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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Call: ‘As Above, So Below: Drone Culture’ – Special issue of Culture Machine

As Above, So Below: Drone Culture
Special issue of Culture Machine, Vol.16 (2015)
Edited by Rob Coley and Dean Lockwood (University of Lincoln, UK)

The colloquium, ‘As Above, So Below’, held at the University of Lincoln in May 2014, proved the topic of drone culture to be a productive and resonant point of access for discussions of novel forms of life, power, and social and cultural logics in the twenty-first century. The 2015 special issue of the peer-reviewed open access journal, Culture Machine, will combine papers commissioned from selected speakers at the colloquium together with new contributions. We are particularly keen to gather international perspectives.

The implications of the drone are still unfolding, however its valence as, in Benjamin Noys’s words, the ‘signature device of the present moment’ is indisputable. Certain discourses, practices and lines of investigation are already established. As Noys notes, above all, a certain theological and metaphysical attitude to the drone – a myth of the drone, foregrounding its ‘God-like’ powers of search and destroy, troubling in its militaristic techno-fetishism – has come to dominate discussion, with interlocutors either wishing to celebrate or critique and demystify such claims for drone power.

What is at stake in our ‘desire for the drone’? How might we engage with such refrains in the interests of resistance? What transformative energies does the phenomenon of the drone exert upon philosophy, media, aesthetics, social and cultural theory, literature and history and how might these disciplines, in and across and between themselves, direct their own energies back upon the drone? We are familiar with some of the more recognizable manifestations of the drone, a list which includes the diffusion of the conventional battlefield, the supposed precision of surgical strikes, and the peculiarities of such a ‘remote’ system of seeing and killing from thousands of miles away. These are the activities of a power that remains largely invisible, for political as much as technical reasons. There is, then, a certain paradox to drone culture: the drone communicates something that must not be communicated. The drone is redacted: hidden in plain sight, present but opaque. Accordingly, though we can describe a culture in which the drone, and the consequences of the drone, are normalized, are integral to an increasingly dominant logic of power, the task of expressing this culture in its material, experiential terms proves to be more difficult. How do we engage with a phenomenon that is simultaneously invisible and utterly visible? How do we map the middleness of this experience?

We invite contributions on such topics as: Read more on Call: ‘As Above, So Below: Drone Culture’ – Special issue of Culture Machine…

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Airbus patents a VR helmet that’ll make you forget you’re on a plane

[From Wired, where the story includes more pictures]

Airbus VR patent drawing

Airbus Patents a VR Helmet That’ll Make You Forget You’re on a Plane

By Alex Davies

In a world where economy-class seats are getting thinner and lavatories are shrinking, any flight longer than an hour can feel like a traveling prison. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus is abetting the shift, but a recent patent filing shows it hasn’t forgotten about you, the passenger who actually has to sit in these miserable flying cells. It’s considering helmets that will let you forget you’re in an airplane at all. Read more on Airbus patents a VR helmet that’ll make you forget you’re on a plane…

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Call: ‘Gaming Bodies’ – ICA 2015 Game Studies Preconference

Call for Participation

Gaming Bodies
ICA Game Studies Preconference
May 21, 2015 – San Juan, Puerto Rico

Deadline: December 1, 2014

Digital games have complicated notions of what a body is and what it means during and apart from play. Both digital and physical bodies are understood to influence – or be influenced by – gameplay experiences according to their unique traits, states, abilities, materialities, and governing systems. In gamespaces, digital bodies may be considered both as signifiers and agents of players’ intention and as independent entities functioning according to their inherent design. On the other side of the interface, physical bodies may be considered both as manipulators of game content and as being influenced by game events that they help create. In many ways, these interplays between digital and physical bodies are central to notions of play.

The goal of this pre-conference is to shed light on the natures, functions, and interplays of digital and physical bodies in games, and how bodies are engaged in and influenced by play. “Bodies,” for purposes of this event, are broadly defined, including textual, visual, logical, and physical manifestations of players or their agents. As the main conference theme is “Communication Across the Life Span,” contributors are encouraged to consider gaming bodies as they evolve over stages of life and play.

