Two colleagues from the University of Wollongong Library, Michael Organ and Rebecca Daly, will be presenting our peer-reviewed paper on the virtual Yellow House pilot project at the VALA2016 conference this week in Melbourne. Owen Godfrey (@Cider3dPrinter) put together these two short videos to give a quick demonstration of the simulation and how it looks on screen and in the Oculus Rift.

 

 

 

persona: a CFP

In the contemporary moment where aspects of our lives are rendered visible for display, circulation and exchange via our involvement in online cultures, investigating the concept of persona and the production of the networked self is critical to understanding the patterns and flows of everyday and extraordinary public identities.

Persona is usually perceived as a mask of identity, something that clouds and occludes a truer or raw version of ourselves, or thought of in a Goffman-like way as a form of “role-playing” and “impression management”. The production of persona can therefore be seen as something strategic, something essential to the modern experience, and ultimately something that is filled with affect and agency as the individual both constructs and inhabits these public identity formations.

Persona inhabits a space between the fictive and the real and has been explored as constitutive of what it means to be human/citizen (Cicero), what constitutes consistency of character (literary persona), what allows a public figure to negotiate a surveilled life (celebrity persona or an artistic persona), and even what kind of avatar/identity and presentation of the self is presented in play and the broader structures of social interaction and participation in game cultures (gamer persona) and fandoms. Circulating through the meaning of persona are some utopian ideals of reputation, recognition, value, and integrity that have moved to higher prominence in the contemporary moment where culture has been both individualised and personalised.

This issue of M/C Journal explores all aspects of the concept of persona. It invites articles that explore it both from a contemporary context but also those informed by the formation of persona historically. Authors are encouraged to apply the concept of persona and work through examples in a variety of areas. Some of those areas might be the following:

  • Social networks and reputation
  • Serial persona – how media construct their public identities
  • Performance and Persona
  • Political persona
  • Business persona
  • Portfolio culture and looking-for-work persona
  • Professional persona
  • The formation of reputation and persona
  • Damaged or toxic persona
  • Relationship between celebrity and persona
  • The meanings and dangers of the academic persona/the public intellectual persona
  • Constructing an aggregate persona: online monetisation and commodification of the self
  • Persona as brand
  • Institutions as personas
  • The technological persona
  • Fandom and participatory persona
  • Geek culture and the geek persona
  • Gender and persona
  • Persona in artistic and cultural practice
  • Migration, immigration and persona
  • Temporary/discardable persona
  • Gamer persona
  • Persona and publics
  • Character and persona
  • Mapping, charting or visualising online persona
  • Sport and persona

Prospective contributors should email an abstract of 100-250 words and a brief biography to the issue editors. Abstracts should include the article title and should describe your research question, approach, and argument. Biographies should be about three sentences (maximum 75 words) and should include your institutional affiliation and research interests. Articles should be 3000 words (plus bibliography). All articles will be refereed and must adhere to MLA style (6th edition).

Details

  • Article deadline: 25 Apr. 2014
  • Release date: 25 June 2014
  • Editors: P. David Marshall, Christopher Moore, and Kim Barbour

Please submit articles through this Website. Send any enquiries to persona@journal.media-culture.org.au.

Serres, time travel and the Gothic in science fiction

Three new postgraduate students to co-supervise this year. The first I’ve caught up with so far is a Creative Arts students writing a science fiction novel. The exegesis for the thesis will focus on the Gothic in science fiction and to kick the process off, we will be working on an analysis of the Gothic in the Mass Effect series. The aim is to prepare an article for a games studies or the science fiction studies journal, and to contribute to the formation of an emerging research group on technology and science fiction studies at Deakin. In doing some fresh research I came across a great article by Laura Salisbury on Michel Serres, time travel and gothic SF. It’s a cracking read and coincides with the material I’m working on using Serres concept of quasi-objects to analyse the use of screenshots in participatory gamer cultures (to adopt Joost Raessen’s term).

screenshots as digital tools and media objects

Now that I’ve had a chance to properly experiment with the open source social network overview and exploration tool, NodeXL, I’m finally finding some traction. I’d  tinkered with the plugin in the past and more recently managed to spend some time acquitting myself with a little graph theory and social network analysis methodology. Together with an updated version of the software and the Hansen, Schneiderman, and Smith’s (2011) Analyzing Social Modeia Networks with NodeXL, I was ready to explore the use of screenshots in social media.

The approach in my postdoctoral study of ‘indie’ and independent cultures of games production in Australia has, until now, featured a purely ethnographic methodology; interviews, participation, observations and combinations of the three. It was quickly made obvious by the research participants, however, that one of the long term effects of the global financial crisis on the games industry is the intensification of the role of social media in games development at three distinct levels: as means for communicating with a diverse audience populations (an evolution of the more traditional marketing/broadcast model modified for social media); as tools for facilitating actual game development remotely (using Skype, Google Docs, Facebook,Twitter, etc); and as processes and practices for the knitting together of a global games community of developers, artists, players, etc that spans the mainstream, that provides indie and independent with a powerful (but not equal) means for gaining attention to their games. It is this last feature of social media technologies and their uses that contributes to changing conversation about play and games, and has even produced a few global celebrities, like Minecraft developer Notch.

The well established ties to the global console ports, movie tie-ins, mobile- and web-based games markets were already jeopardised prior to the GFC with the rising Australian dollar which made local development more costly. A series of major studio closures from 2010 meant the turn to the iOS and Android platforms for Australian developers was inevitable. In part as a reaction to the convergence of web and mobile markets through smartphone and tablet devices and also in part a reaction to the new digital and social tools available to developers. The new generation of young graduates from specialised games development courses have emerged to start competing with much more established studios and major IOS Australia studio success like Halfbrick and the Voxel Agents.

