søndag, april 14, 2013

Procedural Rhetoric and persuasion in games: Summaries

Summary, Ian Bogost (2007): ”Procedural Rhetoric,” chapter 1 in Persuasive Games – the Exressive Power of Video Games. Massachusetts: The MIT Press. (pp 1-64).

Ian Bogost introduced the concept of procedural rhetoric: The rhetoric of the process or the procedure. The name comes from the procedure, a set of actions bound by rules, tradition or law. While a procedure can also be an entirely functional process, as in the procedure for building a house, where each step needs to be finished before the next starts, Bogost focuses on the conventional procedure, where the process is based on decisions rather than function, and as such can be manipulated.

Bogost takes the idea of procedurality from Janet Murray’s book Hamlet on the Holodeck, and cites her essential properties of digital artifacts: procedurality, participation, spatiality and encyclopedic scope (see p 6). He specifies that for his purposes, procedural expression must entail symbolic manipulation. Bogost does not specifically mention semiotics, but this understanding of expression can be understood semiotically, which is concerned with the production of meaning. For Bogost, the main issue is with the computer’s ability to perform procedures, and hence create representations of processes.

This unique property of the computer as medium is not only part of the affordances, but also the restrictions. In order to understand the potential of the computer, we need to understand what processes it can represent, and how it can be done. It also means that we can use the procedures in two major ways: as simulation, descriptively to demonstrate how something is done, but also critically, to question and explore how something is done, and even suggest alternative roads of action.

Reading tip: In the attempt of describing procedures, Bogost mentions several examples of software and games. If the different types of procedurality are hard to grasp, make the effort to visit these.

The book also mentions different genres of procedural rhetoric, and the main inspiration for this is Noah Wardrip-Fruin with his term operational logic (see p 13).  He distinguishes between graphical and textual logic. Graphical logics are typical of video games, and include movement and collisions, while textual logics are for instance demonstrated in Eliza – “the online therapist".

Bogost spends pages 15 – 24 on rhetoric. This is a good repetition of other literature on the topic for this course. On page 24 he reaches digital rhetoric, where he cites Lev Manovich, who claims that the digital media means the end of rhetoric,  Laura Gurak and Elisabeth Losh, who work on creating a new understanding of rhetoric based on digital media.

On this background he suggests procedural rhetoric as a new rhetorical domain, a domain that may open up to understanding how things work, how the process creates meaning. Again, he brings several examples of different processes, and makes suggestions to how a different process may convey a different meaning. From page 46 he discusses persuasive games, with an emphasis on the potential of videogames to communicate understanding of complex processes often ignored and badly understood. He puts the idea of persuasive games against the idea of serious games, a term he finds covers mainly authoritative games – games that convey actions and processes which have been sanctioned: the corrct procedures by a given political regime. Here Bogost’s understanding and argument becomes both political and functional.

The next step in his discussion is persuasive technology, where he leans heavily on B. J. Fogg’s understanding and his concept of captology.

The overall purpose of this chapter is to frame and explain the idea of procedural rhetoric. In Bogost’s words: “In particular, a procedural rhetorician should strive to understand the affordances of the materials from which a procedural argument is formed.”

Summary, Christopher Paul (2010): “World of Rhetcraft: Rhetorical Production and Raiding in World of Warcraft.” In Heather Urbanski: Writing and the Digital Generation, McFarland & Company inc., North Carolina and London. Pp 152 – 161.

Chris Paul’s short article on the rhetoric of raiding describes how learning to play and maintaining that knowledge is a process in itself. Paul underlines the necessity of literacy to participate in the raiding process, and claims that the emergent nature of rhetorical production in and around games is part of the defining the digital generations. As examples he mentions the work to understand one single bossfight, coordinating 25 people in the fight, and research the different fights and the potential for success and failure evident in the game through different websites.

Summary, Lisbeth Klastrup (2010): “Når handlingsrommet bliver en modalitet: om spilæstetisk analyse af websites.” I Martin Engebretsen (red): Skrift/bilde/lyd – Analyse av sammensatte tekster, Høyskoleforlaget.

Klastrup discusses the use of games for advertising, and hence for persuation. Her main analytical perspective is to view the room of action as a modality. She points out that games both are multimodal, and relate and interact with other online modalities.

Klastrup points to the user and the expectations to the user to act. This action within a system-controlled world is then the main source of the creation of meaning. The main focus of the game is not world as told or shown, but world as experienced. In this understanding of the production of meaning,  meaning arises from the process, from the actions and the participation.

Agency becomes a vital part of this process, and in conjunction with affordances, training and mastery, a way to explore different modalities. This allows the user to move between different states or modalities in a playful and challenging manner unique to digital games. Klastrup describes this opportunity for participation as a semiotic resource. This semiotic resource is a new form of expression dependent on navigation and agency.

