Injecting Indigeneity in Cyberspace

by Laurence Butet-Roch

Lewis, J. E. (2014). A Better Dance and Better Prayers: Systems, Structures, and the Future Imaginary in Aboriginal New Media. In S. Loft & K. Swanson (Eds.), Coded Territories: Tracing Indigenous Pathways in New Media Art. Calgary: U of Calgary P, 2009.


Having founded a network of academics, artists and technologists concerned with figuring out how to infuse Indigenous ways of knowing into virtual environments (AbTec) – computer games, websites, social networks, and the likes – with his partner Skawennati Fragnito in the mid-aughts, Jason Edward Lewis, in his contribution to the recent opus on contemporary Indigenous media practices, first seeks to identify how the Western bias shapes the current digital ecosystem. He observes that the representations of Indigenous characters in online environments perpetuate existing assumptions and stigmas about the past and present of Indigenous communities. So much so that it makes it hard for members of those groups to imagine themselves existing in these new virtual spaces. This is deeply troubling to Lewis, since he claims that failing to envision what the Indigenous presence will look like in hundreds of years could lead to the erasing of these nations. To make his case more potent, he quotes the Pulitzer Prize winning Kiowa author, N. Scott Momaday: “We are what we imagine. Our very existence consists in our imagination of ourselves. Our best destiny is to imagine, at least, completely, who and what, and that we are. The greatest tragedy that can befall us is to go unimagined” (as cited in Lewis, 2009, p.58).

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The Need for Greater Digital Literacy in Technical Communication

Dicks, S. “The effects of digital literacy on the nature of technical communication work.” Digital literacy for technical communication: 21st century theory and practice (2009): 51-82.


In this essay, Dicks takes a historical approach to understanding technical writing’s role in the greater context of communication, and analyzes the evolution of technical writing methods as a result of the induction of digital media. The last 15 years have seen seismic social and economic changes motivated by technological innovations. Dicks argues that these changes have dramatically influenced every aspect of technical communication. He argues that as we transition into an era of ubiquitous computing, every aspect of the technical writer’s methodology needs to be revised. By studying the reasons for these changes and the symptoms and  structure of the market as of 2009, Dicks lays out challenges and thinking during the height of the global recession. This reading is one essay in an anthology centered on digital literacy for technical communicators in the 21st century. The anthology focuses on understanding how technology and the current digital writing environment have changed – and continue to change –  the nature of technical communication work.   Continue reading “The Need for Greater Digital Literacy in Technical Communication”

Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts.

Gray, Jonathan. Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts. New York: New York UP, 2010. Print.

Jonathan Gray’s Show Sold Separately explores how media extensions and paratextual material for television and film—and peripherally literature, music, and videogames—are used to enhance the fan experience and invite viewers to enter into a fictitious world at a deeper level. Gray states that his thesis for his book is premised on the theory that paratexts are both “distinct from” and alike—or, I will argue, intrinsically part of—the text. The book’s thesis is that paratexts are not simply add-ons, spinoffs and also-rans: they create texts, they manage them, and they fill them with many of the meanings that we associate with them” (6). Although most of Gray’s book explores the ways producers create paratextual material to increase profit and build franchises, he also explores the vitality of digitally enabled co-creation between producers (authors, producers, and media hubs) and consumers (fans) for storytelling. Gray’s argument that digital paratexts challenge traditional publishing practices is crucial when attempting to understand the ways that the digital platform has challenged and reconfigured cultures of creation.  Continue reading “Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts.”

New Perspectives on Narrative and Multimodality

Post-structuralist devotees of Jacques Derrida tout the famous phrase, “il n’y a pas de hors-texte:” there is no outside-text. Interestingly, the phrase is applicable quite broadly depending on one’s interpretation of the phrase “text” and the scope it may encompass. In the field of digital humanities and regarding themes orbiting around the mandate of Stories in Play, the generative, multimodal element of text is embraced through the ways in which meaning is generated. Such is the case in the collection of academic works edited by Page Ruth and compiled under the title: New Perspectives on Narrative and Multimodality. As the … Continue reading New Perspectives on Narrative and Multimodality

Between Humanities and the Digital: An Intersectional Look at Digital Humanities

  Svenson, Patrik, and David Theo Goldberg, eds. Between Humanities and the Digital.        Cambridge: MIT P, 2015. Print. This compilation of current essays in the digital humanities (DH) sphere deals with the crossover between DH and the traditional humanities disciplines. The volume is a useful resource especially for those academics or interested practitioners who wish to know the status quo of both fields and their interrelations. Many prominent scholars of the DH field have contributed to the volume, including: Alan Liu, Henry Jenkins, Johanna Drucker, Ian Bogost, and N. Katherine Hayles to name a few. This ensures public audiences … Continue reading Between Humanities and the Digital: An Intersectional Look at Digital Humanities

Critical Play: Radical Game Design

Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2009. Print. (Access Flanagan’s introduction online here.)

