Interactive Entertainment Conference: Day 1a

I’ve been at the Australiasian Conference on Interactive Entertainment being held in Sydney this week. There is still one day to go but I feel compelled to *download* my impressions before the final blast of input and then distraction of catching-up on delayed duties. The attendees are computer science students working with game technologies, interactive narrative and game technologists and designers, iTV researchers, industry, media studies and cultural theorists. There is an impressive selection of international presenters, established local academics and emerging ones. Although an academic conference, the papers have an industry focus. I’m really enjoying this conference: a happy and eager bunch of theorists and practitioners who all share a passion for the area. We’re all keen to learn from each other and extend our own research with unusual linkups. There is alot I’d like to say about the this conference, but I’ll start with a blow by blow overview of the talks I attended:

The conference was opened by Professor Sue Rowley, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) of the University of Technology, Sydney. Rowley made some refreshingly critical comments about the phenomenon of cross-fertilised content (comics influencing films and so on). Much that is being produced, she said, is not cutting-edge, ‘banal’, ‘derivative’ and ‘ideological’. Although I keep a keen eye on the intermingling of genres, arts types and media affordances, it is great to hear that other people are finding the plethora mimic-art beyond cool.

Mark Pesce, famous for founding VRML but has done a stack since then, including being a fellow mentor at LAMP. Mark gave the keynote speech, The Telephone Repair Handbook, for the conference on mobile phones: their usability issues and potential social uses. In the style that Mark is renowned for, the presentation was delightful to the ear, so much so that I dubb mark a ‘suited cyber poet’ (also due to his talks being more inspirational rather than academic or industry). The podcast is online, as well as the pdf.

I went to see Jens F. Jensen’s talk, Interactive Television: New Genres, New Format, New Content, but he didn’t show for some reason. His paper is in the proceedings (we were given the full proceedings at the beginning of the conference, which ensures informed question times and means I can read up on who I want to chat to).

The aim of this paper is to discuss some of the main issues associated with interactive genres, formats and content in the context of interactive television (ITV). First, a set of new forms or categorizations of ITV will be presented. Second, the suite of interactive genres, formats and applications that currently constitutes ITV will be introduced and discussed. And third, some general conclusions concerning interactivity, television and the interactive user/viewer will be drawn.

Next, I was really looking forward to a talk by Lori Shyba: Opening Doors to Interactive Play Spaces: Fragmenting Story Structure into Games. Unfortunately, Lori spent more time describing her product than discussing how story is fragmented. her product is a theatre experience in which the audience interacts with actors who themselves interact with projections on walls and play specially designed screen games. She calls the form “integrated performance media” (which is developed from “integrated media”, an industry term in Canada and is related to “integrated marketing”).

Someone made a comment during one of the talks about franchises not being about art but about money. I keep forgetting that people see alot of cross-media not as an artform but as a marketing technique. Cross-media is often derided under this pretense. I couldn’t help thinking of an alternate perspective: the utilisation of multiple media for the delivery of a creative work has been the privilege of conglomerates, but with the ability to broadcast from personal media (a mobile phone or home computer rather than cinema) cross-media delivery is suddenly an option for everyone. Sure, many products are created with the sole intention of making money, but to claim that the employment of multiple media is the domain of commodification is to underestimate the democratisation of publication that the Internet has enabled.

Anyway, the final talk I saw on day one was by Robert Grigg. This is the exciting talk: it is about a particular sub-area of CME: episodic gaming. I’ll be giving a generous post about this very soon.

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