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robertogreco : degradation   21

Prolegomenon to Future Patina Studies — Design Science — Medium
"Over the course of the next year or so, I will be formally studying patina in all of its forms and in fact I have already been studying it for the better part of a year. I hope to speak of degradable materials, of the aging of products, devices, technological objects, of what might be called “transient technology”, “obsolescence” etc. I want to speak of sustainable design as well, cradle-to-cradle design, the life cycles of designs, as well as concepts of “upcycling” and so forth, where “Patina” takes on newer and deeper meanings, as a reflection or representation of the passage of time, with all of the concepts, in design and other disciplines, that come with such treatments.

In the end, I hope to come to a “general notion of Patina” that is applicable to all disciplines or domains that make use of the term and concept. I will be modelling patination processes formally, mathematically, and corrosion processes more generally. As a corollary to the physical process of patination/oxidation/corrosion, I also want to treat the concept of the appreciation in value over time of certain cultural artifacts, like antique furniture, for instance. In fact, I will be using antique furniture a great deal as a kind of toy model for treating of ideas related to patina in general.

The basic idea, and my approach, will be to generalize my research findings. They key will be the generalizability of my findings, and that’s what is going to “inform” or “inspire” the artworks that I will be making, usually as didactic reference materials FOR the research itself, as a sort of accompaniment. I will be taking certain points and “highlighting” them with digital images, sounds, and other artifacts. Hopefully, I can generalize patina to much more than a mere time-varying surface effect. For instance, it will be interesting to see how the concept of patina applies to digital artifacts, but of non-representational and non-visual natures, like digital audio. Or else we will look at user interfaces and see the differences in paradigms and styles and so forth over time. I will also be looking at cinema and video in general (and all media considered to be fundamentally “time-based”).

Lastly, let me just say this. In essence, the arts have always had everything to do with time. In fact, everything that humans do always necessarily takes place IN time and OVER time. If I paraphrase Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis, then everything humans do is just so many different ways of “structuring time”. Objects in the world exist — persist! — in time. What I think that I can add as an interdisciplinary artist and researcher is a slightly deeper understanding of what I might call “Qualities of Time”.

That is to say, we are all familiar with the “chronological” aspect of time, time as it is measured, whether it is in seconds, minutes, hours, days, and so on. That is the time that clocks tell, let’s call it “quantitative time”. “Qualitative time”, then, or “Qualities of Time” // “Time-Qualities”, are different. If we go back to the “birth” if you will of the Still life composition in painting, one finds the Vanitas, the Memento Mori, which have everything to do with the passage of time. In the Vanitas tradition, one finds elements, objects, that represent time and its passage: a human skull, or a candle, walnuts, etc. These were all utilized because they could stand in as metaphors for Time, its passage, timeboundedness itself. The term itself, Vanitas, is said to come from the book of Ecclesiastes, specifically from the phrase “vanity of vanities; all is vanity”.

Painting itself, and all writing along with it, is a form of telling time in the sense that it leaves a “mark”. The cultural artifact itself, whether it is a Sumerian clay tablet or a medieval painting, is essentially a “mark” left by the passage of time, and of humans living at that time. Culture, then, can leave a “mark” on the overall environment or “milieu” if you will. Elsewhere and at another time, I hope to develop my theory of culture, especially of the concept of “habitance” which has to do with the marks that peoples and their cultures leave on the milieux that they “inhabit”. I mention all of this as background information that will become more and more useful as I study Patina.

For this formal study of Patina is not a study of Patina for its own sake; I hope to prove that in the arts & culture industry, nothing is ever only for its own sake. There is always more to come. It is always a work-in-progress, ongoing, unfinished, open-ended. This study of Patina is only the beginning."
patina  beausage  time  degradation  habitance  2016 
june 2016 by robertogreco
moDernisT_v1 on Vimeo
""moDernisT" was created by salvaging the sounds and images lost to compression via the mp3 and mp4 codecs. the audio is comprised of lost mp3 compression material from the song "Tom's Diner", famously used as one of the main controls in the listening tests to develop the MP3 encoding algorithm.

