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Cabinet Construction Conclusion

The last few days in the run-up to the “Cabs of Curiosity” event were filled with  a lot of activity as we put the finishing touches on our inside-out cabinet and got the game up and running, and we a have a few photos that show our cabinet as it reaches the end of its construction:

These two photos show the empty shell of our cabinet, just waiting for the controls and hardware to be attached to complete the process.

Besides some aesthetic changes, such as painting the inside and reversing the sign (which  a lot of the visitors thought was a “nice touch”), we had to change the structure of the cabinet, such as leaving out the plexiglass and cutting new holes for the wires and controls.

Dylan and Thea work on the wiring of the control panel:

We managed to get the whole thing up and running that night, but the computer we were using didn’t really run the game all that well, necessitating a change to the laptop for the night of. Still, it worked!

The big night

Here you can see the “outside” of the cabinet and the intro screen for our game, Cybridity:

The simplicity of the controls belies how difficult playing our game could get. The game itself is inspired by Bernard Stiegler’s theories, particularly the effects of media on how we pay attention that he explores in Taking Care: On Youths and Generations. Although we simplified it to one question at a time, the overall look of the game remains largely unchanged from this video.

Here’s our cabinet from the opposite side:

The cabinet’s setup provides an excellent opportunity to see what an arcade cabinet is made of, although we did have to make a few changes from the “traditional” arcade cabinet; I doubt the ones from the ‘80s were powered by macbooks.

Here you can see someone playing our game:

The way the cabinet is constructed wound up having the effect of inverting the usual practice of playing an arcade game. Instead of a public performance with lots of spectators, playing the game becomes an isolating experience, which is reinforced by the bombardment of media in the game itself forcing players to ignore their surroundings and focus entirely on the game.

And here you can see our cabinet on display with several others:

The creativity of the graduate and undergraduate classes really ensured that each piece was unique and that the evening offered a wide variety of ways to experience and interact with all of the different exhibits. You can check out the links in our “Friends of Cybridity” sidebar section to read some of the other groups’ experiences.

Cabinet Construction

The construction of the game cabinet that will house our very own, theory-inspired arcade game is well under way.  Our ideas for the cabinet itself were mostly inspired by Anna Munster’s discussion of the fold in her book Materializing New Media: Embodiment in Information Aestheitcs. We have essentially re-folded our cabinet so that the distinction between its “inside” and “outside” becomes blurred. Users will poke their heads inside the cabinet in order to use it, while those outside the cabinet will be able to see its innards. In order to (aesthetically) make the cabinet look as though it were inside-out, we have found ourselves hard at work:

Left: Dylan painting the “outside” of our cabinet.

Right: Tyler working on the control panel.

In addition to getting our hands dirty, we have also been working endlessly on the game itself, and we are excited to see our original video mock-up turning into a usable game, which would not have been possible without the help of the ever-insightful flash developer Tom Dysinski. Thank you Tom! =)

…watch for more pictures of our progress…

Traceability, Metadata, and Stiegler

When I was creating my seminar presentation on Stiegler, I had a couple topics that I wound up cutting to meet the time constraints (which I failed to meet anyway) and because I felt they were less relevant to the overall course material, but I thought it would be nice to get some sort of use out of them, so here they are, slightly refitted make a coherent blog post:

Traceability

So the issue of “the trace” comes up a couple of times in the interview, the first time in the context of the traces of ourselves that we want to leave behind us through technology in order to preserve some sort of immortality for our selves:

“…technical objects that are made for repeating memory itself…that are made to store mnemic traces. Because from the moment when we can store memory itself…we have the possibility of the repetition of something mortal” (3).

However, Dr. O’Gorman brings up an important issue with the existence of that trace in terms of how it can be used, its potential threat:

“It’s important to delete. Because if we’re always in the process of self-recording, self-archiving, exteriorizing our memories, we leave traces everywhere as a result. And this could be dangerous” (6).

I take his point to be, and please correct me if I’m misinterpreting, that there is a danger both in terms of an ever-increasing surveillance by those in power and, in addition, that the little traces of ourselves everywhere, can easily be exploited by the “programming industry”.

Interestingly Stiegler argues against the need to eliminate the trace, instead saying, “The question is not how to prevent the recording of traces. The question is to create a consciousness of the recording of traces, a politic of the recording of traces” (6).

Now, it’s pretty much a given that wherever you go these days, you’re being recorded, leaving a trace of yourself somewhere. We also often intentionally leave traces of ourselves around, especially on the internet (look at this blog, for instance). And this can often be a bit overwhelming, and at the same time, we often avoid thinking about it. I just wish to provide one example of how we are traced online:

Stiegler mentions leaving traces while doing Google searches, which reminded me of this little “feature” on Google that records my location and uses it to send me more focused “hits” (and advertising):

And even better, it can’t be turned off:

So yes, Google not only knows what I like to search for, but where I live. And they’re storing that information. Another example would be Amazon, which likes to record my purchases, or even just items I’ve looked at, and helpfully suggest new consumables for me to buy.

However, it’s also possible to use the traces ourselves, and turn it back on the “programming industry” as well as centralized authorities, which I think is what Stiegler’s getting at with his “politic of the recording of traces”—basically increased awareness of these traces and how to use them. This is probably a more obvious example of a “trace” than we usually think of when we hear the word, but the fallout from the fatal tasering of Robert Dziekanski  by the RCMP demonstrated how the traces left by authorities committing serious, illegal, and in this case lethal, injustices can lead to them being caught lying about it by bystanders.

And of course, to truly be rid of the trace, you might as well as to be rid of all technology, so there’s that, too.

Moving on to the other deleted slide, I also wanted to discuss metadata:

Metadata

“We are living in an epoch that, because of digital networks, and in particular of course the web, the Internet, something is being produced that never before existed, in my view not since the origin of humanity. It’s that everyone can participate in the production of metadata. Metadata have existed for over 3000 years, when they appeared in what is actually Iraq now, in Mesopotamia. And since then, up until the 1990s, there has never been a situation where everyone could produce metadata. It was always very particular and very centralized systems, systems of power, which took control over the production of metadata” (6).

So, first, you will all be terribly surprised to learn that “metadata” is data about data. In my own experience I’ve usually seen “metadata” online refer to everything from background HTML code about the HTML code to  those little star ratings people now leave beside restaurant reviews, and, of course, the ever popular “like” button on Facebook.

Now, in the context of the trace, this mass participation in the production of metadata can be part of the issue of our own traceability since, in our adding information about information, we’re leaving traces of our own thoughts, opinions, and tastes lying around the internet. It’s worth noting that a lot of companies are very keen on encouraging metadata production by consumers, as it can help with their marketing, among other reasons.

However, Stiegler does make a good point in that this production of metadata makes an important shift in who can control it. Now any time a corporation says something, it is possible for people to easily comment on what the corporation said and spread that comment to a worldwide audience.

Also, this change in metadata production can, in the face of the disindividuation created by the “programming industries” potentially lead to a form of online transindividuation as people use metadata as a form of social information production (of course, contrast this with the potentially isolating effects of the online “social” environment that cuts us off from face-to-face interaction).

Anyway, while I ultimately found them a bit unrelated to the main thrust of my presentation (although I did go ahead and talk about flash mobs anyway), I was intrigued by Stiegler’s notion of sort of democratizing all these new media-enabled abilities (the trace, metadata, “happenings”), especially the tension between their use as tools of the people and as tools of the programming industries.

Work Cited

O’Gorman, Marcel and Bernard Stiegler. “Bernard Stiegler’s Pharmacy: A Conversation.” Forthcoming in Configurations.