Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature

Final Project abstract

October 31st, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Final Project abstract)

In this paper, we will explore the potential educational values residing in digital humanities, specifically the “Art Games” within the video games genre, which itself contains a huge potential in the field of education. We shall start by examining how art games can be utilized in understanding literature, such as Neuromancer, Flatland, and Daytripper. Literature as such usually serve as milestones in human imagination and the doors to the popularization of novel ideas in science, mathematics and philosophy. Meanwhile, the multimedia aspects of video games enables the reader to capture the comprehensiveness and the depth of literature, which is hard for mono-facet media representations, such as simple texts, simple images and videos, to achieve. Some generic examples of art games include Conway’s The Game of Life, Fex, and numerous remakes of literature and movies. This point will be further explicated by video annotation of the trailers of the games. The idea can be furthered by pointing out that teaching kids how to code games has also been popular and effective in understanding computer science. This will foster a new generation capable of writing and analyzing codes and creating and enriching the computer network industry. Here I will insert the Conway’s Game of Life and explaining the python code of a simple version of the Game.


Bibliography (possible):

Berry, David M.. Understanding Digital Humanities. Gordonsville, VA, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 31 October 2014.

Bittanti, Matteo, and Domenico Quaranta. Gamescenes: Art in the Age of Videogames. Milano: Johan & Levi, 2006. Print.

Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2011. Print.

Jones, Steven E. The Emergence of the Digital Humanities. New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.


E-Lit Critique – Rememori

October 28th, 2014 | Posted by David Builes in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on E-Lit Critique – Rememori)

Rememori is a flash based memory game, poem, and electronic literature piece made by Christine Wilks. Logistically, it is made up of six distinct levels, all of which consist in the player trying to match certain tiles. Each time one of these tiles is pressed, a question or statement whose theme is about memory loss appears. For example, some questions include, “Do you recognize me?”, “What city are we in?”, and “How much longer?”. The user can choose to play as different characters, where the options clearly correspond to the characters one finds at a hospital, e.g. a doctor, a carer, a nurse, etc. As the levels advance, the tiles move from being in an orderly grid to being in a randomly ordered mess. Furthermore, what is behind the tiles goes from being relatively concrete, for example a picture of a brain, to being quite bizarre, for example a deranged clock spinning out of control. Lastly, as one advances towards the end of the game, the brain in the background becomes more and more faded, until by the end of the last level, the whole screen slowly vanishes into pure whiteness. The game squarely belongs in the electronic literature genre because it is born digital, it is essentially digital, it includes literary elements that make it more than just a memory game, and it uses its medium well to provoke a particular feeling for which it is hard to provoke in any other way.

As a starting point in situating Rememori within the genre of electronic literature, the following conception of what it is to be a piece of electronic literature is helpful: “Electronic literature is born-digital literary art that exploits, as its muse and medium, the transmedia possibilities of the digital” (Gould). Rememori easily satisfies the first requirement in being born digital; it is also an example of an essentially digital piece since there could not be a print version of the game which included the sounds, the questions popping up, the timer and score counts, etc.

Does Rememori satisfy the second requirement of being an example of literary art? Here, one might imagine a critic who says that it is “merely” a memory game with little to no literary or artistic value. How are we to draw the line between computer games and electronic literature and which side of that line does Rememori fall? Katherine Hayles, in her work Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary has an excellent response to this question:

The demarcation between electronic literature and computer games is far from clear; many games have narrative components, while many works of electronic literature have game elements. Nevertheless, there is a general difference in emphasis between the two forms. Paraphrasing Markku Eskelinen’s elegant formulation, we may say that with games the user interprets in order to configure, whereas in works whose primary interest is narrative, the user configures in order to interpret. (18)

In other words, when playing Rememori, is it the case that the primary goal is to interpret the message, feeling, and motivation behind the project, or is the goal merely to get the highest score in the game of matching tiles? Whoever says the latter is missing out on really what Rememori is all about, and therefore, using this criterion for demarcation, Rememori clearly falls on the side of electronic literature. The primary literary elements of the game are not the matching tiles, but rather they are the often poetic phrases that appear once the tiles are clicked, the metaphorical significance of the degenerating of the organization of the tiles to the degenerating of a brain, the symbolic nature of the gradual whiting out of the screen at the end, and the coherence of the overall theme of mental degeneracy brought about by the characters, the background, the tiles, the music, and the phrases.

The final criterion left to address is whether Rememori exploits the “transmedia possibilities of the digital”. As a caveat, it should be acknowledged that Rememori does by no means use all the transmedia possibilities of the digital (really no electronic literature piece can) nor can it be said that its use of media is astonishingly comprehensive or “much better than” most other electronic literature pieces. For example, it does not at all use video and its degree of user interaction is pretty minimal (Rememori pretty much unfolds the same however one plays it). Regardless, Rememori does use its media element of being a flash game well. After all, what better medium is there to internalize the feelings of memory loss than an increasingly complicated and degenerating memory game!