Although it’s only speculation at this point there are signs that the rise of the indie developer and the growth of the small independent studio developers means an overdue shift in the industry’s entrenched problem of diversification, with women being underrepresented in the Australian industry. One of the data sets I intend to look as part of this research is the recent use of Twitter hastag #1reasonwhy that has been increasing attention to the conditions women face working in the industry (if they can get hired in the first place). It is clear through observing the highly profitable and expanding market in games paratexts (including websites and merchandise, YouTube channels, blogs and podcasts) that we already seeing a significant change with many more women’s opinions, perspective and thoughts on games and games culture being seen and heard, and not just from so-called ‘gamer girls’ or Booth Babes at the latest convention.

As social media takes hold at all levels of games culture the digital literacies involved for the humanities researcher attempting to understand these changes takes on higher stakes at the level of cultural production of media objects, such as screenshots. Learning to use NodeXL means having to correct a number of deficiencies in my repertoire, including a lack of knowledge and expertise in using Excel, and coming to terms with the discourses and terminology of social network analysis and graph theory. By no means have I achieved an expert status, but I feel confident graduating from padawan, especially as I begin to dig into the analysis of the use of screenshots in social media. This research intersects with a personal hobby and helps me expand on the analysis of the digital objects (like virtual hats and game screenshots) that are used as a means for building a mediated online persona. By persona I don’t mean avatars or individual profiles, but a collective and identifiable online presence, one that is often text based – blogs, profiles,Steam and Xbox Live – with important visual components and aesthetics captured on PCs, mobile phones, laptops and tablets and shared via sites like Flickr and Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube.

I’ve put together a Flickr set for the purpose of demonstrating NodeXL here and will be updating the blog with results and discussion as I progress further.  Below is a graph of my core Flickr user network, grouped by relevant cluster, you can see my two accounts Crypticommonicon (for game screenshots) and Moorenet (the family photo album) and you can see the links to close friends and family in the boxes on the left then move across to contacts I have added to my follow list but who have not added me in return.

NodeXL Flickr User Network Map
This graph represents connections (contacts and comments) in my Flickr user network, as plotted by NodeXL, using the Harel-Koren Fast Multiscale algorithm. The layout is arranged with the group by cluster function according to the Girvan-Newman clustering algorithm. Duplicate edges are merged,  Edge Width and Visibility are mapped to Edge Weight. NodeXL Version 1.0.1.229

Screenshots and the digital humanities

The deadline extension for the first Australasian Association for Digital Humanities meant I had time to work on a collaborative panel pitch and get my own abstract together at the last minute. I thought I might post the abstract here as I’m keen to follow up on the ideas regardless of the submission outcome for the conference in Canberra next March.

The screenshot as virtual photography, digital tool and media object

The ‘screenshot’ is a form of virtual photography, a digital image capturing a computer’s visual display in a singular instance of its operation. The ability to record the mobile or desktop screen, where the display acts as both frame and lens for the video or static rendering, has become an important component of online communication. A simple tool with an almost ubiquitous presence as a media object on the web, the screenshot is a convergence of hardware and software technologies; a digital media object produced via an arrangements of human and machine operations, graphical standards, hardware permissions, software rights, and digital formats.

Screenshot images serve multiple purposes, including documentary evidence and archival or instructional material , but it is the virtual tourist’ ‘snapshot’ of online game worlds and the recording of in-game events that has popularised the screenshot as a remediated form of photography. Websites, like Flickr and Imgur, are host to millions of images generated by gamers communicating their experiences and producing their online identities through the visual medium of the image. From the digital vistas of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games to the frantic action shots of First Person Shooter (FPS) games, game screenshots function as crucial components in the production and management of the online gamer ‘persona’.

This paper considers two dimensions of virtual photography, examining the screenshot, first as a digital research tool and second as a media object, as they are positioned within the broader methodological and interdisciplinary scope of the Digital Humanities. It draws attention to the screenshot as a tool for the dissemination of information and a means for collecting, curating and analysing digital visual images produced from screens. Further, it explores how the screenshot is enmeshed in other valuable research tools. To exemplify this regard, the second aim of the paper is to present a case study analysis of the construction of an online gamer ‘persona’ via screenshots. Examining this use of screenshots, as they move across multiple social media platforms, the paper maps the image based practices and networks managed by the gamer in the production of their online identity.

November issue of Convergence

Very happy to be a part of the awesome November special edition of Convergence (the International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies). Saw the announcement from Jason_a_w this morning (shame it is behind the the usual academic journal paywall):

” The edition was edited by Chris Chesher (UNSW), Larissa Hjorth (RMIT), Ingrid Richardson (Murdoch) and Jason Wilson (Canberra). Lots of Australian media, communications, cultural studies and new media academics published in here, as well.

Contents

Jason Wilson, Chris Chesher, Larissa Hjorth, and Ingrid Richardson –
Distractedly engaged: Mobile gaming and convergent mobile media

Larissa Hjorth – Mobile game cultures: The place of urban mobile gaming

Christopher Moore – The magic circle and the mobility of play

Christian McCrea – We play in public: The nature and context of
portable gaming systems

Alison Gazzard – Location, location, location: Collecting space and
place in mobile media

Ingrid Richardson – The hybrid ontology of mobile gaming

Celia Lam – Portable media affected spectatorship

Jason Wilson – Playing with politics: Political fans and Twitter
faking in post-broadcast democracy