060606 Remix
Wednesday, June 14, 2006, 15:07
The 060606 conference at CNM had two purposes. Purpose (1) was to gather a group of serious games participants and to discuss the impact of serious games on human experiences. Purpose (2) was to inaugurate the New Media Commons at the Moffitt Library at UC Berkeley. Both purposes were achieved, and I thank Dan Perkel, the brilliant Ph.D. Student from the School of Information, for working with me on making it all work out.

Although I am sure all participants learned different things from 060606, my lessons from the Serious games discussion, fall along the following lines:

1. Take it to the user: If somebody does not like to play a given game, chances are they will learn nothing from it.

2. The impact of gameplay is transformation: When people play games, they tend to be transformed by the game, both in temporary ways and in permanent ways. The process of learning is located in that transformation, not in the type of content a game might deliver like a teacher delivers a lesson plan. The transformation itself is the learning moment.

3. The transformative power of games is a result of gameplay, not game assets: It is the rules, procedures, actions and reactions of a gameplay or game mechanic which generate patterns among game and player. Playing means participating in patterns. This participation can form expectations about cause and effect, and this formation of expectations can be transformative. If we look for a educational message in a game, we should look at these patterns first, and at the game assets last. For example, tic-tac-toe might teach us much about turn-taking, and very little about X's and 0's. The one who starts, wins.

4. Participation Culture works: The entire conference was run by the audience, and while there were some calls for more grounded discussions, I had the feeling that my mind is better prepared for conversations and thoughts on Serious Games as a result of 060606.

5. Games will be the primary source of education 25 years from now: This bold claim was proposed by the Hi-Roller team, and drew much support. Of course, in my opinion, games are the main source of education since 25000 years.

6. Everything we need to know about games we can find out by playing: Based on Jane McGongial's tradition of making up games in front of highly serious audiences, the last section of the conference challenged each conference team (the Whirlers, the Pretenders, the Hirollers, and the Challengers) to produce a game with transformative qualities and play it with all conference attendees in less than 60 minutes. The Whirlers rose to this challenge with a beautiful game of of discovering common experiences. The Pretenders made everyone smile with a game that involved smiling at a stranger until the stranger smiles back. While the Whirlers clearly provided us with the best replay value, the Pretenders "won" the conference due to their overall excellence in presenting their stakes in SeriousGames and sharing good game design advice!

7. Chance Operations: Due to the collabrative and inspiring atmosphere of the conference, we came up with the theme and location for 070707: Chance Operations, Reno, NV. We have not rolled the dice yet to determine the exact location.

The second purpose, the opening of the New Media Commons, was achieved with the prolific 060606 gathering, and with the presence of all partners who made the Commons possible: Bernie Hurley, Beth Dupuis, Gary Handman, Yehuda Kalay, and me.

(Greg Niemeyer)

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Playmarking the HRI Game Residency
Saturday, April 15, 2006, 13:39
Robert Nideffer convened a workshop this weekend on Games at the Humanities Research Institute at UC Irvine. The idea of the residency is that participants meet for two days face to face, and then collaborate for 8 weeks. To this end, Robert and his team of engineers created a l33t toolkit to support online collaboration, all combined in his gamelab portal . While the array is compelling, I was at first searching to understand the work these tools were to help us accomplish. After all it is hard to collaborate just for the sake of collaboration!

Luckily, our group converged on the need to develop some basic research tools for Game Studies in the last 30 minutes of the 2-day workshop. We discussed developing a dictionary of Game Studies, which would be significantly more expansive than Juul's current and beautiful effort, and we discussed the need for standards and tools for citing games. Citing stages in games is not quite detailed enough, we need to be able to cite any game state, as well as any type of planned and emergent gemaplay, as well as player commentary and player experience. We also need to be able to cite specific game events on a code level. This of course means we need access to source code, which we would like to be able to quote by line number.

On my return home from Irvine after the workshop, I asked my son Alex (13) what he thought ouf game citiations. He said: "Oh you mean like playmarks? It's just like a landmark, but in a game." Clearly, we need to go back to the source, and that is the player, as much as it is the code.

(Greg Niemeyer)

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Serious Games contest - Info Session THIS Thursday!
Tuesday, April 4, 2006, 12:31
The Center for New Media is looking for some serious games. As part of the campus-wide Bears Breaking Boundaries initiative, the Center for New Media will be awarding up to $5,000 for the team of designers who come up with most compelling design for a new game concept. Please join us this Thursday, April 6 for an information session and some Q&A.

When: Thursday, April 6 at 5:00pm
Where: 295 Kroeber Hall (Across from Strada near College/Bancroft map)
Food: If you think you're going to come, send us a note (email: Dan at games.cal at gmail dot com and we'll make sure to feed you)

This contest is about the design of what is being called in various industry and academic circles as "Serious Games." This idea of "seriousness" means different things to different people. And, there is serious debate about what this notion might mean and its implications for the design of new games. This is not just a debate where academics and theorists ponder, analyze, and critique games and culture. The government, schools, social organizations, business, and other groups have all begun to turn their attention to the ubiquity of games and play in society and have wondered how to harness the game form for their own interests. Examples of existing serious games and themes vary widely. Topics include education, public safety, environmental sustainability, military training, and others.

