Looking for Clues in text

It is fascinating what we can indagate from snippets of text and argument. I always found that twitter scrapping or Facebook scourging for information might be a bit odd, if not pointless. But revising this and thinking about what it can tell us, it is actually a tool that I can only see used nowadays. The simple fact that we can now search for keywords in such massive databases and cross relate it to metadata makes for a fascinating theme that can be used to learn more about those who write, why they wrote it and never lose sight of their particular characteristics.

We do have to think about his with a grain of salt though, sometimes a few snippets of text might not give us the whole scoop and context, but it is a fascinating way to get a general idea. And with some refinement and inventive curiosity we can even make use of some interesting queries to find out more about a moment in time, an event or a theme.

Mapping a story

What story could I tell by using an interactive map?


There are a few things I could find that would be interesting to present in this format, a narrative about fandoms and enthusiast in Mexico city, so let me tell you a brief story about where alternative cultures and groups find each other.

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The tianguis and the importance for Mexican Culture.


In the pre hispanic era, the natives of what is known now as Mexico gathered their goods and sold them in special places called Tianguis. These tianguis where not only  a place for trade and commerce, it was also a center of cultural exchange between cultures and groups.


The earlier center of trade.


The ruins of Teotihuacan (Literally means “the birthplace of gods”) where once a great center of trade for many cultures of the Mesoamerican region of Mexico and beyond. The site itself is an amalgamation of many architectural techniques, that by the time the Mexica arrived to the region was already a sacred ruin.


Spanish conquest.


The “Plaza de las tres culturas” is an important zone of Mexico city, today it is a place where modernity, colonialism and Mexica ruins live together, it is the site of a very sad chapter in Mexican history and right before the spanish conquest one of the largest and most important sites of trade of the region.


Tianguis de San Felipe


In the modern era, Tianguis have, for the most part, remained hub of trade for small producers, selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and all sorts of foods and goods. It is not unheard for these Tianguis to reach massive sizes, now following a traveling model. Tianguis in Mexico city are itinerant, taking certain days of the week, and putting up their stalls to offer goods at a weekly basis, and with San Felipe being one that offers over 7 kilometers of stalls, the variety of goods offered is staggering.


El Chopo.


However tianguis have begun to morph into something else, the idea of offering goods has broken towards  speciality and niche. The “Mercado del chopo” is a contra culture place where fans of grunge, metal, punk and other counter culture music and movements can find goods aimed at them. Dark clothes, studded leather, vinyl records and handcrafts are offered by skilled artisans, a throwback to the times of the prehispanic tianguis and serving as a hub for finding other followers of every movement.


Friki Plaza.


In a similar vein the Tianguis also finds a use for fans of pop culture. Fans of video games, trading card games, anime, manga and comics find a safe space where they can buy memorabilia, find other players and enthusiasts to create fan art and maybe even show off cosplay (dressing up as characters). Tianguis have become again a place for cultural exchange in a wide variety and more can be find in a metropolis like Mexico city.

Engaging Gamers

Knowing my user base, my subjects of interest, gamers, comes from the knowledge of being a gamer myself. If I can put myself into different shoes and consider the preferences and interests of several groups of people I will be able to engage and offer something for all them.

Of course the common thread in this games, but exactly what kind of games could I consider, and what narrative would I establish. Trying to encompass all gamers in a  sweeping move might be impossible without finding a common thread.

If I want to focus on Multiplayer Games players, I would be wise to know which games to attract, and to keep competition in my mind and themes, while if I prefer to approach gamers who prefer single player games, usually with strong Narratives, I could focus on source materials and script quality. In both cases appealing to what unifies several games would be the way to go.

One advantage that addressing Gamers has is that they are usually technology savvy, know how to engage an interface and can be expected to be somewhat proficient with navigation tools. But it also means that their interest and attention span might be limited without an interface that is not engaging. Thus instead of offering chunks of information a light gamification of the content could be more engagement alluring, and if it is space that allows for user registry and personalization, perhaps an achievement system could be implemented. It all comes down to what I wish to represent and put out there for them, that I something I need to think about? Do I want to offer a depository of information and pieces of “food for thought”? Or do I want to offer a mirror for them to contemplate on their own conditions and ideals?

That is something I must still debate.

