“Immersion” often comes up in my work. I’m often asked what about ‘flow’ (A concept developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi).

My  “notion of immersion is the sense of loss of time. The sense of being totally absorbed in an activity.

The concept differs greatly from descriptions of games as immersive because the graphics are “more life like” or more “real”.

The notion of “Flow” with it’s emphasis on peak competency bears a similar relationship to my concept of ecstatic immersion as hopping up and down does to flying. “Flow” is an attenuated experience that reflects the need to produce in contemporary capitalism: a need that reduces our lives to “an asset class” as Evgeny Morozov describes it.

Rather ectatic immersion lies as an internal, yet intersubjective state, and can occur watching a football match, singing in a choir, or playing Pacman. It has a richer relationship to experience, because it can occur, or not, in any space or time. It is the opposite of time as measured, as Heidegger discusses. If the essence of Being is time then immersion is the farthest state from the calipered experience of late capitalist time. Flow mistakes one for the other, and deploys ecstasos  against itself.

“We don’t have robots play the symphony. You could have a perfectly programmed robotic version of Beethoven’s Fifth and it will never be played more technically wonderfully than if you get it played robotically. But people want to go to the symphony. They want to go hear people interpret the music.”- Chris Hadfield

Why use aesthetics, and aesthetic experiences, liking performing music, playing games or dancing to examine what it means to be human? Or perhaps better, what it means to be ourselves? I use aesthetics because these experiences engage with our whole bodies, and they engage both emotional and mental processes(That is an ugly description of a profoundly beautiful phenomena). Moreover, we share these experiences, makers to participants to spectators, and this sharing presupposes a “Theory of Other Minds” which is the core problem that my current research is directed at.


fig 1. This is the image that Synapse captures from the Kinect (Model1414). Notice how it has automatically captured the wire frame skeleton.

The next phase of my work is creating a “wireless” tug o’ war. My theoretical basis for this is the “Alien hand” experiment(see SØrensen 2005). I want to see if the impression of tugging creates the sense that another person is there. I will test this via a digitally mediated interface, rather than a length of rope.

In this case,  I will use a Kinect to simulate a physical connection between to players. At least, that is my goal. this post will focus on the process of physically connecting the Kinect device, made by Microsoft, to my Apple laptop, running OSX Mavericks. By no means am I a computer engineer, so I am synthesizing advice from friends and referencing various web sources.

After doing a little research, I realised I would need an adapter that both provides power to it the Kinect as well as plugging it into my computer. That was purchase for about CAN$15 and delivered in 3 days. To get the Kinect to talk to my computer, I downloaded Synapse and it was easy to install, and free.

The next stage was to find a means to processing the data from the Kinect. I found this tutorial( http://synapsekinect.tumblr.com/post/6307745402/quartz-composer ). I just followed it and it worked quite well. What did I learn? How to get movement data transferred into my computer. How to start visually presenting that data.

There are still many hurdles: How to get data streams from two people to interact, how to represent that interaction, and how to provide appropriate feedback to the actors involved. But those a closer to n]being soluble problem than they were this morning.


SØrensen, J. B. (2005). The alien-hand experiment. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4(1), 73-90.

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-005-5854-4


fig 2. This Quartz composer sketch links the various “objects” that allow the data from the Kinect to be processed. Quartz Composer is free for people with Mac OSX and an apple account, and is part of the XCode development kit, for making apps for OSX.


fig 3. The viewer in Quartz Composer: It shows my image, and a spray of particles that follow my left hand. Not bad for an afternoon’s work, and never having used Xcode or any modern programming languages.

As part of my research on Research -Creation Methods I played Pippen Bar’s game The Artist is Present. This game bases itself on the 2010 performance of the same name by Marina Abramavic. She performed this over the course of several months at the MOMA in New York. In that performance, visitors would buy a ticket then stand in line, waiting for the opportunity to sit facing the artist, Abramavic , for as long as they wanted. Some visitors sat for a moment or two, others for several hours. Everyone would leave the museum at the end of the day, regardless of whether or not they had the opportunity to sit facing Abramavic. The work was very much about patience and presence. In this case, it means being very aware of your immediate surroundings. By rendering the supposed goal, sitting with the artist, possibility out of reach

Barr’s game simulates this performance- you enter the museum, purchase a ticket, stand in line, occasionally shuffling your avatar forward. Apparently, you get to sit with the Maria Abramavic toon, then leave. In my case, I seem to have made a mistake with the controls and was “escorted out by a guard”. Here are the notes I took, for this auto-ethnography, conducted as I played the game in my small apartment.

play the Artist is Present
start at10:59
I’m told to enter through the left, although the queu is empty.grrrr
granted access tho I failed to indicate yes to ticket purchase. player agency evaporating
barr artist present line 1After a minute, someone joins the line behind me. I wonder when the line will move. clicking the arrow key causes my avatar to jostle a bit but nought else. There are thirteen avatar/npc’s in front of me.

