Collaboration?

What is the nature of Collaboration in the production and use of your game?

Collaboration can Seriously Damage your Objectivity

Simon's ambivalent interpretations of 'democratised' media space remind me of the difficulties of talking about the collaborative production and use of Furtherfield's VisitorsStudio, which was collaboratively conceived, created, nurtured and is continually transformed and variously 'owned'.

In the media art arena, and in this age of communication consumption, every utterance might be presumed to have a promotional function embedded in it. And promotion may be generally considered, by association with religion, politics and commercial advertising, to be a shady, coercive and generally damaging business. That VS operates with the products and processes of capitalism's champion industry, digital technology, could cause double-integrity-trouble.

In Patrick Lichty's essay for Game/Play he describes VS as operating as a 'stone soup' model. The story of the 'Stone Soup' contains within it an illustration of wholesome trickery for turning a privately owned stone in a time of famine into a good tasty soup, brewing in a communal pot.

This analogy describes a dynamic process, consisting of distributed nutritional ingredients, a group of variously self-interested individuals and a shared project for acknowledged mutual benefit. It suggests that ethical communication within social groups takes as its basis, the need to understand what motivates people, without ripping them off. I particularly like the trickery bit because it is involved with, rather than distant from, human nature.

I have spent recent years involved with numerous collaboratively evolved networked art activities with Furtherfield, VisitorsStudio and Node.London. So I have to consider the possibility that I find collaborative process within VisitorsStudio compelling because I am invested and involved- of course! And as such I will find things in it to support my model of relationship to the people and activity involved. It is also accepted wisdom that if I stand to benefit from the success of a project (financially, attention, reputation or status-wise) that I will claim all kinds of wonders for it.

Collaboration can seriously damage your objectivity as an individual. This may be one reason why collaborative projects are sometimes treated with suspicion and disdain in academic, empirical and hierarchical frameworks. Its open-ended processes do not sit happily within a distinct, controllable, predictable and compartmentalised model of the world- that thinks it has found a way to automatically protect itself against delusion and corruption.

.... So much for describing what the collaborative nature of our project isn't! But the best way I can think of to address Ele's question is to invite readers to enter VisitorsStudio, get involved and answer it for themselves; )

participation

Some ramblings and questions
Some interesting points from ruth, when we dicuss collaboration aren't we really talking about a self-selecting activity that someone "opts into". Is that necessarily a self-less act? Is collaboration also something that is purely germane to network structures? Don't agents in hierachies also collaborate?

hierachies
I would (being one ;-) ) also take issue with the description of academics treating collaboration with disdain. The entire research culure of academia is predicated on collaboration and the sharing of research knowledge. The citation model for academic papers is actutally a pretty robust model of knowledge sharing that pre-dates technological forms such as open-source, free software etc. We wouldn't actually be having this discussion if this wasn't the case as the Internet would not have been developed.

On terms

In his discussion of "participation" in the art/audience movements fromt the 60s Popper says that the term is/was an intellectual and political movement, bound up with the reforming social movements of the day. "Interaction" was a technological turn, rooted in computer praxis which was less concerned with democratising potentials and more identified with areas of scientific practice. Although things have obviously changed a lot since he wrote this....

Where are we now in relation to this distinction? What can we learn from the sucesses and failiures of early participatory movements?

Forgive me if this isn't making much sense, I haven't had my first coffee of the day.

t
*

from voyeur to participant

Being caught on camera sniffing coke was the best thing that Kate Moss could do for her career, we can imagine that somewhere in the information machine someone set it up to boost her profile. The organisation of media space now appears so much more democratic - but is this really the case? Sitting round the TV on a Sunday afternoon with the family, I watched The Golden Shot. Apparently Lew Grade, one of the best media gurus of the time, had worked out that there was nothing to do on a Sunday - except go to the cinema - in English provincial life. So why not have a go at getting people to phone in? Now of course anyone with a personal computer and a network connection can become viewer, participant and even guru if they dare. TV shows like Big Brother have recycled the space that once was The Golden Shot. What interests me is that in a diffuse and media savvy age, we still see patterns of 'viewing' that are both interactive and collective. The Golden Shot and Big Brother are the same show utilising similar tactics but in the case of BB different income streams. TV is no more redundant than books - we could ask how much more expansion of the media space is possible? Tabloid pictures of coked up Kate still fulfil our prurient desire for celebrity and the distress of others. Digital technologies seem to provide a continual oscillation between the state of voyeur and participant and therein lie the business models.

