Last week the Oregon Humanities Center put on a great two-day conference on Engaged Humanities Partnerships Between Academia And Tribal Communities that I attended. (See my conference notes here.) The conference looked at ways that the humanities can partner with indigenous communities.
One of the highlights was Jennifer O’Neal’s talk about the importance of decolonizing the archives and work she is doing towards that. You can see a paper by her on the subject titled “The Right to Know”: Decolonizing Native American Archives.
I talked about the situation in Canada in general, and the University of Alberta in particular, after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
This weekend I was at the Linked Infrastructure For Networked Cultural Scholarship (LINCS) Team Meeting 2019. The meeting/retreat was in Banff at the Banff International Research Station and I kept my research notes at philosophi.ca.
The goal of Lincs is to create a shared linked data store that humanities projects can draw on and contribute to. This would let us link our digital resources in ways that create new intellectual connections and that allow us to reason about linked data.
Read my conference notes on Di GRA 2019 And Replaying Japan 2019 here. The two conferences were held back to back (with a shared keynote) in Kyoto at Ritsumeikan.
Kieji Amano deserves a lot of credit for putting together the largest Replaying Japan programme ever. The folks at the Ritsumeikan Center for Games Studies should also be thanked for organizing the facilities for both conferences. They have established themselves as leaders in Japan in the field.
I gave two papers:
- “The End of Pachinko” (given with Amano) looked at the decline of pachinko and traditional forms of gambling in the face of the legalization of casinos. It looked at different types of ends, like the ends of machines.
- “Work Culture in Early Japanese Game Development” (with Amano, Okabe, Ly and Whistance-Smith) used text analysis of Szczepaniak’ series of interviews, the Untold History of Japanese Game Developers, as a starting point to look at themes like stress and gender.
The quality of the papers in both conferences was very high. I expect this of DiGRA, but it was great to see that Replaying Japan, which is more inclusive, it getting better and better. I was particularly impressed by some of the papers by our Japanese colleagues like a paper delivered by Kobayashi on the “Early History of Hobbyist Production Filed of Video Games and its Effect on Game Industries in Japan.” This was rich with historical evidence. Another great one was “Researching AI technologies in 80’s Japanese Game Industry” delivered by Miyake who is involved in some very interesting preservation projects.
Last week I attended the CIFAR and Amii Summer Institute on AI and Society. This brought together a group of faculty and new scholars to workshop ideas about AI, Ethics and Society. You can see conference notes here on philosophi.ca. Some of the interventions that struck me included:
- Rich Sutton talked about how AI is a way of trying to understand what it is to be human. He defined intelligence as the ability to achieve goals in the world. Reinforcement learning is a form of machine learning configured to achieve autonomous AI and is therefore more ambitious and harder, but also will get us closer to intelligence. RL uses value functions to map states to values; bots then try to maximize rewards (states that have value). It is a simplistic, but powerful idea about intelligence.
- Jason Millar talked about autonomous vehicles and how right now mobility systems like Google Maps have only one criteria for planning a route for you, namely time to get there. He asked what it would look like to have other criteria like how difficult the driving would be, or the best view, or the least bumps. He wants the mobility systems being developed to be open to different values. These systems will become part of our mobility infrastructure.
After a day of talks, during which I gave a talk about the history of discussions about autonomy, we had a day and a half of workshops where groups formed and developed things. I was part of a team that developed a critique of the EU Guidelines for Trustworthy AI.
I am back home after two conferences, first the CHCI conference in Dublin and then DH 2019 in Utrecht.
The CHCI (Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes) had its annual conference in Dublin, Ireland. The Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (which I direct) is a member. The conference was held at Trinity College and featured some extraordinary talks including a Silent Shakespeare performance talk by Judith Buchanan. My (flawed) conference notes are here.
Next I was in Utrecht, Holland for DH 2019. As always, my typo-ridden conference notes are at philosophi.ca : DH 2019. This was the biggest DH ever with over 1000 participants. There was a real feel of the explosion of the field and all its directions. Before the conference proper I attended a workshop on DLS (Digital Literary Stylistics) Tool Criticism: Use Cases. I was asked to give a paper at the workshop and presented on Zombies as Tools: Revivification in Computer Assisted Interpretation. Revivification was my variant on replication as inspired by the Silents Shakespeare performances reviving silent movies. I also gave a short paper in a panel organized by Micki Kaufman on XR in DH: Extended Reality in the Digital Humanities. My short paper looked at Campus Mysteries: Playing with Serious Augmented Reality Games.
