THE ART EXHIBIT AT ICIDS 2019 RESULTS
12 Years in Azeroth: A Case Study
12 Years in Azeroth: A Case Study is currently a 700+ page manuscript that includes a companion game under active development. Playing is required in order to read, just as reading is required in order to play. The project will be published episodically as installments are completed. 12 Years is written from the POV of an ethnographer conducting a detailed case study of the main subject, Alvin, who’s spent more than a decade immersed, at times casually and at times competitively, in the popular massively multiplayer online role playing game World of Warcraft.
The project spans several disciplinary genres including sociology, anthropology, game studies, and new media arts. Fundamentally it deals with the interpenetration of increasingly blended realities, the so-called “virtual” or “immaterial” reality of Alvin’s play, and what’s frequently framed in opposition as the “physical” or “material” reality of Alvin’s time spent otherwise.
Lubna Gem Arielle
Bridging the Blue
Bridging the Blue is a Virtual Reality work inviting the viewer into the artist’s mind via a virtual world containing personal iconography derived from the artist’s lived experience of severe clinical depression. It seeks to challenge common misconceptions of and responses to depression as well as offer subjective playback and validation to those who have also been ill in an attempt to reduce shame, stigma and silence.
The artist is encountered as a vologram (volumetric video captured from the real world) relaying experiences of being unwell using non-linear storytelling and commissioned music. The work investigates the reputation of VR as an ‘empathy-making machine’ and is an attempt to close the empathy gap stemming from a tendency to tell or advise rather than listen non-judgmentally as a response to someone being mentally unwell, mediated by the novelty-factor of VR as a medium or what Schlovsky might term ‘making strange’. It asks whether this potential to change the quality of attention can be harnessed as a device to shift perceptions.
The work explores the synergy between humans and technology offering a virtual gateway into empathy that is often absent in the real world through an embodied encounter with the artist as a vologram within a virtual environment. Technology acts as an enabler in creating a virtual world from the detritus of the artist’s mind in which one has agency to move naturally in each scene and to choose the order of episodes. At the same time, the use of technology contracts one’s agency as choices to interact with the artist/vologram are limited to relative positioning, where and whether to look or listen but cannot extend to advising or telling – inadvertently modelling responses more consistent with empathy and support in the context of non-professional conversations about mental health. As such, what might be regarded as the coldness of technology induces a rebirth of human warmth.
The work seeks to challenge norms of interactive storytelling by using the virtual experience as a device to access and expose the mental and emotional space of lived experience, not only in the immediacy of VR as a medium, but also in its execution and process. The non-linear storytelling echoes the distortions of time and memory experienced in breakdown. Underlying that, the technological process in creating the vologram, of breaking down streams of video footage from multiple angles, reconstructing these first into a mesh-only depiction of the artist before adding texture tracked the experience of breakdown and recovery, including working with a counsellor to reactivate life. Each involved reconstruction of the artist albeit on different timelines and realities.
Bridging the Blue was made in collaboration with leading computer science research group, V-SENSE at Trinity College Dublin.