Her discussion of the different modalities rests on the representation of the user in the game, the user’s agency, and the connection between the game system, universe and message. She uses these in an analysis, to demonstrate how these can help understand and critically question a persuasive game. 

Summary, Consalvo, Mia & Dutton, Nathan (2006): ”Game analysis: Developing a Methodological Toolkit for the Qualitative Study of Games”. In Gamestudies, vol.1. http://gamestudies.org/0601/articles/consalvo_dutton.

Consalvo and Dutton start out by showing how game analysis up until 2006 has been looking for a structure for textual game analysis, but so far not been able to find one that can be fully activated at all levels. They proceed to suggest and expand on four areas of a game which can be analysed, either together or independently: Object Inventory, Interface Study, Interaction Map and Gameplay Log.

The object inventory can tell players about the play style of the game: Are objects important, or random? In some games all objects need to be saved, and they can be vital to being able to finish the game. In other games objects have very little meaning, or they are interchangeable and their importance depend on player style or goal. Objects also give certain affordances, or offer limitations.

Interfaces are the site of players’ interaction with the game, and as such are rife sites to understand the goal of the game, it’s affordances, usability, genres and the philosophy of the designers. The interface is also the carrier of traditional textual meaning, where players learn about the game universe through text and images, as well as potential for actions or restrictions.

Interaction mapping is about understanding the potential for actions in the game. This is active rather than static, a description of the processes on play. In later studies, this may perhaps be described as the procedural rhetoric.

The final area of game analysis is what Consalvo and Dutton call gameplay logging. This action requires play, and it is a process of experience as much as of analysis. It is also where it is possible to explore the emergent aspects of games, when games cease being understood only as structures, and become more sensual and explorative.

søndag, mars 10, 2013

Users and Agency: Links

Network sites and networked publics
SNS - Social Networking Service, here described at Wikipedia with references to work by danah boyd.
Yochai Benkler: SOPA-PIPA and networked publics - watch the lecture on the Guardian Summit, describing how the network reacts to SOPA-PIPA, and how the networked publics cooperated to stop the suggested legislation.
XKCD map of the Internet.

Examples of agency
A timeline of the Arab Spring, from The Guardian.
Links to resources to understand the Arab Spring and the role of digital media and social networking sites.
Pirate Bay and Wikipedia: Two stories of agency
Lau Aaen: Dagpengeland.

Agency as a moral question. Garrath Williams 2009.

Agency reconsidered by Wardrip-Fruin Noah, Mateas Michael, Dow Steven, Sali Serdar: From DiGRA 2009, an article on agency in games. (List of articles, find the right one and follow the link to the pdf.)

Understanding the "Structure" and the "Agency" debate in the social sciences. Sherman Tan.

Günther Walraff, discussed by Hoff-Clausen et. al.

Fandom and youtube - Lord of the Rings and Star Wars
The Star Wars I used to know.
An urgent message to the president from all nerds.

Ludic democracy & Epic rap battles
Know your meme: texts from Hilary. 

Irony, playfullness and internet fame
Gangnam style

Users and Agency: Summaries

Dette er sammendrag av artiklene til Digital Retorik våren 2013: 11, 12 og 13 mars.

Tre av dagens artikler handler om ulike måter å forstå "agency" begrepet, og en handler om "affordances". La oss begynne med Boyd.

Boyd, Danah (2011): ”Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics and Implications,” i Zizi Papacharissi: A Networked Self; Identity, community and culture on social network sites, Routledge, London. (pp. 39-59). Danah Boyd ser på nettverkenes struktur for å finne hvilke "affordances" eller tillatelser disse gir. Hun mener at dette styrer en rekke av elementene i sosiale nettverkssteder, social network sites eller SNS. Hun starter med å gi en rekke eksempler på ulike forståeler av public, men holder fast ved en forståelse av begrepet som er nært knyttet til medieteknologien, som Sonia Livingstone ser på det. På denne måten kan hun hevde at SNSer er "... the very architecture of everyday life. Through networked technology people are no longer shaped just by their dwellings but by their networks." (s. 42).