For further reading see:
McLuhan M (1964) Understanding Media, New York Mentor. Reprint edition (1994) with an introduction by L. Lapham, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Collective Viewing

I've never saw the Golden Shot - but Wikipredia has a good description. However, I do recall a kids TV programme in the late 70's / early 80's where you could ring up and direct a shot or grab a toy (can anyone else remember it?). The delay in timing reminds me of the crudeness of Skype today, where the remote-ness is actually clunky and increases a sense of distance. Maybe iChat is smoother... The common factor here is the experimentation with networked technology - not to do what we know works well - but to try and see what it can do next. The Wikipedia entry cites Bob Monkhouse describing a man calling the Golden Shot from a phone box whilst viewing the programme in a shop window. I guess we're only a step away from viewing 'tv' on our mobiles and closing the interactive loop.

TV as an alternative to cinema is problematic. TV (and then video / DVD's / film channels) have shifted viewing patterns away from the collective (cinema) to the family (1 tv), and then to the individual (personal tv's in every room or computer screen). The 'collective' experience is no longer in the viewing, but in the participating. But as a participant you are acting alone. The old Side Cinema website has a great image of Matt Fleming's poster 'Cinema - the best place to see a film'. http://www.sidecinema.com/ The cinema is now called the Star and Shadow, and continues its committment to collective viewing and real discussion.

What do we gain from being participants in interactive TV? a greater acceptance of mythologised life styles? a feeling of connectivity with our fellow viewers? voyeurs of ourselves?

The participant is simply the unpaid generator of content, creating cheap tv, and creating a self-defined market for the advertising timeslots.
Ele

false mutiny and the collective amnesia of bad sunrises

Wikipedia reports that residents have complained about noise on eviction nights near the current site of the TV show Big Brother at Elstree Studios. Self publicists, such as Stewart Home have written their own biographies to capture themselves from a dry third person perspective within the media space. The process of authorship, editorial control and objective critique is disrupted, although the syntax and style of reliable journalism and research are retained. Consequently, a veneer of language might mask another intent, albeit in a manqué manner. Definition in a broader sense becomes a matter for the ardent media theorist. Is the top layer of a medium enough to convey one message or several at the same time? How might all the authors of Wikipedia or Linux describe their activity? Surely, they would say that it is collective and collaborative. If we type in Wikipedia as a search term into itself, as any thoroughbred McLuhanite might, then we find: Wikipedia's co-founder, Jimmy Wales, has called Wikipedia "an effort to create and distribute a multilingual free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language."

The author of this diatribe however is left wondering if an encylopedia's primary goal is that of blatant self promotion or elliptical advertising. Purveyors of viagra seem to have found any number of ways to get their messages through spam filters. How likely is it that some worthwhile piece of information might get caught up in a disguised viagra spam email?

Naturally (or unnaturally) digital technologies allow us to get caught up in what is real. In our minds, using common sense, we might say that a good argument or conversation at a screening event is real. The hallmarks of this might be the sense of humans talking, the smell of the room, the interjection of one voice over another or a familiarity with a place. However, if Baudrillard were to play SimCity I'm sure he might say that it was just as real as visiting Newcastle or Denver.

Commentators such as Beck and Wade* would go as far as to pose a generational shift where put simply those born after 1970 have been absorbed in games culture as role play for life. Those born before - the 'analogue' baby boomers - see computer games as time wasting or passing fads. What I pick up from contemporary media theory is a desire to explain and summarise. The internet is definitely a good summary of itself though.

Next diatribe: Why ebay is a good place to buy Sylvanian Families windmills.

*Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever, John C Beck and Mitchell Wade.

game or play?

I find it a little difficult to answer either of your questions currently because of the use of the word game in both of them.

The title of the show should allude to the fact that gaming is at one end of our spectrum. My own work is closer to the play end of our rhetorical construct and I would certainly have difficulty describing it as a game, more a space in which to play. I know that that may sound a little vague but it seeks to provide a technologically enabled ground for playful, social interaction. There aren't really any rules to be transgressed and it doesn't set itself up as either utopian or dystopian either.

Hi Giles,

Hi Giles,
Good point - one which will effect several of the artists.
I tried to make the starting point of the questions generic to the whole show. Its quite tricky to cover all bases. But I am using the term 'game' to describe the artwork. It's interesting how the word 'game' has moved away from the more open and evolving nature of play - and is identified with competition and regulated structures. When I watch children's games - they are continuously adapting the rules to suit their needs. And we can learn from that.

So tailoring the questions to your work:
- did you collaborate on its production?
- how do people interact with each other when they are playing with / in it?

Collaboration

Hi Ele,

Yes the 'work';) was created very much in the spirit of collaboration, as was the whole of the curatorial project (that's a conversation for another day).

