Race, Gender, and Technology

By Ashlee Bird The reading and discussion of Nakamura’s piece today has raised questions regarding the idea of technology as a mode of forwarding or futuring a gender or a race of people. In her article, Nakamura relays the role that the tribe played in acquiring the Fairchild contract, and the impetus for doing so; Though cheap, plentiful workers and tax benefits helped lure electronics companies to the reservation, Navajo leadership helped push the project forward; Raymond Nakai, chairman of the Navajo Nation from 1963 to 1971, and the self-styled first “modern” Navajo leader, was instrumental in bringing Fairchild to Shiprock. He spoke fervently about the necessity of transforming the Navajo as a “modern” Indian tribe, and what better way...

Research Detours

by Bailey Kelley Several of our readings this week have talked about how technological and social development is nonlinear rather than a direct march toward “progress.” Today I was reminded that academic research similarly includes left turns, feedback loops, and hiccups. But what could be (and usually is) frustrating almost always turns out to be productive, as long as we approach research with an open mind and an expectation of detours. If I had come to this project outside of the context of this seminar, I would have limited my objects to the paratexts, or ephemera of early personal computers: user manuals, packaging, marketing materials, and journalistic sources. I could make an argument about how those kinds of texts speak...

Synthesizer-Videogame Mashups

by Aurelio Meza The showcase video Super Mario Spacetime Organ (illucia & Soundscape) by Chris Novello starts asking, “What is a video game?” We could expand the scope of this speculation and ask, “What is an instrument?” (Georgina Born and Joe Snape finish an article on MaxMSP exactly with that question). These two interrogations bring together Max, customized instruments, and video games into the discussion of devices and instrumentality. How devices are operated through a physical interface is central to this discussion. Game controllers, just like piano or computer keyboards, can be defined as boundary objects (after Susan Leigh Star)–surfaces of interaction between an instrument and its user (here I’m using the notion of instrument in a very broad sense)....

“Hacking” as a Multipurpose Term in Ingress

by Kaitlin O’Brien Based on yesterday’s lecture on platform histories that had students code bend Super Mario Bros. on the original console, I have been thinking about how similar strategies could be applied to the augmented reality game Ingress. Through my experience with code bending, I began to think about what I am more familiar with and what I view as similar to code bending and that is hacking. In many ways, Ingress is a display of “urban hacking, and the reappropriation of public space away from an indexical, purely informational, and cognitivist use of mobile computing, and toward the affective and often normatively disruptive acts of distributed storytelling” (Coleman 283). Before I can even begin to explore hacking in Ingress,...

Rom Hacking and Experiential Spatiality

By Becky Anderson Through the duration of today’s rom-hacking Super Mario Bros. workshop I kept asking myself, would this investigation into and inevitable alterations of the binary source code happen to a Tolkien-based game adaptation? I’m assuming that at some point somebody has tried. I think you could certainly modify an early heroic adventure game to reflect the epic quest line of Frodo and friends. Or, while it would take some…or perhaps a lot of work, I imagine you could even code-bend or apply a series of transformations to the Super Mario Bros. source code to reflect a Middle-earth inspired backdrop with the Super Mario Bros. game characters modified to fit those within Tolkien’s Secondary World. Perhaps I’ll consider that...

BLACKBOX / WHITEBOX

by Kyle Bickoff Over the course of Day 2 we took a close look at game cartridges—rather, we dissected cartridges. After opening up the NES cartridge we then removed the chips on the card that store the contents of the game. We then extracted the contents off the chips, transferred them via a universal controller device via USB to a laptop, merged the files, edited them, rewrote them to writeable chips and then ran our modified game on an NES. I summarize our work today because it describes a methodology that very much resists a term I’ve written on previously—that term is the black box. The black box typically refers to a system in which the data is input into...

Limitations

By Ashlee Bird Having only ever viewed the world of hacking from an extreme distance, today was nothing short of a revelation. While I mentioned in my previous blog post that I want to pursue Gitelman’s insistence on dissecting a particular medium before analyzing its contents, today’s workshop brought into perspective just how intensive that task actually is, if it is to be done with any kind of serious depth. Simply analyzing the code of Super Mario Bros. (SMB) in our attempt to change the text “Mario” to “Nerds” was not only achieved through much trial and error on our part, but had additionally been prefaced by a 30 minute intensive lecture on hexadecimals, their chronology, and the effects that...

Hacking as Feminine

by Bailey Kelley In thinking about ways of putting today’s (incredibly fun and not nearly long enough) workshop in conversation with my project, I quickly made an analogous connection between learning to hack and learning to cook. First, each calls for (if not necessitates) explicit training from either knowledgeable individuals or other resources, and the feelings of gratification that I’ve experienced from even small successes in both fields are remarkably similar. Second, a student needs not only the proper ingredients (fresh vegetables, the right cut of meat, a working NES cartridge), but also the proper implements (pans and whisks, screwdrivers and soldering irons). Different dishes or projects require a vast diversity of ingredients, but specific implements may be useful to...

Rom Hacking and Legibility

In Tuesday’s workshop, we explored (and hacked) a variety of NES cartridges. We traced Super Mario Bros. from its material allocation on the PRG and CHR banks of its cartridge to its playable, modifiable instantiation on a windows emulator. The second half of the workshop offered a rich set of code reading and code producing tools to break, tweak and explore our super mario bros. roms. In this short probe, I’m going to think through the affordances of writing with these tools. We started our workship with this video of code-bending. The asemic substitutions of ram glitching contort the game beyond human legibility, and yet, the game still runs. to watch them slip so casually out of domains of human understanding...

/ August 3, 2016

Invisible Material: How Material Media Archaeology Illustrates Missing Voices

by Jaime Kirtz * This post is in response to Hertz and Parikka’s essay, “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method” as well as a day spent desoldering, modding and working with vintage video game cartridges and chips.    In their paper, “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method,” scholars Garnet Hertz and Jussi Parikka designate the term ‘zombie media’ to obsolete or ‘dead’ media that is “revitalized, brought back to use, reworked” (2012, p.425). Precedents for zombie media, such as projects like “The Edison Effect” by Paul DeMarinis, exemplify the intersections between engineering and art that remix, reuse and reappropriate purpose, context and use of various technologies/media (Hertz and Parikka, 2012, p.249). Hertz...