Towards a digital arts- music

Love this method of music production, seems as digitally rooted in both sound and expression.

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Where my brain has been

I have been plotting, drawing, reading and listening to spotify (newly arrived in Ireland) for the past month on my main MA project/artefact, and the anticipated first/alpha build. This diagram (author unknown to me) has been the salve for my anxious soul. I hope to at least arrive near the final circle in draft form by the time the thesis thoughts begin invading my mindscape.

 

Theories: Close Enough

Some interesting ideas part 1

Based on our class discussion today, I just want to quickly post a few of the ‘games’ (I loosely use this term as these items are not games in the conventional sense) that I have found riveting in their approach and expression of what it means to be ‘entertained’ or to play. These games are influenced by and readily identifiable by their unique ‘interpretative pacing’.

Dear Esther

I found this to be chilling, atmospheric and wistful. A romantic game in the sense that Wordsworth, Irving, and certainly the Shellys would find common ground here. As reviewed by bagofgames.com

“Dear Esther is a morose interactive storybook which was originally a Half-Life 2 mod and now returns several years later as a retail release powered by the optimized Source engine used in Portal 2.

Dear Esther is gorgerous. There will no doubt be controversy as to whether it is a good game and the case could even be made that it isn’t even a game at all, but I doubt anyone can objectively look at it and not say it’s beauty is breathtaking. During the course of my complete playthrough, less than one hour :( , I took nearly a hundred screenshots (the best of which I’ve posted at the end of this article). Not for the emotionally bankrupt.

To appreciate Dear Esther you must be introspective, empathetic and patient. You move along at a snail’s pace and at first I struggled with this. But soon after I realized that the realistic rate at which you walk isn’t there to pad out game length (which is astoundingly short) but to force the player to really absorb their surroundings instead of whizzing by one set-piece on their way to another. Each and every hill you traverse or corner you turn gives way to something gorgeous. Whether that be the water crashing against the rocks of an ancient beach from a cliff side high above, or a subterranean river carrying a birch log down stream towards immeasurable depths.

My favorite part of exploring the island were the random bits of trivia you can find if you look closely enough at your surroundings. Electronic schematics intermingling with chemical diagrams,  a nest of broken bird eggs with ultrasound Polaroids littered around it, a candle lit altar found inside a sea side cave with a surgical tray of bloodied instruments and a disused defibrillator placed upon it. These surreal oddments don’t exactly reveal any great truths but instead help to flesh out the mysteries that permeate this adventure. Namely, Who is Esther? and What happened to her?

There are no weapons or enemies, no power ups to collect or areas to unlock. You can’t fall off a cliff to your demise or even drown yourself in the ocean. But as an interactive story it is surprisingly strong. The narrator’s voice acting is top notch and the emotions of loss and regret are realistically conveyed to the player.”

Flower

(For those with time issues, skip to the 6:15 time mark)

Perhaps the most unconventional ‘game’ I’ve ever played, here you play as a floating petal on the wind. You being with a shot of a closed flower in bud, in a pot, on a window sill. The flower then seems to create a narrative based upon its ‘origins’.  The game does have a loose narrative regarding rural and urban landscapes, environmental issues and renewable energy. The actions you take in the rural landscape affecting the quality of life in the urban, indicating the renewal of the urban and the rural should be synergistic, not exclusive. Each petal you gain emits a note, and so the score is dynamic and set by the pace of play. Skip to 1:45 to 2:25 to see the flower interacting with haystacks, and the relationship this induces with the street lights, as at the start of the chapter, the light on an urban street fails. Towards the end of the level, the harsh and threatening issue of the malignancy of excessive power consumption (the collapsed scaffolding for high tension cables in the rural landscape) indicate the fractious nature of our relationship with energy and our natural world and its limited resources at timemark 6:30.

