February 6, 2012

Cecil Brown on Games Blacks Love to Play

Dr. Cecil Brown began his lecture Games Blacks Love to Play by citing Marshall McLuhan’s 1964 observation that the games people play mirror the surrounding culture. Brown uses this stance—that games teach us about the culture they come from—to explore the history of African Americans, the interplay between black and white play cultures, and the effect these diverse forms of play had on American culture at large.

Brown divided American history into three stages. First, slave culture, in which outdoor physical play predominates. Under slavery, blacks rarely learned to read and write, as punishment was having your hands cut off. Black culture, thus, was primarily oral and kinetic out of necessity. Second, segregated culture, characterized by dance. Thirdly, integrated culture, which our digital culture is a part.

January 6, 2012

Computer: Plaything or Tool?


I recently gave a talk at the ASAP/3 conference that sketched the history of computers as tools & playthings. I’ve learned my lesson on giving dominantly visual talks: if you don’t have good notes then they are a major bummer to give in the future, plus nobody else can read them. What was I thinking when I made a slide with two blue arrows on it? You’ll find that you can basically read my notes off each page of the pdf: it’s almost exactly what I say during the talk. You’ll have to imagine my voice though. Two video segments (one of John Cimino showing off the Spore Creature Creator, another of Steve Jobs discussing computers as bicycles for our minds) are missing, but otherwise it’s complete. From the talk:

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