asiascape vistas

Techno-Culture, New Politics, and Philosophy in East Asia

Asiascape Vistas is a forum for discussion about the many and various dimensions of cyberculture found in or originating from East Asia. Its focus is on the interplay between these media and questions of politics & philosophy. Contributions are from the academic collective responsible for the core project, but other contributions will also be considered by that collective.
If you wish to contribute to Asiacape Vistas, please send an email using the form on the contact page.

Computopia I. Frontier Spirit

This is the first of a series of posts I've been planning to write on my current task: create a game that expresses your findings in the language of the medium you analysed. I've been working on "computopia: the game" for quite a while now and I can tell you, its tough.
In the following posts, I'm hoping to explain my approach (in a nutshell: FPS-based game created with Unity, programming in C#, trying to avoid investing in graphics and design and instead focusing on the idea and the mechanics) and my game idea in more detail as it develops (being secretive about it hopefully makes you more curious). For now, I'll leave you with some impressions of my first contact with contemporary state-of-the-art game design software.
There are several ways to approach such a project and several dimensions to take care of. In an ideal scenario, I would 1. learn a lot about how to set up such project, 2. plan it carefully, 3. have a good grasp of what I want to do, 4. acquire the necessary programming skills, 5. be part of a team rather than in individual. Since none of the above is really the case, this is a project that develops "en route", meaning that I'm trying to adapt to the obstacles as they appear. Surprisingly, this method is relatively successful (I can say this now, since I don't know the outcome yet) if you are resilient to temporary frustrations. Just to be clear: successful here is meant to say that I am making fair progress so far, considering that I wasn't equipped with the necessary programming and conceptual skills in the beginning. This observation, together with a recent review of Lev Manovich's Software Takes Command (2013) I wrote for the soon to be published Asiascape: Digital Asia 1(3), got me thinking more about the environment and conditions contemporary digital media offer for creative engagements. Based on my current experiences, I'd say that with enough "frontier spirit", many things are possible, because (1) roadmaps are ubiquitous (2) it is likely that somebody was there before you and left directions. Unfortunately, accidents and road blocks are never far...

(1) roadmaps
I remember my first programming experiments in Pascal and Assembler (I'm still frightened) as a high school student. Back then, there was some documentation of the languages, but since the Internet was not as fast and ubiquitous as it is now, I mostly relied on books about programming and specific languages. Programming in Unity now feels decisively different, since most solutions to taks I want to accomplish or problems I encounter can be found online. This doesn't mean that programming becomes copy-paste really, since most of the time the solution to a problem needs to be adapted to specific need. It does, however, mean that all necessary information is never much more than a click away if you know what you're looking for. What is more, Unity (and other development environments) offer tutorials for their most basic functions, including some scripting. At times, I almost had the feeling that youtube is the new bible for game design (aware that this comparison is somewhat lopsided). So recently, I find myself "learnwatching" C#.

(2) traces
Most problems have been experienced before. Others have had the same ideas, made the same mistakes, or have as little knowledge as I of the things I'm doing. It is not only comforting to find somebody asking the same (simple) questions, it also often leads to the solution, because that somebody or maybe somebody else has put some effort into finding and explaining a solution. I admire and salute the many volunteers who share their knowledge and experience online patiently and often without making fun of the amateur. Humanity is still not completely lost, or at least in forums and do-it-yourself videos it seems that way.

That all said, it probably testifies to my ignorance that I still get stuck from time to time. Risking to sound old-fashioned, I think this is because the short explanatory snippets and specific examples cannot really offer a cure to the lack of systematic knowledge of the matter at hand. I'm very willing to admit that I should probably refresh my programming skills and knowledge on a more fundamental level, starting with a more detailed understanding of object orientation etc.

But then again, I'm not a programmer. The real challenge for me and many other academics who work on digital media, it seems, is whether and how much one can really intervene actively the creative digital sphere without switching professions. This means accepting a patchwork of solutions and rudimentary graphics as sufficient, knowing that this is not ideal. But maybe even these adaptations are not enough? In a way, my current project may thus be an exploration of the boundaries not only of my own capabilities (which are quite limited), but of the academic context out of which I started it, in which practical engagements are rarely a first priority even when we deal with something as practical as digital media.

Public lecture & manga exhibition opening

Our Spotlight Taiwan Artist-in-Residence, Dr. Lien Fan Shen, has settled into The Netherlands and started her masterclass series on gender representations in popular culture at Leiden University's Honours Academy on June 4.
In addition to the technical and theoretical aspects of visualising sexuality in various media, Dr. Shen introduced her residency project--storyboarding for her upcoming animated documentary on female masculinity in Taiwan--to a diverse group of masterclass students hailing from anthropology, film studies, gender studies, graphic design, law, liberal arts and sciences, literature, philosophy, and psychology.  We look forward to hearing more as these intimate and intensive masterclasses continue, and to seeing the fruits of everyone's creativity at the final exhibition opening at the very end of this month, preceded by a public lecture programme featuring Dr. Shen's keynote on "(Re)visualizing femininity/masculinity".

