The Essay Question

2. ‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’ (Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian newspaper, ‘The splintering of the fourth estate’, .. via ).

How is the diminution of traditional, and often hierarchical, “authoritative” intermediaries changing the role of publishing in social life? You should choose one broad area of publishing, such as, for example, journalism or music publishing.


The diminution of large traditional intermediaries has certainly changed how publishers, developers and customers interact in the PC game publishing scene. The internet has made way for many alternative methods to publish a game over the traditional method of going through a game publishing company. However, the role that game publishing serves in the social life, to distribute and promote, remains the same.

The role of large game publishing companies for was to fund, promote and distribute games (Brand & Knight). It was very important, if not critical, for a game to be backed by a publisher and this can be seen in the history of SimCity. The initial version of the game was created in 1985, but didn’t come into the public eye until 1989 when Broderbund backed and published the game (ACMI) which gave it the boost it needed to start off the popular Sims franchise.

Today, the efforts of large game publishing companies such as Ubisoft can be seen day to day from adverts on television to official websites that serve to entice customers to buy the game. One notable recent example of a heavily promoted game from Ubisoft would be Far Cry 3 that has a collection of video clips, an official website and television adverts amongst others. Ubisoft takes its role to promote seriously, as seen from the €304, 941, 000 on marketing alone in the financial year ending on March 2013 (Ubisoft, 2013). From Far Cry 3’s official site, we can see that the publisher has control over the distribution of the game, and how that game will be distributed.

Companies such as Ubisoft, Electronic arts and Nintendo are fulfilling their role as a publisher by promoting and distributing the games that they back. In the social life, their role is to bring their products to a target market.

The diminution of traditional intermediaries such as these can be seen through the many new channels of publishing that are now available to game developers. Platforms such as Steam and Desura in addition to funding methods such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo allows game developers to publish independent from large companies. These indie developers are able to take control of how and when they distribute their games, without fear of being rejected as a risky investment (Langlotz, Rhode & Whaley, 2008) or influences from the publishing company.

Steam is a popular and well known game distribution platform used by professionals and indie developers alike. It features a Greenlight feature that allows indie game developers to publish their games, provided there’s sufficient community interest (Steam). The process involves paying a one time fee of a hundred dollars then upon approval, steam will organise price and launch with the developer (Steam). From January to May 2013, Steam has launched on average fifteen games a month (Steam, 2013).

Desura is another digital distribution platform that can be used by indie game developers to distribute their games. It comes without the fee that Steam has, and the process is much simpler than Steam’s Greenlight process. Game developers have the ability to upload materials of their game without a community approval process (Desura).

Both Steam, once the game has been approved, and Desura offer games their own pages from which game developers can post news and update their games as well as offering services to distribute digital copies of the games, fulfilling the role of distributing that game publishers originally had. These platforms can also serve as a step in the role to promote games. Steam and Desura have large communities surrounding them, and the chance to showcase game on these platforms can serve to boost exposure (Booker, 2012). This isn’t to say that developers don’t need to market and promote their own games, because they do (Grayson, 2012).

Of course, these are only two of many ways to publish and distribute games. The internet has a range of filesharing methods, and game distribution can occur through file downloads from a server. A well known indie game, Minecraft, makes use of this method and distributes copies of the game through its website.

The ability to share things easily across the internet also means that developers can promote their own games through things such as social networking sites and blogs. One example of a developer who has used this method is Wollay. He had a blog that documented the development of Cube World which is a 3d RPG game. Now he’s moved to an official site and twitter to post updates on development to an audience of about 36, 000 people (Von Funck).  On top of this, the Cube World Facebook page has around 38, 000 likes (Cube World), meaning a significant number of people are aware of and following it. These platforms, Twitter and Facebook, both help the developer to promote and engage with the community that they’ve built surrounding their games. It fulfils the game publisher’s role of promoting a product and bringing it into the public eye.

Another example of an indie game that’s growing in popularity is Project Zomboid who has forums, communities on large websites (such as Reddit) and an official site. These websites help them create a community around their game which drives it forward. They rely on word of mouth to spread news of their game over traditional marketing methods such as television advertisements or ads.

