Henry Lowood’s Blog
Two-year project will image one of the largest pristine historical collections of microcomputing software in the world for historical and cultural research.
Read the full article here.
GameCity 2012 and game preservation - Wed, 17 Oct 2012
I will be on the program of this year's GameCity festival in Nottingham, England. I will have a couple of chances to talk about PVW/PVW2 and will be having conversations with James Newman, Iain Simons and some other people at NTU (Nottingham Trent University, where the UK National Videogame Archive is located) about projects.
The two public events for me are:
Monday, 9am. GameCity Breakfast talk. "You're All Going to Die." This is a panel with James, me, and Stella Wisdom of the British Library. I expect that one theme will be the link between web archiving and game preservation.
Monday, 2.30pm. "Before It's Too Late: The National Videogame Archive Four Years On." This is a "keynote" with James giving the main talk about the NVA, and I will respond. Yes, the title has a familiar ring, and I'm sure that's intentional.
Tips for Nottingham and the Midlands are welcome.
New Oral History released by Computer History Museum: Al Alcorn - Thu, 20 Sep 2012
The Computer History Museum has just released the oral history I conducted with Al Alcorn back in 2008. The transcript can be found here. The two interviews (both about two hours long) were also videotaped, and I am sure CHM will be releasing clips from the interview for various purposes.
Here is a short excerpt to whet your appetite.
"Lowood: You made a quick comment in there. Do you think Steve Jobs was influenced by Bushnell?
Alcorn: Absolutely. Absolutely. Again, my personal belief-- remember, Steve was an adopted child, right. And I don't think the relationship with his parents was that good, and and he was, what, 18, 19 years old? To all of a sudden see this weird relationship between Nolan and myself, how the dynamics worked and how, you know, we already were known to be a pretty innovative company. He came to us because it was clearly a fun place to work. And then to see that process and the very nature of what happened with the Breakout story, you know, that Nolan would get him to go do this thing. You heard the Breakout story. You know.
Alcorn: And not even tell me about it, you know, to get things done. I mean, look at how things happened with the Macintosh and things at Apple later on, the same kind of thread, just flat out not taking no for an answer. I think that Steve was affected by that [relationship with Bushnell.] Yeah."
The History of Games International Conference
1st edition: Working With, Building, and Telling History
Montreal, Canada. June 21st – 23rd 2013
Organizers: Espen Aarseth (IT University of Copenhagen), Raiford Guins (Stony Brook University), Henry Lowood (Stanford University), Carl Therrien (Université de Montréal).
In spite of the strong wake of game studies in the last decade, the history of video and computer games is still in its infancy in the academic world. Some significant contributions have been made and continue to emerge. In order to make the most out of these contributions and to reflect on the methodological issues they raise, we have decided to create the first international conference on the history of games. This will be the occasion to bring together academics, curators and museum exhibitors, introduce the general public and students to the history of the medium, and sensitize partners from the game industry to their role in terms of cultural heritage and preservation.
We invite proposals on the history of games at large, as long as it is tied with the electro- mechanical / digital development of the phenomenon. Special attention should be given to the methodological issues raised by your historical research. The conference seeks original submissions from researchers interested in diverse areas of historical study including, but not limited to: social history, military history, cultural history, memory studies, sensory history, history of technology, history of play and games, history of computing, art history, material culture, historical archaeology, as well as historical preservation, library and information science, and museum studies.
The conference will explore three main areas of historical research. We encourage contributors to work within one of the proposed tracks. Each track will be led by a keynote speaker to kick-off the discussions and debates:
• Building history: historiography, methods, issues, and frameworks at play in building the history of games.
Keynote speaker: Henry Lowood
• Working with history: the connections among museum and library studies, curation, preservation, and the development of historical research on games.
Keynote speaker: Erkki Huhtamo
• Telling Histories: the possibilities for historical narratives about games, whether expressed
in scholarly writing, exhibitions, journalism, public projects, historical games or other means.
Keynote speaker: Stephen Kline
▫ Pioneer keynote speakers
▫ Roundtables with selected journalists, museum curators and exhibitors, and scholars working on history
▫ Selected papers will be published in special issues of Game Studies and Kinephanos, two peer-reviewed web journals
▫ Location : downtown Montreal, close to the central bus and subway stations
▫ Closing event: Symphonic video game music concert at the new Maison Symphonique de Montréal
▫ Festival season: the conference is held between two of the most popular international
festivals in Montreal: Francofolies, and the International Jazz Festival
▫ Special rates on select hotels for participants
Proposals should be at least 1000 words in length (plus references) and include a title, author’s name, affiliation and short C.V., and provide a clear synopsis for a 20-minute conference length paper.
Deadline for proposals: December 15th 2012.
Please send proposals to Laine Nooney (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Stanford University Libraries have acquired the photographic archives of "Bay Area Video Arcades: Photographs by Ira Nowinski," 1981-1982." The collection consists of approximately 650 35mm images, with contact sheets, as well as prints and digitized images for approximately 50 selected images.
