Skin in the Game: Greymarket Gambling in the Virtual Economies of Counter-Strike — Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

boluk-lemieux-skin-in-the-game

Next Monday (January 14, 2018), we will be joined at the Digital Aesthetics Workshop by Stephanie Boluk & Patrick LeMieux. They are coming to us from UC-Davis, where Stephanie is Associate Professor of English and of Cinema and Digital Media, and where Patrick is Assistant Professor of Cinema and Digital Media. Boluk & LeMieux are scholars, critics, and artists who work largely around videogames and digital art. Their book Metagaming (Minnesota, 2017) wrenches open the ‘texts’ of videogames to consider them as tools, materials, platforms, and stages for all sorts of new social practices – it is easily one of the best works in game studies yet published. They have also co-created several critical games of their own that you can easily run on your laptop.

On Monday, they will be sharing in-progress material from their next book project, Money Games. Join us on Monday, January 14, 2018 (5-7pm in the Roble Arts Gym Lounge), and RSVP if you can! There will not be pre-circulated reading, though their games are recommended.

Here is the blurb for the event:

In 1987, a pyramid scheme called the “Plane Game” funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the pockets of “passengers,” landing at least six of the game’s “pilots” in jail. In 2018, more ubiquitous moneygames are played with smaller stakes across far wider fields. From the Valve Corporation’s Flatland to grey market gambling with Counter-Strike gun skins, this talk will move from from the Steam Workshop to the Steam Marketplace to series of third-party websites that explore the way in which money operates as a game mechanics and how game mechanics have come to operate as money. Although strict distinctions are made between gambling and gaming in both US law as well as 20th century philosophies of games and play, these terms’ etymological roots are tightly wound. In a post-2008 age of precarity, the wage has once again become a wager. In 2012, Alex Galloway proclaimed “we are all goldfarmers,” but gun skins and skin gambling represent an even more complex and complete financialization in that players have moved from one mode in which labour time is exchanged for a clear wage (even if it’s grinding in World of Warcraft) to one in which labour time itself becomes a wager. Ultimately skins are not simply texture files that wrap around the polygonal geometry of virtual weapons. Instead, they are objects of affinity and status, digital cash and casino chips, and a gun skins’ procedurally generated pattern, determined by a 9-digit floating point number selected upon unboxing, is more cryptocurrency than art asset. In this talk we follow the money, the skin, the flow, and the flight of new “plane games” as metagames become moneygames.
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Embodied Interactions & Material Screens: Camille Utterback at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

Utterback Poster

After a refreshing fall break, the Digital Aesthetics workshop will return with sessions on November 27th and December 4th . First up, we are thrilled to host Camille Utterback, Assistant Professor of Art Practice and Computer Science here at Stanford. We have always wanted to host an artist in the workshop, and could not be happier to build a conversation around Camille’s fascinating work and current questions. We look forward to seeing you there – please consider RSVPing so we can supply refreshments appropriately.

Embodied Interactions & Material Screens

w/ Camille Utterback

Tues, Nov 27, Roble Lounge, 5-7

rsvp to deacho at stanford.edu

After an overview of her interactive installation work, Camille will present on current works-in-progress which examine combinations of custom kiln-formed glass and digital animations. Her goal with her new work is to explore the possibilities of dimensional display surfaces that address the subtleties of our depth perception. What can be gained from more hybrid analog/digital and less “transparent” digital surfaces? What is at stake when our display surfaces maintain the illusion of a frictionless control vs an more complex and interdependent materiality? Camille is interested in developing a dialog around this new work, and welcomes a variety of critical input as she attempts to with situate her artworks in a theoretical framework. She has recently been reading Sensorium (ed. Caroline A. Jones), and  Meredith Hoy’s From Point to Pixel.

Camille Utterback is a pioneer in the field of digital and interactive art. Her work ranges from interactive gallery installations, to intimate reactive sculptures, to architectural scale site-specific works. Utterback’s extensive exhibit history includes more than fifty shows on four continents. Her awards include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2009), Transmediale International Media Art Festival Award (2005), Rockefeller Foundation New Media Fellowship (2002), Whitney Museum commission for their ArtPort website (2002), and a US Patent (2001). Recent commission include works for The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, California (2016), The Liberty Mutual Group, Boston, Massachusetts (2013), The FOR-SITE Foundation, San Francisco, California (2012), and the City of Sacramento, California (2011). Camille’s “Text Rain” piece, created with Romy Achituv in 1999, was the first digital interactive installation acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Camille holds a BA in Art from Williams College a Masters degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Art & Art History Department, and by courtesy in Computer Science, at Stanford University. Her work is represented by Haines Gallery in San Francisco.

Matthew Wilson Smith: The Nostalgia of VR

Smith poster DAW 2018

On Tuesday, May 15th, we’ll have our fourth and final Digital Aesthetics Workshop of the Spring quarter, “The Nostalgia of Virtual Reality” with Matthew Wilson Smith, at 4 PM in the Stanford Humanities Center Board Room. In this workshop, we will discuss the degree to which emergent technologies of virtual reality are indebted to longstanding concepts of presence and disembodied consciousness.

