An instance of semantics


Adrian just posted on the subject blog about the ACCC suing software developer Valve over its refund policy and how that illustrates the capacity in which an organisation is liable for their operations in local contexts.  I don’t necessarily agree with this and would also like to point out the infinitely negotiable nature of legislation and how it does (or does not) apply.  Valve have already issued a response via Kotaku indicating that they fully intend to cooperate (not necessarily comply) with Australian authorities.  Author Mark Serrels points out the bold section of Valve’s refund policy that indicates that it will only consider refunds where mandated by local laws.

It naturally follows that other questions may arise in response to this, particularly the capacity in which Valve’s products are a) definable as a product, instead of a service, and b) whether or not services provided by overseas corporations can be considered equitable to locally distributed products.  It is worth noting that Valve can contest this case extensively by arguing that it does not actually sell anything, and by some interpretations they do not; Valve essentially provides the lease of a software license of an indeterminate period rather than any ownership rights over the software itself.

Valve will more than likely contest the case on these grounds using the argument that if they do not provide a tangible product then their services cannot be held to the same regulations as products that are legislated to have specific consumer protections imposed on then.  Consequently, I would say that rather than being a case that illustrates international liability, it is more indicative of the negotiable semantics that exist around local and internationally applicable laws and where powerful entities are adept at subverting these to their own benefit.

Getting Cracking


First post of the new semester; hopefully it signals the first round of spectacular communal engagement and learning experience.  I thought I’d start off by giving a bit of advice on how to succeed in the course, especially as the key learning outcomes (as well as the course itself) are extremely malleable.  The reasons for the adaptability of the course are varied, but the key one that you should be thinking about is this this idea: anything we teach you in relation to networked media, online practice and communication technologies will be out-dated by the time you graduate.  It’s a concerning thought, though one that you should hopefully be able to respond to with confidence by the final submission at the end of week 13.  But, hey, if you want to cheat the answer it’s basically somewhere along the line of teaching overriding conceptual knowledge that can be applied to both existing and incipient communications and networking technologies as well as the fundamentals of online interaction, explored through the development of – and engagement within – a publicly available blogging ecology.  So, on to the tips:


1. Engage consistently

We’re trying to embed practice.  We’re trying to explore the systems that build themselves up around different models of communication and interaction.  As such, you’ll have to start blogging, keep blogging and engage with the blogs and ideas of others.  If you’re not sure what to blog about, do it anyway.  Trust me on this one.


2. Worry about the process, not the product

You can change anything on your blog.  No post is final, no content is unable to be switched, swapped, enhanced, renegotiated, deleted or have the font changed to pink.  As such, you should do what you can to start getting out of the head space of only publishing “finished” work.  Your ideas will develop and improve based on the input of others, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.


3. Don’t be defensive about your ideas

There is a strong inclination within the student body to value an idea to the point where it is never shared and consequently has no hope of being realised.  The first thing I want to say in response to this is that your idea is not as good as you think.  The second is that it can be.  But you’ll need the input of others; see how it develops in different environments; what other people think of it; where the flaws are; how it can be improved, etc.  “But Elliot,” I hear you say, “what if I can’t communicate my idea effectively and it doesn’t end up sounding like I want it to?  What if people don’t realise how good it is because I haven’t developed it enough or because I can’t type it out as well as I’d like?  What if they judge me for it?”  If you can’t communicate your ideas effectively then you need practice.  Plain and simple.  Start now.  You’ll have better ideas tomorrow, the next day and on into the future, so start getting them into a public forum now.  The more you do this, the better you’ll get at it.  If you’re worried about people stealing your idea then read the copyright readings for this week.  Once you publish it, you own it.  Any reservation about appearances is simply vanity, and we all know you’re above that 😉


4. Make it your own

A sense of ownership is vitally important.  Your blog is yours.  You can do whatever you like with it.  Well, maybe not, but you know, within reason.  Something I always advise my students to do is to use the blog post not related to networked media category for participation to advance a particular aspect of their online identity or to contribute to an area of research that will move you towards your desired career.  Is there an online CV component on your blog?  Is there a portfolio of work?  If not, why not?  Are you waiting to start your own personal website before you do this?  You do know you can copy and paste if you are, right?

This sense of ownership doesn’t just apply to the blog.  No matter what career path you choose it will incorporate networked practice in some way or another.  What is this currently?  What will this be in future?  Every week you should be asking yourself what the key ‘take-away’ ideas from the lecture are, and what they mean to your own area of interest.  The curriculum is speculative and adaptable.  Adapt it to what you want and we’ll accommodate you.  Everyone’s education pathway is different and the ability to tailor it to your desired outcomes is a key criteria for success.



That game narrative post


I’ve been promising to write this post for a couple of weeks now but I have been experiencing a few difficulties in sourcing appropriate articles for coming up with an authoritative definition of video games, narrative and the way the two interact (or are one in the same).  I think the most effective way of describing the discourse as well as my opinions on it is to introduce certain concepts plus corresponding literature and then summarise with my own opinions.

