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ARTS2090: #3 Is publishing, in itself, inevitably going to be disruptive? [explored with video games publishing] June 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Winnie Ho @ 8:06 am
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3.

Publishing is to make something public or generally known, and it can be understood in three aspects: archives, forms of expression, as well as distribution and aggregation. The changes in publishing practices and technologies through human civilisation bring about changes in publics, a system enabling assemblages of public and social life together with the engagement of individuals in them. Development of language, writing and especially printing allows for creating and disseminating abstract and complex concepts such as religion and trade, shifting culture and transforming publics through the way humans think about themselves in relation to others as well as interacting with the social aspect of life.


According to Flu
sser, ‘the term “communication” can be defined in a wide sense and in a strict sense. The wide sense is: a process by which a system is changed by another system’ (2002, p.8). A system is ‘a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2011). Nachmanovitch cites Bateson in suggesting that practices in publishing foster a tangible experience of seeing the world as a network of relationship joint by communication (1982). Communication can be a form of publishing when the sender conveys meaningful information to an imagined public. Human communication is quintessentially artificial in nature, shown in the codified world and structure of communicative systems (Flusser, 2002, p. 3-4, Ong, 1982, p. 40 & 82). The artificial channels, storage or tools used to archive and deliver information and data for communication are media; their presence in the world shapes culture, imagery of the world, and perception of reality to a certain extent, forming the mediascape. Recognising modulations in the mediascape enables one to understand the tangled interrelationships between publishing and publics.


Currently media as a whole is undergoing a period of transition, moving from “traditional” media with a top-down hierarchical system in monopolising information and knowledge, to a state of ongoing change in “new” media that allows for participatory culture and narrowing the distinction between producers and consumers of content. Some publishing models, technologies and tools may be replaced or converged with “new” media, while other models, technologies and tools can still maintain their value of importance and influence to publics in their original format. This proposition will be further discussed by focusing on video games publishing; arguing that publishing, in itself is not inevitably disrupted, but rather, different modes of publishing can coexist for publics.


Distribution and aggregation in publishing are fundamentally transformative: gathering, combining or bringing text, images, sound, code and platforms into a new relationship and increasingly flexible and variable forms of organisation; the very nature of more ongoing reorganisation of data, information and knowledge requires more means of adapting to such changes. ‘Disrupt’ can be defined as ‘to interrupt the normal course or unity of’ something (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2011); thus, a normal course or unity of publishing can be interpreted as the traditional, rigid structural models and informational flows in publishing. In the past, publishing in general focused on content and communicating certain messages, whilst the modes of distributing and aggregating were left to ‘authority’, referring to the industry and government. Now, the focus of publishing business models tends to be about leveraging distribution and aggregation more than producing content; reaching a wider audience, gaining more consumers, conforming people to adapt to their mode of publishing. However, this is not the entire case for the video games industry.


Video games are also known as interactive entertainment, which are electronic games that involve interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device (Wikipedia, 2011). They are gaining a higher status as a mainstream form of entertainment media, comparable with movies. Publishing a video game can be much more complicated than publishing a book. There is differentiation in specific roles: providing capital and licensing, designing and artwork, programming, customising game engines, generating content production tools and management, distribution, marketing and advertising, providing hardware and software platforms. The section most related to publishing is of course video games distribution, marketing and advertising, usually conducted by video game publishers. This type of publishing business model is typical for most major, or “AAA”, retail box video games, in the sense that developed video games go through a publisher and will not be released without financial support from a publisher. It is similar to the traditional publishing business models of books of an author writing up a manuscript, having an editor to makes changes to the text, getting a publisher, designing page layouts, aesthetics and the cover. Video games publishers impose restrictions and control of video game development according to budgets and business plans, meaning this is a relatively closed and limited system.


