ambiguity, oscillation, disorder

Online life is usually held to present particular problems for ethnography as it is hidden and ambiguous, and boundaries are not clear. However, ethnography and online daily life are similar procedures in which people go about constructing ‘culture’ to make sense of others and interact with a degree of predictability. Ethnographers can learn about culture and society by learning how people themselves go about understanding and making those processes. We further, do not have to expect that the reality we describe will be completely ordered, even though the simplifications of constructing ‘culture’ might make this seem inevitable. Disorder can be socially important.

MARSHALL, JONATHAN PAUL. 2010. Ambiguity, oscillation and disorder: Online ethnography and the making of culture. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal 2(3). Electronic Document. Available online:

iron sky

Dieselpunk æsthetics and ambience galore, plus a wealth of online-scenes humour. Iron Sky (Vuorensola 2012) premiered at the Berlinale in February, now it has come to the cinemas—at least in Finland and Germany. Absolute must-see. Till then, have more at

VUORENSOLA, TIMO. 2012. Iron sky [motion picture]. Helsinki: Buena Vista International Finland.

cyberculture as discourse

After elaborating on methodological concerns and before delving into detailed analysis of the representational politics in selected cyberpop examples, it is important to situate the objects of this book in their cultural context. Chapter 2 is an overview of several key concepts in the network of discourses and practices that constitute cyberculture and, by extension, its popular media productions. Describing cyberculture as a discursive formation (inspired by theories of Michel Foucault (Archeology) helpfully clarifies how the key concepts that emerge repeatedly in cyberpop operate as a network or conceptual architecture linking technologies to individual subjects, identities, and digital lifestyles. In order to provide a framework for the analysis that follows then, we explicate in detail three of the rules of formation that operate in cyberculture: namely, intangibility, connectivity, and speed. Examining magazine advertisements for digital products and services, and e-commerce management literature advising audiences on how to succeed in “the connected economy,” reveals the same collection of key concepts (or rules) used to promote digital capitalist culture, and the development of compatible identities and lifestyles. (Matrix 2006: 5-6)

MATRIX, SIDNEY EVE. 2006. Cyberpop: Digital lifestyles and commodity culture. New York, London: Routledge.

where is he?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #22
Where is he?
Strange landscape, isn’t it? Where is the lonely wanderer?
    Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the 'Leave a comment' at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it's the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I've approved a comment, your next ones won't be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE and solution (02 April 2012):
That one obviously was way too easy for Mr Rabitsch, our resident connaisseur. Yes, Todd (Kurt Russell) is on Arcadia 234, a planet used for waste disposal on which most of the plot of the 1998 movie ‘Soldier’ takes place. It was directed by Paul W. S. ‘Resident Evil’ Anderson and written by David Peoples. The latter, together with Hampton Fancher, made Philip K. Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ (1968) into the script of ‘Blade Runner’ (Scott 1982). In fact ‘Soldier’ is set in the same universe as ‘Blade Runner’ and a lot of allusions try to establish this. But, and that’s my opinion, the story falls flat and is in no way on par with ‘Blade Runner.’ On the other hand parts of the movie’s visuals succeed in establishing a cyberpunkish ambience—like the magnificent vista with the dumped aircraft carrier above.

ANDERSON, PAUL WILLIAM SCOTT. 1998. Soldier (aka Star force soldier) [motion picture]. Burbank: Warner Bros.
DICK, PHILIP KINDRED. 1968. Do androids dream of electric sheep? New York: Doubleday.
SCOTT, RIDLEY. 1982. Blade runner [motion picture]. Burbank: Warner Brothers.


Scene from 'Cuo wei' aka 'Dislocation' aka 'The Stand-in' (Huang 1986)
The Tamil-movie Endhiran (Shankar 2010) is testimony of the cyberpunk discourse having reached Indian cinema. Nigeria’s Yoruba-language ‘Kajola’ (Akinmolayan 2010) shows the same for Africa‘s largest movie industry.
    ‘Science-fiction film, like the science-fiction story, is an underdeveloped genre in China,’ writes Yingjin Zhang (1998: 297) in the ‘Encyclopedia of Chinese Film’ (Zhang & Xiao 1998). Nevertheless, already during the heyday of canonical [US-] cyberpunk there was a chinese cyberpunk movie—‘Dislocation’ directed by Huang Jianxin (1986).