You are most warmly invited to join Dr. Shen and her masterclass students on the early evening of Monday 30 June 2014 at the Leiden Honours Academy for the final lecture and festive opening of the residency exhibition.

17:00 - 18:00 Lecture programme
    • Welcome by Prof. Willemien den Ouden (Dean, Leiden Honours Academy)
    • Remarks by Mr. James Lee (Taiwan's Representative in The Netherlands)
    • Introduction by Dr. Cissie Fu (Co-Founder, Political Arts Initiative)
    • Keynote lecture by Dr. Lien Fan Shen (Artist-in-Residence)
    • Closing words and exhibition opening by Prof. Chris Goto-Jones (Director,; Co-Founder, Political Arts Initiative)
    18:00 - 19:00 Exhibition reception

    Do join us for a chat, drink, snack, and stroll through the residency exhibition, which highlights the artistic output of Dr. Shen's residency project as well as the manga creations by her masterclass students.

    This event is free and open to the public.  Please find further details and register here.  We greatly look forward to welcoming you on the 30th!

    Event announcement: New States and Societies in the Past and in the Future

    The LIAS State & Society Network invites you to an exciting event on Thursday 12 June 2014, entitled New States and Societies in the Past and in the Future, with 6 PhD student presenters and 2 distinguished keynote speakers on topics ranging from garbage to church hierarchy and from Babylon to future imagination.

    What can we learn from past and future states and societies today? Why should we care about their struggles, wars and transitions? What do they tell us about ours? The network’s spring event aims to address these questions by bringing together two distinguished scholars who work on the past and on the future with students from the network “State and Society” within the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies.


    My State and Society (12:45 – 15: 00, Lipsius 307)
    PhD students of the network give brief presentations of the states and societies they work on.

    Renate Dekker-- The Social Integration of a New Church Hierarchy in Late Antique Western Thebes
    Valantino Pamolango-- The Old and New Celebes (Sulawesi) - Indonesia
    Martin Roth -- The State of Play
    Aditi Mukherjee-- Negotiating Space: Refuge Colonies and the Indian State
    Yun-An Olivia Dung -- Garbage Matters: Recycling and Wasting in Taiwanese Society
    Sarthak Bagchi-- State and Society in India: a Journey from sammaan (Respect) to saamaan (Material Aspect)

    Keynotes (15:30 – 18:00, Klein Auditorium, Academiegebouw)
    We relocate to the Klein Auditorium of the Academiegebouw for the keynote lectures by our guest speakers. The session will be introduced and chaired by Erik-Jan Zürcher (LIAS).

    Seth Richardson (Chicago) -- The Many Falls of Babylon: Anticipation, Reception and Mesopotamian State Collapse
    Babylon in its day, like Rome, held a symbolic position as both the site of state collapse and as an “eternal” city.  This apparent paradox created an historical echo chamber which was productive of Mesopotamian notions of civic fragility and resilience for more than a millennium. I will try to grapple with not only the retrospective claims of reception histories of Babylon’s collapse(s), but their particular relationship to prospective evocations of state collapse in Mesopotamian thought: when is anticipation precipitation, and how?

    Adam Roberts (Royal Holloway) -- Clerisies, Science Fiction and the Future of Society
    In this lecture, Adam Roberts will talk about the way the two halves of his intellectual and creative life came together: science fictional thought-experiments about how society might be structured and 19th-century conceptions of 'the state' and political thinking.

    Drinks (18:30 – 19:30, Grote Beer)
    Please join us for drinks and further discussions in De Grote Beer, Rembrandtstraat 27.

    We hope to see many of you on the 12th, for the network’s first spring event!

    Martin Roth, Tero Alstola, Renate Dekker, Eftychia Milona, Daniel Soliman, Bastian Still, Caroline Waerzeggers and Erik-Jan Zürcher

    Call for papers - Post-Screen: International Festival of Art, New Media and Cybercultures

    The Post Screen Festival is calling for research papers about art, technology and culture mediated by screens, to be presented at the Post Screen Festival Conferences, November 28-29 in Lisbon, Portugal.


    The theme for this year is "Device, Medium and Concept'". The intention is to discuss the use of screen-based "devices" (traditional, analog or digital) as a tool used in artistic practices and social behaviours; the screen as "medium", entails the production and archiving of works of art, cultural and social activities, exclusively generated through technological screens making use of intrinsic technological attributes that a given medium provides; the screen as a "concept", refers mainly to the aesthetic, phenomenological and social aspects that involve the use of the concept of screen in visual arts and in our society.

    The proposal for paper must have 3-4 pages (according to the template provided on the festival's website), including references, introduction and abstract. Authors should present two abstracts in different languages (one must be in English).

    Fields of work: Visual Arts, Art History, Aesthetics, Film Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, New Technologies, Curatorial Practices, Social Sciences, Cultural Studies, New Media, Cinema

    Deadline: 15 June 2014

    For further information please go to: