Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Proposal: Creating a Class All About Ebooks

In this time of the digital age, people have had to make a lot of adjustments to a new digital culture. One of these adjustments is to how people are reading and consuming content; it’s not just in print format anymore. With today’s technologies, people can have access to lots of information virtually anywhere, provided there is an internet connection.  People read texts on their phones, computers, tablets, and e-readers.

Ebooks are gaining more and more popularity. To adapt to this change from a print culture to a digital culture, there needs to be a greater understanding of how ebooks work and also how they are published. To ease into this adaption, I suggest that universities start offering more classes regarding how to publish ebooks.

Benefits to learning about ebooks will be of great use to those who are interested in the future of the publishing business and those who are interested in self-publishing. To start, people should get used to the idea of using them. Some people are just not used to the technology quite yet. Getting them used to the technology as it is now will prepare readers for the future when books will be on a digital reader and when they will be more interactive, such as infusing images, video, and audio with the text.

To be prepared for studying literature in the digital age, we should know how to consume and create content in the form of ebooks. Despite the resistance of a few traditional-styled people, this is where the technology is going. People who are interested in publishing, commercial or self, should especially be adapt to this new format, because it is still changing and has the potential to change even more. So, as an editor who is excited about the future of this technology, I propose that a class about ebooks, how to use them and how to make them, should be an added class to the editing minor.

Humans versus Machines

Humans use machines to make a task simpler in some aspect. They are generally thought of as two separate entities—the human, which is living, can think, can feel, and the other is the machine, not living, can’t think for itself, unfeeling, and soulless. When these two are put together, however, they can accomplish things that wouldn’t have been possible without it. In Moby Dick, there are a few examples of humans working with machines in order to accomplish something or have new meaning.

We talked about in class how Ahab used his crew as a machine to sail to find Moby Dick. The crew itself only followed Ahab’s orders and didn’t think of a different viewpoint together. It was essentially a static figure that lended itself to Ahab to use for only Ahab's purposes. There were a few other examples that I thought fit this example of humans and machines. Queeueg shaves his face with his harpoon, using an unconventional tool to do a normal thing. To Ishmael, and probably to some others, this would seem barbaric; however, it got the job done, so why should it matter? Another point to bring up is about Moby Dick himself. In the chapter, The Whiteness of the Whale, Ishmael is describing the good—it’s purity—and the bad--of the color white in the whale, in other words, the human and the machine parts that make up Moby Dick. See Shelly’s post for a little more elaboration.

The two working together make a new kind of hybrid—part human and part machine. This hybrid, because of it is part human, is still considered to be human, however there are few exceptions to that. The biggest one I think was in the example of Ahab’s crew hybrid chasing Moby Dick, something that was also hybrid. Which won in the end? Moby Dick. Why? You could say that in the end, it was his humanity, his instincts that saved him. The crew still acted together as a machine in order to capture Moby Dick. 

Broadening our Scope: Incorporating New Media Forms into Formal Literary Studies

The study of literature is integrally connected to the study of culture as a whole. Traditionally, literary scholarship has embraced not only a study of texts but also art, music, and other forms. Truly understanding literature and its import within our modern culture, then, requires that we acknowledge the interconnectedness of textual and other artistic forms and integrate novel media forms into our study of literature. Curricula for literature and writing classes within the English department need to instruct students in the use of novel media formats as a part of the formal research process. This includes not only digitally mediated interpretations of traditional forms like music and art but also contemporary forms like user-created videos, video games, blogs, and a wealth of other creative media formats.

Matthew Arnold proposes that great literature is possible only thanks to the “current” of ideas that exists within a given culture, citing Shakespeare’s success as a clear demonstration of this point. This current depends on a diversity of media formats, as Paris’s Lost Generation of Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, etc. demonstrate in their close association with prominent painters and musicians like Pablo Picasso and Cole Porter. Incorporating a broader study of media, both modern and traditional, as part of an academic study of literature will improve students’ understanding not only of the works themselves but also in the cultural relevance within a modern context and will additionally provide for a richer stream of ideas and influences upon which students can build their personal writing. Novel media forms prove especially pertinent in their ability demonstrate the relevance of the literary studies to modern audiences and to adapt seemingly “old” ideas to new contexts. By modifying curricula to include new media studies as a part of a formal study of literature, the English department would thus be able to improve the breadth, relevance, and vitality of students’ research and of the department as a whole.

Final Exam Essay 2: English Major Update

Updating the English Major to the digital age could be advantageous to professors, students, and the broader academic community in several ways and could keep the major relevant in a world that increasingly questions its importance. One such way to update the major to the digital world would be reshaping the course outcomes to always include a project that somehow extends beyond the classroom into the broader world and enter the real-world conversations happening on that topic, rather than just live and die in the classroom. We've studied ways to do this in our digital culture class this semester, both discussing ways to socially optimize our research to both prove its relevance and find communities interested in it and ways to reach beyond the classroom with our research. Ideally, students would have the flexibility to follow their own research topics and trends from class to class, building over the course of their college career a portfolio of work as well as an individual voice, style, and research expertise.

Such an approach would actually be closer to the original spirit of university study, to come and follow a specific passion and study it out over a long period of time, building skills and talent through mentoring and professorial guidance to prepare to go out into the world and show a new and unique idea. Ironically, updating to the digital age would in this way also be a return to the roots of higher education. Such a system would allow students to leave their university not only with a degree, but with a reputation and a direction for further study and work that would lead more naturally into graduate study and/or the workplace.

Increasingly, the digital world requires students to have not only degrees, but portfolios to enter the work field. Graduate schools also always require a writing sample and a clear sense of research direction from a student to be considered for admission. The current model doesn’t allow much time or room for students to build such a unique voice and direction in their research. By updating the English major for the digital world, we can allow students to not only build such a voice and direction, but also build connections, communities, and networks by way of publication and sharing of their ongoing research such that by the time students graduate, they already have in place everything they need not only to apply to graduate school or the workplace, but to continue to succeed there as they have a wide network and body of work to pull from and build on.

