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Noah Wardrip-Fruin on “Computation as Part of Culture” (Media Systems)

The Media Systems gathering last summer brought together a remarkable group of participants from digital arts, digital humanities, and media-focused computer science. It was convened by a historic group of partners — the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Endowment for the Arts (in their first-ever collaboration) together with both Microsoft Studios and Microsoft Research. I was amazed and pleased to spend three days with the group we assembled, discussing important topics for the future of computational media.

But from the outset an obvious question presented itself: What does this diverse group have to say together? What unites it? I used my introductory remarks to provide a provisional answer: All of us are approaching computation as part of culture.

We’re now starting to post the videos from the formal talks, planning on one each week. We’re starting with mine, both because it gives an overview of the major themes that organize the talks that follow and because it delves into some of the kinds of questions, and kinds of projects, that motivated us to bring together these groups.

In general, I believe there are vital reasons to work at the intersections of these fields. This video provides some of the arguments, and in that way also acts as something of a preview for the Media Systems white paper we plan to release later this year.

As these videos go live, I’m also reminded of the thanks owed to the Media Systems organizers — and especially the Center for Games and Playable Media and the Institute for Humanities Research, both at UC Santa Cruz. The event itself wouldn’t have been possible without my co-conspirators, Michael Mateas and Chaim Gingold, and these videos wouldn’t be appearing without the editing work of John Raedeke and the communications work of Ben Samuel.

If you have questions or comments, or would like more information, please leave a comment below or converse with me on Twitter (#MediaSystems). A PDF of my slides is available on the Media Systems page for this video. And look for Brenda Laurel’s powerful talk here next week!

This material is based upon a project supported by the National Science Foundation (under Grant Number 1152217), the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, the National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, and Microsoft Research.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, or Microsoft Research.

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