Videogames and Sociology: Twitter’s pic of the day summary (31–35)
This is the seventh round of Pic of the day RECAP (31–35). To understand what all of this is about, check out the original entry.
31 — Doom 3: That way
We are always compelled to behave in a certain manner by different forces (invisible or not). Some of them are subtle, like the smell of recently baked pies. Others are more direct, like a panel in a road which gently reminds you that your speed is being checked by radar. Of course, there are those that are extremely persuasive, like the one we are able to see in the picture: an armed soldier telling us that we must go that way. He doesn’t even sweeten his mandate a little bit with a “would you mind…” or a similar grammatical construction that could show a shred of politeness. We’re talking about power here. In Foucaldian terms, conduct of the conduct. The most interesting thing of Foucault’s notion of power, apart from its relational nature and its link to knowledge, is that there wouldn’t be power without freedom. Power exists because you have the chance of not following what is asked of you (directly or indirectly). In fact, if you have a gun pointed at your head, that’s hardly a power relationship (although you still have the freedom to cry “shoot!”). When someone does something after having the opportunity to do several other things, then, my friend, that’s power.
32 — Papers, please: Papers, please
Speaking of power, let’s talk about the power of inscriptions. According to Latour, who initially borrowed the notion from Derrida, inscription is “a general term that refers to all the type of transformations through which an entity becomes materialized into a sign, an archive, a document, a piece of paper, a trace. Usually, (…) inscriptions are two dimensional, superimposable and combinable” (1999: 306). I could write words and more words on inscriptions and their importance in life in general and in science in particular. However, I will focus on the particular transformation that entails ID documents such as passports, work permits, visas, national identity cards or driving licences. What do they all have in common? They’re papers (well, some of them are more plastic than paper but that doesn’t matter here), yes, but very specific ones: they all translate an entity — your body, your life, your skills, in sum, your identity — into a bidimensional document. It’s all there: when you were born, your sex, your name, your address, your likeness, your marital status, your occupation, your ability to drive, to work, to reside. But like any other kind of translation, there is not just a simple correspondence between what is being translated (basically, you) and the translation (the inscription). Everything is transformed in the process. Don’t you believe me? Play Papers, please or just try to enter in a foreign country without the required documentation. After all, if those papers are just a plain translation of you, and you’re already there, why should you need anything else? And then it’s when you start thinking that your body, your identity, yourself might be actually the translation of those inscriptions.
33 — Fez: Reality is perception
Fez is, among other things, about the reality of the real. If we state that reality is perception, we are suggesting that reality is, at least to a certain extent, what we think reality is and not what is just out there. This sounds like ontology to me. But far from the philosophical debates in which the notion of ontology is born, I prefer to use a more practical definition. For instance, García Selgas considers that what “allows us to talk about ontology is not the aspiration of drawing the being of things, but the acknowledgement that every scientific theory entails a specific model of what it deals with” (2003: 29). Substitute “scientific theory” for “theory” or just “personal perception” and, voilà, you are there. Nevertheless, remember that perception is just that, an assumption of what reality is, not reality itself (if there’s any). Be specially careful with walls, gravity, policemen, boundaries, grumpy old people, wet floors, and other regular impersonations of the real. Don’t go wild just because it’s all about perception.
34 — Outlast: Witness
Witness. Is the word written in blood referring to the noun or the verb? If it’s the former, who is the witness, that dead guy sitting on the loo? In that case, is that bloody graffiti trying to convey the message the dead of the witness? But is it referring to that particular witness or the witness as a social figure? That would be an interesting interpretation: the witness, a dead body with his head between his legs, is lost in one of the darkest corners of reality, those of its wastes. He’s not witnessing any more. And if there is no witness to observe the events that are happening in reality, who would produce narratives of them? Will they stop happening because there is no one watching? Even though this might be seen as a creepy scenario, in my opinion, there would be a more unsettling one: that it is a verb, an imperative: “witness!”. You would be situated in the position of the witness, forced to watch and trusted with the responsibility to give testimony when the time comes. And there is no bleaker situation than witnessing the end of witnesses.
35 — Gone Home: You can do better
You can do better, you can always do better. But what about doing worse? Because there is also always space for doing things far worse. Would we say things like “I try hard but it doesn’t get any worse”? Or should we say something like “I don’t try anything at all but things keep improving”? It might seem odd, but there are a few reasons why we should try doing things worse, at least as an experiment. One of them would be to prove we are in control of things: if you are not able to worsen what you did before, this could mean that your achievements are due to external factors and not as a product of your determination and expertise. Another reason would be to look more human and less conceited. Because nobody wants to hear that they are too good to be true (unless they’re in a song). And finally, probably the most important reason to do worse: to do better later on. In the end, worse and better only make sense in relation to each other.
- García Selgas, Fernando J. (2003). “Hacia una ontología de la fluidez social”, Política y Sociedad, 40 (1): 27–55.
- Latour, Bruno (1999). Pandora’s Hope. Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Originally published at the3headedmonkey.blogspot.com.