Kevin and my project was a fantastic opportunity to prod at the beginning of an idea.

 

at the launch event for the CCI i presented i work in progress – or rather the bits and pieces that we have developed to date.

 

a lot of the time was spent  iterating with the design and the flow of the experience.

Arma 2 provides us with a naturally powerful platofrm – we haven’t so much created a fully functional mod largely because of time but rather try and experiment with the inbuilt building tools.

 

arma2oa-20130212-212934

 

the lines ad circles and trigger are all units we have placed into the map, their behaviors and pathways are defined and a series of events that we are trying to play out to see what happens.

 

here is the drone on the runway

arma2oa-20130212-213557

 

 

the view from the village:

arma2oa-20130212-213853

 

 

and the same village from the air from the vantage point of the drone

arma2oa-20130212-213941

 

 

we mainly only had time to experiment with the general feel of the experience, how it felt to be both on the ground and in the  air, seeing both simultaneously and both the act of firing from the air and feeling and seeing the effects of that from the ground.

its worth mentioning that in terms of content all of th models and heavy lifting of the 3d game engine was done by the game – a lot of what we are doing is an exercise in contextualization.

ive spoken in a previous post about the issues surrounding representation in games especially ones that lend themselves to such traditional genres as FPS (first person shooters), and here we are instead providing an alternative perspective on situations that are expected to be applied in a assumed manner (this isn’t doing the ARMA 2 community a disservice they create incredibly complicated scenarios and play them out but are naturally interested in the games primary function as a combat simulator to be participated in).

 

the good news is it works – it is both disconcerting and uncanny to participate both fro the ground and the air and the specter of a drone and that sense of helplessness is indeed communicated, not to the degree in reality of course but it opens a dialogue about it.

 

The future of the mod lies in actually reducing some of the gameness of the interface and the program.  We discussed this during our sessions, the experience currently relies on a level of aptitude with the game and FPS games in general to be able to understand and participate in it.  In many ways we would need to break the game and also break the traditional rules of game design – this will not be a balanced experience – in the same way that the drones themselves are one of the clearest examples of the asymmetric nature of the conflict.

 

The next steps would be to create a clearer sense of the narrative of the experience – an arc and a clear set of situations inspired and based on a real scenarios.  Secondly to create a interface system that moves the game on through a series of steps – simultaneous events that play out for both set of players and pause allowing them to navigate a series of choices – focusing the interactions on decision making rather than reflexes and hand to eye.

 

We are hoping to progress the project onwards – implementing the above and more, the game platform is an ideal way to explore and express these ideas with implementations beyond conflict situations  hopefully we ll be able to feedback here in the future as that pans out.

 

ben

 

 

 

 

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The Cultural & Creative Industries Exchange labs ended yesterday with a launch event and the first public reveal of our contribution, Pararchive, a storytelling tool for archival media.

Cultural & Creative Industries Exchange launch event

Joining the other teams at the reception, we got the chance to talk thought the principles and philosophies of Pararchive with interested parties, as well as share our concept designs and scenarios.

Two visitors to our stand included Andrew Wilson – of Blink Media and the Hannah Mitchell Foundation – as well as Dinah Clark, Leeds City Council’s programme manager for culture. Dinah in particular was interested in the implications on intellectual property, ownership and openness in what became a thrilling conversation on the changing nature of work and value.

Pararchive - "Stories about Zak"

 

Though our intention was only to formulate a ‘concept car’, Pararchive looks like there might be resources available for further development. Just today a funding application was made to begin developing a working prototype… watch this space 🙂

Upon reaching the end of the Leeds Creative Labs, the feeling which echoed around the room from all the groups was that, we were only just getting started.  It has felt like a short journey but one of great exploration, listening to all of the fascinating presentations from around the table revealed the different approaches to the academic / technologist collaboration.

A fundamental difference between the groups was the notion of product, for myself and Vlad, our collaboration was the core of what we researched and reflected on. The concept and design of the projected image which was the result of our conversations, we saw almost as a byproduct.

For myself this process of reflection, which we often spoke through on our meetings, has been a realisation.  What I saw as boundaries to a collaboration, having a limit set by practice and methodology, in actual fact exist within the collaborator and the perceived physical limitations of the subject.

The ‘byproducts’ of our collaboration are as follows:

We developed a narrative of images to be projected in sequence relating to our conversations on the nature of data in space.

The first being a single image of a target:

Screen Shot 2012-11-18 at 16.14.30

The combined images which we are considering for a gallery piece is below:

VLAD/LYNCH Image

The next steps is to seek further funding for the collaboration to investigate the moving image, commercial application and the placement of the work within a gallery context.

 

 

Simon Popple from the University of Leeds and Imran Ali, Tom Morgan and Dean Vipond are working on a collaboration around storytelling tools for large media archives; the team has chosen to use archive media from the London Riots as content for storytellers.

We are now halfway through this project and it has been an extremely rewarding process for me. We have moved from a set of abstract ideas and aspirations to developing a set of principles and defined functions that will allow for the creation of tools that can facilitate interactive digital storytelling. We began the process by looking at basic principles and examining what tools were already out there and by defining what we wanted to create in relation to their limitations and shortcomings. This threw up a range of approaches and some interesting formats such as the Cowbird project (http://cowbird.com/) and new forms of digital storytelling software like Klynt (http://www.klynt.net/)

Once we were relatively certain of the nature of our concept we began to define core functions and to think about what users would want to do and how they could collect, interpret, repurpose and republish material and how the narratives of their own stories could be captured and shared.  We did this through Persona modelling which was a new concept to me – and which really opened my eyes to the ways in which these concepts could be built from the bottom up. I am now a convert! We decided to use the London riots as a case study and to pick examples of different participants/victims to work through how a particular story could be told and what range of materials and opinions could be used to represent it.  We are now at the stage of turning this into a series of profiles from which we are constructing the software interface and necessary functions from a user perspective. More later.

