Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature
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Gamer Critique- Diego Nogales

October 6th, 2014 | Posted by Diego Nogales in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Gamer Critique- Diego Nogales)

Following the definition given by Ian Bogost in How to Do Things with Videogames: a “medium [is] an extension of ourselves for just this reason: it structures and informs our understanding and behavior” (Bogost 2). I want to extend this by arguing that video games act as a medium because they allow people to have an interactive experience that allows the simulation of a real event.

In properly arguing video games to be a medium, a video game must have the trait of becoming extensions of people’s realities. This intrinsic connection between a person and the digital environment within the video game lies within the change of perspective that a video game can provide. By forcing or allowing a person to play a player role within the video game experience, it allows a natural immersion into the scope and rules of the game. Lev Manovich states, “as the player proceeds through the game, she gradually discovers the rules that operate in the universe constructed” by the game (McKenzie 21). People become players within the game and they have to learn the limitations and constraints of their abilities in an algorithmically controlled setting. To win, one must conform to the rules and bound oneself in that immersive environment as quickly as possible. This is interesting because this arguably imposed mentality to become a subject within the realm of the game delivers the trait of the extent of one’s self within the game.

To share a personal experience as a gamer, I used to play a lot of FIFA (a soccer game) during high school. In addition to that, I was very active as an actual soccer player, playing Varsity for my high school and for a travel team as well. When I think about the power of video games as an extension of ourselves, I always refer to the integration of my real soccer player experience and my simulated soccer experience. The power of video games created a gray area and meshed those two aforementioned experiences in terms of my personal abilities. When considering video games to be a set universe with limitations, those limitations many times are greater than those of real life. FIFA allowed me to shoot greater distances, do skill moves, and run without getting tired. This influenced me because after playing FIFA and going to a soccer game or training I would over-estimate my abilities in those areas. This speaks volumes of how video games can temporarily mind alter your own physical capabilities. This creates an extended real-life experience, and does so in an enhanced form.

The second important characteristic to consider is the role video games play in structuring and informing our own understanding and behavior. I think this is really speaking about a medium’s cultural influence and relevance in human society. This characteristic of video games is clearly demonstrated in today’s society. As Neil Postman is quoted saying in How to Do Things with Videogames, “in the year 1500, fifty years after the printing press was invented, we did not have old Europe plus the printing press. We had a different Europe” (Bogost 6). Video games have contributed to changes in the modern culture, especially among the teenagers. Just to give an economic perspective of video gaming prevalence in the United States’ culture, Amazon acquired Twitch.tv for $1.1 billion a month ago. Twitch is a site that live-streams video game footage to 45 million viewers a month. Amazon, a company that is always following innovation and generally makes sound acquisitions, is moving into the growing video game industry within entertainment. Video games create cultural movements and big franchise games such as Call of Duty, Halo, and World of Warcraft develop an astounding following. Now, with the creation and growth of Twitch, people do not only have the hobby of playing video games, but also watch players play video games. When it reaches this level of hysteria and enthusiasm among the gaming community, it can only signify that video game industry has permanently embedded itself in society.

Video games meet the two defining traits necessary by Bogost’s definition. However, video games take it a step further as a very versatile medium. Even though they are known for their first person shooter and sport simulation games, video games extend much further than that. Aside from the general main purpose of video games, which is winning, new technologies are pushing video games to become more useful for educational or preparation purposes. One example that was shared with us in the DiVE (Duke Immersive Virtual Environment) lab was that they are trying to create a cave-like simulation that can be used to train U.S. Army soldiers in cave combat and essentially prepare them mentality for the darkness and tight spaces that they are to encounter in real warfare. This is similar to the enhanced experience that FIFA gave me to a greater degree; however, this video game would be exposing a soldier to a cave experience, and in doing so, mentally enhancing his or her readiness of what to expect.

It is important to understand how dynamically video games are expanding in cultural relevance and scope. New developers are branching out and focusing on directions varying from educational games for math courses to perfecting the coding physics for airplane pilots that now have to spend 100 plus hours on airplane simulators before being able to practice in a real plane. These are a few examples of the different directions gaming is moving towards. As this grows, the quality of simulation video games is inherently increasing.

Playing video games means “to play the code of the game. To win means to know the system. And thus to interpret a game means to interpret its algorithm” (Wark 21). As simulations improve and slowly coincide with the limitations or algorithms of real-life, (which is already starting to happen, having experienced the DiVE simulations) winning in the game will essentially mean winning in the actual real-life situation. To this hypothesis of the future perfection of video gaming simulations, Wark’s statement that video games are real-life and real-life is a video game may become true, because the distinctions may blur and become one (it is a scary thought, but it may not be far off).

 

Bogost, Ian . “Introduction.” How To Do Things With Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 1-8. Print. Mckenzie

Stone, Brad, and Adam Satariano. “Amazon Bets on Gamer Website Twitch in $970 Million Deal.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 Oct. 2014. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-25/amazon-buying-gamer-website-twitch-for-1-billion.html>.

Wark, McKenzie. Gamer Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007. Print.

Novel Blog Post DN

September 8th, 2014 | Posted by Diego Nogales in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Novel Blog Post DN)

This past week our class went to the DiVE (Duke’s Interactive Virtual Environment), a cube with projected walls creating a 3-D interactive atmosphere, and we tested various different simulations within this environment. Looking back at this experience, after having read Neuromancer by William Gibson, I am fascinated and at the same time scared by how quickly technology can, and is, evolving human life. In my mind, the perspective of the DiVE and the perspective of Neuromancer on the subject of technology’s future uses were opposites.

