June 1, 2007

Weekend of June 01, 2007

*Editor's Note

*Opening Note: Doris C. Rusch Looks at WarrioWare: Smooth Moves, Part II of II

*Glancing at the C3 Blog

*Closing Note: Parmesh Shahani Provides an Account of the Silicon Valley TIECon

--------------- EDITOR'S NOTE ---------------

Welcome to this week's Weekly Update from C3.

This week's issue features the second-part of Doris Rusch's piece on WarrioWare that began in last week's closing note. The conclusion is featured as the opening note this week. Doris remains an affiliated researcher with the consortium as she works with Austrian game company Avaloop.

Our closing note this week is another featured piece from the former manager of C3, Parmesh Shahani. Parmesh provides us with some notes from another of his many conference travels, this time from the Silicon Valey for TIECon.

As usual, the newsletter this week features all the entries published during the week on the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog.

Again, congratulations to Shenja van der Graaf, an affiliated researcher with C3 who will be relocating to here in Cambridge to work with the Berkman Center at Harvard University.

If you have any questions or comments or would like to request prior issues of the update, direct them to Sam Ford, Editor of the Weekly Update, at samford@mit.edu.

--------------- OPENING NOTE ---------------

Think Smooth!
The Challenges, Pleasures and Pitfalls of WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Part II of II

By: Doris C. Rusch

This article presents an analysis of the sense-making challenges, pleasures and pitfalls that occur in the course of the Evil Attacks Diamond Dojo episode in the Nintendo wii game WarioWare: Smooth Moves. The first part of this article explained how the various operation modes of the Form Baton (i.e. the controller) are introduced through elaborate cut scenes that address three distinct aspects of each handling technique: 1) how the Form Baton is held, 2) how it is moved and 3) what it represents in the fictional setting it has been introduced in. The second part of this article is an analyse of how this threefold attribution of interaction techniques becomes a source of confusion in the Diamond Dojo episode and presents many, mostly pleasurable, sense-making challenges.

The most immediately graspable minigames are those which are consistent with all three aspects of a particular interaction technique, such as minigames that call up the "sketch artist" and command the player to "draw" or "the chauffeur" to "drive." But those are also the least exciting ones from a sense-making point of view.

More interesting are those minigames, which tap into the metaphorical nature of the various stances and use them in different fictional contexts. Thus, the player trustingly takes the stance of the "sketch artist" but is suddenly confronted with a dart board, a paper plane, or, rather shockingly, with the gaping mouth of a toothless old lady. One would be at a loss of what to do were it not for the commands that appear on the screen at the beginning of each game telling the player to "throw," "fly" or "insert."

But it is not only the different fictional context that causes a moment's puzzlement. It is the fact that the change of context is also accompanied by a game-play enhancement. E.g. the "sketch artist" stance is transferred from a 2D environment (a paper to draw on) to a 3D environment (a paper plane that has to avoid a tree, or false teeth that have to be inserted into a mouth) and one has to assess depth as a new factor of one's performance. In combination, these changes provide refreshing variations of the original metaphor.

Another intriguing sense-making challenge occurs when a certain input technique is not simply placed in a different fictional context, but in a contrasting one. There is one game, where the "samurai" stance is required, but not to perform a martial action, but to hand out a love card. The game is still easily won, since the "samurai" technique is one of the simplest operation modes in the "Diamond Dojo" episode and no additional physical challenge has to be met (such as aiming). The comic contrast evoked by this change of context also made me laugh.

However, total befuddlement befell me, when I was asked to take "the chauffeur" stance and the following minigame opened with a scene of a smiling girl running towards me. On the screen appeared the command "push" and so I obeyed and pushed the girl to the ground. At the same time I asked myself how this was still coherent with the metaphor of "the chauffeur?" In fact, it was not, and that makes this minigame problematic: while it can be highly rewarding to change the fictional context of an input technique--after all, that is what metaphors are all about--it is a problem to destruct the metaphor's structure. Every metaphor in WarioWare: Smooth Moves is established as a combination of stance and movement. One cannot change one part of this structure, without significantly weakening the metaphor. Inconsistencies like these make the player lose her trust in the metaphor to the point where the metaphor loses its meaning and becomes useless to quickly orient the player about what to do.

Although these words seem to bespeak a far too grown up player for this kind of game, I must admit that I cannot wait to play WarioWare:Smooth Moves again. And this time, I want to find out how to scan that darn banana. Who cares that the mapping of physical input and on-screen action seems to have gone astray in this minigame? I want to win it and I want to save the turtles.

Doris C. Rusch is an affiliated researcher with the Convergence Culture Consortium. She has done postdoctoral work at the Institute for Design and Assessment of Technology at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria. She has been working as community manager for the online game Papermint through Austrian game company Avaloop.

---------- NEWS FROM THE C3 BLOG -----------

Vedrashko and GSD&M Weigh in on The Rude Ketchup. Ilya Vdrashko and GSD&M both recently weighed in on the Heinz ketchup user-generated advertising campaign and the costs involved and best approaches for participatory advertising.

Understanding Ethnography and Academic Arguments. Grant McCracken recently wrote a piece comparing law as practiced on Law & Order to anthropology. This post looks at some of the insight the comparison provides into the process of academic research.

Go Ahead...Google Yourself. Sam Ford brings up not only the C3 analyst but a news anchor, a porn star, and a sex offender. What other versions of you do you now have to contend with?

Personal Questions of Social Interaction and Etiquette Raised by Online Networks. Sam Ford provides a series of incidents from his personal online social network maintenance that shows new ways in which these sites are raising questions and situations in personal relationships that would not have come up before.

