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.
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.
Cover of Playboy Roasted à la Edo
The Hamburg Museum of Arts and Crafts has a well designed exhibit called Hokusai x Manga that looks at the history of comics from the first kibyōshi to current manga and videogames. The exhibit draws on an extensive collection of woodblock books and prints from the Edo period. They mix a historical approach with themes like the depiction of demons (Yokai) in print and the franchise Yo-kai Watch.
One of the earliest comic picture books that they have is Kyōden’s Playboy, Roasted à la Edo (1785). Harvard has put up a Flash version of this in English and Japanese. (Second book here, third here.) They also have a copies of Hokusai Manga (or Hokusai’s Sketches) published starting in 1814 which was a sort of manual on how to draw with lots of examples. Note that “manga” at the time didn’t mean what it means now.
There is an excellent catalogue with useful essays including one at the end on “Manga in Transition” by Jaqueline Berndt.
Shulze, S., et al. (2016). Hokusai X Manga: Japanese Pop Culture since 1680. Munich, Hirmer.
From Slashtdot, Mattel has released a Barbie® Careers Game Developer Doll. She has “[b]right red hair and eyeglasses are fashion-forward with techie style!” This time Mattel has been careful not to be patronizing.
A laptop (with real game code graphics), tablet (with the game she is working on) and silvery headset expand the storytelling possibilities and career opportunities.
Inspire young gamers with this doll who is at the top of her game!
The New York Times has a video series called the Retro Report. One story is about Dungeons & Dragons: Satanic Panic. It looks at the media fed moral panic that eventually lost steam. It ends by praising all the “leadership” and “moral” skills learned. Now experts are recommending “free play” and … ironically … role playing games are now the solution!
As I get ready to fly back to Germany I’m finishing my conference notes on Congress 2016 (CSDH and CGSA). Calgary was nice and not to hot for Congress and we were welcomed by a malware attack on Congress that meant that many employees couldn’t use their machines. Nevertheless the conference seemed very well organized and the campus lovely.
My conference notes cover mostly the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities, but also DHSI at Congress, where I presented CWRC for Susan Brown, and the last day of the Canadian Game Studies Association. Here are some general reflections.
- I am impressed by how the CGSA is growing and how vital it is. It has as many attendees as CSDH, but younger and enthusiastic attendees rather than tired. Much of the credit goes to the long term leadership of people like Jen Jensen.
- CSDH has some terrific keynotes this year starting with Ian Milligan, then Tara McPherson, and finally Diane Jakacki.
- It was great to see people coming up from the USA as CSDH/SCHN gets a reputation for being a welcoming conference in North America.
- Stéfan Sinclair and I had a book launch for Hermeneutica: Computer-Assisted Interpretation in the Humanities at which Chad Gaffield said a few words. It was gratifying that so many friends came out for this.
At the CSDH AGM we passed a motion to adopt Guidelines on Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (Google Doc). The Guidelines discuss the value of digital work and provide guidelines for evaluation:
Programs of research, which are by nature exploratory, may require faculty members to take up modes of research that depart from methods they have previously used, therefore the form the resulting scholarship takes should not prejudice its evaluation. Original works in new media forms, whether digital or other, should be evaluated as scholarship following best practices if so presented. Likewise, researchers should be encouraged to experiment with new forms when disseminating knowledge, confident that their experiments will be fairly evaluated.
The Guidelines have a final section on Documented Deposit:
Digital media have not only expanded the forms that research can take, but research practices are also changing in the face of digital distribution and open access publishing. In particular we are being called on to preserve research data and to share new knowledge openly. Universities that have the infrastructure should encourage faculty to deposit not only digital works, but also curated datasets and preprint versions of papers/monographs with documentation in an open access form. These can be deposited with an embargo in digital archives as part of good practice around research dissemination and preservation. The deposit of work, including online published work, even if it is available elsewhere, ensures the long-term preservation by ensuring that there are copies in more than one place. Further, libraries can then ensure that the work is not only preserved, but is discoverable in the long term as publications come and go.
The New York Times has a nice story about how Sandra Day O’Connor, A Supreme Court Pioneer, Now Making Her Mark on Video Games. O’Connor is promoting a game called Win the White House from iCivics a education group she started in 2009. She has also involved her Supreme Court colleague Sotomayor. The article mentions how such educational games are getting more respect.
The involvement of the two justices in digital educational games underscores a growing belief among educators that interactive tools may improve students’ engagement in their own learning. In January, Microsoft introduced an educational version of Minecraft, the hit game in which players use blocks to construct elaborate virtual worlds. Last fall, Google unveiled Expeditions, a virtual reality system for classroom use that takes students on simulated field trips around the world.
My colleagues over in Computing Science at the University of Alberta are rightly proud of their supervision of the leads at Google who developed the AlphaGo AI that recently won at Go. Martin Mueller and colleagues have been working on AI and games for some time, see Deep Minds master the game of Go. Now another story has come out about Will humans lose out to AI in eSports too? This story highlights work by another team on AI commentating.
Passage is meant to be a memento mori game. It presents an entire life, from young adulthood through old age and death, in the span of five minutes. Of course, it’s a game, not a painting or a film, so the choices that you make as the player are crucial. There’s no “right” way to play Passage, just as there’s no right way to interpret it.
What could be more emotional than one’s own death? For more on the game and Rohrer see The Video-Game Programmer Saving Our 21st-Century Souls from Esquire.
Just finished playing Papers, Please. Very depressing game that tries to give you a sense of what it is like to be a border guard checking things and being watched. It isn’t “fun” but it uses anxiety well. I found myself stressing out as I tried to process enough people to pay for my family and save some money. With discussions in Europe about bringing border controls back to the Schengen Area this sort of control is back “on the map.”
The screen shot shows the simple 8-bit interface. The game has a retro interface to go with the feeling of an Eastern-block country border.