Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Whom does it serve?

In Brave New World, Huxley predicted that "... people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacity to think." I think we are at that time and space in the narrative of our created destiny, where we could, at the very least, engage in a frank discussion of the ethics and responsibilities that we have over the incredibly powerful, immersive, interactive digital environments that, like any technology is shaping our society and our own personal relationships with each other.

This is not an abstract issue of course. We are talking about entire industries, like the military-entertainment complex, that like the Davos video explains, have as their sole or at least their main purpose the control and indoctrination of their "customers", from the cradle to the grave, as Simone suggests in the previous post.

So, the question is, whom does it serve? what is it good for? In the balance of things, although difficult, it is not impossible, even in the lethargic state of our electronic dreams, to consider not only our human race, but the rest of the story as well, this interactive story where, yes, every single step, modifies the course of history and our own life.

Lately we have been talking about digital sweat-shops and child enslavement (I suggest not only the workers but the users as well) as an almost inevitable outcome of an industry that like most others, refuses to (from the top down) acknowledge their significant contribution to the alienation of people and the direction in which society, at a global level, seems to be headed.

This is one of seven videos, click on the thumbnails to advance to the next one or go to YouTube to watch it.

Game industry, children and ethics

Reading previous posts, as well as Schell's chapter on Demographics and games, and above all, based on my personal experience of a 9 year-old almost preteen or "tween", made me reflect on game industry, markets and ethics. When Schell's presents his age demographics, one aspect I want to highlight is that, in my opinion, the "brainwashing" of a human-social being can begin as early as 0-3 age range. Through, of course, TV, DVDs and other media. Companies insert the semen of war games, guns, combats and other undesirable (from parents standpoint) effects on children minds and behaviors as early as "cradle". Myth making from cradle. This is just so unethical. So, here is the question: you make a game for sale or for a community? Why preteens such as my boy only like games about shooting and war? Mass media/market power. I thinks that there is an inherent attraction, especially by boys, in destruction and killing enemy, such as Schell's points out. But is it ethical to direct this to games as violent as Grand Theft Auto? Who should control this? Who can control companies? Who can change a society?

Below, watch the winning video of Ethics in Companies from the You Tube program debate about Davos Economic Forum.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

AR and Google Earth

I saw this application of AR which is incorporated into Google Earth, and thought it might be interesting to see if it is something that our group would find useful. And here is a link to an explanation. AR Sights is a free program available for PCs and Macs.

Recycled Media

Arturo's comments about the tendency of media to return to the familiar came as I was planning to post about something I noticed recently on an episode of the television series "Mad Men". I was struck by the look of one of the female characters because she was so like someone out of a Modigliani (1884-1920) painting. I guess Art has always been mined for its visual riches, with an artist's view of the world of his or her making affecting how others see, but commercial media turns so much, if not all, into a commodity. I can understand why the new technologies and Digital Culture offer opportunities for public expression before they have come under the regulation, control, and manipulation of the power structure. Of course, it is ironic that Modigliani died tragically at 35 of the ravages of poverty and addiction, never having achieved success with his art in his lifetime since his visual ideas have been made profitable by museums and the media.

FIASCO - Anyone played it?

I couldn't really visualize the concept given in the paper 'FIASCO: Game Interface for Location-Based Play' The paper seems to be written in 2004. Has anyone played this game?
Are there other games that came out with the theme given in the game?
I am not sure how a turf can be claimed in a game and that can be challenged by others and reclaimed! To me it seems the game may create ownership issues within City gangs that may lead to violence unless I misunderstood the game!

- Suresh

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Dark Side of Storytelling

From Cory Doctorow's Anda's Game

Killing newbies who were trying to cheat the system seemed like a good way to make a buck. But in this simulated reality, who is scamming whom?

>Do you know who these people are that you're killing?

She didn't answer, but she had an idea. She killed four more and shook out her wrists.

> They're working for less than a dollar a day. The shirts they make are traded for gold and the gold is sold on eBay. Once their avatars have leveled up, they too are sold off on eBay. They're mostly young girls supporting their families. They're the lucky ones: the unlucky ones work as prostitutes.

> The bosses used to use bots, but the game has countermeasures against them. Hiring children to click the mouse is cheaper than hiring programmers to circumvent the rules. I've been trying to unionize them because they've got a very high rate of injury. They have to play for 18-hour shifts with only one short toilet break. Some of them can't hold it in and they soil themselves where they sit.