The DiVE team has many developing projects focused on training simulations that can prepare someone for a real life situation, removing the real risk of a dangerous situation, while still mentally and tactically schooling an individual. One example the DiVE crew gave us was the cave military training that can be implemented to mentally prepare soldiers before they would actually have to perform the mission. These potential projects demonstrated the usefulness and positive outlook that technology can have to enhance our real (non-virtual) lives.

In contrast, the Neuromancer reading takes an approach where a dystopian futuristic society rises through the evolution of technology. To me, Case was an example of how technology had, in a sense, overpowered and belittled a life without the matrix. In a setting where there are holograms and where characters all had some level of technological or physical modification, technology was intertwined to the point of blurring the distinction between technology and the natural. Case explains the view of the sky as, “the color of television, tuned to a dead channel” (Gibson 1) due to this technology-driven culture.  Furthermore, Case represents the dependency that continues to grow for technology, after the “adrenaline high… jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the con sensual hallucination that was the matrix” (Gibson 8), he prefers the virtual life of a hacker in the matrix than the real in his life. His disregard for the real in his life is perfectly depicted by his sense of confinement within his own body, a “relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh” (Gibson 8).

This perspective on a technology-dependent future is a scary thought, and it is dangerous to think about how just as technology can prove to be so beneficial to society, society can also become an “unsupervised playground for technology itself” (Gibson 11). Technology is already creating dependencies in our lives, but looking as to how fast technological advancements are occurring, I wonder how is it that we can “supervise” ourselves from reaching a point such as this Neuromancer society.

 

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

Reading Response

September 8th, 2014 | Posted by Norma De Jesus in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Reading Response)

Despite the DIVE being a little bit less than what I expected, I gained more appreciation for virtual reality, programming, and how the human brain works to deceive our perception. The six-screened cube provided us an immersive experience that engaged the senses of sight and sound. Had the DIVE engaged additional senses such as touch and smell, the experience, apart from being completely different, would’ve made us feel 100% part of the cybernetic experience. Perhaps in the near future, technology will develop a virtual reality so immersive it will be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. These types of overarching themes are portrayed in William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer. The setting of the story gives us context of the type of virtual atmosphere Gibson wanted to convey. “Synonymous with implants, nerve-splicing, and micro bionics, Chiba was a magnet for the Sprawl’s techno-criminal subcultures” (Gibson, pg.3) The book portrays proper various examples of virtual reality. From Molly being swiped free of her memory in an attempt to forget her past, to Case attempting to utilize technology to fix his damaged nervous system, the type of ways the author involves technology shows us that this novel offers a different type of reality than the one we are used to. A story about a computer hacker who loses his job for stealing from his employer, Neuromancer develops the ideas of augmented realities and alongside, coins the term “cyberspace.” This word in particular takes us back to how the brain and cybernetics combine forces to offer humans a false sense of reality. “Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding….” (Gibson, pg. 38). These words that are mentioned in a “kid’s show” when Case and Molly are flipping through the channels show us what Gibson thought of the idea of this new term. This notion can bring us to question whether our own reality could possibly be cyberspace itself. Perhaps, we could be mere computation data, working together to create the reality we live in. Or perhaps our origins are deeply rooted in a software program being infinitely developed in the vast darkness of outer space.

Work Cited:
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

Neuromancer and DiVE Novel Response

September 7th, 2014 | Posted by Pooja Mehta in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Neuromancer and DiVE Novel Response)

The DiVE is a cube made of movie screens, and into which an entirely new experience can be projected. While I was in there, I felt as though that if we could get better graphics and more biointeraction with the scene that was being projected, it would be very easy to forget that what was being projected onto the screen was not real life, but instead a program that our senses and mind are bring tricked into believing. That being said, while reading Neuromancer, it made me wonder, “Is Armitage nothing but virtual reality taken one step further, into virtual mentality?” In Neuromancer, we are given a short blurb about Armitage’s past, as Corto. “Case watched Corto work corporate defectors in Lisbon and Marrakesh, where he seemed to grow obsessed with the idea of betrayal, to loathe the scientists and technicians he bought out for his employers…[he] had been taken to a Paris mental health unit and diagnosed as schizophrenic,” and then “[he was] provided with microcomputers and encouraged, with help from students, to program them. He was cured, the only success in the entire experiment (Gibson).” Basically Corto goes crazy after Screaming Fist, and as a cure he undergoes an experimental treatment that bestows a new personality upon him. The DiVE came so close to tricking us into believing that we were in a different place then we really were—is it possible that it could progress to the level where it tricked us into believing we were totally different people, and change all of our Cortos into Armitages? There is an entire episode of “Futurescape” that talks about the idea of preserving interactive personalities on computers, a similar concept to the ROM, and then being able to still maintain a relationship with a person long after they have passed away. So then, is it so unreasonable to think that we can reverse the process and take a personality from a computer and put it into a person? Of course, the original personality will still be there, and if the artificial one fails, like it did with Armitage, then what? Do we have a Jekyll and Hyde situation, where one personality tries to kill another and ends up damaging the person? Or is it a battle of man vs machine, where one wins and the other has to succumb?

If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t want to know the answers. Its scary to think of the implications of programmable personalities. For some reason, this reminds me of slavery—how hard would it be to just program a group of people to be submissive and obedient? And then, if they “want” to be in the position they’re put in, is it wrong to put them there? If we’re programmed, is our right and wrong just 0’s and 1’s?

 

All text references from the E-Copy of Neuromancer: http://www.voidspace.org.uk/cyberpunk/neuromancer.shtml