Currently, such a model isn’t followed because the focus of undergraduate study is to expose students to a broad range of literary genres, periods, and works. This ideal is not wrong, and could still be preserved in the proposed update to the English major. For instance, I have gone through my college education according to the traditional English major, taking classes from a broad range of time periods and genres to fulfill the major requirements for graduation. However, over the past school year, I have also pursued research relating videogames to literature, and have been able to apply every one of my classes to such a study. In Early American Literature, for example, I studied how Edgar Huntly set up many expectations for the American novel that have persisted into American videogame story tropes, specifically the Assassin’s Creed series. In Advanced Studies in Genre, my section was focused on the rise of the British detective novel, and I was able to explore not only film adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, but videogame adaptations as well, and deal with the issues of a videogame trying to make the player feel like a detective as intelligent as Sherlock Holmes. In a Shakespeare class, I was able to explore how Shakespeare legitimized English language drama as a high form of art and relate that to possible ways videogames could become a culturally legitimate art form in our own time.

As I began to follow this single strain of research in all of my classes, I opened opportunities that I hadn’t even considered before for myself. I ended up presenting alongside a Ph.D. candidate and an established professor at the annual conference of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, and scarcely two months later had three offers for publication on three separate articles I had written in the vein of videogames as literature. I started my own blog to get more of my thoughts out there, and within a month of starting it had over a thousand page views and several comments that led me to people interested in similar topics that I could connect with. Also within a year, I had connected with some big names in the field by keeping to socially optimized research methods and had personal feedback from major writers and creators that have lent intelligence and credibility to my research. My prospects for graduate school and a career have increased considerably as a result.

This kind of path through the English Major should not only be more accepted, but encouraged as it is the best way to ensure that students land on their feet after graduation and have a clear direction with their education. Without such an update, the English major faces increasing obscurity and ridicule from the world at large. The world has moved into a new age; the English major must go there with it.

Reading Digital Culture: How Literature Aids in Understanding the Digital Age

Literary works like Moby Dick help us to make sense of digital culture by investigating key themes pertinent to digital interaction. One of these themes is the idea of isolation, a concept that I discuss in some detail in "The Sea and Solitude." Moby Dick essentially presents the reader with a number of disconnected individuals and asks what is necessary to bring them together. This theme shows up early in Queequeg's and Ishmael's relationship, but other relationships, like that of Queequeg to Tashteego or of Ahab and Pip further illustrate the idea that even though these individuals are from different backgrounds, the mere fact that they are together serves as a foundation on which they can build meaningful relationships. The Internet works in a similar manner, facilitating powerful relationships for people from different countries and backgrounds and providing means for people who feel isolated or left out to find a "home" of sorts. Kristen, for example, shows how digital tools can be used to help returned missionaries who return home early to feel connected and loved despite the negative feelings or comments that others might hold against them. It demonstrates that those who feel excluded or separate can, in fact, find a place where they belong in digital culture.

Moby Dick likewise investigates identity, a theme that is pertinent to to digital culture on a number of different levels. Moby Dick's famous opening line, "Call me Ishmael," is perhaps the book's most well-known and robust exploration of this idea. In three little words, Melville establishes an identity for his narrator, and throughout the rest of the book, as we hear more of his stories and see more of his interactions with others, we learn more of who he really is. This is similar to how identity is established on the Internet, where often, we have only a name and a picture or a catchphrase to go off of in terms of defining a person. Gradually, through their comments, posts, pictures, etc. we come to understand more of who they are, yet we understand that even these "facts" are in some sense constructed specifically for the Internet: just as Ishmael reveals only that which he wants to share about himself, so also are Internet identities constructed to convey certain ideas, qualities, or images. This is a concept that Aleesha investigates to some extent in her study of Pinterest, where users define themselves by the clothes, accessories, decorations, and quotes that they post to their respective pin-boards. Others, like Lizy and Victoria, look at identity as parts of a larger collective, as in fandoms.

Final Exam 1: Moby Dick in the Digital Age

Moby Dick helps us understand digital culture because it deals with a vast array of themes that have only become more pertinent and important in the digital age. One such theme is that of fixation. In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to get wrapped up in just one interest as it is easier than ever to find massive amounts of content on that topic. This has caused problems in several ways, perhaps most prominently with videogame addiction, fandoms, and social media and other forms of digital communication that take a lot of time and energy to keep up with. 

Moby Dick teaches us of the dangers of obsessive fixation, but also explores the psychology of it in realistic ways that could help us understand the mindset of those who become too fixated on the digital world and begin to neglect the real world. Also, it helps to show the merits of fixation as well that can easily go overlooked. For instance, Ahab was certainly crazed, but he also created a strong sense of community and brought different kinds of people together for a single cause. Obviously, Ahab’s methods and reasons were wrong, but that doesn’t mean that passionate interest can’t also lead to a strong sense of community among a diverse group of people. Moby Dick shows both sides of this coin, and both obsessive fixation and healthy passion have only become more important in the digital age as new technologies provide greater connectivity and greater access to content and people than ever before, raising both opportunity and danger. 

Literature and art have always instructed humanity on how to live, and Moby Dick proves that they will continue to do so in important and powerful ways that expand people’s perspectives and open their minds to the broader world around them. In some ways, you might say that Moby Dick is more important in the digital age than ever before, and its study has only become more important. Moby Dick can and should be applied to aspects of digital culture whenever it is taught.

Reflections on Digital Culture

Wikimedia Creative Commons License
One of things that has been impressed upon me most this semester is the idea that the digital age allows us (and in some cases, requires us) to specialize. Whereas in traditional settings creators, innovators, Paul, Heidi, myself), fandoms (Victoria, Lizy), rethinking print literacy (Shelly, Kayla, Danielle) and social media for social change (Kristen, Cheri) are just the beginning. For me, digital culture is a loose term, because it's composed of so many diverse and sometimes isolated culture so much so that to make broad generalizations in an attempt to classify the culture as a whole would likely exclude vast subsets of digital users. Nevertheless, I'm going to try.
and enthusiasts are limited by the accessibility and popularity of certain ideas or sub-cultures, the Digital Age is a time of fandoms and specialization and unbridled creativity. Chances are that if someone, somewhere is interested in an idea, then there are likely others talking and thinking about those same ideas, and the Internet provides the means to connect those people together. It has been interesting to see different themes and subsets of digital culture evolve even in our own class: gamer culture (

In my view, digital culture is about the following:

  1. Personal and group expression
  2. In light of the first item, the somewhat paradoxical recreation the self
  3. Resistance to traditional forms and paradigms
  4. Accessibility of information and means of creation
  5. Sociality

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Final Reflections: "How I Have Come to Understand Digital Culture"

I came into this class knowing a good amount about digital culture already. I had taken a course from Dr. Burton before in which he emphasized academic blogging and using social networks for social discovery and social proof. I had already been researching and writing about videogames as art and literature for a while. However, what I really took away from this class is a view of the truly digital world we’re now living in. That world is open, complex, beautiful, even though in many ways not exactly new.