Here we find the form of the song intact, but the details are just remnants of the original. the video was created by takahiro suzuki in response to the audio track and then run through a similar algorithm after being compressed to mp4. thus, both audio and video are the "ghosts" of their respective compression codecs. version one.

theGhostInTheMP3.com "

[via: http://isomorphism.es/post/137731242826/the-sounds-and-images-lost-to-compression-via-the ]
mp3  mp4  encoding  codecs  degradation  music  images  sound  audio  video 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Our Misplaced Nostalgia for Cassette Tapes - The New York Times
"EARLIER this month the Canadian singer Nelly Furtado, who has sold more than 20 million singles worldwide, released an album that almost no one could find, and even fewer could listen to. That’s because the recording, “Hadron Collider,” which she made with the musician Blood Orange, was presented in a format once thought long relegated to the trash heap of tech history: the cassette tape.

Many people over 30 remember cassettes, with nostalgia, if not some disdain. And yet, for a slice of music fandom, Ms. Furtado’s choice of medium makes perfect sense. Cassettes, somehow, are making a comeback.

Go to any indie show and inevitably, among the T-shirts and knickknacks, there will be tapes. Some record labels are now cassette-only. The National Audio Co., America’s largest manufacturer of audiocassettes, reported that 2014 was its best year yet.

But before the revisionists completely rewrite my adolescence, let’s be clear about something: As a format for recorded sound, the cassette tape is a terrible piece of technology. It’s a roll of tape in a box. It’s essentially an office supply.

The cassette is the embodiment of planned obsolescence. Each time you play one it degrades. Bad sound gets worse. Casings crack in winter, melt in summer. Inescapably, a cassette tape unspools: It’s only destiny. Fine, death comes to us all. But just because we can anthropomorphize a gadget doesn’t give it a soul.

It’s true that the cassette tape is portable, affordable, disposable. But so are floppy disks and folding street maps. And condoms made from lamb intestines. All were sufficient technologies at the time — I’m not sure about the condoms — but they’ve been improved upon for the public good.

I get the nostalgic appeal. In the late ’80s, early ’90s, several hundred hours of my life were lost to the rewind button. I made mix tapes for friends, for girlfriends. I scribbled liner notes, repaired ribbon twists with a pencil in the gears. One girlfriend used to daub a spot of perfume on the tapes she made me. I loved it.

The same girlfriend bestowed on me a liking for Seal, an artist whose career faded around the same time as the cassette’s decline. Now cassettes have returned to popularity; not Seal. I’d gladly see them swap fates.

The cassette also introduced us to a new, pernicious norm. When the Sony Walkman debuted in 1979, it made music a private experience. No longer did the family gather around the record player. Instead, we all could privately enjoy our own media, clutching our own little rectangles, tuned out from the world. Sound like a harbinger of a familiar, contemporary doom?

And the cassette’s portability didn’t translate into ease of use. I delivered pizza in high school, which meant I spent hours coasting on sausage fumes, my car’s floorboards littered with tapes. Pearl Jam, Cypress Hill, early bootlegs of Phish shows. But if inspiration struck and I wanted to hear a certain song, by the time I’d found the right tape, the proper side, rewound or fast-forwarded sufficiently — hopefully landing on the beginning of the song and not smack-dab in the chorus — I’d already parked in the driveway.

Then there was romance. A girl, a basement, a sudden lurching scramble at the worst possible moment to stop Def Leppard from pouring sugar all over a tender situation.

Old technology can stage a comeback when it’s no longer needed. When sentiment, not function, authorizes its appeal. Maybe the cassette tape’s Achilles’ heel — its horrible audio — explains the resurgence. As a method for expressing an artist’s sound, a tape is lousy. But as a way to express yourself, your handmade cover art, your careful track selection, it’s not bad.

And it helps that the technology that followed the cassette, the CD, wasn’t much better. Too unwieldy. Too expensive. They scratched easily, they skipped erratically. And CD burners weren’t affordable for the likes of us. The cassette tape’s most appealing feature — making mixes — was gone.

We wanted portability, we wanted good-sounding music, we wanted to score the soundtracks to our lives. Part of the iPod’s appeal was that it seemed so inevitable.

My wife still keeps a box of favorite cassettes and mixtapes. She fundamentally disagrees with my point of view. Cassette tapes are awesome, she said recently, personable in a way that digital players are cold.