Hun fortsetter videre med å liste opp noen trekk ved sns: De lar individer 1) lage en mer eller mindre offentlig profil, 2) lage en liste over andre brukere de har en forbindelse til og 3) se og bruke sin og andres liste over forbindelser. Over de neste avsnittene utdyper hun hva som menes med profiler, vennelister og andre redskap for sns. Den mest dramatiske endringen i forhold til andre media mener hun er forårsaket av at sns har: "Persistence, Replicability, Scalability and Searchability" (s 46). De neste avsnittene ser på disse begrepene. Et viktig sluttpoeng for henne er at grensene blir flytende, og det offentlige og private flyter i hverandre.
To viktige sistater til slutt, begge fra s 55:
This is not to say that what emerges in social network sites is simply determined by the technical affordances, or that the dynamics described here predict practices. Rather, participants are implicitly and explicitly contending with these affordances and dynamics as a central part of their participation. In essence, people are learning to work within the constraints and possibilities of mediated architecture, just as people have always learned to navigate structures as part of their daily lives.
As social network sites and other emergent genres of social mesia become pervasive, the affordances and dynamics of networked publics can shed light on why people engage the way they do. Thus, taking the structural elements of networked publics into account when analyzing what unfolds can provide a valuable interpretive framework. Architecture shapes and is shaped by practice in mediated environments just as in physical space.
Hoff-Clausen, E. mfl (2005): ”Retorisk Agency – hvad skaber retorikken”. I Rhetorica Scandinavica nr. 33: Her beskrives "Agency" som et teoretisk begrep knyttet til retorens ethos, og som tett knyttet til det vi forstår som talehandlinger: Mulighetene til å utføre handlinger med tale (i vid forstand). Agency i retorikk på nettet blir omtalt som en betingelse for individets handlekraft, og WWW blir et demokratiserende medium. Fra Hoff-Clausen m. fl, s 63:
Agency-begrepet har understreget, at retorikken med sin forståelse af samspillet mellom taler, kontekst og publikum har gode forudsætninger for at teoretisere og kritisere fænomener, der på alternative måder søger at vinde inpas i den offentlige debat, hvad enten der er tale om faktiske ændringer i den sociale orden eller om tiltag, der af den ene eller anden grund ikke trænger igennem i den "officielle" virkelighed, eventuelt som konsekvens af en undertrykkende retorik fra samfundets magtcentre.

Penrod, Diane (2010): ”Writing and Rhetoric for a Ludic Democracy: YouTube, fandom and participatory pleasure,” i Heather Urbanski: Writing and the Digital Generation, McFarland &Company inc., North Carolina and London. Her brukes fan-fiction og spesielt fan-videoer lastet opp til Youtube som et eksempel på "Agency" blant mediebrukere. Dette er en gjennomgang av aktiviteter som understreker kreativitet, evne til egne uttrykk og kritikk, dannelsen av grupper og samfunn rundt ulike tema, og overgangen fra bruker til deltaker.

van Dijck, José (2009): “Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content” i: Media, Culture & Society. Dette er en kraftig kritikk av "Agency" slik det blir omtalt og brukt i teori og kulturanalyse rundt UCG - User Generated Content - områder på nettet. Van Dijck tar spesielt for seg Youtube og Google, og demonstrerer hvordan teknologiske og sosiale betingelser legger sterke føringer på innhold og uttrykk på nettsidene. Han viser hvordan de ulike mekanismene brukes til å høste verdifull informasjon som google så kan selve videre til sine annonsører, og hvordan brukerne av nettstedet står i den klassiske publikumsrollen hvor de blir solgt til annonsørene. Inntektene fra Google (og dermed Youtube, blogger, etc) kommer ikke ut fra løse luften, men fra deres fremste handelsvare, vår oppmerksomhet.

søndag, februar 10, 2013

Basic rhetoric - DDRT F-2013, summaries

Jørgensen, Charlotte og Onsberg, Merete (2010): ”Appelformer” in Praktisk argumentation, Nyt Teknisk Forlag. (pp. 69-73).
Logos: The rhetor appeals to an audience with rational arguments.
Pathos: The rhetor appeals to an audience with emotional arguments.
Ethos: The rhetor uses techniques to make the audience perceive him or her as credible.

One strategy does not exclude another: A good logos argument can strengthen the ethos, and also appear to be extremely emotional and carry good pathos. Pathos can underline logos, as emotions can carry knowledge facts do not convey, and ethos can strengthen both pathos and logos and be strengthened by them.  

Bitzer, Loyd F. (1997): ”Den retoriske situation” in Rhetorica Scandinavica, nr. 3, Rhetor Forlag. (pp. 5-17)
 Bitzer claims that all situations are rhetorical, and that there is a rhetorical response to all situations. This does not mean that all situations find their suitable rhetorical expression, there are many situations which are left unexpressed or undefined by rhetoric. According to Bitzer, a rhetorical situation is made out of persons, events, objects, relations, and exigences – problems – that invite communication. To this invitation there is then a suitable response, a response which is provoked or brought about by the situation.

 For a 7 point description of what this means, read page 12 (page 70 in the compendium) for an efficient list of what a rhetorical situation contains and what it means.