Aquaplayne was beta tested before Christmas when groups of preschool children were invited in to Q Gallery to come and play with an early version of it. This experiment led the project in a particular direction, and it's current incarnation. Much of what came out of this experiment pointed to the usability of the piece but there were other unexpected results.

Andy Poliane's essay on the invitation to play is very interesting and I find that it had a resonance in my research. I wanted to get these children running around on the mat and furiously interacting. At first they were a little reticent. It was actually much easier to get them chasing the pointer around the screen than engaging with the work itself. I was interacting with them by moving the mouse around and it was almost as if the technology, rather than enabling communication was almost insignificant. The new version now includes an opening sequence that invites engagement and so far seems to be doing the job, but I need to keep an eye on things over the forthcoming weeks.

There is a long list of people who have been involved in the creation of the work and I would like to credit some of them here, they are Jonathan Willett, Peter Bowcott, Victor Samao and Steve Eccles, my very competent electrician and installation partner

To engage with the piece people trigger pressure pads on a purpose built mat positioned on the gallery floor, these triggers in turn project ripples back onto the mat via a ceiling mounted projector. There is also an audio aspect and Multiple users can kick up quite a splash, with intersecting ripples creating additional sound effects.

Sound collaboration

Thanks for this Giles.
Your description of testing and needing to devise an opening sequence as a way into the work is interesting. The problem of 'how to get started' is common: its not that we don't know how to play per se - but we are trying to work out how you (game designers) want us to play... it's not always obvious. It's a balance, attracting curiosity without giving the game away.

For those of us who haven't been able to play aquaplane - we can imagine how the visual interactive aspect works from our experience of splashing around in puddles. But I wondered if you could describe how the sound operates - and if players develop their own audio patterns?
Best,
Ele

typologies-some keywords

there seems to be an ever growing web of collaborative types within gaming... here's some keywords that might help

production
relationships between:
community modmakers, development teams, Publishers

Gametypes
co-operative game modes, team based, player and NPC interactions

Gamers
guilds, clans(long term team), teams(short term team), forums

these are all interconnected-gamers infleunce the production process in many instances

complicated....

re: typologies

i think there needs to be some notion of physicality added here. In-room collaboration, for example, or collaboration on one computer/one account vs collaboration among several computers/accounts is helpful to articulate. Also, some way of representing the range of RL friends to online friends and vice versa, and how these change over time... Collaboration is also a wide linguistic net: is it a team performing specialized, yet complementary, tasks towards the eventual same goal, or is it more 'in sync" kinds of collaboration? Cooperation is also another nuance here. Competing teams might cooperate in some aspects, and compete in others...

Participation

Collaboration is a bit of a catch-all term for interactive, partipatory, collaborative and collective practices, both within computer and social gaming.

From a perspective of socially engaged art, Christian Kravagna describes participation as a transference of work from the artist to the audience. I wonder how this translates into a gaming environment?

Kravagna’s essay (1998) critiques the definition of ‘participation’. Firstly he makes a distinction between participatory practice, interactivity and collective action.

He states that participation is the: “differentiation between producers and recipients, is interested in the participation of the latter, and turns over a substantial portion of the work to them either at the point of conception or in the further course of the work.” (p1)

Kravagna's categories include: "working with others’, interactive activities, collective action, participatory practice.“

Kravagna(1998)“Working On the Community: Models of Participatory Practice.” www.republicart.net

Best, Ele

many kinds of collaboration

I agree with corradomorgana that there are many areas where the word collaboration is being used in the context of "playful software". Your first question already identifies two classes: production and use. Your reference to Christian Kravagna seems to suggest that you are mostly interested in the latter.

I think the widespread idea of interactive art as a form of collaborative authorship, is vastly overrated
First of all, I think all art takes place in the viewer. Interactive art is no exception. Viewing art is always active, never passive. But that doesn't mean that the user actually makes the piece (even though we may sometimes make him feel like he is ;) ).
Second, authors of interactive pieces often use this myth of users-as-creators to excuse themselves from making any statements or adding any content. This is very convenient since in the context of contemporary art, expressing an opinion seems to be considered politically incorrect and in the context of videogames, making a statement is deemed uncommercial.

Re; many kinds of collaboration

Hi michael,

I find what you say interesting and thought provoking...

>I think the widespread idea of interactive art as a form of
>collaborative authorship, is vastly overrated...

I would like to ask whether you personally dislike the idea of 'collaborative authorship'?

-feel that it is overrated by certain artists, writers, curators etc?

-If so, do you have any specific examples that I (we) can explore, so to further understand your argument?

