Touring North Korea

Digital Asia

Picking up where I left off, in the midst of virtually touring North Korea, I think I have decided upon where my autoethnographic research will lead to for my final research digital artefact. Autoethnography is, essentially, when the researcher throws themselves into a cultural field, experiencing the oddities and nuances alike. And upon experiencing these foreign, but otherwise “everyday” events, looking back to within one’s self and understanding why such events have stood out. To explore my research through such a process I am thinking of writing a short online fiction piece. The narrative is still not entirely decided upon, however I am thinking of a plot that’s loosely based around the idea of a character being absorbed through a virtual reality headset and placed into the actual world of the 360 North Korea video I am basing my research around. From here the character experiences the unfolding events…

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North Korea and Virtual Tourism

Digital Asia

North Korea has always been something of a curiosity to me. How can a country almost entirely cut itself off from the rest of the world and continue to function? A notion which seems almost impossible in a world which is becoming increasingly connected and thus “smaller”, a paradigm we know as globalisation.

What goes on behind the closed borders of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un? How much truth is there to the controversial 2014 film, The Interview? In particular this scene:


To explore and research this, I decided to immerse myself within a 360 degree video within North Korea during the 70th anniversary of its Worker’s Party. This is an American ABC news production, and while obviously this is not an Asian produced media piece, the video still provides an interesting insight into the cultural experiences of North Korea.

It is important to remember that video is based on an itinerary…

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Ivan’s Meditation Island

Over the course of this semester Ivan has explored several different projects surrounding Virtual Reality. The key to Ivan’s overall successful project has been iteration and reiteration, specifically following Ted’s guide lines of “Fail Early, Fail Often” (FEFO).

To begin with, Ivan’s project aimed to create a Virtual Reality (VR) learning space to view readings and course materials for certain University courses. This idea initially sounded great. It was inventive and innovative with possibilities to advance how students experience their education and how tutors present course materials. However, there were several issues I could see with this project. It was too large to begin with and implicating readings into a VR world through unreal seemed like a huge challenge. Fortunately, Ivan has definitely failed early, and failed often through this subject, and in doing so realised these issues before it was too late. After acknowledging that this project had many problems and saying he “didn’t know how it was going to proceed further on”, Ivan moved on to his second idea.

This second idea was still based around an education standpoint, focusing in on the science realm and recreating 3D models of molecules in a VR environment. Again, although this was eventually a failure, Ivan could proceed knowing that this idea simply wouldn’t work for this project. He found through his testing that this idea also had several issues. The below creation took Ivan several hours to produce, and whilst it looks good and has possible potential, logistically, it was not possible to create a holistic project based on this idea. Ivan explained that he did not feel he had adequate knowledge surrounding scientific molecules to recreate accurate examples. So once again, the FEFO methodology paid off.

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Ivan’s third idea explored more of a creative and experimental side of VR. This idea also comes across as the most ambitious of his projects. To recreate Howls Moving Castle is a huge task for several reasons. Firstly, the artwork from Studio Ghibli is quite unique and impressive, so to recreate that, let alone a moving castle, in a VR environment seemed to be a huge task. Most importantly however, was the issue of Copyright, one which Studio Ghibli has not approached lightly in the past. Wisely, Ivan chose to steer clear of one of the world’s most renowned animation studios.

Finally, and most successfully Ivan has produced a “Meditation Island”. When Ivan pitched this idea, I was honestly a little sceptical. Not that I didn’t believe in Ivan, but time was running out and with the previously failed ideas, an entire island came across as the largest task yet. During Ivan’s seminar curation, he presented his work. I was surprised with the extensive amount of work Ivan had completed in such a short time. He had a nice looking island filled with beaches, forests and ponds, encapsulating the peacefulness of meditation. There were several things he was still working towards and this included sounds and water with depth and better graphics. Finally Ivan’s project was taking form.

In the Beta Ivan explained that he had successfully added sound and created more realistic water. Because of this, his project is becoming very immersive which is an important element in VR environments. The designing of the textures is where some of Ivan’s most impressive work is shown. This area is something I struggle realty with so to see such extensive work in this area shows great effort and determination from Ivan. Not only does this work show the methodology of Ivan’s project, but it is now a resource for others looking to create similar environments. The sound effects, such as the wind and bird noises, are really effective and a great addition to his piece. Furthermore Ivan explained that he had added collision to obstacles such as trees and hence it is obvious that he is aiming towards an immersive, realistic environment.

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While Ivan’s beta and screenshots show his progression and effort to create a realistic environment, he must not exclude thinking about how he will present his VR environment, what platform will it be available on and how will people view it? There are several ways this type of project could be finalised, including 360 video, mobile VR or a VR game designed for proper units such as the Oculus Rift.

Ivans beta demonstration could have explored some issues further which in turn will help him in finishing the final parts of his project. One of the concerns I have is that will it actually be meditative? There has been some problems with VR and motion sickness, so it will be interesting to see if a virtual meditation area is effective. How will this actually work compared to normal meditation? Ivan seems to have a great amount of knowledge using Unreal Engine and seems to have encountered very few difficulties, so it would also be interesting to see what problems he did encounter and how they were solved. A final aspect that I think will help with finding a platform to host the project on, and to complete the final areas of the work is the notion of a target audience. What demographic would be interested in meditating through VR. I am positive there are people interested in this idea, but it is a matter for Ivan to find out who is?

