iv. the Pok√©mon GO Plus and embodied space

The Pokémon GO Plus Рthe Pogo+ or Poképlus Рis a wearable technology that connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth allowing the user to play Pokémon GO without being restricted to the mobile phone screen. Playing Pokémon GO, contrary to reports (see the Pokémon GO Death Counter) is concerned with locating the self in space by triangulating the player location in both the real world and the virtual world represented on the mobile phone screen.

The Pok√©plus is a device which translates onscreen information into blinking colours and vibrations. The device is shaped like a mashup of the Google map ‚Äėpin‚Äô and the classic white and red Pok√©ball. It attaches to a wrist strap or clip providing the user with the ability to feel, see and hear the location of Pok√©mon and Pok√©stops within the sphere of detection permitted by the app (approximately 40 metres in diameter).

The Pokémon GO Plus lets players see, feel, hear and respond to the world of Pokémon away from their screens.

The player can put their phone in a pocket and interact with the local environment through a button press, which glows green in the proximity of a Pok√©mon, yellow if the Pok√©mon is not in the player’s Pok√©dex, and blue in the presence of Pok√©stops. If the Pok√©mon is captured the device vibrates in a distinct pulsing rhythm, matched with a LED flashing pattern of green, blue, red, and white. An escaping Pok√©mon results in a simple short pulse accompanied by a red flash. Approaching a Pok√©stop the device flashes blue and the player gathers the items from that stop in the app with a button press that results in simple vibration and multiple colours flashing to indicate success.

The Poképlus transforms the experience of space and place in a much more embodied and less visual way that the game played only through the screen. The Poképlus makes the game less about using the screen to reveal the world filled with Pokémon, and more about using the body to interact with the game’s translation of the environment, bringing the game into the physical and tangible world in a different way.

I found the Poképlus to be a massive release from lifting the screen up to view when walking. No longer does my neck ache after a Pokémon Go play session. It means that my walks with the game were less punctuated by stops and starts, and a more seamless movement through the environment. There is a degree of anxiety that I first encountered when playing with the Plus as the catch rate for Pokémon feels more random. The device is also deeply connected to the in-game economy, as it only uses basic Pokéballs in the catching process, which means these can be depleted and have to be replaced through buying currency and items in the game. The catching process is limited to a single throw, which means that higher level and rarer Pokémon can evade capture more easily. I had to make the conscious effect not to look at the in-game journal and ignore the ones that got away.

I use the Pok√©plus every day, and thoroughly enjoy the transformation of play into a differently embodied experience. It’s a device that reveals how AR experiences don’t have to be limited to interacting with screens and it shows how wearable technologies might expand interactions with our environments in simple and effective ways in the future.

i. autoethnography of objects

Autoethnography uses narrativised experience in order to examine, interpret and explain cultural experiences and practices (Adams, Holman Jones and Ellis 2015):

‚ÄúAutoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience.‚ÄĚ (Ellis, Adams and Bochner 2011: np).

Autoethnographic researchers describe and analyse cultural beliefs, practices and experiences that qualitatively recognise the value of the research relations with others, but rarely do those others include objects. One notable autoethnographic engagement with tangible materiality is Paul Booth’s Game Play (2015) which examines paratextuality in contemporary board games. Adapting Matt Hill’s approach to the study of Fandom, Booth explores the ludic functionality of analogue games through play by scrutinising the tastes, values, attachments and investments of his and his game group’s personal experience. Objects, however, are only peripheral in the engagement and while some of the physical matter of board games is considered, objects take a backseat to the reflexive analysis of the subjective experience of the researcher and his team of players.

Autoethnography is a research method that is careful and methodological in its reflexivity, but the focus of reflection is almost always on the self, society, the personal and the political. Objects are rarely considered in equal measure to the subjective experience of autoethnographic ‚Äėthick description‚Äô (Geertz 1973: 10), and objects are not considered as partners in the narratives and stories that reflect heavily on time, place, emotion and affect but rather as a basis for heightened concerns about social, political and ultimately subjective identity. In the desire to make sense of the messy and uncertain social life, autoethnography attention is paid to the physical experience and embodiment, but even the body as an object is often sublimated in the narratives and accounts that are used to answer questions about how identities matter. It is important to understand that the identities, characteristics, experiences, regulation, silencing, disregard and abuse of objects also matter.

The omission of objects in autoethnography is understandable as the methodology places the ‚Äėself‚Äô within the scope of the investigation and the narratives developed are the framing devices for critical analysis of subjective experience. Autoethnography asks the researcher to consider their own biases, opinions and assumptions as part of the process of discovery and learning. This approach makes objects part of the intellectual firmament that autoethnography so promisingly seeks to escape. To consider objects is to risk falling into the ‚Äėcrisis of representation‚Äô (Adams, Holman Jones and Ellis 2015: np) precisely as we are attenuating our senses to ‚Äúlocal knowledge‚ÄĚ that promises to subvert existing power relations to ‚Äėcreate more just and equitable living conditions‚ÄĚ. There is a sense that this kind of qualitative research can only focus on human intentions, actions, and motivations, and to incorporate objects is to fall back into the traps of colonialism, scientificism, and capitalism. Autoethnography is ‚Äúa method for exploring, understanding, and writing from, through and with personal experiences in relation to and in the context of the experiences of others‚ÄĚ and those others can include objects (Adams, Holman Jones and Ellis 2015: np).

In the posts to follow this one, I will provide an autoethnographic account of the interactions with the objects involved in playing Pokemon Go and experiencing Virtual Reality.  The autoethnographic account will seek to retain the core ideals of the methodology which generally involves the foregrounding of personal experience; an illustrative sense-making processes; highly reflexive analysis; illustration of insider knowledge to document a cultural phenomenon and experience; critique cultural norms and practices; and seeks to communicate with and respond to audiences from outside the academy (Adams, Holman Jones and Ellis 2015: np). In order to include objects in what Leon Anderson (2006) describes as Analytical Autoethnography, it is possible to rebuild attention between the subject and object by including 1) attention to the social world that the objects and the researcher are a part of; 2) reflexivity involving understanding of the privileged and often unique position of the researcher and access to the objects; 3) narrative visibility of the active researcher, which makes visible the human and the non-human within the networks of the social world under observation; 4) a non-technical account of the interaction and dialogue between the researcher as subject and the objects involved in the encounter, and the experience of others as presented in available media to be consumed, such as YouTube accounts, Memes, Tweets, and communities of practice, including specific online communities (fans, experts, reviewers) in a dialogue with others (Anderson 2006: 386); and finally 5) a commitment to theoretical analysis which draws on empirical evidence to conceive and test theoretically the illumination of a broader set of cultural and social phenomena.

An invitation to Pok√©mon Go players in Wollongong and the Illawarra.

We are a small team of researchers at Wollongong Uni seeking participants for a study of Pokémon Go players. Now the hype has settled down, we want to talk to regular players about their experiences using the app in the local region.

The study has three parts, an initial interview, a walk-along session where we film and map your typical play experience, and a final ‘watch back’ where you view your play session back via 360 video, to comment on the urban experience of playing Pok√©mon Go.

Please respond to this post, PM for further information or contact us via email:

Dr Thomas Birtchnell Рtbirtchn@uow.edu.au 

Ms Victoria Ikutegbe ‚Äď vui982@uowmail.edu.au

Dr Chris Moore Рchrism@uow.edu.au 

Ms Loren Vettoretto ‚Äďlv623@uowmail.edu.au¬†