When I suggested that, rather than the cassette tape, maybe we should bring back the MiniDisc player, she gave me a blank look.

“Wasn’t that just an early CD player?” she said.

“Sort of,” I said. “But it was ahead of its time. The sound quality was great. It was also really good for recording.” By then she’d tuned me out.

Admittedly, the MiniDisc was silly. Cumbersome, too expensive, never widely loved. But I loved it. Maybe it just needs some new affection to get going again. Maybe an artist, a real crooner, could write a hit song about its appeal. Seal, if you’re reading this, please get in touch."
rosecransbaldwin  2015  cassettetapes  cassettes  degradation  plannedobsolescence  mediastorage  nostalgia 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Mad Generation Loss - parker higgins dot net
"Mad Generation Loss is a project exploring media encoding and the ways in which imperfect copies can descend into a kind of digital madness. It takes an audio file—here, a recording of Allen Ginsberg reading an excerpt from his seminal poem “Howl”—and adds another layer of mp3 encoding to each second of the sound. That is to say, the first second is encoded directly from the original, the next second is re-encoded from that first lossy copy, and the third encoded again.

[ https://soundcloud.com/thisisparker/mad-generation-loss ]

That sort of re-encoding from lossy originals, known as transcoding, is supposed to be avoided. The generation loss builds on itself, and the quality degrades quickly. That effect is exaggerated here by its second-by-second compounding. By the end of the 3:18 recording, Ginsberg’s voice is nearly impossible to pick out among the background noise.

The last seconds of the recording have been transcoded nearly 200 times. All together, the recording represents nearly 20,000 individual mp3 encodes.

Ginsberg, glitchedThis project takes inspiration from earlier efforts to explore generation loss. “I Am Sitting In A Room” (1969) by Alvin Lucier was perhaps the earliest, and featured a 4-sentence narration recorded on taped, and re-recorded over and over to hear the tape loss. As the narration notes, that process “smooths out” the irregularities of speech, reflecting instead the rhythm and resonant frequencies of the room of the recording.

More recently, an artist named Canzona documented the process of downloading and re-uploading a video to YouTube 1000 times, and the effect of its compound video encoding. He described that project as a tribute to Alvin Lucier.

Unlike those projects, Mad Generation Loss shows the effect of transcoding and loss on a linear recording, not a repeated phrase. The degredation is apparent not from comparing identical inputs and diminished outputs, but from hearing the creep of the telltale white noise and the regular pulse of the mp3s getting stitched together.

The code to create the Mad Generation Loss audio is freely available under the GPLv3. It is written in Ruby and depends on free software like lame, mp3splt, and mp3wrap. Thanks are due to Eric Mill and Ben Gleitzman for technical assistance (though please do not attribute my sloppy code on them), and to Caroline Sinders and Ethan Chiel for their encouragement."
2015  degradation  sound  via:audreywatters  audio  allenginsberg  alvinlucier  canzona  videoencoding  encoding  compression  parkerhiggins  mp3  howl  art 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Digital Patina | Journal | The Personal Disquiet of Mark Boulton
"The opening scene in Jaws still gives me goose-bumps.

It’s a dark, moonlit night and a group of increasingly drunk teenagers are sat in the dunes playing guitar and listening to the crackle of a camp fire. You can almost smell the smoke and pheromones.

Chrissie, and her would-be admirer, take off for a swim. Where she is promptly attacked, and eaten, by the star of the film. That first scene is horrific. Mostly because it seems so real. The actress is crying, screaming and writhing in completely believable pain. That’s because – according to some – she was. The frame that was holding her was attached to the sea floor and then two ropes were taken up to the beach where teams of men pulled them back and forth. Apparently, she broke ribs in that scene.

It’s over an hour before we see the fish in Jaws. And that was accidental. Everything broke. ‘Bruce’ – the name of the fish – just broke down all the time. The film we see, when we watch Jaws, is not how it was intended. Instead, the music was the fish.

Jaws is coming up for thirty years old. Over that time, Jaws has aged well. What I find interesting is that the ‘Patina’ of the film didn’t rely on fancy technology. Accidently, it relied on being honest with the materials it used: sound, light and great acting.

