Technologies/Histories Symposium – 2nd June 2016

Venue: Alan Gilbert-G21 [Theatre 1]  Alan Gilbert Building

Co-hosted by the Transformative Technologies Research Unit (University of Melbourne) & Flinders University. Lori Emerson is visiting Australia in association with Melanie Swalwell’s Future Fellowship project. Thanks to Flinders University for their support.

(Click on the presentation titles below to go to the abstracts and information about the speakers)

10.00-10.10:  Welcome

10.10-11.15:  Keynote
Othernet, Alternet, Darknet – Associate Professor Lori Emerson (University of Colorado)

11.15-11.45: Coffee break

11.45-1.15: History, Materiality and Digital (Re)Imaging

Digitalising the Roman Campagna – Lisa Beaven

Feeling flow, training technology: the dialectics of digital movement – Rachel Fensham

A Ribbon of Calcium: an Archaeology of Color and Movement across celluloid and digital – Wendy Haslem

1.15-2.15:  Lunch Break

2.15-3.45:  Being Digital in the 1980s

Nintendo vs The Wild Colonial Boys: How in the 1980s Nintendo threatened to put Beam Software out of business then transformed Beam Software’s business – Helen Stuckey

Online User Culture and Korea’s H-mail – Dongwon Jo

Art, Maths, Electronics and Micros: Convergence and divergence in the work of Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski – Melanie Swalwell & Maria Garda

3.45-4.00: Coffee break

4.00-5.30: Media Archaeology: the Technological Present and its Histories

The videogame as a machine for perception – Dan Golding

From Edo karakuri ningyo to C21st Japanese Robots – Angela Ndalianis

Close enough is not good enough: Digital intolerance and the demise of the analogue – Robert Hassan


“Othernet, Alternet, Darknet” – Keynote Address by Associate Professor Lori Emerson, University of Colorado

loriLori Emerson will discuss her current book project titled OTHER NETWORKS – a network archaeology of the history of telecommunications networks that pre-date the Internet or exist outside of the Internet. The questions driving the project touch include: what were the different networks that directly or indirectly caused the creation of TCP/IP and later “the internet”?  What are the affordances of these networks? What sorts of communication spaces did they make possible or impossible? In other words, how do these networks work and for whom do they work? The larger, implied goal of the project is to look at how things were, how things could have been, to try to reimagine how things still could be rather than resigning ourselves to the way things are.

Lori Emerson is an Associate Professor with a split appointment in the Department of English and the Intermedia Arts, Writing, and Performance Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is also Director of the Media Archaeology Lab. She writes about media poetics as well as the history of computing, media archaeology, media theory, and digital humanities. She is currently working on a two-part book project called “Other Networks,” a history of telecommunications networks that existed before or outside of the Internet. She recently published Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound (University of Minnesota Press, June 2014). Emerson is also co-editor of three collections: The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, with Marie-Laure Ryan and Benjamin Robertson (2014); Writing Surfaces: The Selected Fiction of John Riddell, with Derek Beaulieu (Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2013); and The Alphabet Game: a bpNichol Reader, with Darren Wershler (Coach House Books 2007).

Digitalising the Roman Campagna – Dr Lisa Beaven

lisa_beavenThis paper discusses the geo-mapping project, Digitalising the Roman Campagna, developed in conjunction with the British School at Rome library and Valerie Scott, which is still in its initial stages. The aim ultimately is to create a digital map of the Roman Campagna that could function as a database and repository of information about both the classical and early modern Campagna. The aim is to take two rare, and rarely seen, maps of the Roman Campagna in the early modern period and transform them into new forms of technology and interdisciplinary resources for generations of scholars. The two maps digitalised so far are Giacomo Filippo Ameti’s Il Lazio con le sue conspicue Strade Antiche e Moderne (1693), and Giovani Battista Cingolani della Pergola’s Topografia Geometrica dell’Agro Romano, of 1704 (second edition). One of the primary aims of the project is to connect to the map some of the 1,200 old photographs of the Campagna, also in the British School at Rome.

