jeudi 20 juillet 2017

As if: modern enchantment and the literary pre-history of virtual reality [book]

Saler, Michael T. As if: modern enchantment and the literary pre-history of virtual reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth are early examples of “empirically detailed” fantasy world-making. Their readers engages primarily with the made-up world instead of a character. They explore it, experiment it, interact with it and map it. They add or modify new elements through interactive immersion. And they build fandom communities around it (“public sphere of the imagination”).

It reveals a modern thinking conceptualized as “ironic imagination”:
  •  "As If" imagining (open-minded & receptive) instead of "Just So" believing (constraining & essentialist)
  • willing adoption of pretense instead of suspension of disbelief 
  • being delighted instead of being deluded (or escapism or regression)
  • just the positive/rational side of enchantment (“animistic reason”)
  • emotional engagement, playfulness and ironic detachment
These early virtual realities are precursors of today's avatar-based virtual worlds. They are reactions against the Weberian "disenchantment of the world" (the loss of meaning created by the forces of modernity: rationalization and bureaucracy). They are “Disenchanted enchantments”.

 * * *

A citation of Arjun Appadurai (anthropologist) :
« Until recently... fantasy and imagination were residual practices, confined to special moments or places. In general, imagination and fantasy were antidotes to the finitude of social experience ... As the deterritorialization of persons, images, and ideas has taken on a new force, this weight has imperceptibly shifted. More persons throughout the world see their lives through the prisms of possible lives offered by the mass media in all their forms. That is, fantasy is now a social practice ... »
Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 53–54 .

mardi 18 juillet 2017

The Paladin Ethic and the Spirit of Dungeoneering [peer-reviewed]

Mizer, Nicholas J. 2014. “The Paladin Ethic and the Spirit of Dungeoneering.The Journal of Popular Culture 47 (6): 1296–1313.
D&D is a paradoxical mix of "free narrative imagination and complex rule-based limitations".

D&D follows the development curve of wargame designs. It becomes more and more rationalized and, when it's are too dull or unplayable, an innovation is introduced to re-enchant it. Wargame rules for Middle Ages were dull, too complex and not satisfying, so Arneson "re-infuse [them] with a play spirit".

D&D game designs reflect the values
  • of America: imagination, flexibility, limitless possibilities
  • of puritanism : character advancement, accumulation of XP and treasure (wealth and divine favor)
  • of actuarial science (Gygax profession): scores, ratings, charts,...
  • of modern standardization (ex: McDonaldization: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control): "prepackaged fantasy characters and sending them into ready-to-explore adventures".

jeudi 13 juillet 2017

The "Batman Effect": perseverance can be taught through role play

White, R. E., Prager, E. O., Schaefer, C., Kross, E., Duckworth, A. L., & Carlson, S. M. (2016). The “Batman Effect”: Improving Perseverance in Young Children. Child Development, n/a-n/a.

Children who play a role, identifying with a known character (ex. Batman) with positive qualities, could increase their perseverance. Perseverance is the ability to self-regulate, avoid distraction and stick to one’s goals and intentions.
How does it work ? Playing a role means self-distancing, which means shifting to a 3rd-person point of view and thinking of yourself from an outsider perspective. It especially distances us emotionally from our experience of the moment (temptations, distractions or negative emotions), which means better self-regulation and better perseverance.

So : «Kid, dress like Batman [or Elsa] when doing your homework!» (via PsychologyToday)