Archive | October, 2014

Learn Tech and Reflect about Modding_Part 2_Reflection

This is the second portion of my Learn Tech and Reflect assignment, with the first part as my annotations on tutorial/support sites for modding.

And away we go!

As only academics can with reflections. Image hosted on Tumblr.

As only academics can with reflections. Image hosted on Tumblr.

So this weekend was my first time really opening up the Dragon Age Origins toolset and mucking (it’s really the only way to describe it) about with the software. I had some trouble installing the toolset since Windows 8 is not completely compatible with Microsoft SQL 2005. The official wiki for the toolset was quite useful for this issue since it is a common one for users, and there were plenty of instructions for different errors that might have occurred when trying to download the SQL. But what did I learn after sifting through tutorials, video demonstrations, forums, and wikis on modding once I got the installation settled?

Actually, quite a bit. I found out that mods can range anywhere from new costumes to head morphs to magical items to new spells to rebuilding an area that has been devastated in-game to creating an isolated scene to creating fully functioning quests.  I also learned just how collaborative a community can be fostered on different sites that are devoted to modding, with plenty of creators willingly sharing knowledge they have gained and modders of all levels sharing their work to receive constructive feedback as well as giving others access to mods. As a new modder, I didn’t feel uncomfortable exploring the forums, clicking on threads geared towards those who have little to no experience with the software and its limitations. I was bracing for some presence of trolling from users who felt that modding was their territory and not for those who were considered “noobs,” but this wasn’t the case in any of the forums’ threads that I explored, which was rather refreshing.  I have also learned about different technical jargon that will come in handy when I am starting to make my first forays into modding, such as scripting, morphs, reskinning, override files, different types of files (UTI, for example, which is Uniform Type Identifier), and console command. The Nexus Mod forums were a great resource for this because users are actually dealing with these issues in their own work, rather than dealing with the terms on a theoretical level. As someone who is taking first steps in the world of modding, seeing these problems being hashed out is both overwhelming because there are so many issues that can arise and encouraging because each of these problems seem possible to overcome in time.

Reading tutorials by themselves does not generally do anything for me as I am more of a hands-on learner, so I spent much of my time switching back and forth between the toolset and whichever tutorial I had been reading. The official wiki for the toolset was the most useful to start with because so much of it is directed towards those who are new and would be the ones in greatest need of a tutorial, though the linked tutorials increased in difficulty further along in each page so that experienced modders would still be able to come and find the information relevant to their projects. The Getting Started section, which was different from the Tutorials section, was where I spent most of my time as it explained how to install the software and then also how to check to make sure that everything is in working order in terms of connecting to the Bioware Dragon Age database and making sure that the Palette section of the toolset actually had assets stored. This will also be the place where I will go as I start to learn how to create what is known as a modulewhich is “A module is a playable set of resources, which can be”: 1) “A campaign that players can embark on,” 2) ” An extension to a campaign,” or 3) “An extension to all campaigns” (Dragon Age Origins toolset). For my own project, I think that a new campaign will be my goal if I can learn to navigate and manipulate the toolset, and this wiki will provide me the technical terms for what I want to create and what tools I need to create it.

Where do I go from here?

As I continue forward with my project, I am definitely going to have to sift through more tutorials, looking for ones in particular that are geared for beginners but are also designed for campaign creation rather than just smaller mods like head morphs or armor creation. I also need to look into more video tutorials (though ones that go more in-depth than the video demonstration I have listed below) are going to be helpful since I am a visual learner, but it will be interesting trying to find tutorials that are specific to this toolset as there are supposedly two others modding software. The official wiki is going to be one of my best resources because it covers many topics (such as “variables,” though they recognize that the information they provide will not always be needed: “the vast majority of the variables in this table are only referred to by core scripts; most modders will likely not need to worry about these”) that have charts and images to help users figure out what they need to do and what elements they are looking for, and has troubleshooting articles. As I do further work, I may need to look into installing a Lightmapper software, which is used with modifying levels, and then looking for tutorials specific to using that supplemental software. Gaining a working knowledge of how a toolset works will let me start to apply narrative theory as I work towards creating a small campaign/quest.

Resources I Annotated

BigDownload. “Dragon Age Origins Toolset Demonstration Part 1.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Sept. 2008. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

“Dragon Age.” Nexus Mods. Nexus Mods, 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.

Dragon Age Origins Toolset Wiki. Bioware Social Network, 08 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. 

“Forum: Dragon Age Origins Toolset.” Bioware Forums. Bioware, 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

What do we say to the God of Death? Image hosted on the site GifSec.

What do we say to the God of Death? Image hosted on the site GifSec.

This should be enough. Image hosted on the site Rebloggy.

This should be enough. Image hosted on the site Rebloggy.

As Halloween Revels Closer


Learn Tech and Reflect_Part 1_Annotations

Ready for lovely modding tutorial annotations? Image hosted on the site PandaWhale.

Ready for lovely modding tutorial annotations? Image hosted on the site PandaWhale.

Image hosted on Reddit.

Hopefully, it will be like this. Image hosted on Reddit.

BigDownload. “Dragon Age Origins Toolset Demonstration Part 1.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Sept. 2008. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

This basic tutorial video about the Dragon Age Origins toolset was created by Fernando Melo, who is currently the Director of Online Development at Bioware (the company that designs the Dragon Age series, among others), with Ferret Baudoin, who was one of the lead writers for Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II, as a guest. The video is rather informative for a beginner as the speaker breaks down the basic elements offered in the toolset’s palette (it holds the “categories of assets” modders can access), starting with the areas (settings) for what will be crafted as the start location for the mod, especially since the speaker is so familiar with the technology and the game being explored. To give viewers a sense of what can be done with the software, he opens an “area layout,” which he uses to give viewers a guided tour of the 3D landscape of a layout that is used as a battleground for players in the early parts of the game. He takes the chance to introduce beginning modders to the implementation of scripting (which, according to Wikipedia, is “a scripted sequence is a pre-defined series of events that occurs when triggered by player location or actions that play out in the games engine”), though he mentions he will not be discussing how to script in detail until the toolset had been officially released to the public. The video has a definite weakness in that the screen being displayed is too distant to allow viewers to clearly see the menu items, so viewers must depend on the speaker to identify which selections he is making in the various menus. This is also a problem when the speaker talks about the variables of each item that are listed in the “Object Inspector” box. One other limitation of the video is that it was created before the official toolset was released (the creator mentions that they only have uploaded “what was needed to make the demo”), so the items in the toolset are very selective because the toolset had not yet been finished, but this limitation is easily resolved by locating tutorial videos released a little later.