The two maps provide a wealth of interdisciplinary data about the nature of the Campagna in the early modern period. In particular they show the extent of the swamps and areas of stagnant water in the Campagna caused by climate change, which were responsible for a deteriorating rural environment that led to malaria being endemic in the region in the seventeenth century. They also reveal the extent of deforestation during the period. This environmental information is extremely patchy in archival and other written sources but plainly visible on the maps. Finally the Ameti map provides detailed records of the ownership of individual tenute, as well as glimpses of the seasonal populations that moved across its plains: the shepherds who inhabited it in winter, and the summer seasonal workers who worked the fields in the summer. The latter died of malaria in large numbers and their bodies were not only collected by the Archconfraternity of S. Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, but also listed in their Elenco dei Morti, along with their find spots. One of the goals of the project is visualise this data on the maps.

Dr. Lisa Beaven is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the ‘Change’ Program of the ARC Centre for the History of Emotions led by Professor Charles Zika. Her doctoral research involved reconstructing the collecting and art patronage of Cardinal Camillo Massimo (1620-1677) in seventeenth century Rome (2001, University of Melbourne). She has continued to research art patronage and collecting, concentrating in particular on the paintings of Claude Lorrain in relation to place. Her book An Ardent Patron: Cardinal Camillo Massimo and his artistic and antiquarian circle: Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin and Diego Velazquez was published by Paul Holberton Press, London, and CEEH, Madrid in 2010. Her research interests are concentrated in the area of patronage and art collecting in seventeenth century Rome, on the architecture and urbanism of the city, and on the nature of visual culture and the Catholic church in early modern Europe. Other research interests include digital mapping, travel writing, relics and the relationship between Catholicism and antiquarianism in the seventeenth century. Lisa is also a research investigator with the Transformative Technologies Research Unit.

Feeling flow, training technology: the dialectics of digital movement – Rachel Fensham

rachelIn archaeological, heritage and artistic practices, the 3D modelling of static objects is well advanced although movement animation with interactive avatars and other participatory systems that often reflect naturalized perceptions or normative world views.4 Too often the desire for ‘realism’ trumps the animating force of a more critical turning away from synchrony or equivalence. The complex dimensions of a dancer can be coded and re-coded so that aesthetic stylization, movement vocabulary and kinaesthetic properties become the embodied materialities, which produce the vitality of a costume in motion. This paper examines the digital configuration of costumes that virtualise histories of movement – their fleeting qualities of flow and weight – as traces from the early twentieth century. Inasmuch as the “warp and weft of invention” carries a virtual power in a more traditional “craft environment”, it will suggest that the multiple strands of creative work, technological and social practices form the “direction, like that of the shuttle, …[which is] a product of the forming situation that impelled the motion” of the digital costume (Carter 2004: 15).

Professor Rachel Fensham’s is Head of the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. Her research engages with the politics and aesthetics in movement and performance histories of the twenty and twenty-first century. Using theories of corporeality and spectatorship, her research aligns with recent digital humanities projects, which have been concerned with rethinking the exhibition and aesthetics of dance costumes. Rachel’s research has involved partnerships with museums and galleries in the US, Australia and the UK. Articles published in Scene, the Journal of Design History, and Dance Research Journal argue for new materialist approaches to modern and postmodern dance, while book publications such as To Watch Theatre (2009) and Dancing Naturally (2011) address genre and ideology in performance. With Peter Boenisch, she is series co-editor of New World Choreographies (Palgrave). Rachel is also a research investigator with the Transformative Technologies Research Unit.

