Friday, May 18, 2012

Postmodern Space

Why is it useful to consider post-modernity in an analysis of space?

Post-modern space can be described as:
-Spatial variety over short distances
-Local instead of regional architecture
-Space is not thought as an emptiness to be filled, it is never a stage or background

"(the post-modern) is a view of the world that emphasises openness to a range of perspectives in social inquiry, artistic expression, and political empowerment" Knox Marston, 2004

"socially constructed worlds that are simultaneously material and representational"
Critical Spatiality and the Uses of Theory  Jon L. Berquist  AAR/SBL Constructions of Ancient Space Seminar  October 2002.

There are a lot of different definitions of what these spaces could be referred to as well as the words used to describe them. Soja (channeling Lefebvre) calls them Perceived, Conceived and Lived spaces. I've found ways used to describe these spaces to be slightly confusing, my biggest issue being that of perceived space. This first space exists beyond perception (it is there whether anyone is around to experience it or not). I have also seen it noted as being 'physical', 'visual' and 'concrete', all words which seem contradictory. I think that sound would inhabit first space and that is not something remotely visual or concrete. In a similar way, light doesn't seem particularly physical. 

First Space:
  • Empirical
  • Beyond visual
  • Beyond conciousness
  • Physical (but not necessarily?)
Second Space:
  • A first and third space imagined
  • Mental
  • Concious
Third Space:
  • Social overlays
  • Experiential
  • Exists in both first and second space
  • Unconscious
  • Lived

(Empirical Space, Imagined Space and Experiential Space?)

What I noticed about these spaces is that first space is absolute, it exists beyond any human experience or interpretation where as second and third spaces are constructed by our own perception of this space.

In my studies I am primarily concerned with the construction of interactive spaces in the virtual world. So to then think about how such definitions of space can be applied to this dimension raises some interesting questions. To me, such a point transcends the interactivity of space itself in that this space, interactive or otherwise, operates under the same umbrella of virtuality. A screen itself exists in first space but the 'virtual space' which we experience is both imagined and socially constructed. I however feel that this digital space exceeds the definition of second and third because the game space of a world (although socially formed) is also absolute in its construction.

Virtual Space is postmodernist because it can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways by an infinite number of individuals. These individual interpretations are formed from a lived space, they are shaped by social and political factors that become trended in similar groups of people. It is in this way that affective maps can be created and triggered, interactive space is designed from the creators experience of the world and their understanding of how the ways in which people from this world can be affected.

This makes me wonder exactly how we would define a cinematic, animated or interactive space. These are spaces within spaces, just as within a room can exist in a drawer or cupboard entailing a space of its own, so too does a virtual world exist within the space from which we perceive it. It is a sub space, a deep space. I feel like there is still more thinking to be done on this because unlike a drawer or cupboard the screen takes our perception to an entirely different place.

If the modernist view point only accounts for two spaces and the post-modernist approach produces a third, is it not then entirely possible that a fourth space could be conceived? In beginning to conceptualise such a space, it is perhaps useful to ask questions of it that we have already used to define the spaces of the postmodern world. Is this space relative or absolute? Is it socially constructed or beyond human perception? Does it require us to rethink the properties of already presumed spaces?

Can we as humans perceive a pure first space? That is, experience first space without the social overlay of the third?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Space In Fall Up

Since having finished my last project Fall Up To The Sky, I have had time to think about some of the implications that my own work may have in regards to the construction of interactive spaces. The first thing which came to mind is the mapping of affective triggers. The space of Fall Up  is undoubtedly thick, yet at the same time possesses a simple, two dimensional aesthetic which makes analysis of the work both approachable as well as concise. 

The first significant affective trigger is when the cage falls onto the player leaving them trapped. Up until this point there have been no dangers or even any other moving objects to interact with so this event comes as a shock - its effects intensified by the player's current expectations of the game space. Like the cage falling, there is a later part where hands extend from the walls and reach for the player - its affectivness born again from shock through the deconstruction of expectation. Remembering that affect is a constant, cyclic process, it is important to note that the agency of the games elements are operating throughout it is just that these elements are particularly notable for their reaction. Perhaps it is just that emotions such as shock are just more outwardly apparent?

Most of the games challenges are to do with precision and mastering the mechanics of the space so it is interesting to consider a particular level where the exit lies right in front of the player but as they approach, walls materialise and block the way. The experience of game play thus far suggests that there must be a way to slip through before they close, perhaps you need to approach from a certain angle? The solution is considerably simpler and involves merely walking to the side where a new passage is revealed. There is a definite sense of frustration garnered from this obstacle and a certain sense of disappointment when the correct path is discovered, as if a cruel trick has just been unleashed on the player. In the same way, harder sections of the game were also notable in the frustration that they produced, an affect which like, shock, is outwardly obvious.

In a sense, Fall Up is quite generic in that it closely follows video game conventions (stages, enemies etc), the greatest innovation would be that the player has the power to control gravity. It is this ability to manipulate a force that would normally be impossible to effect that gives an illusionary sense of control to the player. It is this wider expectation set out by similar game spaces which is reterritorialised. Most of the elements in the game are in fact uncontrollable, you cannot shift walls, move many of the dangers or disrupt any other prewritten mechanics but it is through the ability to effect a few small components such as some of the games creatures or dust particles on the floor which satisfies the player with a sense of power. Like my thoughts on the construction of space in Portal, the space of Fall Up is still very much restrained, there is only one path to follow and although you can move freely through this space, it is a space still defined by the boundaries of a single screen. The sense of freedom and wonder allowed is based entirely on the players understanding that gravity is not a force that they are normally able to control and the subversion of this commandment. 

In other news, I'm working on a new project which is about half done, more details on that later!