The new digital world I saw through this class is open in more ways than I thought. It’s open access, open opportunity, and largely open-armed. I learned a ton about copyright law and the complex issues of fair use and creative commons that I hadn’t understood before as I saw just how much information really is entirely open and free to be accessed through the internet, and how much creative content is being made open source for anyone to use and add to or adjust (the Linux operating system, for example, or Wikipedia). Our lectures on crowdsourcing were especially eye-opening to me because I hadn’t understood just how complex, powerful, and beautiful projects done asynchronously by people from all over the world could turn out to be, like Eric Whitacare's virtual choir. I saw also a wider range of opportunity provided by the internet as we talked about the do-it-yourself movement and maker culture, as well as e-publishing, social networks, and tinkering. This especially hit home to me in the video we watched of a homemade space craft. I also saw how open-armed the digital culture really can be as we talked about all the different opportunities to share undergraduate research, and how communities can and have formed around almost any topic somewhere on the Internet. I especially felt these three aspects of digital culture—open access, open opportunity, and open-armed—as I started my own blog to collect my thoughts on videogames and ultimately published with one blog and am now in the works with two others. In gathering resources to put in my writing, in collecting and forming my own thoughts, and in working with other people through the internet to get my ideas out there and receiving feedback, I have seen digital culture at work in all three of these meanings of the word “open.”

Two students who have especially helped me take my understanding of digital culture even further as I’ve gone throughout this course are, unsurprisingly, the other two students in my blogging group, Greg Bayles and Aleesha Bass. Greg showed me how the three meanings of open in the digital world can become the foundations for an entirely new kind of civilization—how real human organizations can exist entirely within the digital world, and how most physical organizations are becoming increasingly digital as well. Aleesha helped me see how our digital activity reflects our true identity in a clearer way than I ever had before. As I went through the course, I understood more about how our online actions express our identity, but as Aleesha looked specifically at Pinterest and we talked about it together, even concluding that one could tell the personality and major life events of a person based on their Pinterest boards alone, something clicked in my brain and I saw just how our digital selves connect to our real selves in a clearer way than I ever had before.

I’ve truly seen a whole new world throughout the course of this class. Even though our readings of Moby Dick have proven that the concepts, issues, and foundational ideas of the digital world certainly aren’t new, new technologies are allowing us to take those ideas and concepts and deal with those issues in bigger, faster, and deeper ways than we ever have before. It truly is a brave newdigitalworld.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You Are What You Pin: An Analysis on Pinterest Identity

Below is the link to my final paper.

P.S. Sorry about the screenshots from the survey. They are getting messed up when the .pdf is uploading to Google Docs, and I'm not sure how to fix it. Here are the links to the pinboards if you would like to look at them.


Civilization in the Digital Age: Virtual Spaces and Hybrid Reality

Well, the White Whale is slain. My final paper is done. Soon the Rachel will come round to pick up the surviving orphans from the sea, and I'll go back home to warmth and solitude.

In any case, I decided to include a link to the paper in a .doc format, as I know I hate reading papers like this on blogs. I hope you enjoy!

UPDATED: (TWO of my) Final Product(s)

Like I said in my last post, my final project has kind of broken into many different pieces, but I made good on the promise from my proposal and made a little ebook of my essays on games and literature, which you can find here. It's in epub format, which most e-readers, tablets, and smartphones should support with the right app, or you can read it on the web through Firefox or Chrome with the right add-on/extension. A good Chrome e-reader add-on I found is Readium.

Also, I can't post my paper on the classical unities in videogames online because it's going to be published at First-Person Scholar, but here's a link to a doc of it.

If e-readers aren't your thing, all of the essays are also available (along with some other stuff I've written on games) at my personal gaming blog, Complicate the Narrative.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

One Success, Two More Potentials

So my final project has fractured into many different things all at once, but I've submitted three different articles/essays to three different people, and they've now all responded.

First of all, the gaming blog/game blogging aggregator Critical Distance accepted and featured my piece "The Romantic Dead" in their feature "This Week In Videogame Blogging" for this week (week of December 8). That's a big deal because it puts my name right next to a lot of the biggest in the business of videogame writing right now (and it's given a healthy spike to my blog views for the past couple days, too).

Next, Dr. Olvier Turle, founder of the literature blog Interesting Literature and now writer at the Huffington Post, liked my post "Journey and the Epic" and has said he wants to feature it as a guest blog piece in the near future, but it busy right now and will get back to me in a couple weeks.

Finally, the guys over at First Person Scholar liked my "Romantic Dead" piece, but said they don't host things already hosted somewhere else (even my personal blog), so I wrote a new piece entitled "All in One: Open World Games and the Classical Unities" that I've sent to them and they said they'd like to feature it, I just needed some revisions and a few more references. So I'm hard at work on that.

