Lecture: Game on Ludologies

Todays lecture was based on games & gamification. At first I was wondering what this had to do with photography but as the session went on it became a lot clearer. We can identify the 3 key elements of games as:

  • Ludology – the play element (from Latin ludos, game)
  • Narratology – the story element
  • Realism (graphic, sonic) – the mimetic element, dynamic relationship – increasingly complex

“Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.”

Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: a study of the play element in culture (1938), p. 1.

3 Characteristics of play

  • It is free (i.e voluntary)
  • It is extra-ordinary (i.e not real life)
  • It has it’s own sense of space and time
Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: a study of the play element in culture (1938), p. 8.

Huizinga believed in the idea that there is a special time and space created through the playing of a game. This was in a time long before the creation of the video game. He was talking about “play” in it’s most primitive form, the kind of play that we as animals engage in, much the same way as other animals, like dogs, cats, monkeys etc. Man has created “Magic Circles” for game play, these can be physical and take the form of football pitches, tennis courts, golf courses, arenas, to name a few, but they can also be non physical and be contained within the mind of the players. (Imagination).

It was Roger Caillois that first described the four types of play within games:

  • Agonistic (characterised by agon) – competitive
  • Mimetic (characterised by mimesis) – representational, involving role play
  • Aleatory (characterised by alea) – chance, improvisation
  • Ilinxial (characterised by ilinx) – ‘vertigo’ or thrill

Roger Caillois, Man, Play, and Games (1958)

We discussed what it was about games that made us want to play and engage with them. For many it can be an escape from the “Real World” and allow us to become someone or something else. Games have their own sense of space and time and we can find ourselves getting lost in them. A majority of gamers like the sense of being rewarded.

Spaces & Reward

“rewards of glory

rewards of sustenance

rewards of access

rewards of facility”

Hallford N. & Hallford, J. (2001) Swords and Circuitry: A designer’s guide to computer role playing games. Roseville, CA: Prime Publishing.

We looked into “Gamification” and how this affects us on a day to day basis, even if you are not a gamer.




“the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service: gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun”

Oxford Dictionaries. 2013. gamification: definition of gamification in Oxford dictionary (British & World English). [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/gamification [Accessed: 11 Dec 2013].

Gamification applies the mechanics of gaming to non- game activities to change people’s behaviour. It can be used for health & wellness, education & training, shopping etc. Most of us have rewards cards for supermarkets or high street retailers offering us incentives to shop with them, this is all part of gamification. The overall goal of gamification is for businesses to engage with the consumer and get them to participate, share and interact in some activity or community. In turn the consumer will be rewarded in one way or another. This could be in the form of vouchers, free items etc.

This got me thinking about the way in which photography is linked. There are now numerous apps for the photographer that allow us to share our photos, our location and other details. These can be posted onto social media sites, often these will be accompanied by a #Hashtag, promoting the app and trying to get new people to use it, leading to more advertising.


Camera Apps

Image from:

Leblanc, M. 2013. Six tips from Apple on how to create better app icons. [online] Available at: http://thenextweb.com/dd/2013/08/21/six-tips-from-apple-on-how-to-create-better-app-icons/#!pGgZb [Accessed: 11 Dec 2013].


Photozeen App

Whilst browsing the internet I came across a photography app that I had not seen before. The app is called Photozeen and is described by the creators as an app that shows people how to take better pictures, by offering tips, providing feedback, and connecting the user with other people who are passionate about photography, and skill improvement. The app incorporates gamification by setting the user quests, with ongoing content and the users will be rated by others using the app and it also offers feedback lessons. This is an app that I will be looking into.

Photozeen: Improve your photo skills!. 2013. Photozeen: Improve your photo skills!. [online] Available at: http://www.photozeen.com [Accessed: 11 Dec 2013].

UI Palette. 2013. Chat with Makers of Photozeen, The Gamified Photography App – UI Palette. [online] Available at: http://uipalette.com/founder-interview-photozeen-photography-gamification/ [Accessed: 11 Dec 2013].


meme [meem]


a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.


