The addition of materiality to media allows for more novel interpretations, however for some it is the only form of understanding the media. A team at Georgia Tech created a system that converts the digital text into a physical medium through the use of a haptic feedback system. The design uses small plastic bits that can raise to the surface, creating braille characters based of the text that is inputted into the system. This prototype got them to second place in the Inventure Prize, and is currently still being developed at Georgia Tech. This enables the blind to be able to read digital content, without having to wait for it to be printed using special braille printing processes. (Braille is even printed on special paper, since everyday paper would not hold up to the deformations The speed and portability of the Haplit device allows for the blind to be able to obtain media at a rate similar to everyone else in society, helping alleviate the large divide in literacy between the blind and non-blind people.

This gap between media and materiality is more out of practical benefits than for an additional sensation as we saw in class with Between Page and Screen. The necessity of such a system is another aspect of the bridges between media and materiality. In class the bridge allowed us to further our schema of the work, however with a system like Haplit the bridge acts as the only mode of interpretation. Systems like Haplit allow for people to not be hindered by their physical deprivation from literacy, which is ever more crucial in today’s world.


Digital Fabrication and Hybrid Materialities


In this article the author talked about an art show she had attended recently that was made by digital tools such as laser cutting, 3D printing and digital knitting and weaving. This article relates to our discussion about hybrid technology and specifically hybrid materiality. As we have seen in the paper circuit and Between Page and Screen examples many people are turning to these hybrid technologies in order to make something different or new. In the art exhibit the artists were not worried about the technology itself, but rather how they could use the technology to create something different. I believe today’s culture is moving more towards these hybrid technologies to make tasks simpler or easier in general. One thing this article continued to touch on is how 3D printing is used to easily create molds for silicon or plastics.

Recently I came across a Facebook video where a student used 3D printing to print out molds for plastic braces which he used to help straighten his teeth. This innovation costs him less than two hundred dollars where using name brand metal braces would have cost him over 2000 dollars to help fix his teeth. I believe this will be more common where 3D printing is used to cut the costs of what is normally expensive. Hybrid technologies are new and harder to find in today’s society, but as these technologies become more common and widespread even more uses will be discovered.

I had first heard of the Stanley Parable quite a few years ago, back during its first few weeks of release. Produced as an “indie game,” the game used a repeatable narrative adventure in order to both give and take away the player’s sense of control. The game’s most interesting characters are the narrators, who present preferred actions available to the player, but more importantly providing constant meta commentary to the entertainment of the user. The intricate mix between snarky sarcasm and morbid humor draws in the player as another aspect of the materiality presented by the video game. By having the user be another aspect of the interactive, the user more than interacts with the game, he interacts with the meta nature of the game. I personally enjoyed the game, though I found some “routes” slightly irritating, but overall the game is one of the few to make you think both on a surface level but also on a meta-psychological level. The game becomes greater than the one-way literature that it provides; it becomes a conversation between narrator and player, through meta commentary and silent user actions. One game that is similar to this is Portal, because although it is more linear, the game forces a dynamic relationship between the player and the “hidden” character in the game. The Stanley Parable takes a step further into the realm of interactive and engaging gameplay, perhaps suggesting a time where games will become fully immersible, with many, even infinite, possibilities. This brings to mind the video game presented in the movie Her, which presented a prude game character with which the main character has a personable conversation. This eventual possibility of digital objects having the ability to interact on a meta level with material objects such as people will go on to highlight that materiality that is present in people. Each video game adventure will become tailored to each individual, changing dynamically to the characteristics of the person. In the Stanley Parable, I reached quite a number of sarcastic endings, as a result of my stubborn attitude towards an inanimate narrator directing my actions. Each individual’s experience will change depending on their reaction to the digital events and meta aspects, and the game will react differently to their actions.

I found a short video about how the engineers and the programmers dealt with the cost of the colors, and limited computer memory. It also briefly explains about what sprite is and how it works in the computer language. Just like cell is the small unit building up the living body, pixel is the smaller unit building up the images. Pixel holds a binary code that represents the color. Sprites is a generic term for images which can be placed into a larger scene. Originally sprites were images that could be inserted without disturbing the scene. In this sense, they are implemented with hardware. The smallest sprite is 8×8 pixels (8-bit). Most of games have characters around 16×16 pixels or even bigger; therefore, characters is drawn on a multiple 8×8-pixel tiles. On the screen, those multiple tiles are loaded together to form a single unit form. Here is the sprite sheet of Mario and Luigi. Their sizes are 16×16 or 16×32. The purpose of sprite is that you do not need to re-draw or change the color of main screen every time the characters moves, but instead you just need to paste these blocks of sprite on to the main screen. It is quicker for the computer operates, and it saves lot of memory RAM. The sprite is put independently onto the main screen, and has its own color palette; therefore, it does not get affected by the manipulation of the main screen. smb3_spritesheet

Throughout this unit, I’ve mostly thought about the idea of how the concept of hybrid materiality and how that relates to our learning experiences. We have already discussed and seen examples with the paper circuits, the Between Page and Screen, etc of things represented in a hybrid manner. A lot of what we’ve looked at is using technology to expose us to other information, concepts, or experiences, and I think that is similar to how many modern students have been taught, especially at Tech. We are usually taught classes like English through the use of technology, or using other components to help us express ourselves with newer topics (new to us) using more familiar areas. I think this qualifies as being hybrid, and that it is becoming more popular in teaching/learning. There are many different pushes to change the way we learn and teach children new subjects, and I think you can get a lot more out of something if it involves multiple disciplines. Like the Between Page and Screen, we get a new experience by combining the two aspects of the project: the physical book and the animation on the screen. In this case, we cannot read the book without both parts, and although we still can learn topics separately, I think it means much more in tandem. I have had many classes that try to keep us interested with what we are already more familiar with, or try to relate new or challenging concepts to our major areas of interest to engage us in the new lesson and its possible applications. Moving forward, I think the concept of hybrids is going to become more and more common as we change and adapt to new ideas, many of them will become combinations of existing ones.