“Dragon Age.” Nexus Mods. Nexus Mods, 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.

Out of the four sites I have listed here for my annotated bibliography entries, Nexus Mod’s section the Dragon Age Origins toolset is the most devoted to the products of the modding community, with the creators providing the files and instructions for other users to download and implement their mod into the actual gameplay. What struck me first as I explored the website was just how collaborative the community is, with members willing to share their hard work with others to make the game more enjoyable and customizable. As I begin learning how to use the toolset and to develop my own materials, this site will allow me to see what is possible in toolset through what other people are creating (as well as the limitations with what even experienced modders could not make or could not get to work). The site is split up a bit differently than other tutorial sites I have been looking at, as it has categories for “Files,” “Images,” “Videos,” “Forums,” and “Chat,” rather than direction categories for the types of mod creations. For my project, the Forum is going to be the place where I go the most on this site as it deals  with more than just modding, going as broad as news about and technical support for the game series to spoilers about the game. There are even sections devoted to troubleshooting for building and modding, as well as requests for mods (which enhances the collaborative nature of the community as creators seek requests for what other players would want to see in the game as well as players asking for mods they would like to see created) and spaces for mod talk. For my project, the sections of troubleshooting for modding, mod talk, and the section for articles about Dragon Age mods are going to be the most useful as supplements to the official toolset wiki and various YouTube tutorial videos as it will be nice to read issues other users are having in comparison to my own difficulties navigating the toolset as well as see what can be done with mods (giving me a greater idea of the kind of scope I want for my project and the work it will take to make it happen). While the forums are created by other users, there seems to be very little trolling in the forums, as more experienced modders are very careful in breaking down explanations for new and other less experienced modders, which is not always the case for gaming communities.

Dragon Age Origins Toolset Wiki. Bioware Social Network, 08 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. 

This resource is the official wiki set of tutorials for Bioware’s Dragon Age Origins toolset (the studio has other toolsets for games like Neverwinter Nights), and includes a link to the Dragon Age help site for users who experience issues the wiki site does not or cannot cover. Within the wiki, there are eight overarching categories: “Getting Started,” “Tutorials,” “Design,” “Art,” “Cinematography,” “Sound and music,” “Script,” and “3rd Party Extensions.” The Getting Started section was the first entry I read through as I started downloading and installing the toolet, skimming through the section on potential comparability issues since the toolset was designed for Windows XP and Windows 7 since I have Windows 8. This site was particularly helpful because I did have an installation issue, but it was with a program called Microsoft SQL 2005 (my computer could run, but made me jump through metaphorical hoops to download properly), which I found was a common issue for users. The tutorials section, which expect to spend a great deal of time perusing, is broken down into links to tutorials into beginner’s needs and moves out to larger tutorials with the promise that, “This set of tutorials forms a series, each building on or filling in omissions by the last.” The tutorials section does not just deal with how to create mods, but also how to export and implement those mods into the gameplay experience, and links out to other external sites with tutorials that I will most likely be scrawling through when I start to dig deeper into the toolset. This resource is going to be both very helpful and a little difficult to navigate, with each entry linking technical jargon to other pages, making it a web of linked pages that can be a bit overwhelming for a new user.

“Forum: Dragon Age Origins Toolset.” Bioware Forums. Bioware, 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

The Dragon Age Origins Toolset Forum is a great resource for modders of different levels to post questions, betas to test, information about patches, and issues and potential solutions, among other threads. As someone who is both new to modding and new to the Dragon Age Origins toolset specifically, this may end up being the place for me to get started as I learn how to navigate the toolset and also act as a space where I could present questions and receive feedback about practical applications. The forum is broken down into seven broad categories: “General Discussion,” “Level and Area Creation,” “Cutscenes,” “Audio,” “Scripting,” “Project Announcements and Recruiting,” and   “Custom Content.” One of the most interesting aspects of the collaborative community being fostered in forums are the “community contests,” particularly the ones hosted through a thread titled “The Toolset doesnt have to be hard! Noob-friendly video guides for the Community Contests.” In this thread for “Noobs,” the topics range from prop-making to level-making to head morphs, with links to video tutorials and lists of outside software needed for the side projects. The forum has ties to Bioware’s official toolset wiki, with users linking out to tutorials to read first before returning to the forum to ask more specific questions, but this relationship goes two ways as the official wiki pulls useful content from users’ posts to fill in tutorials. There are no major limitations to this resource, except for the amount of time it may take to wade through the thousands of threads and responses (the site has a search tool, but that is useful if I know exactly what I am looking for when I come to the site), but this is also a good thing because searching through the threads can lead to surprising and inspiring finds.

**This is the first part with the second as a reflection on my wanderings through these support sites.

A Little Dragon Age to Lead Us On


MediaCommons Survey Response: ‘How has reblogging and reblogging culture on sites like Tumblr and Twitter complicated the notion of authorship?’

I proposed to respond, and was invited this week to post a response, to the MediaCommons frontpage survey question and video interview with Max Marshall: How has reblogging and reblogging culture on sites like Tumblr and Twitter complicated the notion of authorship?

Here’s the interview with Max Marshall that, along with the survey question, prompted my response.

My response, “Laminated Identity: Author(iz)ed Sharing on Facebook” and the conversation that follows, is posted on MediaCommons.