I realise that it would be easy to forget which avatar is mine. after 10 minutes, the line hasn’t apparently moved. I reflect the image in the background, I think representing a painting by Matisse. It occurs to me that i’m taking notes on an ipad. The experience would be very different as in Abramovic’s ideas, such devices wouldn’t be allowed.

i shuffle my avatar, but this does little- a half step back and forwards.
At eleven:fifteen, the line trundles foward. At this rate, I’ll be here about 3 hours.
I confirm, the image behind is a representation of Henri Matisse Dance(1) oil on canvas, 1909.
my office set up is centered around a standing desk I built, so I am actually standing as I usually do. The computer  screen is static, but the rumble (moved again 11:20) of the washer and dryer in the kitchenette next to me add to the feeling of domestic activity. This game, and Abramovic’s performance make me think of John Cage’s 4’26” . interpreted as a joke, it is also an invitation to listen closely to sounds. Perhaps people don’t realise the performance is indeterminate in length and location. In abramovic’s piece, you had to prepare yourself for the journey to the MOMA, the wait in line and the possibility that you would not actually sit in the chair and face Abramovic.

What an odd tension between presence and immersion. In this sense, I mean immersion as the sense of ecstatic temporality. the all- encompassing moment that draws your attention. Could a shopping line give that calm? But we are concerned with completing the shopping and leaving.
I notice my avatar is slightly more in the foreground of the chinese perspective of the game- perhaps this was intended to subtly allow me to differentiate my toon from the others.

The line hasn’t moved again, yet. I wonder what system determines when the line moves?
in Abramovic’s performance, the participant could sit facing Abramavic as longs as they wished, until the performance paused for the day. In one essay, the writer describes watching her  friend sit for three hours, until the performance closed for the day. She described feeling confusion, that this had happened, that her experience was not what she had intended.

i am fiddling with the too  when the line moves forward again(11:40). I risk a run to the toilet. I return without having lost my place. This game exemplifies grind. I take notes, stand, and sip water. I have a chest cold that I am fighting off with as my hydration as possible, it makes standing in line less pleasant. ten toons stand in front of me- I wonder if they are generated NPCs or avatars of other players. I doubt it. What is the likelyhood of a dozen other people playing this?

I cough and feel tension in my lower back and across my shoulders, as the cough throws me slightly forward. My avatar remains stalwart. He has a full head of hair, unlike me, but I imagine he is wearing grey-green corderoy slacks, a brown jacket and perhaps a dark grey turtleneck. Very professorial, very art critic, so I have discovered my vanity standing in (oooops missed that shuffle 11:54) this line, now with nine toons in front of me.

often my thoughts skip ahead to what I must do after this game. Compose some questions and email Pippen Barr, should I post this to my blog? Not forget to prepare my slides and notes for my class, tomorrow. I ask my son to get me a glass of water, so I don’t lose my place in line. I explained my work today to my wife and she said “quack quack! quack quack!” when I asked her if I was “an odd duck”. She did her graduate work in sociology, and thinks philosophers are odd. Well, she would know, then.

I roll my shoulders (walk avatar forwards 12:01) and hear my shoulders crack. On either side of me are speaker amplifiers and I periodicly lift one foot or the other onto the respective cabinets. This removes the tension from the small of my back and lets me stretch my legs and groin. The discomfort of standing in museums was always more bothersome, during my art history studies, than the heavy lifting and carrying that carpentry involved.

