Saturday, February 2, 2013

double consciousness & play

Tuesday, 5 February: MEET AT WOODS! – Everything Bad is Good for You
• Johnson, Part One: Games, Television, Internet, Film
• Johnson vocabulary & tools for cognition (handed out)
• find & read something “sf” connected to these ideas from either Butler or Hopkinson; be ready to discuss what you picked and why
• boxes of SF: pick 5 and tell us why; send KK email listing which ones 

Today we will meet at Woods Hall to comb through sfs, boxes of books and stuff, friends of the class, con creativities, and share experiences, hopes, assumptions, and passions!

Thursday, 7 February – double consciousness & play
• Johnson, Part Two: cognitive complexity and attentions good & bad
• find & read another story connected to these ideas from either Butler or Hopkinson; be ready to discuss what you picked and why


"Astronaut [Mae Jemison] who rode Endeavor into space in 1992 making her the first African-American female in space. Founded the Jemison Research Group which runs an international science camp for kids." (See also: NASA on Nichelle Nichols visit to Goddard; Jemison on 100-yr Starship Project; Jemison on TED about teaching art & science together.)

Double takes and double consciousness are at the heart of the theories of play and fantasy that Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman find useful for game design, and for new education projects.

They challenge what they call “the immersive fallacy” – the idea that games get better and better as they become whatever that thing “more real” is. Anthropologist Gregory Bateson is their touchstone for “metacommunicative media”: “play is a process of metacommunication, a double-consciousness in which the player is well aware of the artificiality of the play situation.” (Salen & Zimmerman 2004: 451)

As animals and children learn to play they come to know that there are some ways a play self can and must be separated from an everyday self, and they learn to perform this separation in interactive cognitive and social communication forms of “not”: they amuse themselves by performing the communication “this is not it.” The puppy nips, but not hard enough to injure. (Violence? Not.) The teen kisses in spin the bottle, but not necessarily the person they like the most. (Sex? Not.) Yet at the same time there are also other ways in which these selves simply are not separated, in certain physiological processes and psychological equivalences. The nip actually hurts a bit, the kissing blush and stammer. A double consciousness of being in both these states at the same time is possible, as Bateson puts it in formal terms, because play creates its own commentary in itself about itself as an intense and pleasurable interactive dynamism — communicatively social, as well as neurological and hormonal. Such metacommunications — or communications about communication — are performed by embodied selves at multiple “levels” of organic and social system, some sequentially, some simultaneously. (Bateson 1972, 1980)

Notice that metacommunication and metacommunicative media are at stake in double binds: good signaling skills make nonabusive play on the edge of double binds possible: “My body is reacting as if I am in danger, but really I’m in front of a computer screen.” (Reality? Not.) But Bateson was well aware that not every edge of play is so easily resolved: that transcontextual confusions and gifts arise from situations in which “tangles” remain – in which finding out which bits are active, which bits are context, which bits can be made explicit, which rules are perceptible, which distributed embodiments, cognitions, and infrastructures are in play, matters. And the skills for all this, transcontextual movement without falling apart – what restructuring academies, nations, and industries call “innovation” – are at the very heart of all those things that the word “gaming” now covers – from gambling to economic game theory, from game art and design to games as learning, from role-playing to systems theory – many of these playing with our distributed being, individual and collective, neurological and hormonal, industrial and creative. This is one context for considering sf feminisms today.

Tiltfactor game lab:

Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal:

Offering a new course, even a new kind of course, I have wanted to get to know you all a bit better before finalizing our syllabus. But you should have that version this coming week. As soon as it is ready, I will email you a copy, offer a link here to a pdf version, and include it in this website as well. Notice changes in office hours, social hours, and conversations with Irene on the right hand panel of this website too!

Until then, for this coming week you should be reading Johnson's book (which is a very quick read and short), and reading some stories in either the Butler or Hopkinson collections (also full of very short and stunning stories). 

• So, for Tuesday, Johnson Part I and pick a story from either collection that you think works in some way as an example of the kind of thing Johnson is addressing. 

• For Thursday, Johnson Part II and another story similarly. 




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