As an avid player of video games, I put countless hours into classic NES games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda as a young boy. At the time I thought that the colorful, blocky worlds of those games were things of beauty, perfect replicas of the imaginary worlds they represented. Today, however, I wince when I look at the harsh graphical limitations that I once thought so compelling even as I lament that contemporary games are still unable to render the world in pixel perfect detail.

Reading the Bogost and Montfort piece brings to mind the interesting dynamic that is ongoing in the video game market, particularly with indie game developers. In an appeal to nostalgia, many games are coming to the market that incorporate NES-inspired pixelated graphics. Where precursor consoles such as the Atari 2600 where characterized by staggering technical limitations, severely decreasing their graphical fidelity, modern computers and consoles are able to render simplistic sprites and scenes with ease. Because of this, a revival of sorts has occurred, with new media being born of old ideas and technology. This is of particular interest in the view of media and materiality because it almost indicates that technology has progressed faster than ideas were created, and that the old technology still has value in the way of producing media. A great example of a merging of the material and digital is the video we watched in class about the book that allowed the user to physically interact and observe digital media on a computer screen. In a world where we seem so eager to replace older technology and artifacts with the newer and better, it might sometimes be advantageous to look back at what we have created before and out it to new use in useful and interesting ways.

Though the Bogost article mostly talks about overcoming limitations created by limited technical power, I think that the premise of the article can be applied to the modern world of video games and even other media. What happens if we attempt to do the same thing that the old game developers had in mind with our much more powerful systems? How might we evolve the past ideas into a modern version, melding old and new? I look forward to the next years of development, especially as we look back and see that we can bring the things of the past back to us in new and meaningful ways.

The concept of platforms in the gaming has always been disconcerting to consider when one tries to preserve and archive video games. Platforms cause games to have a limited life span. Obsolescence of these digital has been a personal fear of mine. I have been playing games since I was about five when I got a Sega Genesis for my birthday that year. I would pour as many hours as possible into my new favorite hobby until one fateful day Sega announced a new system: the Sega Dreamcast. I was so excited to play new Sonic games in 3D that I cast aside my old Genesis and poured hours into the new Dreamcast. If you know anything about the Dreamcast, then you are probably aware of its incredibly short lifespan; how it faded into obscurity in favor of the Nintendo GameCube and Sony PS2. Many games and IPs from the Dreamcast would fade into the void and be lost forever while some popular titles would survive with remakes and sequels on these two new systems.
Despite this fortunate turn of events for those lucky titles, something was lost during the transition between systems. The Dreamcast was ahead of its time when it came to peculiar gimmicks: it had memory cards that plug into your controller. These memory cards had an extra screen and a few buttons, allowing the player to play small mini-games on the go. The most notable example of this – for me anyways- was Sonic Adventure’s chao gardens. In these gardens you raised your own Tamagotchi- styled pets and carry them around in your memory cards. I loved this as a kid, but when the games went over to the GameCube this feature was altered and the on-the-go game was lost forever. This was just one example of ephemeral platforms and the experiences the give. Not many people got to play or will ever play those mini-games that are now practically lost forever. This has forever instilled a fear in me that the games I have played have a timer of relevance- one much faster than that of movies or books. Is there any way that we can immortalize this medium?

In recent years, the term “materiality” has been cropping up in the works of authors in management, communication studies, and sociology, to name a few places. But what does this word even mean ? Let’s begin by taking a look at how it is used in context across a number of fields.

The Oxford English Dictionary provides three major definitions for the adjective “material.” They are:

  1. Senses related to physical substance: Formed by or consisting of matter
  2. Opposed to formal: Designating the practical aspect of something as opposed to the theoretical aspect
  3. Having significance or relevance: Of serious substantial import; significant, important, of consequence

Each of these definitions provides a different account of what it means for an artifact to be “material.” After the class today, I tried to explore each of these definitions and consider the consequences they have for the materiality of intangible artifacts.

  1. In simplified words, researchers who study digital materiality lose little by focusing on contexts in which there is no physical matter. Thus, when those researchers describe digital artifacts as having “material” properties, aspects, or features, we might safely say that what makes them “material” is that they provide capabilities that afford or constrain action.
  2. Whether in physical or digital form, an artifact that translates idea into action is material. Of course, not all artifacts make this translation.
  3. The third definition above raises the question, “significant for what?” A pivot table may be significant for persuading a client to invest, but it may not be significant for analysts in a accounting firm. This third definition reminds us that a digital artifact, or its features, may be material in some ways, but not in others.

All these different definitions have different conclusions to what really materiality is which leaves the floor open for discussion.