Thanks to social media and its nature of creating networks, game developers can utilise them to reach a larger audience than previously possible.  This means that the job of promoting can be done with tools available to everyone, and much cheaper than the tactics that large publishing companies employ though obviously through different forms and down a different route.

Due to the diminution of large publishing companies, this means that the middle man in the publishing process can be cut out and as a result developers and the fan community are able to directly communicate to each other. What this means for the fans is that they could influence how the game is developed and what features will be included in the game.

An example of this can be found if we look back to Project Zomboid which has an official forum containing a subsection dedicated to hearing suggestions from members of the community.  This enables fans to also interact and hear from developers of the games, and there are collections of developer responses posted up (TheRedStranger, 2013). The forum in general provides a way for developers and fans to interact, and can act to foster good relationships between the two. This could be seen as a form of promotion in that a positive relationship is being formed with the fans which encourage them to participate in the community.

If we refer back to Wollay, we can see that his Twitter stream can also connect him to his fan community in the same way. His twitter answers questions that the community has asked about Cube World as well as just friendly interaction with fans. This can serve to strengthen the relationship between Wollay and the community, and the public nature of this medium also means that others can see the conversation, become curious, and decide to look further into what Cube World is. Wollay’s Twitter feed also becomes an important source of information for the fans, and can help drive interest for Cube World especially if the fans are able to feel part of the project as it’s being developed.

The use of Youtube and video as a medium to spread news and information has also helped indie, and commercial, developers promote their games through trailers and gameplay videos that give a glimpse into what the game is like. For developers such as Wollay who have a game in the process of development, videos that show gameplay features can serve to hype up the audience and increase interest for something that is not yet out to play. Project Zomboid also has multiple videos up showcasing and encouraging people to play. Even lesser known games such as Zafehouse: Diaries and Call of the Wild have videos to promote and reach out to more people. Used effectively, videos can garner an interest in the game, show what it’s about and how it’s played.

Another thing that is helping boost a game’s exposure are gaming websites which decide to write articles about certain games and game reviews from sites such as JayIsGames. This is true for Cube World, who has appeared a few times in DIYGamer with positive opinions. JayIsGames has also mentioned Project Zomboid in one of their articles, saying “Having purchased the game a long time ago myself, I can tell you that it’s definitely unique and shows a lot of promise, especially for fans of morbid narratives” (Dora, 2012). The good words put in by websites such as these could promote this game and encourage more people to tune in and find out what it’s about.

Minecraft certainly got a lot of mentions throughout its growth from many magazines and websites such as PC Gamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. During Minecraft’s early Alpha stage, it was mentioned in Rock, Paper, Shotgun with incredibly positive words (Rossignol, 2010) and again later in a series of posts called “Mine the Gap” (Smith, 2010). Around the time of announcement for the Halloween Update in 2010, Minecraft was also featured in an article on PC Gamer regarding a new feature in the update (Francis, 2010).

All these mentions and articles could have been a large factor is Minecraft’s quickly growing popularity. It also serves as promotion for the game, drawing in more and more people from the audiences of these magazines and websites. Releasing information about upcoming features could also serve to excite the players and generate more hype surrounding the game.

The success of word of mouth tactics and social media as promotion falls on the nature of the internet, which allows people to easily share and connect with other people. Perhaps in the past it was necessary and crucial for game developers to work with large publishing companies as they simply didn’t have the resources and tools to promote and distribute their works (Langlotz, Rhode & Whaley, 2008). However it’s a very different situation now, and with publishers increasingly focused on established franchises (Brand & Knight) indie developers are increasingly turning to these alternative methods of publishing their games.

In conclusion, the diminution of large game publishing companies can certainly be seen by the amount of games that are seeking alternative methods of publishing. Platforms such as Steam and Desura are two popular platforms that developers have turned to, and the rise of social media has also allowed developers to promote their games themselves. While this means a change in dynamic between developers, publishing companies and consumers, the role of game publishing in the social life, to promote and distribute games, remains unchanged. What we are seeing are new methods and channels to achieve the same goals and objectives in publishing.