> look
she typed, exasperated.
> it's none of my lookout, is it. the world's like that. lots of people with no money. im just a kid, theres nothing i can do about it.

> When you kill them, they don't get paid.
no porfa necesito mi plata

> When you kill them, they lose their day's wages. Do you know who is paying you to do these killings?

they're wrecking the game economy and they're providing a gold-for-cash supply that lets rich noobies buy their way in. They don't care about the game and neither do you


In this story by Cory Doctorow who is presently working on a new young adult novel, FOR THE WIN (about union organizing in video games) the kids in the sweatshops were being exploited by grownups, a familiar and tragic reality in the world today.

Do you know there are actually virtual sweatshops? Is there any social benefit that can come out of them?

Is it wrong to "wreck the game economy", or is that just entrepreneurship?

On a related note, from the Oreilly open source conference: 25% of time spent in SL is spent creating objects and scripts. With a 140,000 hours hours per day , and an average real life software developer hours of 2000 hours/year you get 17.5 user-years/day. That is the equivalent of a team of approximately 6500 content developers. which would cost US$650 million/year.

In the article Frontier Justice: Can Virtual Worlds be Civilized? I found this quote:

"World of Warcraft diehards rail against the 'gold farmers,' basically sweatshops full of workers in Asia paid low wages to play WoW and earn gold to be sold to Western players who don't have the time or patience to work their own way up the game's levels."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chris Crawford's Storyworld: Storytron

Yesterday I spent some time exploring Chris Crawford's interactive storytelling site, Storytron.

In his Balance of Power: 21st Century storyworld, the player takes on the role of the President on September 12, 2001. The objective of the President is to advance
advance American interests. The player is given various lists of options such as pressuring others countries through diplomatic means or more agressive ones, like bombing. The computer then responds with an outcome to the player's choice. The player must once again respond. And on and on. Slowly a story is built.

I was expecting a visually enticing storyworld to interact within. But, this was not to be the case. The interaction was very much text based with a few visual guides that could be called upon such as maps.

What did intrigue me though, was that such a game provides a great way to learn history. In order to make my next move as the President, I would have to consider my options and understand the history of other countries. The storyworld provided this information. So, I could see how such games could be a great learning tool. But, that would largely depend on who was responsible for the information.

Chris Crawford also envisions using his storyworlds to help teach employees certain tasks that need to be known at various companies. He also sees it as a way to teach people about the customs of other cultures, so, if for example, a diplomat visits another country in order to take care of business, he does not ruin relations by doing something that is culturally inappropriate. I see the possibilities, but it seems this may have a ways to go before such interaction can become interesting enough for the user to want to interact in such a way in the first place.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Game Industry Survey

After reading Jesse Schell's chapter 8 which included a section on demographics, I took a look at recent articles on the percentage of women gamers. An article from July of 2008 discussed a recent survey funded by the Entertainment Software Association. Some findings were surprising:

Among the survey's main findings:

  • 65 percent of American households play computer and video games;
  • 38 percent of American homes have a video game console;
  • The average game player is 35 years old;
  • One out of four gamers are over age 50;
  • Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent); and,
  • 41 percent of Americans expect to purchase one or more games this year.
The same study found that, "In 2008, 26 percent of Americans over the age of 50 played video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999".

Love In The First Person

Point of view is something that is spoken of in literary criticism, but not as often in digital media it seems. I thought this is a great example of using straightforward technology (still photos and some video clips and a website) to tell a very personal story:
It illustrates that simple techniques can be very powerful if used to the upmost. Of course it helps it if the project is created by a talented photographer or two.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I've always had a fascination with sounds and the vibrations they produce. Recently I researched cymatics, which is the study of visible sound and vibration, usually on the surface of a plate, diaphragm or membrane. Seeings these vibrations involves using sound to excite media often in the form of particles, pastes and liquids. I saw a post where an interaction sound station was created and each player could make musical sounds that in turn created an ensemble. The first video I'm posting shows how cymatics works. The second is a speech by creative technologist Evan Grant who explores the data of sound, inherent in nature, through cymatics. He studied scientists and inventors, such as Galileo, Da Vinci, and Chladni who created the first working cymatic model. Check it out. I though it was cool.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Machinima Standard

After reading Machinima Standard, I decided to do this search: "machinima by women". You see, I've had little interest in the subject because I have not been exposed to the ways in which it is being used. Until today, I just knew of a few videos made in Second Life and of the action, shoot-em-up robot machinima that my cousin makes.

However, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this article:
Women Who Have Changed Machinima

After scanning the article, I looked up Michelle Petit-Mee's machinima piece, Snow Witch.
Here it is:

I really enjoyed it and for the first time saw the potential of taking machinima seriously. As I watched the video, I thought about the different design elements that the Machinima Standard article talked about: Camera, Animation, Environment, Output, Interface. I liked how the camera was used in this piece to blur out areas of the environment. In time, machinima creators will no doubt have more sophisticated control of facial expressions. Snow Witch is off to a good start! I'm excited to see what other women have been making. The search continues...

Dreaming, subconscious and creativity

Dreaming, magic and creation

I enjoyed reading Jesse Schells' comment on the relationship between sleeping, dreaming and letting your subconscious lead you through creative paths. That made me refer right away to the power of dreams for shamans. For shamans, dreaming is a path to learn new things, communicate with spirits, visit other dimensions and then transport some of these experiences to the present, teaching the "ordinary" people and creating things. For instance, there is a link between shamans' dreams and appearance of new varieties of seeds, as well as the appearance and naming of basketry graphic designs, for instance. Also, dreamland is somehow similar to gameland, since everything is magic and possible. And people want (and need) magic in their lives. Therefore, as storytellers and/or designers, one of our missions is to bring magic to the life of people. Is to bring dreaming to reality. Thus, can we be compared to shamans in our creation, magic and interaction experiences?

Below, a little crazy and very symbolic vido of the painter Salvador Dali and his wife Gala. Schell's refer to one of Dali's writings, in which he mentions the importance of getting into the subconscious through napping and "dreaming" to let your creativity free.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Meaning of Cybelife

I thought this machinima has something interesting to say about the assumption of reincarnating in games. It also has some funny experiments as the characters get desperate.

The Meaning of Cyberlife from Tobias Baumann on Vimeo.

Playing in the Streets

Here's a new interactive game installation on the streets of New York City. As an advertising campaign for ESPN's Monday Night Football, an advertising agency and production companies worked together to create this virtual reality game for passers-by.

Check it out HERE

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interactive Team Building Excercises

After reading amazon queen's posts, it got me thinking about team building and interactivity in general. I just wanted to make a short post about how interactivity doesn't have to be digital. We've mostly dealt with new technologies and software updates, but the most primitive form is just human interaction. I checked out some of the activities they have posted here such as bungee crisscross, don't kick the bucket and market domination. The main point of all of these is simply listening to the people around you.

Just some out of the box thinking!

And if Amazon queen's pixar animation is for the birds mine is just a one man band

Chapter 8: A Book of Lenses/ Language of Childhood

Chapter 8: A Book of Lenses

“To truly communicate, you must speak the language of their childhood.”

Schell reminds us to remember our childhoods and draw from those experiences to create games or other creative pursuits. We have to remember how we thought and felt and interacted at different ages in order to really reach those audiences.

In one of my classes last semester, we read some studies about using dance for healing. One study stood out in my mind in which a group of older women were brought together to dance. The facilitator used music from their youth. This particular music is what made the experience go from alright to spectacular because the songs reached them in very deep ways by unlocking the memories of their youth.

The Game Begins with an Idea: Your Silent Partner/ Subconsious

The Game Begins with an Idea: Your Silent Partner

Stephen King said, “It's right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There's stuff in the there that can change your life.”

Stephen King was talking about his subconscious mind.

Schell describes the subconscious as follows:
Can't talk

Well, last night I had a very unusual experience, largely resulting from my subconscious mind – the impulsive, playful, and irrational parts especially. You see, I brought my friend and a ton of bags, books, cameras to the computer lab at about 8:30 at night. We were planning to start recording some stuff. However, when we go there, I found that my swipe card did not work! Not wanting to turn around and drag all of the stuff back to the car, we decided to just make the most of it. We realized we had a camera and then noticed an orange chair in the hallway and then began to take in the sterile atmosphere of the building and before we knew it we were filming outside of the computer lab, pushing the orange chair down hallways. And well, just going with it! We got absorbed in a creative process which resulted in a lot of laughter and in the end, some pretty cool filmed clips that may very well find themselves put to use in a project.


