Any colour, as long as it is black (Impactology case)

I have noticed that since I got myself the Macbook Pro Retina 13″, it has gradually been taking over my work travels, as well as being the main computer while at home. Since this Mac has been coming from my own pocket, and potentially not covered by any insurance while used in my university work, it is even more important than usual that I do not break it. To that effect, I recently made an order to the online Apple Store and got Tech21 “Impact Snap” case for MBPR13. I am not an expert on “smart materials” and can therefore not really comment on how credible the claims for their “Impactology” techniques really are, but at least it provides some peace of mind to have this around the Mac, while operating the device in the cramped environments like those in trains or aeroplanes. The matte surface of Impact Snap case makes it also easier to have a good hold on the Mac, which makes the device much more pleasurable to handle. And it comes in black.

More info: http://www.tech21.com/impact-snap-macbook-pro-13-retina-black/

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CFP: Games and Literary Theory 2014

Please find attached the Call for Papers for the Games and Literary Theory 2014 conference, taking place in Amsterdam in November 20-22, 2014. The deadline for abstracts (250-500 words) is August 1, 2014. CFP link: Final CFP International Conference Series in Games and Literary Theory.

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Keynote on game studies, Lappeenranta, 3 June 2014

I will be presenting a keynote in YTP2014 (Yhdistetyt tietojenkäsittelyn päivät / The Federated Computer Science Event of Finland) in Tuesday, 3 June 2014. My talk is titled “The Multidisciplinary Study of Games: An Academic Discipline, or A Research Field without an Identity?” and I will be discussing some of the findings from my earlier, sociology of knowledge style work, as well as touching upon some of the interesting themes discussed in the Critical Evaluation of Game Studies seminar in April. Program link: http://www2.it.lut.fi/ytp2014/ohjelma.

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Philosophy of Computer Games 2014 CFP: Freedom in Play

8th International Conference on the Philosophy of Computer Games
Freedom in Play

Istanbul, 13-15 November 2014

2014.gamephilosophy.org

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Abstracts deadline: 15 August 2014

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We hereby invite scholars in any field of studies who take a professional interest in the philosophy of computer games to submit papers to the 8th International Conference on the Philosophy of Computer Games, to be held in Istanbul 13-15 November 2014.

The concept of freedom is central in the shaping of game experiences and game cultures. It is a lens through which we can critically evaluate the philosophical, cultural and political relevance of computer games, as an art form and as a way of life. This year we especially invite papers that address the following areas of philosophical investigation:

1. The nature of freedom in games. Which philosophical concepts can help us clarify ontological and metaphysical dimensions of freedom in games and gaming?
2. The experience of freedom in games. How do we describe and evaluate specific experiences of freedom in play? Are certain types of freedoms in games artistically or ethically more desirable than others? In what way may such evaluations collide when people play together, especially in an on-line context?
3. Games and existential concepts of freedom. In what ways are games capable of expressing truths about the human condition? Is there a way in which they are inherently more or less capable of expressing ethical and normative truths than cinema, photography or art? How do we account for the semantic underpinnings of how games can create this sort of knowledge?
4. Political and ethical freedom. In what way can game mechanics or the social roles of gaming provide normative reasons for decision-making with regard to political freedom, gender issues, etc? Do computer games have a particular potential for being either politically conservative, progressive or subversive?

Accepted papers will have a clear focus on philosophy and philosophical issues in relation to computer games. They will refer to specific examples from computer games rather than merely invoke them in general terms.

In addition to papers that are directed at the main theme we invite a smaller number of papers in an “open” category. We are especially interested in papers that aim to continue discussions from earlier conferences in this series.

The abstracts should have a maximum 1000 words including bibliography. Please note if you intend your paper to fit in the “open” category.  The deadline for submissions is Midnight GMT, 15 August, 2014. Please submit your abstract through review.gamephilosophy.org.  All submitted abstracts will be subject to double blind peer review. Notification of accepted submissions will be sent out by 15 September 2014. A full paper draft must then be submitted by 6th November 2014 and will be made available on the conference website.

We also invite proposals for panels/workshops on October 12th. Please contact the programme committee chair if you are interested in organising one.

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Tonguc Ibrahim Sezen, Istanbul Bilgi University (organising committee chair)
Rune Klevjer, University of Bergen (programme committee chair)

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Peter Gabriel in Helsinki

20140521-150836-54516389.jpgPeter Gabriel had his Back to Front tour concert in Helsinki yesterday, which I had the rare pleasure to take part in. I have followed the career and music of Peter for decades, but this was the first live performance I have been in. Even while you count in the music videos and concert DVDs, the real, live concert still remains a different kind of thing.

