Japanese Text Initiative

After my recent completion of the partial markup of The Tale of Genji, I decided to further look into the Japanese text markup and to research into whether there were any encoded versions of The Tale of Genji available online. The results were more successful than expected. Although I only found one digital edition of Genji available online, it came from a source that was created with the purpose of providing a broad database for the dissemination of various classic Japanese texts in a western context. Due to both Universities being of American origin, I am using the term western or west to primarily refer to an American context as I do not know the level of Japanese material available in Europe available at this time. In 1995 The University of Virginia and the University of Pittsburgh, jointly announced their project to create the Japanese Text Initiative (JTI), a service that tagged classical Japanese texts in Standard Generalised Markup Language according to TEI guidelines. As the project website outlines, pre 1960 only Arthur Waley’s translation of The tale of Genji , Sei Shonagon’s Pillowbook and a collection of Noh Plays (a classical musical drama form, with its origins dating back to the fourteenth century) were widely available in the west. By the 1990’s a much wider selection of texts was available due to growing interest, hence the commencement of this markup project. The availability of classical Japanese Literature had the potential to be of great assistance to those who wished to study it- it is projects like the JTI that have allowed this potential to flourish.

The initiative used markup according to the University of Virginia’s predefined principals used for other language materials. Unfortunately though, there is very little information on what these predefined principals actually are. They do however, make clear their project scope stating the intention to:
1) Make JTI searchable in Japanese and English
2) To, when possible, base an electronic edition on an authoritative print edition and to not place copyrighted text online where permission has not been expressly given.
3) In the short term to markup most or all of J. Thomas Rimer’s A Reader’s Guide to Japanese Literature.
4) In the long term to add pre- twentieth century Japanese works.
Examining the University of Virginia’s hosting website for these digital edition they have been successful in both their short and long term goals. They did cite some issues with TEI in their markup process however, particularly with Noh plays. The TEI could not adapt to some of the Japanese elements in the texts, as a result these elements were left un-coded. However, I think it important to consider the constraints of older versions of TEI, items that were not encoded in the initial markup may be plausibly encoded with TEI P5.

In their encoded version of The Tale of Genji you can see the results of a collaborative, thoroughly researched, academically produced digital edition. The text is available in its original form, its modern form and its Romaji (when the Roman alphabet is used to phonetically translate Japanese) form. They clearly state the precedence of having a version called the ‘original form’ (which is necessary due to no known original copy being in existence). They utilized a manuscript edited by Fujiwara no Teika – which is widely considered to be the most reliable among older texts. They then amended that the text according to four implemented rules: To use a selection of Genji manuscripts and prioritise certain elements for inclusion in their final digital text; they did not incorporate any amendments made by later scribes; they emended any omissions or ungrammatical sentences; finally they emended and differences in the hiragana used if a symbol had since been dropped from the hiragana lexicon. All decisions in the editorial documentation were made available as an accompaniment to the text. The same was true of all the text included on the site.
Although TEI.2 is now out of date by the current standard, the JTI is still a thoroughly comprehensive website with a wide array of Japanese Texts. I believe their description of including an English version is somewhat misleading due to in fact being the Romanised version in Japanese, meaning that one has to have an in-depth knowledge of the Japanese Language to make full use of the source, however, it does illustrate the project’s faithfulness to accuracy of representation in it depiction for the digital text.

Advertisements

Project Management: Learning to self-manage

Project Management is a constant topic of popular discussion, and based on the level of attention it receives it won’t cease to be. Regardless of your field or background, everyone has done project work on various scales. It does not matter what the size of the project is or how many people are working on it, everybody generally aims to work at the most efficient level. A lot of the advice to help achieve this aim suggests good team communication- having a mutually understood defined vocabulary for group discussions, having regular physical meet ups, and considering people’s interests as well as their skill. These are all valid and astute points to consider, however as I have continued through my final semester of college the majority of my work has been solo. It raised the question of how much of these (group orientated) projects management skill lists could be applied to personal project management. With this question in mind, and taking Brian Croxall’s 12 Basic Principals of Project Management and Nowviskie’s Ten Rules for Humanities Scholar’s New to Project Management for reference, I would like to outline what principal’s I’ve found most helpful for pre-planning workloads for my Internship with Learnovate

One the first aspects of project management that is clearly applicable to all projects is having a clear endpoint, this can become tricky in academic setting as a postgraduate as many deadlines are pre-imposed. This goes against Croxell’s position to allow those taking on an assignment to set their own due date, however his standpoint here can be considered impractical in many cases as this level of flexibility can be impractical if not impossible in some scenarios. My own issues arose when my internship started late due to mismatched calendars between the academic term and my awarding internship body – yet this does not stop the individual from having their own, smaller deadlines within the overarching timescale allowed for the project as a whole; with flexibility on both sides obstacles for deliverables can be managed. In the case of my own project, the solution that was arrived at was my initial work plan for Trinity College was allowed extra time for submission, and my final deliverable was time managed to be ready for submission at the selected date as the final presentation that is required is what my internship body require for their final documentation as well. This method of planning also aligns itself with the idea that a project plan should be broken down into manageable chunks to avoid being overwhelmed by the task as a whole. Always break down your task into clear smaller activities.

Another listed key for project management is “considering people’s interests as well as their skill”. This can initially seem daunting when undertaking a solo project, as not everything that might need to be done will be considered enjoyable. However, this I believe is where one must consider the project as a whole rather than the parts. When applying for a project or internship, ensure that there is space within it where you can work to your strengths. For my particular internship I knew from researching in advance that Learnovate were utilising gamification for educational purposes. Following this when I had my first meeting I was asked which of their projects interested my most, I explained my interest in gamification and how the educational aspect of it was new to me yet an exciting aspect. It allowed me to be assigned to research badging systems in educational gamification and work in area where I had interest and a reasonable prior knowledge bank.

