Transtechnology Research Slow Conference, Panel 1. 21st February 2018. Papers presented by Becalelis Brodskis and James Sweeting. Session chaired by Adam Guy.
The Fallacy of Nostalgic Materiality
This paper considers the interplay between digital materiality, representation of the past, and their connections to cultural memory and material evidence. It offers an exploration of the 2015 videogame Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (Ubisoft Quebec, 2015). Set in London in 1868 the game provides a digital recreation of the city for the player to explore. The videogame’s developers created an authentic, albeit inaccurate, representation of London and it is this distinction and what it means for those interacting with the videogame that I want to unpack in this paper.
The discussion explores the manifestation of the ‘ideoplastic’ where the semiotics of Victorian London have been digitally remodelled. Allowances have been made to make the digital world seem “authentic” focusing on recognisable landmarks, yet –arguably– memory lies in the smallest of details. Therefore have Ubisoft just created a ‘theme park’ version of London, recalling the description of Disneyland by Jean Baudrillard (1994)?
Digital recreations of the physical architecture are not the only issue of concern with this example, as it also contains digital depictions of London life from the time. While the focus of the game revolves around a secret order of assassins, the narrative is propped up by documented events of the time and urban legends. Yet the developers have considered modern sensibilities regarding women and the treatment of subjects from the British Empire. Does this weaken the depiction of the era it is trying to create by seemingly overlooking the detestable, but prevalent, views that existed at the time, consequently failing to properly address them by assuming society has moved forward?
Does the experience that one has interacting incite an authentic response or does it create or reinforce false memories? In order to ascertain the extent of this, the paper will apply approaches outlined by Shinji Matsunaga (2016) to recognise how those interacting with these digital spaces do so in relation to the fictional actions occurring on screen. Conversely, though, the paper will subsequently query Matsunaga’s failure to address non-fictional settings, asking whether the theories he has identified are suitable for understanding the connection between actions taken in the physical space and corresponding digital space and how these are then interpreted and understood.
Keywords: Software Studies, Digital Materialism, Memory, Nostalgia
Baudrillard, J. (1994) Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Matsunaga, S. (2016) ‘Did You Really Get a Mushroom?: Players’ Fictional Actions in Videogame Playing’, Aesthics: The Journal of the Japanese Society for Aesthetics, (20), pp. 89–102. Available at: http://www.bigakukai.jp/aesthetics_online/aesthetics_20/text20/text20_matsunagashinji.pdf (Accessed: 30 September 2017).
Ubisoft Quebec (2015) ‘Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’. [Video Game] Ubisoft.
Can the Matter of the Virtual affect the Spectacle of our Reality?
The concept of reality can be seen as a cultural manifestation of shared perspectives. When the mobile phone, the channel of a considerable amount of lived experience, enables not only the experience of, but the opportunity to produce virtual realities, the entanglement in a pseudo reality will almost be complete. This observation recalls Guy Debord’s critique of occidental culture as an illusionary spectacle of images that we consume, feed and are subjugated by. In “Society of the Spectacle “ (Debord, 1994)(1967) he states: “The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images”. Proceeding from this premise this paper will question how and if virtual reality technologies can change the perception of the images that mediate the social relationship of the spectacle?
The question will be informed by reflections on the relationship between perception and the aims of a community mapping project called Re-imagine Your Town. A map that would be experienced using VR and could be said to be ideoplastic in its aims, if not in its eventual form. Ideoplastic in the sense that it is emerging out of the intersection of ideas, placed by residents of the town.
This paper discusses two very different perspectives on human relationship to time, space and the image began to battle for position and inform a critique of the participatory aims of the project. The first is Debord’s ‘Society of the Spectacle’,(1967) in which he asserts for the need to subvert the present notion of our reality. The second is Henri Bergson’s philosophical approach to time and the image in “Matter and Memory” (Bergson, 1991)(1896). While Debord leaves us consumed by the power of the spectacle, Bergson’s thought proposes a physical relationship between memory and the present perception of reality that gives us the freedom to react independently to the habitual impulse of the spectacle.
Bergson, H. (1991) Matter and Memory. MIT Press.
Debord, G. (1994) The society of the spectacle. New York: New York : Zone Books.
Suzanne, G. (2006) ‘Thinking in Time an introduction to Henri Bergson’.