The videogame as a machine for perception – Dan Golding

danThe history of mediated representation of space reveals a complex array of modes of perception: from the views of Italian landscape painting in the eighteenth century, which often offered the viewer a touristic, postcard-like landscape, to the moving images of early cinema in the twentieth century, which frequently aimed to capture a rhythm or dynamic of modernity’s cityscape. This paper examines the videogame’s mediation of movement in space and how videogames represent another such mode of perception — a mode that continues many of the threads found in this history, just as it also represents both a divergence from and an augmentation of it. Accordingly, this paper will attempt to trace out the position of the videogame as a model within what Jonathan Crary (1990, 2) describes as “an ongoing mutation in the nature of visuality,” taking in the links between the videogame’s mode of perception and the traditions that precede it.

Dr Dan Golding lectures in Media and Communications at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. His research interests focus on media history, cinema, videogames, and music. Dan is also a critic and journalist with over 200 publications in venues such as ABC Arts, (for which he won the ‘Best Games Journalist’ award at the 11th Annual IT Journalism ‘Lizzie’ awards), The Guardian, Meanjin, The Walkley Magazine, Screen Education, Hyper Magazine, and Kill Your Darlings. In 2015, Dan wrote, presented, and edited the audio documentary series ‘A Short History of Video Games’ which was broadcast on ABC Radio National, and was later Highly Commended at the 13th Annual IT Journalism ‘Lizzie’ awards. He is also a contributing editor for Metro Magazine. Dan is also the Director of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival, the longest-running independent games festival in Australia.

A Ribbon of Calcium: an Archaeology of Colour and Movement across celluloid and digital – Wendy Haslem

Cinema_Re-imaginedWEB004Paolo Cherchi Usai describes how in 1895 the Edison Kinetoscope company marketed Annabelle’s Dance, a single shot view of a serpentine dance painted in a range of transforming, colours (2000, 21). At Edison’s Black Maria factory, the desire was to capture Loïe Fuller’s chemical experiments in the production of the illusion of color. The serpentine dance became an eroticised spectacle displaying the ability of film to capture and exhibit movement, the image as a reminder of the movement of film itself. Hand painted and stencilled colours that trace movement in early film often appear ‘undisciplined’, unable to be constrained by the diegesis. Colours that are painted across film frames create additional patterns of time and movement. In early cinema colours pulse and move, many escaping outlines creating spectral spectacles of their own. The transformation of the hues projected from the flowing robes makes the viewer aware of the patterns of time, duration and the broader history that intersects early experiments with celluloid and those using digital film. This paper will explore the interrelationship between colour and temporality, movement and spectrality in celluloid and digital serpentine dance films. It relies on Tom Gunning’s model of dialogue and engagement to extend towards recent forms of the Serpentine Dance (1995, 79). This paper is dedicated to an exploration of the interrelationship between experiments with colour in expressing time through movement. Positioning the Serpentine Dance within a continuum, refusing to limit the discussion to firsts or origins, and focusing on some of the dynamic intersections across histories and performances allows for a reading of the dynamic intersections that connect the materiality of celluloid with the digital.

Works Cited: Tom Gunning (1995) ‘Colorful Metaphors: The Attraction of Color in Early Silent Cinema’, Fotogenia, 1; Paolo Cherchi Usai (2000) Silent Cinema: An Introduction, London, BFI.

Dr. Wendy Haslem teaches and researches the intersections of film history and new media. She is the author of A Charade of Innocence and Vice: Hollywood Gothic Films of the 1940s (2009), the co-author of Experimenta: Playground (2007) and a co-editor of the anthology Super/Heroes: From Hercules to Superman (2007). Recent research projects include ‘Chromatic Frankenstein’s Monsters: Restoration, Colour and Variants of George Méliès’ Voyage dans la lune‘, Senses of Cinema (2012), an exploration of the impact of digital restoration on early experiments in film making. Wendy is a lecturer in Screen Studies at The University of Melbourne. Wendy is also a research investigator with the Transformative Technologies Research Unit.