1976;  < Gk mīmeîsthai  to imitate, copy; coined by R. Dawkins, Brit. biologist


an idea or element of social behaviour passed on through generations in a culture, esp by imitation

[C20: possibly from mimic, on the model of gene]

Dictionary.com. 2013. the definition of meme. [online] Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/meme?s=t [Accessed: 4 Dec 2013].

Todays lecture saw us looking into memes and asking ourselves the question “What is a meme?” The term “meme” was coined by the English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author Richard Dawkins in his book entitled “The Selfish Gene” (R. Dawkins 1976). Through the theory of memetics, Dawkins tried to explain how cultures evolve, he emphasised the importance of the gene.


The Selfish Gene, R.Dawkins 1976

What is memetics?

Memetics are ideas that are based upon Darwins “Theory of Evolution”. The theory of evolution through natural selection was first written by Darwin in the “Origin of Species”


The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin 1859


A more simplified version of Rudolph F. Zallinger’s original illustration, The March of Progess.

Natural Selection:

  • Humans can be seen as gene carriers
  • Genes carry our DNA
  • Memes are to culture what genes are to the body. The meme is the basic unit of cultural transmission, as the gene is the basic unit of biological transmission.

Memes are

  •  Basic building blocks of our minds and culture as genes are the building blocks of biological life.
  •  Contagious ideas which reproduce like a virus.
  • They are passed from mind to mind, propagating themselves through face to face contact and communication networks.
  • A pattern of information copied from person to person.

Memes can be:

  • Songs
  • Ideas
  • Catchphrases
  • Clothes
  • Fashion

They are spread through media and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Vines, Instagram etc.


Social Media & Networking Sites

The success of a meme depends on:

  • Longevity – How long it will last
  • Fecundity – Making lots of copies, being shared/forwarded
  • Copying Fidelity – How true the copy is to the original

Examples of different well known memes:


Grumpy Cat Meme

Know Your Meme. 2013. Fun Time Is Over | Grumpy Cat | Know Your Meme. [online] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/406282-grumpy-cat [Accessed: 4 Dec 2013].


What Does The Fox Say? Ylvis 2013 (Video)

YouTube. 2013. Ylvis – The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) [Official music video HD]. [online] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jofNR_WkoCE [Accessed: 4 Dec 2013].

The song “Happy Birthday” is also a good example of a successful meme.

The freelance writer Susan Blackmore believes that you can look at religion from a memetic point of view. Whether or not something is fact or fiction, if it successfully copied it can be considered a meme, this can include faith systems. Certain behaviours, ideas and stories can be copied from person to person, this is a way of humans attempting to understand the world that surrounds them. Religions could be considered successful memes, as they are stored in the brain, in books, buildings and repeatedly passed on, this makes us ask the questions “Why are we here?” and “How did life begin?”.

How memes transmit themselves

Memes can be transmitted:

  • Vertically – from parent to offspring
  • Horizontally – from peer to peer or between strangers

Some important questions that we should ask ourselves are:

  • Are we able to resist memes?
  • Can we protect ourselves from memes that we are bombarded with from the media?


What is intertextuality?

Today as part of our Media Discourses seminar we discussed intertextuality and exactly what it is and how it affects our practices. So what is intertextuality?

Intertextuality is an aspect of semiotics: it is concerned with the ways in which culture weaves meaning into meaning into meaning – or, to put it another way, it is to do with the ways in which media artefacts ‘quote’ each other.

Key figures in the development of the theory of intertextuality are Roland Barthes (who wrote a very influential essay called ‘The Death of the Author’) and Julia Kristeva (who came up with the term ‘Intertextuality’).

‘The term intertextuality denotes the transposition of one (or several) sign system(s) into another…’

(Julia Kristeva, ‘Revolution in Poetic Language’ (1974), in Toril Moi, ed., The Kristeva Reader, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986, p. 111.)

