Hello Montreal

This year continues its dramatic moments with a trip to Montreal in just a week’s time. I’ll be presenting at the Histoire du Jeu symposium, led by the Université du Québec à Montréal. The title of the symposium is Beyond games: Tinkering and Creative Appropriation of Video Games – something too close to what I do to let pass! The symposium starts during the weekend of the MEGA – MIGS19 games event in Montreal and continues into the following week.

Symposium de l'histoire du jeu, Montreal November 2019

It’s different from other recent events I have been selected for, where I have have just shown a single piece of work. Here I will be talking more, relating my work to previous research. But there will be ‘clips’ of my video work to explain and show what I am talking about.

But this event represents some of what I have been trying to achieve, to look beyond the space of a single game world to see a wider artistic context. This symposium is within the games context, Denver was about digital animation, and Berlin combined science and video. And I’m also currently in Edinburgh developing my printmaking to interpret things in yet another way.

And it also fits with the ‘theory’ after three years. That the online and the digital are distinct, different and interesting – but they remain connected. There is no binary division between the digital (on a pedestal) and the analogue (thown in a bin as if it’s all the same and all finished with). The digital makes new things possible, displaces some things, but it doesn’t replace everything. Perceptions of the world extend across new technologies, and the past is not forgotten.

Indeed, humans depend on technologies to survive, which includes the basics of cooking, agriculture and clothing. Our cultural processes change, adapt and evolve through the technologies. But as Raymond Williams argued intently in 1961, in Culture and Society, culture is a process, not a thing. What we do with technology is what really matters, not the wonder of the ‘machine’ itself.

Second Life is an aspect of that. It is a virtual world containing user created content. It was created as a space in which to live, make stuff and be creative and social. That aspect is still important, and makes it distinctive. It is notoriously difficult to master – it isn’t just a product to be bought and consumed. While the challenge discourages some, it also engages others more deeply, who spend more time there than might be expected. After all, I’ve been there nearly 11 years – it’s longer than facebook, twitter or any of the rest. I’ve got more out of it. And without them mining personal data out of me.

I’m still finalising what I’m going to say. It is a half hour presentation with a quarter hour for questions, and that’s longer than I’ve done previously. The video art I’m thinking to include, as things stand now, are:

I will be posting the presentation online after the event, though it will probably have to wait until I return from Montreal later in the week.

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