Lastly, when one understands the context for why Christine Wilks made Rememori in the first place, much of its literary and artistic value is increased. In her own words,

I began creating Rememori about a year ago, when my father was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s Disease but still living at home, being cared for by my mother. . . my father had a third massive stroke and the prognosis didn’t look good. So for a while, I think I was reluctant to return to the piece. I’m glad I did. There can be no happy endings in situations like these but, now that we have him settled in our preferred Care Home, there’s a sense of respite. I think the work reflects that, certainly in the later stages of the game.”

The fact that the game was motivated not by some abstract thinking about the nature of mental decline in general, but rather by a particular tragic personal incident in the author’s life makes the project a more personable one.  My own grandfather also exhibited a gradual mental decline due to Alzheimer’s which eventually resulted in his death. Since Alzheimer’s is such a widespread condition, in fact one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia (Alzheimer’s Association), this game can also play the sociological or political role of fostering awareness in all sorts of conditions which result in mental decline.

Works Cited

Gould, Amanda. “A Bibliographic Overview of Electronic Literature.” Electronic Literature Directory. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Hayles, Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, IN: U of Notre Dame, 2008. Print.

“Latest Facts & Figures Report | Alzheimer’s Association.” Latest Facts & Figures Report | Alzheimer’s Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.

Wilks, Christine. “Rememori – a New Work.” Crissxross Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Wilks, Christine. “Rememori.” Rememori. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

The Game of Life of Games

October 6th, 2014 | Posted by Pooja Mehta in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The Game of Life of Games)

My definition of a game, based off of  is any action that involves tasks, has rules that direct how those tasks should be done, and has some sort of end goal to it. This end goal could be anything from gaining a certain number of points, to getting to the next level, to competing a certain task. A medium is, to me, a method of delivering information and supplementing the information that is trying to be shared by the author. It could be as dynamic as the internet, as stagnant as a book, as interactive as, well, a video game. Additionally, it could be appropriate in some scenarios and inappropriate in others, which is why you often see the same information presented in a variety of different mediums. Or, as Ian Bogost says, “we can understand the relevance of a medium by looking at the variety of things it does” (Bogost 3). I would classify games as a medium because games have the ability to supplement information with the affordances of the particular game layout.  Some games do not augment the information, and are simply prized for their entertainment value—for example, Flow doesn’t really seem to offer much as an information platform. On the other hand, a game like Storyteller could be used to deliver information and allow the player to see scenarios differently than if it were to be read on paper, because they could control the players and potentially decide the outcomes of certain stories. I think most forms of information could be turned into a game. In fact, this very phenomenon is played out in elementary schools throughout the country. Kids learn their alphabets, hand washing skills, and multiplication tables all through the help of games. There are even apps that turn day to day activities into games, or use games as motivators. For example, the apps we talked about in class. There was one that would record the area you encircled while you ran, and then mark that area as your “territory.” You would have to keep running the same paths in order to keep your claim on your land. It turned the mundane chore of working out into a game, thus giving it a competitive edge and making it seem like a more appealing task.

I think we should study games, because games have a lot of potential. As technology advances and we get better graphics and an increased ability to incorporate biodata into games, the line between gaming and virtual reality blurs. Because of this I would say to study one is to study the other. Virtual reality is already used as an educational medium—pilots use computer simulations to practice taking off and landing without ever getting into a plane. They have a screen either in front of or around them, and controls that change their viewpoint based on how they move the controls. There are different difficulties of landings, and obstacles that the pilot has to maneuver around. If you put some sort of competitive aspect to it, like points or a goal, is it really any different than a game? No–in fact, adding the competitive aspect to it turns it into a game.


Now, in this argument, I am treating videogames as a subset of games, and use videogames as a term to describe traditional video games, cell phone games and computer games—basically any game that has a primarily digital aspect. Many papers that discuss the topic of games talk about video games. It is true that as technology becomes more integrated into our lives, video games will grow to encompass a bigger sector of games, and it is not unreasonable to say that it will eventually dominate it. Already there are children who don’t know what board games are, since they have only ever played on their tablets and other devices. I do see a future where games will become obsolete and will only be relevant in terms of videogames, but society will definitely lose something at that point. Like Bogost’s example of caterpillars—“If you remove the caterpillar from a given habitat, you are left not with the same environment minus caterpillars: you have a new environment, and you have reconstituted the conditions of survival” (Bogost 6). I think there should be a focus on studying regular games as opposed to video games, simply because the progression of technology is naturally taking us towards video games, and if regular games are pushed to the side, we lose a caterpillar in our environment. Additionally, with technology comes pros and cons, a point that is also mentioned in Bogost’s post. Gaming can be used as teaching and analytical tools, but it can also encourage laziness and distractions. Studying games and gaming can help steer it into a more positive light and find ways to utilize games to facilitate development and societal success, rather than a discouraged practice.

Games are an integral part of life, and life could be thought of as a game. It seems like something someone who is obsessed with video games would say, but it really has more of a philosophical, deeper grounding to it. Depending on where you are or what stage in your life you are at, your definition of “wining” changes. You “level up” as you go—you graduate college, you get a job, you start a family, you live a happy life. There are winners and there are losers, but we are all part of the same game of life—looks like Milton Bradley wasn’t too far off!

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