A Book of Lenses Ch 6-7 Inspiration

A Book of Lenses Ch 6-7

The Game Begins with an Idea: Inspiration

Shell refers to a juggler he met who taught him about inspiration. The jugglers moves were unique and even those which were not, stood out nonetheless. The juggler said that the secret to his success was his inspiration. He did not copy the moves of others. He did not learn to juggle by watching others. Rather, he looked to everything but juggling for inspiration! A juggle move could represent a flock of birds. Or, a dancer on a Broadway stage. Maybe it could represent the moves of an old man in a park. In taking inspiration from such random places, the juggler stood out because he was filling his performance with soul.

When I lived in South Korea, I would go out to hear the local music. One night, a band played. Technically, they were superb. They had all the right notes. The look. The moves. But, though they had the technique, something was off. They didn't have the soul, the inspiration. It was as if the kids had been taking music lessons their entire lives, knew how to play the most technically difficult songs, and yet had not spent much time exploring music creatively on their own. So, a technically savvy band without that spark of something special resulted!

It's like when people talk AT someone rather than WITH them. There is really no dialogue. And so it goes with inspiration and performance. The performance requires that the inspiration be brought out and shared. And to do this there must be interaction with and receptivity to the audience and visa versa. And that's the magic!

Fiasco: Game Interface for Location-Based Play

Fiasco: Game Interface for Location-Based Play

I did now know that such location-based street games with web components existed. The idea of playing in two spaces, the real world and the virtual world, really intrigued me. The game, rather than entice people to sit on a couch all day in front of a computer/tv with a game controller in hand, required that people get out of the house to explore the city and “claim” territory by performing stunts to be filmed and uploaded to the site. How fantastic! So, not only are the players being encouraged to use their bodies, explore parts of the city they would have never explored on their own, and connect with real and virtual representations of other game players, they are also being given the opportunity to save their creative actions online for others to watch and in turn interact with.

I am curious as to how we can translate aspects of FIASCO's game design into our group project. How could we add an augmented reality component and incorporate maps in an interesting manner?

The Digital Street Corner

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Your Silent Partner - Subconscious

After reading the topic on "Your Silent Partner" in the book 'Art of Game Design", I like to narrate a personal experience.

In 1992 one evening I wanted to go and play Basketball with some of my friends. I was getting ready but my Subconscious kept saying not to go! Inspite of its warning I changed my clothes and wore my sports shoes ... My Subconscious started shouting "DO NOT GO" - but I did not listen. I said "I will only play for half-an-hour or so" and went to play.

Within a few minutes of play, I fell down and my right knee twisted and my right ACL - Anterior Cruciating Ligament, was broke! I couldn't walk and my knees swelt! This caused long suffering and even to this day I regret that I did not listen to the inner voice on that day!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Leadership, teams and adaptive management

Leadership, team building and game design

Last weekend while reading Jesse Schell's Art of Game Design I got attracted by the similarities of what he called perspectives, lenses and qualities that might be used by a game designer or by the interactive storyteller, to those of any leader. He says that the main skill of such a person is to know how to listen, or to be a good listener. I consider this the main quality of a leader. Turned inside out, it can also be the worst defect of a bad leader. The game designer or storyteller often works in a team, or with and for people. Therefore, a good team management is desirable for a good project. The leader(s) must be sensitive to undesirable conditions or siutations in a team, and must be brave enough to change the project or redirect action. I would call this "adaptive management" of teams. This is a concept used in natural resource management, but which I believe is suitable for any team work.

Related to team work and development, I found this interesting website created by Ken Thompson on BIOTEAMS. Basically, he proposes that we should adapt some characteristics of collective work existent in nature to human team development. He defends that we should work in collective leadership teams, in which everybody is leader. For example, among the pinguins there isn't a main leader (or boss), as well as with many insects and mammals. Everybody plays their roles, but for the sake of the group's project (work), not for their individual "self". Practicing these skills might be very hard in a society dominated by "command and control" philosophy and individual competition. He compares team work in business as a football team, in which everybody plays a role, for the benefit of the team.

Just some late night thoughts... Watch this funny video and think about leadership and team work.

What are some questions related to leadership and team work that might derive from this funny video?