Ira Nowinski is an acclaimed documentary photographer who has created extraordinary photo essays in a variety of areas of recent history, including North Beach in San Francisco, the evacuation of elderly citizens in San Francisco's SOMA district, aspects of Southeast Asian, Jewish, and Native American culture, and an important photographic study of Holocaust Memorials.
The Bay Area Video Arcades photographs were taken in 1980 and 1981 at several locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The locations include the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, the Exploratorium (site of the 1981 Atari Asteroids competition), and other arcades in Oakland and San Francisco. One might think of these photographs as companions to Geoffrey and Elizabeth Loftus' classic essay from the same period, "The Arcade Subculture," first published as a chapter in their Mind at Play: The Psychology of Videogames (Basic Books, 1983). They wrote that the video arcades of the 1980s served a similar function as the drive-in theaters of an earlier generation. They are "not only ... novel but they are also a breeding ground for social interaction They’re places where social contact is made In a frlendly atmosphere and where frlendshlps are formed. They constitute the foundation of a subculture with its own norms, values and patterns of communications." Loftus & Loftus pointed out, for example, that the Arcade was a place where it was perfectly acceptable to stare at what another person was doing (playing an arcade game), without speaking to them. Ira Nowinski's photographs capture this sense of a place for the congregation of a new subculture, one that perhaps seems a bit strange, but one that has also become familiar with the passage of time.
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I hate to give attention to my Chicago colleague James Shapiro’s bizarre ideas about evolution, which he publishes weekly on HuffPo rather than in peer-reviewed journals. His Big Idea is that natural selection has not only been overemphasized in evolution, but appears to play very little role at all. Even though he’s spreading nonsense in a widely-read place, I don’t go after him very often, for he just uses my criticisms as the basis of yet another abstruse and incoherent post. Like the creationists whose ideas he appropriates, he resembles those toy rubber clowns that are impossible to knock down. But once again, and for the last time, I wade into the fray. . .
In his post of August 12, “Does natural selection really explain what makes evolution succeed?” (the answer, of course, is “no”), Shapiro simply recycles some discredited arguments used by creationists against evolution. The upshot, which we’ve heard for decades, is the discredited idea that natural selection is not a creative process. I quote:
“Darwin modeled natural selection on artificial selection by humans. He ignored the inconvenient fact that human selection for altered traits has never generated a truly new organismal feature (e.g., a limb or an organ) or formed a new species. Selection only modifies existing characters. When humans wish to create new species, they use other means.”
This is the old canard that artificial selection doesn’t create “new features.” His definition of a “new organismal feature” is, of course, one that hasn’t been generated by artificial selection, so it’s all tautological. Of course we haven’t seen whole new organs or limbs arise in the short term, for people have been doing serious selection for only a few thousand years, and have not even tried to create new organs or limbs. But we can create a strain of flies with four wings, breeds of dogs that would be regarded as new genera if they were found in the fossil record, and whole new biochemical systems in bacteria. Both Barry Hall and Rich Lenski, for example, have demonstrated the evolution of brand new biochemical pathways that have evolved to deal with new metabolic challenges. Now that is a “new organismal feature”!
Often new species are created by hybridization, but Shapiro forgets that that hybridization is often followed by either natural or artificial selection for increased interfertility of the new hybrid form, so it truly becomes an interbreeding population that characterizes a species. And that, of course, gives a crucial role to selection, as it did in the experiments of Loren Rieseberg and his colleagues on hybrid sunflowers.
Viewpoints: Why is faith falling in the US? - - - BBC News - Wed, 22 Aug 2012
A new poll suggests that atheism is on the rise in the US, while those who consider themselves religious has dropped. What's the cause? Two writers debate.
Thousands attended an atheism rally in Washington DC this March
Recently, researchers conducting a WIN-Gallup International poll about religion surveyed people from 57 countries.
The poll suggests that in the US, since 2005:
- the number of people who consider themselves religious has dropped from 73% to 60%
- those who declare themselves atheists have risen from 1% to 5%
What's behind the changing numbers? Is the cause churches that chase modern trends at the expense of core beliefs? Or are those who have always been ambivalent about religion now less likely to identify as Christian? We asked two writers for their take.
Rod Dreher: Progressive churches fuel apathy
As a practicing Christian of the Hitchens sort (Peter, the good one), I welcome the news that more Americans are willing to identify as atheists. At least that clarifies matters.
I respect honest atheists more than I do many on my own side, for the same reason Jesus of Nazareth said to the tepid Laodicean church: "because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth".
From Bible-Belt Pastor to Atheist Leader - Robert F. Worth - New York Times - Wed, 22 Aug 2012
Late one night in early May 2011, a preacher named Jerry DeWitt was lying in bed in DeRidder, La., when his phone rang. He picked it up and heard an anguished, familiar voice. It was Natosha Davis, a friend and parishioner in a church where DeWitt had preached for more than five years. Her brother had been in a bad motorcycle accident, she said, and he might not survive.