Nonetheless, “new” media brings in new opportunities and businesses models for video games publishing, and one of them is independent video game development, or commonly known as “indie games”. Independent video game development refers to the process of creating small to no budget video games without the financial support of a video game publisher (Wikipedia, 2011). Indie games can be developed by an individual, a small team or a small independent games company. Taking away the need for video games publisher approval, this allows higher creativity and non-mainstream type of video games to be created. Therefore, in order for indie games to garner popularity and acclaim, the focus still needs to be on the content of the video games, whether it would be gameplay, artwork, genre etc. Independent video game development is largely driven by digital distribution. The current age of interconnectedness of the online web and digitalisation of media allows independent game developers to aggregate and distribute their video games on the Internet by either directly purchasing and downloading from their own website, or through getting onto comprehensive digital gaming platforms (that can also be archives) like Steam. However, physical copies of video games sold in retail stores are still prevalent because of the preference of for owning a physical copy in opposed to downloading gigabytes of video games sold through digital distribution under capped Internet data plans, as well as some games including special collectibles for fans of specific video game series.


Convergence of media technologies and platforms also changes the dynamics of video games publishing. Free-to-play flash or Java-based games have been around for more than a decade, but the influx of high quality casual games on mobile application or touch-screen tablet platforms available at a cheap price is somewhat affecting the full-priced console, portable and personal computer video games market. Such casual mobile games can be termed as ‘disposable games’. Christ Anderson, author of
The Long Tail and Free, suggests that market segmentation, having a range of varying prices, is crucial in surviving the digital age: initially allowing free-to-play or charging very little monetary value, then put in a conversion rate after play utility has been ascertained, followed by creating an engaging gaming experience for the player or gamer to establish game value. He provides the example of Club Penguin, a online kids game, where the game is initially free-to-play, but one can pay for arbitrary items, like a virtual pet, in the game. Anderson claims that potential game consumers will feel natural to pay more to build upon their already formed gaming experience (p. 7). This theory links back to the proposition that publishing business models focus more on distribution and aggregation rather than content. Media convergence also opens up a window of creativity in using multiple publishing platforms, technologies or tools in publishing a new form of video gaming. For example, the iPad 2 is a multimedia computing device that is also capable of gaming. ‘The appearance of HD resolution video games on the iPad that work on your HDTV whilst using the iPad as a sophisticated controller represents an unexpected challenge to the likes of Sony, Nintendo and Xbox’ (Brown-Martin, 2011). A decision in whether to favour a publishing and distribution platform over another or release a video game on multiple platforms will change the flow of distribution and aggregation.


Video games themselves often contain meta-publishing, whereby the game developers communicate certain data, information, knowledge or ideas to the imagined public. There are three forms of embedded persuasion in video games: one type is advertgames, meaning that video games were created solely for the purpose for advertising real-life companies or products; another kind is in-game advertising in the form of virtual billboards or incorporated in gameplay itself yet not overtaking other game elements, and such in-game advertising may sponsor game development to a measurable degree; the third kind is called incidental advertisement that is meant to either portray a sense of realism or satirising real companies (Lan & Marinucci). Furthermore, game narratives are a important sector of in-game meta-publishing; video games will often imply a determined historical, cultural, or even moral background contexts that may echo with some gamers, but alienate others with cross-cultural differences.


Video games as a form of socialisation and community involvement are getting more prominent as well. There is the category games based on the platform and system of Facebook, such as Farmville by Zynga, that recommends the player to continuously publish Facebook news feeds in asking Facebook friends to mutually assist each other in getting most out of the gameplay experience. These type of games reward higher social mobility and influence of individual with positive in-game visual feedback (such as extra virtual items), and are higher geared towards distributing the games and aggregating players. Party games have also been developed mostly on gaming consoles, such as Wii Party, and various current Xbox 360 Kinect video game titles; this type of video gaming transforms real-life social interactions and relationships into virtual visual feedback on screen. Another genre of video games that reconstructs one’s perception in relation to the world (real or virtual) is social simulators, such as the globally popular The SIMS video game series, as well as various types of role-playing games, also known as RPGs (Lan & Marinucci). Besides, gamertags or usernames, co-operation modes, multiplayer modes, score leaderboards and game achievements are in the wider definition of publishing in expressing one self through the public space and sharing a sense of being part of an imagined public. By joining a specific gaming community, one is identifying himself or herself with a specific aspect of culture brought about by video games.


