persona studies

In preparation for the upcoming book on Persona Studies, and the M/C journal ‘persona’ edition I thought I would just share a couple of blog posts that all use the term ‘persona’ to talk about very different issues and concepts.

Persona 5 – a very popular Japanese game

Persona – the television show

Persona and Greek Theatre and Sound in Counselling

Persona in Design

Persona and Target Audience in Advertising

Persona and Dorothy Parker – a poem

Persona and Grief

“…interaction design is the highest form of creative expression…”

Checkout this wonderful TED talk by Museum of Modern Art senior curator of architecture and design, Paola Antonelli.

Antonelli complicates the ‘video games are not art’ debate with a new collection of 14 video games at MoMA that celebrate ‘interaction design’ as the “highest form of creative expression”.

The appeal of the collection, according to Antonelli, is the distance and shock between art and design when on display in a gallery setting that enables visitors to appreciate the implications of video games and their contribution to the wider importance and meaning of design and celebrates these objects as having a crucial cultural value and roles within our everyday lives.

I’d love to play them all, at MoMA.

was it really only 30 days?

It’s finally over, and what an epic month it has been, while the crowd funding campaign didn’t make the target to fund the Values of Play survey or PlayCache project, the Deakin and Pozible crowdfunding experiment has been a tremendous success. I’ll explain why, but first, a very big  thank you to all who pledged, messaged and contributed to the campaign.

Thank you to all my wonderful friends, family, peers, colleagues, students and all the new friends, contacts and campaign supporters who put their names to the project for your willingness to fund original research. Thanks to those who tweeted and re-tweeted project messages, and to those who posted, liked and shared the PlayCache Facebook page, which has attracted new friends and followers. I will be continuing the project from there and posting regularly.

A special thank you to Professor Deb Verhoeven, Chair in Media and Communication, whose initiative, direction and leadership has created new opportunities for those of us at Deakin. Thanks must also go to Matthew Benetti and the Pozible crew. I’m already a proud supporter of a number of projects and will continue to be an active Pozible pledger! Thank you to Professor Matthew Allen, Professor of Internet Studies and Head of the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin for backing the crowdfunding initiative and trumpeting the call for support to the School.

We often learn as much from our failures as we do from our successes. One of my favourite definitions of a gamer comes from McKenzie Wark’s book Gamer Theory, in which he defines gamers as “those who come to an understanding through quantifiable failure”. As a games studies scholar with an interest in the ‘indie’ and independent production of games, it’s given me a unique insight into the types of challenges developers are currently wrestling with.

The coverage of the Pozible campaign by journalists and bloggers with an interest in games and the values of play, helping us work past the stereotypes, has been fantastic. It’s also been a great chance to participate in the debates across Facebook, Twitter and Reddit over the implications of crowdfunding research and what it means to the Australian University sector.

The campaign has enabled me to create new networks, contacts and opportunities, such as panel at the Human Rights Commission in Sydney next week, where I’ll be talking about Games and Human Rights (http://www.mcvpacific.com/news/read/australian-human-rights-commission-to-host-panel-on-human-rights-in-videogames/).

The attention from the Pozible experiment has also created a marvelous new opportunity for Media and Communication and Creative Arts students at Deakin and I’ll be working with student filmmakers and bloggers in a collaboration with Invest Victoria, the business and innovations promotions unit of the Victorian government to cover the PAXAustralia games convention in July (http://aus.paxsite.com/).

Please do consider pledging to James McCardles’s ‘Retake Melbourne’ Pozible campaign at http://www.pozible.com/project/22875 and Euan Ritchies ‘Discovering Papua New Guinea’s Mountain Mammals’ project at http://www.pozible.com/project/22847. Two great projects that definitely deserve our support.

Thanks again and play on!

 

E-sports and gamer persona

At one point StarCraft 2 player ‘Idra’ held one of the most lucrative sponsorship contracts in E-sports and a notoriety for trash talking and disdain for other players. His dismissal from the competitive SC2 team ‘Evil Geniuses’ sends an important message to high profile players about attention to their public persona, acceptable competitive behaviour and the messages they communicate to fan communities.

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).

seeing through Glass

It would take a lot for me to shift from my iPad mini to an Android tablet but Google Glass would do it. I’m scaling up the use of G+ in my teaching this year after a successful trial of the Hangout feature and live online tutorials via my laptop in the tutorial rooms in 2012. I’ve lived with my (various versions) of iPad since launch and it’s been a marvellous extension to my brain, making my life that much easier just by being able to walk away from the PC and the laptop to research, write, communicate and play anywhere. Google Glass would mean getting rid of the laptop in the classroom and to bring the students at work, travelling or  just sitting at home in their pajamas a better ‘live’ online tutorial experience. Give me fives sets of these and the kind of research I could accomplish with an invested student cohort would be really amazing.

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

don’t make me say it

My ‘to do’ lists are organic things, spread across multiple post-it notes, both digital and physical (despite the attachment to my iPad mini, I’m still very analogue in some ways). They have a habit of growing dramatically during the day and usually becoming sprawling trains of thought and yellow paper. It’s a messy way to live and work, but it’s a good sign when my desk is littered with colonies of post-it notes, stacks of readings and highlighters, messes of books and loose associations of documents; a clear indication of productivity. It’s a very bad sign when my desk is clean and tidy.