 2002) and Emotional Design (Norman 2003) conceptualise this in design research terms • Norman talks about good design that is 1) viscerally attractive, 2) behaviourally elegant, 3) at reflective level associated with attractive value propositions
  13. 13. Cultural convergence • Jenkins claims that technology is not the essential part in media convergence developments – “By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want. Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes depending on who’s speaking and what they think they are talking about.” (Jenkins 2006, 2-3.) • Primarily work and play that users/consumers perform in the (new) media system • Active search of information, interaction between producers and consumers within a participatory culture
  14. 14. Convergence culture examples • Fans of Survivors reality tv show have perfected the art of “Survivor spoiling” (revealing series secrets) • American Idol as shaped by “affective economics” (the ideal consumer is active, emotionally engaged, and socially networked) • The Matrix franchise as “transmedia storytelling”: the art of world making, expecting consumers to construct their experiences actively across media boundaries • Star Wars fan filmmakers and gamers using the digital tools to reshape George Lucas’s mythology, Harry Potter fan fiction • Popular culture engaging people with presidential elections
  15. 15. Pikachu’s global adventure • Pokémon franchise is another example, this time a video game gaining transmedial expansions • While interpreting a franchise targeted and successful among children, often the binary opposition of structure/agency is evoked • Authors of Pikachu’s Global Adventure (2004) use interviews and observations of Pokémon playing children, detailed analyses into history of games, Japanese cult of cuteness, animations, character merchandising to help explaining the complex ways in which power and agency is produced and negotiated in such transmedial phenomena
  16. 16. Converging media ecologies • ‘Media ecology’ was introduced by Marshall McLuhan, who inspired further study of complex media environments • Cf. ‘information ecology’ which uses concepts like ecosystem, habitat, evolution, niche, growth, and equilibrium to consider information systems • The material and immaterial characteristics of media mix and interrelate, contributing to the “patterns, dangers and potentials” that effect our lives • Media and information ecology remain as useful metaphors to capture the dynamic, complex character of life in ICT- permeated societies • Theoretically fuzzy: what are the phenomena, domains, forces and processes that ‘media ecology’ currently applies to?
  17. 17. Meaning in Technology • Arnold Pacey has written about “the culture of technology” and “meaning in technology” (1983; 1999) • His key arguments include that technology is not value-free, since we always experience it as ‘technology-practice’ (artefacts enmeshed with ideas, ways of behaving, and social structures) • Against reductionism: there are multiple sources of meaning in technology, none necessarily lesser significant than the other • Technology-practice is surrounded by: 1) political meanings and organisation, 2) social and cultural meanings, 3) technical knowledge, equipment and tools, 4) personal experience: what it feels like
  18. 18. Pacey: technology & music • “My view is that we sometimes - perhaps increasingly - use machines and other technology in the same way as we use music and musical instruments, to interpret the world and give it meaning. […] So it is not only singing that brings our world into existence and gives it meaning, but the music of technology also, together with such visual pattern-making activities as painting and sculpture, building and engineering.” (Pacey 1999, 17-18.)
  19. 19. Power of myths • Myth is a dual concept: a ‘lie’ to others, a ‘deeper truth’ for some • IT and new media are also mythical in the sense that they are embedded in discourses that organise their place in our collective semiotic maps • The digital sublime and mundane are two contrasting discursive domains for interactive media • ‘Cyberspace’ is an example of digital sublime - chosen by SF author William Gibson for it being evocative term, yet without “real semantic meaning”* • Myths have the power to evoke the possibility of sublime within/in contrast to the mundane reality (cf. Mosco 2004) • E.g. in what sense can ‘mobile Internet’ be sublime? Gibson 1996; cit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberspace
  20. 20. Conclusions: New media as technologies for meaning-making • Sherry Turkle (2007) has written how we “think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with” • Currently, new media is being embodied in various ways into our lives: as devices, as practices, as ideas, as (virtual/hybrid) spaces • No theory can fully capture its constantly transitional character, but instead it is useful to interpret new media as “an object to think about change” • As “digital touch” is permeating micro and macro levels of life and social structure, understanding interactive media becomes synonymous with understanding the self and the society