Tag Archives: Semester Blogs

Writing under pressure, exam time

For the students in Bergen it’s exam time. This is the final stretch of our semester with Zamora. Blogs are done, reflection is reflected and it’s time to defend and evaluate your actions throughout the spring. So why am I writing this blog instead of working on my exam? Well… I’m an easily distracted and careless person. I find writing rambling thoughts helps me focus afterwards. I’m pretty sure there is some established psychological method which focuses on writing down stuff as a method of clearing your head.

So, I’ll do just that. Right now, my primary focus is getting myself into a flow state where I can mass produce content. While some, like my fiancée meticulously build up their articles I like to make a bloated mess and shear it down afterwards. By giving myself this leeway, it allows me to be extra critical of my own thought process which in turn gives me new ideas to pile on. The one big weakness to this iterative process is the amount of time it requires. To successfully review something, I myself made requires a reset. It might be a walk or a drink with friends, just anything to refresh. Which is what I’m doing now.

I really regret that this exam isn’t an oral exam. I’m much better at formulating and presenting my ideas when speaking. There I can take the liberty of adlibbing and make small jests to lighten a mood. I can play of the audience. In written words I’m stuck using what has worked before. For this blog and most of my other think pieces it’s a light-hearted and very, er um, talking style. For academic papers it’s more rhythmic and subdued. While it can be fun to write in that style it’s a clash with the subject matter for this exam. Yes, we have to analyse art in an academic fashion, but it’s still more personal than, say: an analysis of twitter interactions surrounding the Syrian refugee crisis.

It’s been a good semester. Reflection on time spent is always push and pull task. If you’ve documented your progress you can see where you excelled, but also at what parts you slacked off. I’ve yet to end a semester not feeling like I would do better if I rewinded time losing all accrued knowledge except this feeling of “I could’ve done better”. It’s at these times I have to remind myself that I would probably do just the same the next time through.

So, if you are like me. Spending these lovely may days inside working on your papers I have a few tips:

  1. Start writing gibberish and half remembered facts.
  2. Take liberal amounts of short breaks often.
  3. Start early.
  4. If you can’t get your lazy ass motivated work with others. Invite other students to sit in the same room so that you can use social pressure instead of inner motivation.
  5. Don’t fret to much. Even if you bungle this exam you’ll probably not fail as long as you submit anything.
  6. Use diagrams or pictures of your work if you are uninspired and need to pad out your text. They break up text-blocks and make anything more interesting.
  7. If you really want to forget enjoy this drinking game. Pour yourself a milk glass of your favourite spirits and take a drink every time I start a sentence with “So,”.

Enjoy the sun and exam pressure

How to play more games

We are creatures of habit. We seek the familiar. The comforting. We create routines for ourselves to blanket ourselves from the noisy reality that is life. Humans do this for everything. Food, people, ideas, entertainment and schedules. At least I do this a lot. Luckily one of my routines involves trying new games. Growing up my family was quite poor, so I didn’t have the cash to try out new games very often. I had my little horde collected over years and years, but I got to try quite a few games through friends and later on, the internet. This is where I got my good routine from. When serving in the military I had a lot of time to kill, but even less cash than usual. So, I stared play flash games and smaller productions which were published online for free. These games can be seen as proto indies. Game developed not with profit in mind, but for the joy of making games and the allure of internet fame.

I got into the habit of playing these games every day. Newgrounds, armour games and Kongregate became my go to place for entertainment. The games presented here were all of varying quality and length, but most of them we’re short affairs. The most common reason people have for not trying random new games is time and money. Most AAA or II games are time consuming projects which demand that the player set of a few days for the experience. Browser game however rarely demand more than an hour or two from you. And they don’t cost any money.

I’m going to recommend a few games now. These are some of my favourites, but that also means that they usually are either puzzle games or some sort of twist on normal games. This might mean that it’s not the best list for new gamers who aren’t familiar with gaming tropes. I do however still recommend you try a few of them and start looking for others at the site.