In the interest of fostering lively discussion and synthesis of scholarship, the pre-conference welcomes abstracts for research from various theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary backgrounds. Possible pre-conference topics related to gaming bodies include (but are not restricted to): Read more on Call: ‘Gaming Bodies’ – ICA 2015 Game Studies Preconference…

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Why artificial intelligence is the future of religion

[From Salon]

Scene from the film "A.I."

[Image: Scene still from “A.I.”]

Why artificial intelligence is the future of religion

Robotics and Christianity have a longer history than you’d expect, and they’re only growing more entangled

Michael Schulson, Religion Dispatches
Sunday, Sep 14, 2014
This article originally appeared on Religion Dispatches.

There are places you never expect to be in life. For me, this was certainly one of them: in a conference room in suburban Charlotte on the campus of Southern Evangelical Seminary, with an enormous old Bible on a side table, shelves of Great Books lining the walls, and, on the conference table itself, a 23-inch-tall robot doing yoga.

Meet the Digitally Advanced Virtual Intelligence Device, a NAO (now) robot known as “D.A.V.I.D.”

Weighing [in] at a little over 11 pounds and costing $16,000 (the seminary was given a discount from Aldebaran, NAO’s French manufacturer, and a donor covered the cost), D.A.V.I.D. evokes a certain sculpture by Michelangelo—human artifice reaching for a kind of material perfection.

Its eyes flicker purple and green. It can recognize faces, respond to vocal cues, read emails out loud, play MP3 files, and trace a sound to its source with a swivel of its football-shaped head. Tiny motors drive the flexion of its joints. Download a certain program, and the robot will begin to play soothing New Age music as it stretches toward the ceiling and then lowers itself, gradually but with surprising grace, into a perfect downward dog.

D.A.V.I.D. may be cute, and robotic yoga may be goofy, but the intentions of SES and Dr. Kevin Staley, an associate professor of theology and the robot’s handler, could not be more serious. Through those 23 inches of silicon and plastic, they hope to tackle questions about what it means to be human; about how we should interact with the non-human entities in our lives; and about what a uniquely Christian response might be to a world in which humans start to seem more like computers, and computers start to seem more and more like human beings. Read more on Why artificial intelligence is the future of religion…

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Call: 4th Annual Symposium on Communicating Complex Information (SCCI)

4th Annual Symposium on Communicating Complex Information (SCCI)
February 23-24, 2015
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC USA

Call for Proposals

Building on the success of the previous three conferences, the Symposium on Communicating Complex Information (SCCI) explores the relationships between and within the contexts that affect complex information, information design, information architecture, user experience, and usability. It seeks to examine how design and content choices influence people’s behavior when interacting with complex information, and how the knowledge of situational context improves the design of complex information systems.

The intention of SCCI is to foster an integrated approach to the design of complex information by bringing together members from a range of research and practitioner communities. It strives to build upon what we already know about communicating complex information and to clarify our understanding of what issues urgently need further research.

Keynote address will be by Lisa Meloncon, University of Cincinnati.


The future will see the design of information and communication technologies that serve ever more complex purposes and problems. This symposium looks at ways to address those complex purposes and problems. It strives to give forward-looking answers to how we should create and test designs and content that work within increasingly complex environments. Quality designs and content should make the user experience, overall usability, and human-information interaction simpler, not more complex and difficult. The challenge is figuring out how to harness complex phenomena in requirements, design, and testing so that our systems support and enhance the user’s ability to interact with and use this complex information.

As teachers, practitioners, and scholars, how can technical communicators, user experience designers, and interaction designers contribute to new approaches to the design and evaluation of complex information systems and to help to define what is meant by usability and user experience of these systems?

This 2–day symposium is designed to maximize the exchange of information and ideas among the participants. It features a highly interactive format with 12-14 participants giving a 15–20 minute presentation followed by a 20–30 minute discussion.

