Playable Bodies: Dance Games and Intimate Media by Kiri Miller

58599e7a5748948-261x361.jpg Author Kiri Miller
Isbn 190257849
File size 7MB
Year 2017
Pages 256
Language English
File format PDF
Category art


  i Playable Bodies ii   iii Playable Bodies Dance Games and Intimate Media Kiri Miller 1 iv 1 Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and certain other countries. Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America. © Oxford University Press 2017 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. Library of Congress Cataloging-​in-​Publication Data Names: Miller, Kiri, author. Title: Playable bodies : dance games and intimate media / Kiri Miller. Description: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2017] | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016032517 | ISBN 9780190257835 (hardcover : acid-free paper) | ISBN 9780190257842 (pbk. : acid-free paper) | ISBN 9780190257859 (updf) | ISBN 9780190257866 (epub) Subjects: LCSH: Dance and technology. Classification: LCC GV1588.7.M55 2017 | DDC 792.8—dc23 LC record available at 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Paperback printed by WebCom, Inc., Canada Hardback printed by Bridgeport National Bindery, Inc., United States of America   v (Every nerve and muscle in Rosamond was adjusted to the consciousness that she was being looked at. She was by nature an actress of parts that entered into her physique: she even acted her own character, and so well, that she did not know it to be precisely her own.) —​George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871–​1872) vi   vii CONTENTS Acknowledgments  ix About the Companion Website   xii Introduction: Dance Games and Body Work   1 1. I See You, I See You!   31 2. Dancing Difference/​Gaming Gender   61 3. Listening Like a Dancer   93 4. Practice, Practice, Practice   113 5. Choreographic Labor, FTFO   145 6. Intimate Media: Body Projects Megamix   177 Notes  211 References  213 Index  227 viii   ix ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My first thanks must go to the dance game players, designers, and choreographers who shared their time and insight with me over the past five years. To all of these gracious collaborators: I’m still thinking through your ideas and feeling out your choreography every day. Special thanks to the YouTube uploaders whose interviews are remixed in Chapter 6, the volunteers who danced with me and Aleysia at Brown, the participants on the DC player forums, and Matt Boch, Marcos Aguirre, and Chanel Thompson at Harmonix for extended conversations about the nature of virtual dance transmission. I’m also grateful to Denise Plouffe, my childhood dance teacher, for my earliest and most enduring lessons in repetition with a difference—​ and to Cjaiilon Andrade, my unexpected train companion, for sharing his experience as a young dancer on the rise. My brilliant and inspiring student research assistants Emily Xie, Aleysia Whitmore, and Tristan Rodman contributed enormously to this book. Their help was made possible through the support of Radcliffe’s Research Partnership Program, Brown’s UTRA program, and a grant from Brown’s Creative Arts Council. I’m also indebted to the students in my courses on Musical Youth Cultures, Digital Media & Virtual Performance, Ethnography of Popular Music, and Music & Technoculture. It has been a special privilege to work closely with students pursuing thesis and dissertation projects on technoculture, popular music, and media circulation topics at Brown; my thanks to Colin Fitzpatrick, Erik-​Dardan Ymeraga, Ben Nicholson, Joe Maurer, Yen Tran, Alexander Jusdanis, Tristan Rodman, Rasaan Turner, Liam McGranahan, Aleysia Whitmore, Triin Vallaste, Jordan Bartee, Francesca Inglese, Micah Salkind, Byrd McDaniel, and Cora Johnson-​Roberson. Our intellectual collaborations have been the best continuing-​education curriculum a scholar could hope for. Many friends, colleagues, and mentors in the academy discussed this work with me, invited me to present it on their campuses, offered feedback, and generally helped me feel like these ideas might be worth developing and sharing. They include Carol Babiracki, Greg Barz, Jayson Beaster-​Jones, Harmony Bench, Harry Berger, Betsey Biggs, Tom Boellstorff, Jim Buhler, Peter Bussigel, Mark Butler, Gianna Cassidy, Theo Cateforis, Will Cheng, Karen Collins, Nick Cook, Tim Cooley, Martin Daughtry, Beverley Diamond, Jeffers Engelhardt, Ana Flavia, x Melanie Fritsch, William Gibbons, Dana Gooley, Matt Guterl, Brian House, Monique Ingalls, Patrick Jagoda, David Kaminsky, Mark Katz, Bevin Kelley, Neil Lerner, Susan Manning, Peter McMurray, Karl Hagstrom Miller, Jim Moses, David Roesner, Susana Sardo, Martin Scherzinger, Rebecca Schneider, Brandon Shaw, Sydney Skybetter, Jason Stanyek, Michael Steinberg, Jonathan Sterne, Jane Sugarman, Tim Taylor, David Trippett, Steve Waksman, Peter Webb, Todd Winkler, and