Personas of Gamers


In my research I deal a lot with gamers, gamers of all economic and cultural origins, with a special interest in Latin America gamers and with a preexisting database of Mexican players. In particular, I am interested in the personas of these gamers in function of their relationship with their family and community, including their jobs. Thus, three archetypical personas I have encountered in my previous research could look something like this:


Miguel Sanchez: University Student.
Background: Engineering Sophomore at UNAM (Largest public university in Mexico)
Gaming Choice: PC, Occasional Mobile.
Gaming Time: 3-5 times a week, sessions averaging 2 hours.

Quick Take on Miguel: Receives a stipend form the government, has a desktop computer he put together himself, has a background in Mechanics.

Key Goals: Miguel is trying to keep a high GPA while going through college, college is competitive in Mexico and thus his grades determine hiss opportunities. Right now things are good, between his parents help and a government stipend he can stay away from having a part time job, thus he can dedicate time to playing videogames.

Recently he started playing League of legends with other classmates, finds the experience bonding and it can be fun, he is looking into learning more about the game and mechanics. He is focused on online games.

A day in Life: Miguel has classes 4 days a week, he commutes every day an hour and a half each way to get from his family house to the university, his first class is at 8 am. Once there he spends up to 6 hours in campus. As a sophomore he is still to have more compromises. After class he will occasionally hang out with friends, going to a bar or at the nearby hot spots. Miguel goes home in the early evening. Gaming came in the form of online games that he plays mostly with classmates form the university, he has since invited friends from high school that he stays in touch with. Recently he has been looking into more games that are single player. His parents think the gaming thing is just one more entertainment their son does.

Some friends took them to the city’s “geeky” plaza, where he got himself a hat themed after the game they play and he is getting more interested in the lore of the game. Luckily Miguel can be at ease maintaining his GPA for now, and the stipend he receives from the government means he has the extra time to play and enjoy his time. As a mechanical engineer student, he is very adept with computers, the gaming rig he currently uses was put together by himself, they are not premium components, but they get the job done and he has make sure they work well. He is saving up to upgrade his graphics card.


Humberto Suarez: Cashier at a fast food restaurant.
Background: College dropout.
Gaming Choice: PC, Occasional console.
Gaming Time: 7 days a week, sessions averaging 5 hours.

Quick take on Humberto: Has a computer he had a friend put together for him, works fulltime in a fast food restaurant and lives with his parents, pitching in for utilities.

Key Goals: Humberto is trying to make it big, he considers himself and adept game player and is striving to be accepted into one of the professional teams in Mexico. He dropped out of college because of low GPA. He works full time, but any free time he has he spends honing his gaming skills.

Prefers competitive games that are considered E-Sports, and money he does not use for basics is invested into gear and hardware.

A day in life: Humberto works 8 hours a day, 6 days a week in a fast food restaurant, that means his average day of work starts around 9 am and ends around 4 pm, unless he has a shift in the evening, these changes in shift are periodical. Humberto lives within walking distance of his job, so he can go have lunch at his house. Humberto believes his skills in games are good enough to join the professional circuit, he plays FPSs (First Person Shooters) and is in talks to join one of the Mexican professional Teams. His English is good, and he keeps a good standing within the leaderboards.

Humberto only really interacts with his teammates, but does have a stable relationship with his parents, as long as he keeps helping with utilities, however their parents seem to be losing patience and do not understand his dedication to games. Humberto hopes to be a pro and play for money soon.


Viviana Ramirez: Marketing Executive.
Background: College Graduate.
Gaming Choice: Console, Occasional PC.
Gaming Time: 5 days a week, sessions averaging 3 hours.

Quick Take on Viviana: A salary worker at an international company, lives on her own in an apartment, has a current gen gaming console and a store bought gaming computer.

Key Goals: Viviana likes her job, she gets paid well and moving up the corporate ladder. From youth she has enjoyed videogames and has kept this interest now that she lives on her own. She keeps up with current console titles, keeping up with franchises she likes. She is dating but has no urge to settle down.

Prefers single player games, though occasionally she will jump into online games with friends, has thought about live streaming her gaming.

A day in life: Viviana works from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, though days she stays at the office until 6 or 7 pm are not unheard of. She commutes almost an hour each way, having a car but preferring public transportation. Her job applies everything she has learned in college and she is satisfied with her current situation, though getting a raise/promotion is always on her mind. She gets home and as part of her routine she plays videogames, she always has a title she is currently working on, trying to unlock everything in the game she currently plays, except for any achievements that require online multiplayer, she does not particular like those.

She does delves into multiplayer as long as she is playing with friends, she has a laptop she got for that that doubles as an office laptop at home. Viviana has an interest to delve into live streaming games, seeing many English speaker girls do the same and get revenue she believes she plays enough to have a mastery on this, plus she is enthusiasts for the lore and fandom around her favorite titles. She has memorabilia and merchandise from them.


