GamesCon 2016

August 25th, 2016
The Church of Games

The Church of Games

After Replaying Japan 2016 a bunch of us took the train to Cologne to go to gamescon 2016, Europe’s biggest videogame convention. A selection of my GamesCon 2016 photos are on Flickr.

The convention was depressing. Long line ups for overhyped commercial titles. Music too loud. Too many hucksters getting us cheering for crap. The creative side of gaming seemed to be overwhelmed by the commercialization. A church of gaming indeed.

The best area was the retrogaming area which a great mix of systems you could play and exhibits. The indie game area also had some brilliant games including Awkward Ellie, where you play an awkward elephant at a tea party. There was also a one-d game called Line Wobbler where you controlled a dot travelling up a LED strip. Playful fun in one dimension.

Replaying Japan 2016

August 24th, 2016

Posing with Namco designers Masanobu Endō (Xevious), Toru Iwatani (Pac-Man), me, Junko Ozawa (music for Tower of Druaga), and Yoshihiro Kishimoto (R.B.I. Baseball) at Replaying Japan 2016


Last week I was at Replaying Japan 2016 which was held in Leipzig and organized by Martin Roth and Martin Picard of the jGames Research Initiative at University of Leipzig. You can see my Replaying Japan 2016 Conference Report here. The conference is the fifth such conference that I have helped organize to look at Japanese and Asian videogame culture. We had terrific keynotes from Namco game and game music designers from the 1980s including Iwatani (Pac-Man) and Junko Ozawa (music for many Namco arcade and videogames). We also had a terrific talk about the history of localization from Minako O’Hagan.

The conference continued a tradition of bringing Western and Japanese game studies researchers together in a friendly environment. The quality of papers was really quite high and the conversation even better. The time has come to develop a community of research.


August 4th, 2016

At the European Summer University in Digital Humanities 2016 I was luck to be able to attend some sessions on Stylometry run by Maciej Eder. In his historical review he mentioned people like Valla and Mendenhall, but also mentioned a fellow Pole, Wincenty Lutoslawksi whose book The origin and growth of Plato’s logic; with an account of Plato’s style and of the chronology of his writings (1897) is the first to use the term “stylometry”. Lutoslawski develops a Theory of Stylometry and reviewed “500 peculiarities of Plato’s style” as part of his work on Plato’s logic. The nice thing is that the book is available through the Internet Archive.

Eder has a nice page about the work he and ogthers in the Computational Stylistics Group are doing. In the workshop sessions I was able to attend he showed us how to set up and run his “stylo” package (PDF) that provides a simple user interface over R for doing stylometry. He also showed us how to then use Gephi for network visualization.


World’s Biggest Data Breaches & Hacks — Information is Beautiful

August 3rd, 2016


Information is Beautiful has a great interactive on World’s Biggest Data Breaches & Hacks. The interactive shows how data breaches are getting worse, but it also lets you look at different types of breaches.

Making Algorithms Accountable

August 3rd, 2016

ProPublica has a great op-ed about Making Algorithms Accountable. The story starts from a decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court on computer-generated risk (of recidivism) scores. The scores used in Wisconsin come from Northpointe who provide the scores as a service based on a proprietary alogorithm that seems biased against blacks and not that accurate. The story highlights the lack of any legislation regarding algorithms that can affect our lives.

Update: ProPublica has responded to a Northpointe critique of their findings.

Professor Emeritus Seymour Papert, pioneer of constructionist learning, dies at 88

August 3rd, 2016

From Humanist and then MIT News, Professor Emeritus Seymour Papert, pioneer of constructionist learning, dies at 88. Papert was Piaget’s student and thought about how computers could provide children a way to construct knowledge. Among other things he developed the Logo language that I learned at one point. He also collaborated with the LEGO folk on Mindstorms, named after his book by that title.

Digital Humanities 2016 in Kraków

July 20th, 2016

The week of the 11th tot he 16th of July was Digital Humanities 2016 in Kraków. This conference was, in my opinion, the best organized DH conference I have attended (and I have attended most of them since the first joint ACH-ALLC conference in Toronto in 1989.) Jan Rybicki and Maciej Eder deserve credit for a lovely conference.

My conference notes are on so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. Some of the themes worth noting include:

  • Diversity. There was a lot of discussion and sessions dedicated to diversity of different sorts. Real differences were aired that I think most people felt was good.
  • Pedagogy. Perhaps it is what I attended, but it seemed that there was a new energy around pedagogical discussions. I was impressed by the creative approaches and also by the large-scale projects like Dariah-EU working group on Training and Education.
  • Web Historiography. There were a number of talks/panels that drew on the web as evidence. I was pleased to see a discussion of the need to think historiographically about the web. What is archived? What is missing?
  • Posters. There was a great set of posters. Here is a link to photos I took of a selection.

Some of the events and papers I was involved in include:

  • New Scholars Symposium which was supported by CHCI and centerNet. I co-organized this with Rachel Hendry.
  • Innovations in Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Local, National, and International Training. I was part of a one day mini-conference on training and gave a short presentation on Visualization at the final panel on Publication Approaches Supporting DH Pedagogy.
  • CWRC & Voyant Tools: Text Repository Meets Text Analysis. I was one of three instructors on a workshop on CWRC and Voyant.
  • Curating Just-In-Time Datasets from the Web. I gave a paper on a project that is scraping Twitter that was coauthored with Todd Suomela and Ryan Chartier.
  • The Trace of Theory: Extracting Subsets from Large Collections. I introduced and gave one of the short papers on a panel of work we did as part of the Text Mining the Novel project with the HathiTrust Research Center.
  • Web Historiography – A New Challenge for Digital Humanities? I gave a short presentation on the Ethics of Scraping Twitter.

Spurious Correlations

July 12th, 2016


Spurious Correlations is a great web site that shows correlations that are spurious like this one between revenue generated by arcades and computer science doctorates. The gathered correlations show how correlation is not causation.

Thanks to Dan for this.

dhQuest: The Game

June 30th, 2016


From Twitter I learned about dhQuest – a game of digital humanities. In the game I played (with just one player) I had three characters (a researcher, a librarian, and a technologist) that I deployed to complete quests as I built a digital humanities centre. Very nicely done.

They know (on surveillance)

June 28th, 2016

They know is a must see design project by Christian Gross from the Interface Design Programme at University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam (FHP), Germany. The idea behind the project, described in the They Know showcase for FHP, is,

I could see in my daily work how difficult it was to inform people about their privacy issues. Nobody seemed to care. My hypothesis was that the whole subject was too complex. There were no examples, no images that could help the audience to understand the process behind the mass surveillance.

The answer is to mock up a design fiction of an NSA surveillance dashboard based on what we know and then a video describing a fictional use of it to track an architecture student from Berlin. It seems to me the video and mock designs nicely bring together a number of things we can infer about the tools they have.