Artist & Creative Director: Lubna Gem Arielle
Written & Narrated by: Lubna Gem Arielle
Production & Design: V-SENSE team – Matthew Moynihan, Iman Zolanvari, Rogerio Da Silva,
Music: Evangelia Rigaki, Usher Associate Professor, Trinity Department of Music
Music performed by: parabasis (Percussion: Richard O’Donnell, Cello: Martin Johnson)
Music recorded by: Conall O’Maolan
Scenography: Neill O’Dwyer, V-SENSE & Trinity Department of Drama
Producer: Aljosa Smolic, SFI Research Professor of Creative Technologies
Fragile Equilibrium: An Action Game of Melancholic Balance
Fragile Equilibrium (FE), is a highly emotive and carefully crafted game that evokes concepts and emotional states such as depression, anxiety, nostalgia, and melancholy without the use of characters, dialogue, or narrative. It is styled like a traditional shmup—the player controls a ship which makes its way from left to right through a scrolling world as an ever-increasing onslaught of enemies fly at the player from the right. Survival depends on the player’s ability to dodge, weave, and return fire with a variety of weapons that accent their ship. If a player’s ship is hit, the player loses health. Heretofore the gameplay is pretty standard, but this shmup comes with a catch: enemies that get past the player crash into the left side of the screen, first shattering and then breaking off portions of the playable area. In a game that calls for constant movement, the detriment to the playable area greatly impacts play and the odds of a player’s survival. To this end, FE has a “mend” mechanic, in which players can face ‘backwards’ and repair their world, slowly restoring the playable area and giving themselves room to maneuver again. Additionally, repairing the screen recharges the player’s weapons, which then creates a strategic dilemma: players that take little damage to their screen must allow for some damage so that they can refresh their power levels. The balance to this mechanic is that players cannot mend the screen and continue to fire at enemies concurrently—they most focus their efforts on what is most pressing at the time and continually make judgement calls regarding the best tactic at any given point in the game.
This balance between external defense and internal focus and repair is meant to challenge the player’s expectations of constantly fighting incoming projectiles. It pointedly differs from the normal shmup practice of having enemies arrive from a single direction, and it provides a secondary survival mechanic that is ever-present and needs constant monitoring and attention. This mechanic, along with other elements of the game, is meant as an experiential metaphor (as described by Rusch (2017)) for depression, mental health, and self-care. The player must at once both ‘deal with’ the normal ‘shmup world’ – i.e. the external enemies and projectiles that come at them wave by wave (See Figure 1, left), but also with the need to (literally) turn around and focus on their own view of the game world that is literally breaking apart (Figure 1, right). In this sense, it is inviting players to reflect on external and internal conceptualizations of the world.
In this manner, FE serves as a case-study for designed interaction that utilizes experiential gameplay—its game mechanics seek to relate emotions, feelings, and perhaps even empathy through played experience as opposed to traditional narrative (Fernández-Vara 2011). To date, FE is one of very few games that engages with mental health through experiential gameplay rather than narrative development.
More information is available at in the artists’ statement at https://medium.com/@andymphelps/fragile-equilibrium-extended-artists-statement-5f3d84548411
fred 🙂 is an interactive narrative for smartphones, freely available on both stores, in English and French.
– App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/fred/id1466792875
In this application, the smartphone speaks to the user as if he or she were its “friend”, hoping to start a relationship. The experience relies on a smartphone’s many sensors (touchscreen, front-facing camera, microphone, accelerometer, gyroscope…). How can we tell a story based on our gestural interactions with a mobile phone? How can the different interactions (tickle, stroke, pinch, tap, shake, smile, talk, play with the light, the volume …) contribute to the narrative and the building of emotions? How do we interpret and understand expressions of emotion from technology?
Through a series of interactions, fred 🙂 enables us to become aware of the constraints and possibilities of our smartphone and makes us reflect on the relationship we have with this device.
It is also a digital literacy challenge. fred 🙂 should “touch” teenagers and make them reflect on the emotional relationship they have with a smartphone, and more broadly on its use.
fred 🙂 has been developed with the collaboration of engineering students from the Université de technologie de Compiègne (France).
Provided as a conventional bar top arcade game critiquing our relationship to NPC’s, reenactment of historical massacres and the portrayal of human experience. A kind of modern day, 1942. Instead of shooting characters, players must heal victims of historical massacres. The player can reverse death, by pulling bullets from the victims. The soldiers that committed these massacres are still lurking, so the player must work to keep the recently revived alive. The player can put themselves between the bullet and the target or strategize to reverse the tragedy. Thematically relating to ICIDS, the game is an exploration of empathy and the historical stories with which we play. Players are tasked with a new relationship to the historical massacre, one that does not leave them in the position of recreating it, but instead of undoing it. How does it feel undo and how does the player’s relationship to the victims of this tragedy change with such a framing?