Anyway, so far at least that's 3 for 3, as long as those last two work out. This is amazing results and I'm so excited to see where this goes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Digital Spaces: Working Outline

I. Introduction
                A. What is a civilization?
1. "[A] grouping of at least several thousand people with a common culture, usually a common language, usually a geographic locale, some significant (usually monumental) buildings and architecture, and a political structure that is not necessarily unified” (Blaha 2002).
2. "Civilization is fundamentally a cultural infrastructure of information and knowledge that serves survival and continuity. What distinguishes a civilization from a culture is that this infrastructure, having reached a critical level of complexity, becomes autonomous from constituent cities, nations, and empires" (Bosworth 2003). At what point will digital/Internet culture reach its critical complexity?
B. With a majority of the world's physical frontiers having been swallowed up in expansionism, many are looking to digital spaces as a new frontier—a place where they can establish their own culture and stake their claim in a rich and vibrant future within the Digital Age. Whether independent civilizations will emerge from this new frontier is yet to be determined, but already we see the close integration of real and virtual 'civilizations' as we know them, and the future will surely witness further advances in this area. Though at this stage of its progression the Internet and its substituent communities are still very much so dependent on real-world authorities and spaces for their being and maintenance, the foundations are already in place for the eventual emergence of virtual civilizations.
C. Working Thesis: Virtual spaces are becoming increasingly independent, and while they necessarily remain linked to the real world, they nonetheless provide the social underpinnings for the genesis of digital civilizations through their facilitation of virtual government, economy, and culture.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pinterest Project Proposal

Working Title:
You Are What You Pin: Analyzing People Identities Based on Pinterest Pins

Working Thesis:
As people become involved with Pinterest, they not only showcase their interests but also show their identities through their likes, pins, and repins on Pinterest.

Preliminary Exploration:
For my preliminary exploration, I have been gathering data via Google Alerts--not that much comes up regarding Pinterest and identity, but I have found some good articles on social media in general and identity, which I think have pointed me in the right direction.

My previous blog posts have also looked at Moby Dick and Pinterest and a couple of curation posts here and here. What got me interested in this topic in the first place was reading Girl Wide Web 2.0, especially the chapters that dealt with identity and social media.

I think that this is topic is relevant because as we are spending more time with social media, we are needing to adjust and find ways to best represent ourselves online. There are different ways that people can represent themselves online, such as personally or professionally. From a Pinterest account, not only can people show their likes and interests but they also can show what is going on with their lives at the current time, such as a decorating for a new house or planning a party.

For the format of this project, I've decided to do a survey (click right here if you would like to take it) about Pinterest and identity to see if I could find a correlation between the two. I will then write a paper describing my background research and my findings and conclusions from the survey.

As stated from my last blog post, I was interested in the CATaC Conference because its theme is the closest to what I want to present. The papers can be in a short (3-5 pages) or long (10-15 pages) format. Since I plan on including the stats of my survey, the paper will be in the longer length. The paper is due on February 14.

My curation includes gathering data from the survey and pinning images on Pinterest that correspond with the personality traits I used in the survey. The pinboards are as follows: extroverted, introverted, sensing, intuition, feeling, thinking, prospecting, and judging--the pins are typical of those personality traits, and I tried to get as wide of a variety as possible.

Social Proof:
I've gotten lots of people to respond to my survey so far, and I've had a couple of shares for my survey on Google+ and Facebook. I've also shared the survey to communities on Google+ (the Pinterest and Digital Identities communities to be exact), and I am looking forward to sharing my conclusions with these groups after I finish this project.

Next Steps:
The next steps include to finish gathering data from the survey, compile it all, and see if there really is a strong correlation between personality traits and pins on Pinterest. Since I don't know exactly what they will entail, I want to gather more secondary sources about analyzing identity from personality traits so I can see if the results from my survey might actually mean anything. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

That's it for now. I would appreciate any feedback and will offer up my feedback for your proposals as well.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Virtual Nation: Civilizing the Digital Wilds

Image by Greg Bayles. CC BY 2.0 Generic.
Adapted from Jastrow's public domain photograph.
1. Working Thesis Statement
The Internet represents the heir apparent to the cultural and social wealth of the American 'Empire' and will ultimately serve as a crucible for new, transcultural, digital civilizations.

2. Preliminary Exploration
I've explored the concept of virtual civilizations in a number of posts:
  • Digital Nations: The New Frontier takes a look at the historical inheritance of cultural/social wealth that in part led to the rise of the Roman, British, and American 'Empires.' It looks forward to the rise of the digital nation from the cultural and social infrastructure of America. This is essentially my first focused exploration of the concept of digital nations and represents my earliest thinking on the matter.
  • Monuments of our Age: Foundations of Civilization in the Digital World addresses the concept of civilization from a historiological perspective, examining the requirements for civilization and providing a number of scholarly definitions for civilization in a modern context.
  • We the People: Digital Civilizations is the post that I've used for most of my social proof, because it provides a brief overview of the topic and presents some foundational evidence as to the foundations of civilization already exigent within virtual worlds. This post received a good amount of feedback, and it's been one that I've circled back to at various points. This was also my first real call for colonization of the digital wilds: "Rather than anathematizing video games and virtual realms as base and 'savage,' we need settlers who will actively shape the digital frontier for good. Rather than complaining that digital worlds are mindless and violent, maybe we need to be the ones to find out how we can make them thoughtful and exalting."

I Got a Little Eager

So Greg just sent me a link to this great post at Interesting Literature, an academic blog focusing on a wide range of literary topics. I saw that my recent post on my gaming blog, "Journey and the Epic" spoke a lot to that guest post, so I just went for it and submitted that to them as a possible guest post.

Then I figured while I was at it, I should just submit my other post, "The Romantic Dead" to another academic blog I've been looking at, First Person Scholar. So I did.

Over the Thanksgiving break, I put both of those posts into a word document and discovered the were both already in the 8 page range, and I was worried about how I could translate them into regular papers from a blog format (especially "The Romantic Dead," since I depend on pictures a lot in that one) so I decided submitting to academic blogs was a good idea so I could preserve the original format. Also, I figured academic blogs would be a good idea because they generally get back to you faster and publish quicker, and I'm trying to gather as much clout as possible for my graduate school applications that'll be going out early next year. Since I don't know where I'll be or what I'll be doing in the Fall, I decided against a conference submission, especially since I just did a conference and wanted to try something new.

So that was quick, but quite a rush. We'll see what they say and I'll let you all know how it goes.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Final Project Proposal: Complicate the Narrative/"The Romantic Dead"

1. Working Thesis Statement
My project is twofold: I want to produce a short e-book with several essays connecting videogames and literary traditions and thinking, and I want to submit one of those essays, "The Romantic Dead," for publication somewhere.

For the e-book, the purpose is basically "Videogames are a new medium, but they speak to the artistic traditions of the mediums that preceded them and expand on themes and ideas of the past in new ways native to this new interactive medium, and this book shows several ways in which that is true."

