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LEA Special Issue from PerthDAC: Part 1

Embodiment and Presence

(See also PerthDAC Special Section: Social Media: Narrative and Literacy in Digital Culture)

Guest Editors: Andrew Hutchison (Curtin University) and Ingrid Richardson (Murdoch University)

The six papers presented here from the perthDAC (Digital Arts and Culture) 2007 conference together offer a different perspective on embodiment in environments - virtual or tangible. These were selected for this special edition with the intention of broadening the notion of "embodiment" as it is commonly used in the field of digital/new media. As you will see, here the discussion is often less about the specific media and technology. Rather, the social and phenomenological challenges that influence embodiment are brought forth, drawing on a wide range of fields of study and experience.

All of these perspectives are well informed by a knowledge of the history of representation and experience – and each show us how it does (or might) manifests in current applications.

For example, Julianne Chatelain gives us the phrase "multi-subject experience" to understand copyright and intellectual property issues in games or art that are somehow collaborative in production.

Allison Kudla draws a parallel between formalism in "traditional" art and the tendency for new technology art (including bio-art) to produce non-screen based experiences that actually physically incorporate the user.

Ragnhild Tronstad employs Freud's notion of "the Uncanny" in an examination of new media art works, and how this can be used to increase the aesthetic impact.

Anders Tychsen and Michael Hitchens compare the temporal aspects of pre-digital role playing games with their current digital descendants, to discover a multitude of simultaneous "times" that exist in complex environments.

Claudia Müller-Hermann identifies that digital representations of space are merely part of a change in spatial awareness that has been undertaken by artists, filmmakers, architects, designers, scientists and engineers during the during the 20th century.

Truna (aka J.Turner), David Browning and Nicola Bidwell use indigenous peoples' perceptions of the landscape to identify that digital representations tend to detach the user from experiencing the natural world, instead perpetuating existing games motifs that separate users and virtual world.

And finally, Stewart Woods invokes both Huizinga's magic circle, and the experience of specific classic board games, to challenge the field of videogame design to incorporate a greater degree of social risk in game play.

We hope that you find this to be a thought provoking collection.

We would like to thank Leonardo Electronic Almanac for the opportunity to present this unique combination of papers, and also, the over two hundred scholars who were involved in the double blind (abstract AND full paper) reviewing process that produced these papers (http://beap.org/dac/). And of course, congratulations go to the authors of the papers themselves.

Table of Contents

"Where's The Party?" Multi-Subject Experiences and Intellectual Property
Julianne Chatelain: Information Consultants Pty Ltd, Ashfield NSW Australia

ABSTRACT: The term "multi-subject experience" (MSE) can be used to describe games or art that are both collective, if it is not possible for a single individual (subject) to have the same experience alone, and collaborative, if subjects play and/or create them together. This paper looks at a range of MSEs that are language-intensive, and the ways in which copyright and/or intellectual property issues are addressed (if at all) in relation to artefacts produced. In relation to those issues, two commonly recurring phases can be called the "party" phase and the "organisation" phase. Collective collaborators face a variety of challenges if they decide (or are forced) to transform a party into a more organised entity. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Biological Agency in Art
Allison Nicole Kudla: DXARTS, University of Washington Seattle, WA, USA

ABSTRACT: This paper will explain how the pictorial dilemma guided traditional art towards formalism and again guides new media art away from the screen and towards the generation of physical, phenomenologically based and often bio-technological artistic systems. This takes art into experiential territories, as it is no longer an illusory representation of an idea but an actual instantiation of its beauty and significance. Thus the process of making art is reinstated as a marker to physically manifest and accentuate an experience that takes the perceivers to their own edges so as to see themselves as open systems within a vast and interweaving non-linear network. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

The Uncanny in New Media Art
Ragnhild Tronstad: University of Oslo, Dept of Media and Communication, Oslo, Norway

ABSTRACT: Using Freud's essay on "The Uncanny" as a point of departure, I examine a selection of new media art objects and installations and discuss how the dimension of uncanniness is present and contributing to our aesthetic experience of the works. Discussing examples in which the dimension of the uncanny adds an aesthetic ambivalence, without which the works discussed would be less aesthetically interesting, I argue for the particular relevance of this concept to genres of new media art. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Interesting Times – Modelling Time in Multi-Player and Massively Multi-player Role Playing Games
Anders Tychsen & Michael Hitchens: Interactive Systems and Virtual Reality Research Group, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

ABSTRACT: Time is a key concept in the design, playing and study of games and can be viewed from multiple perspectives, e.g. the player and the game world. Here a comprehensive, iteratively developed model of game time, based on empirical games research as well as recent theory, is presented. The model is tested in practice and its applicability across tabletop, digital and other forms and formats is demonstrated. Special emphasis is placed on multi-player and massively multi-player games, as well as role playing games, as these feature complex game time behavior that cannot be explored in existing models of game time. The model includes seven viewpoints of game time, and allows for the mapping of time as an interactively created and non-linear feature of games and gameplay. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Digital Media and Form – Spatial Spheres at the End of Post-Modern Digitalization
Claudia Aline Müller-Hermann, Stuttgart, Germany, claudia@muellerhermann.com

ABSTRACT: This paper is about the construction and representation of space in time-based media, architecture and the computer. My hypothesis is that a shift has taken place in the construction of image- and architectural space throughout the last century, doubtlessly provoked by the rise of digital computer technology, but eventually also by changing paradigms in art, science, culture and every day life. In my research, I used of the notion of space and its construction and representation as a methodological tool to critically identify problems that emerged through the rise of digital media technology. I present examples of visionary artists, filmmakers, architects, designers, scientists and engineers from the 20th and 21st century who created works that attempt to break with conventional notions of space. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Wanderer Beyond Game Worlds
truna aka j.turner: The Australasian CRC for Interaction Design Pty Ltd. QUT Brisbane, Australia
David Browning: James Cook University, Discipline of IT, Townsville Australia
Nicola J Bidwell: James Cook University, Discipline of IT, Cairns Australia

ABSTRACT: We discuss issues and opportunities for designing experiences with 3D simulations of nature where the landscape and the interactant engage in an equitable dialogue. We consider the way digital representations of the world and design habits tend to detach from corporeal dimensions in experiencing the natural world and perpetuate motifs in games that reflect taming, territorializing or defending ourselves from nature. We reflect on the Digital Songlines project, which translates the schema of indigenous people to construct a natural environment, and the inherent difficulty in cross-culturally representing inter-connectedness. This leads us to discuss insights into the use of natural features by western people in cultural transmission and in their experiences in natural places. We propose McCarthy and Wright's dialogical approach may reconcile conceptions of place and self in design and conclude by considering experiments in which designers digitally reconstruct their own corporeal experience in natural physical landscape. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Last Man Standing: Risk and Elimination in Social Game Play
Stewart Woods: Curtin University of Technology, Perth WA Australia

ABSTRACT: This paper draws upon elements of contemporary board game design with a view to establishing ways in which cross-pollination between game media may foster innovative interpersonal mechanics. The ways in which loss is implemented in board game design are discussed and contrasted with the lack of genuine losing conditions in the majority of contemporary videogames. Examples are drawn of tabletop game mechanics which place a particular emphasis upon the interaction of players in order to bring about conflicts which highlight the antisocial nature of play as it occurs within the confines of Huizinga's magic circle [16]. Finally, it is argued that the combination of social negotiation and elimination commonly seen in board game design is one that holds particular potential for digital implementation, suggesting that virtual environments laden with a greater degree of social risk might invigorate the field of videogame design. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Updated 25 February 2009

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