>First of all, I think all art takes place in the viewer.
>Interactive art is no exception.

Art certainly takes place in the viewer - and art also takes place in the maker also.

>But that doesn't mean that the user actually makes the piece
>(even though we may sometimes make him feel
>like he is ;) ).

I think that it depends on what the user is using and what different elements are being utilized at the time, and what the actual engagement, degrees of agency and what type of arena it is. Especially, when various programs and code do of course have authors, yet one can take these elements, infiltrate them and make something out of them on the creator's own terms.

>Second, authors of interactive pieces often use this myth
>of users-as-creators to excuse themselves from making any
>statements or adding any content. This is very convenient
>since in the context of contemporary art, expressing an
>opinion seems to be considered politically incorrect and
>in the context of videogames, making a statement is
>deemed uncommercial.

Again, I am interested in examples - because I do agree that some authors lean towards this, although do have trouble defining who and what at the moment. Interactive TV, offers the idea and concept of control and choice via the activity of interaction, yet does not allow one to re-invent the facility itself and its content - thus one is forced to choose someone else's choices. We do have the choice to turn it off of course.

And I agree that expressing an opinion can be deemed as politically incorrect regarding video game culture and the capitalistic and masculine dynamics around it, although what I am finding interesting these days; are the cross-overs happening in respect of exploiting game culture by artists such as yourselves, as well.

Marc,

Hi Marc,

I'll try to answer and comment.

I would like to ask whether you personally dislike the idea of 'collaborative authorship'?

No, I don't. I haven't made a single individual piece since 1999. I collaborate on everything with my partner Auriea Harvey. :)

feel that it is overrated by certain artists, writers, curators etc?

Mostly by the typical new media writers who usually combine technofobia with trendiness to come to some luddite's interpretation of what is really going on. Artists tend to know better. And so do some curators (though many of those have the writer's problem as well).

If so, do you have any specific examples that I (we) can explore, so to further understand your argument?

I think it would be harder to find an example that demonstrates the contrary. Pick any text about new media written by one of those "authorities". Chances are you'll find them applauding the death of the author and how modders are the new rebels, etc.

Art certainly takes place in the viewer - and art also takes place in the maker also.

I personally don't believe that. I have this fantasy about the artist being little more than a medium or a prism with not much will of his or her own.

Again, I am interested in examples - because I do agree that some authors lean towards this, although do have trouble defining who and what at the moment.

Again, this is the norm, not the exception. Visit any museum or gallery of contemporary art. The walls are plastered with fear. Fear of meaning, fear of beauty, fear of going against the mainstream.

Interactive TV, offers the idea and concept of control and choice via the activity of interaction, yet does not allow one to re-invent the facility itself and its content - thus one is forced to choose someone else's choices. We do have the choice to turn it off of course.

The interaction of interactive tv is fake. We use Chris Crawfords definition of interaction as "a cyclic process between two or more active agents in which each agent alternately listen, thinks and speaks." I guess a television speaks, but I doubt if it thinks and it certainly does not listen.

That being said, I have no problem with being forced to choose someone else's choices. If that someone else made interesting choices. How much better would a Bernini scultpure become if all viewers were given a chisel?

I have a secret definition of good art as "that with which nothing is wrong". If nothing is wrong with it, why change it?

Of course, one could say that not everything needs to be art. And that is correct. I wished a lot of things that are presented currently as art, wouldn't be.

And I agree that expressing an opinion can be deemed as politically incorrect regarding video game culture and the capitalistic and masculine dynamics around it,

Depends on the context. In society at large, at least on the continent, it's quite ok to claim that games are macho and should therefore be banned, e.g. But in intellectual circles the opposite is true and then you're supposed to say that games are harmless because even girls play them, or something.

although what I am finding interesting these days; are the cross-overs happening in respect of exploiting game culture by artists such as yourselves, as well.

We never set out to exploit game culture. We always thought that our approach to the medium was too different to be accepted by gamers. But we're finding more and more that a certain group of real gamers, next to the expected non-gamers, find themselves attracted to our work. If there is anything that we exploit, it's the games press, which is organised much better than the art press and allows us to reach a much larger audience.

I actually dislike this focus on games culture in art and academia. I don't find it very interesting. I guess I'm too old for it. Our interest goes to the medium, to the artistic potential of realtime interactive technologies. Of what experiences thay can give to people. Or better: what things we can express through them that we couldn't with other media. Contemporary videogames have explored some of this potential but we feel that they have barely scratched the surface (and seem unwilling to go any further -because that would require to abandon the concept of games, in our opinion).