Matthew Wilson Smith is an Associate Professor of German Studies and Theatre and Performance Studies at Stanford University. His  interests include modern theatre; modernism and media; and relations between technology, science, and the arts. His book The Nervous Stage: 19th-century Neuroscience and the Birth of Modern Theatre explores historical intersections between the performing arts and the neurological sciences and traces the construction of a “neural subject” over the course of the nineteenth century. It was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. His previous book, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (Routledge, 2007), presents a history and theory of modern artistic synthesis, placing such diverse figures as Wagner, Moholy-Nagy, Brecht, Riefenstahl, Disney, Warhol, and contemporary cyber-artists within a genealogy of totalizing performance.

Ends of Cinema: Center for 21st Century Studies 2018 Conference at UW Milwaukee

C21-Ends-of-Cinema-poster

I am excited to be participating in the Ends of Cinema conference at the Center for 21st Century Studies, taking place May 3-5, 2018 at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. There are some great keynote speakers, including my colleague Jean Ma and lots of other wonderful people. The C21, under the expert leadership of Richard Grusin (who is now back at the helm after a short hiatus), has put on some of my personal favorite conferences, and I expect this one to be no less exciting and thought-provoking.

My own contribution will be a paper titled “Post-Cinematic Realism” — work in progress for my current book project Discorrelated Images. Here is the abstract:

Post-Cinematic Realism

Shane Denson, Stanford University

In its classical formulation, cinematic realism is based in the photographic ontology of film, i.e. in the photograph’s indexical relation to the world, which grants to film its unique purchase on reality; upon this relation also hinged, for many realist filmmakers, the political promise of realism. Digital media, meanwhile, are widely credited with disrupting indexicality and instituting an alternative ontology of the image. David Rodowick, for example, argues that the interjection of digital code disrupts film’s “automatisms” and eradicates the index in favor of the symbolic. But while such arguments are in many respects compelling, I contend that the disruption of photographic indexicality might also be seen to open up spaces in which to explore new automatisms that communicate reality and/or realism with and through post-indexical technologies.

Whereas André Bazin privileged techniques like the long take and deep focus for their power to approximate our natural perception of time and space, theorists like Maurizio Lazzarato and Mark Hansen emphasize post-cinematic media’s ability to approximate the sub-perceptual processing of duration executed by our pre-personal bodies. The perceptual discorrelation of computational images gives way, in other words, to a more precise calibration of machinic and embodied temporalities; simultaneously, the perceptual richness of Bazin’s images becomes less important, while “poor images” (in Hito Steyerl’s term) communicate more directly the material and political realities of a post-cinematic environment. As I will demonstrate with reference to a variety of moving-image texts employing glitches, drones, and other computational objects, post-cinematic media might in fact be credited with a newly intensified political relevance through their institution of a new, post-cinematic realism.

Twenty-First Century Mediations of Subjectivity, ACLA 2018 #ACLA2018

acla-seminar

At this year’s conference of the American Comparative Literature Association, taking place March 29 – April 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, I will be participating in a great seminar/panel stream on “Twenty-First Century Mediations of Subjectivity,” organized by Jim Hodge of Northwestern University.

I’m looking forward to all of the talks, on such a rich set of topics. Here is the abstract for my talk:

Post-Cinema and the Phenomenology of External Time-Consciousness

Shane Denson

Something about the temporality of media has changed, and with it the relation of media to the temporality of subjective experience. In Technics and Time, Bernard Stiegler famously argued for just such a change, which he located in the advent of “tertiary memories” – externalized, reproducible experiences stored by industrial media objects. Using the term “cinema” to designate not only a specific apparatus but also the broad media regime or epoch instituted by recording technologies from photography and phonography to television and digital technologies, Stiegler identifies a threat to our subjective experience – exacerbated with the advent of live media in “the televisual epoch of cinema” – whereby media colonize consciousness by pre-formatting our immediate awareness (primary retention) with the images of tertiary retention. One thing Stiegler’s argument fails to account for, however, is the emergence of a protentional dimension that distinguishes computational media as decidedly “post-cinematic.” No longer simply memorial or mnemotechnical, post-cinema’s protentional images are generated on the fly according to compression algorithms rather than photochemical processes, thus disrupting the stability of tertiary memory while producing an external homologue to internal time-consciousness. This paper seeks to trace the impact of post-cinematic temporality on the production of subjective experience.

Horror and New Media, and the Horror of New Media #SCMS18 #SCMS2018

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 12.17.49 PM

Looking forward to speaking on this panel, alongside Cecilia Sayad, Adam Hart, and Kevin Chabot at the 2018 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Toronto. Panel L13, Friday, March 16, 2018 (3:15pm – 5:00pm).

Thesis of my paper: “Post-cinematic horror is a side-channel attack on our affective processing of time itself.”