several anonymous peer reviewers. For collective conversation, thanks to the participants in the 2013 Mellon Summer Seminar on dance studies at Brown, the 2014 CRASSH conference on sonic and visual media at Cambridge, the Mellon Humanities Working Group on mobilizing music at Syracuse, the AHRC Research Network on music games and creativity, UCLA Inertia 2015 (Mike D’Errico!), Post-​Ip’15 at the University of Aveiro (Aoife Hiney and Rui Oliveira!), the 2016 North American Conference on Video Game Music (Neil Lerner!), and the 2016 Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces (¡¡Sydney Skybetter!!). For long-​term support and much close reading, my deepest gratitude to Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Richard Wolf, Tomie Hahn, and Judith Hamera. And to Jeff Todd Titon, my mentor in birdsong, heirloom vegetables, phenomenology, and department politics: your close listening remains unparalleled. Norm Hirschy, my OUP editor, has been an encouraging presence and ideal cross-​disciplinary reader from the first days of this project—​not to mention so responsive to email that I sometimes suspect he’s a bot, running AI so sophisticated that it has broken the empathy barrier. (Counterevidence: he’s also been present in convincing embodied form at every conference I’ve ever attended.) Ben Shaykin designed a cover that vividly depicts how dance games ask players to put their bodies on the line and test the edges of their comfort zones. I’m also grateful for the work of Lauralee Yeary, Jeremy Toynbee, Patterson Lamb, and all the OUP editorial, design, production, and promotions staff whose work is still to come. Here at Brown, my thanks to Jen Vieira, Kathleen Nelson, Mary Rego, and Ashley Lundh for the personal and administrative support that made it possible for me to bring this project to completion, and to Ned Quist, Laura Stokes, Nancy Jakubowski, Sheila Hogg, and Harriette Hemmasi for exceptional research support at the Brown University Library. I  began this research at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and later made great headway during a semester at Brown’s Cogut Center for the Humanities; I remain grateful for the material support and collegial conversations afforded by these research fellowships. Finally, my unending gratitude and love to the friends and chosen family who have seen me through from the difficulty-​at-​the-​beginning to the forking paths of outrageous fortune in this past year: Vanessa Ryan, Victoria Widican, Molly Kovel, Katie Mitchell, Sheryl Kaskowitz, Ben Shaykin, Barb and Joel Revill, Christina Linklater, Jessa Leinaweaver, Joshua Tucker, Carolyn Deacy, Megan Jennings, Te-​Yi Lee and Chris Jeris, Aaron Girard, Mary Greitzer, Natalie Kirschstein, Paja Faudree, Chance and Woody Allen, Cypress LaSalle, Jesse Polhemus, Jo Guldi, Zachary [ x ]  Acknowledgments   xi Gates, and James Baumgartner. A toast to the unending process of intimate mis/​ recognition: may we all find a propitious balance of bitter and sweet in our lives. This book is dedicated to the numbers 3, 31, 46, and 406. Earlier versions of some sections of this book have appeared in different form in the following publications: “Multisensory Musicality in Dance Central.” In The Oxford Handbook of Interactive Audio, ed. Karen Collins, Bill Kapralos, and Holly Tessler. Copyright © 2014 Oxford University Press. “Gaming the System: Gender Performance in Dance Central.” New Media & Society 17(6):939–​957. Copyright © 2015 by the author. “Virtual and Visceral Ethnography.” In Out of Bounds: Ethnography, Music, History, ed. Ingrid Monson, Carol Oja, and Richard Wolf. Copyright © 2017 Harvard University Press. The shape-​note scale in Figure I.4 is reprinted from The Sacred Harp with the gracious permission of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company, copyright © 1991. Acknowledgments  [ xi ] xii ABOUT THE COMPANION WEBSITE Oxford has created a website to accompany Playable Bodies. It includes links to auxiliary material related to the book’s content along with screencaps from the book in full size and color. Using the site will allow readers to continue conversation on- and offline.   