Category: Research

Comparative Study of Early Home Computers/Game Consoles

For the afternoon project, I propose to work on a comparative study of educational computers/game consoles of the 1980s. It started with my interest in the history of home computers in Mainaland China. The first real home computers that entered into the lives of Chinese families in the 1980s, it turns out, was not computers proper but the so-called Educational Computers or Learning Machines (学习机). They were not computers proper but clones of various models of contemporary home computers in Japan and the U.S., such as the Nintendo NES systems, the Microsoft MSX home computers, and Apple-II series. This, however, does not mean they were derivatives either. Rather, they were redesigned in ways significantly different from the original models in order...

/ May 22, 2017

Gesturing Towards Writing: Reflecting upon Inscription using Terrible Keyboards

I write about writing. My interest in writing interfaces made me hone in on the Residual Media Depot’s Aquarius home computer (came out in 1983), Atari 500 (1979), and the Commodore VIC-20 (1980; currently doesn’t work). I tested out the Aquarius in the Depot by typing out some of the code programs, and I noted how difficult the keyboard was to use: it has a kind of gummy material that offers little in terms of tactile “give,” and the placement of keys is unlike that of modern QWERTY keyboards. Later, I spoke to Darren Wershler about this keyboard: might its shittiness have anything to do with why the Aquarius was so quickly discontinued (4 — 5 months after it was...

/ May 22, 2017

Grinding out desire through media

I am interested in the ramifications of digital technology and online new media in social and personal constructions of gay identity. My research explores how gay men perform their identities in online domains, and studies the materials gay men create and share online to communicate and express themselves, including pictures, profiles, text messages and avatars. A chapter of my dissertation focuses on the use of dating apps, Grindr especially, as technologically constructed sites of erotic engagement, and articulates how users negotiate and construct identities on these apps. This chapter considers the determinative roles of digital media in social attitudes and identities of homosexual men in Canada. The aim is to investigate how the interrogative nature of social media profiles allows...

/ May 22, 2017

Decaying Plastic Play: Flappy Bird’s Hacked Afterlife as Media Archaeological Praxis

On March 28th, 2016, prolific YouTube streamer SethBling posted a video demonstrating how, using only timed button presses and graphical glitches present in the console original, he injected three hundred and thirty-one new bytes into the seminal 1990 Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) platforming game Super Mario World—bytes corresponding to the 2013 viral iPhone game phenomenon Flappy Bird. The hack allows users to play a fully functional port of Flappy Bird within Super Mario World, grafting the former’s computational logic into the latter’s graphics. The choice of game here is striking: while Super Mario World has been re-released across a variety of hardware platforms—to say nothing of Mario’s cultural ubiquity—Flappy Bird remains fascinating for its inaccessibility, both in its frustratingly...

/ May 22, 2017

A Feature, not a Bug: Fractals and Video Game Glitches as Nonnarrative Media

In 1975, Benoit Mandelbrot coined the word fractal to describe an iterative curve or geometric shape that can be divided into parts that each possess the same statistical character as the whole (“Stochastic Models” 3825). Taking its etymology from the Latin fractus, meaning broken (“Fractal”), his research sought to concretize a theory of roughness—that is to say, to provide a model for describing the recursive fractioning of the Earth’s coastlines, the structure of plants and leaves, the distribution of galaxies, the biology of blood vessels, and even human recreations such as music, architecture, and the stock market (The Fractal Geometry of Nature). Mandelbrot was not alone in his interests in such patterns: Gottfried Leibniz contemplated the phenomenon of self-similar recursion...

/ May 22, 2017

Finding out new theories by product examples

Over past decades it has become more common for different kinds of products to reappear, be republished, and re-released. These are not remakes I’m discussing about although they can be included. These are, for instance, media products such as movies and TV-series which are first introduced to audience by theatrical release or on TV, and which then reappear on video, dvd, blu-ray and vod formats. The idea of reappearing media products was first introduced by sociologist Fred Davis in 1979. He suggested that media products should first have a short initial life, which would be followed by introduction of new products (planned obsolescence). Then, after some time the products would have their nostalgia-borne half-lives (planned revivification). (Davis) While Davis argued...

/ May 19, 2017

Writing Across Body and Machine: Cybernetic Methodologies in Art History

How can we better read the machine object in its native programming language? This is the essential question posed by my master’s thesis research, which is focused on cybernetic artist Nicolas Schöffer, the origins of cybernetic art history, and its continued relevance in the context of contemporary media art. This research, conducted within the MA Art History program at Concordia, proposes that early developments in cybernetic science and especially its elaboration in art spheres during the 1960s and ‘70s offer a lens with which to write contemporary media art history. With its attention to communicative feedback loops as well as the operational or mechanical looping that occurs in the machine, cybernetics is a vehicle for asking essential questions about the...

/ May 18, 2017

The Gendered Relationship with Cameras: an Archival Research of Visual Advertisements

The material turn in media studies invites us to consider different approaches through which we can analyze the relation between media and gender. Indeed, giving importance to the material, concrete, and tactical aspect of media implies a shift from a focus on media contents, and from the spectators/users’ practices of resisting and negotiating meanings proposed by popular media. On the contrary, a material approach in the study of media and gender implies, first of all, a focus on media technologies, foregrounding how they emerged and came to determine particular uses not only through their specific technical standards, but also through their external materiality that enabled the cultural circulation of the media technologies themselves. A media archaeological approach can take into...

/ May 17, 2017

When We Can’t Play, Wii Emulate: A Critical Investigation into the Politics and Uses of Softmodding a Nintendo Wii

Last February, Nintendo launched Fire Emblem Heroes, a highly anticipated mobile spin-off of the Fire Emblem series for Android and iOS. Framed as a free-to-play “catch-them-all” tactical role playing game, Fire Emblem Heroes features collectible avatars of main and supporting characters from eleven games in the canonical series, strategically offering Nintendo and Intelligent Systems an additional platform not only to advertise their upcoming installment for the 3DS but also to rekindle interest in earlier games.  While intrigued gamers can purchase the most recent 3DS titles online or at any local games store, what happens when such an audience is drawn to a character from a title that ceased to be produced decades ago? What happens when new international fans wish...

/ May 17, 2017

Conveying Light

When loading the data emitted by a cassette player, Sinclair’s Spectrum 8-bit computers displayed an easily recognisable animated pattern of horizontal bars in the home television screens. These loading lines or raster bars became a popular visualization of the loading routine -a process that could take several minutes- and were adopted partially by other platforms also, such as Commodore 64 or Amstrad CPC. It was an animation fitted to the CRT’s scanned images -top to bottom, left to right- that needed therefore a very small amount of computer resources (‘What Are Loading Bars’, 2016). This project proposes to peek into the inner workings of this data-based animation pattern -both in terms of the context of its emergence as its technicities-,...

/ May 17, 2017