First of we start with Its just tic tac toe.
https://www.kongregate.com/games/xmatos/its-just-tic-tac-toe?haref=HP_FRB_its-just-tic-tac-toe

This is a newer game which I stumbled over while finding links to the other games. Well worth the time and has a good message on how videogames can subvert and improve upon even the most common of gameplay ideas.

 

 

You have to burn the rope

https://www.kongregate.com/games/Mazapan/you-have-to-burn-the-rope

Action! Adventure! You have to burn the rope even has a boss fight. One of my all-time favourites.

 

 

Don’t shit your pants

https://www.kongregate.com/games/Rete/dont-shit-your-pants?acomplete=don%27t+shit

A good puzzle game which harkens back to the text based choose your own story games of yore. It’s a silly premise, but still a good play.

 

 

Aether

https://www.kongregate.com/games/Edmund/aether

Edmund would later go on to make a few hit games like Super Meat boy and The binding of Isaac. Tons of his old games are however still on Kong and while they lack the polish of his later games they still have the heart.

 

 

We become what we behold

https://www.kongregate.com/games/nutcasenightmare/we-become-what-we-behold

Many browser games remind me of student films and short stories. They often have some sort of grand message which they deliver with conviction and without guile. It might not be subtle, but it’s effective.

 

 

There is no game

https://www.kongregate.com/games/KaMiZoTo_Creator/there-is-no-game

Merging narrative and gameplay is hard and making the narrative about the game which you are currently playing is really damned hard.

 

 

Frog Fractions

http://twinbeard.com/frog-fractions/

This game is legendary. Passed around from friend to friend with the only sentence being “Trust me It’s worth it, don’t give up before you find the secret”

 

 

In the company of myself

https://www.kongregate.com/games/2DArray/the-company-of-myself?acomplete=in+the+company

As a kid this game got to me. I still love it for its game mechanics.

 

As you might have noticed most of these games comes from Kongregate. It’s a platform for browser games which over the years had gotten better and better. I recommend to anyone wanting to experience more games to make a user on the site. Their daily badge system suggests a new game for you to try every day. Tons of known indie developers got their first taste of fame on the site.

By trying new games and exploring the shorter experiences you will broaden your horizon and it will give you a better idea of what is possible with the medium. Not every game needs a massive team or scope.

How do you start playing games?

Getting into videogames is easy. As a new player you can’t go wrong with the blockbusters. They are by design made to be fun for as many people as possible. This is how they get their money back and as a new player that is perfect. Want to try some of this shooting action? Why not try out battlefield, call of duty or some of the other big war games. Maybe you want something a bit more story based? Then Assassins creed or Horizon Zero dawn might be more up your alley. Maybe you just want the feeling of adventure in a more light-hearted setting? Nintendo has your back! Zelda or Mario is filled with wonder and adventure with some puzzle elements strewn over it.

What I’m getting at here is to treat videogames like any other media, go for the big hits or classics first. Make it easy for yourself to hooked on what the medium has to offer. You’ll often end up asking your friends for suggestions and these will very often be great games, but maybe not for newer players. In the grand scope of things, video games are something new and fresh, but we have a good forty years of games which built upon one another. Starting on the fringes where people experiment and try new things might give you a false impression of the current games scene.

To many times I’ve talked to parents who tell me that they just don’t get video games. When I ask them what kind of games they’ve tried it’s most often none. Their knowledge comes from other media talking about games, their kids talking about their experiences with games or observing their children during play. While this is a great way to get a certain understanding it’s also woefully lacking. Games are, by definition, an interactive medium. Yes, streamers are a big part of the community, but most people watching streamers play games themselves. They have an innate understanding of interactivity and thus can set themselves in the shoes of the streamer. And those nice times when parents have played games it’s usually in some sort of warped experience. They pick up a controller mid game as a player two to their children. Going on a virtual tour of a child’s Minecraft city is lots of fun, but there is no context to the amount of work the kid has put into their creations.

