Re: [xmca] Copernicus 2.0 [toolforthoughts]

From: Mark Chen <markchen who-is-at>
Date: Mon Jun 25 2007 - 19:49:28 PDT

Hi all,

So I finally got the time to read the toolsforthoughts article and then
these comments. What struck me while reading Shaffer and Clinton's article
was how similar their concept seemed to an extension of Ian Bogost's unit

Bogost's "unit" (if I read his book correctly, which I still have doubts
about) is similar to an object in object oriented programming. The unit has
properties which define it and how it operates in relation to other units.
The relationships between units make up a system. In terms of games and
other textual media, Bogost argued that the meaning behind narratives are
made up of units and that critiques of games and cross-media comparisons
could be made once one understood the units within a particular piece.

Maybe units could be compared with "memes" (as described by Lankshear and
Knobel) or genre cliches in that only the objects which are identifiable or
become archetypal are actual units. (This isn't too clear, sorry.)

In terms of games (and I'd like to extend this to "virtual culture"), I
think that units themselves do not operate on other units alone. A player
is needed. The player and game become a cybernetic unit enacting a series
of operations. This seems similar to a toolforthought where neither the
tool (game metaphor) nor thought (player) exists without the other. We
*are* the tools themselves, as the tools are us. (Think about that next
time someone calls you a tool. ;) ) The player is the game metaphor, as
the game metaphor is the player, and together they form the unit operating
on other units.

Making this leap, allows us to then ask the question, what exactly are the
unit operations (toolforthoughts) doing? Which patterns are being enforced
or pushed as the dominant way of thinking/being? Is it possible to get
people to think about their actions as units within a larger system (that
they in fact embody these units) and start thinking critically about what
those actions mean for the larger system? Critical literacy regarding
toolsforthoughts and units (esp. with regards to games) is facilitated by
these constructs rather than impeded by them.

As far as what people should be learning... I agree with the sentiment that
it no longer matters what you know, only that you know how to find answers.
If those answers lie with a friend in your social network or perhaps with
some sort of computational model (that you have access to), you've
successfully navigated our new virtual culture. That implies, however, that
*someone* (or I guess *something*) needs to know the answers. I think it is
enough for people to specialize, so long as other people are learning how to
access these deep pockets of knowledge, and so long as *all* people are
afforded the same access. Public education, then, would have to be
reconfigured to reward and nurture different social networks while at the
same time letting students specialize and make available their
specializations to the community.

So... after saying all that... I wonder how much actually made any sense.


Mark Chen | grad student | games researcher/designer | tech instructor | U
of Washington
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Received on Mon Jun 25 19:51 PDT 2007

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