xiii Playable Bodies xiv   1 Introduction Dance Games and Body Work W  hat can machines teach us about ourselves? If we reveal ourselves to them, what can they see in us that no one else can see? We ask these questions as we embark on intimate relationships with other humans. Increasingly, we are cultivating similar kinds of intimacy with the machines in our lives. We carry phones and tablets with built-​in user-​facing cameras and voice-​recognition software. We load them up with apps that track and analyze the number of steps we take, our GPS routes through the maps of our daily lives, the music we use to channel our emotions, the relationships we forge and maintain through social networks, our spending patterns and our sleeping patterns. We constantly generate parallel and intersecting streams of data. In return, we only ask: Tell me something I didn’t know about myself. And we also worry: What might this machine know and not tell? What might it conceal from me, but sell to someone else? What if it isn’t calibrated to recognize me properly—​if it can’t see me, am I  invisible? On the other hand, that invisibility might be a human superpower: It could be deeply reassuring to discover there’s something about oneself that a machine can’t perceive or feed to its black-​box algorithms. This book is about machines that teach humans to dance, and how the game of learning choreography is also the labor of developing an intimate relationship with interactive surveillance technologies. Dance games took the video game industry by storm between 2009 and 2014, outselling established game franchises and driving sales of newly developed motion-​sensing interfaces. Together, the leading dance game franchises Just Dance, Dance Central, and Zumba Fitness sold nearly 76 million game units over these five years (Lewis 2014, VGChartz 2016). In a period when many argued that digital games were moving out of living rooms and onto mobile phones and social media platforms, dance games demonstrated the 2 deep appeal of an entirely different kind of “casual” and “social” gaming (cf. Juul 2010, Jones and Thiruvathukal 2012). These games can be played in three-​minute sessions, yet they offer an immersive multisensory experience. They are accessible to novice gamers, yet their full-​body dance routines can be fiendishly challenging. They persuade players to move their bodies in new ways by promising a safe, private space for learning to dance, but they also capitalize on the complex pleasures of embarrassing oneself among trusted friends. While they rely on new interfaces and proprietary motion-​capture and motion-​tracking technologies, they are also built around already circulating popular music, and they offer players a transferrable skill: When players learn a dance, they are really dancing, with their own bodies. They can leave the game console in the living room and take those moves to the club, the prom, the gym, YouTube, and Twitter—​and they have. (See Figure I.1.) I embarked on this project with two broad questions: What happens when players learn an embodied repertoire from a virtual instructor, and what can motion games tell us about the enculturation of new interfaces as technologies of the body? Dance games make it possible for players to learn a physically demanding, minutely codified repertoire without ever interacting with a physically present teacher. They also offer opportunities for players to experiment with movement styles that don’t match their own sense of self. The dance styles in these games incorporate performative markers of gender, race, sexuality, class, age, and able-​bodied fitness, intertwined with received ideas about discipline, morality, virtuosity, natural talent versus learned skill, and creative agency versus compliant repetition. The private and public pleasures of digital dance games are bound up with their presentation of gendered and racialized kinesthetic repertoires; they invite players to imagine how it might feel to dance in someone else’s body. Figure I.1: A player-​produced gameplay video created for YouTube (riffraff67 2012). (Screenshot by the author.) [ 2 ]  Introduction   3 Playable Bodies explores five major thematic areas:  surveillance and control; performativity and embodied difference; kinesthetic listening; the virtual transmission of embodied practice; and choreographic labor. Each of these themes affords different insights into how dance games function as intimate media—​that is, how they configure intimate relationships among humans, interfaces, musical and dance repertoires, and social media platforms. In this book, “intimate media” refers not to media texts that present intimate material or media platforms that allow for discussion of intimate subject matter, but to media that choreograph the gradual accrual of intimacy over time, through practice.1 I proceed from the premise that intimacy is a relational quality, generated by dynamics of recognition and reciprocity as well as control and consent. It is not instant mutual knowledge but rather a form of cumulative understanding that entails deferred agency, vulnerability, and struggles to communicate. As we will see, dance offers a powerful model for thinking about intimacy in terms of multisensory experience and the materiality of human bodies. Dance games link those sensing, material bodies to interactive technologies that cultivate new techniques of moving, listening, seeing, and being seen. They teach players to regard their own bodies as both interfaces and avatars, a radical change from the established gaming paradigm of using a game controller to direct the actions of an on-​screen