For the essay "The Romantic Dead," the thesis is "TellTale's The Walking Dead and Naughty Dog's The Last of Us are both neo-romantic pieces that update the ideals of romanticism to the post-industrial state."

2. Preliminary exploration
I've done plenty on both these fronts. My personal gaming blog has several posts I've already written that link literature and videogames. I read and reviewed Ian Bogost's book How to Do Things With Videogames. I've also curated a lot of content on the debate over videogames as art here.

3. Relevance
To digital culture: Many lament the rise of digital culture as a kind of death of civilization and great art, but this project seeks to prove otherwise, and instead show how digitally native mediums only enhance art and are just another step forward.

To a specific audience: I'm hoping the e-book will serve as a kind of primer for humanities students and teachers trying to bring this new form of expression into their classrooms and studies. Also, I feel like serious gamers--especially those who have played the game I write about--will be very interested in these essays just as a way to get them deeper into the worlds of the games they play.

4. Format
Like I said before, I'll have two formats here: one will be a more formal research paper (that could easily be a guest blog post as well) and the other will be an e-book that I'll also have available in PDF format (I have to typeset a book for a print publishing class I'm taking, so I might as well just do this, right?).

5. Outlet
There are several outlets I'm looking at for both sides of this project.

I really want to submit one or two of the essays to the BYU English Symposium to get these discussions going in the BYU community, but there are other venues I'm exploring as well.

I've been eyeing the online journal Game Studies for awhile, and think "The Romantic Dead" might be a good fit for it. I also like the website First Person Scholar, and though their call for papers says they focus on graduate students, I still think my work could get accepted there. Finally, the RE: Humanities conference is specifically asking for writing about games, so it could be a venue that is eager to accept my work.

6. Curation
Content for analysis: see the pictures and links in my posts here and here.

Secondary texts:

  • Greg recently showed me the Google+ community World of Video Game where he shared a video from one of my posts that currently has 94 +1's.
  • Subreddits /r/gaming, /r/truegaming, and /r/games are all reddit communities interested in games and game thinking
  • Video Games is another Google+ community that's very active and encourages a lot of discussion
7. Social Proof
I've worked a lot with both +Greg Bayles and +Gideon Burton already discussing these ideas, and both have reacted positively and encouraged me to move forward. I received a lot of positive feedback when I presented my paper from last semester on Shakespeare and videogames at RMMLA, which encouraged me to keep writing about the connection between literature and videogames. In an information session with the faculty of the MIT graduate program in Comparative Media Studies Writing, the director of the MIT Game Lab, Philip Tan said my research works in perfectly with their program and what's going on in game studies right now.

To be honest, I still feel like I haven't found the community that I know is out there talking about games like I do, but I've found a lot of good people and continue to search all over for like-minded people.

8. Next steps
I have lots of content already, so next steps for me are to figure out the best way to collect these essays into an e-book and how best to distribute that, as well as study the specific submission guidelines for each venue and adapt my work for each of them. I'll also continue searching for communities and venues, just to make sure I get the widest interested audience possible.

Journey and the Epic

Here's another re-post from my personal gaming blog that I'll probably work into my final project.

Journey, developed by thatgamecompany as part of a partnership with Sony, is one of my favorite games ever made. Despite being short, simple, minimalist, and offering virtually no challenge, it has had the biggest impact on me of any game I've ever played, and I'm hardly the only person to say things like that. Among the many reasons already given for why Journey is so great, I'd like to add a new one: Journey is actually the simplest, most universal epic poem ever written.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Possible Venues for the Final Paper/Project -- Pinterest and Identity

Finally getting around to posting my list of venues for my final paper on Pinterest and digital identity. I really liked Greg's suggestion for the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association for the Women's Studies conference, but since the deadline has passed, I thought I should see if I could find something with future deadline and similar subject matter.

Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space -- Although this venue's mission statement says it wants to provide opportunities for doctoral and master's students, it doesn't put that stipulation on those who wish to submit their work. I feel like this would be a good choice for me and lots of other people in my Digital Culture class. It offers a very broad range of topics (such as crowdsourcing in journalism and social media in journalism, +Kayla Swan) , but the one that I would be interested in is the topic of social media and new practices of identity. Check it out if your topic has anything to do with social media. Proposals are due March 7 and full papers in May.

CATaC 2014 Conference -- Culture, Technology, and Communication (CATaC) holds a biennial publication and conference for subjects regarding culture, technology, and communication. This year's conference is dealing with Design/Production and Practice of the aforementioned topics. The topic that I'm interested in is in the Practice category: the construction of identity using online social media. I think this is the venue that I'm leaning toward submitting to. Because I am focusing on one specific social media platform (Pinterest), I think this will be the best option for me. Papers are due February 14.

I think that's it for my potential venues. While doing this research, I also found some options for a couple of my classmates. For +Brittany Hansen I found A Hands-on Approach: The Do-It-Yourself Culture and Economy in the 20th century. Brittany, I'm not sure what your approach is for your paper, but if you have a good historical background connection, then this might be a good venue for you. Next is for +Lizy Cole: Internet Memes and Visual Culture: A Special Issue of a Journal of Visual Culture. According to the description, they said they were very interested in creative formats for submissions in addition to the traditional essay.

Good luck on your final papers and projects, guys!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Potential Presentation Venues for Digital Civilizations Research

I've been looking for different outlets for my research on digital civilizations, so I wanted to post some of my preliminary findings.

  • Re: Humanities 2014 is an undergraduate conference focusing on digital studies, so I feel like it will be a perfect setting for my research. The submission deadline is fast approaching, so I'm planning on putting together a proposal over the next few days and submitting it to Dr. Burton for feedback so that I can make the December 1st deadline. This would likely be a good venue for just about any of my classmates as well.
  • Interrogating Colonization and New Politics is a graduate conference held at Bowling Green State University, but I'm going to be contacting the conference coordinators to see if they will consider an undergraduate paper. My topic ties in really well with one of their main topics, which involves "digital frontiers." The deadline isn't until March, so this might give me the chance to really figure out what they are looking for and adapt my work to the requirements in hopes of getting accepted despite my undergraduate status.
  • EDUCAUSE is also accepting submissions for a conference on digital scholarship, and it has the added benefit of being online as well as in-person. That might prove necessary, as the conference is during the regular school year, and assuming I'm in grad school, I may not have the time nor resources to go gallivanting around Florida (despite the obvious temptation).
As I was looking through papers, I found a couple that might be useful for +Aleesha Bass or anyone else involved in women's studies in the digital age. The Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association just recently ended its call for papers for its April 16-April 19 conference, but it may be that they accept late submissions as well. I felt that this would be an especially pertinent area for Aleesha and others. Elsevier journal also has a call for papers going on right now, though it seems to be more about feminism that about media studies. Anyway, it might be worth looking into.