In summary, video games publishing is an extremely fragmented sector of publishing. There is not a clear divide in which types of video games publishing will concentrate more on content and which types are more driven by distribution and reaching out to a wider public. The competition amongst a multitude of game genres and gaming platforms may disrupt the market domination of high-budged not-so-creative AAA video game titles; yet, “new” media, digitalisation and media convergence allows smaller game development teams or individuals to easily catch people’s attention. Different published video games cater to different publics as a matter of personal preference. The video games industry is quite a consumer demand-determined market, hence, the video game industry should try to publish video games appealing to different sets of publics. Consequently, all participants in video games publishing, whether it be developers, publishers or individuals, ought to be aware of the transformative properties of publishing; especially people working in the game industry should develop strategies in facing enhanced and more flexible aggregations and distributions in video games publishing nowadays. Video games are unique forms of publishing because of the interactive, immersive nature in this media technology and form of entertainment; in addition, content variation is somewhat determined by the gamer or player’s decisions, actions and reactions, allowing room for creative potential; and the increasingly intertwining of video games with other forms of “new”, digital and convergent media asserts the sustenance of video games publishing as a whole that will not easily be disrupted.


REFERENCES:

 

ARTS2090 Wk11: Expression, Connection, Value, Sociality May 19, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Winnie Ho @ 4:03 pm

Reflecting on the transitions and changes within the mediascape since I started studying Media in March 2008, media literacy over a wide range of platforms is becoming increasingly important and valuable to an individual’s expression, participation and connection with others. After reading Hubert Guillaud’s article ‘What Is Implied in a World of Flow’ on Danah Boyd’s talk at the Web 2.0 Expo in November 2009, as well as Boyd’s own reflections on her presentation, it becomes obvious that different styles of communication and mannerisms and a sense of sociality exists on different communicative and publishing platforms. For this case, Boyd wrote up an organised and structured semi-formal essay as her speech,  but what she envisaged to deliver to the audience was ruined by a number of factors: 1) the setup of the venue, 2) her nerves and being uncomfortable at public speaking made her speak fast and unnaturally, 3) using media theory terminology that needed more context, 4) the Twitter backwall stream turning into a frontwall of public insult. Here is the actual presentation:

 

I think media literacy standards are getting harsher, as we have a subconscious set of basic requirements to judge people when engaging in different forms of media. To me, the current mediascape is segregating into two distinct types of publishing: one that constructs social movement and citizen governance through high quality collaborative efforts; the other being purely entertaining, gossip-worthy and possibly become Internet memes, with little to no contribution in making the public more intelligent or media literate. With more and more people getting access and participating in various forms of publishing, especially on the Internet, there should also be more education and awareness of the different structures and context of expression and communication on various platforms. The lack of media literacy and proper online mannerisms has created negative values on data and information in some forms of publishing, e.g. insulting and attacking producer of decent quality YouTube videos personally for no valid reason.

Another issue is whether publishing facilitates social connection or alienates people from real-life social communication. On one hand, like-minded individuals are able to form virtual communities across the globe and generate content and knowledge through these connections, ordinary people can get famous overnight for publishing online, data and information can be assembled, aggregated and distributed much easily; but on the flip side, people have shorter attention spans and it is not easy to capture that tiny amount of attention available, legal and rights controversies in copyright and ownership of information, creating a wider digital divide and more.

REFERENCES:

Gauntlett, David (2010) Making is Connecting (watch the video) <http://www.makingisconnecting.org/>

Guillaud, Hubert (2010) (on Danah Boyd) ‘What is implied by living in a world of flow?’, Truthout, January 6, <http://www.truthout.org/what-implied-living-a-world-flow56203>

Dodson, Wes (2009) ‘Dawn of the Systems Age’, Page 3.14 <http://scienceblogs.com/seed/2009/12/dawn_of_the_systems_age.php#more>

 

ARTS2090 Wk 10: Visualisation May 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Winnie Ho @ 1:29 pm

ARTS2090_visualisation

The presentation slides for today’s visualisation presentation on comparing the impact of the earthquakes of Japan (2011) & Haiti (2010) with Molly, Kirsten and Carmarlena.