The main ingredients in any rhetorical situation are exigence, audience and constraint. In every rhetorical situation there is at least one exigence that organises the situation and settles audience and goal of the situation. These lead to the contraints, and there are at any given time two types of contraints that work on the rhetorical situation: According to Aristotle: entechnoi, or the subject matter, ”fagmæssige bevismidler” coming from the rhetor and his or her method and atechnoi or situational circumstance, ”ikke –faglige bevismidler.” 1: Rhetoric is determined by the situation. 2: If a rhetorical situation invites a response, it doesn’t invite just any response. 3: If it makes sense to claim that a situation invites a suitable response, there has to be a response that fits, prescribed by the situation. 4: The problem (exigence) and and combination of people, objects, events adn relations which generate a rhetorical situation exists in reality. 5: Rhetorical situations show structures which are simple or complex, and more or less organised. 6: Rhetorical situations come to be, mature and fade away, or mature and endure. Both happens, depending on the situation.  

Vatz, Richard E. (2000): ”Myten om den retoriske situation” in Rhetorica Scandinavica, nr. 15. Rhetor Forlag, (pp. 4-13).
This article argues against Bitzer’s article, so read Bitzer first to make sense. Vatz’ point is that if we accept Bitzer’s argument, then we assume that the meaning of a situation rests in the situation itself, and it can not be communicated anything but objectively: It can only be understood by understanding the elements which are part of it, and the rhetor is mainly a vessel for communicaiton.
Against this Vatz argues for the active subject, able to interpret, pick and choose, prioritize and also create meaning. He does this by emphasizing two situations:
1: All rhetors pick and choose what they communicate. The selection of something at the cost of something else determines the content of the rhetoric. The situation is created by ommission as well as by involvement.
2: The content is then given meaning. This includes interpretation and is a creative act. It is a rhetorically transcendent act.

 The main difference is according to Vatz in this sentence: Meaning is not created by situations, but by rhetors.

The implications of this are both ethical and practical. Ethical, because it means the rhetor has to take responsibility for the rhetoric. Practical, because it means the rhetor has freedom and an ability to shape and take rhetorical advantage of a situation, not just react, as in a simple stimuli-response connection.  

Fafner, Jørgen (1997): ”Retorikkens brændpunkt” in Rhetorica Scandinavica, Nr. 2, Rhetor Forlag. (pp. 7-19).
 Fafner starts out with positioning rhetoric in relation to paradigms in philosophy and linguistics, leading to what he considers to be the main steps towards a genuine concept of rhetoric: view of human nature, view of the nature of language, credibility, skill and orality.

 Fafner’s view of human nature positions man as the speaker, the persona, and the source of the speech situation (talesituasjonen). He follows this up by his view of language. He sees language as an expression for the human interest in and activity towards our environment, our world. This is in opposition to the view that language transcends human interpretation and perception, and that the concepts we discuss exist outside of language.

From this constructivist view of human nature of of language, Fafner moves towards credibility or Pistis. A main step towards Pistis or credibility is verisimile – a negotiation between the absolute truth and the absolute false. That which we area ble to accept and believe in, the credible. This is consistent with his understanding of human nature as active and language as constructing our world, as it is another step towards truth as a negotiation and a construction. This means that credibility rests on the human being, the start of all communicative acts, it rests on man’s ethos.

Skill rests on our ability to not just understand, but also perform. Our understanding depends, in Fafner’s view, on our ability to perform skillfully, and deeper understanding doesn’t just lead to better ability to perform, but also presupposes an ability to perform. In order to understand that a speech act is well performed, we need to be able to speak ourselves.

This takes us to the fifth understanding, orality. Orality is not just about the spoken word, it’s about a general ability to communicate through a medium, and the differences in the different media. Fafner points to the difference between the written and the spoken word, how these belong to different modalities. His idea of orality compounds not just tonality and sound, but also genre, art, and the different acts. Fafner concludes that rhetoric isn’t beautiful speech – veltalenhed – but the act of thinking through all the different steps before the act of speaking, the principles we need to follow for out speech to be heard and taken to account. It is an intentional orality.  

Hoff-Clausen, E. mfl (2005): ”Retorisk Agency – hvad skaber retorikken” in Rhetorica Scandinavica nr. 33, (pp. 56 -65).
This article discusses the position of agency in modern rhetorical research. It is basically a report from a conference, but it points efficiently from Fafner towards a more modern understanding of rhetoric. Where Fafner’s understanding of the subject as the rhetor and so sender can be deconstructed into meaninglessness by a postmodern reading, understanding the agency of the individual within certain constraints mediates the different extremes.