November and December 2011 were extremely busy months for us.  We handled a lot of course and teaching administration. After concluding a very successful research week with visitors from all over the world for the Game Love Reader project in October, Jessica presented her work on ludic structures in “The Biggest Loser” at a health and humanities conference at Lund University in December. Lotta has lectured in Copenhagen on on-line sources. In addition, we both went travelling. One went West and one went East. And both planes and countries provided more digital materialities for our playful scrutiny, purchase and general amusement.

Most of January was spent writing, writing, writing and we presented a summary of the entire project for the ethnology group at the Ethnology Research Seminar on Feb 8. Last week we were interviewed by a journalist from a Swedish gaming magazine, and then Lotta lectured some more. We have now entered the final stage of the gaming mom project, and have submitted papers and abstracts  to three international conferences this summer: Nordic Digra in Tampere, Finland; The 32nd Nordic Conference of Ethnology and Folkloristics in Bergen, Norway, and Crossroads in Cultural Studies in Paris, France.  The past two days we have worked almost around the clock to finish our article on qualitative methods. We have previously left town to work undisturbed, but decided this time to stay in Lund. We have been very productive and that makes us  very happy 🙂

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Welcome to a week of research on digital aesthetics and culture at the Department of
Arts & Cultural Sciences, Lund University
November 14-17, 2011!


On Monday November 14, Dr Hanna Wirman from HongKong Polytechnic University will give a lecture for all MACA student from Lund and Copenhagen on Virtual Ethnography.  Wirman wrote her Ph.D on female computergame players and skinning practices in the game Sims 2. Please contact jessica.enevold@kultur.lu.se for inquiries and details.


On Tuesday, November 15, Dr Olli Leino, from HongKong City University, will give a HEX-lecture at 15.15 on what makes playable artefacts motivating to play. More info in the invitation to the lecture and lab below.

 

Wirman and Leino will also take part in the international symposium “Playing with Affection” on Game Love Aesthetics and Culture that takes play November 16-17, at the Department of Arts & Cultural Sciences. More on this later. I hereby extend an invitation to the HEX -lecture. A description of HEX and the Digital Cultures and Games Lectures and Lab,  and links to previous lectures and conferences, can be found at the end of the invitation.

INVITATION TO HEX DIGITAL CULTURES AND GAMES LECTURE AND LAB:

How are computer games experienced as meaningful?
Playability and Experienced Significance.

WHODr. Olli Tapio Leino, City University of Hong Kong.

WHAT: How are computer games experienced as meaningful?  Playability and Experienced Significance.

Why are in-game monsters frightening? What is erotic about erotic Tetris? Are the decorative stickers with which the players can decorate their virtual cars in Need for Speed: Undercover (2008) a waste of (in-game) money? In short, how does significance emerge in computer game play? Furthermore, what is the role of technology in this signification, and, how do computer games compare to other forms of new media in this regard? While the answers to these kinds of questions related to interpretation and experience are presupposed by critique and analysis of computer games and other playable new media forms, they are seldom explicated in detail. In this lecture, I discuss the ways in which meaning emerges in interactions with playable media forms. I will discuss also the challenges these forms of signification pose to the paradigmatic methods of interpretation, analysis, and critique of new media.

Conceptualizing computer games through the traditional “game” metaphor has been at the heart of the emerging tradition of game studies for the past decade. Computer games have been described using concepts like “rules”, “winning” and “losing”. In this lecture, however, I argue that for understanding how significance emerges in computer game play, i.e. how and why players find details in computer games meaningful, the game metaphor is slightly problematic. This is because computer game play, more than “traditional” game play, is underpinned by the involvement of technology. Admittedly, computer game play, too, is a human practice, but it is a practice defined by the involvement of technological artefacts rather than rules governing human behavior. These technological artefacts, are not simply at the service of human players like pawns on a Monopoly board, but assume an active role alongside the human subject in co-shaping and transforming the experience of play.