It is possibly one of the most uplifting play experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to engage with. You control the flower through tilting the controller, with the occasional button push to speed up. The flower can solve puzzles in the landscape, by flowing on the wind around standing stones (which in later levels are supplemented by wind farms), linking certain types of flowers together to renew the habitat, etc. The score and stunning visuals create a soothing and enveloping environment. Hewing closer to dance than gaming,  the lack of any voice, text, or  any of the typical features of game-play make flower a unique experience.

Digital Aristotle for Everyone

An interesting talk from C. G. P. Grey on how the internet may influence education. Of particular note is the software angle, and the projected reduction in the numbers of teachers (which I personally find disquieting). I want a future where technology helps supplement interpersonal education,  not act as a replacement. The claim that this would be awesome news for both students and society I find overly sweeping/ generalising. The teachers you interact with I have found to be the formative core of education (hopefully good). I feel that we would be loosing a great deal by claiming such a role to be on the precipice of obsolescence. Until testing methods become sensitive to a much much greater degree (to the level of true artificial intelligence/ singularity), I would prefer to have a person as my educator, rather than an artificial personal one.

 

Google Beautifully

The depiction of search results has become so very aesthetic through the image option of Google  American journalist Rob Walker has gone so far as to ‘curate’ various searches on his tumblr, depicting the range of visuals, the information has become harmonious in its depiction. It’s like a microcosm of metadata, only colourful and shapely.

Single Topic Blog of the Day: Google Image Search Results Catalog

In a different approach, the artist Jenny Odell has created collections of items seen in particular geographic areas through Google maps; for example her piece directly below, Every Basketball Court in Manhattan.  Her compositions are light and dense, with an attention to detail and negative space. On her website she draws attention to the concept of the human/ inhuman gaze of the viewer versus the satellite.

“In all of these prints, I collect things that I’ve cut out from Google Satellite View– parking lots, silos, landfills, waste ponds. The view from a satellite is not a human one, nor is it one we were ever really meant to see. But it is precisely from this inhuman point of view that we are able to read our own humanity, in all of its tiny, repetitive marks upon the face of the earth. From this view, the lines that make up basketball courts and the scattered blue rectangles of swimming pools become like hieroglyphs that say: people were here.

The alienation provided by the satellite perspective reveals the things we take for granted to be strange, even absurd. Banal structures and locations can appear fantastical and newly intricate. Directing curiosity toward our own inimitably human landscape, we may find that those things that are most recognizably human (a tangle of carefully engineered water slides, for example) are also the most bizarre, the most unlikely, the most fragile.”

125 Swimming Pools

10 Waterslide Configurations

CSS and Fashion

An intriguing question regarding the nature of aesthetics online; fashion vs function. It asks the question I dread  (as it suggests that I may have to upgrade to ‘Pro’ for my blogging needs) and that is ‘how much can code actually express’ (at the 2:45 min marker), and that code is art (in all CAPS, so it is ‘serious’ stuff).  I wish all discussion of code and style was this energetic and passionate, and littered with pop cultural references I instantly get, in contrast to the literature slog. There is nothing like memetics for that sweet heuristcal nuance (more on these terms soon). Let’s stay positive about digital expression people, youtube Idea Channel for the win! Gesamtkunstwerk!

ps. There is also a Brazilian band called CSS (cansei de ser sexy), whose track CSS suxxx (also the title of their blog, filled with cats) I have included for the sake of academic rigour, would not want to get them confused ;p

I know that feel Kochalka

On foot of my previous post on autotelism, I feel that the vulnerability that we all expose ourselves to online should be acknowledged. The risk of putting your thoughts, emotions and self + goals out there is very palpable. Having been stalked online back in the ‘ol days of bebo, and the frequent media exposure on bullying and such trollish behaviour online (as evinced by the gawker and reddit wars).

The firm nerves required to post and communicate online is another aspect that both the personal and the professional individual must develop within themselves. I find the honesty and mind-blowing longevity of the American Elf comic strip a curious blend of both the deeply personal and the mindful professional. Today’s strip titled ‘Happiness’ indicates this very issue of identity, and the internet and vulnerability; as Kochalka depicts himself as the titular American elf, even as the diary strip is based on real life events.