Here is your chance to contribute to this debate, not just through intelligent thinking and reasoning, but through design.

More information can be found here

Deadline for submissions is June 1, 2006

Winners will be announced at 060606-Down with Serious Games? this year's annual 0n0n0n (substitute n for day/month/year) colloquium sponsored by the Center for New Media. More information on 060606 here.

For more information and to rsvp for the info. session, please email Dan at games.cal at gmail dot com.

060606 - Down with Serious Games?
Center for New Media
Bears Breaking Boundaries

(posted by Dan)

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Press # for Democracy
Wednesday, March 15, 2006, 23:48
Prof. Marc Davis, always ready for a performance, engaged the CNM Colloquium crowd in a wonderful debate about camera phones. Metadata, as his research showed, enhances machine-based image interpretation. Camera phones produce such metadata, because they do not only record an image, but also the location at which an image was taken, and the time of exposure. Davis also said that camera phones could potentially produce a multi-million node surveillance network (and there is no telling to which degree this network is already in place). He also said that the same cell-phone tools could produce a sous-veillance network, in which the opressed and the silenced make their cause visible and their struggle structured.

After alluding to the role of the free press in the ending of the Vietnam war, Davis expressed the hope that cell phones will help create a direct, independent, massively multi-reporter information network from the people to the people today, especially in the context of the Iraq war. Our colloquium applauded him for this promising option, despite pressing questions about why this network is not helping us find an end to the war to date. Indeed, I have yet to see this information network crossing boundaries of language and culture, time and place.

However, as one grad student, Ali, put it, cell phones do play a significant role in the Iraq war. They serve as remote triggers for roadside bombs. (Greg Niemeyer)

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Substance seems shadow, shadow substance seems
Thursday, March 9, 2006, 11:45
Despite Prof. Celeste Langan's warning not to strip a line out of a poem, her discussion of telepathos, "feeling at a distance" seems to be best summarized by the "Shadow" line above, taken from Sir Walter Scott's "anonymous" poem My Aunt Margaret's Mirror. Langan claims, as far as I understand her work, that media such as mirrors, poetry, and new media resonate in the body contiuously, even if the media are digital.
I understand Langan as saying that the body resonates with a medium's stimuli by what I would call empathy. She goes further yet and points out that the body must not only allow the stimuli, but the whole system of a medium to resonate in the body, for any kind of sentiment or experience to result. Then, feeling at a distance is possible and compelling.
The process of "consuming" media is really one of one's body interacting with the body of a medium.
Similar thoughts lead Mark Hansen's analysis of new media in "New Philosophy for New Media". Surprising that Hansen's and Langan's similar observations are based on such radically different works of art as Walter Scott's romantic poetry and Jeffrey Shaw's investigations beyond the frame of cinema.
(Greg Niemeyer)

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The Illuminations of John Canny and Steve Beck
Wednesday, March 1, 2006, 21:02
The CNM colloquium was joined today by John Canny, UC Berkeley Engineering. He discussed the ways that Human Computer Interaction (HCI) development integrates social sciences research to make computers better at molding themselves to human life rather than forcing humans to adapt their bodies, behaviors and thoughts to computers. Initiated by a provocation from Greg Niemeyer, we had a critical discussion about the possibility that making computers anticipate and react to our expected outcomes might limit and even invade our lives even as they expand our capacities. For example, how many of us would be willing to have everything we do on a computer tracked for a year, even if the purpose was to mine that data to help make HCI more human-centered?

Following the CNM colloquium, many of us filtered downstairs to see Steve Beck's talk for the Art, Technology and Culture Colloquium. Steve's expansive and playful electronic art work spans 40 years, and most of which focuses on different forms of luminescence. But what really struck me even more than the ostensibly high-minded art projects were two toys: "Talking Wrinkles," a talking stuffed animal puppy that Steve developed in 1987 to interact with players, and Lone Breaker (1984), a breakdancing video game animated on an Apple II. Somehow in our contemporary overload of robotic pets and Grand Theft Auto, these two utterly stripped-down attempts to make computers that play with us seemed very exciting. Steve's emphasis on discovery, experimentation, and zany spirit over the slickness of high-technology was greatly refreshing. Low-tech seems to have its own hands-on aesthetic of resourcefulness and economy.

--Irene Chien

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Interaction and Interactivity
Thursday, February 2, 2006, 12:43
CNM is now running its Colloquium (CNM 201, Wed, 5:00-6:30 PM, Kr. 295) as a discussion forum for a new text. Each week, the author of a new text, usually from the Berkeley Faculty, about New Media, is invited to answer questions about his or her text. A respondent leads the question session and course participants jump in with lively and constructive criticism. So far, Sergeii Dogopolskii and Alva Noe went through the wringer that is our colloquium.