To complement the game metaphor, I identify “playability” as an affordance of a kind of audience engagement characterized by a duality of freedom and responsibility. By introducing themes from existentialism and post-phenomenological philosophy into a game studies framework, I focus on the ways in which playable technological artefacts, like computer games, social media applications and electronic artworks offer themselves to be experienced as significant. Contrasting playability with “playfulness”, considered as a set of aesthetic strategies, constitutes a position from which contemporary computer games and other playable artefacts, and our attempts at making sense of them, can be related to preceding forms of art and culture like participatory and performative art on the one hand, and to the contemporary forms of interactive, perhaps playful but not necessarily playable, art and media on the other.  The ensuing lab session, led by Dr. Hanna Wirman and Dr. Olli Leino, we will look at examples that illustrate the themes of the lecture in more detail.

WHEN: Nov 15, 2011. 15 – 18

15.15-16.45 Lecture + Q & A
** small break **
17.00-18.00 Exercises in the computer lab

WHERE: Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund. Room 109, ground floor, to the left, in Kulturanatomen at Biskopsgatan 7 . The ensuing lab will be held at Biskopsgatan 7, in basement game labs 022 and 019. We’ll lead you there.

HOW: Drop in. It is not mandatory to announce your participation ahead of time, but it is much appreciated! Please email: jessica.enevold@kultur.lu.se

Welcome!

Jessica Enevold
Seminar coordinator HEX Digital Cultures and Games Series

PREVIOUS LECTURES IN THE SERIES:
Dan Pinchbeck – Preserving Digital Games – Immaterial Cultural Heritage
Annette Markham – Remix Ethnography – Digital Material and Virtual Ethnography
Olli Sotama – What Makes Gamers Tick? – On Player Motivation, Production & Consumption
Esther MacCallum-Stewart – The Street Smarts of a Cartoon Princess: Female Avatars, Female Players
Miguel Sicart – Play, Interrupted: On the Ethics of Computer Games
Patrick Williams – What people do in Fantasy Gameworlds and How They Do It: User Interfaces and MMOS
Espen Aarseth – What are Games Anyway? – Introduction, Digital Cultures & Games Lecture Lab Series

CONFERENCES
Folkhälsoinstitutet och Lunds Universitet samarrangemang. 10-11 december, 2010. Spel om pengar och datorspel – Fokus på kvinnor och unga.
[Collaboration with The Swedish National Institute of Public Health; Games and Gambling – Focus on Youth and Women]

Upcoming International Symposium, Nov 16-17, 2011. “Playing with Affection” on Game Love Aesthetics & Culture. Stay tuned for more information.

HEX...
is a cross-disciplinary experimental humanities and social science research platform funded by the Faculty of Humanities and Theology, at Lund University.The aim of the experimental research group, HEX, founded in 2005, is to make possible the organizing and creating of events and products (books, films, installations) that are academically and artistically innovative. HEX serves as a think tank and a breeding ground for new research projects incorporating formats that go beyond the ordinary lecture or publication format; for example, in November 2010, Sweden’s first Science Slam was arranged by HEX  – for all activities concult the website:
http://hyphoff.kult.lu.se/hex

The Digital Cultures and Games Lecture and Lab…
is a HEX-funded seminar series that features international scholars of various disciplines well versed in the various fields of digital culture. The seminars consist of a lecture and a hands-on laboratory session in order to illustrate and make concrete what the research lectured on is truly about. The seminar series aims to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines with the goal of familiarizing a wide culturally interested audience, including scholars, professors as well as students, and laymen to various digital cultures including games. The seminar series is open to all and conducted in English.

 Förra veckan medverkade vi i Vetenskapsradion Forum i P1. Vi berättar om projektet och de utgångspunkter vi hade när vi började, om populärkultur och stereotyper, om kvinnor och föräldraskap, om spel och vardagsliv och om vad vi kommit fram till. I inslaget, som sändes måndag 10 oktober, intervjuas också Susanne Möller, spelande mamma och spelkritiker. Klicka här så kommer du direkt till inslaget.

 Är du en spelande mamma – besvara gärna enkäten som du hittar här på bloggen!

