Liveblogging From State of Play, NYC, Session 3

“Breaking the Magic Circle”

We had a prior discussion at my table about whether there’s anything much left of use in “the magic circle” as a concept, and someone mentioned a recent discussion by Jesper Juul on the issue.

Jerry Paffendorf discusses the graphing of different kinds of online experiences at, point of observing that the ways in which virtual world experiences spill out or become visible to some publics. He’s got a project for selling a square inch of land in Detroit, using them to link to virtual spaces. (Loveland)


Alexander Macris, publisher & editorial director of The Escapist.

Use of achievement system within forums spurred a lot of forum participants to find ways to get badges, etc, how that makes participation (and incentives) on a forum very “game-like”, MMO type…so how MMOs are becoming a larger metapractice. How to make rock-paper-scissors more exciting–culmulative, competitive, contextual. “for our audience, what mattered more was what was outside the ‘game’ of badges, not inside of it–the external systems of recording etc.”


Beth Coleman, media studies at MIT

“emergent design principles in X-reality design”
how design between virtual and real interact and iterate on each other
“if we’re moving toward ubiquitious computing, we need to move towards an experience of ubiquitious use”

Another claim in this case that 3d modeling makes controlling or commanding processes in the real world, but I find this one much more satisfying and intriguing, partly because it’s not a comprehensive claim, focused on particular (and highly spatial) kinds of physical work that requires complex two-way information flows.

More detailed paper on her arguments is availabl
e. Very interesting.

Elizabeth Lawley
“tangible matters”
the tangibility of the virtual makes a difference.

Why are we at this conference, given that we could do it all online?
social capital needs to transfer across a magic circle to be valuable; can’t be tied up in a world

Liz argues that this is about inherent desire, that we have a need for materiality.

[One thought: I wonder how much of this point is getting tangled up in a difference between the ephemeral and the persistent, e.g., we value some objects not just because they’re material, graspable, touchable, but because they last. there are a lot of ‘tangible’ things which are very short-lived that we struggle to keep hold of, and a lot of tangible but ephemeral moments are also private, only something you remember: a view on a hike, a butterfly that crosses our path, etc.]


Dennis Crowley, how game-logics spill out into the world. A lot like Thomas Malaby’s point about gas mileage and ludocapitalism. Mentions Feltron Reports, very interesting example. Once you start thinking of everyday life in ludic terms, and social software lets you make that something other than a private or idiosyncratic understanding, what happens to everyday life.

[Another thought: as is often the case around these topics, I think people are overstating the novelty of making everyday tasks into something ludic, or creating a game-like feeling around accumulative or numerical tasks. Putting notches in a gun, etc. Heck, Gimli and Legolas playing “kill the orc”. This is a pretty old and elemental way to talk about repetition, accumulation, and so on. The difference here is the technologically-mediated collection of individual action and its reporting in systems of achievements, badges, placements into maps and spaces, and so on. The impact is not that something becomes playful suddenly that was not, but that you gain a sense of all other people playing a game; that the playfulness of tasks become transparent to all the people interested in or involved in the system. That cuts both ways, as you can see with WoW achievements. On one hand, it’s fascinating to find out what everyone else is doing in WoW, and what your practice is in relation to that; on the other hand, it becomes a driver of what people do, and the basis for a new and maybe unwanted system of social power.]

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