We talk about Patina as sheen – a thing that changes appearance over time. That change can be damaging, or it can give an object more value. It does this by demonstrating what it’s been through. In the case of a pair of jeans, it’s the little rip, the pen mark, the small hole that’s been repaired in the pocket.

In chinese cooking, a wok is seasoned to make it non-stick. A well seasoned pan will go beyond simply making the pan non-stick. It will impart flavour to the food in what the Chinese call ‘wok hey’, or ‘breath of wok’. You see, to me, Patina is more than surface level sheen, or the aging of something. It’s the flavour. It’s an individual ‘taste’ that can only come from that thing. Not all woks are alike. This one is mine. And all that.

Working with this definition of flavour as a Patina – which is imparted over time – got me thinking about digital products. The problem with digital products – our websites, applications, phone applications etc – is they don’t age the same way as some physical things. They either don’t age at all: locked in a permanent state whilst the world changes around them. Or they age in the same way plastic does: slowly decaying into tiny chunks that float about for eternity. Always there. Never to be used. Of little significant value. You see, producing digital products is not a sustainable practice.

How can we impart a digital patina on the things we use. What is the flavour of an application? Iteration? Code? UX?

I believe digital patina can be achieved in products that are designed to last. Built honestly, using the true materials of the web and minimal on cliched skeuomorphic concepts. Being true to our materials will produce better, more sustainable stuff. Stuff that will age well. Stuff that will become more useful and more beautiful with age. How can we impart flavour to our work?

Let’s stop designing things that turn into little bits that float about. Always decaying.

That’s a sad story."
patina  digitalpatina  degradation  time  beausage  2012  digital 
october 2015 by robertogreco
ARTPULSE MAGAZINE » Features » DIALOGUES FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM: EMILIO CHAPELA
"Emilio Chapela, Digital Degradation, 2009"

"P.B. - We could conclude that your artistic practice is fuelled by the dichotomy “physicality-absence.” Your self-portrait Digital Degradation could be a perfect example of it.

E.C.P.- Yes, I agree. I didn’t think about that before. But it is definitely possible to establish the analogy you are a suggesting between my body of work and that specific piece. Digital Degradation is like a disappearing act. It’s a portrait that becomes a landscape, and it moves exactly in that direction: from the physical to the ethereal; from the concrete to the abstract; and from presence to absence."
emiliochapela  degradation  digital  2009  photography 
october 2015 by robertogreco
@reregrammer • Instagram photos and videos
"an iterative Instagram experiment by MN-based artist Patrick Koziol. One image of Alfred Russel Wallace regrammed from the previous."
instagram  degradation  compression  patrickkoziol  photography  digital  instagrams 
october 2015 by robertogreco
The Triumphant Rise of the Shitpic - The Awl
"Let’s call them Shitpics. Because they look like shit.

Shitpics happen when an image is put through some diabolical combination of uploading, screencapping, filtering, cropping, and reuploading. They are particularly popular on Instagram.

For instance, consider this post by the very famous celebrity Ludacris.

[image]

There’s a lot going on here. Let’s try and figure out how this image ended up in its current state.

The image was probably created by the joke account @blackgirlproblems_official, where it looked like this:

[image]

There are a few clues that this is probably the original. The text is centered and sharper, and the emoji is more than a smudge of dirty yellow gibberish. The picture of the monkey is clear (and cute!!!). All of the text in the watermark is legible.

Then this meme went through hell.

It was saved and cropped numerous times. There are a few signifiers of this: The text is cut off on the left side and there are slight black bars at the top and bottom of the frame. The greenish cloud around the text also indicates an absurd amount of (re)compression.

Maybe the most baffling part of this is the appearance of the rule-of-thirds grid, which likely came from Instagram’s upload screen. Which means that someone screencapped their upload process and then uploaded that? And the grid somehow doesn’t even reach the top and bottom edges.

The version of this image from @msrjstlf indicates that it was probably not run through a filter at any point, since the whitespace seems to have stayed mostly that. The lower left corner of the picture does show, however, just how many times it has been reconfigured: the “black” in “blackgirlproblems_official” has been absorbed by section of blanket that has been widening and darkening as the macro travels through the wringer.