References List

ACMI, The history of Simcity, ACMI, accessed 12 June 2013, <>

Booker, L 2012, Being on Steam Greenlight is exciting, frightening and most of all… confronting, Kotaku, accessed 13 June 2013, <>

Brand, J & Knight, S, History of Game Development in Australia, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), accessed 12 June 2013, <>

Cube World, Cube World | FaceBook, FaceBook, accessed 13 June 2013, <>

Desura, How to get the most from Desura, Desura, accessed 13 June 2013, <>

Dora, 2012, Link Dump Friday, JayIsGames, accessed 13 June 2013, <>

Francis, T 2010, Minecraft Halloween update preview: Meet the Ghasts, PC Gamer, accessed 13 June 2013, <>

Grayson, N 2012, Valve on Steam Greenlight’s failings, fixing them, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, accessed 13 June 2013, <>

Langlotz, A, Rhode, M & Whaley, C 2008, Video Games Industry Overview, International Business Project, accessed 12 June 2013, <>

Rossignol, J 2010, Chockablock: Minecraft revisited, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, accessed 13 June 2013, <>

Smith, Q 2010, Minecraft: Mine the Gap, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, accessed 13 June 2013, <>

Steam, Steam Workshop :: Greenlight, Steam, accessed 12 June 2013, <>

Steam, 2013, Announcements, Steam, accessed 13 June 2013, pp. 1-8, <>

TheRedStranger, 2013, The big no’spart two: the list, The Indie Stone, accessed 13 June 2013, <>

Ubisoft, 2013, Ubisoft reports full-year 2012-13 sales and earnings figures, Ubisoft, accessed 12 June 2013, <>

Von Funck, W, Wolfram Von Funck (wol_lay) on Twitter, Twitter, accessed 13 June 2013, <>


Week 6: Paying Attention

A lot of this week’s reading revolved around Attention, the economy of attention, shifting attention, losing attention and paying attention. But first what does it mean exactly when we refer to our attention?

The Oxford Dictionary says:


Pronunciation: /əˈtɛnʃ(ə)n/


[mass noun]

  1. notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important
  2. the action of dealing with or taking special care of someone or something

I think when we are talking about our attention in this context, it refers to the amount of time and focus that we have. As both are limited resources (We only have so much time in a day, we can only focus for so long) it would follow that attention is also a limited resource.

So what is happening to this limited resource in the face of a new media landscape where information is not only abundant, but in surplus?

The Economy of Attention deals with attention as a scarce resource that is sought after and ‘paid’ like a currency of the modern age. The domestication of the internet into our daily lives means that we can constantly access it throughout the day and that means being bombarded with information, adverts and updates. As our attention is limited, we can only pay attention to so many things through the day.

I suppose two fears that can result from this would be the fear that we aren’t paying attention to the right things, or that we aren’t paying enough attention to what we do see.

The first, that we aren’t paying attention to the right things, follows the thought that with all the entertainment and social media, we are choosing them over topics such as news and politics. The foreword of Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman goes into this, comparing Brave New World and 1984 to our current society. It compares modern day entertainment to the blissful ignorant ‘happiness’ that the inhabitants of Civilisation live with.

The second fear is in response to the depth of our attention now. With so many things to attend to, we often turn to multitasking to keep afloat the sea of information. This flitting about with our attention, our quickly changing of gears to attend to five things within a minute, has caused some, such as Nicholas Carr, to fear that our ability to deeply engage with media has been lost.

However this paves way to a thing called Infotention which is the collection of tools and skills that our minds are coming to have that help manage and pick out what is worth paying attention to and what isn’t. Humans are very adaptive, and I think this word accounts for the adaptive measures that we have taken to better traverse an information-saturated world.

Another take on the Economy of Attention is that Attention isn’t becoming more and more limited in a world full of information, but that attention is being freed up from previously attention-heavy tasks. It goes that the resulting consumption of media isn’t a matter of it ‘consuming’ our attention, but of our attention having greater freedom to attend to these things.