MediaCommons Survey Response: ‘How has reblogging and reblogging culture on sites like Tumblr and Twitter complicated the notion of authorship?’

I proposed to respond, and was invited this week to post a response, to the MediaCommons frontpage survey question and video interview with Max Marshall: How has reblogging and reblogging culture on sites like Tumblr and Twitter complicated the notion of authorship?

Here’s the interview with Max Marshall that, along with the survey question, prompted my response.

My response, “Laminated Identity: Author(iz)ed Sharing on Facebook” and the conversation that follows, is posted on MediaCommons.

Outlining a CV in Composition & Rhetoric

Composition and rhetoric is a little bit of an intimidating field to write one’s CV into, because we study and have expertise on the rhetoricity of things. Applying those same guidelines and standards to my own work can be intimidating. Nevertheless, here’s a beginning outline.

  1. Personal Information
    1. Include meaningful contact information: where I live is useful, but email and mobile phone are probably most meaningful.
    2. Include social media links (but be sure those included and those not included are up to snuff and entirely presentable). The identity we allow others to see who are not our friends is as important to readers of the CV as the identity we create for those who follow or like our social media presences.
    3. Include professional-oriented social media like LinkedIn and Academia.edu. One’s openness and willingness to be identified on social media is part of the rhetorical identity portrayed through the CV.
  2. Education
    1. In reverse chronological order, most current/recent first.
    2. Don’t bother with GPA at this point (I’m 22 years into my professional career). What matters is that I earned degrees from accredited colleges.
    3. Be sure to include thesis and dissertation title, but not abstract.
  3. Publications: Group these in several categories, depending on what’s applicable. I’ll probably go with something like this:
    1. Peer Reviewed
      1. Published
      2. Accepted and Forthcoming
      3. Proposed
    2. Online
      1. Solicited or Responses to Calls
      2. Unsolicited
      3. Guest Posts
    3. Popular
  4. Presentations
    1. Conference
    2. Invited
    3. Informal (not sure what this is going to mean…)
  5. Teaching Experience
    1. Higher Education: Term-by-term summary statement of each class outcome and professional development undertaken as a result, if applicable. [Note: here’s where I wonder if it’s useful to specify anything about student evaluations, because mine are regularly quite strong.]
    2. Secondary: Quick listing of classes
    3. Noncredit or Others: Include guest lectures, church teaching experiences, other non-traditional instructional opportunities. <– This is probably a way to demonstrate a career-long dedication to pedagogy, perhaps a differentiator when applying to a school with strong instructional requirements.
  6. Service: I think I’ll present this as pedagogical and community. As a composition teacher, my work is often in service to all other disciplines; as a professional and as a person, I give back to my professional, personal, and religious communities and want it known that I do so.
    1. Pedagogical (Just a mention that I teach composition)
    2. Professional
    3. Personal
  7. Grants: I have little to show here, but I don’t see much benefit of grouping these with granularity.
  8. Professional: This is an area unique to my experience: I have LOADS of professional experience in higher education and nonprofits that is not “academic” or “scholarly.” As a result, I want to be able to highlight my work history in several categories.
    1. Web Development
    2. IT Management
    3. Educational Leadership
  9. Professional Development
    1. Webinars
    2. Conferences
    3. Classes
  10. Honors and Awards
    1. Offices held/Appointments received
    2. Awards and honors received (I think I’ll go back to undergraduate, but probably don’t need to. Only if appropriate to Comp/Rhet experience.)
    3. Other ways of being honored (honorary degrees, employee of the month, etc.)
  11. Interests: A way to reach beyond the scholarly and point to areas of intersection between personal, professional, community, and service. In my case, my interests are in technologies, especially new technologies.
  12. References

Outlines: CC-licensed Flickr image courtesy mkorsakov

Outlining a CV in Composition & Rhetoric

Composition and rhetoric is a little bit of an intimidating field to write one’s CV into, because we study and have expertise on the rhetoricity of things. Applying those same guidelines and standards to my own work can be intimidating. Nevertheless, here’s a beginning outline.

  1. Personal Information
    1. Include meaningful contact information: where I live is useful, but email and mobile phone are probably most meaningful.
    2. Include social media links (but be sure those included and those not included are up to snuff and entirely presentable). The identity we allow others to see who are not our friends is as important to readers of the CV as the identity we create for those who follow or like our social media presences.
    3. Include professional-oriented social media like LinkedIn and Academia.edu. One’s openness and willingness to be identified on social media is part of the rhetorical identity portrayed through the CV.
  2. Education
    1. In reverse chronological order, most current/recent first.
    2. Don’t bother with GPA at this point (I’m 22 years into my professional career). What matters is that I earned degrees from accredited colleges.
    3. Be sure to include thesis and dissertation title, but not abstract.
  3. Publications: Group these in several categories, depending on what’s applicable. I’ll probably go with something like this:
    1. Peer Reviewed
      1. Published
      2. Accepted and Forthcoming
      3. Proposed
    2. Online
      1. Solicited or Responses to Calls
      2. Unsolicited
      3. Guest Posts
    3. Popular
  4. Presentations
    1. Conference
    2. Invited
    3. Informal (not sure what this is going to mean…)
  5. Teaching Experience
    1. Higher Education: Term-by-term summary statement of each class outcome and professional development undertaken as a result, if applicable. [Note: here’s where I wonder if it’s useful to specify anything about student evaluations, because mine are regularly quite strong.]
    2. Secondary: Quick listing of classes
    3. Noncredit or Others: Include guest lectures, church teaching experiences, other non-traditional instructional opportunities. <– This is probably a way to demonstrate a career-long dedication to pedagogy, perhaps a differentiator when applying to a school with strong instructional requirements.
  6. Service: I think I’ll present this as pedagogical and community. As a composition teacher, my work is often in service to all other disciplines; as a professional and as a person, I give back to my professional, personal, and religious communities and want it known that I do so.
    1. Pedagogical (Just a mention that I teach composition)
    2. Professional
    3. Personal
  7. Grants: I have little to show here, but I don’t see much benefit of grouping these with granularity.
  8. Professional: This is an area unique to my experience: I have LOADS of professional experience in higher education and nonprofits that is not “academic” or “scholarly.” As a result, I want to be able to highlight my work history in several categories.
    1. Web Development
    2. IT Management
    3. Educational Leadership
  9. Professional Development
    1. Webinars
    2. Conferences
    3. Classes
  10. Honors and Awards
    1. Offices held/Appointments received
    2. Awards and honors received (I think I’ll go back to undergraduate, but probably don’t need to. Only if appropriate to Comp/Rhet experience.)
    3. Other ways of being honored (honorary degrees, employee of the month, etc.)
  11. Interests: A way to reach beyond the scholarly and point to areas of intersection between personal, professional, community, and service. In my case, my interests are in technologies, especially new technologies.
  12. References

