Visualizing Digital Seriality — Demo Videos

2017-08-15 01.23.20 pm

The short videos below (all under 1 minute in length) demonstrate the interactive components included in “Visualizing Digital Seriality, Or: All Your Mods Are Belong to Us!”—a digital humanities/critical code studies project utilizing visualization and other software tools to study exchanges of code and community-building in the Super Mario Bros. modding scene—published in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 22.1 (August 2017): http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/index.html

The videos, which use IBM Watson’s text-to-speech generator for voiceovers, were produced just in case any of the interactive functions ever stop working, but they also serve to show what you can do with my webtext (as Kairos refers to this type of multimodal scholarship).

1 – Mods & Interfaces

This page allows users to filter and sort the title screens of 240 Super Mario Bros. mods, all taken from ROMhacking.net’s database. Sorting and filtering can be done by year, by modder, and by mod name, as well as through a quick search via text input. Dropdown lists appear when the mouse hovers over “Year,” “Modder,” or “Title,” allowing the user to select parameters by checking the relevant boxes. Sorting can be done with the buttons below: “Sort by Date,” “Sort by Modder,” or “Sort by Mod Title.”

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/screens-page/index.html

2 – Basic Metadata

This page offers visualizations of basic metadata derived from ROMhacking.net’s collection of Super Mario Bros. mods. The interactive visualizations contain basic information on the number of mods released each year, the most active modders, and trends concerning the types of mods being produced. Additional information appears when the mouse hovers over the charts.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/basic-metadata.html

3 – Modder Networks (default view)

This interactive network graph visualizes the social networks among modders, as revealed in paratextual references in files distributed with mods (i.e. “shout-outs” in README.TXT and similar accompanying files). This is the default view. Each node represents an individual modder, while edges (lines) represent connections between modders. The user can change the visual style and layout via the dropdown menus on the left, as well as zoom in and out with the mouse wheel and rearrange nodes by holding and dragging them. Scrolling is achieved by holding and dragging the background.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/community.html

4 – Modder Networks (concentric view)

This interactive network graph visualizes the social networks among modders, as revealed in paratextual references in files distributed with mods (i.e. “shout-outs” in README.TXT and similar accompanying files). This is a concentrically arranged view. Each node represents an individual modder, while edges (lines) represent connections between modders. The user can change the visual style and layout via the dropdown menus on the left, as well as zoom in and out with the mouse wheel and rearrange nodes by holding and dragging them. Scrolling is achieved by holding and dragging the background.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/community.html

5 – Modder Networks (weighted)

This interactive network graph visualizes the social networks among modders, as revealed in paratextual references in files distributed with mods (i.e. “shout-outs” in README.TXT and similar accompanying files). Each node represents an individual modder, while edges (lines) represent connections between modders. In this view, node size corresponds to the number of references it has received (the more paratextual references, the larger the node). The user can change the visual style and layout via the dropdown menus on the left, as well as zoom in and out with the mouse wheel and rearrange nodes by holding and dragging them. Scrolling is achieved by holding and dragging the background.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/community.html

6 – Modding Communities

This interactive network graph visualizes connections between modders and various online modding communities, as revealed in paratextual references in files distributed with mods (i.e. references to various online communities and modding websites). In the default view, white nodes represent various mod files, while solid red nodes represent communities and websites referenced by them. The user can change the visual style and layout via the dropdown menus on the left, as well as zoom in and out with the mouse wheel and rearrange nodes by holding and dragging them. Scrolling is achieved by holding and dragging the background.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/community.html

7 – Extent of Modification

The visualization on this page offers information about the extent of modification that a given mod patch file instructs the computer to execute with respect to the original Super Mario Bros. ROM. The visualization provides basic numerical information about the amount of change contained in a mod or set of mods. It can be sorted and filtered by modder, mod, or by a range of particular byte addresses with the sliders and checkboxes on the right. The results, displayed on the left, can be sorted by title, year, or modder.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/extent.html

8 – Code “Diff”-Maps (Sorted by Date)

These visualizations offer the core means of conducting a “distant reading” of the code of all 240 Super Mario Bros. mods contained in the data set. Sorted here by date, these Gannt charts depict the location of byte-level modifications in the game ROM. The chart can be filtered by modder, mod title, and year via the checkboxes on the upper right, or by a range of particular byte addresses via the “Start” slider at the bottom right. The results, displayed on the left, can be sorted by date, modder, or title.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/diff-maps-by-date.html

9 – Code “Diff”-Maps (Sorted by Modder)

These visualizations offer the core means of conducting a “distant reading” of the code of all 240 Super Mario Bros. mods contained in the data set. Sorted here by modder, these Gannt charts depict the location of byte-level modifications in the game ROM. The chart can be filtered by modder, mod title, and year via the checkboxes on the upper right, or by a range of particular byte addresses via the “Start” slider at the bottom right. The results, displayed on the left, can be sorted by modder, date, or title.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/diff-maps-by-modder.html

10 – Diff Compare Mods (Patched ROMs)

This page enables low-level analysis of mod files, accessed here through a browser-based hex editor. To use the tool, the user selects two files (from the complete collection of patched ROMs, as well as the original unpatched ROM) from the dropdown menus below and clicks the button “Choose Files.” Afterwards, the hex code and ASCII representation of the patched ROM files will appear in the two boxes, with the differences between them highlighted. Scrolling is synchronized between the files displayed in the left and right boxes.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/hexdump-diff/hexdump-diff.html

11 – Diff Compare Patch Files (Unpatched .ips Files)

This page enables low-level analysis of mod files, accessed here through a browser-based hex editor. To use the tool, the user selects two files (from the complete collection of unpatched .ips format patch files) from the dropdown menus below and clicks the button “Choose Files.” Afterwards, the hex code and ASCII representation of the patch files will appear in the two boxes, with the differences between them highlighted. Scrolling is synchronized between the files displayed in the left and right boxes.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/hexdump-diff/ips-hexdump-diff.html

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The Video Essay: Writing with Video About Film and Media

2017-08-01 09.45.19 am

This fall, I am excited to teach a new course, “The Video Essay: Writing with Video About Film and Media,” as a part of Stanford’s Introductory Seminars program. Geared towards sophomores from any major, this small class will combine practical instruction in video editing, analysis and discussion of exemplary video essays, hands-on lab sessions, and group critique of student work.