Five toons stand behind me and eight in front. It has been just over and hour since I began. The skill tested in this game is attention, not dexterity. Apparently, if I don’t shuffle forward with the line, I will lose my place and have to start over. Moreover, if closing time comes around I will have to leave the museum.  I look closely to see if the line moves at the 5 or ten minute mark, but it doesn’t move at 12:10. I want to know if it is timed for that, to know how long I was distracted a couple of times before I moved my toon. Oooops indicates that I didn’t see the line move, just became aware of the gap. I will try for a screen grab of the gap. But I am afraid of “stepping outta line” and losing my place(ooops 12:14).

I set up Grab, and wait. My thoughts go to how I will talk about this. How I might use images. My attention jumps from the screen, the tablet in my hands and how to discuss this. The last takes my attention to the future. My phone beeps a warning and my heart jumps. Barr describes the play through of his own game as very intense(ref). I wait to click on the screen. In some way, this is reminiscent of a sniping/shooting game. A tiny gap of opportunity- an “execution element”(ooops 12:24) where the player can do something different than expected.

Barr a gap in the line 1At the last ooops, I glance swiftly from screen to screen, but having no muscle memory of having done this, hesitated for a split-second before I clicked on the laptop track pad, then on the direction keys, shuffling again. No harm done and a brief surge of minor triumph.

I look back through my notes periodicly, to correct spelling or to pull technical terms that escape me from my literature research. My physical tension is greater. My sone hands me a glass of water but I suddenly lack the agility to smoothly take the glass from him. Ask him to adjust his grip so I can grasp the glass without dropping it. I am annoyed.

I think I will play again later, and deliberatley get kicked out of line.mHow long would that take? Would it affect my (Shuffle 12:35) play style? would it require less attention if I knew more precisely how much time I have? Think of Heidegger’s argument in Being and Time that as we more precisely measure time, we have less time (oooops 12:37) in the present- effectively we have less time as Being.

only four toons ahead, with six behind. Will more toons fall in after lunch? I notice one toon that I interpret as being female, but could be a dude in a mullet. The game offers different skin colours, dark brown, olive and pink. Hair colour doesn’t seem to follow conventional patterns of colour vis a vis complexion. Two dark skinned toons have blonde and chestnut brown hair, respectively. A mullet seems to be the sole formal nod to gender. Body types are uniform, with modest variety of colour and sleeve length(jacket to tank-top). My toon has olive complexion, as do I during spring, summer and fall.

(shuffle 12:48) There is no discernable pattern in the line shuffling forward. three toons in front, and none have joined the line recently so still six in back. Around me, the wife and son bustle about. The boy is about to depart for an afternoon of D&D with his friend. The missus is doing homework, checking work email. I risk stepping away to give my son a hug, but with one (oooops 12:54) eye on the screen. I sit down on an amp cabinet for a moment to rest. I count my lines written so far, in this account. I count 81 lines or about 900 words (can check this later)

Shufffle at 12:58

One toon a head. Is there another room, or is the artist just ahead? I’m not sure if I can stay for another two hours. My physical and mental stamina can do it, but I have to prepare a paper, and so forth. The missus is preparing to run some errands- I ask for a cup of tea. The distractions of the home are its comforts and the responsibilities, liking laundry & cleaning on Sundays. These would call differently, perhaps if I was standing in line at the MOMA. The missus says I should inlude her loud fart in my ethnography, since it drew my attention. We are definitely doing in group ethnography, here. But I am the group, because she isn’t playing. This poses an interesting problem- where to begin and end in game play (auto) ethnography?

Another toon wanders in and fills in the line at back

Stretch, crack joints in back, shoulders. My hand is somewhat fatigued  by holding a tablet for two hours. Stretch fingers, eyes flick back and forth from the computer screen where the game takes place, to the tablet screen, to doemestic activities that take place in my peripheral vision. Another logng-haired toon enters. The black top and grey mullet suggest an aging biker, or perhaps (Ooops 13:12) a member of an 80’s hard rock band.

Barr the tableau 2I have literally stuck my nose in the room. You can see it protruding from the left, along with a ‘tuft’ of my hair.

I decide to pretend that when the next toon sits down, that it is my avatar.

The Abramavic avatar sits unmoving, staring at the toon in front, across s table( later removed in the actual performance). The paricipating toon sits up right , but the abramavic toon seems to leam slightly into the gaze.

The missus leaves, kissing me and airily mentioning “have fun” and “paint dry”.

The laundry is silent, and I am alone in the apt. The faint humm of the laptop, the quiet rumble of the fridge and the faint rustle of my movements become more audible.
(ooops 13:27)

Barr transition 3The Abramavic toon has lowered her gaze and another toon has sat. I will try to focus on the transition, and capture it with a screen grab.