Outlines: CC-licensed Flickr image courtesy mkorsakov

Learning about CVs

As I sought CVs, I started seeking those for luminaries who I respect a great deal, like Paul Prior and Charles Bazerman. But I quickly discovered that luminaries like these teach at similar kinds of schools, and the requirement to include three Carnegie classifications among the four CVs required that I find more than luminaries. As a result, Academia.edu became my friend. Turns out, if you’re not considered a luminary, your CV won’t appear top of list in Google search or even in a search on an institutional webpage. So I ended up finding Anthony Lee, chair of the UMUC English department, through Academia.edu rather than a Google search or a search on the UMUC website.

What surprised me were the different CV types. Prior and Bazerman maintain web-based CVs, Bazerman’s on the UCSB website and Prior’s on his own website. Both designs appear dated, but the contents are at least as up-to-date as 2013. James A. Herrick at Hope College maintains a more traditional PDF version of his CV on the Hope College website, while Lee maintains a traditional (print-based) CV in a Word document on his Academia.edu site.

I’ve chosen to host my CV on Google Docs, which poses its own set of challenges. First, it’s a hybrid platform: entirely online with print capabilities, based on a print design and visual metaphor (i.e. the traditional “page” appears on a WYSIWYG platform). This flexibility is useful, giving me the ability to post to a website or submit as a print-ready document; but it also reflects a certain expectation of users that they will be familiar with Google Drive and able to access the file. Second, it’s not something that’s easily embedded on a platform like WordPress or Academia.edu. While it’s quite easy to link to the document, it’s much more difficult to embed a print-ready version in a webpage like WordPress or Academia.edu can do. Lee’s .doc CV is quite legible embedded on the Academia.edu page.

As I continue scholarship and professional development, it’s clear that I need to provide more granular detail to publication and presentation sections. I don’t have many published print pieces, but I can talk about chapters in progress, presentations accepted, chapters accepted for publication, and the like. Using subheadings and chunking in my CV design, I can make it more readable and much easier to quickly glean the important details about me: I’m educated, I’m publishing and interested in publishing, and I have loads of professional communications and teaching experience at all levels that represent my dedication to secondary and post-secondary pedagogy. These are abilities I need to highlight more clearly and directly in my CV redesign.

Curriculum Vitae: CC-licensed Flickr image courtesy Desi Italy

5th Daily Create Challenge_October 09

Last Daily Create challenge for me to do. Woohoo! So today’s prompt is: “That @jimgroom (and @paulbond) are running ‘Wire106′, all about TV drama ‘The Wire’. They love that show. Bless ‘em. Describe ‘The Wire’ in a way that is almost entirely lies. Aim to entirely confuse any person who hasn’t seen ‘The Wire’. If *you* haven’t seen the wire DON’T LOOK IT UP!”

And here goes my response:

“There are no kings in America, no lives to be lost, no games to be played, and no wars to be won. Every child you see on these pretty little streets, they are all going to have a damn fine life. So what need have we to be afraid when justice will always be served? What need have we to fear from the night or the day when there are no monsters left in hiding? The men and women serving this beautiful city, our peacekeepers, they always know what to do, how to help, and let us just be. Equality. Moderation. Compassion. There is only truth in this fine city. What you see is what you get, moving through these lighted streets. Money isn’t worth a life. Money just sits crumpled in our pockets, waiting to be spent on ponies and ice cream. We wage no wars in the streets because we know there are no wars to be fought, no wars to be won, and no tyrants to be taken down. What you see is what you get in every window that you pass. What you see is what you get, and only justice will be served.”

 

Finished this assignment like a boss! Sort of. Maybe. Image hosted on the website Panda Whale.

Finished this assignment like a boss! Sort of. Maybe. Image hosted on the website Panda Whale.

Not finished with the semester yet, so Edna needs to beat me back into productivity. Image hosted on Photobucket.

Not finished with the semester yet, so Edna needs to beat me back into productivity. Image hosted on Photobucket.

For your viewing pleasure


4th Daily Create Challenge_October 08

Okay, 4th Daily Create challenge, what perilous tasks lies ahead of me today? Well, the prompt is “Share an image that has something to do with guinea pigs. And how EVIL those deceptively cute balls of fluffy terror truly are.”

So what does my response look like?

evil guinea pig

Original Guinea Pig photograph (it’s so cute!) was uploaded by Marilyn-Ann. Original Bone Pile photograph was uploaded by Keith Putnam.

Every step takes us closer, but to where?


3rd Daily Create Challenge_October 07

Halfway through the five day Daily Create challenge. Now, onward! Today’s prompt is “@DrGarcia posted 26 Beatnik Slang Words and Phrases We Should All Start Using. Create a radio bumper for DS106 radio that uses as many as you can make make sense in a short radio bumper.”