Have a good night,


Interactive Digital Musical Instruments

Interactive music making

I found this interesting video on digital music making with objects. It's probably a similar technique of assigning specific sounds and images to specific objects, and make them interact producing music. I though we could do something similar in our project...


Amazon Queen

Scott Anthony

Found this and thought it might give us options on how to approach our project. There are a few Inventive Storytelling sites I'll forward later.

"Plug In To A New American Dream"

Sleep Dealer, the winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and virtually unknown to the general public, was released on DVD this past week. Set in a Mexico of the "near future," the film explores themes of surveillance, government control, and technology. I'm really interested in watching this film, and if anyone wants to get together for a viewing, let me know!

Check out the trailer--

2D/3D in Augmented Reality

I've been scouring the net for the coolest uses and examples of Augmented reality, and came across a couple I think are worth sharing.

The first is an example of using a live-3D model of a person on the 2D screen, which can be seen below.

Augmented Reality - Video Assets from Boffswana on Vimeo.

And here is one of the most realistic animated 3D overlays I have seen.

Augmented Reality: Releas3D Standalone Version. from Boffswana on Vimeo.

Both are works of Boffswana, an Australian-based supplier of creative technology solutions. Check out their site for even more:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Interactive Surgery

While looking up different methods of 3d modeling, I came across Berkeley's Computer Animation and modeling site. Their latest model is a interactive simulated surgery that uses an algorithm that replicates a surgery need penetrating and cutting tissue. Though most of the videos are slow, they are pretty interesting. It first shows an animation of of how the this technology can be used and the side by side comparison of real tissue and virtual mess.
Looking further into the site, most of their works involve physical and dynamical aspects of materials such as water, noise, and solids. But if you're more interested is virtual interactive surgery, I found a few more sites that can satisfy most indulges.

The first one, is a flash animated interactive doctors office where you get to partake in a number of different surgeries I tried the knee surgery, and though its animated, the surgical methods are pretty detailed. The doctor ask you multiple choice questions and you sort of do all the work. It's really quite informative.

The other site is the real deal. Here Doctors are training on virtual sinus surgery. No long is it necessary to just observe the your senior doctor to get practice, you can use this model and software that emulates a real person's nose. There also is a youtube video, not for the squeamish, that demonstrates the techniques used. These innovations are spreading across America like wildfire; ranging from flight simulator/ combat training to all levels of surgeries.

Thank you for reading!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Interactive Story Telling Project With Myths From Amazon

For the Interactive Story Telling Class we had to do a Project. There were 5 in the Project and one dropped out from the class. Four of us discussed several ideas and settled for a Project based on Myths like "The Myth of the American Dream" or "The Myths About the Origin of the World" in various Cultures etc. As one of the team members has worked in the Amazon and was actively working on some exibits related to Amazon we choose to do the project related to "Myths from the Amazon", "Myths from the Africa", "Myths from the India", and "Myths from the Australia" as a comparison of how the Myths varied on a specific topic (Origins of World) from different regions of the World. We wanted to tie this up some how to Google Earth.

As our discussions went by we decided to start with "Myths from the Amazon" as this will help us show our work in a near by Museum, where one of the Project team member was about to present her work with the Amazon tribes. One of the Class Mates, Ed, showed us some interesting things about Virtual Reality. This facinated us and hence we decided to tie our "Myths from the Amazon Interactive Story Telling" Project with Virtual Reality. So Google Earth was off the Project for now.

Amazon Queen a member of the team who worked in the Amazon gave the Myths for the Project.
Esme, well versed in literature, arts, ornament design, puppet making, effeciently created the story books for the Myth, markers for VR and "Story Board" for the Project.
Max who was good at creating beautiful pictures and Scenes created beautiful pictures using Photshop for the Project.
We started using BuildAR (A tool for Virtual Reality -VR) as our Classmate Ed used BuildAR to demonstrate VR. As we found BuildAR crashed often and did not have many aspects of what we wanted, I hunted the web for various alternative SW for VR and found FLARToolkit and FLARManager.So we decided to do the VR aspects of the Project with FLARManager that uses FLARToolkit and Adobe Flex.