DeWitt knew what she wanted: for him to pray for her brother. It was the kind of call he had taken many times during his 25 years in the ministry. But now he found that the words would not come. He comforted her as best he could, but he couldn’t bring himself to invoke God’s help. Sensing her disappointment, he put the phone down and found himself sobbing. He was 41 and had spent almost his entire life in or near DeRidder, a small town in the heart of the Bible Belt. All he had ever wanted was to be a comfort and a support to the people he grew up with, but now a divide stood between him and them. He could no longer hide his disbelief. He walked into the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. “I remember thinking, Who on this planet has any idea what I’m going through?” DeWitt told me.
As his wife slept, he fumbled through the darkness for his laptop. After a few quick searches with the terms “pastor” and “atheist,” he discovered that a cottage industry of atheist outreach groups had grown up in the past few years. Within days, he joined an online network called the Clergy Project, created for clerics who no longer believe in God and want to communicate anonymously through a secure Web site.
DeWitt began e-mailing with dozens of fellow apostates every day and eventually joined another new network called Recovering From Religion, intended to help people extricate themselves from evangelical Christianity. Atheists, he discovered, were starting to reach out to one another not just in the urban North but also in states across the South and West, in the kinds of places DeWitt had spent much of his career as a traveling preacher. After a few months he took to the road again, this time as the newest of a new breed of celebrity, the atheist convert. They have their own apostles (Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens) and their own language, a glossary borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous, the Bible and gay liberation (you always “come out” of the atheist closet).
DeWitt quickly repurposed his preacherly techniques, sharing his reverse-conversion story and his thoughts on “the five stages of disbelief” to packed crowds at “Freethinker” gatherings across the Bible Belt, in places like Little Rock and Houston. As his profile rose in the movement this spring, his Facebook and Twitter accounts began to fill with earnest requests for guidance from religious doubters in small towns across America. “It’s sort of a brand-new industry,” DeWitt told me. “There isn’t a lot of money in it, but there’s a lot of momentum.”
Tony Nicklinson died today. His appalling suffering is now at an end, no thanks whatsoever to our judges or our parliament. Obviously all decent people will feel glad for him, but I would add sorry that he failed to win a precedent that might benefit others. Indeed, it was precisely the fear of such a precedent that motivated the High Court to hand down its callous judgment. Let’s continue his fight for a more humane approach to the right to die.
In pursuing that fight, we need to take full measure of the opposition, where it is coming from, and in some cases the sheer depth of its unpleasantness. The article posted below was written before Tony Nicklinson’s death but after the High Court turned down his request to be allowed to die. The author, Richard Carvath, describes himself as a British Conservative political activist. I have never met him and have no wish to do so, nor had I previously heard of him. But I think his article could perform a useful service in laying out, clearly and relentlessly, the full extent of the nastiness of which people of his persuasion – we inevitably get to the love of Jesus before we are through – are capable. As often on the Internet today, you have to wonder whether it is satire, but on balance I am persuaded that this one isn’t. This is the real McCoy. Read it and marvel at the depths to which the human mind can sink, when its moral sense is sufficiently disabled by religion.
For the Love of Tony Nicklinson
Poor old Tony Nicklinson. His wife wants to kill him, his family want to kill him, his barrister wants to kill him, the mainstream media want to kill him, the euthanasia lobby want to kill him and a vociferous mob of Twitter followers want to kill him. It’s enough to depress anyone to the point of despair. In a recent tweet, Cheryl Baker (yes, she of 1981 Eurovision Bucks Fizz fame) seemed to sum up the general attitude of the misguided ‘Kill Tony’ mob when she wrote: “My heart cries for Tony Nicklinson. If he was a dog there would be no ethical or moral decision to be made, just whatever is best for him.” But Tony is not a dog. Tony is a human being. Last week, thankfully, Tony failed in his attempt to change the law which serves to protect us all from murder. The upholding of the law was applauded by champions of justice and pro-life defenders of the disabled – and rightly so. Tony Nicklinson isn’t terminally ill; he is severely physically disabled but he is not dying; Tony has a life to live.
There are many forms of human suffering and we each suffer something at least once in our lives: severe illness; injustice; betrayal; loneliness; poverty; unemployment; crime; childbirth; bereavement; unfair discrimination etcetera. Sometimes our suffering is our own fault and sometimes it’s the fault of others. Suffering is inevitable and what matters is how we respond to suffering. Do we help ourselves or are we our own worst enemy? Do we wallow in self-pity or do we resolve to think positively?
Missionaries of Hate - - - Top Documentary Films - Wed, 22 Aug 2012
Thanks to Mike for the link
Correspondent Mariana van Zeller travels to Uganda, where many question whether the growing influence of American religious groups has led to a movement to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. As an anti-gay movement spreads across the continent, gay Africans and their families face an increasingly uncertain future of isolation, imprisonment or even execution.
The film makes it much easier to understand why the general Ugandan public is so eager to send their peers to jail. If the most prominent spiritual leader in your community made it his life purpose to convince you that there were people coming to eat your poop and recruit your children, you would be against them too. They are only hearing one side of the story and it is the origin of their information that is truly infuriating.
Although Ugandan leaders are deeply offended by the notion, the facts definitively show that American evangelists have played a central role in defining the nation’s hard line against sexual minorities. The documentary focuses on American evangelist Dr. Scott Lively, who is widely credited with installing the dominant notion that homosexuals are after your children.