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Module Descriptor School of Computer Science and Statistics

Module CodeCS7027
Module NameContextual Media
Module Short Title
Semester TaughtSemester 1 and 2
Contact Hours

66 Hours
Semester 1: 33 hours, 3 hours per week
Semester 2: 33 hours, 3 hours per week

Module PersonnelSemester 1: Bernard Lucat (Cultural and Critical Theory), Vivienne O’Kelly (Interactive Narratives), Mads Haahr (Game Studies and Design), Semester 2: TBC (Cultural and Critical Theory), John Farrell, John Magee and James Quaine (Legal Issues for Digital Publishing), Mads Haahr (Game Studies and Design)
Learning Outcomes

Cultural and Critical Theory
On successful completion of the module students will have gained:
Essay writing and discursive skills
Critical skills with regard to technology, culture and society
A broad overview of the state of the art in new media art, critical design and media theory
Interactive Narratives
On completion of the module, students will be able to:
Recognise the variety of “interactivities” encountered in digital media
Understand how interactivity affects narrative design and communication
Analyse interactive narratives and assess trends over time
Create interactive narratives for a range of digital media
Legal Issues for Digital Media
On completing this module, the students will be able to:
Identify assets that may be protected as intellectual property, and distinguish between intellectual property in its different forms.
Identify and address legal considerations arising from establishing an online presence.
Game Studies and Design
On completing this module, the students will be able to:
Analyse games as texts in a structured and methodical manner in terms of story, aesthetics, gameplay and technology
Understand games from a historical and cultural perspective
Understand how platform considerations (e.g., controllers, hardware and social context) affects genre and gameplay
Design games using user-centric game design methodology and produce industry-standard game design documents

Learning Aims

Interactive Narratives
This course focuses on the concept of interactivity itself - how it is recognised and understood in both theory and in practice - and how this impacts on developing narrative structures for digital media. Students will be introduced to a variety of theories of interactivity, the challenges and potential in creating narratives with interactivity and the broad array of styles and contexts of interactive narrative.
Topics include:
Introduction to interactive narratives
Defining interactivity - in technology, users and communication
The history of narrative
Forms of Narrative - linear, non-linear, map
Creating narrative - tools, stories, characters, flow
The role of control and feedback
Properties of digital interactive narratives

Cultural and Critical Theory
This module will provide a cultural and critical context for interactive digital media practices. The relationship between culture, society and technology are explored, both at the level of theory and praxis. This module component is cross-disciplinary, using a range of theories from sociology, critical theory, anthropology, science and technology studies, software studies and media theory.

Legal Issues for Digital Media
Legal issues relating to establishing a presence online are explored together with how to identify and go about securing intangible assets (intellectual property) in digital media
This course is designed to give students an overview of the legal considerations that arise when working in the online environment. While not designed to put students in a position that they could advise on the subjects discussed, the course should enable students to identify and address possible commercial opportunities and potential pitfalls before they actually arise. Students should be aware of the variety of commercial opportunities that may arise through the deliberate or incidental creation of assets that may be protected via one or more forms of intellectual property. Students should also be able to identify potential problems associated with the use of third party intellectual property, and should also be aware of the various legal requirements relating to retaining information and doing business in the online world.

Game Studies and Design
Games constitute perhaps the most interactive of the interactive media. They also constitute a booming section of the entertainment industry and in addition have a range of serious applications, for example in learning and training. The course gives the student a solid grounding in the theory of games as a medium and in the practice of game design.

Module Content

Interactive Narratives
This course covers theory, historical assessment and practical elements of creating interactive narratives. Course materials include lecture notes, links to online materials and suggested a reading.

