I have been reading about otaku – a term that translates loosely as “geek” or “nerd,” but around which a more sophisticated set of questions around subjectivity, built environments, and narrative consumption has grown (more interesting than anything I’ve seen yet under the umbrella of fan studies.)
As part of the Japan pavilion for the architecture show at the 2004 Venice Biennale, Kaichiro Morikawa included photographs of “otaku rooms” by Kohei Masukawa (images above grabbed from the website for the book.). Crowded spaces filled with books, magazines, game software, and other media and merchandise, these spaces seemed to defy any aesthetic criteria for the design of lived-in spaces, reinforcing a narrative which characterizes otaku as disinterested in the real, disengaged from aesthetic sensibilities, and obsessed with their commoditized objects of desire.
However, I have just thought that these spaces really represent databased-space, like that of the library or the museum archive, the model from which these spaces have sprung. The room becomes an interface to a collection; the otaku-interior-designer is creating a database-UI for accessing (and apprehending) the elements contained therein. There is an aesthetic at work: a contemporary one, an info-aesthetic of the interface, rather than the modernist one of movement through open spaces, of volumes, or of the room as a stage for performance. The otaku-room is one in which the occupant sits as the CPU to a system of catalogs to content, and also as a kind of archivist-curator to the constellation of artifacts in their possession.
I think this conception of the otaku room is consistent with Hiroki Azuma’s theory of the otaku as “post-modern database animal.” What this suggests also is that the modernist notions of interior space is more tied to a narrativist conception of the consumption of space than we may have previously allowed.
One thing notable about the relationship between the otaku and this kind of interface/room is that it is also compatible with recent changes in the the relationship between entity and index in systems of cataloging and visualization. Recently, I participated in a show at the Calit2 gallery (details on the Software Studies initiative blog.) One thing that many of our visualizations feature is an inversion of the normal relationship between feature and representation in large data-sets: where once a single feature would stand for an object (its name, an ID number, a thumbnail) we now can generated and access universes of information about that object for which the object itself is simply an index: our graphs of images used the images themselves to illustrate their low-level features, their relationships to other entities, etc. Otaku rooms also use the object in-themselves as indexes for them, often indicating their relationships to other media, franchises, brands, characters and other features of the object.
I am very, very excited about this.
Sexy Videogameland: If You Run Out Of Ammo, You Can Have Mine: the perpetuation of a misguided notion.
Wired magazine’s Brian Chen echoes some pervasive skepticism on Google’s Chrome OS.
I think there’s been a kneejerk reaction to the announcement regarding the lack of support for hard-drives, and the cloud model. Generally, the objection is that the cloud lacks privacy, the cloud is unpredictable and unreliable, the cloud requires users to abdicate control over their own data, etc.
I see this as a failure of imagination regarding what computing is and can be, and what the cloud is and can be.
The “cloud” can include network addressable storage and other dedicated hardware to handle the storing and processing of data on site (whether it is buisness data in a data center or a media collection in a media server at home.) These devices can be made more or less available over firewalls, within LANs etc. What the Chrome OS model does is to turn the netbook into an I/O and display device, and nothing more.
In some ways, this is a fulfillment of the concept behind IPv6, and the collapse of the distinction between network I/O and device I/O. It has long been possible to access data one keeps at home or work through VPN tunneling, etc, but a framework for making this transparent and easily managed doesn’t exist yet. There is every reason to expect this framework to be a part of Chrome OS.
In other words, the only things I really need from my laptop are input devices (mouse, keyboard, camera, microphone) and output devices (display, speakers, audio jack, etc.) There is no reason for me to have my precious data sitting in the most vulnerable, most mobile devices in my own information-processing toolbox.
An interview with Brenda Brathwaite and John Sharp, that indicates how breakthroughs are beginning to occur from game designers on just what it means to participate in contemporary art discourse.
Which brings up The Art History of Games conference, around which I may have to delicately schedule a planned trip to Japan.