Close enough is not good enough: Digital intolerance and the demise of the analogue – Robert Hassan

robertThe rise of ‘ubiquitous computing’ during the 1990s was welcomed as a sign of progress, technologically and socially. We barely reflected upon what a digital world would be like, apart from being ‘faster’ and more ‘efficient’. That world is now our lived reality. This presentation looks at what ‘being digital’, as Nicholas Negroponte put it, really means. It suggests that it is only now, with the suffusion of the digital, that we are able to make a comparison that was not possible before—and to realise that we are analogue creatures from an analogue world. It suggests further that the ‘double-abstraction’ of market forces and computer automation shuts us out of an ancient relationship with both nature and technology, and shuts us out from the logic of digital automation, which creates a networked economy, culture and society (all singular) in which humans have no real place except as exploited producers and consumers.

Associate Professor Robert Hassan’s research is at the intersections of technology, temporality and politics. He has published eight books in this general area, including Empires of Speed, The Information SocietyThe New Media Theory Reader – with the latest, Philosophy of Media, to be published by Routledge in September.  His current research looks at the deep (and problematic) differences between analogue and digital technologies, and how the latter have begun to dominate the former as the basis of our technological relationships. His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Cultural Politics, World Futures, and Southern Review. Robert is also a research investigator with the Transformative Technologies Research Unit.

Online User Culture and Korea’s H-mail – Dongwon Jo

DongwonThis paper investigates the first public e-mail service in Korea, H-mail, provided in 1987 by the Korea Data Communications Corporation (DACOM), and examines how the early online user culture based on it was configured. The three aspects of bilateral configurations are analyzed: (1) DACOM’s configuring the user as a consumer of broadcast-like online services and the users’ reconfiguring H-mail for horizontal many-to-many communications; (2) the users’ hacking activities and DACOM’s security enhancement to control it; and (3) online user communities based on the electronic bulletin board systems (BBS) and national security as the boundary work that restricted them. It concludes by suggesting that it was such contentious and continuous interactions between the technology and its users, which configured the early online culture, prefiguring the present Internet culture.

Dr. Dongwon Jo is a postdoctoral researcher at Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia) as a recipient of 2016 Endeavour Research Fellowship. He has recently researched on sociocultural histories of information technologies in Korea and East Asia regarding the introduction of computer, microcomputer, BBS, Internet, electronics markets and their users. His present projects includes comparative archiving project for microcomputer users’ experiences and memories in Australia and Korea.

From Edo karakuri ningyo to C21st Japanese Robots – Angela Ndalianis

angelaAs a phenomenon of the C20th, robot-reality has coincided with the rise of the computer, however, robots also have connections with a past that reaches back at least to the early C17th. This paper will focus on Japanese robots and will follow a transhistorical path that returns to karakuri ningyo (mechanical/automaton dolls). In 1875, for example, Tanaka Hisashige, a Japanese engineer, inventor and karakuri master founded what was to become the Toshiba Corporation, a corporation later famous for its production of electronics, automobiles and, more recently, robots. The robots QRIO, Asimo, Sota, Kirobo and ApriPoko are strongly connected to the karakuri past. Famously, in ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ (1985) Donna Haraway argued that the ‘cyborg is a cybernetic organism… a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations’. While robots and Karakuri aren’t cyborgs, they are part of a long tradition of lived social relations of technologies and their histories. Re-considering the significance of Haraway’s manifesto, this paper will explore the Japanese social robot’s technological and philosophical relationship to its Karakuri predecessor.

Angela Ndalianis is Professor in Screen Studies at the University Melbourne and Director of the Transformative Technologies Research Unit (Faculty of Arts). Her research focuses on entertainment technologies and their histories as well as the transhistorical and transcultural nature of the baroque. Her publications include Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment (MIT Press 2004), The Horror Sensorium: Media and The Senses (McFarland 2012), Science Fiction Experiences (New Academia 2009) and The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero (editor, Routledge 2008). She has also published numerous essays in journals and anthologies, and she is currently working on two books: Batman: Myth and Superhero and Robots and Entertainment Culture. 

