GAME 340, Week 1

How To Do Things With Videogames, Introduction: Media Microecology

“‘Dipping and skimming,’ [Matthew] Battles reminds us, ‘have been modes available to readers for ages. Carr makes one kind of reading—literary reading, specifically—into the only kind that matters. But these and other modes of reading have long coexisted, feeding one another, needing one another’” (2)

“It shouldn’t be any surprise that reading is a varied activity” (2)

“technology neither saves nor condemns us. It influences us, of course, changing how we perceive, conceive of, and interact with our world” (2)

“media philosophy: we can understand the relevance of a medium by looking at the variety of things it does” (3)

“We can think of a medium’s explored uses as a spectrum, a possibility space that extends from purely artistic uses at one end (the decisive moment photograph) to purely instrumental uses at the other (the hardware store snapshot)” (3)

“One way to grasp a medium’s cultural influence is to examine how much of that field of uses has been explored” (3)

“[McLuhan’s] point was that the things a medium does to a culture are more important than the content it conveys” (4)

“Videogames, the subject of this book, also have properties that precede their content: games are models of experiences rather than textual descriptions or visual depictions of them. When we play games, we operate those models, our actions constrained by their rules” (4)

“Videogames are a medium that lets us play a role within the constraints of a model world” (4)

“unlike playground games or board games, videogames are computational, so the model worlds and sets of rules they produce can be far more complex” (4)

“Games—like photography, like writing, like any medium—shouldn’t be shoehorned into one of two kinds of uses, serious or superficial, highbrow or lowbrow, useful or useless” (5)

“media ecology is a general, media-agnostic approach to understanding how a host of different technologies works individually and together to create an environment for communication and perception” (6)

“the dedicated media ecologist must be concerned not only with the overall ecosystem but also with the distinctive functions of its components” (6)

“media microecology seeks to reveal the impact of a medium’s properties on society. But it does so through a more specialized, focused attention to a single medium, digging deep into one dark, unexplored corner of a media ecosystem, like an ecologist digs deep into the natural one” (7)

“it is only after conducting such an investigation that we should feel qualified to consider distinct varieties of a medium as promising or threatening to a particular way of life” (7)

“I suggest we imagine the videogame as a medium with valid uses across the spectrum, from art to tools and everything in between” (7)

“videogames have seeped out of our computers and become enmeshed in our lives” (8)

A Thousand Plateaus, Translator’s Foreword: Pleasures of Philosophy, by Brian Massumi

“ticks and quilts and fuzzy subsets” (ix)

“[the] authors recommend that you read it as you would listen to a record” (ix)

“‘Philosophy, nothing but philosophy’” (ix)

Deleuze “discovered an orphan line of thinkers who were tied by no direct descendance but were united in their opposition to the State philosophy that would nevertheless accord them minor positions in its canon”—“Lucretius, Hume, Spinoza, Nietzsche, and Bergson” (x)

A Thousand Plateaus is “the affirmative ‘nomad’ thought called for in Anti-Oedipus” (xi)

“‘State philosophy’ is another word for the representational thinking that has characterized Western metaphysics since Plato” (xi)

“The subject, its concepts, and also the objects in the world to which the concepts are applied have a shared, internal essence: the self-resemblance at the basis of identity” (xi)

“Representational thought is analogical; its concern is to establish a correspondence between these symmetrically structured domains” (xi)

Commentator’s Note: This is the Laruellian “duel,” the real/syntax matrix.

“The modus operandi [of representation] is negation: x = x = not y” (xii)

“Identity, resemblance, truth, justice, and negation. The rational foundation for order” (xii)

“The collusion between philosophy and the State was most explicitly enacted in the first decade of the nineteenth century with the foundation of the University of Berlin, which was to become the model for higher learning through Europe and in the United States” (xii)

“The goal laid out for it by Wilhelm von Humboldt (based on proposals by Fichte and Schleiermacher) was the ‘spiritual and moral training of the nation,’ to be achieved by ‘deriving everything from an original principle’ (truth), by ‘relating everything to an ideal’ (justice), and by ‘unifying this principle and this ideal in a single Idea’ (the State)” (xii)

