[-empyre-] mediation & videogames / the screen as a place of activity in the battlefield

Christiane Robbins cpr at mindspring.com
Wed Sep 9 06:50:53 EST 2009

Dear Menotti et all,

Many thanks for this post and reference to the Salon article.  Given  
the demographic markers of numerous participants on this list, it may  
prove important to raise the issue of what some refer to as the  
thickness of the screen of the military-entertainment-academic  
complex.  The thickness therein here may have reached the point of  
opacity for some.

As such, I think it important to reference my experience (as a  
professor) attempting to negotiate the dynamics of university  
administrative efforts demanding that "visual art" and inter- 
disciplinary students participate in scenarios which generated the  
virtual landscapes and animated figures enveloping and inhabiting the  
high production value of such illusionistic video gaming/military  
training experiences.  These representations increasingly approximate  
photographic illusion and proffer the abstraction as real.  It takes  
video gaming tropes to new levels, to be certain.

Of course, in the states during the past 10 years or so art programs/ 
dept. were often under-funded - somewhat surprisingly.  Hence, they  
were (and still are)  often susceptible to financial carrots and/or  
access to the "equipment."  One carrot that was often thrown my way  
was a "partnering" with the well-funded military institutes already on  
campus, i.e. the ICT which were instrumental in generating a good deal  
of the military training applications to which this article refers.   
This was often referred to as research opportunities for artists (CGI .)

In response to your crucial question re: suppression and abstracted.   
We know - we feel it - and, arguably, perhaps we feel as if we have  
little agency to effect any shift in this overwhelming dynamic...  
despite holding (secure) positions which could certainly offer  
critical questions and perhaps shifts in the current trajectory.

The coupling of military funding and the "advancement" of  technology   
is as ancient as the history of technology  itself .  But as we  
witness the (virtual/screened) image rise to a position of supremacy  
across and within the possible modes of communications, we  need to  
question what it is that we, as academics,  are actually advancing  
this very thickness within this increasingly corporate and government  
financed research realm ... and advocate for some positive critical  
insight that moves us beyond timid acceptance of one very narrow  
bandwidth of technology's trajectories.

All best,


On Sep 7, 2009, at 1:19 AM, Gabriel Menotti wrote:

> Dear all:
> Since we are approaching the end of this first week, we should start
> pondering about the thickness of the screen from the other
> perspective: as referring not to the technical space that produces the
> image, but to the real space contained within it. In what measure the
> process of mediation is an abstraction of the world, as much as an
> abstraction of technologies?
> Of course, it is precisely in the balance between both aspects that
> the thickness of the screen shows its highest political implications.
> It seems to me that Jonathon Kirk illustrates this very well in his
> video 'I've Got a Guy Running',[1] using graphic filters to create
> (further) distance from surveillance images (originally intended to
> get things closer - literally under scope).
> A recent article in salon.com also brings about the suble cultural
> dimension involved in  adopting screens as places of activity /in the
> world/. In an (expected?) reversal of the old "videogames makes people
> violent" polemics, the military forces are using the apparently
> non-violent interface of hi-tech weaponry as an appeal to convince
> people to enlist. "Join the armed forces, the ads suggest, and you
> don't have to experience the blood-and-guts consequences of combat.
> Instead, you get to hang out stateside, entertaining yourself with a
> glorified PlayStation." [1]
> Baudrillard aside, what is exactly being abstracted (i.e. supressed)
> in all these situations?
> Best!
> Menotti
> [1] http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/08/29/ 
> military_marketing/
> [2] http://www.ux1.eiu.edu/~jjkirk/running_excerpt2.mov
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

C h r i s t i a n e   R o b b i n s

- J E T Z T Z E I T   S T U D I O S -

... the space between zero and one  ...
Walter Benjamin


" The present age prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to  
the original, fancy to reality,
the appearance to the essence
for in these days
  illusion only is sacred, truth profane."
Ludwig Feuerbach, 1804-1872


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