playing with reality, wider stuff

A four year old on the philosophical categories of the natural and artificial

Real things have blood in them. Not real things don’t.

Yesterday my son was looking at his baby doll and wondering why the head looked the same colour when held up to the light as your hand does. And he knows that hands look pinky because of the light shining through the blood. He was confused and experiencing an ontological crisis. Was the doll real (living) because it looked like it had blood in it, or as he had assumed not real (artificial)?

I love the thought of blood signifying reality. And all the things he gets to play with are not real.


playing with reality, Technology

A simple take on post-digital

Yesterday at Blast Theory’s ACT Otherwise workshop I dropped the term post-digital in the middle of a set of deliberate provocations. It’s a term that has drifted occasionally around the DCRC over the last year, and seems to be in the process of Arriving. My arguments have been that digital cultural research (which the centre does) should all now be contextualised as post-digital research.

So what do I mean by post-digital? Because just like post-structuralism and post-modernism it is easy to get caught up in the concept of it being reactionary or negative as opposed to developmental. I’m also not entirely sure I mean one thing by it myself.

My simplest explanation however, now that I’ve had a little time to think about it, is that post-digital is when the categories of digital and non-digital become meaningless. There is a point where the two so thoroughly infuse each other that they are not two separate domains. I.e. that there is no sense in talking about digital media and non-digital media when they are all now just media. Digital production techniques so thoroughly infuse what might be seen as traditional media, that it is not the same anymore. The digital is now already there, not becoming, and false binaries keep us in the past, if they even ever existed as clear dualities. And this extends to cover synonymous debates such as virtual vs real or online vs physical. These are all already hybridised.

When I dropped this concept of the post-digital yesterday Andy Field did a nice little example/summary of post-digital when talking about how the nature of reading a book has changed. And I’m paraphrasing his words in my language, because it is not that books have physically changed, but that they’ve managed to stay a (meta)stable form in a network of changing production and consumption technologies. But I think some of the reaction to the concept of going post-digital are common in foregrounding the digital as a simple transformational force. People get stuck and struck with the sheer wonder of the changes “Did you know that digital/technology has fundamentally changed X?” And the answer is yes and…? How do we get on with stopping marvelling at the fact that it is changing things and work out what we do with that?

Matt Locke’s talk after mine was about post-digital attention. It wonderfully charted that pre to post trajectory and did end up asking that question of “what next?” His central argument is that contemporary technologies now allow content producers to experience the attention of their audiences. But he doesn’t end there, he asks, in a beautifully embodied way, “What does that feel like?” and “How does that change the practice of producing worK?”

I co-opted and twisted Matt Adam’s metaphor (or maybe it was a challenge) about technology development as an explosion that has already happened, and said that I thought technology had exploded, taking it beyond the sense of explosion as growth to explosion as blown apart. And I still like that, it has exploded and the little pieces are everywhere, embedded in the quotidian. It is time to stop being awed by the explosion and look at the fragments.

playing with reality, Technology

Simondon, Technology and Hacking

Steven Shapiro has some nice angles on the relevancy of Simondon to current technology development. Shapiro summarises Simondon’s points…

Technology is also necessary to the expansion of knowledge, according to Simondon. It is not the mere application of scientific knowledge, so much as it is the precondition for there to be such a thing as scientific knowledge: if only because scientific knowledge is generated when technology doesn’t work as expected, when it breaks down or deviates from its utilitarian function.

If things work then we’re not interested in why. When they don’t work properly we start getting curious and develop science to give us explanations for why they don’t work. Then we can fix stuff.

Decades before the fact, Simondon is here theorizing and advocating what today would be called hacking and hacker culture. Indeed, I think that the culture of hacking still has not caught up with Simondon, in the sense that hacking is mostly justified in pragmatic and/or libertarian terms, whereas Simondon adds a third dimension, a depth, to hacking by showing how it is essentially tied to technology as a basic component of human beings’ presence in the world.

Hacking is a way to figure out where things break, or work. To lead the way for “scientific” development to follow up in the wake of the not working. Hacking and dirty invention are not only a valid methods of inquiry, they are vital. There are interesting parallels with CS Peirce’s abductive reasoning.


Student portfolio sites

The following are a list of links and basic ideas that I used for a second year creative technology students at UWE (Web Design, Digital Media, Games Tech, Music Tech).

Things a portfolio needs to contain

  • Passion
  • Excitement
  • Interest in what you do
  • Side projects


  • Tagline (one quick line about what you do)
  • Show what things/services/offering can do
  • Some personal stuff
  • Contact details
  • Call to action (hire me)
  • The portfolio itself- examples of work with clear descriptions of what you personally did. Appropriate images help.

Smashing magazine inspiration

UWE Web Design students

From 2010 Graduates

Games Tech
Lists of completed games for the experienced. Otherwise go to town on what you have created. 

Game designer portfolios

How to do it


Totalitarian Helvetica Microsoft Vision Video

Even in this high tech vision some things stay the same. White people are centre stage in expensive hotels, offices and homes. A black man carries the ladies luggage, there is some kind of middle eastern charity and the chinese guy has to take the subway. Even the man fetching the car looks somewhat swarthy.

Though one good thing. It looks like they’ve banished all fonts except Helvetica and everyone lives in a grid system world sucking down infoporn. Everything is a bit gamelike, including the points the little girl is getting for doing her homework.

announcements, game studies

I’m talking about Gamification in Bath (Fri 28th Oct)

Next Friday I’m talking at the Bath Gamification Network. Friday 28th October at 5pm.

Recent years have seen a rapid proliferation of mass-market consumer software that takes inspiration from video games. This is sometimes bundled up in the term ‘gamification’. However this word has become tightly intertwined with a specific flavour of instrumental marketing activity. In this talk I define what is meant by ‘gamification’ in a way that moves it on from this simple, surface, approach to a more engaged form of gameful design. In the process detailing some pre-history and current work that presents a sensitive and thoughtful approach to using games in everyday life.

It’s free and but they would like you to register.

The Innovation Centre
Carpenter House
Broad Quay
BA1 1UD Bath
United Kingdom
Friday, 28 October 2011 from 17:00 to 19:00


Don’t blame the booze for the binge: Anthropology and Alcohol

An excellent bit of anthropological analysis on the culturally relative effects of alcohol. It’s not the booze, but the british to blame for the binge.

The effects of alcohol on behaviour are determined by cultural rules and norms, not by the chemical actions of ethanol.

And coffee culture would not be any better. I’m glad I’ve gone teetotal on the coffee. I seem to be getting into fewer fights since giving it up.

If I were given total power, I could very easily engineer a nation in which coffee would become a huge social problem – a nation in which young people would binge-drink coffee every Friday and Saturday night and then rampage around town centres being anti-social, getting into fights and having unprotected sex in random one-night stands.

I would restrict access to coffee, thus immediately giving it highly desirable forbidden-fruit status. Then I would issue lots of dire warnings about the dangerously disinhibiting effects of coffee.

game studies, playing with reality, presentations, publications

Big Games and Hipsters

Here’s a copy of the paper I presented at ISEA in Istanbul. Presentation below.

Pervasive and street gamers are compared and contrasted with the infamous subculture known as hipsters, showing that although they are quite different social groups their aesthetics operate in similar ways. Specific attention is given to the emergent, socially relative nature of these aesthetics and the operation of ‘cool’ cultural capital. These findings are based on ethnographic field work carried out in 2010 at the Come Out and Play festival.