As we could not afford to purchase SW, our motto was to use Open Source free SW as much as possible. Our course teacher, Arturo an expert in Movies and Games, suggested we use FlashBuild as an alternative to Adobe Flex.So after searching the web for solutions and how to, I was able to get the basic VR for our Project. With this Intro, in the next few Blogs I like to share how the various pieces came together.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Early Interactive Story

I heard about a book lately, written by Marc Saporta and published in 1962, which made me think of this class. It was purposely made available (both in French and English versions) in an unbound format consisting of 150 cards or pages. The author's intention was to offer a story which could change as the cards were shuffled or rearranged in any order. It was written so that the story would connect to the next page, whatever it was. It is called Composition No. 1.

For Your Eyes Only - Contacts & VR

The future is here... almost!

Imagine a future where you no longer need a screen to view things like television, your computer, or a mobile phone. Imagine a future where augmented reality moves off your handheld device (its just now appearing there!) and under eyelides. Say hello to the next generation of contact lenses with circuits and LEDs. Can these small devices deliver Terminator-style graphics, could we use them to overlay graphics on the 'real' world, will they be able to produce a 3D experience for your eyes only?

The September 2009 issue of IEEE Spectrum has an article about contact lens with the capability to act as private monitors. No longer science fiction, these little devices promise to revolutionzie many industries. Also, they may potentially destory other products such as monitors. The article is by a researcher from the University of Washington who, along with several of his students, is making this little gem from the future materialize in the hear and now.

Read the full article in pdf here.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

SketchUp, 3D Warehouse, Kerkythea


So, you want to get into 3D modelling and create photorealistic images of your models? Plus, you want to do it for free! Well, you've come to the right place, here are some programs that interact with one another to allow you do these things, and more.

First, you need a modeler, Google SketchUp is your program. Download it and use it for free. Or, you can visit the Academic Superstore and get a full version for cheap (or free if you're a teacher!). To learn SketchUp you can follow the tutorials on the website. This is a very flexible program that lets you do all sorts of 3D things that used to require expensive software and a very steep learning curve. Plus, as with all things Google, its constantly being updated and improved. Additionally, models you create on SketchUp can be exported to Google Earth (with some extra practice). Check out this model my wife and I made of Kingsley Plantation in 3D Warehouse. 3D Warehouse is a huge repository of models to use in your creations, you can find just about anything!

Now, you'll want to make those models come alive. So, you'll want to texture them and render them into photorealistic images. Kerkythea is a great program. You can download an exporter for SketchUp from the site and take your models straight from SketchUp into Kerkythea and render away! Plus, you can create animations of your models using the camera settings. Again, check out the tutorials and free manuals on the website to learn how to get the most out of this exciting software.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Art of Game Design - First lesson learned!

For quite some time I wanted to have dual boot OS in my computer and wanted to install Redhat Linux on my Windows XP PC. This was postponed for some reason or the other. After Pat's suggestion, I wanted to install Ubuntu Linux...So I downloaded the sw, created an image copy but something or the other kept coming up...

Last Friday I started reading the book "The Art of Game Design - A Book of lenses". The words, "Design games. Start now! Don't wait! Don't even finish this conversation! Just start designing! Go! Now!" from chapter 1 inspired and motivated me. So immediately I started installing Ubuntu Linux on an old i386 machine I had.
During the first run I choose the default partition options (2GB ext3 for root - / and 184MB for swap partition). The installation was struck at 24%. Then I restarted the installation and this time it was struck at 54%. The third time the installation completed and I was able to login, see all the files in XP and open the files as in XP! I was so thrilled and happy but the root / file system was almost full and the automatic critical updates could not be installed! I checked the various options and decided to reinstall with manual partition and allot more space. I was able to do that (8GB ext3 for root - / and 1GB for swap) and the installation went through fine. I was so happy, played with it for some time and left the old PC running in Ubuntu Linux with rich background and photos. I did the installation in my laptop also. The very first lesson from the book "The Art of Game Design" was very helpful!

Alas after 48hrs of the enriched background and Photo in the foreground, the old PC died! Did not start, I lost a PC for now! The 2nd lesson from page 2 of the book that I learned was "Will you fail? Yes you will. You will fail again, and again, and again. You will fail many, many more times than you will succeed. But these failures are your only path to success"! With the motivation from the 2nd lesson that I learned, I started installing some sw in my laptop in XP and they kept giving errors! So I re-installed XP and nothing worked!