When you want to get into videogames treat it like any other media. Don’t start a book in the middles. Don’t jump into a story focused tv series in the middle. Follow the whole journey from the start. Play alone.

That last one, play alone, is the scariest I’ve found. There is comfort in not knowing what a deal is when you haven’t really tried. Having a shield of ignorance is great protection from engagement, but if you play alone you don’t need a shield. You can immerse yourself without fearing scrutiny from experienced kids or judging none gamers. Playing alone gives you a free space where you can bumble about not knowing what buttons to press. You are free to experience a game on your own terms which is something I recommend to any new gamers. Later, once you’ve built up some confidence you should start playing with others. Preferably with new players like yourself, but as long as the people you play with aren’t assholes or kids you should not get any flak for being new.

 

 

Stories, structure and the analysing digital art

Last week we interpreted a piece of digital art. The piece was called Sky Magic live at Mt. Fuji and depicts drones flying in coordinated patterns overlaid with classical Japanese music. This is very similar to the form of poetry or short story analysis required to get a passing grade in the Norwegian school system. The structure of the university lecture and so many from my middle/high school classes was extremely similar. We are presented with a piece of art and told to think of it’s meaning, what is the message? When I was younger I really enjoyed these tasks. They gave me the chance to unfold my creativity and find strange connections to what I was reading/seeing and my own experiences. The work I produced in these early days where heartfelt and personal… and universally they would get bad grades.

“You have interesting thoughts on the piece, but miss the bigger picture, the intended message”

I struggled for a long time to improve my grades in art analytics and during most of high school I was a top grades student in this regard, but my enjoyment was gone. The more I learned of the “right” way to interpret art, the more I felt my own voice fade away. So, when I was told we would discuss this piece over a twitter chat I was apprehensive. I really like Zamora and Lavine. Their teaching methods fit my style of learning and their work is inspiring, I want to take their tasks seriously. So, I started going into the old soul sucking routine of looking at composition, pashing, lighting, how audio and visual contrast etc etc. From this I concocted a tame tweet about new vs old and their intermingling.

Not that the subject matter in and of itself is tame, far from it, but I had neither the time nor inspiration dig deeper or find any interesting takes. This has been bothering me for a week now. As mentioned last post I’ve been stuck on a piece since and that piece is my thoughts on the matter, but it always ended up into the same landfill of easy conjecture. And in the process of rewriting the post over and over again both in text and in my head, I’ve found three major reasons for why I failed the activity.

  1. I had no strong feelings about the piece.
  2. I’m bad at presenting ideas on twitter
  3. I prefer art which are or can be a story

The piece is a pretty and I really like the music, but that’s pretty much it. I can see this resonating with some, but for me it was just a good ad, nothing more. I’m also as any reader of mine should know, a very wordy person. I like taking my time when I present ideas and thoughts. It’s not that I’m unable to boil something down, but that sort of work takes time and effort. And taking time and effort on twitter is something I’m not really used too. To me it’s a site to share random thoughts, like the flint in a lighter. The lighter gas is subconscious ideas, the flint can ignite them, but produced flame is used to make something unrelated to the lighter. Twitter to me is a tool not suitable for discussion.

Lastly the big part, I prefer art in story form. Once we get more into games and e-lit I have tons of examples of pieces I enjoy, but most digital art ends up in the same box as Sky magic. A box filled with neat trinkets which are pretty or cool in a technical aspect, but nothing more. This idea of art as stories is also why I really enjoy memes. Take the so beloved meme of guy eyeing up a girl while with another.

other woman

The situation is something inherently familiar to anyone who has grown up in a culture of monogamy. You can use this familiarity to create a story. Every version of the meme has a structure; Initial state of happy couple where you learn the name of him and her. Middle stage where he scorns her in favour of a new person. And there it ends. You, the viewer, must fill in the conclusion. You have to imagine the joke or message, and this is not some deep analysis, but an effortless urge to bring closure to a story.