9780262062688Mary Flanagan’s Critical Play is a call to develop a new methodology that will allow activist games to be created in greater numbers, and for games in general to be designed with increased diversity. “Critical play” refers to games and other types of play that involve the examination of social, cultural, political, and personal themes and issues, wherein the goal is not to win, but to think and discuss the issues within the safe space created by play. In these types of play, critical thinking, education, intervention, and humanistic themes are emphasized. Continue reading “Critical Play: Radical Game Design”

You Can Make the Leap from Games to Gameful, in Super Better


McGonigal, Jane. “You Can Make the Leap from Games to Gameful.” Super Better: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient⎯Powered by the Science of Games. Toronto: Penguin, 2015. 104-29. Print.

The transition from just playing games to playing games mindfully is an essential aspect of accessing the benefits of gamefulness. McGonigal argues that a gamer should play with purpose, rather than with the escapist attitude that is most often adopted by gamers. Escapism encourages players to escape their daily life and its problems, thus convincing them to believe that their problem solving skills are insufficient for dealing with life’s difficulties. To play with purpose, instead, is to identify a game’s benefits (i.e. team building) and find this benefit’s purpose in a real-life situation (i.e. working collaboratively on a shared project at work). The method to accessing the benefits of game playing, or being gameful, is the application of these virtually accessed skills in a real-life setting. McGonigal discusses the health paradox for gamers: self-suppressive gamers, those who avoid their issues by gaming, are often physically and mentally unwell, suffering from depression, social isolation, anxiety, and a host of other issues; self-expansive gamers, those who apply virtually learned skills in real life settings, excel in terms of their happiness, health, and test scores. Studies show that both are possible consequences of game playing, and both are valid. The difference is purpose in playing, or the why. To rely on games to distract from problems, rather than to inform a problem and present a solution, is defeatist. A “purposeful play,” instead, works against this instinct to distract. Gamers seek out benefits, such as education, exploration, creativity, relaxation, and can consequently “activate [their] gameful skills in real-world contexts” (106). Continue reading “You Can Make the Leap from Games to Gameful, in Super Better”

Interface and Interpretation, in Graphesis

Drucker, Johanna. “Interface and Interpretation.” Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2014. 138–179. Print. By Nathalie Down The chapter “Interface and Interpretation” from Johanna Drucker’s latest book, Graphesis, provides an exceptional and much-needed critique of the graphical user interface (GUI), the dominant feature of screens on most modern computational devices. Although the value of the chapter tends be overshadowed by the book’s more prominent knowledge contribution – the groundwork for an essentially new field of graphic-based semiotics – the insights presented within are of critical import to scholars across disciplines, to designers and engineers, and indeed … Continue reading Interface and Interpretation, in Graphesis

First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game

Image of book cover

Harrigan, Pat and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2004. Print.

The contributing authors to this collection of essays question the relationship between stories and games and explore new types of textual experiences made possible in the digital environment. The connection between stories and games especially relates to the digital storytelling and gameful experiences theme of the Stories in Play Initiative. The authors examine blurry terms such as play, games, narrative and interactivity in their work. Reflecting the interactive digital environment in examination, the book is structured as a series of panel discussions, where each essay is followed by responses. The contributors represent a range of backgrounds including theorists, game designers and artists. Furthering the notion of interactivity, readers and the public are invoked in the book’s concerns, as the editors of First Person also created a website in collaboration with electronic book review with the opportunity for further online discussion. Continue reading “First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game”

The Ecology of Games

The Ecology of Games:  Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Ed. Katie Salen.  London:  MIT P, 2008.  Print.

By:  April Tanner

The Ecology of Games:  Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning is a collaborative work edited by Katie Salen that seeks to demonstrate the sociocultural value of games in the digital age. Salen considers gaming to be a comprehensive term which encompasses gaming practices, literacies, and activities across all platforms and spaces. The central goal of the collection is to answer questions regarding how youth engage and participate in games and gaming, how gaming literacies form, how gaming interacts with other forms of learning and social interactions, and how barriers that prevent participation in gaming can be identified and overcome. Continue reading “The Ecology of Games”