[image]

Then Ludacris puts the cherry on top: a translucent gray regram banner crediting the account that he got it from (though not, of course, the original photographer or even macro author).

The Shitpic aesthetic has arisen from two separate though equally influential factors, both of which necessitate screencapping instead of direct downloading. The first is that Instagram, which has no built-in reposting function, doesn’t let users save images directly. This means that the quickest way to save an image on a phone is to screencap it, technically creating a new image.

The second, more important shift is the new macro format that divorces text from image. Classic memes (jfc “classic memes” what are we doing) had text directly on the image, written in Impact font in a particular style—white with a black border. That changed with the rise of the text setup/image punchline format on Tumblr, particularly on the blog What Should We Call Me, which spawned and continues to spawn imitators. Twitter began to imitate this when it changed tweet formatting to hide image URLs (pic.twitter.com) from tweets, easing the transition from text to image, from setup to punchline.

It’s difficult to send someone a technically exact copy of these types of jokes, because they can’t be bundled into a single file such an image. Sending the URL where the joke is hosted requires someone to load an entire webpage, which is relatively laborious on mobile, and so they necessitate being screencapped.

In general, directly saving images on mobile is a function that, even when available, most people don’t bother to use or even learn (saving files locally—in any kind of file system—is generally discouraged in smartphone operating systems). Screencapping is just easier—it’s the quickest way to get something from the internet to your camera roll. That’s why even classic-format memes have fallen victim to the Shitpic process.

[images]

When you pair the format’s inherent need to be screencapped in order to attain virality with Instagram’s prevention of downloading images, you get an endless cycle of screencapping and compression through uploading. Throw in the occasional filter, or watermark, or regram tag, and let the process carry itself out for a while, and eventually you get a Shitpic. The layers pile up, burying and distorting the original.

The rise of the Shitpic demonstrates just how little ownership there is on the internet: Shoddy workarounds and subpar image quality are a small sacrifice to make, so long as your version of a joke goes viral instead of someone else’s. That the image is a muddled cacophony of compression artifacts and blurry emoji matters little, so long as your screenname is above it.

[image]

Perhaps most importantly, the Shitpic aesthetic could very well be the first non-numeric indicator of viral dissemination. Metrics such as pageviews, impressions, Facebook referrals, YouTube view counts, and BuzzFeed viral lift all attempt to quantify virality in some way. To the layman (and, let’s be frank, some industry experts too) all of this is gibberish.

[images]

But if you look at a Shitpic, you can instantly tell the level of virality by how worn it looks, how legible its text is, how many watermarks adorn it. You can count them much like you would rings on a tree. A pristine-looking meme engenders skepticism—“This can’t be that funny, it hasn’t been imperfectly replicated enough.” But when you see that blurry text, partially cut off by the top of the frame, and a heavily compressed picture of Kermit below… that’s when you know:

This is gonna be a good-ass meme."
instagram  photography  internet  culture  degradation  compression  cropping  2014  brianfeldman  digital  shitpics  mobile  phones  screencapping  screenshots  distortion  virality 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Photocopy Degradation Over 20 Iterations - YouTube
"So I printed the first page of the Wikipedia entry for "Earth". Then I photocopied it 19 times to see the degradation of quality overall.

Slow blurriness of the font and picture shows how the light and techniques used to scan are not perfect and can slowly "mush" the ink outwards."
degradation  photocopies 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Generation loss - Wikipedia
"Generation loss refers to the loss of quality between subsequent copies or transcodes of data. Anything that reduces the quality of the representation when copying, and would cause further reduction in quality on making a copy of the copy, can be considered a form of generation loss. File size increases are a common result of generation loss, as the introduction of artifacts may actually increase the entropy of the data through each generation."
degradation  audio  video  photography  photocopies  analog  digital  compression 
october 2015 by robertogreco
The Joy of Gif : James Bridle
"I contributed an animated gif to the Photographer's Gallery Joy of GIF exhibition in London.

The image depicts the progressive degradation of an image caused by applying every single Instagram filter in turn. I happen to believe that the filter process in apps like Instagram and now increasingly pervasive across digital photography is a semi-conscious process of legitimisation in time, engraining disposable images of the moment with a patina of memory and experience, in order to save and justify them.