(13:37) Waiting for the screen grab, just watching was very pleasant. Suddenly, I feel very dissociated from the tableau. Will the screen change when My toon sits? or will it be indistinguishable from those that sit before it? Will I receive instructions to sit or rise?

I have to know, so I will continue. I set up for another screen grab. I wait and obseve and try to note impressions.

Cheating (Ooops 13:57) by not going through with my own toon- thus losing an emotional pay off? Would that diminish the value of the three hours I have committed so far? So much of this game is internal, as I an my avatar stand here. If cow-clicker reduces time to a measuring system for exchange, how does The Artist is Present address our emotional committment to time spent?

6 toons before me, one seated in the middle of his ‘seance’?(14:04)

I will see this to the end, part of the experience is leaving the scene.

(Shuffle 14:17)
Five toons ahead, one seated. I have been stretching, fidgeting but with my eyes on the screen.

I have become very aware of minor aches and (shuffle 14:21) stiffness in my body. I wonder how much I am distracted from myself. I’m more aware of my body than I feel I have been in a long time. These pains were here before today, but usually I’m reading, or distracted by video or game play. (Shuffle 14:25)

three toons, one sitting. I feel a sudden twinge of exultion, I will make to the end, barring something truly unforseen, but even then my response will be usefull.

The missus returns from the gym, asking me if the paint was still drying. I kiss her hellow and rather excitedly point to the few toons in front of me
(ooops 14:45)

two toons, one standing in line, one across the table from Abramovic toon

I imagined myself at this point, earlier as if I were in the real hall, glimpsing Abramavic past the person in front of me, and the two mulleted attendents. But I can’t imagine myself as clearly sitting down with her.

my bladder is suddenly full, but I don’t want to lose my place now. I have one more transition before my turn. I will go then. Why not let my wife watch my place for a minute? That wouldn’t be cheating, I would be a spoil sport, or my own experience. The wait is the game, attention is the skill. The game is better without note taking.

shuffle 14:54

I am next and my mind fluctuates from great attention to the game tableau to imagining the real thing- the hush, the murmur, the presence.

very focussed on game with eyes- mouth and brain wander,

i nervously wiggle the avatar, geBarr wait turn 4t a warning to wait my turn panic over ressetting the scgren bgrab

ethnography of online art work specilist

the warning message comes up- having watched you fool around far too long without taking your seat, the guard escorts you out.
Barr out of MOMA 5

“you’ve got to be joking”. is there no way to sit?


I realise that there are journals i should read as a matter of course. Here are some:

Conditions of Mediation seeks to bring together scholars from a very wide range of perspectives – such as media history, media archaeology, audience studies, political theory, metaphysics, software studies, science and technology studies, digital aesthetics, cultural geography and urban studies – to reflect explicitly on the phenomenological groundings of their work on media.

Eludamos is an international, multi-disciplined, biannual e-journal that publishes peer-reviewed articles that theoretically and/or empirically deal with digital games in their manifold appearances and their sociocultural-historical contexts.

The game philosophy initiative aims to broaden the scope of this effort by facilitating discussions dealing with philosophical issues raised by computer games.
Games and Culture (G&C), peer-reviewed and published quarterly, is an international journal that promotes innovative theoretical and empirical research about games and culture within interactive media.

Journal of Material Culture is concerned with the relationship between artefacts and social relations irrespective of time and place and aims to systematically explore the linkage between the construction of social identities and the production and use of culture.

Journal of Research Practice (JRP) is a quality-conscious peer-reviewed journal, published online by Athabasca University Press (AU Press), Canada, in the open-access mode.

Leonardo is the leading journal for readers interested in the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts.

Loading aims to support current and future interdisciplinary, multi-method and multimodal approaches to the study of digital games.

Networked Performance (N_P) is a research blog that focuses on emerging network-enabled practice.

PhaenEx provides an interdisciplinary forum for original research in theory or culture from existential or phenomenological perspectives, broadly construed.

Simulation & Gaming (S&G): An International Journal of Theory, Practice and Research has served as a leading international forum for the exploration and development of simulation/gaming methodologies used in education, training, consultation, and research.

