writing hypermedia

The secret of the stairs at Aragon

Essentially, hypermedia is a non-linear multi-media document. By its inclusion of data stored by using the more traditional technologies of representation (film and text for example), in a user-directed, non-linear publication, hypermedia creates a fresh, user-driven means for reading and writing culture. [↵Anderson 1999]

So far I agree—but I’d like to amend that ‘a piece of’ hypermedia can contain a linear path, at least there is the possibility to propose one [or more?] linear path[s] to the recipient. Like Astrid Blumstengel did it in her hypertext Entwicklung hypermedialer Lernsysteme [in German].

The non-linear format enables the user to access information from multiple points of entry and navigate through this information by their own directives and particular interests. [↵Anderson 1999]

Now some kind of disagreement starts as “by their own directives and particular interests” makes me feel uncomfortable. Of course a strategy like that helps to deconstruct the ethnographer’s sublimely unquestioned authority, but at the same time it may well make it impossible to convey a message. And conveying messages is an integral part of representing anthropological knowledge. Granted, on the author’s side there still is the choice of which material to include and of how to build the structure of hyperreferences [vulgo: links]. But with no hint at a linear path the danger for the recipient to get lost in hypertext/media grows exponentially. Finally ‘we’ are accustomed to, and socialized into the conventions of linear representations.

Those are the reasons why I am so excited about Matthias Eberl’s invention, a technology called Reader Triggered Multimedia (RTM) [in German]. RTM allows to embed sounds, animated and still pictures into written text while the latter remains the carrier medium. The presentation of sounds and animated elements are dependend on the position of the scroll bar—in other words: correllated with the whereabouts of the readers attention inside the written text. The reader gets ambience sound, background music, snippets from interviews etc. matching the passage she is reading. Evocation at its best is possible here. In all that I sense tremendous potential for ethnographic representation. Have a look at Matthias’ paper on RTM (Eberl 2004) and into his journalistic example Das Geheimnis der Treppe von Aragon [The secret of the stairs at Aragon] demonstrating RTM.

In a way that may sound a little conservative—written text as the leading medium—and I admit that beside this choice there is the possibility of something entirely new, but I have yet to see a working manifestation of the utopia of completely non-linear hypertext/media. In this respect ‘working’ means representing and succesfully mediating knowledge.

What the reader is essentially entering into is a multi-dimensional ethnography that can include fieldnotes, various methodologically-informed analyses, citations, footnotes, film and video sequences, photographs, audio recordings, and recorded music. [↵Anderson 1999]

Exactly that is possible via RTM—without confusing the recipient, without throwing him into a mess of file-formats, popping-up windows, and requests for installing this-and-that hitherto unknown plug-in. And in a format which still resembles current conventions regarding academic representation.

Access to imagery and sound, as well as the ability to read the author’s fieldnotes, analyses, and theoretical goals, may empower the reader/viewer to take a more critical approach in their assessment of the researcher’s methodology and analysis. [↵Anderson 1999]

Completely embraced by yours truly. In my opinion a hypertext-website, offering one or more linear-paths for choice, consisting of smaller linear parts, the latter augmented by RTM has the potential to fullfil the tasks Anderson hints to. Add a weblog and the transparency already starts during the fieldwork itself—I am far from that goal, I know. Alas, by all that the down-to-earth everyday problems of the ethnographer aren’t solved, but indeed start at this point. For example ethical considerations concerning the publication of fieldnotes, and many more.


ethnographic hypermedia

ANDERSON, KEVIN TAYLOR. 1999. Ethnographic hypermedia: Transcending thick descriptions. SIGHTS: Visual Anthropology Forum. Working paper from the visual anthropology workshop and course Transcultural Images and Visual Anthropology organized by The Centre for Cross-Cultural Research, 3 to 28 August, 1998. Canberra: Australian National University of Canberra. Electronic Document. Available online:


In 1986 Marcus and Clifford compiled a series of essays entitled Writing Culture [↵Clifford & Marcus 1986], which spawned critical academic debate and reassessment of the practice of ethnography itself. Yet, for all of the arguments and debates contained within the book, and those which have followed [...], the discourse has remained within the confines of writing culture; the text itself. Within the body of this paper I am proposing the production of ethnographic research in a new format which can combine the traditional technologies of text and image into a hybrid computer-based document: hyp/ermedia. It should be noted that I am not suggesting that ethnographic books and films will, or should, be replaced by hypermedia—as books were not displaced through the advent of ethnographic film—but that hypermedia is yet another format for ethnographic representation available to the anthropologist. I propose to show how hypermedia is a valuable and effective option for producing ethnographic representations, while also highlighting some of its potential limitations. ↑[...]

See also hypermedia ethnography and evocational ethnography.
via entry at alexoehler


aggressive morning fever

BURKE, TIMOTHY AND KEVIN BURKE. 1999. Saturday morning fever: Growing up with cartoon culture. New York: St. Martin’s.

