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robertogreco : proceduralliteracy   2

Winning Isn’t Everything — Matter — Medium
"I used to think that games would be the dominant medium of the 21st century. The reality? They’re too big, too complex, and too smart for that to be true."

"Despite all the aspirational chatter, a decade and a half into the 21st century a ludic century seems unlikely. Impossible, even. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back from grand proclamations about the past or the future of media, and instead treat it with the attention to detail systems thinking supposedly offers.

There’s a paradox at work in systems literacy. For games to embrace a role as windows onto complexity, as depictions of interconnected systems, they must also reject the very idea of dramatic, revolutionary, disruptive change that drives so much of our contemporary understanding about technology — or about anything whatsoever.

Real systems thinking assumes simple answers are always wrong. Yet when we talk about the future—even the future of games or of systems literacy—we tend to assume that they will unleash their transformative powers in a straightforward way, through ideas like a century with a dominant medium. We are meant to speak like Pollyannas about “changing the world,” rather than admitting that the very notion of changing the world is anathema to the fundamental promise of systems literacy, namely a rejection of simplicity and a distrust of singular answers.

After all, it’s not clear at all that the 20th century is best summarized as a century of the moving image, anyway. Too much happened to pin down a single influence or media form as dominant. Systems thinking would force us to admit that any singular innovation is caught up in a web of others. We could just as easily call the last century the “electric century,” because so many of its inventions and innovations were bound up in the rollout and use of electric power. Or perhaps the “recorded century,” because photography, phonography, and other methods of analog capture and preservation rose to prominence (eventually fusing into film) — not to mention digital information storage. Cinema itself relied on the rise of leisure and the desire for escape, facilitated by two decades of economic catastrophe and war during the Great Depression and World War II. Those features were only further amplified by the rise of suburbanism and automobile culture of the 1950s, where cinema coupled to youth, desire, and freedom.

As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan put it (in 1964, I might add), “a new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.” McLuhan thinks about media in relation to one another, as a media ecosystem subject to analysis through media ecology. There are just too many elements at work in a medium’s development and decay to single one of them out for special treatment.

When we think about a ludic century or an age of systems literacy, we do so by putting games at the center of the media ecosystem and pondering their influences on our senses and our communities. But such an idea is a fantasy. And there’s no better way of revealing that fantasy than asking instead what conditions would have to exist in order to produce the kind of age that Zimmerman, Spector, Gee, or I have imagined.

A ludic century wouldn’t just be one in which games, play, process, and systems thinking are enhanced, to use one of McLuhan’s terms. It would also be one in which the purportedly non-systemic, non-ludic formats that have reigned in the age of information — namely speech, writing, image, and the moving image — are made obsolete. For systems thinking to reign, linear and narrative thinking would have to wane.

But just the opposite has happened. We’ve never been more surrounded with text and pictures and moving images than we are in the digital era. Over half a century ago, the MIT computer scientist Alan J. Perlis imagined an age of “procedural literacy” brought about by new computational expertise — an early version of the dream of the ludic century. But instead, digital technology has accelerated the rate of production and consumption of “legacy” media formats like writing and photography.

Mostly we use computers to read, write, and look at things — not to build or experience models of complex worlds, real or imagined. It’s as if the horse still pulled the automobile rather than being displaced by it, or if the phone booth had enjoyed a sustained new fashion as a venue to make private calls, texts, or Snapchats from your smartphone."

"Games are ancient, and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. But their stock is not rising at the rate that their fans’ Twitter streams and Web forums might suggest. Instead of a ludic age, perhaps we have entered an era of shredded media. Some forms persist more than others, but more than any one medium, we are surrounded by the rough-edged bits and pieces of too many media to enumerate. Writing, images, aphorisms, formal abstraction, collage, travesty. Photography, cinema, books, music, dance, games, tacos, cats, car services. If anything, there has never been a weirder, more disorienting, and more lively time to be a creator and a fanatic of media in all their varieties. Why ruin the moment by being the one trying to get everyone to play a game while we’re letting the flowers blossom? A ludic century need not be a century of games. Instead, it can just be a century. With games in it."
ianbogost  2014  games  gaming  systemsthinking  disruption  culture  systemsliteracy  videogames  media  theory  marshallmcluhan  play  film  linear  linearity  photography  video  narrative  alanjperlis  proceduralliteracy  computation  computers  digital  consumption  writing  complexity  ericzimmerman  tomchatfield  warrenspector  austinwintory  jamespaulgee 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Ian Bogost - Procedural Literacy
"Learning to become computationally expressive is more important than ever. But I want to suggest that there is a utility for procedural literacy that extends far beyond the ability to program computers. Computer processing comprises only one register of procedurality. More generally, I want to suggest that procedural literacy entails the ability to reconfigure basic concepts and rules to understand and solve problems, not just on the computer, but in general."
education  technology  teaching  media  play  learning  computationalexpression  proceduralliteracy  computers  computing  tcsnmy  programming  coding  seymourpapert  logo  alankay  adelegoldberg  xeroxparc  ianbogost 
august 2011 by robertogreco

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