My stance on all of the above is that everything holds a portion of the truth. While yes, I agree that our time is being freed up by convenient technology (Typing instead of writing, industries catering to food and material goods) there is also this sense that media is so pervasive it is consuming what attention we have and turning it into a scarcity.

I often find myself feeling that I have no time to do something because my attention is caught up with all the media that I consume, and this isn’t even media that I would rate as ‘highly important’. I can waste my time away on Tumblr and YouTube  something which I’m sure many other can relate to their experiences with Facebook or Reddit.

There seems to be a want to keep the brain occupied, to see what is the next shiny update, what’s so and so said now. It’s what keeps me hitting f5 when I’ve been through all the new content and I’m waiting for more. Perhaps this is why procrastination seems easier than every before. The internet is already providing us with so many easy-to-access distractions, and with it’s pervasiveness through notifications and apps across a myriad of devices, it’s becoming hard to escape. This may be what has prompted people to go Tweet-free for a month or into a temporary digital hibernation while they work.

But while this weeks reading focused on the Economy of Attention in relation to media, I feel that it has always been a constant through history. The concept of Economy of Attention pops up in so many areas that are outside of the internet. It covers things like adverts on TV, competition between local stores, the brand names of a certain product and even primary school popularity contests. These all deal with the want to accumulate or gather as much attention as possible, in all these situations attention becomes a form of ‘currency’ for the people involved. Perhaps this is a sign of a capitalist society, or perhaps this is the sign of a society full of social beings. The Economy of Attention is certainly A Thing affecting our media engagement, but then again it has always been A Thing throughout our lives and the workings of our society.

I think that Infotention allows us to manage our attention in the face of  the busy media landscape. Though I don’t think infotention is a matter of ‘allows us’ or not, infotention has become a vital skill that we need to get things done. We certainly are picking up new tools that become not only better ways of processing information, but also shortcuts to access them so that we do not spend too much time finding it. We have learned to multi-task more throughout the day, and some attest to the usefulness and productivity that follows. With the internet we now have greater access to materials, and tools to search through these materials. Google is one example, and the library of UNSW is another.

However it’s not all good news, I do feel like that our attention spans are becoming shorter in some aspects. I don’t think it would limit our ability to engage deeply with things, but our shorter attention span certainly shows in the smaller things, and these small things can build into something bigger.

The newfound ease to do things that technology provides is not only speeding things up,  but also training us to expect things in under a second. Download speeds need to be faster, computer bootups, game loading times and video buffers all need to be reduced. We’re so used to the speed of the internet that waiting ten seconds for a website to load is met with impatience and frustration. Up that to half a minute and it’d be only the most stubborn of users who see it load, or maybe they just have it in another tab with their attention diverted away to something else.

The thing is we’re used to speed, so anything that could take a while would lead to frustration. I think we certainly have lost patience in some aspects but that’s not to say we’ve lost our ability to concentrate. There are lots of techniques and tips that people share to boost productivity. Lifehacker contains quite a few, and I’m sure you can recall a peer sharing a tip or two on how to get rid of distractions and work. I feel that these tips and guides can also fall under the umbrella of infotention, as it also deals with our management of attention and narrowing it down to focus on something for an extended period of time. There are certainly more things to attend to but infotention, our new emerging skillset of managing our attention in relation to the world, help us in directing our attention to what need it most.

Week 5: Archives and our lives

Archives provide our society with a foundation upon which institutions, laws and structures stand. The law of precedents can be seen as one such archive that guides and can predict what kinds of sentences and verdicts will be passed down for a case.  Statistics are used within a variety of fields, from psychology to businesses and draw upon data gathered from archives to make predictions. Lessons are archived within history. Values are archived within documents such as constitutions, religious texts and stories. What society is today, and what it will be, is deeply rooted in the archives that we possess and create.

