(con)juncture was lawson fletcher's thought pile. Now blogging at soundofruins.net
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gamer theory

Reading Wark's Gamer Theory (print version, 'original' online version GAM3R 7H3ORY is here) and finding it entirely abstruse. Thus this is very much a preparatory sketch for ideas that might be filled in at a later stage:

- Allegorithm as 'allegory' and 'algorithm'; the possibilities encased withing the arbitrariness of algorithm as Benjamin theorised it are nullified by the digital, which presents a parade of superficial differences with an underlying uniform binary code. All the skins in The Sims are just that. What comes next is the articulation of this logic to experience 'outside' the game (attached to that, what is the inside/outside here? Clearly, Wark isn't just arguing that games 'represent' or are a 'metaphor' for how society now operates (or vice versa), but that there is something more dynamic going on - what?)

- The shift to the 'topographical' and it's couching within a certain kind of media theory of space. Very interesting; needs teasing out.

And bringing these two points together, this quote, from card/page 59:
If the novel, cinema or television can reveal through their particulars an allegory of the world that makes them possible, the game reveals something else. For the reader, the novel produces allegory as something textual. The world of possibility is the play of the linguistic sign. For the cineaste, the world of possibility is a play of light and shade. For the gamer, the game produces allegory as something algorithmic. The world of possibility is the world internal to the algorithm...
- What the fuck is 'atopia'? Seems to be a kind of key.

That's it for the book itself, what I've found quite productive is approaching it through secondary and commentary texts and reviews. A few interesting points from that:

- This testy 'non-review' of the book by Julian Kücklich- raises interesting points regarding the book's production as a mirror for how it doesn't actually gesture towards ways 'out' of the game. Wark himself responds to this in comments and argues that we may need to "abandon" the notion of play as critical response - where that leaves reading against the grain and critical 'transgression' etc. is interesting, and connects with wider concerns I have with the 'genre' of cultural studies and critical theory writing, in which often a kind of utopian gesture is made after a generally depressing or revealing critique; embeddedness and disembededness (with perhaps a lack of respect to these terms existing academic application?) - e.g. "this is a product of capitalism, but it complicates and problematises these conditions of production in particular ways". A pitiful kind of 'way out' of a totalised system. But then this seems to be just how criticism operates. Yet Wark seems to argue in his comments on this review that gamespace is precisely universal and there is no way out - thus what becomes the new goal of criticism?

-Just a great comment on World of Warcraft that sums up my thoughts on the new digital political economy, as a game where "where gamers pay for the privilege of their own labor".

-Psycholudology and affect - Christian McCrea's entry into the discussion. Needs far more teasing out.
Sticking with McCrea's review above (and also another review he wrote here), we return to the problems of the 'performativity' of Wark's text - what it's actually doing and whether or not it is operating as a 'strategy guide' not for playing but escaping 'gamespace' (by which Wark means the way in which the wider social morphology is made over as game). I think the key here is McCrea's comment:
There is a ongoing sense that Wark is fearful what the encroachment of gamespaces may mean for potential ways of working against capitalism. Namely, that games offer escape but deliver us into the hands of the enemy.
That last sentence is crucial, and is the motivating drive of Gamer Theory in a way. The difficulty for me is parsing out the trajectory and causality, even if Wark would probably be unwilling to map his ideas onto something as crude as 'causality'.

And again, to drive home this question of how Wark offers a way out (or is it maybe just a map? A map with no real routes, however...), Wark himself again commenting on the initial snarky review says:
Making totality go away is not a task for thought. It doesn’t yield to a merely conceptual labor. Its an historical task. A remaking of the world.

Continuing with Wark through McCrea, we have this massive idea of the relations between (and collapse of) labour and leisure in gaming, and arguably in 'creative economies' more generally. McCrea notes that clearly this dialectic is something that theorists have been chipping away at for decades, and the Marxist idea of leisure as the necessary form of consumption that necessitates labour is not just one - but even say work on collecting, which emerged in the 19th (?) century as a quintessential bourgeois pastime, and which many scholars have argued is basically training for 'proper' forms of work, social organisation and taste.

Nevertheless, what seems qualitatively different in the new configuration of leisure/labour is that leisure itself is contemporaneously commodified or made into labour (distinct processes, I know, but bare with) - we actually perform productive (i.e. profitable) work whilst leisuring on the net on blogs, social networks, etc. - crowdsourcing etc. - but single-player / non-networked games seem to me to fit back into that non-contemporaneous and not directly profitable realm of leisurely labour - where there is still a kind of training going on but only implicitly.

In this regard, of course, World of Warcraft stands out as operating on both levels of games so described (literally pay to go on there and 'have fun', whilst this fun basically consists of remembering how to labour), but even far more obviously so with something like Pokémon - a point that Buckingham and Sefton-Green debate in their article 'Gotta catch 'em all: structure, agency and pedagogy in children's media culture', referencing the way in which the game basically trains children into being good consumers, 'collecting the whole set', etc.

- McCrea's post/review also discusses this idea of whether Wark's book makes for good 'games theory', and of course it doesn't - it has little traffic with the concerns over design, aesthetics, remediation and modalities of games that traditional (is it a tradition already? Seems so) games studies does, in its constant harping on about narratology and ludology. Having said that though, a more fruitful approach might be a combination of the two - rather than simply using each game as a cipher, as Wark seems to me to be guilty of, how can we cross his philosophy with articulation of the material realities (materialities) of games? This to me is a question that should confront all forms of critical/theoretical media studies, and one I am beginning to grapple with in terms of music media. And here I think I am only really echoing McCrea's point that he makes much more vividly, of the possibility of a 'theory-through-games'.

Finally, then, to try to give these notes a sense of closure or recall, I guess this idea of a 'game-aware' theory (of games) might be contradictory with Wark's larger point I referenced earlier - that to play the game in any way (even 'resistant') is, to be blunt, to lock oneself into playing the game.


Lovink on Peer-Review

Geert Lovink has called for an end to anonymous peer-review practices for journals and so on, arguing that it is a shady, backroom style of review that no longer fits the 'open' realm of web cultures where opinions are shared openly and freely.

I guess two immediate problems present themselves: 1) that Lovink has put the technology before culture a little too explicitly, as if the emergence of net forms of review simply warrant the restructuring of prior ones, and 2) that these very forms themselves might not actually be conducive to the sorts of considered, detailed review journal article reviews call for - who would want to read the equivalent of 50 snarky, off-the-cuff blog comments when receiving a paper back from a journal?

Then again, I'm highly ignorant about actual processes of peer-review, and whether they're as deceitful as Lovink claims they are.


text/paratext and materiality

A comment I made on marathonpack's discussion of musical paratexts and web 2.0:

I think the distinction between text and paratext is best approached in terms of that between text as ‘meaning/form’ and paratext as ‘materiality’ – or any form in which a text is instantiated. If you think of this way, it becomes clearer what the text is (the ’song’ itself as a kind of autonomous entity) but that doesn’t preclude the fact that a text is never actually realised until made by its various paratexts, therefore it is always clouded by them as Jenkins and yourself mention. Not just ‘no text without context’, but ‘no text without paratext’.