Studia UBB Philosophia is a double-blind peer reviewed journal devoted to promote a high level of academic research on innovative subjects and emergent topics at the crossroads of philosophy, social sciences, art and various professional practices, striving to foster a strong collaboration among senior and junior researchers from Babes-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca and from abroad.


This essay talks about a space, or perhaps a path that is called research-creation. This imagined territory, this utopia, or this dead-end, according to some critics, plays with some concepts of how we can use “art objects” to make statements about the world. It that sense, research-creation maps onto the world. Despite some similarities between the four papers I reviewed, there are some marked differences, and these seem to stem from the difficulty in defining research creation.
In their paper “Research-Creation: Intervention, analysis and “Family resemblances”, Owen Chapman and Kim Sawchuk argue that research- creation provides a useful and important intervention against the hegemony of methods drawn from the sciences. Moreover, they argue for four major divisions within research creation:”Research for creation”, “research from creation”, “creative presentations of research” and “creation as research”. Briefly, they characterise the fundamental ethos of research-creation as “trying things out, as opposed to gathering data”. These concerns are echoed by Andrew Murphie (Murphie, Clone Your Techniques)but rather than presenting a schema for developing a territory for research-creation, he advocates that all research be considered as research creation. His argument for a “radical empiricism” looks to break down disciplinary imperatives that he implicitly ascribes to institutional politics, rather than some noumenal or eschatological goal. Murphie gives Pavlov’s experiments with dogs as examples of the power and limitation of more limited empirical methods. He points out that Pavlov was interested in making very limited claims about the behaviour of animals. Yet despite the cruelty of some of his experiments(conditioning a dog to salivate from a mild electric shock) Pavlov was concerned about the welfare of his subjects. Murphie questions whether the narrow empirical methods betrayed greater insights that could have been found in his relationship with the dogs. This brought to mind a brief article in NPR written by Alva Noë, who observed that objectivity is an axiomatic value of physical science research. Noë argues that values underlie the particular methods by which research is conducted. This doesn’t reduce science to an essentially subjective enterprise, but rather that values must be elevated in their importance to research. To the objection as to which values should underlie research, I will assert that valuing is an ontological state for human beings, and it is disingenuous to ignore them. The particular value in question may be subject to critique, and indeed Murphie, as well as Manning and Massumi in their “Immediations” book proposal address the polysemous  nature of research creation. At the same time, bracketing this very human phenomena yields certain knowledge, and our relationship to the world requires a great degree of ongoing judgement. Chapman and Sawchuk’s argument hinges on Ludvig Wittgenstein’s  concept of family resemblances, that allows us to deal with phenomena that are conceptually fluid or difficult to delimit. This fluidity of subject requires an equally fluid approach, one that Chapman and Sawchuk  argue must “deploy examples” and “make them perform”.
Research For Creation
This zone, in Sawchuck and Chapman’s paper, discusses how artists conduct research in order to realise an art work. I can offer the example of a friend who, in preparing a bid for the new National Holocaust Memorial, spent time looking at historical buildings from Montréal’s Jewish community, spoke with Rabbi’s and Holocaust survivors, and read accounts of the Shoah. In some respects, this could be a very subversive approach, because conceivably it could escape a final vision from the artist who creates with it. Rather it emphasises process rather than 
end product.
Research From Creation
In this zone, art objects provide raw data from which arguments can be drawn. Typically, this is the disciplinary province of art Historians and cultural anthropologists. the art was not created to necessarily make a particular argument. For example, the pastoral portraits of 18th century English country squires were commissioned primarily as statements of wealth and refinement for those who would have identified themselves as “Tories”. Other readings by, for example, Marxist scholars, seem valid, but weren’t intended in the original production, especially given as these works pre-dated Marx by more than a century.
Creative Presentations of Research
This is probably the least contentious zone at least in current theoretical terms. The academic poster is a mainstay of contemporary physical science practice, as a means of communication. it faces more resistance from the humanities because the written word is priveleged over other means. As one philosopher said to me”pictures lie”. However Murphie argues that writing is not merely a report that could transparently present findings, but is in itself significant in creating meaning. Thus the claim that “All research is research-creation” because the communication becomes intrinsic to the research. This brings us to the final zone that Sawchuck and Chapman present- the zone of creation as research. In Henk Borgdorff’s paper, “The Debate on Research in the Arts”, this category is not explicitly addressed in his schema (Borgdorff p.9) unlike the other three categories that have analogs in both his and Sawchuk & Chapman’s paper.
Creation as Research
The challenge of delineating this category is that the truly porous nature of research becomes very evident. Not the least of this is because the previous categories all seem to fall sway to “research as creation”. Especially when we consider the creative element a process, then it can become a metaphorical path that makes its way across the borders of the previous zones and, albeit with some resistance, across the borders of preterritorialisation that Murphie critiques. For example, a degree of standardisation is explicit when terms such as standard deviation are employed(Murphie 3). These practices implicitly would vary from one academic discipline to another.
Borgondorff’s argument resemble’s Murphie’s discussion by using the term practice in a similar way to performance. Like Sawchuk & Chapman, he recognises that the “very ability to elude strict classifications and demarcations”(Borgondorff 7) that is usually considered intrinsic to artistic practices causes research creation to resemble a family rather than an easily categorisable type.
Creation’s implicit definitions
Much of the previous discussion compared various methodologies of research creation with those of other forms of research. However, the term creation was not theorised, although linked to what may be called artistic practice. In the sense that all research, properly understood as such, involves producing new information and arguments, it seems to me that analysing the concept of creation itself, might shed light on how it’s methodologies be developed. It would also suggest how it complements other forms of research.
perhaps the most troubling element of a research -creation project would be replying to the critique that because the work has an envisioned end, it cannot be considered research, as it has already given itself its answer. However, over-determining research outcomes is a potential problem faced in all disciplines. Murphie’s argument that disciplines “preterritorrialize” is part of that. Another problem lies in the successful cases, such the physical sciences inductively describe a principle, but then isolate it to one variable. Thus the claim that masses exert an measurable attractive force on each other on each other can be independently verified, but is inadequate for describing all the forces and interactions between bodies. For human beings, this seems especially true when regarding ourselves and our interactions.Borgdorff addresses this problem, at least partially, by asserting that academic researchers do not necessarily rely on an external standard for research validity, but but “develop methods and techniques as they go”(ibid p.8), responding to what I would describe as the particular calling of a given research project. This sui generis characteristic of research, and of research creation in particular, is strongly alluded to when Murphie qoutes Brian Massumi as to “Worlding”which Murphie takes to mean to have “subject and object integrate” into the research process (Murphie p.2).
Borgdorff asks what we mean by research and offers the official definition offered by the Research Assessment Exercise of “Original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding”(Borgdorff 9). Borgdorff derives from this that research must be intended, original and enhance knowledge and understanding(ibid p.9). This is useful because it also allow us to make a stronger argument for the one presented by Murphie’s use of preterritorialisation as a critique. Disciplinary research methodologies over determine results. At its best this yields precise if narrow results. For example, work is still being done in physics to further refine the measurement of the speed of light. At it’s worst it can severely limit the questions that can be asked. In retrospect, I see this as a failure of methodology but it does bring us to the question which is not explicitly addressed: What do we mean by creation? Borgdorff denotes creation by the process and object and suggests method must be appropriate to these(Borgdorff p. 8). I think this begins to address the question of originality that is considered salient to research, and also the relationship between contexts that Borgdorff mentions as the third element of the art(ibid). Perhapswe can consider the text of a powerful essay for a physics journal as an aesthetics of clarity- the documentation should be pellucid and not detract from the very narrow point that a paper of this short strives to make. However the intrinsic aesthetics  of research-creation seek to emphasise the context in which the research and the phenomena/object occur. The debate is to whether any research reveals the world, or merely maps it, and whether the map was drawn before the world was even explored.