And then again you have the meta story. The story of where the meme came from and how it’s usage has changed over time. My appreciation of the meme peaked after someone pointed out that the stock photo is based upon the red lady scene in The Matrix or at least lines up extremely well.

Other matrix

How adorable and juicy! Now you can add another layer to the story. It’s no longer a random couple, but good old Morpheus and Neo having a walk and the distracting lady is whatever this version of Neo desires. Of course this is not taking into account all the versions incorperating older and newer memes for a continous canon of internett tomfoolery.

Memes might not be seen as high art, but I enjoy them. I’ve always detested the use of high/low art classifications. In my work with nerd youth culture here in Norway I constantly met with derision when trying to scrounge up funds. Nerd culture is amateur culture, unlike classical arts which is professional culture. I can see the distinctions and why a classification of this sort is useful, but why use such charged words. By calling certain art low, you insinuate that it’s inferior. It’s like the escapism fears from pulp/fantasy books of the eighties. Just because something is made to entertain everyone, not just the learned does not mean any inferiority. But this scorn of story and structure is still quite prevalent in all facets of the art community. People disparage their work because it’s just low culture. Excellent pieces are disregarded because of their origins or method of production.

Erm.. Yes well I’ll let that rant go for now. I’ll probably pick it up during our more e-lit oriented lectures a few months from now. I’ll just end on this little note:

Our appreciation of art is subjective. Don’t disregard what others find meaning and joy in, but don’t punish someone for not getting what you like. It’s fine to be bored by universally lover pieces, so many people are and the only way we can get more of the art we enjoy is to shout out when we find something that speaks to us.

Defining art

As a collective, we humans really like to categorize things. Ourselves, our political leanings, other cultures, types of media and sub categories of the media. Not only are categories and excellent way to sort through tons of stuff, but also in removing a lot of preamble in day to day conversations. While labels like feminist or liberal brings a ton of baggage it gives an indication of what kind of person you are talking too. Sporting pins or other icons representing your chosen category acts like a filter. I would naturally steer away from people sporting a MAGA hat or a Pepe/FBI t-shirt. This saves both me and the other person a lot of grief. Categories and labels has always been an important part of representing yourself. The whole “are games art?” debate and social justice stance that labels regarding self-identity and how its best left up to the person being labelled, show’s us the influence of categories.

Which is why I’ve had so much fun in reading my fellow student’s blogs. In their words you can see a certain uncertainty in what extent this and that falls under the umbrella of digital culture and digital art. You can see this too in the structure of the course. It’s split in three parts, digital art, games and electronic literature. Does that mean that games and e-lit is not digital art? I can see breaking digital art into different facets, but when it’s split into its own category what does that mean.

When it comes to defining digital art in the first place I naturally went to Wikipedia. Siting Wikipedia is as always seen as a great sin, but since anyone can be an editor it also works as a good way to find the median understanding of more ethereal concepts. This hivemind of the masses produced the following definition:

“Digital art is an artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as an essential part of the creative or presentation process. Since the 1970s, various names have been used to describe the process, including computer art and multimedia art. Digital art is itself placed under the larger umbrella term new media art.”

While this is a serviceable start point it’s important to try to flesh it out. This is where the course curriculum comes in handy. Incidentally we have the book Digital art by Christiane Paul. Firstly, she brings a really good point around definition and why defining digital art is a pain:

“Definitions and categories can be dangerous in setting up predefined limits for approaching and understanding an art form, particularly when it’s constantly evolving, as is the case of digital art.”

I don’t envy anyone forced into a position where you must define art. By setting a limit you will always end up excluding innovative pieces that push the boundaries.  Digital art is a relatively new notion, born out of the desire to categorise the outlier to pre-computer art which makes defining it even harder as it’s constantly growing. But despite all this, Paul comes with a serviceable definition of digital art:

“…art that uses digital technologies as a tool for the creation of more traditional art objects – such as a photograph, print, or sculpture…”

And for new media:

“…digital-born, computable art that is created, stored, and distributed via digital technologies and employs their features as its very own medium.”