Nintendo vs The Wild Colonial Boys: How in the 1980s Nintendo threatened to put Beam Software out of business then transformed Beam Software’s business – Helen Stuckey

helenIn 1980s Australian gamers were more under the thrall of microcomputers than consoles yet Nintendo played a big part in Australia’s games history of the 1980s for in 1988 Nintendo threatened to put Australian developer Beam Software out of business. This paper examines how the Australian companies clash with Nintendo reveals much about the global game production chains that Nintendo was instigating at the time defining relationships between hardware producers and software licensees. Drawing on interviews with Beam’s Software staff it addresses the changes that the relationship with Nintendo wrought on Beam Software. It presents a less heroic vision of Nintendo of this era than its predominant characterisation in the west as the savoir of the crashed North American games industry, revealing the impact that Nintendo’s ruthlessly rationalised business strategy had on the local Australian games development industry. I examine how Beam Software relationship to Nintendo transformed Beam Software and changed the practises and culture of the company.

Helen Stuckey is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Screen and Media Department at Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia). She was the inaugural Games Curator at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. She recently completed her PhD “Remembering Australian videogames of the 1980s: what museums can learn from retro gamer communities about the curation of game history” as part of the ARC funded Play it Again Project. Helen is a co-editor of Fans and Videogames: Histories, Fandom, Archives (with Melanie Swalwell and Angela Ndalianis, forthcoming with Routledge).

Art, Maths, Electronics and Micros: Convergence and divergence in the work of Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski – Melanie Swalwell & Maria Garda

melIf the Algorists were the first generation of artists working with computers, then artists working with microcomputers would be the second, with a third generation associated with the era of multimedia and cyber-arts, from the early 1990s. To date, most work on computers in art has focused on the first generation and on later cyber arts. The use of microcomputers is an underexplored area, with the 1980s constituting a particular gap in knowledge.This paper considers the case of Polish-Australian artist, Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski (b. 1922, d. 1994), who after early exposure to computers at Bell Labs (1967), returned to (micro)computers late in his life. He was not a programmer and came relatively late to micros, purchasing his 16 bit Archimedes in 1989 and using it until his death to produce still images with a fractal generator and the ‘paintbox’ program, “Photodesk”. Focusing on Ostoja’s two image series created on the Archimedes – his Mandelbrot works and his landscapes with CGI – we argue that his work instances a noteworthy convergence of art, maths, electronics, and a ‘handson’ tinkering ethic, developed over many years of experimental practice across such diverse media as theatre, laser art, sound and image shows, electronics, and television. We set Ostoja’s practice against Grant Taylor’s assertion that “computer art…laid the foundation for digital art culture”. Research in Ostoja’s archives (Adelaide, Warsaw), and an interview with his Archimedes collaborator, Carl Cepurneek, ground our argument that when considering the history of creative microcomputing, it is imperative to go beyond the field of art itself. In this case, electronics and the demoscene provide crucial contexts. Ostoja’s involvement over many years with industry and engineering labs mean that his engagement with computers diverged from others who were using micros in a fine arts context in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Melanie Swalwell is an ARC Future Fellow and Associate Professor in the Screen and Media Department at Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia). She is the author of many chapters and articles on the histories of digital games, and co-editor of The Pleasures of Computer Gaming: Essays on cultural history, theory and aesthetics (McFarland, 2008). Melanie is a co-editor of Fans and Videogames: Histories, Fandom, Archives (with Helen Stuckey and Angela Ndalianis, forthcoming with Routledge). She is currently completing a book on 1980s homebrew gaming. Melanie’s latest research is on the histories of ‘creative microcomputing’ in Australia between 1976-1992.

Maria B. Garda is an Assistant Professor at the University of Łódź (Poland). She is vice-president of Game Research Association of Poland and co-funder of Replay. The Polish Journal of Game Studies. She has been researching video games and new media from the perspectives of genre, nostalgia and history. Garda’s recent publications have dealt with indie games, role-playing games, and new media preservation and her current work focuses on forms of retrogaming.