Shades of Dante

Dante from EA's Dante's Inferno, 2010
My colleague John Sebastian and I coauthored a piece in the recently published Digital Gaming Re-imagines the Middle Ages. Our essay–“Shades of Dante: Virtual Bodies in Dante’s Inferno“–explores issues of embodiment through a comparison of Dante’s Inferno, the videogame, and Dante’s Inferno, the poem. Those who know the game might be suspect that it has little to offer academic inquiry; however, I felt this project quite interesting and generative of some surprising insights. In particular, it opened for me some questions about embodiment, perception, and frame rate to which I’d like to return at some point. Until then, an abstract of our article appears after the break.

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Carpentry and pedagogy

NOLA ILC logo

This Friday, Brian Sullivan and I will discuss the two sections of English A220: Introduction to Film and Digital Media we taught together last semester at the NOLA Information Literacy Collective Forum 2013.

Former model

Prior to working with Brian, I had taught 220 as a divided course, splitting equal time between the study of the elements of film composition and critical issues pertaining to digital textuality, with a quick and dirty transition between them by way of remix theory. The course included some project assignments– make a silent film, cut together found media objects–but felt students could have benefited from more training with the software. To address both these issues, Brian and I developed a version of 220 as an experiment in the integration of theory and practice.

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Is Flight Post-Natural?

Chris Schaberg and I will present in the videogame studies stream at the 2013 Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts annual conference. Below is our proposal:

loading screen, Left 4 Dead, Valve

Is Flight Post-Natural?
or, Air Travel’s New Media Dilemmas

In April 2013 an article made its way around the internet with the startling title “How a Single Android Phone Can Hack an Entire Plane.” Less interesting than the truth value of this article was the provocation it presented: that commercial air travel is now dangerously unmanned. Aircraft have always depended on a litany of complex, networked technologies to give passengers more or less smooth, reliable flight. Yet the perceived threat posed by an ordinary phone reveals weird anxieties about a situation that has always been, in a sense, post-natural.

In this paper we look at several new media contexts that comment on the mundane and naturalized dimensions of contemporary air travel. In addition to the above article, we consider airport scenes in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead, and Max Payne 3, the rhetoric around the Boeing Dreamliner, and two quasi-surveillance sites called “FreakJet” and “passenger shaming.

These texts stage compelling conflicts between the technological, the biological, the social, and the environmental. Human flight is itself arguably a post-natural phenomenon (enabled by technological ingenuity and Empire), one that is now of central concern to questions of sustainability. Typically air travel seems either to be accepted as inevitable because extant, or seen as complicit in and axiomatic of an always already occurring fossil fuel driven disaster. Carving a space between these two positions, this paper meditates on the strange place of flight in a digital ecology and post-natural imaginary.