Planking and Seinfeld – “Are you still a master of your own Domain?”

By examining the relationship between digital media and real space, as a community we may identify that digital media has integrated into our social sphere and makes itself into a seamless part of our everyday lives. In the case of Chang and Goodman’s article about “Concrete Games” we have three requirements when it comes to playing their game…the same can be said about another more recent game that involves a place, a person and a digital element – planking. When planking, one must take a specific pose, on top of a particular object and/or in a particular place. To make it “digital” it should be recorded, either through video or photography and then uploaded for public viewing.

Also, included is a link to an episode of Seinfeld, where George obtains an arcade version of “Frogger” and plays it in an urban environment. It’s a nice twist and takes a more literal meaning when it comes to expanding digital games into the physical world.

Sorry for the Quality… :p


Spatial Game Link

I came across this blog post detailing someone’s experiences at the 2008 Hide & Seek festival in London:

Hide & Seek, for those interested, is an organization dedicated to using social media tools to enable pervasive gaming.  Their website is here:

I brought this post to the class’ attention mainly because its focus on the smuggling game.  The game itself is almost minimally related to digital media, but it still qualifies due to its use of UV detectors.  (A loose connection to technology, but a connect nonetheless.)  And with a very low-tech device, it still manages to radically transform the way people view their local space.  And it follows the basic elements of a game: it’s got clear objectives, a competitive element, and a set of both intrinsic rules, and rules that are socially negotiated.  And yet it’s still pretty far away from what most people think of as a game.  Why is that?




Manhunt and World of Warcraft

As children, I think it is easy to access the “magic circle” that allows play or games to take on their own reality. First of all, there is little consequence to children’s playful behavior, as others can understand it as ‘play’. But as we grow up, there are expectations and more consequence to behaviour. ‘Play’ is harder to determine within society, because it is less common.  In class, we learned of the man who was hiding in the bushes. He shushes the girl nearby (as he is thoroughly immersed in his game of manhunt) and she is frightened. He realizes that he was understood not as ‘playing’ the game but as a total creeper. These sorts of misconceptions can totally limit the comfort level a person has for playing. It can really disrupt the fun of the game if a player is self conscious of reaction. People don’t want to be embarrassed or misinterpreted, but I believe that everyone still likes to play in some way. This is why I think games like World of Warcraft are so popular. The internet is impersonal, and lets an individual experiment on how to express himself without any repercussions. In World of Warcraft, or other online roleplaying games, there are no consequences to the person behind the character, and they are in a community that expects one to ‘play’. No one will be creeped out when a character comes out of the bushes. I have only tried World of Warcraft once or twice, but understand it as a game that is easy to become completely absorbed in. Not only is the player expected to enter the “magic circle”, but the game becomes the most enjoyable for those who take it as another reality.

You can learn more about World of Warcraft  from their website:

The Cell Phone and the Destruction of Privacy

Ever since the cell phone has started to become more and more involved in people’s day to day life, the privacy barrier which usually comes along with being on the phone has completely vanished. Historically, when having personal conversations, people have been confined to face to face conversations, or at most phone conversations from the seclusion of their own home. Now, with the existence of cell phones, people are taking their personal lives with them wherever they go.

I can’t even begin to count the number of times where I have been in a public place, say a bus, and people on their cell phones have been having extremely personal conversations. This ranges from people yelling their lungs out angrily at the person at the other end of the phone to weeping loudly over extremely personal issues with whoever is on the phone. This is a prime example of how the new technology (cell phones) takes parts of our lives which are usually contained to small, determined places and removes all boundaries associated with them.