 

ARTS2090 Wk 10: Distribution, Aggregation and the Social May 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Winnie Ho @ 4:02 pm

This week’s blog would be in audio format:

If that does not work, here is the direct URL:

http://soundcloud.com/niewho/rsstwitter/s-HToVp

REFERENCES:

Commoncraft (2007) ‘RSS in Plain English’ Commoncraft, <http://www.commoncraft.com/rss_plain_english>

Purdy, Kevin (n.d.) ‘How to Filter and Manage Your Online Social Life’, Lifehacker <http://lifehacker.com/5234590/how-to-filter-and-manage-your-online-social-life>

 

ARTS2090 Wk 7: Wikileaks April 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Winnie Ho @ 3:56 pm

Wikileaks is one of the many forms of publishing in illustrating how the digitalisation of data and publishing directly influences society, public opinion, and also how people differentiate different types of media. While there are a variety of political standpoints on Wikileaks, no doubt can be given on its impact to the current state of the world. From the About section on the Wikileaks website,

1.3 Why the media (and particularly Wiki leaks) is important

Publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. We are part of that media.”

 This is Wikileaks’ explanation of its idealised attempts in making data and information open and democratised to all, by allowing transparency and accessibility through publishing leaked documents from governments and corporations. Based on the pre-existing notion that there is an information hierarchy in which information and knowledge is undemocratic, governments and corporations maintain their power and status quo partly through keeping classified information and company secrets away from ordinary people.

The controversies generated by Wikileaks is not just through the content of the leaked cables, but more to a debate on whether this form of publishing is being constructive or destructive. I think it is at times quite ironic that Wikileaks is criticised by journalists of major news outlets for fulfilling the role of the fourth estate in scrutinising governments and corporations that most journalism fails at doing nowadays.

Another crucial issue in publishing that is less mentioned is how Wikileaks functions in the data infrastructure of being digital and online. All of its publications are archived and there are mirror sites to allow free and open access to the information that are potentially censored by certain governments or enterprise networks. Online publishing means aggregation, distribution and archives are relatively easy over the world, so the data and information published by Wikileaks is globalised, as well as having a global audience not restricted by bureaucracy and hierarchical social systems.

I think we can place value to what Wikileaks is doing in publishing by pressuring governments and corporations to be more transparent and democratic to the public. Some may say Wikileaks is generating unnecessary public fear by exposing secret documents, but will public ignorance help make the world a better place? If information has power, then let this power be democratic and available to all.

 

ARTS2090 Wk 6: Commons & Attention! April 8, 2011

(click on thumbnail for original image)

 

This mindmap that I drew up on an A4 page and scanned into digital form represents my thoughts of uncertainty in the current state and the future of ‘commons’, as well as reflections on ‘attention’ as a currency in an ‘information economy’.

REFERENCES:

Walljasper, Jay (2010) ‘The Commons Moment is Now’, Commondreams.org,  <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/24-0>

Meretz, Stefan (2010) ‘Ten Theses about Global Commons Movement’, P2P Foundation, <http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/ten-theses-about-global-commons-movement/2011/01/05>

Michael H. Goldhaber (1997) ‘Attention Shoppers!’, Wired, <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html>

Rheingold, Howard (2009) ‘Mindful Infotention: Dashboards, Radars, Filters’, SFGate,<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/rheingold/detail?entry_id=46677>

Macready, J. Douglas (2010) ‘The New Revolution: Stiegler and Arendt on Psychopower, Education, and the Life of the Mind’, The Relative Absolute, <http://therelativeabsolute.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/the-new-revolution-stiegler-and-arendt-on-psychopower-education-and-the-life-of-the-mind/>

Kinsley, Sam (2010) ‘The Technics of Attention’, Paying Attention <http://payingattention.org/2010/10/12/the-technics-of-attention/>

Kinsley, Sam (2010) ‘Tiziana Terranova—The Bios of Attention’, Paying Attention <http://payingattention.org/2010/09/07/tiziana-terranova-the-bios-of-attention/>

Kinsley, Sam, (2010) ‘Day 3 > Michel Bauwens’ Paying Attention, <http://payingattention.org/2010/09/09/day-3-michel-bauwens/>

Kinsley, Sam (2010)  ‘Bernard Stiegler: Pharmacology of Attention and Relational Ecology’, Paying Attention, <http://payingattention.org/2010/09/08/bernard-stiegler-pharmacology-of-attention-and-relational-ecology/>

Monbiot, George (2010) ‘Reclaim the Cyber-Commons’, Monbiot.com, <http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2010/12/13/reclaim-the-cyber-commons>