Narratology vs. Ludology

A key problem with the discourse is that no one can seem to agree on major points in the narratology vs. ludology debate.  In one of the most peculiar twists in modern academics, it appears that the primary reason this debate lacks resolution is simply because the narratology camp, and consequently their contribution to the discourse, are for the most part imagined.  That’s not to say the narratologists don’t exist; just that there is little evidence for their existence from within video game studies.  They’re always external.  In, Ludologists love stories, too: notes from a debate that never took place, Gonzalo Frasca (2003) identifies the source of the confusion.  He is quickly countered by Celia Pearce (2005) in Theory Wars: An Argument Against Arguments in the so-called Ludology/Narratology Debate.  More of a disagreement in terms of abstract claims and verification rather than of key concepts.


Jesper Juul is very well respected in some circles.  These are circles that I’m not a part of.  Here are some things he says about the separation between games and narrative:

From the ’98 Digital Arts & Culture conference that Adrian mentioned in the lecture

Him on irreconcilabilities between games and narrative

For another perspective, check out Jenkins (2004) talking about Game Design as Narrative Architecture. Pay special attention to what he says about hypertext theorists.


Theoretical Applications

There also seems to be a problem in that there are very few producer-theorists out there.  Dan Pinchbeck, responsible for the several-times-mentioned Dear Esther (2012) applies theories directly to game production (or more accurately develops games as a research methodology).  His PhD thesis is behind a paywall at the moment but if I find an alternative source I’ll post it here.


My Opinions

1. Video games arenotgames.

A game is an interactive system with success/failure conditions.  The games we talk about when we refer to video games are interactive, virtual representations of some form of diegesis.  Many of these are heavily systematised; certain conditions must be met before certain sequences, regions or outcomes can occur, however the system in itself is not the primary descriptor of the interaction – the environment is.  Furthermore, there is some confusion about what constitutes a video game.  To compare Tetris to something like Heavy Rain (2010) or Dear Esther would be akin to comparing security camera footage to a feature film.  When considered in this fashion, the ‘games’ can only be analysed based on their points of commonality, which is essentially modes of interactive systematisation.  When we filter all video games into a single category what we essentially do is limit the discursive space they can occupy, even when these spaces are usually leagues apart.

2. Video games cannot be ‘won’.


3. All narrative is generative.



Clarification – Blog Assessment Length


Just a quick point of clarification – the essay accompanying the blog post is up to 1,000 words.

Seeding Ideas


In my position it’s necessary to maintain a particular standard of professionalism, so I’ll preface this by saying that some people might find the embedded video offensive.  It primarily deals with trolls and comment negativity, which is where it draws its humor from, but this isn’t the idea I want to focus on.  Have a look at how it represents a networked environment in terms of movement and interaction – the way in which the viewer travels (or is guided) through the network.  Start having a think about this if you like, as I’m sure our discussions will move into a discursive analysis of these structures and behaviours shortly.

Blogpress is handy


I recently downloaded the WordPress app and found it surprisingly lacking, being essentially the same as simply running the dashboard in a mobile browser. Given that it is pretty much a given that useful UIs capitalise on the affordances of their platform, this is obviously problematic given the complexity of the dashboard, making it exceptionally difficult to operate on a small, touch screen.

I’m writing this post using an app called Blogpress, an alternative whose utility I have yet to determine. On the upside, it’s extremely simple to use and post when I’m out and about. On the downside it costs a whole $3. If I can calculate the cost of something in the amount of coffees I won’t be buying, it better be pretty good.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Forum Theatre

Getting that Twitter Feed


So Stephen was asking about how to get a twitter feed into his blog. Seeing as the version of WordPress we’re using doesn’t allow you to install plugins that are not hosted by MediaFactory and/or the specific theme you’re using, that route to getting it on there may prove elusive.
Remember that widgets are essentially fragments of code that have a particular function. If you are able to generate that code and put it in a text widget in your sidebar, it’ll probably work. In the economy of social media, the more exposure, the better, so the major players like to provide as many ways as possible of engaging with their content. One such way is by providing simple to use dev tools… such as those found here.

Overheard: course outcomes in practice


The Chris Argyris reading may have proved a little difficult for some students. The complexity – in my opinion – comes from describing a series of models that a) assumes familiarity with the discourse, and b) does not encourage visualisation of the subject matter.  Just overheard Lauren saying that she had difficulty with the reading, but rather than banging her head against the wall trying to work through it, she sought out fellow student Dani’s blog who had quite a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter.  This is starting to develop an effective informational economy in practice. Ideas with value are privileged. In this case the criteria of value is that of the capacity to refine and consolidate information in a way that is easily transferable.

All good points


Source: Dog House Diaries

Getting to know networks


So Kevin Bacon didn’t really cure cancer. That doesn’t mean it’s not an awesome title.
How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer

Click ^ for crash course in network science.