Borgdorff, Henk. “The debate on research in the arts”.Focus on Artistic Research and Development, no. 02 (2007), Bergen: Bergen National Academy of the Arts. Accessed 29 September 2013
Chapman, Owen and Kim Sawchuk. “Research-Creation: Intervention, analysis and ‘family resemblances’”. Canadian Journal of Communication Vol 37 (2012) 5-26
Murphie, Andrew Clone Your Technics: Research creation, radical empiricism and the constraints of models INFLeXions No. 1- How is Research-Creation? (May 2008) accessed 29 September 2013
Noë, Alva. “Why Science And Values Can’t Be Untangled”. http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/09/27/226808455/why-science-and-values-cant-be-untangled
accessed 29 September 2013
Sense Lab Immediations (Book series proposal)

Research/Creation attempts to use aesthetic means to uncover patterns and information. Perhaps our earliest examples are the dialogues that Plato wrote, over 2ooo years ago. To explain his philosophical ideas, he wrote what amount to plays, where characters would debate ideas together. The Symposium is an example, where Plato has his characters discuss the nature of love durng a drinking party. We can contrast this with attempt by modern sciences to remove such subjective elements from research and analysis. Indeed how to embrace the subjective without devolving into a solipsistic tautology constitutes a major methodological problem for research/creation.