The source image is a photograph of an architectural visualisation, part of my Render Ghosts series, i.e., it is already an unreal and imaginary projection of a possible future, which is worn away by our attempt to memorialise it, before it has even fully formed."
degradation  digital  filters  instagram  2012  jamesbridle  photography 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Intimacy and Digital Patina | Mattie Brice
"From embodiment and kink to luxury and tea, I see myself reaching for something solid to hold onto. I feel disconnected from digital art and environments, and resist how much conversation is centered around theorizing the digital. There’s more to play than video games, and a lot can be learned if we stretch beyond this genre and find more relationships in other places concerned with play. Admittedly, there is some distaste, bitterness, for the digital experience within me that I have to grapple with. I feel completely repelled, like a fugue lifted and I see a land of nightmares, and want nothing to do with it. But that would be unfair, and also throw away a lot of work that I’ve done with games. So I wanted to investigate what made me feel so distant from video games that attracted me to the looser, more intimate-feeling play currently grabbing my attention. I want to believe that there is more playfulness that video games has yet to focus on, something that can deepen our bonds to play and life. The tension then lies within the apparent immateriality of digital games, which are still subject to principles of object design yet rarely attain certain qualities of objecthood that we expect from physical experiences.

Video games feel distinctly like products, made for consumption but not necessarily use. It’s easy to enter a malaise of ennui, your Steam library having many games you’ll never touch and mobile games only one slight iteration away from the other. Digital game design is focused on an attention economy, how to grab you, keep you engrossed for as long as possible, and have you spend as much while they’ve got you. Because design is so focused on this kind of consumerism, video games enable cycles of disposability, where you buy something with the knowledge that you’re going to replace it with the next version soon after. This is ultimately unsustainable as we see with companies trying to shove life into harried sequels and remakes. You won’t get too attached because there will always be something similar fighting for your attention, and it is rare that something will be uniquely special to you. Typical game design acts as wedge between player and experience, trying to tap into your short-term worth at the expense of your long-term investment. Video games rarely make you care. You might get to know video games, but video games don’t really get to know you. They keep themselves on the screen and often don’t conjure intimacy with the physical interfaces between you and the experience. It knows you can just load up another game in the same manner that you accessed this one. Because what is being sold is some abstract immersion, a sort of mental drug trip, there is little legacy it can leave behind, having a profound effect through your use. Passing down games will soon go extinct between planned obsolescence and constant hype cycles for the new. Instead, we are left with empty, pandering nostalgia, sucking desperately at a straw and only getting the watered down remnants of a high long ago crashed.

This circles me back to the question of intimacy in games. There is an accepted fault of contemporary video games that intimacy, both in feeling and as a topic, are not its strengths. I doubt that it’s a weakness of the form, rather an outcome of canonized design practices. I have my own hunches for play in general, but digital games in particular prove tricky to find intimacy outside of a now quiet trend of autobiographical games. Is there a design concept out there that can reliably point someone towards crafting more intimate digital games?

My search lead me to digital patina, a technique in user interface design that builds on an apparently divisive skeuomorphic trend popularized by Apple. In short, digital patina creates artificial wear and tear to your digital products as you use them, particularly the ones that are already designed to resemble their physical analogues. So if your contacts app looked like an old-school address book, then there would be signs of usage around the tabs and pages you used the most. Despite handwringing over going into too deep of ideological territory, J. Houge notes “without patina, there is no history. Without history, there is very little attachment to the thing.” This evokes our typical relationship with objects, that it’s harder to part with an heirloom passed down in your family than with something you got at H&M. But this form of digital patina is still a couple steps away from design that helps solidify meaningful relationships, since this is purely about visuals. He cites something closer to what I’m thinking from Mark Boulton, who ties the analogy of digital patina to wok hey:

“In Chinese cooking, a wok is seasoned to make it non-stick. A well seasoned pan will go beyond simply making the pan non-stick. It will impart flavour to the food in what the Chinese call ‘wok hey’, or ‘breath of wok’. You see, to me, Patina is more than surface level sheen, or the aging of something. It’s the flavour. It’s an individual ‘taste’ that can only come from that thing. Not all woks are alike. This one is mine.”