The game depicts the Nanking Massacre, the largest historical atrocity whose fact and fiction were continuously debated. The bar top arcade version includes two controllers and 12 buttons to allow two players to play cooperatively (one controls the character, the other aims and heals).
John Barber & Greg Philbrook
Remembering the Dead
Remembering the Dead is a web-based memorial to victims of mass shootings across the United States. Victims’ names are displayed, individually, along with age, place and date of death. The most recent victims are displayed first, followed, randomly, by those killed earlier. As the name of each victim is displayed on the screen, that name is spoken using text to speech technology. After its display, each name is added to a memorial list in the screen’s background. This process continues, eternally. With each name displayed, the memorial list grows longer. With each name spoken, the loss of human life becomes more tangible. Remembering the Dead, by displaying and speaking victims’ names, returns to voice as the basis for storytelling, and fosters remembrance and reflection, emotional connection and affection, with and for those killed.
How does Remembering the Dead relate to the exhibition theme: expression of emotion in humans and technology? By showing and speaking the names of those killed in mass shootings across the United States, this work provides, through technology, a context for audiences to consider their emotional reactions and responses to this staggering and ongoing loss of human life. Through remembrance and reflection, the memory of victims becomes immediate, present, their presence experienced by human listeners who, in their own listening, create connections with victims whose stories of ambition, aspiration, achievement, and accomplishment have been muted.
Remembering the Dead is grounded in comments by French philosopher Jacque Derrida, who says, “[Recording] is reproduction as re-production [emphasis in original], of life itself . . .. [W]hen someone speaks he affects himself. I am . . . touched, presently, by the recorded speech of someone who is dead. I can, here and now, be affected by a voice from beyond the grave. . . . A miracle of technology” (70-72). (Derrida, Jacques. “Above all, no journalists!” Religion and Media. Edited by Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber. Stanford University Press, 2001, pp. 56-93.).
Derrida suggests there is perhaps no more fundamental self-affection than for one to speak his or her name. Through recordings, dead people come to life, to presence, to the present, and affect those who will listen. In absence of the dead, and their voices, we survivors can speak their names, re-producing remembrance and connection.
One might argue that the “norm” of interactive storytelling is for participants to evoke action using an interface, which then prompts response. As participants react, the storytelling moves forward.
Remembering the Dead challenges these norms and traditions by exploring this interaction internally, as focused on remembrance and reflection. Thus, the interaction becomes less a process of doing actions, and more an effort to engage the audience emotionally in a story about the loss of life to gun violence. In short, through its use of technology designed to recall and recite the names of victims of mass shootings in America, Remembering the Dead seeks to engage audiences in emotional, interactive stories of social and civic justice.
Rebecca Rouse, Lissa Holloway-Attaway, Brendan Padgett
In Simmer we explore the intersections and tensions between traditional, material print media (such as the codex) and contemporary digital tools (Augmented Reality) in the context of affective, non-linear, interactive storytelling. We draw inspiration from John Cheever’s classic short story “The Swimmer” (1964) and the film adaptation of the same name (1968), focussed on the narcissistic reflections of its male protagonist, Neddy Merril, as he confronts the failure and emptiness of his (married) life in 1960s American suburbia. Extending the surreal blending of time and memory in the original works through the material/digital interactions we provoke from the reader/user, we excavate the dark and simmering (female) subtext hidden in the two previous works through the erasure and silencing of Ned’s wife, Lucinda, and their four daughters.
Our artist book in form and function operates via a multiplicity of engagements; it is a codex, a dollhouse, a mobile AR narrative, and it includes a combination of elements to entice readers into exploration (pop-ups, flip books, tunnel books, voiceover audio and music), drawing them into an engaged, empathetic relationship with Lucinda and her daughters. The polysensory affordances of our design (including aural, tactile, visual, and perceptual prompts) work together to both release the emotional content of our narrative and to draw the reader/user into association with the troubled narrator as she releases her voice into the artifacts that have defined and contained her.
