Edits are tough. My (now) wife writes grant proposals for a non-profit and I cannot count the number of times she has come home from work feeling sad because she was edited so hard. I try and tell her that it’s easier to edit than it is to put everything together, and that is certainly true, but when it gets down to it – being edited is an emotional event.
Still, it is a necessary one. I got my first edits back on my thesis draft from people who are not my chair. It has been amazing to see how this thing has changed, how I have changed. One edit I was asked to do was:
Do you have a theoretical perspective? I see a brief reference to LaTour, but would prefer to see a better description of your theoretical framework (see attached articles for examples in terms of format) and see it integrated throughout the findings and addressed in the conclusion.
When i have written a paper in the past, I always avoided this section. I dislike the idea of needing to discuss this as it tends to distract from the what by bogging it down in the how. Still, as an assignment and a reflection of the things i’ve learned in this program, I need to address this. I embedded the theoretical perspective throughout the paper but I should probably dissect it and make it more of a conscious thing. It is difficult though. By internalizing theory, it gets difficult to really describe it using things I have read.
With that in mind, I wanted to explore it here:
The basic theoretical perspective I want to employ for my thesis is best summed up in 2 words: figuration and imitation. These two ideas are prevalent in research on diffusion but are also omnipresent within the work of Bruno Latour. Like most things I am excited about for a while, i quickly feel embarrassed by it and shy away from mentioning or talking about it.
Latour is a theorist who, through a long sequence of events associated with the birth of post-modernism and the eventual birth of the re-modernists (post structuralists, or whatever you want to call them – Object Oriented Ontologists maybe), decided that perhaps sociologists should study people. The theoretical basis for my entire thesis is essentially, “commonalities, not differences.” I am interested in how games from different cultures, which are noticably different from box art to control scheme, are similar. I am also interested in how that similarity is expressed. Is it ontological, epistemological, design foundations, or something as shallow as, “well, it sold well.”
The basis for this comes from a longer quote from Gabriel Tarde and a smattering of passages from Bruno Latour. The Tarde passage is:
“To exist is to differ; difference, in one sense, is the substantial side of things, what they have most in common and what makes them most different. One has to start from this difference and to abstain from trying to explain it, especially by starting with identity, as so many persons wrongly do. Because identity is a minimum and, hence, a type of difference, and a very rare type at that, in the same way as rest is a type of movement and the circle a type of ellipse. To begin with some primordial identity implies at the origin a prodigiously unlikely singularity, or else the obscure mystery of one simple being then dividing for no special reason.”
The reason for this is that I don’t want to lump people into some type of identity but there is a need for a few short hands. Each game, every piece of hardware meant to run a game, is a figuration. Figuration is basically a point at which an unknown amount of associations (between people and things) coalesce. Something is typically produced.
So, in reference to a video game we reach a point whereupon we can detach the trappings of design purity (that games are games and only games) and muddle it up with reference to the people who make the game are essentially working with everything that designer has associated with in their lives. While Latour uses the terms mediator and intermediaries to symbolize that which flows and that which changes, I believe these terms muddle this definition with too much detail.
So, the theoretical basis for this thesis is that people and objects differ as default. In order to understand society, the object of study for sociologists, we must realize that the objects and people who are within a society are not influenced by some entity called society which exists outside ourselves. What we must do is realize that our interactions form the basis of society and that the objects we produce are moments in which our interactions, our actions, coalesce. Those objects should be studied rigorously and that is why video games are important.
Imitation becomes important because objects are society made durable (to quote Latour). If we take an object and begin to trace all associations with it, to its creation, we can see what all people involved were imitating. For Tarde, imitation is the basis of existence (as well as society). We as people, imitate beliefs and desires or motives transmitted from one individual to another.
This becomes important because imitation is the key to making sense of geographical differences and boundaries of different cultures. Even though we imitate something made in Japan (like, say, a platformer), we still make sense of it given our own experiences. We still imitate it based on our individual understandings of things. The literal distance between a Japanese designer and a designer in the United States is vast and the amount of times that association, the idea of that imitation, has been communicated is infinite.
This is how things (ideas) change and this, I think is the theoretical basis I think I am going to start with. It needs some work but I think it is a great start!