Some of the information I got ere I got from actual interviews and compile them into these three archetypes. Some of the information is relevant, for example the gaming choice, as it reveals what games the players play and how they play it.

A different approach to history

Sometimes when we think about history in videogames, I think we get it all wrong. While it is important to consider the history of when games where created, when certain consoles and titles hit the market are important perhaps what we need to consider more is the history when certain events happen. Though, it is important o underline that this would make of the history of videogames something very contemporary and a very moving forward kind of situation. Mayor events are only now starting to come up, with some few tournaments and gatherings starting to pop up just in the early 2000’s. However, if we want to be a bit more creative something that has existed from the beginning are magazines. Perhaps a motivated scholar could find archives where magazines like Nintendo power are gathered, along with other titles that could help us discern the historical context of the gaming history. In these magazines we could find things like cheats and tricks for the classic games, offers for merchandise and the earlier forms of video game affiliation in the form of clubs.

Perhaps another way to think about video game history is in function of its regulation, a quick scope of when and how the ESRB was created. Another way to track history is with scholarly papers, that would be an interesting trip, as the history shows a notable theme that starts with video game violence, goes into the world of exergames and now recently goes into the more positive effects that video games can have in the individuals. Another line of historical analysis is the way videogames are distributed, not all markets where reached at the same time and some places took a lot longer to be considered.

One thing is for sure, if we want to start building a history of gaming we need to do it in function of what we can see. We do have the advantage of games being a recent occurrence, and most of the archival date that we would want to find might be somewhat available, but how we use it and analyze it is where the challenge lays in.

A work of pioneering new media.


Poetry in hypertext: Narratives in motion.

“The Quick Brown Fox Jumps over the Lazy dog” Such phrase is pretty familiar amongst English speakers with the grasp of what a pangram is. In short; a pangram is a phrase that makes use of all the letters of the alphabet, a composed sentence used to exemplify the use of the written language. Pangrams exist in most written languages, used to illustrate fonts and typeset or merely as cognitive exercises.

But in the case of Alan Bigelow’s “Pangram” it is a means to express a sense of orientation, a remix of meanings and experiences. Produced in 2011, “Pangram” is a creative and novel way to put a traditional kind of product in a novel way to experience a content and to give the user multiple options to go through a content that put on paper might seem like a drop of water in an ocean of literary products.


The idea behind “Pangram” is to present a poem in such a way that the reader has multiple possibilities to experience it. Form the beginning, the name of the piece is an indication of what to expect of the work. Bigelow devices a clever way to deliver his poem, taking his writing and tossing it into a hypertext that not only conveys the work in a traditional matter, it also allows the reader to play with it and experience it at its own pace.

As for the means of how “Pangram”  is presented it is formatted in Adobe Flash. Now, Flash nowadays might be seem like a phasing medium, but it does allow for a dynamic environment to put sound and imagery together with certain animation to create the desired effect. Sadly, unlike using Java or HTML it is impossible to peer into he source code to appreciate more technical detail without using specialty programs. As a side note, I make note of this because in some cases, especially in e-lit (electronic Literature) authors hide notes and comments in the code, as well as those with savvy knowledge about programming can appreciate some of the effort put into it.

Continuing with he delivery aspect of this work, “Pangram” is first presented with advice “Is your computer’s sounds on?”.

“Pangram” is a multimedia experience, convincing text, animation, colors and yes, sound. The sound has a baseline that puts the user into a sense of attention, once tis thresholds passed, the poem literally gets moving, starting with a teaser of the phrase “The Quick brown fox…” before affirming that this is a pangram. Afterwards the animation gives way to interactivity, the user will be presented with the baseline music and the whole pangram, there are no instructions to follow, but curiosity and a bit of intuitive navigation will lead the user to hover their pointer over the letters. Every item a letter is hover on top of, the screen changes to a line of the poem, each starting with one of the alphabet letters. Every selection is also accompanied by a tone, that might sound familiar to keen eared users, but that at the moment is jumbled, much like the poem itself.

However as the user explores the poem and lights up the pangram in colors, the narrative seems to be jumbled and at the same time somewhat understandable, and once the user light up everything and gets to that final period, animation once more takes over and rearranges the letters into alphabetical order and color coded.

By doing this the user unlock the “traditional” structure of the poem and can read the piece in order, but keen eyes will notice that while the tones are now in a logical order, the alphabet loses its color and once they do, the alphabet scrambles and reforms the pangram. And a loop is created, and now equipped with self efficacy the user can start exploring the poem in different ways, having a basic understanding, appreciating the animation and imagery provided.

