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The Geek Movement » media



On October 5th, we participated in the Student Innovation Contest at the 2009 User Interface Software and Technology conference (UIST) in Victoria, BC.  Student teams were given about a month to develop a novel use for a pressure sensitive keyboard developed by Microsoft Research, and all the entries were demonstrated and voted upon at the conference.  Our submission is detailed below and in this demo video.

Laban Gestures for Expressive Keyboarding

Karen Tanenbaum, Josh Tanenbaum & Johnny Rodgers

Simon Fraser University-School of Interactive Arts + Technology

Keyboards tend to be discrete input devices, capable of multiple isolated interactions. The addition of pressure sensitivity adds a continuous dimension to keyboard input, adding additional information about the user’s actions. To take advantage of this, the role of the keyboard must be reimagined. Our goal was to design keyboard interactions that were expressive and emotional.


Our submission to UC Santa Barbara’s Bluesky Innovations Competition, which was themed around Social Computing in 2020 took 1st place!  Our project envisions a world where mobile technologies have followed their current trajectory, further blurring the lines between online and offline spaces.  Taking a page out of Corey Doctrow’s book we consider the possible implications that this trend will have on our ability to manage our privacy against our desire for digitally augmented socialization.  Below is the award winning essay and the creative visualization that we designed to supplament it.

By Karen and Joshua Tanenbaum
The imagined social technology of SENSe (Socialization, Exploration, Negotiation, and Security) is a natural extension of two current trends in social networking: social presence and privacy concerns. It is evident that the growth in popularity of services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Google Talk and the parallel increase in mobile device usage are symptomatic of larger changes in the nature of social spaces, private spaces, and human interconnectedness. Already, we have seen how social networking supports the emergence of a form of ambient social presence. People now think nothing of signaling their receptiveness to phone calls by toggling a status indicator in Skype, while Twitter and Facebook allow users to periodically broadcast short status updates to their entire social circle. These updates and status indicators foster an “always‐on” sense of one’s social geography: what people are doing right now, minor incidents that occurred throughout their day, how they are feeling and what they are planning. Our new networked world supports the dramatic and the mundane in seamless concert. When disasters occur, these services support efficient real‐time coordination of rescue and relief efforts; when history is made,people around the world receive it in a thousand tiny haiku. If you see that a colleague is having lunch down the block you might join them for a bite to eat; if you see a friend is sad or angry about something you might call to offer comfort. The combination of distributed social broadcasting and pervasive mobile devices is a potent one that has already changed how we communicate in dramatic ways.


In this post I am going to look at how Mass Effect deals with squad combat.  Mass  Effect is split between Role Playing mechanics (which revolve mainly around conversations) and Third Person Perspective Squad based combat.  As I have advanced through the game I have gotten a better handle on how the combat mechanics in Mass Effect operate, and – in spite of my general dislike of any real time shooter style games where I don’t have a mouse and a keyboard – I am enjoying them.


MassEffect 2013-01-29 11-28-00-31

I’m playing catch up, as usual, now that the semester is drawing to a close. Over the course of the last few months I have been slowly playing through Mass Effect as part of my Theory and Design of Games class.  While I have not yet finished the game, I have accumulated a handful of interesting critiques of the game, which I have decided to post here.  Think of this as an extended review, with occasional theoretical tangents.  Where appropriate, I will attempt to point you towards the readings and materials that provided the basis for these analyses.

First we were asked a few simple questions about the intended audience for this game:


It’s been a while since I posted anything here, not because it has been quiet following the thesis defense, but because things have not slowed down at all in the last three months.  Today I’m taking a bit of time to catch my breath, and to catch this blog up on the newest scheme concocted in the labs of Team Tanenbaum.  Karen and I have been tossing this idea back and forth since early in the summer, but have recently resolved to try and run with it in earnest (note the copious use of ball-game metaphors).  Below, you will find two versions of the TUNE documents.  The first is a section out of a recent grant proposal I wrote.  It is focused on one aspect of my research within TUNE.  The second is an extended description of the project, which encompasses both my and Karen’s interests more fully.

In the previous post I presented a portion of my introduction to the thesis. In this post I reproduce the draft of my methods chapter in it’s entirety. Methodology is a hot topic at SIAT due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program: there is a notion that any “out-of-the-box” method is generally unsuitable to the work that we do. Most methodology at SIAT tends towards the phenomenological, the ethnographic, or the statistical, often combining the three. For my work I’ve had to make a claim for appropriating methods and techniques from the humanities–a tough sell in this social-science and computer-science heavy department. This chapter is perhaps one of the”loftiest” in the thesis, in the sense that it embraces the vocabulary of literary criticism from whence I draw my method.


I finished the first draft of the thesis this afternoon.  While it is still very rough around the edges and will require significant revision the actual sustained act of creation that has driven me for the last three months is essentially done.  I’m going to shift modes from writing to rewriting soon, but for the next day I wish to bask a bit in the realization that I will be finishing this degree on-time, and hopefully making a bit of a contribution to the field in the process.  In honor of this occasion I’m going to be posting some excerpts from the writing over the next week, focusing on areas that I think might be of interest to others,  and on sections that I think I need critique on.  Feel free to sign-up for an account and comment on the material I’m posting here;  I am eager for critiques and feedback, especially as I move into editing mode.