It flashed to me to install Vista, so I installed Vista in my laptop and kept installing many sw through the morning of the end of the long weekend!
It was an amazing experience of failure and success!
I learnt very valuable inspirational lessons from the first two pages of the book!


Monday, September 7, 2009

The story of an introspective wanderer

Please review my blog for the week at


Science, Art and Industry as the Brain, Heart, and Muscle

Morton Heilig equated the role of science, art and industry in the social body to the role of the mind, heart, and muscle in the human body. I found this very insightful into showing how harmony exits only when there is balance between these three areas.

A mind with muscle and no heart can do a lot of harm. (Science and Industry without the Arts)
A mind with heart and no muscle won't get much done. (Science and Arts without Industry)
A heart with muscle will feel that something needs to be done, but may not know how to best go about doing what needs to be done. (Arts and Industry without Science)

Okay, did I confuse you? Ha.

Anyhoo, I just want to write a bit about the heart, the Arts.

On the first page of chapter 1 of Chris Crawford's book, Interactive Storytelling, there is a fantastic paragraph. It says:

“Storytelling isn't an idle leisure activity that humans developed to while away the hours. It evolved for serious purposes, as a necessary component in the development of human culture. Without storytelling, humans could never have communicated complex information. Storytelling isn't merely characteristic or even definitive of the human condition – it's absolutely necessary to the existence of human culture.”

After doing research on the Coast Salish for James' class, I know this to be absolutely true. The Coast Salish, who did not have a written language and did not even have a word for art, survived in the Pacific Northwest for thousands of years due to the VITAL information that was passed down each generation in the form of stories. The VITAL information included knowledge about the land, plants, and animals in addition to the wisdom gained over the generations from ancestors both in the real and spirit realms. Had the Salish not carried the information down in the form of stories and dances and rituals (which were but other forms of direct communication), the culture would not have survived.

Their technology consisted of canoes, baskets, blankets and so much more. Their science consisted of knowledge gained over the generations about the best ways to make these various technologies. All three areas – the arts, science, and industry insured their survival. And, all three areas overlapped, so that making a piece of “artwork” was just as much a part of the process of being involved in “industry” or “science”.

So, in today's world, it's imperative that the arts be taken off of the peripheral wall and plugged in properly to balance the equation. As Heilig said, the arts have a role to play. They are to “digest this knowledge (of science) into the deeper realms of feeling, generating emotions of beauty and love that will guide the crude energies of mankind to constructive actions” (Heilig 240). And, with the machine as a tool the artist of today will have a very powerful base from which to work. Crawford points out that that one machine, the computer, can become more than a tool, but in fact a medium, when it is used for interactive storytelling (Crawford 44). Because such storytelling will involve participants at a deeper level than if they were merely passive recipients of information, the messages conveyed will have a stronger effect on the individual. With such interaction, it will be easier for the audience to have the “aha moments” that will snap their “webworks” into new positions of understanding caused by insight (Crawford 44). If such interaction can be take place in mass, using interactive stories that enable individuals to have “aha moments” that can help move our world in a positive direction, what effect might that have on the larger social landscape?

The artist of today also has the ability to dig into the content of the past, bring it into the now, and re-contextualize and re-mix it to arrive at new meanings and help the collective mass of people grow in experience by recognizing our “shady past and [by] analyzing more completely and objectively his present problems” (Bush 141). Decades of information compiled with forethought in a coherent AND engaging manner, by an artist-researcher/ artist-scientist, could provide instant insight through the powerful effects of the image mixed with sound and other techniques to lead man's attention. Many more people will be capable of this role, adding to the diversity of voices, largely because of the internet, various digital technologies and online social networks.

I'd like to touch on the muscle and brain – Industry and Science – but that will have to wait for another post.

Toodles ~Shamar

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Audience Interaction

This site contains multiple post of audience interactivity dating back to 2002. It's a great way to see how we can see what appeals to large crowds of people or how we can make our interactive stories entertaining . It also has a wide range of techniques we can use such as shadow and large scale tracking.

Even War is a Simulation

Tim Lenoir's article "All but War is Simulation: The Military-Entertainment Complex" illuminates the close relationship between the US military and entertainment industries. The sinister links he exposes reminds us of the interconnectedness of our modern world. In the end, what emerges from this article is a world of shadowy military agents roaming the halls of academia and the entertainment industry hungrily seeking new technologies. Of course, without military funding many now standard entertainment products and techniques probably would not exist for lack of funding.

