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Susana Pajares Tosca

NOTE: I owe the idea of this MOO-platonic dialogue format to Elin Sjursen, who did something similar at her presentation at DAC. The abstracts for papers and keynotes can be found at the conference's website, as well as photos from the conference. There were many papers I missed at the conference, so this report only mentions about half of what happened. I hope the interested reader will look at the abstracts in the conference website, where the authors' homepages can be found. I want to thank Mark Bernstein for his useful comments that helped me to greatly improve this report.

Tosca arrives.

Tosca-ko is already there.

TOS- (Sternly) Ah, here you are. We really should talk about what we are going to write for that DAC report...

KO- Are you still angry with me for the trip to Norway?

TOS- What do you think? We nearly missed the entire first day of the conference and it was all your fault. Multiple personalities don't usually insist on occupying a separate seat on a plane.

KO- Airlines! Delaying the plane for three hours! Where was I supposed to sit, anyway? And you didn't even support me.

TOS- Enough chatter! Let's get started.

Tosca shares the conference's URL...

KO- What worries me is the fact that we only saw half of it, with your insisting on coming to the same sessions as me. That double track guaranteed constant guilt. I mean, you were in one session, feeling guilty for not being in the other, but behold! Most amazing thing: as soon as you changed sessions you would feel guilty again for not being in the...

TOS- YOU were the one sticking to me like an insect! But I suppose you mean the program was so interesting we couldn't decide what to miss. You have a strange way of paying compliments.

KO- In fact we even managed to miss the first performance and opening keynote, although people tell me both were remarkable. Nicole Peyrafitte, Holland Hopson and Pierre Joris stunned the audience with their musical-visual-digital "Quodlibet"; and Mark Amerika seems to have killed the romantic author of genius in a "vive la machine" performance that was very much appreciated.

Tosca looks surprised.

TOS- I'm glad you've done some research. High time. My notes tell me the first paper we listened to was Matthew Kirschenbaum's "Virtuality and Immateriality: Art, Information Technology, and Ideology", a very interesting ideological analysis of the seemingly innocent merger of art and technology.

KO- Yeah, that was good.

In this field we all tend to talk about digital technology as if it was the peak of human evolution, forgetting darker implications behind, in fact forgetting any implications at all...

TOS- You amaze me! Did you also take any notes on the next panel?

KO- Of course! It was "Digital Aesthetics and Computer Games". My favourite topic. Kampmann Walther pointed to Kant's emancipation of the beautiful and Luhman's ideas on art as a starting point for a digital aesthetics. He proposed some key points to think about, such as variability, transformation and immersion...

Tosca nods.

KO- So digital art moves away from older paradigms.

TOS- Exactly, we need to concentrate on its specific reception process, on what goes on between artist, work and public. Isn't that in fact what the next speaker, Anne Mangen, tried to do with the computer game "Myst", using postmodern literature (Pynchon) and neo-formalist film analysis as critical tools?

KO- She was doing comparisons.

TOS- Yes, but also seeing to what extent these "external" approaches are useful for digital researchers.

KO- Oh, the next speaker, Jesper Juul, was even more "independentist", calling for an exclusive poetics of computer games that he proposed to call "Ludology".

TOS- Remind me to tell old Aristotle about this tomorrow.

KO- I don't know. He can be a help sometimes. But with Aristotle, it's always dramatics!

Couldn't we just move away from that? As Jesper said, we have only looked at games from a narrative point of view. And centuries-old narrative! He opposed narration to action, and thus games to stories, defining them and identifying their very different themes and goals.

TOS- (Horrified) You don't want any more stories?

KO- No, no, it's not that, we just don't want the same thing from a good game than from a good story. We need more and better participation. Jesper described a few things that could be done, specially in multiplayer environments.

TOS- Well, I am not against digital forms. At least not as long as you don't want to replace literature with games. I see computer games as more similar to real life games than to narratives, but the trend has been the contrary so far.

KO- That was the last paper of the first day, then we went to that reception with installations and performances. Really cool place, with posh furniture my grandma would have loved.

TOS- You mean my grandma. You don't have one. You are a manga charicaturesque projection.

KO- Shut up. I don't listen to people who nastily try to induce insecurity in others.




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