Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reblog: Haptic Feedback


Anne Mangen explores how haptic responses shape our understanding of text. She's interested in what we gain from physically touching a book.

Haptic perception is of vital importance to reading, and should be duly acknowledged. The reading process and experience of a digital text are greatly affected by the fact that we click and scroll, in contrast to tactilely richer experience when flipping through the pages of a print book. When reading digital texts, our haptic interaction with the text is experienced as taking place at an indeterminate distance from the actual text, whereas when reading print text we are physically and phenomenologically (and literally) in touch with the material substrate of the text itself.

The problem with this argument is that it makes assumptions about the virtues of haptic feedback, positing that some subconscious phenomenon occurs that shapes the reading experience when we physically touch a book. The physicality of the book does not bring us any "closer" to the materiality of the signified. We can't rely on the assumption that the ability to touch or feel our content enriches it without an argument for why it does, and many of the current arguments can be explained by bad interfaces or other outside factors. Superficial arguments, like that haptic feedback signals to the reader where she is in a book, ignore the fact that much of this information can be easily mimicked by other technologies: completion percentage or a scrollbar with a "page x of y" display are now familiar substitutes for assessing how far one is in a story. How many of us really physically feel where we are in a story beyond the first and last few pages anyway?

Mangen isn't just interested in ebooks; she writes of hypertext fiction:

In Narrative as Virtual Reality [Marie-Laure Ryan] concludes that 'the hypertext format could provide the type of immersivity of the detective novel, as do some computer games, if it were based on a determinate and fully motivated plot' […] I will argue, however, that when it comes to the (in)compatibility of digital technology with phenomenological immersion, plot is not the whole story. In my view, the incompatibility has at least as much, if not more, to do with the sensory-motor affordances of distinctly different materialities of technology than with plot.

(This explains why early stories like Esther and Ruth, which were designed for the sensory-motor affordances of the scroll, worked so poorly in the form of the codex book that they were soon forgotten. – MB)

I'm skeptical that haptic feedback is really at issue here. One can imagine a work in which tactile sensation is important ("words that yield" takes on a new meaning) but surely haptic feedback is not the only—or even most important—component. Do touch or—more broadly—mimetic sensations encourage more immersive experiences, or are other factors at play? How does agency contribute? It seems plausible that certain physical actions illicit Pavlovian conditioned emotional responses, but is there research to support such claims? Is touching an object, alone, enough to trigger such a response?

Sent with Reeder

Hanli Geyser

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

ReBlog: Patanoir


Patanoir, Simon Christiansen's brilliantly clever IF piece, introduced me to the concept of pataphor—and by extension pataphysics, a concept of "physics beyond metaphysics" or "the science of imaginary solutions." Patanoir opens with the definition of a pataphor:

Pataphor (noun):

  1. An extended metaphor that creates its own context.

  2. That which occurs when a lizard's tail has grown so long it breaks off and grows a new lizard.

- Pablo Lopez 

This definition, and understanding of the concepts behind it, allow for interesting play between language, concepts, and the imaginary. If John controls a chain of events, feeling constricted and even suffocated by it, Mary might stumble in upon John's actual dead body, tragically choked to death by the chain.

Patanoir explores this idea through the lens of the protagonist, you, a private detective who has come off your medication against your doctor's advice. Anytime the text uses a simile and something is like something else, you can interact with the metaphorical object because, well, you're crazy.

>x baron
Thin, as though his skin had been draped over his skeleton with nothing in between. Dark blue eyes, like deep lakes carved into his face. His hair is grey.
> dive into lake
You dive. The surface of the lake approaches quickly, until it fills your entire field of vision. Then the cool water surrounds you.


This structure leads to interesting puzzles and creative solutions. While at first it seemed to make the puzzles too easy—most can be solved by examining everything in a room, with similes being huge flailing pointers toward clues—the character implication for these strategies became more interesting than the puzzles themselves. Sure, you can enter the room, skim the text and scan for the keyword "like," but such a reading suggests that you're more a part of the protagonists delusions than the reader's detached and objective reality, interesting implications for reader-protagonist identification.

Sent with Reeder

Hanli Geyser

Friday, September 09, 2011

ReBlog: Techland apologises for “feminist whore” code found in Dead Island

Things like this are a problem because they demonstrate a deep seated misogynism on the part of the company responsible. While I wish I could laugh it off and say their issues are their own problem and the game should be judged only as a final product the bitter taste it leaves won't just go away.
The games industry has struggled with issues of representation for many years, and a disturbing attitude towards women still remains. I hate having to define myself by my gender, I feel like I am still fighting battles that should have been dismissed in the 70s. But every time I visit a 'gaming' site filled with half naked women and 'hot-t lesbians' I am reminded that in this small subset of society those battles still need to be fought.
Then, whenever I feel progress is being made, something like this surfaces and I am reminded that it is not the attitude only of a few trolls but something systemic throughout the genre.
Sometimes I wonder why I bother...

Techland apologises for “feminist whore” code found in Dead Island:

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Reblog: Fallout: The Board Game Lets you Play Monopoly After the Apocalypse [Fallout]

From Kotako,Games of games in games:

Fallout: The Board Game Lets you Play Monopoly After the Apocalypse [Fallout]:

Click here to read <em>Fallout: The Board Game</em> Lets you Play Monopoly After the Apocalypse
This custom version of Monopoly, crafted by PinkAxolotl, really has to be seen to be believed. It's not like it's just a regular board with a few Fallout references made here and there. It's as Fallout-themed as it could possibly hope for. More »

Friday, August 05, 2011

Reblog: IGF 2010 Finalist Trauma Out on August 8th

I can't wait...

Article by Tim W
A release date for the gesture-based adventure game Trauma has been announced: the triple-nominated 2010 IGF finalist will be available to purchase for 5 Euros starting this August 8th. Windows, Mac and Linux users can try the game online for free at, and you can also buy Trauma from Steam (both Windows and Mac) on launch day.

We'll let you know the minute it's playable online, since the hosting server is unlikely to last for even a couple of hours once news about the demo going live breaks out. Buying the game is an option as well, and getting it direct from the developer means that you'll have a version that is completely DRM-free. - The Weblog