I used the Android app “Type and Speak,” giving my response a robot flair in which “aye-balling” (the Android way of saying “eyeballing”) meets Beatnik slang:

 

You have a long way to go, my pet

 


Until the End of the Illusion, We Will Baudrillard Forward_Reading Notes October 6th

Okay, so this is part two from last week’s reading notes on Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation. This time, though, much of these notes will be focused on Baudrillard’s The Illusion of the End (such an uplifting title, no?), with the hopes that I will have enough time (and attention span) to return to talking about Simulacra and Simulation. Both of these texts are going to be part of my bigger Canonical Text Presentation, which is due next week (crap, that due date is coming up far too quickly).

Nothing starts a post off better than Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn. Image hosted on Deviant Art.

Nothing starts a post off better than Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn. Image hosted on Deviant Art.

Whew, Baudrillard isn’t the most accessible scholar (though he doesn’t quite rank with Foucault on whose work can be the most difficult to muddle through), but I definitely chuckled (probably shouldn’t have) through this book. The moment where I had to put the book down and just laugh for a few minutes was when I first started reading the section “The ascent of the vacuum towards the periphery” where Baudrillard introduces a group who had called themselves the “Stealth Agency,” which he said “could equally well be called: ANATHEMATIC ILLIMITED/TRANSFATAL EXPRESS/VIRAL INCORPORATED/INTERNATIONAL EPIDEMICS (14). I know the group was probably very serious about their work in which they “gather[ed] news of unreal events in order to disinform the public of them” while the group “remained…unreal” (14), but I couldn’t stop humming Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man.” (Hell yeah, James Bond!)

Must as well have a visual. Image hosted on the website Gaming-Asylum.

Must as well have a visual. Image hosted on the website Gaming-Asylum.

Okay, straight face and back to being a serious scholar. As I was settling into reading his first section (chapter?) titled “Pataphysics of the year 2000,” I was a little taken aback by just how affected Baudrillard’s work seems to be in regards to people’s reactions (and potentially his own) to the Y2K terror that internationally swept through countries dependent on computers and the Internet. There were moments in the text where I had to stop and think about the culture in which Baudrillard was writing about the year 2000: “All thoughts are going underground in cautious anticipation of the year 2000. They can already scent the terror of the year 2000. They are instinctively adopting the solution of those cryogenized individuals plunged into liquid nitrogen until the means can be found to enable them to survive” (9). Looking back from 2014 to 1999, it seems a little strange to think about what would have been so terrifying (I was eleven at the time, so I wasn’t aware of a whole lot beyond childhood worries). Were we really so sure that our world would be torn asunder because our computer programmers might not have taken into consideration that we would be using their software after 1999? (It is in this moment that I think of the 1995 film Strange Days and the 2014 film A Walk Among the Tombstones as one film anticipates the mania and one film looks back with a semi-sober eye).

A little Y2K mania, anyone? Image hosted on Time Magazine's website.

A little Y2K mania, anyone? Image hosted on Time Magazine’s website.

Having the capability of looking back retrospectively on the Y2K mania displayed above, I can see where Baudrillard is coming from when he hashes out his three hypotheses concerning the end of history. Yes, take a moment (I need to) and digest the idea that Baudrillard is telling us there is no more history. Okay, moment is up. Let’s rock our way through this.

First up, a definition of the word patapysics, which is defined as “the science of imaginary solutions and the laws governing exceptions” (Hugill). Now we see that the title for Baudrillard’s first section deals with the imaginary solutions for the year 2000, which would explain the three hypotheses that he offers. So what are our three options?

  • “one might suppose that the acceleration of modernity, of technology, events and media, of all exchanges– economic, political and sexual — has propelled us to ‘escape velocity,’ with the result that we have flown free of the referential sphere of the real and of history,” with history seen as “the kind of crystallization or significant crystallization of events” and reality as “the kind of coherent unfolding of causes and effects” (1). To flesh this out, Baudrillard draws on more physics concepts: “through the impulse for total dissemination and circulation, every event is granted its own liberation; every fact becomes atomic, nuclear, and pursues its trajectory into the void” with it having “to be fragmented like a particle” (2).
  • This hypothesis deals with a slowing down, rather than reaching an escape velocity, as it has to do with “the slowing down of history when it rubs up against the astral body of the ‘silent majorities’. Our societies are dominated by this mass process, not just in the demographic and sociological sense, but in the sense of a ‘critical mass’, of passing beyond a point of no-return” (3). — Absorption is a key mental image here, as “Events follow one upon another, cancelling each other out in a state of indifference” (3)
  • Baudrillard approaches the third hypothesis with an analogy about music and our cultural obsession with “high fidelity” to the point where the music is no longer music (think auto-tune, as it leaves the singer’s voice perfectly flawless, though no one’s voice has such a quality). For history, “by dint of the sophistication of events and information, history ceases to exist as such. Immediate high-powered broadcasting, special effects, secondary effects, fading and that famous feedback effect which is produced in acoustics by a source and a receiver being too close together and in history by an event and its dissemination being too close together and thus interfering disastrously — a short-circuit between cause and effect like that between the object and the experimenting subject in microphysics” (6).
So Baudrillard and Nietzsche walk into a bar, and Kahn is their brain child. Image hosted on Tumblr.

So Baudrillard and Nietzsche walk into a bar, and Kahn is their resulting brain child. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Each of these three hypotheses (from what I could pull out of the mire, anyway) makes sense in terms of our current culture and international relationships. I would be curious to see what Baudrillard would have to say if he had come into contact with the changes that Cloud computing is offering to us in terms of archiving. Anyways, onwards through the escape velocity needed to pass from the real and history, the vanishing point of history within absorption and indifference, and the high fidelity/idealization of history. It took me quite a while to break down and process what Baudrillard was saying about history. As someone who loves to read books, watch documentaries, and listen to lectures on historical events, I struggled to understand how history could have ended, vanished beyond the horizon point. What was this man talking about?

And then I started to think through his example with CNN (in the “Immortality” section) and how “History in real time is CNN, instant news, which is the exact opposite of history” (90). I remember not too long ago watching the constant newsfeed surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The broadcasters droned on and on for days (weeks?) about this flight being lost and searchers continuing to scour the ocean to find out what had happened. They were presenting the news as history in the making, creating this “historical moment” in the real time that Baudrillard was talking about, rather than looking back at the disappearance retrospectively. As Baudrillard declares, “nothing takes place in real time. Not even history” (90). To think of this another way to help me out, I think about how World War I is presented versus the Vietnam War. In the midst of World War I, the “bigger picture” of the war was not readily available. The soldiers, the politicians, and the civilians did not know they were in what would become known as a world war, and even the reasons for the war emerged after the war had ended. No one was sitting in the middle of a battlefield thinking, Ooooh, so this is what global conflict is like. They were going through the motions of what they had considered a traditional war (men fighting and dying with honor) until they came face-to-face with how advancements in weapons technology would require a rethinking of tactics. How the  Vietnam War was presented was very different as it was the first televised war. Here, people back home could see the harrowing situations soldiers on both sides were facing, as well as those civilians who were caught in the crossfires. When talking about the Vietnam War, my mom (who was a little girl at the time while my grandfather was in the military and overseas) said that being able to see what was going on during the war from the family’s living room was like watching history in the making. While something is happening, though, is not history so much as it is being. History (for me, anyway) is what is created when we look back and see a pattern of events emerge from the actions we have taken (individually as well as collectively).

One of the most fascinating points that Baudrillard makes within his third hypothesis about the vanishing point of history was how we are always looking to an end point of history, which is tied to his idea that “history itself has always, deep down, been an immsense simulation model. Not in the sense that it could be said only to have existed in the narrative made of it or the interpretation given to it, but with regard to the time in which it unfolds — that linear time which is at once the time of an ending and of the unlimited suspending of the end” (7). The questions that Baudrillard follows up with in regards to the end point we are obsessed with as a society were thought-provoking: “Where does this suspense come from? Where do we get the idea that what must be accomplished (Last Judgement, salvation or catastrophe) must come at the end of time and match up with some incalculable appointed term or other?” (7) and “The same denial is found in apparently opposite behavior [from immediate enjoyment of the event]– recording, filing and memorizing everything of our own past and the past of all cultures. Its this not a symptom of a collective presentiment of the end, a sign that events and the living time of history have had their day and that we have to arm ourselves with the whole battery of artificial memory, all the signs of the past, to face up to the absence of a future and the glacial times which await us?” (9).

No matter how many times I read this section, I always return to our current societal fascination with zombies and post-apocalyptic survival. Even though zombie apocalypse stories (books/comics/movies/podcasts) are centered on the survivors (for the most part, since we do have narratives from the undead side, nodding to the film Warm Bodies), we see the zombie invasion/infestation as the end of human civilization, the end of our history. Survivors are shown to turn towards anarchic and nomadic living, cannibalism, might-makes-right, the-strong-survive, which appears brutal (and yet enthralling) to those of us who are living on this side of the end. Why would history and civilization end if there would be people who still remember what those two were to our society? Why must there be only one way to thrive? Is life after a zombie apocalypse what Baudrillard would consider existence after the end point of history? When looking at the place for zombie narratives in our culture, it seems as if we are projecting the Y2K fears that Baudrillard had been commenting on into a new (yet not new) form, but this is something we have been doing for centuries. Humans are drawn in and repulsed by something that will put an end to us all (angry gods from the pantheon, alien invasions, giant asteroid hitting the Earth, global contagions, or nuclear fallout). It’s a little weird to think about, but, then again, I do love my science-fiction films.

Side note before I end since I have the need to turn everything towards video games: While I was reading, one of the things that really caught my attention was a moment in Baudrillard’s section “Maleficent Ecology” in which he discusses how we as humans are turning ourselves into waste-products along with the entire planet: “What is worst is not that we are submerged by the waste-products of industrial and urban concentration, but that we ourselves are transformed into residues. Nature– the natural world –is becoming residual, insignificant, an encumbrance, and we do not know how to dispose of it. By producing highly centralized structures, highly developed urban, industrial and technical systems, by remorselessly condensing down programmes, functions and models, we are transforming all the rest into waste, residues, useless relics. By putting the higher functions into orbit, we are transforming the planet itself into a waste-product, a marginal territory, a peripheral space” (78). This is not a new idea, but Baudrillard’s comments reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite childhood video games, Final Fantasy VII, in which the planet and all life on that planet were threatened because of humankind’s desire for more and more energy. The clip below is from a scene in which a scientist/professor explains how life on the planet is part of an intricately connected lifestream and the man-made energy was disrupting that lifestream to a critical level. While the developers at Square-Enix tend to pack the games in the Final Fantasy series with messages that show the consequences of war, promote strong bonds (especially between different groups of people/races/species), and encourage going against the norm to save others, one of their main messages is to preserve a balance between nature and human activities (destructive tendencies?). In Final Fantasy VII, the main characters come to the realization (like Baudrillard) that the planet is being turned into a waste-product in order for humans to advance their civilizations.

All right, readers (imagined or otherwise), so ends my reading notes for this week. Next week: Canonical Text Project! (*hear the sounds of a slow brain meltdown*).

Only nearing the halfway point of the semester. So much left to do. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Only nearing the halfway point of the semester. So much left to do. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Citations

Baudrillard, Jean. The Illusion of the End. Trans. Chris Turner. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994. Print.

Hugill, Andrew. “Pataphysics: A Useless Guide.” The MIT Press Online. MIT, 2014. Web. 06 Oct. 2014.

Illusion On, Reader

Update on two peers’ posts.

The first person whose post I commented on was Sarah Carter on the second half of Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs and Women. Her break down of the text was very straightforward, but I am curious as to the broader implications of the concepts, especially in terms of Sarah’s own research interests and her interests in horror films. How can the lens of the post modern human and bio politics change our perspectives regarding characters in horror films? This question led me to wonder how this lens would also affect video game scholarship? Most games reinforce stereotypes of gender while also pushing against such boundaries (strong female heroes who eventually succumb and must be rescued by the male protagonists), but then there are exceptions are video games like the Mass Effect trilogy that subvert the gender norms they are attempting to reinforce. Haraway’s concepts are very promising and are something I may look into with future research.

