Thursday, September 24, 2009


So if I post about the AR conference in my new academic group's website I get a badge to wear.

I want the badge:

Submitted by Brendan Scully on Sep 24, 2009, 05:07 PM


I'm rarely in a conversation for long before "Augmented Reality" comes up; it's a bit of a problem:

"Alternate Realities? What are you talking about?"

"Well you take a QR code and use it to orient a digital camera in real space so that you can lay 3D objects and information over the real world."

"Why would you do that?"

"You can create interactive forms of media, change the aesthetics of your surroundings, access useful location-specific data without..."

"You're crazy!"

I have a dream. I dream of being in a room with people who are not only aware of, but made excited by the prospect of emerging AR and MR technologies.

Luckily for me, such a room will exist October 19th-22nd at The International Symposium on Augmented and Mixed Reality.

I cordially invite all HASTAC members to join me as we represent humanistic and academic interests in a forum traditionally dominated by technological and engineering-oriented discourse. Let's bring some thoughtful concern to this truly exciting branch of interactive media.

For the first time this year, ISMAR will feature an "Arts and Humanities" section in their conference:

"The ISMAR 2009 Arts, Media and Humanities Program will present the breadth and depth of the Mixed and Augmented Reality research and application.

The program will include:

- research presentations,
- discussion panels,
- keynote speakers from Arts, Media and Humanities,
- hands-on demonstrations,
- interactive participation,

As representatives of HASTAC, we will attend these discussions and demonstrations with a passion to contribute and an eye for academic quality.

Most importantly, we can try to ensure that those intimately involved in AR recognize the potential influences reality modification could have on the arts, our society and human thought over time. This isn't just a fad, it's the internet coming to bear on physical reality.

So join me to ask some questions, or email me if you have any questions or interests that you'd like to have represented at the conference.

So I wasn't really sure how to sell it. I have no idea why I'm going, I have no idea what it will be like or where the tech really is in its development. Giving the academics an opportunity to criticize felt like a good tactic for recruitment...but I also believed it.

We need to ask them questions they can't yet answer. There is no "them." Just us. The tech isn't at a point where it can really be shown as dangerous. We have to dream ahead. How things come together... will determine everything. Is discourse and guesswork part of the development of a new, profit-driven technology?

Only if it affects the market.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Like A Needle

Coding is a nice way to get to know computers. Writing is a better way to know yourself.

I had to submit a long bio to the HASTAC ("haystack") site, which was the usual discussion of "digital humanities" and "warjammers" and might have sounded impressive if I'd ever really done anything.

(have any of these people? or is the whole thing just an idea-grab?)

So the site is going live soon at and they asked me for a "short bio" in addition to my "long bio." So... I gave them this:

Level 21 Digital Humanities Major (Dartmouth)
Level 68 Bear Shaman (Age of Conan)
Level 60 Tauren Warrior (WoW)
Level 35 Fire Blaster (City of Heroes)
Level 79 Ranger (Runescape)

I'm ready to ask hard questions about where the human desire to role-play and the future progress of augmented reality technology will leave thought, society and law.

Any interest in the evolution of gaming into Reality Design or Civic Ludology? Send me a tell at

True, I made up the terms "Reality Design" and "Civic Ludology," but spend enough time playing games and even more time watching the increasing effect of media on public consciousness and you'll begin to realize that governments implement "level design." Guru's strive for "immersion." Every desire-based human system of action can be understood, criticized and improved upon as a game-system.

In short: Political Philosophy and Game Design are close cousins. The former is written to be noticed and heralded if perfect while the latter strives to pass unnoticed by those whom it governs.

HASTAC should be a wonderful step towards educating and connecting the kinds of sociological, anthropological and psychological system designers we will need in the augmented world soon to come.

To be even shorter: let's avoid 1984.

@Copyleft Brendan Scully 2009

Okay so that was a tad rash. Maybe the 1984 comment will lose me some credibility, but I meant it. Big brother was a game designer. Or maybe he was the in-game avatar used by the team of social designers. Maybe using copyleft will make me sound like a tool. I probably misused it and will shortly become subject to lawsuit. Look, I just want credit for my inner demons; I really threw it all out there for these "teachers" to pick at.

To be honest (real talk): I'm fishing for someone who might have a clue as to what I'm talking about. Hopefully they'll find this blog. Hopefully they'll like it. Ideally they'll send a helicopter over to my house, tell me about the global anti-ignorance task force they've been setting up in Amsterdam and ask me to come spend some time telling people what to do.

While playing Champions Online...

Maybe to be an academic you have to be a hypocrite. Spanish professors at Dartmouth love spanish so much they chose... not to live in Spain. I loathe the internet, so that's why I'm here typing...

Anyway let's hope someone at HASTAC can give me a push in a direction. A taskforce can consist of one person, a small task and any sort of action. I'd hate to have to just go into augmented advertising when I graduate... (shh, you know I wouldn't.) God help us all if I go into advertising. I will do well and the world will not.

I meant what I said in that bio though, and through writing (thank you, writing) I realized something new: political philosophy and game design are really the same fight over minds and happiness. Thing is, the philosophers wanted citizens to talk about their issues, their own systems: who should get what, why, how? Game designers would rather you have a good time and ignore the system that gave it to you.

One is driven by scarcity and the other isn't. So I guess we just have to wait for the singularity to do away with scarcity and then we'll just design our own games and.... goodbye world.

We need Real-World Role Playing Games. Where you give people classes and quests that help the world out.

yeah, that'd be cool. Or it'd be bad like a totalitarian nightmare. Depends how we design the thing, depends how we sell it. Plato's Republic was a just game spec:

People made out of gold get to be scholars,

People made out of silver become warriors,

People made out of bronze do the labor,

Plato rules over it all because he knows best (philosopher king status)

The whole thing is a noble lie (an arbitrary rule set built for the purpose of pleasure, a game system)

So which philosopher had the fairest game in mind? The most fun? Maybe different games are more enjoyable for different people. Hmm...

Does there always have to be moderator? (in-game watchdogs who maintain the game system) Does there always have to be a single government, or can different systems exist in the same physical area, with different people taking part in the "roles" they choose?

Augmented reality could give us something like this going on in the same city:

"What game are you playing today, bob?"

"I think I'm gonna go make some horseshoes on my 68 blacksmith in Dragon Land"

"Cool I'm going to go lie on the beach in Commu-topia"

In WoW the mods are human.

In our world, maybe it's G_d. Maybe we err by trying to do H_s job for him. Maybe the only way for our race to become H_m is through trial and error.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


So I've been sitting around and doing a lot of drugs.

The newest high is called Champions Online.

Thing is, my tolerance is starting to build up. I enjoy my friend who I play with, I love the fantasy of being a superhero (although who knows what sorts of power complexes that satisfies)

Playing these games, hour after hour... I can see now how the creators lock their players into a chain of goals. One quest leads to another, success never achievable but always within a players grasp.

It's frustrating. On its most basic, bottom level playing these games leaves me frustrated with myself and with the world I have to return to.

I am not really helping anyone through my actions. My dogs remain unwalked. I forgot. I didn't care. It would be one thing if I could actually escape into another world, one that I could taste and feel, and exercise there with my friends.

But these are just poor simulations. My body is stiff from sitting. I can tell that I have not been breathing fully. I am tired and sad to go to work (as a food runner from 5 to midnight).

Thing is: being hollowed out feels good when they make us hold such weights within.