Overall, Ivan’s project is both intriguing and impressive. Ivan has created a large environment that comes across as quite immersive. Ivan has explored and failed a lot of ideas which has ultimately led him to developing on one of his best ideas. From here he must decide how to present his final work In a way that is most effective for his Meditation Island.

State of Religion

Digital Asia

After initially experiencing State of Play and observing it with autoethnographic research in mind, there were several processes, encounters and internal thoughts I experienced which I will analyses through self-reflective investigation. I hope to explore certain epiphanies and important moments within the text and in doing so, will hope to gain and convey a deeper understanding of the cultural nuances within the Korean e-sports industry.

As we begun the viewing of State of Play in class, the #Digc330 twitter feed sprang to life. This was an extremely interesting experience. Everyone contributing to the feed was simultaneously watching the documentary and thus commenting on the experience itself in live time. However, whilst this was all simultaneous, the ideas and issues that were being brought up all explored different aspects of the film.

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When Games Are No Longer Games

Digital Asia

DIGC330, Digital Asia, where we will be conducting an autoethnographic investigation into the production and consumption of Asian digital media, communication technologies, as well as the industry and culture as a whole, from a local, national and personal perspective.

“Woah, what the heck does that even mean?”

To me, autoethnography is research based on the researchers personal observations of the ‘mundane’ within a culture, and then, an analytical narrative of these observations in the hope of understanding certain aspects of said culture. These observations should be “aesthetic and evocative”, utilising storytelling conventions in order to engage readers.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience.” – Carolyn Ellis, 2011.

autoethnographyEllis (2011), explains that “When researchers do autoethnography, they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies that stem from, or…

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Polishing Problems & Participation

Digital Game Cultures

So as this project draws to a close, and I begin the ‘polishing‘ stage it seems like a good time to run into some problems. Help.

After spending weeks learning my way around Unreal Engine and building various rooms of the yellow house, which were mainly blue prints and basic structures, I have come to realise I am going to struggle with applying the artwork from the yellow house on to my virtual walls. Luckily, some pieces of the house can be photoshopped and simply placed on to a material as a texture, but other pieces are not so simple due to the limited access I have. And furthermore, creating new objects within the engine is beyond my capability and time frame at this late stage. Some of these problems and solutions are shown in the imaes at the end of this post.

Having addressed the struggles I’m…

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Representation and Simulation

Digital Game Cultures

In general, video games have allowed for a new way of exploring realities. Films, music and books have long explored dynamic systems of reality through representation and narrative, and while video games undeniably utilise narratives, they depict, explain and explore reality through simulation. When looking at video games it’s helpful to view them as simulations due to the complexity of what they convey and evoke, something which is much greater than what representation alone can achieve.

Gonzalo Frasca (2001) explains that “games are ontologically different from narrative because they are not just based on representation. Instead, they rely on simulation, which is a way of portraying reality that essentially differs from narrative… Simulation does not simply represents objects and systems, but it also models their behaviours.” Frasca (2001) goes on to say that it’s important to understand that through representation, only certain aspects are explained and so, “representation is always an…

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Gallery

An Exotic Lie Detector, A Consensual Hallucination, Crime Coefficient over 531

cybercultures blog

Last week I researched the Cyberpunk genre, its dystopic settings, its portrayal of (or the lack of) the separation of the organic and artificial, as well as Jon Turneys “Imagined objects”. From here I will begin refining my final digital artefact, with the aim of developing a complete Virtual Cyberpunk Store.

To begin, I have selected the first 3 objects I will be exploring:

1. The Voight Kampff Machine – Blade Runner:
A lie detector-type device that allows the user to distinguish between humans and androids using biometrical measurements.

2. The OSC 7 Cyberdeck – Neuromancer:
An advanced computer system used to jack into the matrix.

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3. The DominatorPsycho-Pass:
A gun that can determine the identity of the user, requiring authentication in order to read and send psychological data (Psycho-Pass) of targets in order to calculate their crime coefficient.

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For each of these objects displayed in my…

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Gallery

VR Tech, The Yellow House and Level Design

Digital Game Cultures

Having explored Virtual Reality and where its future possibly lies, as well as experimenting with Unreal Engine, I decided it was time to focus in on how VR and The Yellow House Project tie together as well as taking a closer look at level design within Unreal Engine.

As I narrow down my research and begin developing a room from the Yellow House, I feel it is important to understand a few things. Why the Yellow House and why VR? To aid me in this part of my research, I will be looking at the paper, “3D immersive collection and teaching environments: the Yellow House project at UOW” from the Vala 2016 conference.

6914423825_167827eb09_bThe Yellow House

The Yellow House was in Macleay Street, Kings Cross, created by Australian artist Martin Sharp in 1970, and ran through to early 1973. The gallery “engaged with a steady stream of local, national and…

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