This line of thought leads me to remember George Orwell’s book 1984. A novel set in a society where the documents were altered and distributed so many times that one is not sure what the truth is anymore. For the archive also acts as memory that can be far more reliable than what a human brain recalls. The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news publications, entertainment and education, alters things such as the rations of supplies and who they are currently warring with which in turn manipulate the feelings and sentiments of the public. It provides a very good example of the importance in keeping archives.

Of course 1984 is an extreme example that concerns a dystopian society, but that doesn’t make it less true that our society is heavily influenced by, if not entirely operating around, the archives that we keep and maintain.

We live in a world where almost everything is documented, and this is even truer with the prevalence of self-publishing websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Think of common everyday aspects of life. Banking, working and pay, newspapers, articles and administrative documents. These all affect society in how they choose to spend their money, what they value and how people live their lives. With technological advances, there are even more ways than before to archive every moment of our day. Some older examples would be surveillance cameras, credit card history and phone history but newer things would include blogging, tweets, flickr and instagram.

I think what Matthew Ogle has said in his blog entry rings very true. That “without deliberate planning, we have created amazing new tools for remembering.

In what ways does this new way of remembering impact us? For one, I think it changes how people can come to socialise. Whereas previously a stranger is a stranger and you don’t know anything about them, now you can google them or find them on facebook and have a look through their past activity. This is the same if you happen to chance upon someone on twitter or a blog, there’s a history of what that person has posted which becomes a sort of snapshot into what kind of person they are. We reveal much more information about our selves to strangers now without deliberately meaning to.

Perhaps this is a reason why privacy surrounding the net and the data shared across the net has become such an important topic. It’s become so simple for users to share information that if not handled correctly, users could be exploited. Not only do browsing habits and likes provide a wealth of information to commercial companies, there is also a lot of sensitive data that can be found online. Information like full names, addresses, emails and passwords. As the internet is being integrated more and more into our lives, the things that we do online can come to be associated with a lot of money and worth (For example, a library of games on steam, or access to a bank account) and for that information to fall into the wrong hands can be disastrous.

Word: Desire

Week 2: Repetition of history

One thing that I noticed while reading Eisenstein’s The Printing Press as an Agent of Change was that many of the phenomenons happening then from the distribution of print is being felt again in the age of the internet.

Eisenstein (1979) mentioned a ‘knowledge explosion’ resulting from the widespread distribution of knowledge. Similarily, we can find this happening again with the ever-expanding collection of online how-to’s and tutorials. One can find a whole range of tutorials on YouTube, the topics ranging from charging an ipod with an onion to creating a raised garden bed. Specialised sites have also popped up such as and wikiHow that cover a plethora of areas – just have a look for yourself.

One thing to note in all these examples are that all these tutorials are self-published by individuals. These websites have become a collection of knowledge that the community of its users have collaboratively created. This shows how easy it is and how many more outlets there are for publishing to the average person nowadays which is what allows websites like these to cover such such an extensive list of topics.

It was from such tutorials and articles that I had picked up how to crotchet. There were enough resources floating around on the internet that taught me how to start off with the basic stitches as well as step-by-step guides on how to do something more complex like broomstick lace or the crocodile stitch. With all this content available online and for free, what does it mean for the publishing companies and authors behind books that sell this information? Surely there’s been a drop in sales now that there’s an alternative source to get this information?

Despite information being given away online, instructional books are still being sold in book stores which means that there are still people buying these books. So then I ask, are we simply buying books for their content now? Or is there something more in a book that we cannot find online? Are we buying the book for it’s neat organisation of information compared to trawling the web and employing google fu to find what we want? Or is it more about the accuracy and perceived legitimacy of the information printed within a book?

This question of legitimacy brings me to the second similarity that I found between now and the past. Eisenstein(1979) mentions how the printing press also sped up the ‘corruption’ of a print and perhaps this can be likened to how information on the web is sometimes passed along much in a manner similar to a game of Chinese whispers. It is incredibly easy to lose the original source of something especially in an environment where information can spread so quickly and be up to interpretation of so many people. These interpretations then get interpreted by another person and so on and so forth.