The course draws essential inspiration from the NEH-funded “Scholarship in Sound & Image” workshop, organized by Christian Keathley and Jason Mittell at Middlebury College, which I participated in back in 2015.

More info about the course can be found on Stanford’s Introductory Seminars website.

#SCMS17 Workshop on “Deformative Criticism and Digital Experimentations in Film and Media Studies”

2017-03-20 07.27.54 pm

If you’re in Chicago for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference this week, come check out our workshop on “Deformative Criticism and Digital Experimentations in Film and Media Studies” on Friday, March 24 at 9am. More info here.

Deformative Criticism at #SCMS17

ScannableImages-smallgif

At the upcoming SCMS conference in Chicago, I will be participating in a workshop on “Deformative Criticism and Digital Experimentations in Film & Media Studies” (panel K3 on Friday, March 24, 2017 at 9:00am):

Deformative criticism has emerged as an innovative site of critical practice within media studies and digital humanities, revealing new insights into media texts by “breaking” them in controlled or chaotic ways. Deformative criticism includes a wide range of digital experiments that generate heretical and non-normative readings of media texts; because the results of these experiments are impossible to know in advance, they shift the boundaries of critical scholarship. Media scholars are particularly well situated to such experimentation, as many of our objects of study exist in digital forms that lend themselves to wide-ranging manipulation. Thus, deformative criticism offers a crucial venue for defining not only contemporary scholarly practice, but also media studies’ growing relationship to digital humanities.

Also participating in the workshop will be Jason Mittell (Middlebury College), Stephanie Boluk (UC Davis), Kevin L. Ferguson (Queens College, City University of New York), Mark Sample (Davidson College), and Virginia Kuhn (USC).

My own presentation/workshop contribution will focus on glitches and augmented reality as a deformative means of engaging with changing media-perceptual configurations, including the following case study:

Glitch, Augment, Scan

Scannable Images is a collaborative art/theory project by Karin + Shane Denson that interrogates post-cinema – its perceptual patterns, hyperinformatic simultaneities, and dispersals of attention – through an assemblage of static and animated images, databending and datamoshing techniques, and augmented reality (AR) video overlays. Viewed through the small screen of a smartphone or tablet – itself directed at a computer screen – only a small portion of the entire spectacle can be seen at once, thus reflecting and emulating the selective, scanning regard of post-cinematic images and confronting the viewer with the materiality of the post-cinematic media regime through the interplay of screens, pixels, people, and the physical and virtual spaces they occupy.

Video: Digital Seriality: Code & Community in the Super Mario Modding Scene

Above you’ll find the video of my talk, “Digital Seriality: Code & Community in the Super Mario Modding Scene,” which I delivered on September 27, 2016 as part of the Interactive Media & Games Seminar Series at Stanford University.

Here is the abstract for my talk:

Digital Seriality: Code & Community in the Super Mario Modding Scene

Shane Denson

Seriality is a common feature of game franchises, with their various sequels, spin-offs, and other forms of continuation; such serialization informs social processes of community-building among fans, while it also takes place at much lower levels in the repetition and variation that characterizes a series of game levels, for example, or in the modularized and recycled code of game engines. This presentation considers how tools and methods of digital humanities — including “distant reading” and visualization techniques — can shed light on serialization processes in digital games and gaming communities. The vibrant “modding” scene that has arisen around the classic Nintendo game Super Mario Bros. (1985) serves as a case study. Automated “reading” techniques allow us to survey a large collection of fan-based game modifications, while visualization software helps to bridge the gap between code and community, revealing otherwise invisible connections and patterns of seriality.

Speculative Data #WeirdDH #MLA16 #S107

storify-mla16

The “Weird DH” panel at MLA 2016 in Austin, chaired by Mark Sample, was great fun, and it generated quite a bit of discussion, both online and off. Luckily, Eileen Clancy preserved the twitter discussion in a Storify (https://storify.com/clancynewyork/weird-dh), so in case you couldn’t make it out last week, you can still catch up on some of the topics and reactions to the talks by Jeremy Justus, Micki Kaufman, Kim Knight, and myself.

(If I get around to it, I will also be posting the full text of my talk very soon.)

Videographic PechaKucha

Inspired by Jason Mittell’s latest blog post on “Videographic Deformations,” in which Jason discusses an exercise we did at last summer’s NEH digital humanities workshop on Scholarship in Sound & Image in the context of what Lisa Samuels and Jerome McGann call “deformative criticism,” I’ve finally gotten around to uploading a multiscreen compilation of “videographic PechaKuchas” that I made in Middlebury, based on the videos made by all the participants in the workshop. Be sure to check out Jason’s post for the essential context, and: Enjoy!

(For best image quality, check out the video on vimeo, where you can view it in 1080p HD.)