Today’s post is from the recently completed introduction:


The following is a bit more rantlike than it was supposed to be. Bear with me, I’m blowing off steam.

We are in a fairly novel position, as researchers into Interactive Storytelling(IS). For the first time in history we are engaged in discourse around the future emergence of a narrative medium, rather than analysis of a pre-existing one. Other sophisticated narrative mediums did not have a community of theorists debating the potential narrative applications of their new technologies as they developed. Film, for instance, was a medium of cheap thrills and documentation for years before it became a narrative medium, and even then it took years before the narrative conventions adopted from theater gave way to the poetics of the new medium. These poetics grew out of the affordances and limitations of the emerging technology, when placed in the hands of a number of revolutionary filmmakers. As the early experimenters in the medium learned how to tell stories in a new way, the public slowly learned how to view those stories and enjoy them. The discourse of film studies and criticism grew up in order to describe this phenomenon, and understand it.


On May 3 & 4, 2007 I attended the first ever Vancouver International Game Summit. Given the size of Vancouver’s games sector, it was only a matter of time before an industry conference occurred. Sponsoring companies included Electronic Arts, Ernst & Young, Disney Interactive Studios, Microsoft, Seven Group Digital Media, Autodesk, BC.Net, ACMSiggraph Vancouver, The National Research Council of Canada, Vancouver Film School, New Media BC, Emily Carr, The IGDA, Annex Pro, Game Recuiter, the Georgia Straight, Casual Games Association, DigiPen, Bioware Corp, the Art Institute of Vancouver, Mog Ware, Rockstar Games, Vivendi Games, Nintendo, and many others.
A Few Days Later
No coherent thoughts yet on this, but some musings and ramblings as I sort out several days of sudden immersion in the discourse of the industry (which is wildly different in some ways from the discourse of academia, but which has much in common in other ways).

Buzzwords for this weekend included: innovation, originality, micropayment schemes, monetization, and a wide assortment of commentary surrounding playoff hockey. The Canucks lost spectacularly on two large projection screens while industry folk mingled, ate, drank, and gamed in the other room. I found myself faced with the choice of facing my social awkwardness head-on by interacting with folk like the chair of the GDC, and the creative directors of every major game studio and school in BC, or sitting in a dark room watching hockey and eating salmon pate alone. I opted to mingle.


Current State of the Geek: Wherein I briefly bring the internet up to date on my doings and happenings. Don’t get too excited – until the semester ends I’m far too busy to really bring this site up-to-date.
Projects on the back burner:

Transmission: I love my novel, but it has sadly been left untouched while I negotiate the shifting terrain which is my priorities while at SIAT.
The Geek Game: Briefly reared it’s ancient and venerable head, but has been allowed to once again slumber in the depths of my consciousness until such a time as I need to call forth it’s power to smite my foes. Wait…what were we talking about again?
The LARP Project: This project briefly flirted with Karen’s doctoral research, but didn’t get to second base due to improper hygiene and bad taste in movies. Currently is moping around at home wondering why it will never know true love.

Ongoing Projects:

Scarlet Skellern and the Absent Urchins: My current priority. An interactive narrative exploration of user emotion and context. My top secret collaborator and I are almost finished designing and implementing a simple user model in Flash which will allow readers of our interactive comic to express their mood and emotions to the system, thus altering the contextual elements in which the narrative is situated. In plain-speak this means that if the reader indicates happiness to the system, then things like the lighting, colors, textures, ambient noises, musical themes, time of day, weather, and other environmental aspects of the story will shift subtly to reflect their mood back at them. Keep an eye out for our prototype by April 13th.

Project Description
Project Diagram
Submitted to: The Vancouver New Forms Festival

rePhase is an interactive audio installation that repurposes abandoned stereo components into an immersive participatory musical experience. Comprised of structural and audio components rescued from junk shops, thrift stores, and surplus dealers, rePhase gives abandoned objects an opportunity for a second life.

Untitled Film Project: This one stays largely under wraps until I have more time to develop it. What I can say is that it is set in the near future, it will incorporate opportunities for multi-linear interactive narratives, as well as traditional linear storytelling, and that it will be a grotesque hybrid of Primer, Office Space, and Clerks, only much more noir.

El Institute of Inappropriate Interfaces (EIII): From our upcoming web launch:
“Here at the Institute, we are investigating revolutionary new ideas in interface design. Ideas so new and brilliant that no one has ever attempted them before! Prepare your children, your friends, and your domesticated animals, for technology so cutting edge that it is considered dangerous to run with by 9 out of 10 mothers, and for ideas so satisfyingly delicious that you should wait at least an hour before swimming after thinking about them!”

Among the EIII’s initial launch offerings will be the much awaited Audio Interfaces for the Deaf, and the long hyped EZ-Prototype Oven.

LIFE – Low resource Improvised Filmmaking Environment : Special thanks to Jim Bizzocchi for the acronym. Still very much on the drawing board, but still a force to be reckoned with on the project list. Look below for some of the theory surrounding it, under it’s previous acronym: LRIF.

That’s the state of geek at the moment. I’ve been composing music like a madman this month for Scarlet Skellern, so keep an eye on my personal site for the soundtrack as I start to nail the final tracks down. See y’all in the summer.

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