That's all, though, for now. I'll hopefully post some of my progress by Thursday or Friday, and I'll have a draft up soon for anyone who's interested. Thanks for enduring!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Virtual Civilizations: Settling the Digital Wilds

"The British Settlers of 1820 Landing 
in Algoa Bay" (1853), by Thomas Baines
Well, I wanted to do a video to summarize some of the points that I'm going to be hitting in my research project, but time got the best of me, so for now, it'll have to be just an outline. I'll hopefully get to do a video next week sometime (or maybe tomorrow, if the gods smile upon me). So anyway, here we go with the outline. If you have thoughts or suggestions, please leave them in the comments below! Thanks!

     -Historical Perspective
               Inheritance of cultural/infrastructural wealth from larger nation (U.S.)
               Requirements for a civilization: what is a civilization?
     -Working Thesis: The Internet represents the heir apparent to the cultural and social wealth of the                     American 'Empire' and will ultimately serve as a crucible for new, digital civilizations.
Digital Governance
     -Already taking root among digital communities
               Bitcoin nation
               EVE Online representative council
               Confederation of Democratic Simulators
     -True Democracy
     -Opt-in citizenship
Virtual Economies
     -Fiat currency
     -Flow of money out of real economy and into digital economies
     -Bitcoin and other digital currencies
     -Interconnectedness of the two markets: hyperinflation, devaluation of yuan, etc.
Arts in the Digital Age
     -Arts exploration
               Harlem Renaissance
               Scottish Highlands
               St. Andrews
               Roman Ruins
     -Player-authors: crafting our own worlds
Settling the Digital Wilds (Conclusion)
     -Monuments of our Age
     -William McGaughey: primary institution of power is the internet
     -Call for virtual settlers

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Teens and Fandom

I decided to be an altruistic scholar on behalf of Victoria (Sorry, Shelly, didn't mean to step on your toes!)

I became interested in the idea of fandom when I was reading the book Girl Wide Web 2.0 for class. It has an article titled “Me/Her/Draco Malfoy: Fangirl Communitites and Their Fictions” by Jaime Warburton that talks specifically about teen girls and their roles in fan fiction. Although fandom wasn't a prominent point I focused on in my research, I think it will be very helpful for hers. (I have the book if you would like to borrow it, Victoria, since it will not be found anywhere online.)

I also wanted to look at the sources the author used to write this article to see if they might be any use to Victoria, and I think I found a few. (And of course, there are more listed in the book, but these are that I felt would be of the most benefit to Victoria that I could also find online.)

“Is there a fan in the house?: The affective sensibility of fandom” by L. Grossberg in The adoring audience: fan culture and popular media edited by L.A. Lewis. You can find it here or by searching on the library website.
“Fan Fiction Online: Engagement, critical response and affective play through writing” by A. Thomas. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy. You can find it here or on the library website.
“Blurring and breaking through the boundaries of narrative, literacy, and identity in adolescent fan fiction” in M. Knobel &C. Lankshear (editors) A new literacies sampler. You can find it here. I was only able to find this source on Google Books, so it only shows a preview of this particular article, but I still think there will be some useful information for you and I think it is very pertinent to your topic.

I also stumbled across this website which has already curated a list of articles regarding fan culture.

I hope this helps, Victoria!

The Romantic Dead

The following is a post from my personal gaming blog, Complicate the Narrative. I'm putting it here because it might work into my final project.

I wrote a little bit last week about my experience with TellTale's The Walking Dead and the rise of what I've come to call "film-games." In that post, I also talked about The Last of Us, another of my favorite games of all time. The two games share a surprising amount of similarities (while feeling like entirely different games), but one that particularly catches my attention is that both could are works of Neo-Romanticism.

(*Sigh* I guess I'm morally obligated to tell you, I will be "spoiling" these games, to the extent that the enjoyment of art really depends on the revelations of its plot.)

Two Can Play at This Game

After Greg rained info on me like mana from heaven, I've taken it as a personal challenge to respond in kind. Here we go, +Greg Bayles. Have some stuff on digital civilizations/nations and virtual worlds.

Digital Nations:

This article is a chapter from this book that deals more with privacy, but also suggests that Facebook deserves a constitution, especially since David Cameron (Prime Minister of the UK) met with Mark Zuckerberg as if he were a head of state.

This is a reddit user's attempt to make a whole constitution for the "Digital Nation."

Virtual Worlds:

This image is from Gary's Mod which I found from this reddit thread where a lot of users talk about how they've "lived" inside the game. In addition to going to a bar to watch professional gamers play another game from inside the game, people have read the entire Lord of the Rings series, watched whole movies, and more.

This article is about the upcoming EverQuest Next, a game which is actually two games presented in two phases. The first phase is EverQuest Next Landmark, where players will be free to establish towns, settlements, cities, etc. to establish the world, then when that phase is done and enough of the world is built, they'll start the real MMORPG of fighting and stuff, but you can still build things too.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Breaking Down the Video Game: Resources for Reading Video Games

Are video games art? Can we look at them as 'literary' works?
What critical theories aid in understanding and distilling
meaning from video games? How can we 'read' video games?
Hopefully these resources will help to answer some of these
I've been really fascinated by +Paul Bills's research on video games, so I decided to take a few minutes to contribute some resources for his study of video game "literacy." Paul has been working on a book proposal for a work on how to "read" video games from a critical persthe medium of the 21st century, so I'm excited to see people like Paul engaging in formal analysis of games. They will, no doubt, play an integral role in the future of media studies, and realistically, they are on track to become one of the most powerful tools for audience engagement and social change.