GOLDSTEIN, JEFFREY. 2001. Does playing violent video games cause aggressive behavior?. Chicago: University of Chicago. Electronic Document. Available online:



embeddedness of subcybercultures

During the recent weeks and months quite some discussion about Wikipedia in general and its academical usage in particular has aroused—especially interesting to the anthropologist are the according entries and replies over at Savage Minds. Among those teaching at my institute the use of Wikipedia by students is an issue, too. In fact just the day before yesterday I gave my students the ‘order’ not to cite Wikipedia-articles in their papers. I did that for two reasons: 1) I have doubts in undergraduates’ abilities to judge the quality of an anthropology-related Wikipedia-article. 2) I take undergraduate-papers to belong to the genre of academic texts. The school I am stemming from has a rule: [special cases excepted] knowledge taken from encyclopaedias [in Germany there is the distinction between Konversationslexikon and Enzyklopädie—the latter being by definition more academic than the former] is taken for being commonly granted and the source has not to be documented in academic papers. An exception would be if a central argument was taken from a Konversationslexikon or the Wikipedia. But then an error has occurred beforehand: Konversationslexika are no appropriate sources for academic texts—primary data and other academic texts are. So take central arguments from the latter ones, and use the Wikipedia et al. for gaining an overview—not for more. And even for that academic works of reference are to be preferred. In case of sociocultural anthropology I fullheartedly recommend Barnard & Spencer 1996—without having any reservations.

Now, my ‘order’ described above may be worthy of discussion, for sure—and even more after having had a glance or two into my very own project-website and blog, as those contain a lot of links to Wikipedia-entries. For example the appendices lingo and listofgames. Why is that? Because: 1) I consider Wikipedia to be a part of my field—at least a part of the realm into which ‘my tribe’s’ realm is embedded. Therefore Wikipedia-entries touching topics like computergames, -mods, and all things g33k constitute primary data in the from of the cyberians’ emic knowledge and/or perspective. 2) I sense Wikipedia-entries on said topics to be of high reliability. Take for example the entries on l33t-5p3ak or the hot coffee mod. Cyberians, those who culturally appropriate ICTs—I am not speaking of passive ‘consumers’ or ‘users’—have a strong sense of history, of background-information, and feel an impulse to not only document but to share all of that. Gamemodding, open source, open content, creative commons, and collaborative efforts like Wikipedia are kin to each other—and they are all aspects of that part of cyberculture which manifests itself online. Norms, values, and ideas of the members of the ‘cyberian tribes’ become visible by means of the named examples.

A slightly different, but related case is my continuous preying on boingboing-entries. A lot of boingboing’s content fills the picture of what online-cyberculture is all about. The subject of my focus—the culture of gamemodders—is embedded therein. But it is also true that I should post less about wonderful things found at boingboing, and more about original things found inside ‘my community’, like e.g. dreamscream. The wandering astray has to be dammed up.


garry’s mod

Gmod 8bit Samus

Garry’s mod [Gmod], of which version 9.0 was released just today, is a HL2-mod[ification] which allows you to do uncanny things in HL2. Wikipedia says: “Garry’s Mod (Gmod), a successor to the throne of the original JBMod, is a simple modification created by Garry Newman. While it does not have any actual gameplay value, it functions as a huge sandbox, where the player is free to manipulate most of the objects and features of the Source engine. This has allowed an extensive community to build up and creating mini-games with Gmod, therefore creating a “Game in a Game” of sorts.” For a comprehensive, collaborative, and ever-growing documentation—including the mod’s history—see the official wiki accompanying Gmod. Gmod, which is moddable itself allows artists’ creativity to run wild in the realm of HL2. The entries at the official forums are ample proof of that. The range of artefacts is incredible—everything from 8bit pixelart—e.g. a rendition of Nintendo’s Samus accomplished by stacking colored crates [see above]—to war scences [see below] reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, and beyond. Machinima, gamics, everything. Do at no cost miss the matrix-effect-style rotating views of frozen-in-time scenes in the Bowling in gm_construct thread. But be warned: Those forums are addictive and you can easily spend hours there, wondering at original artefacts.

Gmod Warscene

initially via entry at boingboing


zero wing rhapsody

The Tar Cafe

All your base are belong to us (AYBABTU)—although many times declared dead for good—still is one of the most widespread Internet topoi. As an easter egg AYBYBTU made its way into countless artefacts. Already in the tutorial level [containing even another ↑secret] of Max Payne it can be read on a coffee-shop sign [see above]. Now there is one more wonderfully creative example of artistical expression of gamer culture—Zero Wing Rhapsody [↑mirror] is “an anime-style musical remake of the infamous ‘All Your Base’/Zero Wing intro, with the words set to a well-known piece of music by Queen… with a few extra references thrown in for good measure, and completely redrawn graphics.”