This use of metaphor as lens sets apart research/creation from the sciences. In a sense, physical science attempts to escape metaphor, or the limitations of human expression to create a literal account of some phenomena.

Googling research/creation gets relatively few hits that are on topic. Instead, many make reference to “creationist research”, or the attempt to create a scientific rationale for religious belief in the origins of life. These attempts usually fail to address a basic characteristic of science, that of falsifiability. What this means is that a scientific theory, an explanation must have a possible condition or conditions where it would fail. So for example, if a fossil rabbit were dated as having lived during the age of the dinosaurs, over 65 million years ago, this would call into question our theories of evolution. Creationist theories fail because they can never imagine a piece of evidence that denies the existence of a creator(God, Allah, Yaweh and so on).

I had this idea as a reaction to the privileging of design as a kind of perfect idea. It seemed that even when art historians offered critiques of design, that there was an undertone of preciousness, and a silent acceptance of connoisseurship. Discussions of design suggested that some objects achieved an almost Platonic ideal. My own experience in this was writing about a large industrial/commercial building that had been frequently redesigned and re-purposed, often in pursuit of plans that were never completed. What interested me was how each subsequent iteration worked, even when aesthetic factors were derogated.
The idea that I came up with was “kludge theory”. In some ways this is analogous to Barthe’s “death of the author” which gives the source of meaning to the audience. Of course, there are differences, especially as a building is a different text than a book. Books are rarely re-written by audiences to suit themselves. Buildings, especially industrial/commercial buildings are frequently re-modeled. Additionally, buildings are often singular, being made for a specific site, whereas books are produced in numerous copies.


The Motordrome building c. 2008 photo: Adam van Sertima


The Motordrome garage 1929. Photo: Archives of the CCA.

A kludge is an improvisation that is inelegant– the term arose in engineering. Perhaps the most celebrated kludge was the carbon dioxide scrubber that NASA engineers designed from scraps and spare parts to help the crew of the crippled Apollo 13 moon mission return safely home. In that instance, due to damage to the space craft, carbon dioxide built up in the vessel, threatening the crew’s survival. Using only essentially junk (including that ubiquitous tool, duct tape) that could be found on the space craft, over the course of a few hours the engineers on earth assembled CO2 scrubbers that could maintained a breathable atmosphere. The astronauts then duplicated the devices on board their space capsule, and were able to return safely to Earth.


NASA engineers improvise a CO2 scrubber for Apollo 13. Photo: NASA

This improvisational tactic towards things and purposes has parallels with contempoaory design practices. For example, mobile apps are often released, then repeatedly updated. Objects such as furniture or tools often go through an iterative process to improve their function before and sometimes after, they are released to their audience.

I note here that the term ‘audience’ is a conflation of group of spectators, users, consumers and other definitions. Additionally, the assumption of design is that the audience is human. This will become more of an issue later when I begin to discuss some ideas from Ian Bogoste’s Alien Phenomenology: or what it’s Like to Be a Thing(UMP, 2011).

Bogoste’s arguments explore his idea of “unit operations” – the term is drawn from chemical engineering – where units can be something differentiated from another, hence one’s heart is a unit, but your body is also a unit, and your family or workplace yet another unit. I haven’t yet brought Peter Strawson’s arguments(Individuals 1959) to bear on Bogoste’s discussion, but they are treading on similar ontological ground, here.

What is particularly relevant to my research lies in Bogoste’s discussion of the ethics of spark plugs. He provocatively asks if there are ethical implications between the spark plug, the piston and the gasoline, beyond the human actions that assembled these things, and the pollution and energy their interaction unleashes(Bogoste 2011 p.75).
How does ethics of an interactive device play out? Do I owe ethical consideration not only to other players, but to the system of play devices? How should  consider this when I am explicitly exploring human interaction via what could be described as toy systems?