Innan sommaren åkte vi på forskningsinternat för att försöka få klart en artikel. Den blev inte färdig så nu har vi haft ytterligare en intensiv arbetshelg, denna gång i Varberg.  Att åka iväg och skriva är bra för det blir långa sammanhängande skrivsessioner med avbrott bara för fikapauser, korta promenader för frisk luft och lite Wordfeud för att rensa tankarna. Nackdelarna är att det blir två veckors arbete i en följd eftersom det inte blir någon helg. Sista raderna på lördagskvällen skrevs 00.30. Men nu är artikeln snart klar, vilket känns skönt. Sedan gäller det förstås att den tidskrift vi tänkt oss vill ha den.

Vi är många som gillar ordspel av olika slag, såväl i digital form som på papper och både sådana man ägnar sig åt ensam och tillsammans med andra. Korsord, Texttwist, Scrabble och Betapet kan jag ägna många timmar åt och jag är definitivt inte ensam. Under projektets gång har vi haft kontakt med flera spelande mammor som varit mycket engagerade i t ex Betapet. Nu finns också Wordfeud som snabbt blivit oerhört populärt. På bilden till vänster syns två av våra kollegor ägna sig åt detta i bussen då vi härom veckan åkte på personalkonferens.

Det är dock många som tycker det finns en del problem med Wordfeud. Ord man kan lägga i andra ordspel accepteras inte, man kan böja på märkliga vis och få konstiga ord accepterade. Vad är det egentligen för ordlista som används? Ja, inte är det SAOL i alla fall. I Dagens Nyheter diskuteras detta och ordförande i Svenska Scrabbleförbundet uttalar sig kritiskt. De som eventuellt fortfarande tror att digitala spel mest handlar om våld och är något som bara ett fåtal ägnar sig åt, och som menar att spel inte är någon “riktig” eller “vettig” hobby, kan ju fundera över om det verkligen är på det viset. När ett spel diskuteras på kultursidorna i landets största morgontidning, och när man på Bokmässan kommer att ordna en turnering, kan det knappast ses som en perifer aktivitet.

UCSC campus

In May 2011, I was invited to give a lecture at the Center for  Games and Playable Media, University of California, Santa Cruz. I was very kindly received by wonderful PhD students who picked me up from and delivered me to the airport and made sure I got to my appointments on campus. Thanks Brandon and John!  My jetlaggy state of mind appreciated their shepherding immensely. My talk, which stated/asked the question “What’s wrong with the gaming revolution?” was filmed, which was a new experience for me. In addition to delivering the talk, I also had meetings with doctoral students who presented their projects to me for input.  I  was very impressed with their creativity, intelligence,  and ambition to change the world with games. Noah Wardrip-Fruin, who invited med, and Michael Mateas and Jane Pinckard who are the center directors, made me feel very welcome.

Interesting chats with PhD students Heather Logas and Sherol Chen

Had interesting chats with PhD students Heather Logas and Sherol Chen

They are just as supersweet and smart as  their graduate students ;).

Despite foul rainy weather, I truly enjoyed my visit, which also contained great thai food, an (ice)creamery, listening to John Davison of CBS Interactive on “What will the games business look like in 5 years?” and a quick dinner with some of the faculty members, among them the lovely Soraya Murray, before departing.  The  UC Santa Cruz campus is a very special place with its tall redwood trees, leafy moist surroundings and hilly, curvy campus roads and large population of deer, which in turn attracts mountain lions!  Its closeness to the Silicon Valley and San Francisco and the beach makes it an attractive place to study and work.

I had not visited  UCSC in many years. Last time was in 1999, planning where to go if my Fulbright application would go through. History of Consciousness was the department I had in mind then. Eventually I ended up in New Mexico, on Route 66, for a completely different adventure. Next time I visit, I will try to fit in an old acquaintance – the Giant Dipper… “the great roller coaster […] amid screams above the golden strand of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk … a tooth-loosener, eyeball-popper, and one long shriek.” (Herb Caen).

The Giant Dipper – Santa Cruz beach boardwalk – still exists, although refurbished – for pictures click  here.

Allt fler spelar alltmer. Väldigt många av dessa är kvinnor. I artikeln Nu erövrar kvinnorna spelbranschen i Expressen i måndags diskuteras detta och vi intervjuas.