Our work is informed by our own reflections on the long prehistory of the codex structure, that is a set of pages bound at one side and which is often associated with the passive readership of print books. The codex is often set against the presumed more interactive affordances of digital tools and forms which may afford deeper experiences for users. We believe this progressive genealogy (from codex to digital form) creates a false origin story for digital narratives and suggests they alone offer the richest possibilities to deepen and extend connections to active readers. Simmer resists this binary theoretical framing and pushes back against commonly held assumptions about the ‘passive’ nature of books and readers as opposed to the complexity of digital technologies and their ‘active’ users. By distributing our content across multiple media, we evoke emotional responses through a variety of embodied, cognitive, and affective registers. The larger aim of Simmer is to demonstrate that mixed reality stories such as ours offer many kinds of intimate experiences and interactions to connect with those who explore them, and this layered physical/digital approach is ideally suited to revealing hidden histories, and exploring the untold.
Log onto a dating website and find love! Make sure your face shows your true feelings. You’re being watched…
StoryFace (http://www.storyface.space/) is a digital creation based on the capture and
recognition of facial emotions. The user logs onto a dating website. He/she is asked to display, in front of the webcam, the emotion that seems to characterize him/her best. After this the website proposes profiles of partners. The user can choose one and exchange with a fictional partner. The user is now expected to focus on the content of the messages. However, the user’s facial expressions continue to be tracked and analyzed… We are compelled to adjust our emotions artificially so that the narrative can continue. What is highlighted here is the tendency of emotion recognition devices to normalize emotions. Which emotion does the device expect? We go from the measurement of emotions to the standardization of emotions.
More broadly, this creation deals with issues of emotional surveillance and industrialization of emotions. Some researchers put forward the notion of “emotional capitalism” to refer to the economic logics of the exploitation of affects by online platforms (Alloing and Pierre, 2017). The new approaches to the measurement of emotions through facial recognition question the privacy of the individuals analyzed, as much as the risks if these methods become a means of governance. However, among the designers of emotion capturing devices, the question of exploiting the results is not really perceived. What is striking in these devices is a command to be oneself (express your emotions) in a world of standards and norms (emotions are standardized, based on a universalist approach according to which there is a determined number of emotions common to all human beings, see the recurrent reference to Paul Ekman).
Based on the notion of pharmakon of the ancient Greeks, Bernard Stiegler underlines that the Digital, like any technology, is both cure and poison (Stiegler, 2013). Technics are ambivalent. So, there is an interesting tension between a generalized form of surveillance and exploitation of our emotions that can be done without us being aware of it (it is a form of alienation by devices, which requires a critical approach), and the possibility given by these devices to perceive our affective expressions in order to better analyze our “self-writing” and our interpersonal communications (this is the reflexive dimension of the devices, which can be perceived as positive). By playing with the emotion capturing device, StoryFace highlights this tension. Being aware of this tension is part of digital literacy. In this perspective, StoryFace has also a contributive dimension: anyone can imagine the profile of a fictional partner. An interface allows anyone to create a character easily.
Alloing Camille and Pierre Julien (2017). Le web affectif – une économie numérique des
émotions, Paris: INA éditions.
Stiegler Bernard (2013). What Makes Life Worth Living: On Pharmacology, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Original idea by Serge Bouchardon, StoryFace has been developed with the collaboration of Alexandra Saemmer, Franck Davoine and engineering students from the Université de technologie de Compiègne (France). It is also the result of a fruitful collaboration with Visage Technologies (http://visagetechnologies.com/) for the precise recognition of facial emotions.
The Other Girl
The other girl is coming – for you.
Luckily, you can fly through time and space. Your only chance is to escape into the past. Explore the history and landscape of the New Jersey Pine Barrens as you try to figure out what she wants.
This is a first-person story exploration game that questions the impact of media and imagination on shaping how we see ourselves and the world around us.
The Other Girl is an experiment in structuring game narrative through enacted and emergent modes of spatial storytelling. The goal is to try to avoid cut-scenes, extensive dialog and text for conveying story. Instead, relying on bits of audio that are randomly associated with objects, using maps as “cuts” and interactivity. The scenes presented in this demo are the introduction, instead of a cutscene – basically, the first chapter.