The conference was closed by a great keynote by Johanna Drucker on Complexity and Sustainability.
hug + hack = infinity
At one of the talks at CGSA 2019 I learned about WINDOWS93. It is an emulation of a non-existant early version of Windows that looks a bit like Windows 95, but has all sorts of joke applications in it.
This and other examples of interactive games that mimic everyday software was presented by Benjamin Unterman in a paper titled, “Games Imitating Life.” Unterman theorized that there are three types of such games:
- Realistic interface designs where a game pretends to be a real interface like that of a cell phone, but you end up messaging fictional people.
- Complicit designs use realistic interfaces to bring people into a satire or joke interactive. I think Windows93 would be such an example.
- Antagonistic designs pretend to be some productivity tool, but they subvert the interface as you play.
My conference notes for Congress 2019 are here.
Last week we held a conference on AI, Ethics and Society at the University of Alberta. As I often do, I kept conference notes at: philosophi.ca : AI Ethics And Society.
The conference was opened by Reuben Quinn whose grandfather signed Treaty 6. He challenged us to think about what labels and labelling mean. Later Kim Tallbear challenged us to think about how we want the encounter with other intelligences to go. We don’t have a good track record of encountering the other and respecting intelligence. Now is the time to think about our positionality and to develop protocols for encounters. We should also be open to different forms of intelligence, not just ours.
The Literature Club is full of cute girls! Will you write the way into their heart?
Dr. Ensslin gave a great short survey of digital fiction includ the Doki Doki Literature Club! (DDLC) at the Dyscorpia symposium. DDLC is a visual novel created in Ren’Py by Team Salvato that plays with the genre. As you play the game, which starts as a fairly typical dating game, it first turns into a horror game and then begins to get hacked by one of the characters who wants your attention. The character, it turns out, has both encouraged some of the other girls (in the Literature Club) to commit suicide, but they edits them out of the game itself. At the end of the game she has a lengthy face-to-face with you breaking the fourth wall of the screen.
Like most visual novels, it can be excruciating advancing through lots of text to get to the point where things change, but eventually you will notice glitches which makes things more interesting. I found myself paying attention to the text more as the glitches drew attention to the script. (The script itself is even mentioned in the game.)
DDLC initially mimics the Japanese visual novel genre, down to the graphics, but eventually the script veers off. It was well received in game circles winning a number of prizes.
Isabelle Van Grimde gave the opening talk at Dyscorpia on her work, including projects like The Body in Question(s). In another project Les Gestes, she collaborated with the McGill IDMIL lab who developed digital musical instruments for the dancers to wear and dance/play.
Van Grimde’s company Corps Secrets has the challenge of creating dances that can travel which means that the technologies/instruments have to . They use intergenerational casts (the elderly or children.) They are now working with sensors more than instruments so the dancers are free of equipment.
The Unpredictability of Gameplay explores the many forms of unpredictability in games and proposes a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding and categorizing non-deterministic game mechanics.
Today we celebrated the publication by Bloomsbury of Mark R. Johnson’s The Unpredictability of Gameplay.Johnson proposes a typology of unpredictability:
- Randomness (initial conditions of the game)
- Chance (during play)
- Luck (in/ability for player to affect final outcome)
- Instability (outside the game)
Mark’s book nicely connects gaming and gambling. It helps us understand the way microgames in larger videogames can become a form of gambling. He looks at loot boxes where players are encouraged to spend small amounts of money over and over to get virtual goods inside a larger game. In Japan Kompu Gacha (or complete gacha) was eventually discouraged by the government because too many people were effectively gambling in their attempts to collect complete sets of virtual goods by paying over and over to open loot boxes. Compu gacha and other forms of loot boxes in videogames are a way for developers to monetize a game, but they also create metagae contexts that are, in effect, gambling. What is interesting, is that people don’t think of videogames as sites for gambling. One wants to say that this is another (micro) form of casino capitalism.