Cultural and Critical Theory
Semester 1:
What is Technology? What is Culture?
Epistemologies and technology (constructivism, post-positivism, pragmatism etc)
The ‘big’ debates (extropianism, neo-ludditism, anarcho-primitivism)
Technological determinism & Actor Network Theory (Technology Studies I)
The body & technology (from Foucault’s biopower to Haraway’s cyborg)
Feminism & technology (Layne, Butler etc)
Technology & postindustrialism (labour, autonomy, temporal dissolution)
When media becomes ‘new’ (Frankfurt School, McLuhan, Manovich)
Post-structuralism, (semiotics, simulacra & simulation)
Ontology of the techno-self
Review, essay discussion
Semester 2:
What is New Media Art
Technology studies II: STS & Actor Network Theory,
Media Archaeology
Convergence Culture
Software studies: Code, Protocol and everyday life
Overview: The Network Society
Locative Media & Ubiquitous Computing
Networked Publics & Smart Mobs: The role of social and networked media in political activism, sociality and play
Political Economy of Communications 1: The Audience Commodity, Immaterial Labour, Produsage, Web 2.0
Political Economy of Communications 2: FLOSS & Free Culture
Tactical Media, Hactivism & Critical Design

Legal Issues for Digital Media
The Data Protection Act and its requirements
The E-commerce Act, the Distance Selling Regulations & other consumer-related law relevant to running an online business.
Privacy issues in the online environment
The variety of Intellectual Property rights available (trademarks, copyright, patents, database rights, registered & unregistered designs), and what they can be used to protect.
Domain name registrations and the diffuse boundary between them and intellectual property (trademarks in particular)

Game Studies and Design
The course consists of two 11-week modules. The first part is an introduction to the emerging field of game studies and deals with the analysis of computer and video games as cultural artefacts on a par with film, literature and drama.
The following topics are covered:
The history of electronic games
Interface, genre and gameplay
Game analysis: Story, aesthetics, mechanics and technology
Archetypes and emotional engagement
Emerging interfaces, such as bio and brain interfaces
In the second half of the course, the students learn about formal and applied approaches to game design and produce a detailed design document as part of the course work. This part of the course is heavily project-driven.
Topics include:
Player-centric game design
Core mechanics and gameplay modes
Games’ internal economy
Level Design

Recommended Reading List

Interactive Narratives

Barthes, Roland (1977) Image, Text Music Fontana Press.

Baudrillard, Jean (1997) “Aesthetic Illusion and Virtual Reality” Art & Artefact ed. Nicholas Zurbrugg, Sage, London

Harrigan, Pat and Wardrip- Fruin, Noah Edited by (2004) First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Harmon, Katherine (2004) You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps OF The Imagination Princeton Architectural Press.

Kiousis, Spiro (2002) ‘Interactivity: a concept explication’ new media & society, Vol. 4(3) Sage, London

Laurel, Brenda (1991) Computers as Theatre

Manovich, Lev (2001) The language of new media, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA:

Murray, Janet H (1997) Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press


Cultural and Critical Theory

Bijker, Wiebe (Ed.), (1994) Shaping Technology,  Building Society, London: MIT Press.

Dunne, Anthony. (2008) Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience and Critical Design,  London: MIT Press.

Fuller, Matthew (Ed.) (2008). Software Studies: A Lexicon, London: MIT Press.

Halls, Stuart.,(Ed.)  (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices

Haraway, Donna., (1991). Simians, Cyborgs & Women: The Reinvention of Nature

Heidegger, Martin., (1993). ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. Basic Writings.

Mackenzie, Donald (Ed.), (1999) The Social Shaping of Technology, London: Open University Press.

Varnelis, Kazys (Ed.), (2007)  Networked Publics, London: MIT Press.


Game Studies and Design

Ernest Adams. Fundamentals of Game Design (2nd Edition). New Riders Publishing, 2009

Jesper Juul. Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005

Joost Raessens and Jeffrey Goldstein (eds.) Handbook of Computer Game Studies. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005

Jesse Schell. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. Morgan Kauffman, 2008

Mark J. P. Wolf and Bernard Perron (eds.). The Video Game Theory Reader. Routledge, 2003

Janet H. Murray. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press, 1997

Steven Johnson. Everything Bad is Good for You: How Todays Pop Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005

Selected papers from Game Studies and Games and Culture

Module Prerequisites


Assessment Details

Assessment is by Continuous Assessment via essays, projects, in-class tests, and demonstrations.

Module Website
Academic Year of Data1718