Games at the Crossroads of Art and Technology: Pervasive Games as Laboratories for Understanding the Possible Impact of Pervasive Technologies on Agency and Narrative

By Astrid Vicas.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper presents a reflection on pervasive games, a form of activity that lies at the confluence of experimental art and developments in technology. It hypothesizes that pervasive games may be seen as testing grounds for the possible impact of pervasive technologies that are currently being developed, and which incorporate electronic sensing and computing capabilities in infrastructure and objects of everyday use. In the context of this hypothesis, it is proposed that a fruitful examination of pervasive games can be framed in terms of the phenomenon of divided attention. Given this framework, a historical background providing the underpinnings for understanding pervasive games is suggested. It spans a body of work that occurred in the 1950s, in which groups of experimental artists and filmmakers, on one hand, and experimental psychologists and acoustic engineers, on the other, made very similar observations from working with disconnected and overlapping perceptual streams. Their work and findings are briefly compared to findings from recent studies on the phenomenon of divided attention and dual task performance. It is argued that developments from the 1950s may help us understand some of the attractiveness of current experimental work in pervasive gaming. These developments suggest that pervasive games may convey an embodied, implicit sense of openness to possibilities that is tied to the condition of divided attention. Two aspects of this implicit sense are suggested. Finally, it is also briefly suggested that the condition of divided attention may help us understand in what way narrative in pervasive games is distinctive. The object of this paper is to point out the significance of experimental developments at the intersection of the arts and technology to our understanding of human agency and narrative.

Keywords: Art and Pervasive Computing, Locative Media, New Media Arts, Pervasive Games, Art and Games, Art and Psychology, Art and Divided Attention, Experimental Art and Narrative, Lettrism and Situationism

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.161-172. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.163MB).

Dr. Astrid Vicas

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, FL, USA

Astrid Vicas is currently working on projects that examine the relation between agency, culture, and values, and that focus on the impact of developments in technology on our conceptions of agency and narrative. She is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Saint Leo University.

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