avatar. Dance games offer object lessons on the affinities of choreography and programming code—​as interactive and archival media, as technical practices, and as metaphors that people use to make sense of relationships among humans and machines (Bench 2009, Chun 2011, Galloway 2012). They also continually reassure players that choreography does not function like code, and that playable bodies are not automata. It’s easy to deploy choreography as a metaphor as though it were synonymous with puppetry, ventriloquism, programming, or other forms of direct control, but any dance technique class or rehearsal will demonstrate that choreography doesn’t actually work that way. Learning someone else’s choreography requires active participation, mobilizes cumulative technique, and engages dancers in interpretive work over the course of repeated practice. Dance games and their player communities illustrate new possibilities for the transmission of performance practice, for converting virtual social connections into visceral common knowledge, and for creating deeply engaging play experiences that bind together sound and physical movement. They offer new channels for teaching and learning embodied knowledge, and for indexing that knowledge through popular music. They make players’ living rooms into the staging ground for emergent forms of digital performance and participatory culture ( Jenkins 2006). At the same time, they raise questions about “the body as a laboring instrument, a force of production that is actively being displaced, recreated, and reimagined by digital technologies” (Burrill and Blanco Borelli 2014:439), and they draw attention to neoliberal capital investments in methods to measure “the human body and ‘life itself ’ in terms of their informational substrate, such that equivalencies might be found to value one form of life against another, one vital capacity against another” I n t r o d u ct i o n   [ 3 ] 4 (Clough 2010:221). Through my research with players and designers, as well as my own gameplay experiences, I have learned that performing this choreography can feel natural or transgressive, liberating or compulsory, playful or laborious. A BRIEF HISTORY OF DANCE GAMES Just Dance and Dance Central, the two game franchises I discuss in this book, were originally designed for two different motion-​sensing game systems: the Nintendo Wii console, purpose-​built for motion gaming, and the Xbox Kinect, a peripheral device for the existing Xbox console. As Jones and Thiruvathukal write in their book about the Wii, gaming platforms span multiple materialities—​from microchips to social institutions… . As a platform, a video game console is a computing-​based foundation for running games, but it’s also an example of industrial design, a consumer product, a generator of expectations as well as a media system that mediates between the various layers of hardware, code, interface, game, the screen, the player’s body, the peripherals, the living room, the invisible networks of communication technologies and the larger network, and the world. (2012:159–​60) When the Wii came on the market in 2006, it was positioned to compete with existing game consoles across these multiple materialities, in technical, social, and economic terms. The Wii promised an innovative yet accessible gestural interface, an emphasis on casual social gameplay in domestic spaces, and a significantly lower price point than the market-​dominating PlayStation and Xbox systems. These other consoles had been engaged in a graphics/​processing-​power arms race to better support increasingly high-​intensity, immersive, rapid-​response, action-​oriented, long-​session gaming. The Wii was intended to support a different kind of gameplay, one that would particularly appeal to casual/​social gamers and the all-​important and hitherto underexploited “consumer mom” demographic—​women who might appreciate the invitation to become players themselves, as well as purchasing games for their children ( Jones and Thiruvathukal 2012:31). The launch games for the Wii emphasized physically co-​present social gameplay and vigorous physical activity, handily addressing potential consumers’ anxieties about screen time, childhood obesity, how to create opportunities for active play in safely monitored spaces, and how to make consumer choices that properly demonstrate parental fitness (Bozon 2016). As Jones and Thiruvathukal observe, all gaming is social, but “the Wii was the first home video game platform consciously designed as a whole—​from initial concept to prototype to shipped product—​to first and foremost promote social gameplay out in physical space… . Engineering the social space of gameplay is its whole point” (2012:4–​5). With its mimetic interface and range of “prop” peripherals—​a hand-​held remote that can be a tennis [ 4 ]  Introduction   5 racket, sword, or conductor’s baton, a balance-​board