Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Design = Creating "There"

[Originally posted on]

The word "design" comes from the German "da", meaning there, and "sein", which means being. So design is simply the way of "there-being" that all humans have.

We see it more as an activity now, the steps that one can take toward improving or strengthening the human condition.

Game designers go a step further.


We are people who construct situations which remodel the human way of "there-being" around new goal structures. We evoke the human sense of being within fictional, simulated environments. We let people fly, swim and build on scales that reality does not permit.

Yet these experiences fail if they do not remain loyal to the basic human sense of being that each player brings to a designed world. Game designers get to build the "there" so as to evoke being, and the "there" we build can be sculpted in ways that evoke certain aspects of the human mind or influence a subtle shift in the human way of being

External circumstances have a direct influence on human conceptions of the self. Thus many basic aspects of humanity (murder, violence, destruction....) become enhanced and rewarded when the goals within a system are mainly combative or competitive. The goal structures that comprise games can be tailored to attract escapism, hallucination, and gamer compulsion for the sake of corporate profit. These experiences can evoke lower aspects of human "being" while repressing higher functions like creativity, community or thoughtfulness. Many games evoke both.

But at Tilt we choose goals that foster education and inspiration. 

Sounds simple but it's pretty hard. It actually might be impossible to build a "there" without it's own bias, it's own tailored agenda that leaves out certain aspects of human "being".

Is it okay to design only for the aspects of human "there-being" with which we agree?

Or does doing so just lead to repression?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Adderall and Hyper-Cognition

Diana emailed out to a short list of students and professors quoting this article.

"But it's not the mind-expanding sixties anymore. Every era, it seems, has its own defining drug. Neuroenhancers are perfectly suited for the anxiety of white-collar competition in a floundering economy. And they have a synergistic relationship with our multiplying digital technologies: the more gadgets we own, the more distracted we become, and the more we need help in order to focus."

(I emailed back)

"Unfortunately there's a direct correlation. Computers give us the ability to do too much. The drugs introduce a compelling form of anxiety, a helpful (false?) sense of purpose in the face of infinite possibility (firefox).

It's like coffee and confidence. English papers become as interesting as dinosaurs in 4th grade.

YET they leave people completely dependent. I've heard speeches from graduating seniors warning against use: "I just can't bring myself to work without it anymore."

But i guess I would say the same about my laptop."


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bionics, human vulnerability and the media

Take a look at how radical new technologies are being presented to us: digestible, friendly. Like some vegan cooking how-to videos.

Robot penguins.

Robot snakes.

Robot us.

"Oh yeah don't mind us, just re-crafting nature to suit our needs. Please invest!"

My new media-immunities are down: I'm actually worried about the swine flu but I'm cool with simulated animals.

The media has a vicegrip on my emotions with this one. The fear is the real contagion. If it meant not having to worry about getting sick, I'd let the biotechnicians do whatever they please, make robot viruses that keep away the ones we didn't create. On one end they have us too scared to ask questions, on the other, too complacent.

We are overpopulated, and the crash is just going to get worse the further we push it away with technology. Five people were diagnosed on campus with swine flu today. They're being given some magical treatment. People are on edge.

And in response to this fear you get people saying, "yeah well, no one cares about AIDS," or "no one talks about Cholera!" Well, no one cares about technology either. I... can't even say for sure what it is about these links that moves me. There's something. Something we're after. Perfection. Self-simulation. Invulnerability. Scary I-Robot kinds of questions should be asked, but when you dress it up like a penguin... who cares?

I'd buy an air-penguin and let it float around my yard. The snake, maybe not. It's all about how things are presented, and that makes me susceptible to infection.

But now that we've built it, now that society is there to be sustained and the technology is so easy to mess around with, we're going to sprint to the end. Till viruses don't matter. Till mortality, pain, hunger... till every fear has been mastered and streamlined with shiny chrome labels and gadget-laden life preservers. Until that point, the media had better keep our hands and feet inside the tram.

"But why? it's more fun with your hands in the air, it's more scary!"
"Hey kid look its the swine flu!"

you got me.
scared and stupid.