Another thing to note is also how often important facts are omitted about an article to skew the opinion of the reader towards a certain side. One need that has arisen out of the ease of self-publication is that of fact-checking. Where a newspaper or book is typically guaranteed to have gone through several stages of quality checking, this isn’t the case for self-published materials and posts. Heck even this post isn’t guarded by any official forms of quality and fact checking beyond what I myself have done. This isn’t to say that the need for fact-checking was only recently created, but that more prudence need be exercised when it comes to the internet because of self-publication.

I also find that the internet is simultaneously a permanent record and constantly shifting. A person can claim one thing one day then another thing the next, but that they have claimed these two separate things may remain recorded. This can be summed up in a common sentiment that ‘Once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever’.

One recent example of this is the Applebees Facebook fiasco. The linked article itself is a demonstration of how something can remain on the internet forever. Screenshots and caches of webpages can be kept for an unknown period of time and can resurface. An example shown within the article is of a previous post that Applebees had made, but then deleted. Despite it no longer appearing on their wall anymore, the fact that they had posted it has been preserved and shared.

How has this changed accountability of a publisher? On one hand, the internet has made it difficult to keep track of who said what, but on the other hand some instances such as this are documented and kept forever.

In conclusion, we can see some key events repeating themselves in history in response to the printing press and the advent of the internet. Information and knowledge has become widespread through the use of a new tool that allows easier distribution of text (and other mediums) and this has resulted in a change in society’s gears. Similar to books, the internet has become a method of preserving things in some cases. However the internet also brings with it new changes in the dynamics between audience and publishers. With so much information out on the internet, why buy books? What do books offer that the internet doesn’t? One thing that’s for certain though is that things are changing.


Eisenstein, Elizabeth (1979) ‘Excerpts’ from ‘Defining the initial shift: some features of print culture’ in The Printing Press as an Agent of Change Vol. 1, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pg 72, 108

Word: Alphabet

Week 1: From books to e-readers and digitised information

This week’s reading started off with an introduction to Publishing and and overview of how the publishing industry worked.

We can see that the given model of the publishing industry works easily enough when dealing with printed text, and this has worked over hundreds of years. But what happens when we start introducing things which display and use text in a different manner? What happens when we start putting things such as smartphones, ipads and the internet into the picture?

Technology has brought us many new mediums and platforms with their own new features, pros and cons. I suppose what this course looks at then, is how the changing technology affects the structures within our society (such as the publishing industry) and how these affects then effect the way we, the public, live our daily lives.

The shift from print to digital media has meant a lot of changes for media industries and the public. We can see now that technology is intricately intertwined with our day to day activities. Newspapers are now available in online and digital formats, as well as being able to be updated much faster. People can keep in touch with friends through facebook, something that’s become so central to our social network that even the companies are jumping onto it as an advertising channel. More and more books are becoming available through online stores as ebooks, which cuts out the cost of production that physical copies of books have.

Books and text are no longer displayed the same way, with newer more interactive mediums being expected. There are websites such as Lifehacker, Wired and Cracked. Could these be counted as online magazines? Doubtless they are new platforms for publishing media with different rules and guidelines to physical magazines. With comment sections, they can get feedback real-time from their reader base and see how many hits a particular article has gotten.

Even now as I type this up in the editor, wordpress is suggesting links for me to include in this blog post. The reading experience has changed once we go online, and instead of one article or page ending at the last full stop, instead it acts as tree that can branch out into many more websites.

We’ve also changed the way that we are exposed to different media. There are a variety of RSS feed aggregators and websites that allow users to network and get a live ‘feed’ of anything that’s published from a source of interest. Some examples are the Google RSS Reader, Tumblr, Facebook and WordPress.

These websites not only provide us with a way to follow what other people publish, some of them allow people to become publishers themselves. This can change the dynamic between companies that publish articles, ordinary people and writers who aren’t represented by literary agents. It provides greater ease for people to voice their thoughts and works, and publishing companies are no longer a ‘gatekeeper’ of published text.