“The end product would be ‘a fully legitimized subject of knowledge and society’—each mind an analogously organized mini-State morally unified in the supermind of the State” (xii)

“‘Nomad thought’ does not immure itself in the edifice of an ordered interiority; it moves freely in an element of exteriority … it replaces restrictive analogy with a conductivity that knows no bounds” (xii)

“The concepts [nomad thought] creates do no merely reflect the eternal form of a legislating subject, but are defined by a communicable force in relation to which their subject, to the extent that they can be said to have one, is only secondary” (xii)

Concepts “do not reflect upon the world but are immersed in a changing state of things” (xii)

“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build the courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window” (xii)

“What is the subject of the brick? The arm that throws it? The body connected to the arm? The brain encased in the body? The situation that brought brain and body to such a juncture? All and none of the above. What is its object? The window? The edifice? The laws the edifice shelters? The class and other power relations encrusted in the laws? All and none of the above” (xii-xiii)

“‘What interests us are the circumstances’” (xiii)

“Nomad thought replaces the closed equation of representation, x = x = not y (I = I = not you) with an open equation: . . . + y + z + a + . . . (. . . + arm + brick + window + . . .)” (xiii)

“Rather than analyzing the world into discrete components, reducing their manyness to the One of identity, and ordering them by rank, it sums up a set of disparate circumstances in a shattering blow” (xiii)

“It synthesizes a multiplicity of elements without effacing their heterogeneity or hindering their potential for future rearranging” (xiii)

“The modus operandi of nomad thought is affirmation, even when its apparent object is negative. Force is not to be confused with power. Force arrives from outside to break constraints and open new vistas. Power builds walls” (xiii)

“The space of nomad thought is qualitatively different from State space. Air against earth … ‘smooth,’ or open-ended” (xiii)

“nomad thought goes by many names. Spinoza called it ‘ethics.’ Nietzsche called it the ‘gay science.’ Artaud called it ‘crowned anarchy.’ To Maurice Blanchot, it the ‘space of literature.’ To Foucault, ‘outside thought.’ In this book, Deleuze and Guattari employ the terms ‘pragmatics’ and ‘schizoanalysis’” (xiii)

“nomad thought is not confined to philosophy … the kind of philosophy it is comes in many forms” (xiii)

“Filmmakers and painters [and, we might add, game developers] are philosophical thinkers to the extent that they explore the potentials of their respective mediums and break away from the beaten paths” (xiii)

A Thousand Plateaus is conceived as an open system” (xiv)

“Each ‘plateau’ is an orchestration of crashing bricks extracted from a variety of disciplinary edifices … an open equilibrium of moving parts each with its own trajectory” (xiv)

“a fabric of intensive states” (xiv)

“consistency … a holding together of disparate elements (also known as a ‘style’)” (xiv)

“A style in this sense, as a dynamic holding together or mode of composition, is not something limited to writing. Filmmakers, painters, and musicians have their styles, mathematicians have theirs, rocks have style, and so do tools, and technologies, and historical periods, even—especially—punctual events” (xiv)

Commentator’s Note: And so, too, game developers.

“the reader is invited to lift a dynamism out of the book entirely, and incarnate it in a foreign medium” (xv)

“Deleuze’s own image for a concept is not a brick, but a ‘tool box’” (xv)

“He calls his kind of philosophy ‘pragmatics’ because its goal is the invention of concepts that do not add up to a system … but instead pack a potential in the way a crowbar in a willing hand envelops an energy of prying

“read it as a challenge: to pry open the vacant spaces that would enable you to build your life and those of the people around you into a plateau of intensity that would leave afterimages of its dynamism that could be reinjected into still other lives, creating a fabric of heightened states between which any number, the greatest number, of connecting routes would exist” (xv)

“Some might call that promiscuous. Deleuze and Guattari call it revolution” (xv)

“The question is not: is it true? But: does it work?” (xv)

“What new thoughts does it make it possible to think? What new emotions does it make it possible to feel? What new sensations and perceptions does it open in the body?” (xv)

Commentator’s Note: This is the call to action for this course.

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