We can see that the definition offered by Wikipedia clashes with Paul’s. Paul defines new media and digital art as two separate entities while the wiki sees digital art as a sub category to new media. This poses a problem. Which classification should we follow? Categories and classifications are subjective in their nature and their truth is based not in some Boolean fact, but in usage. Even the most common definition of life could also apply to fire which requires oxygen, eats and procreates, but most people would not count fire when deciding what basic right a living thing is given.

My knee jerk reaction is to follow the academic definition presented by my curriculum and I’ll surely use is as my basis in any academic text written for the university. However, there is merit in the tiered setup presented by the masses of Wikipedia. Sub categories allows us to peek between our fingers and jumble ideas while still allowing us to well-fitting categories. Anyone who listens to metal music will be familiar with this approach (please don’t burn me at the stake if you disagree with the classification presented in the graph. I’m but a simple jazz enthusiast which know next to nothing about metal and only needed an example)

 

metalmusic

 

So why should we care about categories at all? If it excludes, muddles and is inherently subjective, what is the point? Well… outside of my earlier points about filtering etc, it helps in creation. Sitting in a blank room trying to dream up a new idea is damned difficult. Most, if not all, has run into option paralyzes during our life. The human mind is great at modifying existing thing or dreaming up solutions to problems, but that’s because of limitations. Given unlimited funds and time we tend to over analyse and design everything. This is where categories shine. Want to make music? What category? Immediately you have a framework. You can subvert expectations, but you’re building of off an existing framework. So, by having a category of art which is defined not only by the digital framework of it’s creation but also by it’s link to traditional art you give yourself plenty of room for innovation while also having a framework.

Finally, I want to shout out a few blogs from other students.

First of its Ane’s blog where she in a stroke of genius recreates the feeling of exiting digital art in Spore. She also links a new song to each blogpost (without auto playing them) which I heartily approve of. https://anelundo.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/art-of-the-week/

Next up is Roj with an insight into evolution of photography. He also sites a very interesting idea proposed by Flores which came up during our lecture. The idea that e-lit and literature will die out in the next half century. While I disagree with the notion I still find it an interesting topic to think about. https://thelifeofroj.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/one-step-closer-to-the-matrix/

 

Lastly from my study buddy John with his really good “Tweet or die” post. The outlining of the discomfort which comes from blending personas, here IRL and online persona, is something I’ve had on my mind ever since my short stint in sociology and first reading Goffman. https://tronkel.wordpress.com/

I participated in Global Game Jam 2018. A post about memes and bit sized ideas.

This weekend I spent three days completing a game with five other people, but another person from my class did the same thing and also blogged about it so I’ll let the post about my experience simmer a bit longer before I post about it here. You can check out Elias’s blog about his experience here: https://eliasblogorg.wordpress.com/.

What I want to a talk about this time is something I eluded to in an earlier post, memes.

doing it right

The Wikipedia page on memes has very eloquent and well formulated definition.

“A meme is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture … A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme.”

While the idea of memes is far from new, the popularity of the world wide web has made the term highly relevant in our everyday lives. Codes of conduct manifests in the forms of memes, filter bubbles expect certain reactions which to a wider audience would seem random or carry little to no information. For anyone new to the twitch chat, Kappa might just be one of a thousand silly faces, but in the community, it’s prescribed meaning. Any statement containing the Kappa emoji is sarcastic or in some way over the top. Complex issues can be treated in a light-hearted manner by captioning your thoughts over a picture of a penguin.

awkpenguin

In older times memes were harder to transmit. One of my favourites is the story of Martin Luther and the anabaptists. Luther as you might know proclaimed his dissatisfaction in the way the Catholic church handled its affairs. He also proposed the radical idea that the bible should be translated from Latin to German so that everyone, not just the priests, could read the holy word of God. While this was not a new idea, plenty of people argued against the church before Luther (and were killed off), but Luther had one tool available to him that the ones who came before had not. The printing press. He could share and spread his ideas to more than the people living in the same town. Sermons and arguments where printed and distributed among the populous and even if the church had gotten to him, they were powerless to stop the printing of his heretic ideals. One of the results of this spread where the creation of a radical version of Protestantism/Lutherism, the anabaptists.

