Thursday, April 03, 2008

Strange Ontologies

Another piece of work from my time at CEMA; this one a paper, co-authored with Mark Guglielmetti and Troy Innocent. This paper started with some discussions about models in generative systems, and a feeling that certain kinds of models, or rather certain ontologies - formally defined networks of entities and relations - play an important role in defining the generative outcomes of formal systems. Troy and Mark are also very much into gaming (more than me anyway, my peak gaming experience occurred about twenty years ago and involved an Amiga 1000); as we talked it seemed that these generative ontological structures might also be at work in some of the more interesting games and game art projects around. Mark made me sit down and play Portal (below). Then we started discussing social software...

So in this paper we consider both philosophical and computational senses of "ontology", and propose that computational ontologies (or data models) actually implement philosophical ontologies (notions of what "is"). What's more these ontologies become dynamic, interactive processes; and that's when things get interesting. We focus on "strange ontologies": where default, common-sense or conventional ontological structures are tweaked or hacked, or where emergent phenomena pop out from apparently straightforward structures of being and relation. We draw on examples from social software, gaming (including Portal and Warcraft), art games or game art (including Julian Oliver's Second Person Shooter), new media / generative art (Guglielmetti's own Laboratories of Thought (below) and Jonathan McCabe's Origami Butterfly Method).

The paper has been submitted to an upcoming issue of ACM Computers in Entertainment; for now, grab the pdf and cite it via the permalink for this post. We're seeking feedback on this too - let us know your thoughts.

1 comment:

JoshG said...

Rock the Amiga, amigo!

I still remember our beige highschool girlfriends with such tenderness *sigh* beautiful, simple yet clever, and constantly needing to be touched to obtain any response - the perfect partner ;-)