As a photographer, I find myself being drawn to certain images for a wide variety of reasons and I believe that I am influenced by the work of others and things that surround me, whether this be conscious or unconscious.

  • unconscioustrue intertextuality: beyond author’s control
  • (self-)conscious – what Kristeva calls ‘the banal sense of “the study of sources”’ (p.111)

The following are crucial to understanding intertextuality:

  • nothing is truly original (in the sense of unique, pristine, one-off)
  • authors can’t control the ways in which their works are read and understood
  • authors can’t even fully control the content of their works: inevitably there will be meanings they didn’t intend.

In the past I have deliberately appropriated other photographers work, this was because of an assignment we were set and was titled “appropriation” but even when appropriation or intertextuality takes place, the “new piece” takes on a new life and somehow becomes unique to the particular artist that created it.

Some examples of intertextuality by artists 


© Leonardo Da Vinci, Mona Lisa (1503-6)


© Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. (1915)


Mona Piggy
Unknown Artist

Art Stuff. 2013. Appropriation Plus : ArtStuff. [online] Available at: http://artstuff.net.au/appropriation-plus/ [Accessed: 27 November 2013].

Andy Warhol


© Andy Warhol, Blue Shot Marilyn, 1964


© Andy Warhol, Red Liz, 1962

David LaChapelle


© David LaChapelle, Amanda Lepore as Andy Warhol’s Marilyn (Blue), 2007


© David LaChapelle, Amanda Lepore as Andy Warhol’s Liz (Red), 2007

And here are some examples of intertextuality within my images:

Richard Brochu-Williams


Vogue Cover on iPad App
Unknown Artist

Garcia Media. 2013. García Media | Weekend readings and a new French Vogue iPad app. [online] Available at: http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/weekend_readings [Accessed: 27 November 2013].


© Richard Brochu-Williams
My Appropriation


© Guy Bourdin

26k.co.uk. 2013. Untitled. [online] Available at: http://www.26k.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/guy-bourdin-1.jpg [Accessed: 27 November 2013].


My Appropriation
© Richard Brochu-Williams


Cyborg image sourced from internet as part of my Sensations Project last year which I can no longer locate.
Unknown Artist


© Richard Brochu-Williams
My Appropriation

Databases & Spatial Narrative

Today we have been exploring the spatial narratives offered by the mining of databases and the operation of algorithms, random factors, or human choice.

What is an algorithm?


al·go·rithm [al-guh-rith-uhm]


a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, as forfinding the greatest common divisor.

1890–95;  variant of algorism, by association with Greek arithmós number.

Dictionary.com. 2013. the definition of algorithm. [online] Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/algorithm [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

Informal definition

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for calculations. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning.

An algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. Starting from an initial state and initial input (perhaps empty), the instructions describe a computation that, when executed, proceeds through a finite number of well-defined successive states, eventually producing “output” and terminating at a final ending state. The transition from one state to the next is not necessarily deterministic; some algorithms, known as randomised algorithms, incorporate random input.

Wikipedia. 2013. Algorithm. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorithm [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

So in real simple terms, we learnt that in todays society, media has become an accumulation of data, comprising of digital constituent parts. We as a species are constantly leaving a data trail, whether that be by making bank transactions, purchases with credit/debit cards or using social media, we are always casting a digital shadow of ourselves.

We looked at some examples of database cinema that offers the user some interactivity and choice into what they are watching and the form that the narrative takes.

Honky Tonk’s Journey to the End of Coal is an example, as well as The Johnny Cash Project.

We also took a look at One Day on Earth which is described as a unique global movement, community media creation platform, and collaborative film production engine. It invites you to join an international community of thousands of filmmakers, hundreds of schools, and dozens of non-profits, and to contribute to their unique global project. One Day on Earth is a community that not only watches, but participates.