Lenoir begins his article by dismissing Baudrillard and states that "we are witnessing a drive toward the fusion of digital and physical reality: not the replacement of the real by the hyperreal" (p. 289). Hyperreality was used by Umberto Eco in his 1975 essay "Travels in Hyperreality" which examined the tendency of museums and theme parks to use illusions to represent reality. This tendency was a response to the demand by the public to see an 'authentic' representation of something that never actually existed. For instance, idealized representations of Native Americans (e.g., the Noble Savage living in harmony with nature) created more to appease audiences than represent an authentic past. Of course, the irony is that these entertainment-driven representations were eventually treated as truth. However, in fact they were actually absolute fakes.

Baudrillard expanded on these ideas in a number of his works dealing with Simulacra. A simulacra is defined as an copy of something that never existed. The representations of nations at Epcot Center are an excellent example, for they represent an idealized version of countries that do not articulate well or at all with the lands being portrayed. Baudrillard remains an elusive figure in today's world and his ideas on hyperreality, simulacra, and the arms race remain troubling and fascinating. Indeed, it would appear that it is Baudrillard's work which Lenoir draws upon in naming this article. Baudrillard's 1991 essay "The Gulf War Did Not Take Place" stated, among other things, that the Gulf War was not a real war because it was fought more in the Media than on the ground. This hyperreal (more real than real) form of warfare satisfied a cultural imaginary seeking an authentic portrayal of the war by sensationalizing the conflict.

Throughout the article, Lenoir builds the argument that this blending between real and digital worlds is progressing through a Military-Entertainment Complex. Unfortunately, by the end of the article, I'm left wondering if this intersection of private interest (the media-consuming public) and producing interest (either Hollywood as entertainment producer or Military as force behind technological growth) is truly creating something 'more real' than real. Is the Military-Entertainment Complex (and New Media for that matter) generating authentic representations of the 'real' or do we transform and exaggerate the world around us as we translate it into the digital? Plus, who gets to define what 'authentic' means anyway?

I think that a number of factors will place some of these questions at the center of debates in the 21st century. For instance, as we improve the integration of database-driven 3D content and immersive VR it will be possible to ask questions like "should we visit Paris now or Paris circa 1920?" Also, the coming age of strong AI's will further complicate many such questions as self-aware, non-organic persons will join in the debate of what constitutes the 'real' and the imaginary.

Thanks for reading,

Interactive Digital Storytelling Conference

The 2009 International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) will take place this December in Guimarães, Portugal. These conferences have taken place every year since 2001, and this year the program looks pretty cool. According to the video teaser below, topics for this year's conference include:

- Interactive Storytelling Theory
- Virtual Characters and Agents
- Environments and Graphical Effects
- Interactive Cinematography
- Design of Sound Interactivity
- Story Generation and Drama Management
- New Authoring Modes
- Tools for Virtual Storytelling
- Narrativity in Digital Games
- Mixed Realities and Mobiles
- and many more!

Ok, so most of us will not be making the trip to Portugal this December for the conference. However, I found the list of topics interesting in terms of our class projects.

On a related note, since Augmented and Mixed Reality is a primary topic for this years ICIDS, I thought I'd ask if anyone else is interested in attending this year's International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR). ISMAR 2009 will take place this October in Orlando and a large number of hand-held augmented reality applications and devices are scheduled to premiere. Anyone else interested in going?

Thanks for reading,


SixthSense is a fascinating project, developing interactive technology that will merge the gaps between the digital and real world. Sixthsense was created by the MIT medialab and is a gesture-driven computing platform reminscent of the technology of the futuristic film Minority Report. It uses a camera that not only records your surroundings in real-time, but can also project relevant information onto any surface. Say, for example, you're the supermarket or a clothing store: sixthsense is able to aid you in making the best purchase. It will pull up consumer ratings, competing prices and similar items. If you're reading the newspaper sixthsense can bring up video files related to the news you're reading. You would be able to display your work on any wall and organize files and conduct meetings in any location from a cafe to the airport. There are endless possibilities. Check out the videos and the articles. Enjoy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fun With Amphibians

I promised our esteemed instructor that I would post this so you all can play with it. The other things on this website at are fun too, but here is my favorite, the talkative Frog.
It brings a whole new meaning to interface. :o)