For him, patina would be a practice in making a digital product uniquely the user’s, turning a mass-produced object into uniquely yours through personal use. Meaning, the experience that the product, or in our case, a game, can offer is changed by its unique circumstances. It imbues its idiosyncrasies in everything it touches that differs from person to person.

It’s tempting to assume that games with user-generated content or general sandbox types fulfill this idea. But that’s the topical application, the game itself is still the same and produces the same kind of experience. Though there is a strong player-evangelist edge in contemporary design philosophies, it stays within the digital ephemera, that a player will feel agency but not actually have agency. Agency isn’t really a good word for this, rather an effect, that a player can affect the actual design and use of a game as a part of the construction of the experience. The point isn’t to be able to do whatever you want in a game, rather that a game shapes itself around your natural motions and in turn reads as something idiosyncratic of you.

While it isn’t at the level that I’m thinking of, I see this happen with games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, particularly with the consequences of actions in one game transferring over to the next. The choices are still topical and don’t really change the game itself, but the way players often talk about the games taps into what I’m speaking to. Look through fan discussion of these games and you’ll see people say “my Shepherd,” indicating that the boilerplate main character has been ‘seasoned’ with their playthrough to amount to a unique character. Speaking from personal experience, there is an investment on having particular kinds of playthroughs, like your ‘fresh’ run that is a result of playing the game without knowledge of any of the choices, and a ‘true’ run that is a meticulously curated save file that has all the choices you feel represents the most interesting story and what you’ll use to base your headcanon. The save files become a part of a legacy that you want to carry with you and retain, and many people grow attached to these personalized kinds of games. I don’t think this exemplifies my argument, rather shows what we can start from in contemporary design to push beyond what we have now.

Games that evolve over time intrinsically have the potential to evoke their own wok hey, because the tiny choices build up over time that build up into unique structures that are hard to replicate. I think about games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing that focus on longer cycles of engagement, where you have different ways to save the farm and interact with the village, and while these things don’t quantitatively differentiate too much, the experience that we build up with it makes an emotional impression on, and of, us. In essence, this is trying to make digital games more life-like, things that grow with us than expecting to be cast aside, filling up the trash heaps of our lives. Maybe it’s just me, but I ache for these sorts of games to be iterated on again, to further entrench themselves in our lives. A lot of my fantasy video game projects are inspired by experiences like Harvest Moon and would turn out to be an imprint of your experience. Like playing through a game shows an aspect of yourself that isn’t easily visible without its particular focus.

What patina looks like in game design could still use some discussion. I do have some investment in it though, there’s something romantic about design made for you to personally express yourself through mundanity. The reason why contemporary games don’t really do this well is because all instances of change must be grand and explicitly telegraphed. Life isn’t like that though, we are slow buildups of tiny effects and motions, and it isn’t until we take time to reflect that we see we’re something different from the past. This would be a game trying to translate how you exist, how you affect the world by just being, what it is like for you to just touch something or think a thought. I think we crave those sorts of things, to see reflections of ourselves, to see that we do make a mark and matter. So far, video games mostly tap into sedative design, numbing us to the world so we can feel important or centered in some way. But instead, I think there’s design that can make us feel more alive through the mundane acts in our lives, to find how we move through the world its own kind of magic."

[See also: http://www.projectevolution.com/activity/challenge-digital-patina/
http://www.markboulton.co.uk/journal/digital-patina ]
mattiebrice  games  gaming  videogames  gamedesign  consumerism  capitalism  disposability  consumption  intimacy  jhouge  markboulton  patina  harvestmoon  animalcrossing  engagement  time  beausage  slow  digital  digitalpatina  degradation 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Before Minecraft or Snapchat, there was MicroMUSE – Robin Sloan – Aeon
"As kids, we make secret worlds – in trees, in our imaginations, even online – but can we go back to them when we’re grown?"



"If you explore MicroMUSE today, you’ll get a preview of the fate that awaits all of our social systems. The streets are empty, but it’s more than that: there is a palpable sense of entropy. You can query the system for a list of commands, but many of them no longer work. It’s half glitchy video game, half haunted house. Sometimes it falls offline entirely, only to return days later.