The experience a user might undertake is that of initial hesitation followed y understanding and ultimately curiosity. The cues that the poem employs are mutisomantic, appealing to different senses at the same time.  It is necessary to the user to o into the piece with the intention to interact and discover as I believe that making the interactivity too explicit takes away form the experience.

It is also notable that the poem has that moment where it switches for the pangram to the orderly alphabet. This moment of rearranging gives the user a sense of what they are looking for, but since the full experience in each case is changed after every time it is fully highlighted or deprived of colors, it is interesting to see how different users interact with it and to know if they got the gist of the poem or if it is amore about the interactivity and little audible cues.

By the end of this poem hopefully the user would have experienced a poem in a different way, nowadays a perhaps dated work, primitive and rustic, but in my opinion, still relevant and innovative.  “Pangram” I believe succeeds in peeking the user’s curiosity to see in how many ways can they interact with the narrative of the poem, to see if each color of the letters is related to their respective vignettes, if they can observe and rearrange in different ways to get different meaning out of the narratives.

The possibilities of presenting literature allow for those cases when the author would rather let users come to their own conclusions and interpretations rather than imposing their own. Yes, a base meaning might exist, but the ultimate understanding and experience is taken by a case by case basis.

Hypertext does represent a way to create these experiences, where little details can be included with the objective of alluring, provoking and mobilizing the user to want to see more and hopefully consider that poetry can be fluid and ever changing, that the order can change meaning while maintaining the elements there. A reshuffle of the elements giving a different narrative.

Alan Bigelow in the credits, accessible at the beginning of the work, denotes his role a “Spun by” not “written” or “coded” by, meaning that he knows this will be remixed and reconstructed, torn to pieces and then reassembled. All in a convenient format, online and ever dynamic environment.

A Rubric for a new kind of media.

To observe and consider new media, works of creativity and creation in a new dimension we need to think about how things are presented, what they want to represent and say with this new work. Or rater; a kind of remix of old presented in a new ecology, old travelers in new roads trying to find ways, means and meaning.

However to review this work at a critical level we must be permissive of what falls into the subjective and the objective. One can’t be considered without the other, and both have a valuable element to give the other. Categories of evaluation can be displayed, and even if more stablished and documented criteria exist for formal essays and papers, new media needs to have special consideration in order to deal with the especial environment being used.

We must consider categories that cover a group of values and elements at different stages of the work. We must remember that works of digital media have a certain temporality, the themselves represent a narrative to follow, a starting point to begin with and follow. Thus, my proposal for a rubric encompasses the following categories.: Intention, Delivery, Reception and Outcome. Representing both objective dimension and subjective dimensions.

The first two are objective dimensions:

Intention must deal with the thematic behind the work, what is the content that wants to be represented and presented. This is the part of the work that deals with the title, the content, the idea behind the work. This is the piece at a conceptual level and where we evaluate the work on the merits of the work itself.

Delivery is how the author puts the intention forward and how it is reachable by the Consumer. Delivery is where we evaluate and consider the technical ingenuity and prowess of the author. This is where we see the map and we try to follow along to see if it is an orderly affair, a controlled chaos or a bit of a mix of both. Here we can appreciate the resources used, the presentation of the work as well as the technical details.

The next two elements are subjective dimensions:

Reception deals with how the consumer receives the content, how they can interact and how much of it is understandable and how much requires either repetition of the exercise or further mental exercises to fully grasp. It deals with the impact of the media on the person, the dimensionalities of the consumer’s senses activated and challenged in order to move on to the next dimension of evaluation.

Outcome refers to the ultimate effect of the reader’s experience, the assumed and hopefully accurate, results on those interacting with the digital media creation and how that would make them think and reflex in any element of themselves.

It is true that some of these criteria depend on the better judgement of the evaluator and with a capacity to put themselves in several perspectives in order to evaluate a piece of work as something that will be consumed by both mainstream audience and experts (and anyone in between). However, for those creations based on creative works and more subjective themes it is important to accept and embrace the evaluator’s point of view by maintaining the criteria consistent soothers can come into a new work and try to see it under the same rubrics even if from a different perspective. In this case, even divergent opinions could carry truths and move forward a conversation that otherwise would be limited.

The final evaluation can be structured by using these as guidelines, moving from one to the other to not only represent the work, but to make a narrative of it trough the content, context, interactivity and result of it.