The symposium is being co-sponsored by East Carolina University and ACM SIGDOC. Accepted papers will be published in a special issue of ACM SIGDOC Communication Design Quarterly and archived in the ACM Digital Library. Read more on Call: 4th Annual Symposium on Communicating Complex Information (SCCI)…

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VR Travel: Marriott Transporters take you to Maui and London

[From Wired, where the story includes many more images and a 0:25 minute video of the Teleporter experience]

Marriott Teleporters in NYC

[Image: The two Teleporters standing in New York City. Starting September 18, one will be near City Hall, the other will be at the Marriott Marquis. Courtesy of Marriott Hotels/Framestore]

The Future of Travel Has Arrived: Virtual-Reality Beach Vacations

By Peter Rubin

I’m the only person in the hotel lounge. It’s night, and darkness lingers beyond the windows. Despite the room’s emptiness, there’s a feeling of warmth; a fireplace crackles, and music mixes with the hum of subdued conversation and clinking glasses. Ahead of me on the wall is a topographic map of Hawaii. I approach it slowly, looking around the room as I go. There’s a long bar to my right, clusters of low-slung tables and chairs to my left, some with laptops on them—MacBook Airs, from the look of them. There’s a chess set on one of them. Closer to the map, I begin hearing new sounds. A ukulele. Crashing surf. A red ring on the map starts to pulse. I’m directly in front of it now. Suddenly, I’m drawn into the map. The terrain lines warp around me, creating a tunnel. With a whoosh, I shoot through the wormhole onto a black-sand beach. The sky is blue, the palms are swaying, the ocean laps at the shoreline. For a moment, everything is completely, utterly serene. I am in Maui.

“Actually,” a voice says from somewhere beyond my headphones, “you might want to take a small step forward.”

That’s because I’m not in Maui at all. I’m 2,500 miles east of it, actually, in the Los Angeles offices of visual-effects firm Framestore. The company’s invited me to check out the latest build of the Teleporter, a new virtual-reality experience from Marriott Hotels. We’re a week or so away from the official Sept. 18 unveiling, though, so while the team is scrambling to apply that final layer of polish, there are still some minor issues to work out, like precisely calibrating the camera that tracks my position. Thankfully, this isn’t Framestore’s first time at the VR dance. Earlier this year, the company engineered Ascend the Wall, a Game of Thrones experience that let you ascend the fantasy saga’s mighty Wall; now, the company is leveraging its experience and expertise to blur the lines between CGI and video, and create one of the first premium VR applications outside of gaming and entertainment. Read more on VR Travel: Marriott Transporters take you to Maui and London…

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Call: Game Studies at National Popular Culture/American Culture Association 2015 conference

Game Studies Area: 2015 PCA/ACA National Conference

The Game Studies area of the National Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association Conference invites proposals for papers and panels on games and game studies for the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference to be held Wednesday, April 1 through Saturday April 4, 2015 at the New Orleans Marriott.

Below, please find:

I. Topics of Interest
II. Submission Process
III. Information about the Conference
IV. Contact Information


I. Topics of Interest

The organizers seek proposals and papers covering all aspects of gaming, gaming culture and game studies. Proposals can address any game medium (computer, social, console, tabletop, etc) and all theoretical and methodological approaches are welcome. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • new game mediums and platforms (Facebook, iPhone/iPad/iPod, etc)
  • representation or performance of race, class, gender and sexuality in games
  • gaming culture, game specific cultures, and multicultural and cross-cultural issues
  • game development, design, authorship and other industry issues
  • game advertising, reviews, packaging, promotion, integrated marketing and other commercial concerns
  • political and legal entailments such as regulation, censorship, intellectual property
  • ludology, textual criticism, media ecology, narratology, etc as paradigms for games studies
  • player generated content in MUDs and MMORPGs, Mods, maps and machinima
  • game genres, platforms, consoles, console wars and connections to other media
  • serious games for education, business, healthcare, (military) training, etc
  • space and place in games, play spaces, virtual/physical communities, mobile gaming and localization
  • digital literacy, discourse practices, social norms and norming, the politics of play
  • public discourse/controversy over violence, militarism, sex, criminality, racism, etc in games
  • game pedagogy and classroom practices, gamification, learning as play

Read more on Call: Game Studies at National Popular Culture/American Culture Association 2015 conference…

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AirVR turns iPad Mini, iPhone 6 Plus into portable VR goggles

[From The Verge, where the story includes many images and a 1:19 minute video]

Man wearing AirVR

You can now attach your iPad directly to your face to experience virtual reality

AirVR wants to turn your iPad Mini and iPhone 6 Plus into portable virtual reality goggles