The themes of the game explore how media (old as well as newer forms) impacts the nature of self and our relationship with the world. Additionally, realistically rendered materials are undermined by surreal and dreamlike events (scene construction, particle emitters, etc) to help support and question the nature of reality.
The Unbearable Lightness of Meaning
The Unbearable Lightness of Meaning is a playful adaption of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The game plays with the ambiguity of emoji as unit of meaning and operation. The player traverses one of two narratives, one about war and the other about love. Each is designed as an adaption of Kundera’s own themes. It orbits ICIDS curatorial themes of impacts of online interaction and interpreting the basis for conveying emotional understanding.
The ambiguity of meaning resulting from abstracting the depth of Kundera’s work to simple, 140 character or less messages in emoji is designed to remind players of the impoverished ways that we can communicate via technology. The death of a lover is minimized to a knife, coffin and skull. The poetry of the novel, which is embedded in the game as quotes through emoji, is diminished into vagaries that have a certain lightness to them. Once the player accepts this lightness, lack of ultimate meaning as a thematic element in the novel, the Lightness of Meaning emoji become a more natural experience. It is when we try to determine exactly what they mean, that the tensions in efficacy and action become strongest.
In concert with a theme in the book, there are several paths to be traversed but they function less as a rehearsal and more as an expense. There are, as the first lines of the book allude, moments eternal return which like an infinite loop ad infinitum. There are moments, as well, when such return seems recursive, only to reveal that the pattern is the only way to move forward.
As the player is successful at moving the path forward, the emoji retreat to the clearer meaning of the language itself (at least for English speakers). But, rewarding players for the lightness of being, the emoji are the only way to take action in this small, narrative game. In the end the game is an effort in thematic reference to a deeply philosophical novel, designed as a text-messaging game who’s adventures orbit finding a way to philosophize in times of war (hint: stay in the hole), balancing the needs of lovers, and managing the unbearable lightness of being.
This work furthers the artists creative research into the adaptation of literature to ludic forms. Prior works include
- Grace, L. 2014. Adapting Games From Literature: Game Verbs for Player Behavior. In Proceedings of the 32 nd of the international Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Toronto, Canada, April 26 – May 1, 2014). CHI EA ’14. ACM, New York, NY, USA.
- Grace, L. 2014. You: a poetic game about meaning making and absence. In Proceedings of the 11th Conference
on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, , Article 66 , 4
pages. DOI=10.1145/2663806.2663811 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2663806.2663811
- Grace, L. 2011. The Poetics of Game Design, Rhetoric and the Independent Game, 5th Digital Games Research
Association Conference on Games and Play (DIGRA). Utrecht School of the Arts, (Netherlands)
JAMES REES & FLAVIA BASTOS, Ph.D.
Who is American Today?
Who is American Today is leveraging the technological abilities of today’s students who have been raised with digital technology and tools. This participatory art-based project asks high school students from the United States to use digital storytelling to express their lived experiences in America today.
Investigating the relationship between creativity and democracy, this project seeks to promote the skills necessary in a democratic society, especially the complementary abilities to articulate one’s own perspective as well as to respond to that of others’. In a community of learners, high school students, art educators, and researchers explore the central question of “How can art education prepare students to be critical digital citizens?”
This project uses widely-available creative digital tools to articulate student voice in ways that may surpass polarizing issues and create shared understandings about citizenship, and the pursuit of a common good.
Who is American Today? Is an ongoing collaboration and research project that aims to investigate what and who students consider “American” to be, and how digital media skills play a role in their civic identity. We are currently looking for educators interested in opening their classrooms for participation in this timely and relevant research.
For more information please visit https://www.whoisamerican.com
THE ART EXHIBIT AT ICIDS 2019 CATALOG (PDF)
*The digital catalog is best viewed with the following settings: Two-up & Show cover page during two-up