I started off by doing a search for "reading video games," and that didn't turn up much of anything useful (mostly just a bunch of pseudo-games that teach reading). I then decided to try searching for "critical analysis of video games," and this turned up some really great material. I've divided into three categories: courses/syllabi, books, and miscellaneous (though still valuable) resources.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Herman Melville: Virtual World Builder

Image Credit: Michael Pate
I've been trying to figure out how I could relate a study of Moby Dick to my current research topic, virtual worlds, and I've had an interesting time thinking about some of the connections. A few days ago, a friend sent me a synopsis of an article that basically talked about how for him, baseball was a "virtual world" to which he escaped as a child, and that got me thinking more about the nature of virtual worlds in a broader sense. Basically, I want to work toward proving that Moby Dick (and for that matter, a vast majority of books) is really just a rudimentary virtual world and that the fundamental principles behind a book are emphasized likewise in online worlds.

The term "virtual world" in our modern context usually implies a number of things: online, multiplayer, interactive, and based in a generated 3D environment. Thinking about it from that perspective, books really don't have much in common with virtual worlds at all. But what if we examine books and virtual worlds from a broader perspective? What is a book? What is a virtual world?

Moby Dick, Democracy, Participatory Culture, and Games

"Call me Ishmael," Moby Dick begins, establishing the identity of our narrator for us and giving us an introduction to his character and particular voice as he will be telling us this story for quite a while and we should be comfortable with him. Moby Dick is a book full of strong characters--Queequeg, Ahab, Flask, Starbuck, Stubb--each of these character seem particularly individual and powerful in their own right, just as we feel we "get to know" Ishmael, we can "get to know" the other characters and understand their desires and quirks. However, the story isn't about any one of them, its about (and exists because of) all of them combined.

Not only does Melville craft each of these characters expertly to allow each of them their own voice and personality, but the very form of Moby Dick is broken up into distinctive "voices" of different literary genres. Interrupting Ishmael's regular narrative come dramatic monologues (ch. 37), encyclopedic articles (ch. 32), affidavits (ch. 45), as well as histories, articles, and more. Indeed, Moby Dick is designed on a formal as well as a textual level to break up any overpowering voice. In fact, freedom of speech and choice may arguably be what Moby Dick most values, as the ultimate tragedy of its ending comes from Ahab drowning out everyone else with his power and desire.

This evidence proves Moby Dick's quality as a distinctly American epic. But it wasn't popular until the early 20th century, and many scholars have classified Moby Dick as a modernist work. This makes sense because modernism, the term given to much of the literature of the early 20th century before World War II, emphasized the same points and values of expression, experimentation, and the power of the individual. It was a time when listening to single voices was more and more dangerous, as well as more and more outdated as the United States, the ensign of democracy to the world, was rising to become its greatest super-power, thus proving to the world that what started as an "experiment" of democracy was paying off, and Americans were certainly not quite in pointing this out to world.

As I've explained elsewhere, the influence of the rise of democracy and American in the late 20th century is easily seen stamped all over the internet. Thus, soon after its inception, the internet evolved from just a repository of information to a tool of individual expression, a shift commonly referred to by scholars as Web 2.0. Democracy is so stamped into the mindset of the world that it is more a social than a political principle in our own time, and we feel it is our right to be able to express ourselves and give our opinion. This simple shift in thought might be the single biggest marker of the modern human being to that of earlier ages: we seem to think we all matter. Thus, authority becomes more and more complicated in the modern world, and this aversion goes deeper than we sometimes think.

When we receive any information today, we expect to be given the opportunity to interact with it and not just receive it. This is viewed as a fundamental right, thus the proliferation of comments sections on nearly every website around. Social media lets us not only express our opinion about anything we care to comment on, but provides tools to make sure other people know that opinion by way of hashtags and hyperlinks. Our world is increasingly built to make sure we are allowed to express ourselves about anything, anytime, anywhere, publicly.

Thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the fastest-growing and most innovative medium of expression today is videogames. Neither should anyone be surprised that so many of the current generation want to go to this medium to have cultural experiences and explore a variety of perspectives on life and important moral and philosophical debates. Videogames are increasingly growing in intellectual capital because they are the medium that best represents the values of contemporary communication and expression, where the audience is not only encouraged but by definition expected and needed for the piece to unfold. In a world where talking back is a right, a medium that lets the audience feel like they are doing the talking in the first place is the ultimate concession to that right. Videogames are Artistic Expression 2.0, expression that allows creators to still have strong sense of authorship, but for audiences to feel they are just as important as the creator, and even creating their own experience.

So, really, videogames as a culturally legitimate medium is not only eminent, but inevitable. You can join the conversation, or you can ignore it, and regret it 30 years from now when the majority of the world's most important cultural conversations are happening inside and around videogames, and you find yourself with a lot of catching up to do.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Comparing Moby Dick to Pinterest

Courtesy of Reeding Lessons from
It states in the introduction of Moby Dick, "Melville himself certainly believed that all men are united by the bond of reciprocal dependence, by a community of function and responsibility" (xv). There are the following parts: etymology, extracts, prose, lists, histories, biographies, plays, epics, etc. This is a community working together to present meaning. We've talked about it how it's is one genre, but not really because it's another genre as well. It can't really be identified as ONE genre: It's a compilation of all of its genres and that's where the significance is found.

Pinterest is arguably the same way. If we were only to identify pinners by one pin, one thing that they felt best encompassed who they are, it wouldn't work because it is more complicated than that. They can't be identified by one outfit or one recipe. Instead they are identified by ALL of the pins together.