Martin Luther

This religious group was built around another idea Luther had thrown about, that the everyday man could not only read, but understand the bible in their own way. Through debates and a pinch of the expected religious spirit this was interpreted that anyone could be a prophet which in turn ended up with one of my favourite moments in history where about ten thousand poor people took over a city, made it a pseudo communistic city state which promptly descended into a burning mess. For anyone interested in reading more about the topic I urge you to listen to Hardcore History’s “prophets of doom” episode or just reading the Wikipedia article.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCnster_rebellion

https://www.dancarlin.com/product/hardcore-history-48-prophets-of-doom/

In both the instance of the awkward penguin meme and the teachings of Martin Luther we find complex ideas and thoughts represented in a much simple from. By boiling down ideas to the core they have gained the ability of being shared much faster than the whole truth. Nearly every instance of education does this and for good reason. Trying to explain calculus all at once would be an impossible task, but by cutting it down into manageable bits we can over time paint a picture of the whole. The problem is in the “over time” part. If you where do drop out in the fourth grade, your view of what calculus is will be extremely incomplete and in many ways wrong. If you’ve only had depression and social angst explained to you in two sentences a pop, you’ll have a very naïve view indeed.

antifeminism

So, what happens when our form of communication more and more resembles memes? When most of our impressions and understandings of a subject comes from Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, blogs and 4chan? Where most debates happen in a filter bubble or in anonymous discussions where the participants are ever changing and there is no possibility of creating a lasting vocabulary understood and agreed upon by both sides. I’m far from having any academic understanding of these implications, but instead I have subjective observations which I can build a case on. Not a strong case, but maybe something to build upon later.

antimenist

This quick pace and aimless discussion style invites the use of the “us or they” mentality. Either you’re a feminist or your one of “them”. Wither you’ve swallowed the red pill or you are part of “them”. You agree, or you are one of “them”. By splitting any debate into us or them you paint a black and white world view. Any question becomes a Boolean result of true or false. Fact or fake news. By having this mentality, groups are invited to prove the other side wrong instead of proving yourself right.

I have myself done this plenty of times and I still do. Certain ideas or ideals are cemented in my mind as undisputed truths which I’ll never let go. I have however, tried to be more critical of my “simple fact”, but as neuroscience has shown us, evaluating the brain using the brain is damned difficult. Compound on top of this the social pressure of not going against your “gang” and introspection ends up being a lofty goal. You can see this social pressure to conform to an idea everywhere. Feminist disagreeing and falling out over the topic of “are we using #metoo to much?” or the alt rights “is it okay to be gay if you don’t show it?”. One missed step or poorly phrased thought can leave you shunned from your community.

truefalse

#HasJustineLandedYet is a digital artefact which haunts me every time I act in public. Jon Ronson has an excellent ted talk about the vindictive and pleasurable experience it is to tear someone down. How one person can become a meme in themselves. The talk capsulate how Justine Sacco went from a nobody to the embodiment of white privilege and how Twitter went about solving the issue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAIP6fI0NAI&t

There are many conclusions that can be drawn from my musings. The easiest might be that social media makes us dumber and we should all go back to our Nokia 3310, but might that not be to simple a solution to a complex problem? Maybe if the problem was as simple as our bit sized understanding of it, but sadly I don’t think it is. Maybe we just have to do the same as we do with so many other complex problems. Try to educate one another and ourselves. By keeping in mind who we can hurt and how we blind ourselves. If we consider that the scumbag Steve meme is a picture of an actual person before we share it, maybe we’ll find ourselves in situation a tiny bit better than we find today.

wholesome meme