Shoot, View, Play: A Study of the GameBoy Camera

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 7.32.46 PMAmong the many interesting things going on at the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers-Camden, is the R-Cade (The Rutgers-Camden Archive of Digital Ephemera), which is a collection of hardware and software that researchers can play with, take apart, and explore for their work. The R-Cade is especially exciting for researchers like me, who are interested not only in the newest and fanciest technology, but also old, failed, obsolete, and weird alternative apparatus, sometimes including toys! I was invited to participate in a really great event called Shoot, View, Play: A Study of the GameBoy Camera this spring to officially launch the R-Cade. The day began with a very hands-on workshop in which we hacked Game Boy cartridges. We took them apart, soldered new connections, programmed a new “game” (just a simple program that said ‘Hello’) and played it on the Game Boy. Later in the afternoon I spoke on a panel with artists and other scholars about the broader legacy of the Game Boy Camera, a strange accessory that transformed the system into a digital camera with a surprising number of features. I talked about its role within 1990s cultures of children’s media production toys (a variety of toys that let kids record, alter, and share their voices and images). I was thrilled to participate in such a great event and am so exciting for the work that the R-Cade will support moving forward.
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Shoot, View, Play: A Study of the GameBoy Camera

Toys-to-Life: Two Recent Talks

Toy Box Interface
(The clunky building interface of Disney Infinity 1.0).

I recently gave two talks on toys-to-life games, platforms that combine traditional console-based play with NFC-enabled physical character figures. Both talks are components of my new project in development, which considers the history and theory of “animate toys.” In the first talk, which I presented at the 2015 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, I examine how Disney Infinity defines and uses the notion of children’s creativity in its marketing and gameplay, arguing that there is a significant disconnect between the “unlimited” creativity and freedom the platform promises and its structural limitations.

UPDATE: A revised and extended version of this talk is forthcoming in the Fall 2016 issue The Velvet Light Trap.

The second talk, delivered at Rutgers’ second “Extending Play” conference, explores some of the underlying reasons reasons why TTL developers are interested in designing play experiences that cross the physical/digital divide. Here, I take a look at the various sanctioned and unsanctioned ways in which players choose to play with these systems.

Toys-to-Life: Two Recent Talks

Post human panel at Pratt Upload


Earlier in October I was invited to speak on a panel on “the post human” at the Upload conference at Pratt. The panel was really great and featured some artists talking about their fascinating work that engages with the theme of the post human (or the cyborg) in various ways. Here’s a link to the list of panels with everyone’s info, and the panel was also written up in Art F City . I was worried I’d be a bit out of place (as the only non-arts-practitioner on the panel) but I think there were some connecting threads across the talks. I spoke about some ongoing research I’m doing on augmented reality Band-Aids for kids: specifically, how do “smart” adhesive bandages harness the capability of new media to distract kids (from pain) and how/why does the experience of pain justify or recuperate distraction as a state (when it is typically characterized as a “problem” of new media). It’s weird to think of Band-Aids as “media,” and the panel was a great opportunity to continue working through some of the peculiarities of considering them as such.

Post human panel at Pratt Upload

NECS 2014: Animate Toys as Engines of Imagination

NECS_image This year I presented at the European Network for Cinema and Media Studies’ annual conference in Milan. I’d never been to NECS (or to Milan, for that matter!) and it was a great trip. Our panel was called “Playing with Media: the Challenge of Children’s Unproductive Creativity” and featured a lot of exciting work (including Kinderspiel, a new project about kids as media archaeologists). I presented new work I’m doing on talking dolls. For this paper, I looked at a few historical and contemporary examples (including some of their patents and promotional materials). I was curious both about the changing technologies that have animated dolls (and given them a “voice”) in various contexts, as well as analyzing the [often negative] responses to talking dolls in popular culture. It was productive and fun to present this project (in its development) within the context of such a great panel. Other conference highlights included fascinating keynotes by Jason Mittell (on TV authorship) and Janet Wasko (on Disney).

NECS 2014: Animate Toys as Engines of Imagination

La magie des effets spéciaux. Cinéma-Technologie-Réception

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This week I’m attending this special effects conference at the Cinematheque in Montreal. The title of my talk is “The Stroboscopic Zoetrope and an Alternate Future of 3D Animation,” a subject about which I am (obviously) quite interested. The conference blog is here if you’re interested in reading a report of any of the talks (including mine!)

La magie des effets spéciaux. Cinéma-Technologie-Réception

Magic, Art, and Motion Pictures Event at Northeastern University


This Thursday, Nov 29, I am speaking at Northeastern University with artist/inventor/filmmaker Rufus Butler Seder (of Scanimation fame). I’m very excited to be the respondent for his presentation and to discuss optical toys and related children’s visual media in historical context. If you’re in Boston, do consider coming! Details for the event are here.

Magic, Art, and Motion Pictures Event at Northeastern University