draft Configuring the dancer: intro

During periods of relative stability, popular entertainment and information media forms tend to be studied as conduits of stories, ideas, images, jokes, dramas. The screens, speakers and cables through which these images and stories reach us fall beneath our attention. We, as audiences, are understood by media producers as recipients of, to use a contemporary ugly phrase, media “content.” The task of the producer, whether that be television programmer, film company, or news editor, is to address and sustain attention this audience, a body that is regarded as largely coherent, stratified by class, and static – albeit fickle in its affections. Media studies has theorised and conducted empirical studies of the negotiated or subversive ways in which an audience might read and understand media messages in ways not intended by the producers. It has also questioned the apparently universalist assumptions about the make-up of audiences, analysing the different ways in which social groups might respond to media according to gender class age etc. Whilst the generic and ideological, conventions of different media are recognised and theorised, the technical and material construction and operations of media are often taken has given, and not seen as significant in the communication or appropriation of mediated meaning.

However, at times of rapid media technological change, such as the media environment we’re living through at the moment, with recent decades’ transformation of broadcast and entertainment medias technical modes of production and dissemination, this critical blindness to technologies is unsustainable. Whilst I would argue that contemporary technological change and attention to that change might suggest to us that we revisit periods of stability, For example the dominance of domestic television from up in the latter half of the 20 20th century, we should also note the distinct material differences of specifically digital technology.

These distinct characteristics numerous and the ways in which they engage with and are engaged by audiences are of course beyond the scope of one essay. However to make sense of the affectual operations of interactive digital media, For instance games, we must pay at least as much attention to their machinic operations as to their symbolic content and structure.

This essay will foreground these affectual mechanics through and ethnographic of the design of an innovative mobile game. In this case there is no audience as such or as yet, the audience, or players or participants must be imagined, designed for, all in deliberately technical language, configured.