Well, last night was my turn to defend a paper I am working on about the differences between Interaction and Interactivity. Clearly, the paper needs more work, but I left the colloquium feeling that I knew exactly what I need to spell out more clearly about my claims that people and things are what they are because of the way they interact, and that interacting with computers as if they were people is a way of handing human agency over to computers, and that we cannot interact with media as such, only with other people using the same media. It is plain to see this all requires some more explaining.
As I sat down to post this message, I noticed I could not log in to the machine b/c I lost my password. Of course, I tried dozens of combinations of secret names and passwords, but I could not get in until my Systems Administrator, Preetam, came to help me out. That whole process of searching for another password is an instance of interactivity with the medium. Here, I think, the medium is not elegant and transparent, as Fritz Heider discusses media transparency. Rather, the machine is bulky and distorts my desire to interact with you, dear reader. Only once I interacted with Preetam to solve the login problem, the medium became transparent enough for me to post these lines. {Greg Niemeyer}

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Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis
Thursday, September 29, 2005, 21:51
The classic Ovidian observation (times change and we change in them) perhaps sums up our discussion today about Glass Houses and "demonstrate" Ken Goldberg's collaborative art project featuring a powerful zoom surveillance camera controlled by web users. After the CNM colloquium discussion, I wish the camera were still up and running, because there are so many issues about surveillance which are unresolved and require more experimentation. "demonstrate" project participants Irene Chien and Kris Paulsen explained many aspects of the project, including the emergent self-censoring behavior of the camera's users, which gives me hope about the fate of humanity and technology: perhaps we are, as a whole, not to dumb and disenfranchised to sort out, over time, what technologies benefit us. We just need a century to absorb all the lessons. Remember how people used to worry about whether painting would be destroyed by photography? Painting did change, and photography did evolve into a medium with particular affordances, and neither outcome was predicted by those who were concerned with photography spelling the demise of painting. It did take over 50 years. So let's give this surveillance question some time, and keep experimenting. Perhaps surveillance liberates people from their visual appearance like photography liberated painting from the chore of representation. {Greg Niemeyer}

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Copyright is a Travesty of Nature
Tuesday, September 27, 2005, 09:49
Resfest's Jason Wishnow assembled a group of copy fighters for a panel on Copyright issues in New Media. The panelists included Bryan Boyce (America's Biggest Dick), Larisa Mann aka DJ Ripley, DJ Kid Kameleon, Jonathan Marlow of GreenCine, Jason Schultz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and myself, (Gregory Niemeyer from CNM). We all worked the same angle, namely, that New Media signifies the end of copyright as we know it, that corporations should be stopped from amassing copyright empires, and that copyright should be limited rather than expanded. Although the event took place across from a exhibit by Getty Images, nobody from that end of the spectrum stood up to explain their views. Perhaps they feel more comfortable with legal action than with public debate.

Joshua Kit Carson, in the audience, commented that copyright is already not enforcable, so perhaps the fight is not that severe, but another audience member, Maria Gonima of Tigerbeat fame, asked what risks are worth taking with copyright activism.

In my view, the panel recommended taking any and all risks, because the free production and exchange of culture is central to personal expression. Artists' efforts should be rewarded through direct compensation, rather than downstream copyright revenues. Corporations promoting artists perhaps play a less important role, now that artists can promote and distribute themselves through new media channels. Of course, when I came home and told my wife, Monica Lam, all about the panel, she, herself a filmmaker, disagreed and said she sees licensing as a crucial revenue stream. She made a strong point when she said that copyright precisely makes corporations value artistic production, for if it were not for copyright, corporations would be the most significant thiefs of intellectual property. Clearly, the panel should include her voice. I, for my part, feel we need to keep producing alternative methods of content production and distribution, and outpace the desire of corporations to copyright a maximum of our culture by generating more culture. {Greg Niemeyer}

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CNM lecture by Anthony Burke
Thursday, September 22, 2005, 22:06
The CNM colloquium today featured a lecture by Anthony Burke, who explained how Maya has influenced his architectural practice. Providing plenty of examples of models, all of which seemed unbuilt, revealed a common theme of glass renderings inhabited by semi-transparent humans. It would be easy to dismiss these presentations as mere aesthetic devices signifying a model, but this is not thorough analysis. Since the model is all we saw, it is the extent to which the work is manifest, and it is all ghosts and glasses. The message is: these designs are not for the body, they are perhaps for the mind.
New media always seem more relevant to me if they do honor the body, and if they are closely coupled with the material world. One of Burke's project which I would love to see realized involves using manhole covers as new media displays. It is tempting to see a raster of old media repurposed for newer media, and Burke's thinking really could resonate here with the texture and the body of the living city and its dwellers... which were not ghost nor glass, even in the model.

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