platform that draws attention to the shifting weight of the player’s body—​the Wii frames the play space as “the center of the action, the place where gaming is meaningfully experienced, where the player’s body encounters the materiality of the platform” ( Jones and Thiruvathukal 2012:23). Wii Sports, the Nintendo-​developed launch title that came bundled with the Wii in most countries and was featured in television advertising for the new console, particularly emphasized these affordances. Sports-​oriented titles also established a strong link between the Wii and physical fitness, suggesting that the Wii could be a platform for guilt-​free productive play, or labor-​made-​fun. The Just Dance series has its roots in Rayman Raving Rabbids (Ubisoft 2006), a Wii launch title comprising a set of mini-​games that explored the potential of the Wii Remote as a gestural mimetic interface. A subcategory of dance mini-​games was entitled “Shake Your Booty!”—​an enthusiastic imperative that tells us a lot about the kind of social dance experience that Raving Rabbids aimed to evoke and that indexes a long history of global commercial circulation of African American popular culture. Notably, the Wii could not actually detect booty-​shaking in Raving Rabbids; it tracked the handheld Wii Remote, not hip or torso movements.2 Gameplay involved using arm movements to knock out an advancing cavalcade of bunnies in time to the music on a disco dance floor, reframing a boxing game as dance. Two years later, Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party continued to develop the dancing mini-​game category by challenging players to mirror a stream of freeze-​ frame poses modeled by stick-​figure icons. Just Dance, released by Ubisoft in 2009, built an entire game around this streaming-​icon system and a 32-​track playlist of licensed popular songs. Artists ranged from the Beach Boys and Anita Ward to Fatboy Slim and Katy Perry, with song selections evincing a mix of nostalgia, silliness, and anthemic bravura that became a signature of the franchise—​the same bring-​everyone-​to-​the-​floor strategy that drives the work of successful wedding DJs. As Harmony Bench observes, media formats choreograph bodies in highly specific ways: “Media represent bodily motion according to their protocols and parameters, and then compel dancers to fit themselves into the bodies that have been imagined for them” (2009:279). At the same time, “in the process of adapting and conforming to media formats, [dancing bodies] make new movement strategies available, render choreographies apparent, and reveal cultural assumptions regarding motion, labor, and corporeality” (6). Judging by its commercial success, Just Dance offered players compelling corporeal experiences and imaginative possibilities. Developed by Ubisoft’s flagship Paris studio, its built-​in cultural assumptions derive partly from contemporary Europe’s robust and diverse dance-​club cultures and warm embrace of dance-​pop musical genres, ritually marked as public culture through the nationalist spectacle of the annual Eurovision song contest (see, e.g., McRobbie 1993, Thornton 1996, Redhead et al. 1997, Raykoff and Tobin 2007, Garcia 2011). Just Dance was initially marketed with the expectation of greater sales in Europe than the United States; despite lukewarm critical reviews that dubbed it “technically and graphically crude,” the game was the top-​selling title in the United I n t r o d u ct i o n   [ 5 ]

Author Kiri Miller Isbn 0190257849 File size 7MB Year 2017 Pages 256 Language English File format PDF Category Art Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare What happens when machines teach humans to dance? Dance video games transform players’ experiences of popular music, invite experimentation with gendered and racialized movement styles, and present new possibilities for teaching, learning, and archiving choreography. Drawing on five years of research with players, game designers, and choreographers for the Just Dance and Dance Central games, Playable Bodies situates dance games in a media ecology that includes the larger game industry, viral music videos, reality TV competitions, marketing campaigns, and emerging surveillance technologies. Author Kiri Miller tracks the circulation of dance gameplay and related body projects across media platforms to reveal how dance games function as intimate media, configuring new relationships among humans, interfaces, music and dance repertoires, and social media practices.     Download (7MB) Revolutionizing Arts Education In K-12 Classrooms Through Technological Integration Screenplay: Writing the Picture, 2nd Edition Nuthin’ But Mech by Various Artists Caribbean Currents:: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae, 3 edition Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence Load more posts

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