Simon Popple

Simon Popple from the University of Leeds and Imran Ali, Tom Morgan and Dean Vipond are working on a collaboration around storytelling tools for large media archives; the team has chosen to use archive media from the London Riots as content for storytellers.

I am very excited by the prospect of working with these guys to develop ideas that have come from two pieces of research dealing with access and use of archival resources. My initial idea is to develop an app/software that will allow people to use archival sources- films, photographs, sound files etc to develop their own personal ‘archive’ which will enable them to tell their own story and also allow them to exchange and interact with others in some form of collective creative practice.

As I said in my application for this scheme

“The idea comes from two AHRC/BBC funded KEPs centred on the role of User Generated Content (UGC) and the development of genuine democratic engagements between the public and a range of cultural institutions. My work looked at opening up the BBC’s moving image archives and in exploring what types of interaction and joint endeavour could be possible and in looking at expectations and  aspirations from a public and institutional perspective. As a consequence I am now ready to develop the next phase of this ongoing research and develop an application that can facilitate these exchanges and allow public audiences to become creative curators and to engage beyond the normative expectations of the ‘invited space’ offered by institutions. As we increasingly talk about the opportunities for self-expression and self-writing within expanding digital frames, this application could have the potential for genuine creative engagement. Organisations like the BBC, the British Library and the British Film Institute have just launched the Digital Public Space (DPS) which is a collaborative archive- of-archives built on the notion of free ‘democratic’ exchanges and in which acts of self-writing and the ‘national conversation’ can take place. This clearly signals a huge shift in the idea of ownership and the insularity of major institutions and offers the potential for exciting application development that would allow the public to take full advantage of increasingly available cultural resources and would be something that is not collection/institution specific.”

I hope that the project will allow me the opportunity to begin to explore the potential of this type of activity through a collaborative form of digital storytelling and to bottom-out some of its complexities and implications and to examine just what is possible in terms of design and interactivity. I expect to find it is a complex process!

Simon Popple

Ben Eaton, a digital artist, and Kevin Macnish, from the University of Leeds, are exploring the ethics of contemporary warfare using game platforms.

osama bin laden FPS

A quick one – a bit about my project with Kevin but also how his work intersects with my interests as a digital artist, and one who sometimes makes but often plays games.

I am fascinated about the fact that we are a country at war, a war far away seen on TVs but rarely felt in a tactile way.  But i am fascinated about where the leakages appear between our pre-existsing narratives of conflict and the impact of these leaks into our daily lives – where our government is still sending young men and women to fight 3500 miles away.

All of this is not because i want to express my political judgement on the conflict itself or the act of war-a long conversation for another time – but rather on the social nature of this conflict and how we as civilians participate and interact with its narratives, how it disappears into the background and suddenly rears its head again.

These things happen

News of the death of soldiers gradually filters away from the frontpage, and you rarely see the coffins being loaded off planes anymore.

The death of a friend of a friend who they went to school with or a friend’s friend’s sister’s boyfriend means pictures of young men in desert gear on operation with sad epitaphs underneath briefly puncture my timeline.

An American paralympic team with athletes wearing a quasi-military uniforms, perhaps an indication as to the provenance of so many of the young amputees yet end-up showing practically none of it on their  TV networks.

Some good television but no great films have been made about the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but perhaps some great games will be.

A developer trying to make a game about the battle for Fallujah was criticized for their choice of subject matter, they cited the soldiers they were interviewing and who were acting as consultants who said (i paraphrase) “We want to tell our story and this is our medium – how else would we tell it”

Modern Warfare 3 made $775million in 5 days.

First Person Shooters – where you play from a first person perspective often down the barrel of a gun are one of the main genre’s trailed like movies, and increasingly trying to trade on either an uncanny resemblance to what’s happening over there or vicariously – depending on how you see it.

Sometimes they try and have a point.  Often this is terrible.

There is an uncomfortable synergy between FPS games – or the ‘manshooter’ the excessively macho clichee and politically myopic games of contemporary warfare – and the military.  The Army posting recruitment adverts on the front page of computer game magazines or at trade fairs – or the British army creating an advert designed to mimic the PoV of some of the most famous gaming franchises.

A recent release that lets you buy real world weapons branded with the game’s logo – a new brand of camo , a new gun stock or a tomahawk.

trite over-sentimentalism and oversimplification that shows neither the armed forces or the games industry in a particularly good or intelligent light.

but these games are fun (some are fun, some are terrible), they sell big, they are engaging and they have a reach almost equivalent to that of mainstream media and cinema –

these games are texts- artifacts of a conflict and potentially a distanced way for us to participate in these conflicts – most don’t do it well, but also most deserve more in-depth thought than presented here –

but as an artist i am interested in how we can use games as platforms  that can create a way to read, understand and document conflict.  At the risk of oversymplifying perhaps video games will create the War on Terror’s – Appocalypse Now, or Full Metal Jacket.

There is a further element to this which is where Kevin and mine’s collaboration comes in.

As conflict crosses increasingly over into the realm of the digital the relationship between theses systems and our partcipation in the act of warfare becomes more blurred – our project sits here –

“Flying drones is like playing a computer game”.  It’s not but its an easy way to write off both computer games and a wider conversation about the fact that we way we fight – especially in unbalanced conflicts such as this one where the West’s technological and financial superiority  – means there are systems and platforms being rolled out on battlefields that are forever changing the way we fight, for their operators, their victims and for the rest of us.

We are making a game, modding a pre-existing platform a brilliant-ly complicated and fiddly military sim called Arma 2.  How can we use the platform to let us play out and explore these new ethical questions.

Ben