Since the days of Genesis, Peter Gabriel has been one of the real innovators of rock music, and his solo career has included both chart-leading pop music hits, as well as sombre, politically motivated material, and more experimental music. (My personal favorites include e.g. “Passion”, the album including music produced for The Last Temptation of Christ, the film by Martin Scorsese.) This concert was focused on revisiting his most popular album, “So” (1987), but was in reality much more.

The concert is built into three parts: the first, acoustic session was styled to be more like a band in rehersal (with the harsh, full arena lights shining on the band and the audience). This session included the semi-improvisational opening song, as well as classics such as “Shock the Monkey” (1982). The second part (the more “savoury course”, as Peter introduced in his metaphor of a three-course meal), provided full-blown electronica — distorted guitar and percussion effects, accompanied by black-and-white, often stroboscopic video projections and stage lightning. The colours were introduced only at the final, third part, where all the songs from “So” were played, in their original, recorded order. This was the “dessert”, as introduced by Peter.

It would be easy to be critical about the lack of innovation in the later part of Peter Gabriel, and see the reworking of the hit album in rather trite, commercial terms. For my part, I could only wish to have similar levels of creativity and experimental spirit left at the age of 64. The adaptations of Gabriel’s classic materials were often surprising, and challenged the listener to reconsider his or her previous understanding of the song. Some, reflective parts of the concert were truly touching and moving, some were just staggering, powerful rock experiences. Great concert, overall!

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Updated your Mac? Run the Disk Utility

Mac Disk Utility

Mac Disk Utility

I am not exactly the most experienced Mac / OS X user, and still learning my ropes. One of the weird things I have run into involve Mac slowing down after a system update (like the recent OS X 10.9.3 update I installed today). Particularly irritating was the manner in which Mac Office 2011 started the lengthy process of “upgrading identity and messages” every time after the system reboot. The only way I have been able to solve this so far is by starting the “Disk Utility” and using it to run “verify” and “repair” to the system disk. After that, it is again speedy system and easy life — until the next system update, I guess. More: http://www.cnet.com/how-to/repair-disk-permissions-to-speed-up-your-mac/

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Video streaming: it is a jungle out there

Today’s video playback world is in an “interesting” state. Some examples from our own home and life:

  • We have video content (ranging over a decade in age) that has been recorded using variety of mobile phones, compact digital cameras, webcams, digital SLRs, and dedicated video cameras, at least
  • All of these seem to have produced file formats using different video codecs, encapsulation containers, different resolutions, etc.
  • Some of our video content has been converted and uploaded into cloud services, such as YouTube, Flickr, Dropbox, etc.
  • There are multiple storage and server devices in the house: PC workstations (Windows, Mac, Linux), one PC server (Windows 2008 Server Web Edition), and one NAS (Buffalo LS-WXL)
  • The servers claim to be DNLA compatible (there has been several different software tools set up to the Windows Server; in NAS there is a Twonky Media Server)
  • The typical video streaming use situations include, but are not limited to:
    • Using Apple TV device to access local network disk share
    • Using Apple TV device to access YouTube or other cloud service
    • Using iPad or iPhone to stream local or cloud video content via AirPlay to Apple TV
    • Using PlayStation 3 to access local network disk share
    • Using PlayStation 3 to access cloud service
    • Using a laptop (PC, Mac, Linux) to access local disk share or a cloud service, possibly streaming the video to the big screen with the help of AirPlay (Mac), or Chromecast (Windows)
    • Using an Android phone or tablet to access local disk shares or cloud services, often streaming the video to the big screen via Google Chromecast stick
    • There are also a “smart” tv and a blu-ray player with embedded DNLA playback functionalities, but those work even worse than the above options
    • It should be noted that there are multiple, differently featured software tools in both iOS and Android devices, and Chromecast support particularly appears to be “work in progress”, AirPlay has more solid support.

When I try to play a video file e.g. from 2007 (recorded using some obscure codec that some antique compact camera then supported), the situation is more likely to fail than to succeed. I have found that the best chance to actually see the video is by copying the file to a PC and opening it in some well-supported video player. The streaming will most likely not work. Apart from the PCs, PlayStation 3 appears to support most of our video files. iPad and Android phones and tablets do not really work well with most of local video file contents, even while the support has been getting better over the years. Most recent content, created with the new Androids or iPhones, for example, is more likely to perform well also in the complex home media streaming environment. The old video files will most probably always remain tricky. One solution would be to convert (and possibly upload to an online cloud service) all videos, since e.g. YouTube is rather well supported in different device environments. In reality, the hundreds of files will never be processed in this manner, and many people will probably also prefer to keep their most private, personal videos only in local storage rather than in some cloud service.

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