iPods, mp3 players, and thier affect of the world around us

Years ago, if you wanted to listen to your music you wouldn’t grab your iPod or even a walkman, you would have to turn on a radio or go to wherever you had set up your music system. Throughout university residences people would be blasting their music on their boom-boxes, much to the annoyance of their neighbours. Back then, music was more openly shared between people, after all, they didn’t have much choice. Today, almost everyone has either an iPod or an mp3 player, which means that no one can blast their music anymore. Today, music is a more private matter, and isn’t as openly shared as it used to be. iPods and mp3 players have likewise altered the “space” around us that is more heard rather than seen. Who hasn’t ever turned up their iPod so loud that they couldn’t hear what was going on around them, or just listened to their music and try to lose themselves in it? These music players create personal spaces for everyone who uses them, severing them off from the real world around them if they choose. Because iPods and mp3’s are so small, and no one else can hear what you are listening to, they can also encourage us to use them when we really shouldn’t, like in class for example. They make it easy to drown out the reality around us, and seclude us in our own little bubbles of music. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that devices like iPods and mp3’s have altered the way we engage with the space around us, and have also helped to cut us off from the real world.

Altering the Spatial Experience

While studying the relationship between digital media and spatial relations, the class looked at the concept of Geocaching as a locative game. But if we take a step back to what technology Geocaching relies on, we can really explore how technology changes our view of spatial reality. The Global Positioning System (GPS) has only become available to the general public in the twenty-first century, yet it has altered how many people interact with the space around them.

The GPS is a remediation of the map. Maps limited people to having access to grids of information. There was no one Map that could show the entire globe in detail. The GPS holds information about the entire world, and it is easily carried with you. It takes advantage of the fields that Mitchell describes in his essay “Post-Sedentary Space.”

However, with the introduction of the GPS, people became less reliant on close relations for information and began searching for information from far sources. It is very interesting to see this change. Men and women who were once able to use a simple paper road map to travel in any country from anywhere now depend on the voice of the GPS to tell them LEFT or RIGHT, so that they can mindlessly maneuver the vehicle. It is also quite funny to see how the voice in the GPS is often labelled as a personal aspect. But the voice is the same for everyone and it does not hold the same level of intimacy as being told the directions from a real person.

(This clip is a commercial that shows the lack of personalization and lack of spatial sense due to reliability on the GPS

In class, we also discussed how wireless technology could be starting to control us rather than us controlling them, especially due to the automatization of many technological features. In terms of the GPS, a person has less control over which path he or she is going to take to their destination because the GPS will make that choice for them. Additionally, the GPS will often make the “economic” choice by guiding you to the toll routes, unless requested to do otherwise.

To conclude, the GPS shows how technology can be used to alter the space around you. It has made the familiar spaces unfamiliar and driving is no longer an activity that requires you to think and plan ahead. Like much of wireless technology, it has created a disconnect between the person and the spatial experience.

The Invasion of the Cell Phone

In W. J. Mitchell’s essay, “Post-Sedentary Space,” the fundamental question that is discussed is whether or not wireless connection and portable access devices are redefining our community and shared spaces, or disrupting them entirely. This is an issue that reoccurs in the additional readings of this week and is therefore worth further exploration. I would argue that in the bigger picture constant technological connection has benefited our society because it has made distances smaller, and indeed permitted different parties to connect to one another with ease. However, in considering the smaller picture, such as perhaps in a classroom or among a group of friends, I have found that it has ironically fostered a level of disconnect.

In his essay, Mitchell refers to how mobile phones have overwhelmed us, meaning, everyone has one. The advantages of cell phones are that they allow you to communicate with your contacts and connect to the Internet in a variety of ways. However these points are also the problem with cell phones, depending on how you argue it. I am arguing that cell phones have hindered public space. Speaking as a Blackberry user, I am often distracted by my cell phone and recognize that it can be a troubling addition to a classroom. In large classroom environments it is easy for a student to text, BBM, and simply just not pay attention – disconnected from their actual physical environment, their teachers, and their classmates. The same can be said when looking at a group of teenagers. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat around with my friends and watched as each of us perused our cell phones instead of engaging in conversation with one another. It is deeply unsettling to realize how just one portable access device can interfere with our ability to connect to our spaces, as well as with other people.

This is a link to a video clip of Jerry Seinfeld on Conan O’Brien. He is comically emphasizing my point on how mobile devices upset our physical interactions, therefore increasing the gaps in our community.