Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nordic Game Research Network PhD seminar in Aalborg

Ole Ertløv Hansen opens the three-day seminar on game studies methods and theories, and tells us about the upcoming events in the NGRN group: MindTrek, Tampere, October 8-9, 2008, "The philosophy of Computer Games," Oslo, Aug 14-16, 2009, and an additional research seminar on disciplinary identity in the spring of 2009.

With a background in television research, the first keynote speaker, Lars Holmgaard Christensen, describes himself as an experience ethnographer and outlines the methodological introduction to audience studies and how research user-experences. Drawing upon different qualitative approaches to under stand viewers, consumers, users etc, the presentation seeks to find alternatives to the predominant...

Audience: an assembly of listeners, viewers who come together if only virtually through shared media experinces.
Ethnography: Experience, performance

Historical Overview
1920 - 1940 Radio & newspaper. Propagandic medium. Moral panic. Adorno. Max Horkheimer - Nypodermic Needle Theory. Mass Audience. Era of Scarcity (few media only at certain times of the day).

1945 Television. Network. Distribution. Distributed Network. Mass Society Theory. Mass Media Audience.

1960 - 1970 Ideology-Criticism. Screen Theory. Later the more nuanced "Uses and gratification" theory. Two-Step-Flow.

"10 things wrong with the effects model" - photo. Causes and effects. Media is blamed for negative things that are happening in society. Children as victims. Conditioning. "What people see on the screen they will do in real life." Misapplied methodology. Researchers, teachers and well-educated people are immune, but the rest are at risk.

1980 The Era of Abundance. The Active Audience. The Qualitative Turn. Reception studies. Stuart Hall. Media Ethnography.

2000 Era of Plenty. Diffused and Extended Audience. Audience must be problematized. Experiental and Creative Methods. Web 2.0. Video games. World of Warcraft. Facebook.

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Media Studies 1.0
- Students should be taught to read meadia in an appropriate critical style
- A focus on media producers/broadcasters, not thinking what the alternatives could be.
- Vague recognition of the interent and new digital media
- A preferance for conventional research methods, with people as non-expert audience "receivers" or as expert "producers."

Media Studies 2.0
- People have the skills to interpret media content, with a critical eye and an understanding of contemporary media techniques.
- International media, globalization, not primarily Western media.
- Internet and new digital media have fundamentally changed the ways in which we engage with all media, not seen as an "optional extra."
- Conventional research methods are replaced by new methods which recognize and make use of people's own creativity and brush aside the outmoded notions of receivers and producers.

Holmgaard argues that there are three things wrong with qualitative interviews:
- Too intellectual - Too immobile
- Cognitive reasoning
(fix people in a room, talk about the themes that we have prepared)

The researcher as a miner or a traveler
Miner. Knowledge is buried metal, knowledge is given, knowledge exists, konwledge is waiting to be iuncovered
Traveler. We create knowledge.

Creativity and abductive thinking
Deduction (extract from given cases), induction (speculation about future cases) and abduction (generating hypothesis) "The best explanation so far..." Creativity in audience studies - to generate hopythesis, but also constructed versions of reality.

Case 1 Event - Observing game-play. Non-participant ethnography. Games scripts for performing.
3 observers, 3 days, 3 attractions
- Randers Regnskov
- Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum
- Aalborg Storcenter (shopping mall)

Observations analysed in light of flow theory and metaphorical analogy to computer games.

Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum: "Encyclopedia or Pixeline?" Children at the art museum were supposed to be pacified and the visitors should have experience and knowledge about the art. No clear direction in the "game". Feedback is given at random and in no particular order. The visitor must already have high aesthetic skills. Quiet adult conversations about pictures/painters. Compare to flow: For children the challenge is not too high, since they are able to be in the room with pictures. boredom. because they don't come with exterior skills. Mediator, structure, senses, the body, money transation, aim.

Randers Regnskov: Experience of the rain forest and of the animals. Different levels to perform on in the "game". 1st person shooter. Narrow paths to follow on different levels. Points per animal seen (shot). No skills needed. "We're finished now." Compare to flow: The challenge to find the animals is to high. Frustration. The challenge in exploring the rainforest is not high enough. Follow a given path - boredom. There is a need to step off the beaten track. Mediator, structure, senses, the body, money transation, aim.

Aalborg Storcenter: The road through Bilka. You can go anywhere... off the beaten track. You have to have your own agenda to get through the shopping mall. As PacMan. Aim of the visit is to consume. No direction, however, only everyday consumption skills are needed. All age-groups can find enjoyment. Compare to flow: xxx. Mediator, structure, senses, the body, money transation, aim.

Case 2 Interview as Narrative Performance. Media use as lived experience vs. Narrative construction of media use as lived experience. Pre-figuration -> configuration -> Re-figuration. People change through the interview. The refiguration of everyday life. Six households were selected depending on what technology/media they used, ranged from little media use to extensive media use. Qualitative Data: photosessions (taken by the participants) and narrative interviews (accounts). Structured analysis of the interviews (theoretical base: Labov & Valetsky) Oral versions of experience. Abstract (overview). Orientation (Who, where, when?). Complication (xxx).... the rest on picture.

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