As with Huang’s first film, Black Cannon Incident [1985], Dislocation uses the science-fiction genre to satirize the workings of bureaucracy. The protagonist, Zhao Shuxin, this time the director of a large department, suffers a series of nightmares. The absurd world that he dreams of signifies China in its socialist heyday, while the everyday world he inhabits represents China’s near future. A corrupt social system everywhere undermines technological innovation. Zhao longs for peace of mind and seeks a high tech solution, which unfortunately backfires.
    In a skyscraper-filled urban setting, an isolated human figure surrounded by microphones and almost buried by files struggles with a socialist bureaucratic phenomenon: endless and meaningless talks and meetings. The use of red filters and shrill noises on the soundtrack reinforce the sense of unbearable conditions. The character wakes up from this operating room nightmare in which medical staff in black uniforms are attempting to kill him.
    Contemplating himself in the mirror inspires Zhao to design a robot. Made in his image, the robot could stand in for him at every boring meeting. The robot should be a mechanical object subject to human instruction by its master. Yet Robot Zhao likes to attend meetings and give talks. It even learns how to smoke and drink. A visual montage of wine cups, cameras, and futuristic buildings, accompanied by the sound of applause, portrays the world the robot comes to enjoy.
    Conflicts between human and machine emerge. During a conversation, robot Zhao expresses its concern that humans issue so many rules they then expect others to obey. Director Zhao warns the machine: ‘You think too much. That’s dangerous’.
    The conflicts escalate as the robot becomes addicted to the systemic corruptions of modern living. Away from its master, it dates Zhao’s girlfriend, seducing her by offering her Zhao’s house key. He humiliates people with threats of violence. When Zhao expresses his desire to assign the robot a job doing work that is too dangerous for humans, the robot rebels by exposing itself in front of its designer. At last, in a final power struggle, Zhao destroys the robot. As Zhao looks again into the mirror, his nightmares begin anew. (Cui 1998: 143)

AKINMOLAYAN, NIYI. 2010. Kajola [motion picture]. Lagos: Adonis Production.
CUI, SHUQIN. 1998. “Dislocation,” in Encyclopedia of chinese film edited by Yingjin Zhang and Zhiwei Xiao, p. 143. London, New York: Routledge.
HUANG, JIANXIN. 1985. Black cannon incident (original title: Hei pao shijian) [motion picture]. Xi’an: Xi’an Film.
HUANG, JIANXIN. 1986. Dislocation (aka The stand-in, original title: Cuo wei, 错位) [motion picture]. Xi’an: Xi’an Film.
SHANKAR. 2010. Endhiran (aka Enthiran aka The robot, original title: எந்திரன்) [motion picture]. Chennai: Sun Pictures.
ZHANG, YINGJIN. 1998. “science fiction film,” in Encyclopedia of chinese film edited by Yingjin Zhang and Zhiwei Xiao, p. 297. London, New York: Routledge.
ZHANG, YINGJIN AND ZHIWEI XIAO (eds.). 1998. Encyclopedia of chinese film. London, New York: Routledge.

playing with videogames

[abstract:] Playing with Videogames documents the richly productive, playful and social cultures of videogaming that support, surround and sustain this most important of digital media forms and yet which remain largely invisible within existing studies. James Newman details the rich array of activities that surround game-playing, charting the vibrant and productive practices of the vast number of videogame players and the extensive ‘shadow’ economy of walkthroughs, FAQs, art, narratives, online discussion boards and fan games, as well as the cultures of cheating, copying and piracy that have emerged.
    Playing with Videogames offers the reader a comprehensive understanding of the meanings of videogames and videogaming within the contemporary media environment.

NEWMAN, JAMES. 2008. Playing with videogames. London, New York: Routledge.

sentry gun redux

Some things won’t lose their fascination—especially when a certain morbidness is involved, as it seems. Just the day before yesterday boingboing’s Mark Frauenfelder pointed to Bob Rudolph’s project sentry gun, an open-source sentry gun controller. Well, seven years ago on xirdalium I reported Aaron Rasmussen’s ‘quintessential sentry gun.’ As far as I can see all his websites meanwhile have vanished—I only found the 2006 article Sentry gun sees, computes and shoots at BU [Boston University] Today, which gives an idea towards where Aaron may have headed, plus refound his original document [lavishly illustrated] How we built the quintessential sentry gun [.pdf | 342KB]. Quite matching: my old article robots and suicide bombing