Honkytonk. 2013. Honkytonk Films – Online screening: Journey To The End Of Coal. [online] Available at: http://www.honkytonk.fr/index.php/webdoc/ [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

The Johnny Cash Project. 2013. THE JOHNNY CASH PROJECT. [online] Available at: http://www.thejohnnycashproject.com [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

One Day on Earth. 2013. One Day on Earth. [online] Available at: http://www.onedayonearth.org [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

“I want to conclude with an important consideration: investigating the film algorithms and reasoning in terms of databases and data do not absolutely mean to forget the human experience. It does not mean to focus only on the mechanic interactivity and new media: what is to be underlined is that the user experience in the era of digital media is more linked to the paradigm of database than to the narrative one, and needs new theoretical models to be understood and analysed.”

Cristiano Poian, Investigating Film Algorithm, University of Udine, available at: http://www.academia.edu/619680/Investigating_Film_Algorithm._Transtextuality_in_the_age_of_database_cinema [Accessed: 13 November 2013].


Beginning, middle, end – traditions of narrative (1)

narrative [na-ra-tiv], a telling of some true or fictitious event or connected sequence of events, recounted by a narrator to a narratee (although there may be more than one of each)… A narrative will consist of a set of events (the story) recounted in a process of narration (or discourse), in which the events are selected and arranged in a particular order (the plot). The category of narratives includes both the shortest accounts of events (e.g. the cat sat on the mat, or a brief news item) and the longest historical or biographical works, diaries, travelogues, etc., as well as novels, ballads, epics, short stories, and other fictional forms.

Chris Baldick, Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 145.

Stories surround us. In childhood we learn fairy tales and myths. As we grow up, we read short stories, novels, history, and biography. Religion, philosophy and science often present their doctrines through exemplary stories… Plays tells stories, as do films, television shows, comic books, paintings, dance, and many other cultural phenomena. Much of our conversation is taken up with stories of one sort or another – recalling an event from the past or telling a joke. Even newspaper articles are called ‘stories’, and when we ask for an explanation, we may say, ‘What’s the story?’ We cannot escape even by going to sleep, since we often experience our dreams as little narratives, and we recall and retell the dreams in the shape of stories. Perhaps narrative is a fundamental way that humans make sense of the world.

David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction, London: McGraw-Hill, 1993, p. 64.

We have been discussing narratives and what a narrative really is. We have also been discussing whether images on their own can demonstrate a narrative or whether a series of images must be used and is text even necessary to convey this.


Narrative discourse: key terms and ideas

Narrative is often split into story and plot, the distinction being as follows:

story – what it is (i.e. all the material available to the narrator, including that which s/he chooses not to use and which are therefore left to the viewer’s or listener’s imagination: this is sometimes referred to as diegetic material, or the diegesis)

plot – how it is told (i.e. the choice and arrangement of materials, plus other materials which are ‘outside’ the story: this can include non-diegetic material, in other words elements which have nothing to do with the actual story, e.g. the passers-by in a street scene, or which are not actually know to the protagonists of the story, e.g. credits, soundtrack)

Experimentation with narratives

The Unfortunates


The Unfortunates by B.S Johnson

The Unfortunates is an experimental “book in a box” published in 1969 by English author B. S. Johnson and reissued in 2008 by New Directions. The 27 sections are unbound, with a first and last chapter specified. The 25 sections in-between, ranging from a single paragraph to 12 pages in length, are designed to be read in any order. Christopher Fowler described it as “a fairly straightforward meditation on death and friendship, told through memories.” Jonathan Coe described it as “one of the lost masterpieces of the sixties”.

Johnson said of the book “I did not think then, and do not think now, that this solved the problem completely… But I continue to believe that my solution was nearer; and even if it was only marginally nearer, then it was still a better solution to the problem of conveying the mind’s randomness than the imposed order of a bound book.

Wikipedia. 2013. The Unfortunates. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unfortunates [Accessed: 8 November 2013].