Apple and Google Working Together with YouTube, Apple TV. The mega partnership between two online giants slowly moves forward with YouTube being made available through Apple TV. What does this mean for users and for the industry as a whole?

Advertising Campaigns and Barriers to Creativity. Car dealers may be the worst, but advertisers in general often rely on the stereotypes they have created for themselves, which eventually serves as detriment.

Visible World's Partnership with Tremor Expands Ad Content into Online Platforms. Now, the time-sensitive and market-sensitive advertising services offered through cable channels will be available online as well, as Visible World seeks to create a cross-platform advertising approach.

GSD&M's Andy Hunter and Information Visualization. Over at the Idea City blog, Andy Hunter writes about the importance of information and contextualization on the part of brands. This piece looks further at the importance of making an official site the destination for significant information about a brand, entertainment property, or product.

Fantasia Film Festival Programming Director Hired to Scout for Paramount. The film company has appointed someone within the independent scene to be their eye on the indy genre scene.

CW and MediaVest Plan for Series with No Traditional Ad Content. The new series CW Now will be sponsored by the full season by MediaVest and will feature no 30-second spots but rather branded content from the variety of companies that MediaVest works with, including Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, and Kraft.

Concepts from the C3 Weblog. This piece looks at a variety of terms or ideas that have been explored on the C3 blog over the past year-and-a-half, including immersive story worlds, transmedia storytelling, cross-platform distribution, quotability and grabability, pop cosmopolitanism, "fans of fans," the branding barrel, fan proselytizing, and transgenerational storytelling.

Most Popular Content on C3 Site--Search Engines. While a few of the posts in last week's Weekly Update looked at C3 content's popularity on RSS feeds and in overall page views, this post examines the most popular posts found through Web site searches.

--------------- FOLLOW THE BLOG ---------------

Don't forget - you can always post, read, and carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog: http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/.

--------------- CLOSING NOTE ---------------

Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down

By: Parmesh Shahani

My C3 posts seem to read like a travel diary, but dear readers, convergence is all about flows, and I've been doing a lot of that lately, so naturally I want to share these with you.

You may recollect that some months ago, I'd written about the South Asian entrepreneurial network TIECon's annual event in India. The valley one at Santa Clara, California, is the real McCoy (http://tiecon.org) and each year, thousands of entrepreneurs, academics, venture capitalists, government officials, humanitarians, spiritual leaders, etc. converge here, to push ahead the desi business imagination.

On day one, Desh Deshpande (of Sycamore, and MIT's Deshpande Center fame) sweetly asks me while riding the hotel elevator if I'm having a good time - and of course, I say yes. What's not to like? Now in its 14th year, Silicon Valley TIECon is like desi convergence Oscarville - with internet celebs like Tim O Reilly, Ebay's Meg Whitman, Sony's Nobuyuki Idei, Vinod Khosla (Sun Microsystems, Khosla Ventures, and now cleantech evangelist) and Isha yoga spiritual leader Sadhguru ruling the roost.

On day two, I begin to feel I am at the (popular South Bombay multiplex) Inox's weekend show in Bombay. People I haven't met for years emerge out of the woodwork. College friends from India pat me on the shoulder, hesitantly. They are poets turned bankers, lawyers turned consultants. We're older, not so wiser. We exchange notes about the years gone by, as the creative swarm moves by around us. Just as LA draws the beautiful bodied, the valley draws the brainiacs - the geeks - alpha, beta and gamma.

Everyone comes here with a business plan in their back pocket and a heart full of hope. Many are H1B visa holders, working at a tech sweatshop, bidding time, until they too can crack through. There's an Entrepreneurs Bazaar at TIECon with 263 people pitching to a room full of VCs. (The cynic in me wonders - if their ideas were really so hot, wouldn't they be funded already? The romantic in me, chats up with a few of them, and is infected with their spirit. I need to find my own business plan from many years ago...) I make a new friend. His name is Katusotshi Dobashi - he is 21, a backpacking Japanese student, and he wants to stay in the valley, and not go back to Tokyo. There are delegates from Kenya and China too. Then I come across the face of tomorrow.

It is a confident and articulate 13-year-old face, and it belongs to Anshul Samar, CEO of Elementeo (http://www.elementeo.com). Elementeo is a Chemistry-based trading card game that Anshul conceived while being bedridden for a year due to illness. The moment he got better, he raised an initial round of capital from family and friends, build his prototype, assembled a team (of classmates and his sister) and booked a stall at TIECon. "I'm looking to raise $100 thousand here. If all goes well, my goal is to grow to $ 1 million in revenue by the end of middle school, next year.

Elementeo is only the beginning. There will be other card based education games in the series. It will develop into a huge franchise." I'm zonked by this kid's calmness. There's something zen like about the way he is working the crowd at his stall. I notice he's on the cover of today's San Jose Mercury News. So what's the deal? Why doesn't he want to play ball, or video games or whatever, instead of writing business plans? "I'm a Silicon Valey kid. Entrepreneurship is in my genes. I don't want to wait. Why should adults have all the fun?" I smile but this is not just cuteness talking. There's something more to this kid. You can see the same zeal driving the Facebook guys. Perhaps Gates too, when he started. It's a beatific halo that accompanies an idea whose time has come.

C3 Research Affiliate Parmesh Shahani is Head-Vision and Opportunities at the Mahindra Incubation Lab, Mumbai. He can be reached at parmesh@mit.edu.


Compiled and Edited by Sam Ford ()

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