Michael Erard (2009) ‘A short manifesto on the future of attention’, Observatory <http://observatory.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=10297>

Yoffe, Emily (2009) ‘Seeking: How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting. And why that’s dangerous’ Slate, <http://www.slate.com/id/2224932/pagenum/all>

NPR (2010) ‘The Price of Putting Your Brain on Computers’ <http://www.npr.org/2010/12/29/132369113/the-price-of-having-your-brain-on-computers>

O’Malley, Mike (2010) ‘Attention and Information’ The Aporetic, <http://theaporetic.com/?p=228>

Jenkins, Henry (2010) ‘Multitasking and Continuous Partial Attention: An Interview with Linda Stone (Part One)’ Confession of an ACA-Fan, <http://henryjenkins.org/2010/11/multitasking_and_continuous_pa.html>

Heffernan, Virginia (2010) ‘The Attention Span Myth’, New York Times, <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/magazine/21FOB-medium-t.html>

Boyd, Stowe (2010) ‘The False Question of Attention Economics’, Stowe Boyd, <http://www.stoweboyd.com/post/764818419/the-false-question-of-attention-economics>

Rock, David (2010) ‘New study shows humans are on auto pilot nearly half the time’, Psychology Today, <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-work/201011/new-study-shows-humans-are-auto-pilot-nearly-half-the-time>

Hildyard, Nicholas, Lohmann, Larry, Sexton, Sarah and Fairlie, Simon (1995) ‘Reclaiming the Commons’ The Corner House, <http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/reclaiming-commons>

Robin Good and Michel Bauwens (2010) ‘From Open Business Models to an Economy of the Commons’, Robin Good, <http://www.masternewmedia.org/from-open-business-models-to-an-economy-of-the-commons/>

 

ARTS2090 Wk 5: Archive Fever March 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Winnie Ho @ 3:01 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

A lot of media forms that are usually seen as platforms or tools for publishing are also becoming archives themselves. When we think of archives in the traditional sense, images of libraries and toppling shelves of data/information on paper pop in our minds. A new form of archive that intrigues me is YouTube.

To be honest, I spend a lot of my online presence on YouTube because it is just a never endless plethora of media on the site. It is essentially a video sharing site, but it contains not only the videos themselves (within the Flash or HTML5 box where videos play), but archives a lot of textual information, hyperlinks and statistical data as well. There are various methods of accessing archived material: by searching (and sorting by view count, upload date etc), by channel (the uploader), by playlists, embedded on external sites, and so on.

There is no real limit to the style of content uploaded and archived on the site, except subjected to laws. The relatively high level of freedom ought to be a positive aspect of YouTube for media producers and consumers, however, quite a number of issues have arose as well. Firstly, YouTube is available nearly globally, which implies that it requires a very planned strategy to ensure content in the archive does not violate laws or government policies in other countries (hard to enforce and a major problem for all Internet content now), which has lead to a complete or partial ban in some countries like the People’s Republic of China. Following up on the first point, how does the provenance of YouTube prevent minors from access content on the site that are otherwise classified as unsuitable for minors in other media forms? For instance, minors can easily access video content on YouTube of video games that have MA15+ rating in Australia; so while they are legally not permitted to purchase these MA15+ games, what about viewing the video format of the games? Thirdly, despite YouTube constantly making changes to the way it archives and displays content in attempt for better accessibility, one often still needs to ‘dig through’ a lot of videos they deem as meaningless to find the archived content that they wish to access. The complexities in such a large and diverse archive raises interesting questions and implications for archives as a form of publishing.

Winnie Ho (3292568)

REFERENCES:

Stokes, Jon (2003) ‘Reading Notes: Archive Fever’, Ars Technica, June 27, <http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2003/06/130.ars>

Howard, Sharon (2005) ‘Archive fever (a dusty digression)’, Early Modern Notes, June 15, <http://www.earlymodernweb.org.uk/emn/index.php/archives/2005/06/archive-fever-a-dusty- digression/>

Enszer, Julie R. (2008) Julie R. Enszer (personal blog), ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida’, November 16, <http://julierenszer.blogspot.com/2008/11/archive-fever-freudian- impression-by.html>

Ogle, Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’, mattogle.com, December 16, <http://mattogle.com/archivefever/>