By Carl Franzen
September 16, 2014

It was only a matter of time. The iPad has been adapted for all sorts of intriguing and surprising purposes over the years (including, recently, a sex toy). Meanwhile, a number of enterprising organizations and individuals have sought to create makeshift virtual reality goggles out of people’s readily available mobile devices (e.g. Google Cardboard). Now the two trends have converged: AirVR is a Kickstarter project from Toronto design firm Metatecture that seeks $20,000 in funding from backers to create an inexpensive headset for converting your iPad Mini (Retina) or soon-to-be-delivered iPhone 6 Plus into a portable virtual reality viewer. Read more on AirVR turns iPad Mini, iPhone 6 Plus into portable VR goggles…

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Call: Editors for “Real Virtual Hardware” issue of Journal of Virtual Worlds Research (JVWR)

Call for Editors: “Real Virtual Hardware” issue of Journal of Virtual Worlds Research (JVWR)

We are looking for a Prime Editor and 1-2 co-editors (you can join as a group) to lead this “Real Virtual Hardware” issue due to be published 2015Q3. If you have an interest and background in the field, as well as experience in academic editing, please send us your CV and a cover letter explaining why you are the perfect person to the task. Email the lot to

These days’ news is all about technology: Apple Watch; Samsung’s Gear VR headset for smartphones; Oculus Rift acquisition by Facebook; and more. This period is therefore a timely occasion to examine the importance of Virtual Reality hardware and its current and future presence in the market.

Virtual worlds are now being augmented with hardware that includes:

We are looking for research papers on and not limited to:

  • Description of current and new hardware
  • Research on new interfaces
  • New market analyses that stems from new hardware
  • Users perception & insights
  • Market impacts
  • And more

Final decision about the editor will be made by end of October or earlier based on the information we get. Read more on Call: Editors for “Real Virtual Hardware” issue of Journal of Virtual Worlds Research (JVWR)…

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Douglas Trumball’s 120 fps 4K 3D immersive film format

[From The Hollywood Reporter, where the story includes a 6:34 minute video]

Douglass Trumball demos MAGI system

[Image: Douglas Trumbull at Toronto International Film Festival’s Future of Cinema conference, September 11, 2014; image from Mike Edgell]

Future of Film: VFX Legend Douglas Trumbull’s Plan to Save the Movies

The 72-year-old, who’s best known for his work on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ says he’s figured out how to win the battle against big TVs and smartphones — from a studio on his farm in the Berkshires

9/2/2014 by Scott Feinberg
A version of this story appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

On a sunny August day in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, Douglas Trumbull, the 72-year-old visual effects legend, welcomes me to Little Brook Farm, the sprawling 50-acre property on which he lives and works with his wife of 13 years, Julia Trumbull, as well as an assortment of free-range donkeys, goats, chickens, roosters, cats and dogs. In addition to their home and animals, the compound also houses Trumbull Studios, a 10-building, state-of-the-art filmmaking facility that was financed with his proceeds from the IPO of IMAX Corp., where he once worked. “We’re not a movie lab in the sense that we process chemicals,” says Trumbull of the operation. “We’re a movie lab in the sense that we’re looking for the future of movies.”

Trumbull drives me a short distance from his home to a full-size soundstage and escorts me into a screening room that he has constructed to meet his ideal specifications: a wide wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling curved screen, with surround sound, steeply rigged stadium seating and a 4K high-resolution projector. As I put on specially designed 3D glasses and settle into stadium seating, he tells me, with an unmistakable hint of nervousness, “You’re one of the first people on the planet to see this movie.”

Ten minutes later, the lights come back up and I sit in stunned silence. The short that I have just seen, UFOTOG (a blending of the words “UFO” and “fotog,” the latter slang for press photographer), is stunning not because of its story — we’ve all seen movies about UFOs — but because it shows, as it was designed to do, what movies can look like if theaters, studios and filmmakers embrace the MAGI process through which Trumbull brought it to the screen: bigger, brighter, clearer and with greater depth-of-field than anything ever seen in a cinema before. Read more on Douglas Trumball’s 120 fps 4K 3D immersive film format…

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