Replaying Japan 2015

May 22nd, 2015

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I’m at the Replaying Japan 2015conference at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. You can see my conference notes here. The conference features a keynote by the father of the Final Fantasy games who will talk on “From the Famicon to the World: The Lineage of JRPGs’ Globalization from the Perspective of the Genesis of Final Fantasy.”

Dennis Cooper: Zac’s Haunted House (A Novel)

May 22nd, 2015

Dennis Cooper has created an interesting novel of looping animated gifs called Zac’s Haunted House (A Novel). The novel is published by Kiddiepunk. I’m not sure why he deliberately calls it a novel when it has so little language, though one can think of the animated gifs as some sort of linked visual language. Perhaps animated gifs are becoming the visual equivalent of words with which we can compose.

I found this courtesy of 3QuarksDaily.

Why empathy is the next big thing in video games

May 17th, 2015

CBC Spark with Nora Young had a segment on Why empathy is the next big thing in video games. The category seems to map onto “persuasive games” or “art games.” Some of the games mentioned:

  • RIOT – a forthcoming game where you experience being in riots
  • Spirits of Spring – about a “young native in a mythical land”
  • Papo and Yo – about alchoholism

Ian Bogost talks on the segment and makes the argument that in empathy games one feels a different type of empathy than in narrative media. When you make the choices you have something at stake. He also made a point about empathy with systems that I didn’t quite get. He talked about systems oriented game design where you get exposed to a different system or environment and learn about it through playing. The idea is that by playing someone running a fast food chain you learn about the system of fast food. You learn to empathize with the fast food mogul in order to understand the constraints those systems are under.

The size of the World Wide Web

May 14th, 2015

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Reading a paper by Lev Manovich I came across a reference to the web site WorldWideWebSize.com which graphs the size of the World Wide Web. The web site searches Google and Bing daily for different words from a corpus and then uses the total results to estimate the size of the web.

When you know, for example, that the word ‘the’ is present in 67,61% of all documents within the corpus, you can extrapolate the total size of the engine’s index by the document count it reports for ‘the’. If Google says that it found ‘the’ in 14.100.000.000 webpages, an estimated size of the Google’s total index would be 23.633.010.000.

In the screen grab above you can see that the estimated size can change dramatically over time.  Hard to tell why.

Ted Hewitt speaks at University of Alberta

May 4th, 2015

Text Hewitt spoke today on “The Perils and Prospects of Digital Scholarship in the 21st Century Canada: Tri-Agency Research Data Initiative” at our Research Data Management week. Some of the things he talked about follow.

Canada is not leading on data stewardship. We need to catch up so that we can take advantage of what the world has to offer and we need to offer what Canada has to the world. Data management capacity is increasingly linked to Canada’s international competitiveness.

We used to do a literature review when starting a project. Now we also look for data sets that we can use so we aren’t re-searching to create useful data.

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Around the World Conference

May 4th, 2015

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Last week we held our third Around the World Conference on the subject of “Big Data”. We had some fabulous panels from countries including Ireland, Canada, Israel, Nigeria, Japan, China, Australia, USA, Belgium, Italy, and Brazil.

The Around the World Conference streams speakers and panels from around the world out to everyone on the net. We also edit and archive the video clips. This model allows for a sustainable conversation across continents that doesn’t involve flying people around. It allows a lot people who wouldn’t usually be included to speak. We also find there are technical hiccups, but that happens in on-site conferences too.

Editorialisation Et Nouvelles Formes De Publication

May 4th, 2015

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been at two interesting conferences and took research notes.

  1. I gave a keynote on “Big Data and the Humanities” at the Northwestern Research Computation Day (link to my research notes). I gave a lot of examples of projects and visualizations.
  2. At the Éditorialisation Et Nouvelles Formes De Publication (link to my research notes) conference I spoke about “Publishing Tools: A Theatre of Machines”. I showed how text analysis machines have evolved.

The Let’s Play Archive

April 30th, 2015

The Let’s Play Archive is a charming collection of play-throughs of games. Some use screenshots and text, others link to video with voiceovers. Useful for understanding historical games.

From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog

April 12th, 2015

An important book for anyone doing the history of computing is From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog by Martin Campbell-Kelly. This book more or less invents the field of software history by outlining the important phases, sectors and sources. Other histories have focused on individual companies, heros, or periods; Campbell-Kelly tries to survey the history (at least up to 1995) and define what needs to be considered and what we don’t know. In particular he tries to correct the consumer view that the history of software is about Microsoft. To that end he spends a lot of time on mainframe software and the sorts of services like IBM CICS (Customer Information Control System) that allows ATMs and other systems to reliably communicate transactions.

Martin Campbell-Kelly in the first chapter outlines three phases to the history of software that also correspond to sectors of the industry:

  1. From mid 1950s, Software Contracting
  2. From mid 1960s, Corporate Software Products
  3. From late 1970s, Packaged mass-market software products

You can read an interesting exchange about the book here that reviews the book, criticizes it and gives Campbell-Kelly a chance to respond.

Bibliographic reference: Campbell-Kelly, M. (2003). From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog: a History of the Software Industry. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.

Gone Home: A Story Exploration Video Game

April 12th, 2015

Just finished a gem of a game called Gone Home: A Story Exploration Video Game. The game is simple. You are the older daughter returned to an empty home after a year in Europe. You wander around the house finding notes and other clues as to where your family is. In the process you uncover the stories of your parents, your sister and a dead uncle. The ending had me in tears – proof for me that a game can evoke emotions.

The empty and mysterious mood reminds me of other games that use that mood like Dear Esther and even Myst.