My work continues scholarship in the area of Digital Rhetorics that shape social change within peoples' lives. I research poststructural expressions of identity/ies to engage how people shape meaning through the technologies they choose to advocate within their communities. My interdisciplinary media and rhetorical scholarship engages the contextual spaces of the internet/WWW, gaming, and mobile devices.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Digital Consumption: Are we getting fat?

I have been considering Digital rhetorics and wondering about questions posed by academic peers of mine about the digital sphere and consumption.

A while back I was teaching a graduate class when a colleague posed the notion of video games as digital consumption. Video games, being a celebration/manifestation of form, induce specific types of participation, but does that mean that we don’t contemplate what we are doing what symbolic actions we take when we play?

Like any medium, books, movies, films, etc., we are asked/invited/prompted to participate/consume in certain ways. But the Humanities (hopefully) teach us to critically contemplate that consumption-to see/understand/identify with why we chose to consume, or what we find appetizing or filling about a particular “text” and if it provides important nourishment to our soul or empty calories to keep us grinding in a matrix. I am not sold that one medium is more consumptive than another-just misunderstood because they are not engaged and, therefore, not critically contemplated.

So when we consider information about the American digital diet or digital consumption, I think that we have to explore value/use/processing/reflection that develops from that “consumption.” What insight may we gain from engaging digital texts? What rhetorical options are we given or prompt us to consider what we are engaging? And how do we communicate differently after particular meals?


Ryan Trentler said...

interesting. It seems to me that the impetus to create digital consumables in most cases is much different than what we would find in other forms of art and literature. The era was more about making a quick buck than setting the world on fire. Video games are produced to cater to specific demographics with generally little concern for their overall impact on the psyche. I found myself playing the elder scrolls not too long ago, and questioning my choice to sacrifice one of my followers to gain a magical item from an evil deadric prince. The problem with video games is that they train your brain though repetition. As someone who creates new technologies, I often find myself questioning whether to pursue the development of certain solutions, as I contemplate their impact on society. Unfortunately, someone will eventually develop these technologies, even if I choose not to. Necessity was once the mother of all invention, but now greed seems to be the single most driving factor. As younger generations are born into a service based economy with all of these innovations, they are consuming them in ways that the creators of these technologies had never envisioned. Kids now have the ability to print guns with 3d printers. A teenager can build an autonomous flying drone that can kill people. Parents compete with emerging technologies for their children's attention. Are video games more consumptive than literature? You're damn right they are. They engage more of the senses, exhibit addictive qualities, and train the brain through repetition rather than critical thought process. Our teens are learning advanced military tactics through repetitive game play where the only goal is senseless ultra-violence. The military now uses interactive video games to train solders, because there is no question that this is a better method than handing a solder a book about tactics.
I would venture to say that when you play a game, one is less inclined to focus critical analysis the way one would when reviewing other forms of art. "It's just a game chill-out." Unfortunately, as we see more school shootings, we are seeing very well planed and executed attacks.
Each generation, has more and more of these technologies at their disposal. While many of these technologies are beneficial or benign, greed will keep pushing forward profitable technologies that shape and define each new generation, for better or worse. Unfortunately, the scholar who studies the humanities and contemplates the impact of art on life is a far cry from the mad scientist that is chasing fame and fortune with their next innovation.

z4ndyr said...

which is why i argue we need the Humanities scholar studying these things. :) How can people begin to understand the influence games or other media have on people without those not trying to sell them?

You offer some engaging insight about games-I am always reminded on America's Army when considering how we "train" people to desensitize people to specific activities. That said, I wonder about the development of Indie games and games for change by designers like Jane McGonigal who designed Evoke and Super Better. Isn't there potential in the medium because of its immersive nature that if in the hands of people focused on community development might be able to help influence society for the better?

z4ndyr said...

a couple other games I thought about were "Braid and <a href=">Super Meat Boy</a>.