Zero Wing Rhapsody

Some time ago I already brought up the issue of benchmarks for anthropological knowledge. Succesful social interaction is not the only possible one—being able to cognitively and emotionally embrace artefacts is another one. Knowing about “All your base” is the prerequisite for understanding Zero Wing Rhapsody. However, being able to decipher references is not enough. But if the rhapsody’s 16bit sound triggers memories and associations, if the whole animation paints a smile on your face, evokes an ambience, a feeling of being in sync with the creators and other recipients who embrace the rhapsody—then you have tapped yourself into a part of cyberculture.

And just for the flavor [via ↑bash.org#205633 and ↑#213425]:

roses are #FF0000
violets #0000FF
all of my base
are belong to you

zero wing rhapsody via entry at boingboing | tnx to 2R for co-enjoying & offline-talk


massive literature update

Pitfalls of virtual property (Bartle 2004)
The power of gifts: organizing social relationships in open source communities (Bergquist & Ljungberg 2001)
Anthropological perspectives on technology (Schiffer 2001)
Technology as the anthropology of cultural practice (Aunger 2003)
Ethnologie des joueurs d’échecs (Wendling 2002)
Pushing the wood: Chess playing as an anthropological subject (Lavenda 2003)
Nexus: Small worlds and the groundbreaking science of networks (Buchanan 2002)
Six degrees: The science of a connected age (Watts 2003)
A new science for a connected world (Valverde 2004)
Self-organization and identification of web communities (Flake et al. 2002)
A highly efficient waste of effort: Open source software development as a specific system of collective production. (Gläser 2003)
The new superorganic (Hanson 2004)
Further inflections: Toward ethnographies of the future (Harding 1994)
Real fictional society: Agonic relations in online gaming communities (Kline 2004)
The anthropology of cities: Imagining and theorizing the city (Low 1996)
Roles and knowledge management in online technology communities: An ethnography study (Madanmohan & Navelkar 2004)
Social networks and cooperation in electronic communities: A theoretical-empirical analysis of academic communication and Internet discussion groups (Matzat 2001)
Academic communication and Internet discussion groups: Transfer of information or creation of social contacts? (Matzat 2004)
History and play: Johan Huizinga and his critics (Anchor 1978)
A sociological perspective of sport (Leonard 1980)
Leisure and sport (Brezina 1983)
Can culture be copyrighted? (Brown 1998)
Art, behavior, and the anthropologists (Dutton 1977)


cyberspace salvations

Cyberspace Salvations

Although I have read “Techgnosis” (Davis 1998) and still am deeply impressed and quite influenced by William Gibson’s rendition of a voodoo-haunted cyberspace in “Count Zero” (Gibson 1986), and although I have been into the anthropology of religion, magic, and all other things that go bump in the night for the longer time of my being at the university, I am not on a quest for finding salvation in cyberspace [really?]. But spirituality [in the broadest sense possible] of course always has to be an issue when trying to understand cultures. That’s the background of my using according metaphors in e.g. creation myth. Just today I discovered the very interesting research-project Cyberspace salvations: Computer technology, simulation and modern gnosis:

In the previous century, most people expected that the rise of technology would lead to the rationalization, secularization and disenchantment of society. Ten to twenty years before YK2, however, a motley crowd of New Agers, SF-writers, hackers and “digirati” began to imagine a ‘New Age’ in which cyberspace was portrayed as a new version of heaven – an immaterial place where people can ‘get rid of the meat’ and attain disembodied immortality and omniscience, in a Gnostic fusion of the self with the divine realm of information. These were not isolated visions. The Internet is overflowing with the websites and chat-boxes of the spiritually inclined. Online computer games display Tolkienesque environments filled with monsters, magicians and other-worldly possibilities. Are these exceptions, or does computer technology actually encourage re-enchantment rather than disenchantment? The project “Cyberspace Salvations” researches such questions, to assess the nature and history of the elective affinities between computer technology and modern spiritualities, and find out how important these are for our present and future.

I am especially attracted to project 2 The gnostic dimension of gaming:

From Spacewar onwards, computer games have simulated “other” spaces and inter-dimensional travel. Since Dungeons and Dragons appeared as a textual game in the seventies, many games include pagan rituals, magical spells, mysterious keys, objects with totemic powers, and vision quests, often located in semi-medieval, Tolkienesque settings. This genre dominates the gaming-industry even more now that three-dimensional, rather than textual, simulations have reinforced the possibility of a simulated escape from the everyday material world.
Whereas many academic and popular comments, informed by a deep-seated suspicion of the social role of computer technology , represent computer games as mere alienated amusement or ‘play’, others portray them in a much more revolutionary light. In line with Baudrillard’s view that games exemplify the postmodern proliferation of simulation and the “disappearance of reality”, some designers regard the production of spiritual experiences as their “business.” Rushkoff argues that the bodiless immersion in these digital worlds of magic can not be disregarded as trivial entertainment or alienation, because fantasy role-playing serves, like traditional religion and formal psychotherapy, “as both spiritual practice and transformational tool.” Given these contrasting claims, the culture of computer games is a central and obvious testing-ground for our hypothesis. ↑[...]

via entry at interprete [where the sato now roams]