The second person who post I commented on


2nd Daily Create Challenge_October 06

All right, so I made it to my second Daily Create Challenge. Glorious, no? Yes, I know that I am the only one totally thrilled with this. Anyways, the challenge for today was to create a letterhead. Mine is not an official letterhead, but I thought my dog Chico would look dashing splashed across the top of a Word document.

Letterhead_Daily Create Challenge 2-page-001

Welcome, Monday, We Have Work to Do


New Media Project Proposal

For my New Media class, each of my peers and I are doing individual multimedia projects in which we are learning new technology and examining our own work through the theoretical frameworks we are learning in class (the ones I am writing about in this semester’s reading notes assignment). Anyways, this is my project proposal, so away we go!

Pull the lever! Image hosted on Buzzfeed article.

Pull the lever! Image hosted on Buzzfeed article.

Rhetorical Situation

For this project, I am going to try to create a playable game mod for Dragon Age Origins. My intended audience for the development of this project is my professor and peers from ENGL 866: New Media. The majority of my peers are female (with one male in the group), and all of them are in the English and Creative Writing departments within the PhD, MA, and MFA programs at Old Dominion University. From what I know, some of my peers in this course are not gamers, while the others are gamers with varying degrees of familiarity, ranging from beginners to someone who is a hard-core gamer with experience in coding. This range from non-gamers to a hard-core gamer makes my project interesting because my end product should be accessible throughout the spectrum, being refined enough for a gamer to enjoy it as a text while a non-gamer can still maneuver through the gamespace and controls with relative ease. My secondary audience is anyone who stumbles across this blog and wants to follow the development process of this project (there are plenty of other steps coming soon to this blog, if you are one of those not-in-ENGL_866 readers). Unlike my knowledge of my peers’ experiences with gaming, I cannot assume to know other people reading my blog, so my project should be just as accessible to anyone taking the time to delve into my multimedia project. The tertiary (and final) audience would be other gamers who are familiar with and play the Dragon Age series, so the end product should be (hopefully) something gamers would want to add on to their own games.

With my three levels of audience discussed, what is the purpose of this particular project? My aim in this project is two-fold: 1) to learn, for myself, how to create my own text (a mod) out of a preexisting text (the video game Dragon Age Origins) in order to better understand the tools of the industry, and 2) to create a mod that builds onto a theme from the game (coping with loss, the nature of self-sacrifice, what it takes to become a leader, how messy human politics can be, or the consequences of fanaticism. There are plenty of other themes to choose from, but these were the ones that interested me the most) to better understand how the building of a game mod can reveal the processes that underlie narrative creation and collaboration in a digital space.

In regards to the first aim, the reason I am trying to familiarize myself with the Dragon Age Origins Toolset is because I would like to someday enter into the video game industry and Bioware is one of my favorite developers are they are able to intertwine engaging narratives and characters with fun game mechanics (from fighting styles to the dialogue wheel). Despite wanting to be the storywriter for a video game studio, a working knowledge of the tools being used to design the games would not only make me a better candidate, but would also give me a greater sense of what I could do to create a story players will enjoy and one that would actually be feasible for the designers/artists/programmers to create. On their website, in the Careers section, Bioware lists that for an Assistant Designer position, the candidate should have “Experience using world building toolsets (Unreal, Unity, Neverwinter Nights, etc)” as well as “Practical level building experience [and] Good scripting and commenting skills.” With this first aim, I am my own audience until I become familiar enough with the toolset to create game mods that I could potentially use as part of a job application, learning what works and what could work better after having played around with a mod design.

With my second aim, which is more inclusive as to who is my audience, this purpose is also two-fold in that 1) I am attempting to show non-gamers what a game mod can do with narrative by building off of a preexisting text, and 2) to provide an experience for those who play Dragon Age that deepens their own interaction with the game itself. Game mods allow creators to manipulate the gamespace and character design to enhance gameplay by creating a new look for a character design (through things like facial features), adding to scenes, or by creating entirely new scenes, and many of these mods can be shared among players and added into each others’ gameplay experiences. In a sense, game modding creates a collaborative space for players, though the act of modding can be a solitary endeavor, in which they can engage with themes explored in the official games. I am choosing to work specifically with the Dragon Age Origins Toolset because the narrative in the game is so complex, the characters and their relationships with one another are intricately developed, and the game does not shy away from dealing with messy and harrowing themes. The game provides a great jumping off point for me to create a mod in which I present a new perspective to an in-game situation, or to use the tools/setting/character design that is already in place to create my own, related scenario. By presenting to my intended audience, a game mod of my own creation, I am hoping that we can start to see how the process of modding can change the way we see a delivery of narrative in the digital era and how digital tools are allowing us to reshape, share, and instruct one another in a collaborative space that is not bounded by physical space.

**Update: As I work deeper into my project, my aim is to look at the ways in which narratology’s Possible Worlds Theory can be applied to modders’ creations, especially those that are shared in collaborative spaces and integrated into other gamers’ own gameplay experiences. I am choosing this theory, in connection with software studies and world building, as I am curious about how unofficial creations being added to official gameplay changes the shape of gamers’ narratives (especially as the dialogue wheel game mechanic allows players to direct their experiences within the gamespace, building relationships and reactions to events through choices they make). By potentially linking Possible Worlds Theory to software studies, I am hoping to uncover how the software the modding communities are using have shaped the gaming culture as a more collaborative space, allowing to help build the worlds they and others participate in even outside of the game studio’s original scope.