Moby Dick is a Game

In our Digital Culture class, we've already discussed a lot about the complicated idea of what type of book Moby Dick really is. Looking at the digital mediation post Dr. Burton wrote brought me back to that question as he encouraged us to deliberately disrupt the text to see it in a new light. After reading Ian Bogost's How to Do Things with Videogames and pondering game design a lot lately, I started to mediate Moby Dick through the lens of game design, and I wish to argue here how Moby Dick is a game--not that it could be adapted into a game well, but that the book itself is a kind of game.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chasing Divinity: Search-Based Analysis of the Sacred in Melville's Moby Dick

Ichiyusai, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Public Domain
Alright, it's Moby Dick time again. A while ago, I wrote a couple posts about Ahab as a representation of Milton's Satan and of the white whale as a symbol of divinity. In that I've been learning about "big data" and digital modes of textual analysis, I figured it might be interesting to look at divinity and holiness from a new perspective. Based on my findings, it turns out that "holiness" as a concept becomes less as less frequent throughout the work and in some sense becomes inaccessible or 'unthinkable' (a la Marx) for Ishmael and the other characters. While certain associated words like "blessed" and "divinity" feature throughout the work, others like "sacred" either become increasingly sparse (or absent) toward the end of the book or they adopt negative forms (i.e. "unholy" vs. "holy") that lend to an overall descent into madness and despondency.

I used an html version of Moby Dick (thank goodness for public domain) to do some simple searches in-browser, and it turned up some pretty interesting results. My first few searches were the most revealing, so I'll save those for the end, but I input forms of "bless" and "divinity," and those showed fairly uniform frequency throughout the novel as a whole. "Bless" and its derivative forms showed up twenty one times without any apparent pattern of usage or non-usage, and "divine" appeared a total of fifteen times. Interestingly, of those fifteen instances, five are in reference to whales or to the White Whale himself, this being the most common referent, coming in well above "God" and "Providence" in terms of usage.

Preliminary Book Outline for "How to Read a Videogame"

I've been working with Dr. Burton to flesh out an official book proposal for a publisher as my final project for the class. Below is my preliminary outline. The ideal audience I'm going for is people who already think critically about other mediums and want to learn how to apply those techniques to videogames. I'd love any feedback!

Introduction: Reading Games

  • Changing state of games
  • Games are getting more relevant, complex, and ubiquitous
  • Games are the art for us--our time and our world

You don't read games, you play them, but reading means more than gathering information from words, it means gleaning meaning and information through a critical eye. How to Read a Videogame will be an overview of how to "read" games in the latter sense, going beyond playing to pondering and understanding.
Section One: Learning from Literature, Film, and other mediums

  • Acting
  • Lighting
  • Framing
  • Dialogue
  • Symbolism and Metaphor
  • Themes
  • Social Commentary

Section Two: Reading Genre

  • Intro to game genres
  • FPS, RTS, MOBA (ARTS), Action/Adventure, Open-world, Story-driven, Puzzle, etc.
  • How genre determines mechanics
  • How mechanics make meaning

Section Three: Reading outside genre: "Points of intersection"
Games are about interaction, and meaning comes from when and how different parts of the game interact. Starting from the point of the player, I'll go step by step down the rabbit hole into the game, looking at each layer of interaction and how those interactions create meaning.

  • Player to Game System (rules, goals, etc.)
  • Player to Player Character(s)
  • Effect of Controls
  • Player Character to environment
  • NPC to Player Character(s)
  • Non-player Character (NPC) to NPC
  • NPC to environment

Conclusion: Looking Forward to "the Ludic century"

  • Games literacy will only be more essential in the future

The cultural contributions the 21st century will be remembered for won't be films or books (those are the last two centuries' mediums), this century will be remembered for its games.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Some of My Favorite Poems On Video

Dr. Burton's post we read for class on video poems inspired me to make a quick collection of a few of my favorite video poems. Here they are!

Taylor Mali is an English teacher and an amazing slam poet. This particular poem is just awesome. There's also a kinetic typography version of the same poem here.

This one caused a lot of buzz on the internet recently, and is interesting both as a poem and a study of the problems (and performance) of OCD.

This one is interesting to me because it's a poem reacting to cartoons turned back into a cartoon.

I love Billy Collins, and this animated version of his poem "The Country" is especially good.

I've actually also made a Facebook group for discussing poetry in contemporary society. You can check it out (and even join if you want!) here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Girl Wide Web 2.0 Video Review

Here is my video review of Girl Wide Web 2.0. First let me preface this by saying that I don't consider myself a very good speaker, so sorry for all of the "umm"s and the stumbles. Also, I'm sorry for the annoying watermark on the video. The software that I downloaded to make the video was a trial, and it didn't tell me until I was done making the video that it was going to add a watermark to it. Yay for hidden stipulations.

Read my Goodreads review here.

Video Book Review: Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken

This is just a quick look at Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken. It likely won't come as a surprise to anyone, but I got carried away trying to do something really cool to do for my video book review and ended up just splicing a few clips together for lack of time. One day, I'll figure out Windows Movie Maker and be able to import .MOV files successfully without spending an hour and a half. Anyway, without further ado, here's the review.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to Do Things With Videogames Video Review

So, my brother graduated from BYU with a film degree and I was hoping he would help me on this project, but it just so happens that he's out of town this week. I thought I had more skills than I really do with video, so for better or worse here's my video review.

Rather than going with a set script, I set a basic outline and tried to talk about some ideas I had. I wanted it to seem more like a conversation and my honest impressions. Because of that, a lot of the ideas are the same as my written review, but they're said pretty differently.

Also, YouTube has been doing some weird things with the sizing of the video in the player that I can't figure out how to fix, so I hope it looks okay for you.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Girl Wide Web 2.0 edited by Sharon R. Mazzarella

Image from here
Girl Wide Web 2.0 (check it out on Goodreads or Amazon) is about how girls and women are renegotiating their identities through means of the Internet. The book is written in a series of essays; each author has taken a specific subject of the Internet which girls and women that are participating in and has analyzed how their culture has redefined how they represent themselves online. In the foreword, Dafna Lemish writes, “Through the variety of possibilities of engaging others online, girls … explore new opportunities to express their voices, and so the Internet is involved in self-growth. Some practices involve the construction of very private and individual identities and a creative process of expression. Others experiment with social relationships and create communities of ‘sisterhood.’”

I liked this book and appreciated the perspectives that it had on the evolution of identity online. While there was a lot of valuable information in the book as a whole, there were two particular chapters that I found useful as far as expressing online identities from different cultures: “Degrees of Caution: Arab Girls Unveil on Facebook” and “East Meets West: Is There a Difference Between Tai and American Girls’ Use of the Internet and Negotiation of Identity?”