The system still speaks. You are welcomed by the transporter attendant, who gives directions to all newcomers to this space city. It cautions you: Clear communication is very important in a text-based environment…

When I logged in again after many years away – connected directly, no Gopher required, using the Terminal program on my MacBook, sleek descendant of that old Mac Plus – the first thing I did was look for Nib’s Knoll. In truth, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I had long forgotten the path through the holodeck. There were ways to teleport but, to teleport, you need to know where you’re going, and MicroMUSE wouldn’t, or couldn’t, reveal the location of my old home.

It is very likely that it no longer exists, swept away in a database purge sometime during the past 15 years. I mean, really very likely. Ninety-five percent likely.

And yet, the ghostliness of present-day MicroMUSE – the inability of the system to deliver a definitive yea or nay – leaves space for a dim hope. I wander the empty streets, and I see familiar places: structures and descriptions I remember from the mid-1990s. I remember the things I built with Hacker VII, and the feeling that followed when they actually worked. I remember the scrum of users; there would be five or six of us gathered in a room, and it would seem like a crowd, a veritable riot of life.

Hacker VII’s real name was Joe VanDeventer, and today Joe is a web developer in Chicago. Nib Noals’s real name was Robin Sloan, and today I am a writer in San Francisco.

Both of these paths were prefigured almost perfectly on MicroMUSE. All we did there – all we could do – was program and write. Build and describe. Every additional feature called for more words: words to tell a user what he or she was doing, words to show everyone else. It was a whole world made of words. It was the web before the web; it was a novel that could stand up and speak.

I don’t mean to mythologise a crusty old system; its innocence and simplicity were handicaps as much as they were virtues. But even so, I’m grateful that MicroMUSE, of all places, was my training ground. Social systems have values – arguments baked into their design. For example, Twitter’s core argument seems to be: everything should be public, and messages should find the largest audience possible. Snapchat’s might be: communication should be private and ephemeral. The video game Counter-Strike’s is almost certainly: aim for the head. Back in 1994, MicroMUSE’s core argument was: language is all you need. If you can write, it can be real.

I left the holodeck, but I never abandoned that notion.

It is, frankly, miraculous that MicroMUSE still runs at all. It’s not hosted by MIT anymore; the system has migrated to a server called MuseNet. If you can get yourself to a command prompt, you can type ‘telnet micromuse.musenet.org 4201’ and walk the empty streets yourself."
robinsloan  2014  minecraft  muse  micromuse  play  childhood  worldbuilding  imagaination  computers  creativity  online  internet  degradation  disappearance  digitalartifacts 
march 2014 by robertogreco
The Web as a Preservation Medium | inkdroid
"So how to wrap up this strange, fragmented, incomplete tour through Web preservation? I feel like I should say something profound, but I was hoping these stories of the Web would do that for me. I can only say for myself that I want to give back to the Web the way it has given to me. With 25 years behind us the Web needs us more than ever to help care for the archival slivers it contains. I think libraries, museums and archives that realize that they are custodians of the Web, and align their mission with the grain of the Web, will be the ones that survive, and prosper. Brian Fitzpatrick, Jason Scott, Brewster Kahle, Mislav Marohnic, Philip Cromer, Jeremy Ruten and Aaron Swartz demonstrated their willingness to work with the Web as a medium in need of preservation, as well as a medium for doing the preservation. We need more of them. We need to provide spaces for them to do their work. They are the new faces of our profession."
archiving  web  digitalpreservation  digital  facebook  archiveteam  archives  twitter  internet  edsummers  2013  preservation  aaronswartz  timberners-lee  marshallmcluhan  kisagitelman  matthewkirschenbaum  davidbrunton  linkrot  www  adamliptak  supremecourt  scotus  lapsteddomains  brewsterkahle  urls  html  permalinks  paulbausch  jasonscott  mihaiparparita  zombiereader  googlereader  impermanence  markpilgrim  jonathangillette  rss  _why  information  markdown  mslavmarohnic  philipcromer  jeremyruten  github  williamgibson  degradation  data  cern  grailbird  google  davewiner  rufuspollock  distributed  decentralization  collaboration  brianfitzpatrick 
december 2013 by robertogreco

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