Bruno Latour explores this sociologically, for example when he says a man and a gun become something different when a human brandishes a gun.

So I presented my paper on “Individuals of Play” at CGSA 2013 at U. Victoria earlier this month. Briefly my argument was that play describes the possibility of doing something differently. This is an ontological claim and views cultural play(ludos and paidia) as a subset of the phenomena I am talking about. My ideas stemmed from the writings of Eugen Fink, a German philosopher and phenomenologist, Johan Huizinga and Hans-Georg Gadamer. The idea specifically of play as doing something differently comes from Prof. Bart Simon. The substance of the argument was that the possibility of doing something differently, in the face of a material universe, allows us to be individuals. In humans, play, the possibility of doing something differently, allows us the possibility of individuality. But this means that both art and games arise from this same ontological quality. Humans can do things differently.

Are Games Art?

The question as to whether games are a form of art seems to arouse great passions. I will avoid the sociological approach of ascribing a title to what ever a given group assigns it. perhaps the biggest difficulty is that creating a definition of art that encompasses everything from the cave paintings of Lescaux, to the abstract impressionism of Jackson Pollack and Barnett Newman to “Fontaine”(1917) by Marcel Duchamp. Where do Halo, WoW or other digital games fit into this? We can imagine a circle representing “Art” with a smaller circle that represents games overlapping it. How much of the one would overlap the other?

Art Games

A growing number of game designers frame their work as art. The work of the Kokoromi Collective, and other are examples. In this case, they specifically make games that subvert the conventions of both commercial games and mainstream art. Hacking games to cause them to address ideological concerns, such as Wafaa Bilal’s “Virtual Jihadi” are examples of how games are re-purposed. However, these are again primarily sociological arguments- the designers assert the “art-ness” of their works. They see games as entirely within a gretare art circle.

Art as Game

As I begin to think this through, my thought was that perhaps it is better to consider “Art” in all it’s variegated forms as a subset of games. I reverse the field. The vast circle of games, which exist as a subset of cultural play, in turn begets art as field within it. But while reversal of the perceived relationship of games to art is provocative it fails to allow for the “thickness” of art, play and games. Indeed, these metaphors of fields and circles may not be remotely adequate. Perhaps more dimensions are needed….


Games and the relational aesthetics of genre

Perhaps the breadth of the term art fails to represent the range of possibilities afforded by different genres. Thus we address the concerns of Clement Greenberg, that a genre must be judged in its respect to its medium (A painting best achieves painting-ness when it is supremely flat. Impasto is an aberration) but without having such a didactic approach to artistic media. Like Klein bottles nested within each other, they never fundamentally merge and never separate. Art becomes a word meaning the fluid movement from one genre into another with no clear delineation between one genre and another, yet contingent stops reveal differences along the loops.




“Play” has many different uses when we speak or write about something.
For example ” the supplementary motor area but also
the Ml-SI might play an active role”(H Shibasaki et al 1983) or “with respect to imaging and acupuncture with the aim of defining
both the current state of play”(GT Lewith et al 2005) or “work, love, and play are the primary symbols of normality”(GP Prigatano 1989) or “biochemical mediators, such as endorphins, endocannabinoids,
dopamine and nitric oxide, may play a role in the musical experience”(M Boso et al 2006) or “Complex psychologic factors play an important role in the variability of perceived pain”(HL Fields 1984).
In all these cases, play suggests the use of the word as in role play. When something “plays role” we generally think of it as causing a change of some sort. Thus certain chaemical in the brain change our behavior, as we may draw from the examples above. To have a role seems to imply to have agency.
You may object to this and say that these are just words, and arbitrarily used as metaphors for physical processes that are inferred from human behavior. However, those metaphors seem to represent an ongoing process of human experience. That is to say these metaphors are not in some way reflective of the world in which we exist seems rather perverse: If language has no indexical relationship to being, the how can we make even contingent claims about anything?
In response, i would at least tentatively argue that metaphors such as “role play” used in describing the chemical reactions with in brain chemistry have a descriptive value.
The leap i will make here, and which i hope to span with my future research, is that “play” is an ontological category based on similarities between uses of the word. the metaphors are meaningful because they provide a signal of a phenomenon that is physically present. The phenomenon is play is to do something differently, and underlies such qualia as creativity, cultural play( such as games) and art.