Technologies

For this project, I will be using the Dragon Age Origins Toolset offered by the developer, Bioware, on their website to create my own mod for the game. Bioware explains that they allow players to use their toolset for free as a way to engage with the game and other players on a level beyond playing: “Create your own add-ons to extend the main campaign in new directions; Tell stand-alone stories in the Dragon Age setting or in a setting of your own devising; Share resources with other modders to enhance each others’ works; and Look ‘under the hood’ to see how memorable moments in Dragon Age were done.” As this is my first time attempting to mod, everything is going to be new in regards to my learning how to maneuver within the technology/software. Initially, a majority of my time will mostly likely be spent looking through websites like Nexus Wiki’s section on “Using Dragon Age Mods for Dummies” and Nexus Mods Dragon Age, and a forum on Reddit about how to mod specifically with the Dragon Age Origins Toolset. Other gamers, along with the official wiki tutorials provided by Bioware, are going to be my greatest asset in learning how to mod and then learning how to mod something that is playable for my peers, as they are used to muddling through the technology and creating their own add-ons outside of the official toolsets. Since I am more of a visual learner, YouTube is also going to be another source of how-to guides/references (like the video I have provided below) as well as ideas of completed projects (also shown below).

How-To Guide

Completed Mod

Considerations

Overall, I am really excited to get my hands dirty with this project because modding is something I have always wanted to try (it feels a bit like writing fanfiction, but works on a more interactive level because other players could potentially take the mod and add it into their actual gameplay), but have never given myself the time to sit down and try. Coding and working with computer software beyond the basic applications is not something that comes naturally to me since, while growing up and even now, I would rather play with a finished product than attempt to figure out algorithms and the mechanical workings of interfaces. This project, if I can pull it off, would allow me to “get under the hood,” as Bioware suggested, and see how video games actually work.

However, it is the coding/algorithm/under the hood aspect of this project that makes me more than a little nervous. Verbal and written communication is what I have spent almost all of my life working to hone, and coding is a language composed of my least favorite things, numbers. I am nervous about this project because I want to do a good job, to show myself that Yes, I can get messy with what is going on beneath the surface of video games and not be overwhelmed by the process. This, in turn, makes me for nervous since having a handle on and familiarity with toolsets tends to be a requirement for the job I want to do, even though that job is to write for video games rather than program them. I understand why knowing how to use a toolset is necessary and rather handy on the job since it gives a writer a way to speak with other members of the development team, but that brings its own pressure of being good at it (not to say completely proficient, but a working understanding). One step at a time, I guess.

But how do I frame this in a way that is cohesive with what I have been learning so far (and will continue to learn) this semester? Thinking back over the readings I have done and made notes for, three concepts that inform this project are Tornatzky and Klein’s innovation, Brooke’s invention as proairesis, and Gane and Beer’s take on interactivityIn regards to innovation, this concept really informs what the creators of mods are doing because they are creating additional character designs, extending scenes (such as the game mod I embedded in my Technologies section), correcting glitches that occur in-game, creating a new character class (officially, the game only has three–mage, warrior, and rogue), and other enhancements to gameplay (such as modifying a spell). Most of these mods are add-ons that do not change the game entirely and do not exist as isolated pieces (though creating unique scenes can be isolated), and they work towards improving the gameplay experience. For invention as proairesis, Brooke’s remapping of this particular rhetorical canon is useful because game modding takes one existing text (the game) and allows players to create whole sets of other possibilities that can be added into their games. Moments in the game, then, are not to be seen as resolutions in so much as they become points of departure for modders since every scene, character, class, and spell can be altered to create something new. For example, the mod I have shown above is an extension of what happens in the game, but it is developed to deliver a more poignant moment for the player and her characters. It is a possibility of what could happen in the space where the game’s official path skips over. For my last concept here (there will be plenty of others in the process of the project), Gane and Beer’s take on interactivity is useful not only because video games (like all media) are considered interactive, but because the look to Tanjev Schultz’s understanding of how new media in general is considered interactive: “New media interactivity is, for a start, instantaneous, and tends to work in ‘real-time’. It also, in theory, offers the promise of being more democratic: ‘the formal characteristics of fully interactive communication usually imply more equality of the participants and a greater symmetry of communicative power than one-way communication’” (qtd. in Gane and Beer 95). By allowing their players a chance to create mods through their toolset, Bioware is creating a space in which players are allowed to extend the discourse of the game in a way that does have “greater symmetry of communicative power.” That is not to say, though, that players are equal with the developers since modders must work within the confines of the software (the mods must be compatible with the preexisting coding), but the toolset gives players the chance to create something of their own, however small, and share it with others.

So ends this proposal. Image hosted on a Buzzfeed article.

So ends this proposal. Image hosted on a Buzzfeed article.

Citations

Bioware. “Career Search: Assistant Designer.” Electronic Arts Careers, n.d. Web. 02 October 2014.

Bioware. “Dragon Age Origins Toolset.” Bioware Social Network, n.d. Web. 03 Ocober 2014.

Gane, Nicholas and David Beer. New Media: The Key Concepts. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2008. Kindle.

To Begin a Project, the First Step Must Be Taken


Carnegie Classification

The fall 2010 census led to significant changes at my institution. We discovered that the 2010 realignment of Carnegie Classification categories affected the ability of our division, a professional and continuing education unit, to grow beyond boundaries strictly defined and regulated by the Carnegie Classification system. For an entrepreneurial continuing education unit, this realignment significantly affected the programs we could offer and the number of students we could recruit. The result has altered our business process and models. We are careful about recruitment, careful about the number of FTEs we have each fall (the time of the census), and careful to keep the number of graduate students within set limits. Our division was not the only unit affected by the realignment; all divisions of the university ultimately were affected, if only by the setting of a maximum number of FTEs that each division can enroll as of the census date. The connection of the Carnegie Classification to other measurement and ranking tools, like US News & World Reports rankings, is fraught with concerns about power politics, monetary influence, and manipulation of rankings based on Carnegie Classification.

Library of Congress Card Catalog: CC-licensed image from Flickr user Glyn Lowe