Decision making is integral to any project and will all decisions there can only be one final decision maker (and not necessarily the project manager when working in a group). When working alone, this can seem daunting from the fear of making the wrong decision. However, it is important to remember, you may have to make the final decision, but that does not mean you can’t seek advice beforehand. It is my experience that most people are more than happy to advise you on dilemmas or to give you a push in the right direction when feeling somewhat lost in information. This is also key when dealing with project creep. If you feel like you’re going beyond your set boundaries it is highly likely that you are, it is extremely helpful to ask whomever you are reporting to identify where you are exceeding your boundaries and to place you back on the right track.

One of my favourite points made by Nowviskie is “Give all the credit away. But make it clear to your team that you’ll take any blame”. When managing a group this is an important point as it is required that you take responsibility while performing a leadership role, but successes come from a team as a whole, not simply from management. However, this still is still a valid aspect of self-management, you are responsible for anything that goes wrong in your own work, but when you achieve success it is imperative to recognise those who helped you which conducting your research. Those who guided you while outside of your project are part of the reason you reached project finish line.

Badging for Credentials

As I have discussed in previous blogposts, Gamification is a current trend amongst many marketing groups in industry profiteering, yet in the case of educational purposes, Gamification is showing great promise in becoming a viable method to instigate learning. A particular area that has grown vastly since the implementation of gamification in education is badging. It is beginning to be hailed as a great method on inspiring learning as well as demonstrating credential for peers and employers alike. What is key to its progress is a badges new obtainability offline as well as online, and its portability across platforms, and its stackability and breadth.

Firstly, a badge is an online representation of a skill or achievement that an individual has learned, badges first appearance in the digital sense was in gaming where they were used to motivate behaviour, represent a players achievement as well as stabling a players credibility (which is still an ongoing practice in gaming). Now the idea of a digital badge is being ported for educational purposes. One of the key players in this practice is currently Mozilla and their Mozilla Open Badges initiative. Within this initiative Mozilla plan to improve the relationship between education the digital by providing a ‘digital backpack’ for individuals to display their educational achievements in the form of badges. The ‘backpack’ is Mozilla’s take on a kind of cyber display case so every user can make their badges viewable to others if the so wish. Importantly however, much like a physical backpack, your digital one can travel with you online. This means you can display your badges on a variety of platforms including linkedIn, twitter, personal websites etc. Every badge is encoded with metadata that links it back to the issuer, the criteria it was issued under and evidence of its credentials. Any individual, company, non-profit, or educational organisation can design and define the parameters of a badge they wish to create and award it to an individual who meets the criteria defined.

Looking the current online consensus however, it appears that this badging functionality is becoming an in demand service for many people, The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article last month discussing the outcry for a way to measure prospective employees’ skill sets, with badging proposed as the possible solution. If graduates are unemployable then why not let them achieve badges that pertain to the “four C’s” that employers are said to want: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. Interestingly, Mozilla and the Alliance for Excellent education, list in some of their documentation way in which badging has been approached in this regard. They use the University of California Davis, a winner in their 2011 badging implementation project, as an example; the group devised a plan based around their sustainable agricultural programme wherein instead of having the programme being built around majors or grades, they based awards on ‘core competencies’ e.g. systems thinking. When an employer then looked an applicant’s badge, it would link to the student’s full badge portfolio. By following California Davis’ example, any university could break down the various components of an individual subject to recognise the different skills within them. Once identified, if given a badge, students would have a more overt method of presenting these skill sets to others as well as having an authority to support their validity. Maintaining an educational standard has been an importantly emphasised factor in educational badging, if badge’s validity is in question then there is an obvious decline in its worth. One of the factors in maintaining a high standard is the incorporation of endorsements. If an institution feels that a badge is of a high enough standards, or perhaps, a higher level of a badge that has been stacked (see following paragraph for explanation of term), they are free to endorse it in order to improve its credentials, this data is then recorded and displayed with the badge. For example, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum in America, ran a design project for under privileged New York City High schools, upon completion the participant received their badges with each badge having an endorsement from the State Department of Education.

Another aspect I had referred to in my introduction is ‘stackability and breadth’. What this meaning is how educational badges have the ability to span across any topic imaginable as well as built upon as an individual’s skill improves. Many badges utilise the videogame styling of ‘levelling up’ this allows for a badge of a higher level to be stacked on top of the previous in order to indicate improvement of skill. There appears to be a lot of potential for badging in education as Mozilla seems to have thoroughly considered its implementation before bringing Open badges to the public. One consideration to make however is in spite of the badge praise from a variety of sources there is a distinct lack of quantitative data showing its success rates, it could be due to its relative newborn status as a form of education monitoring, however its absence is notable. It may possibly be the new way to display skill set, however we will have to wait to find out if badging can deliver.

Digital Skill Sets and Casually Countering Criticism

When I first started my scholarly exploration of digital humanities I found myself repeatedly questioning why academics were engaging with IT related practises when it appeared that a person working fully within a computer based role would be more suited for heavier computational work. My continued engagement within this field has led to me relinquishing these concerns in favour of a positive and agreeable approach, now seeing the merit in scholarly engagement with digital practise. However, while undertaking research for projects in the area of digital scholarly editing I have come across concerns similar to my own initial hesitancy. Because of this, I would like to use this blog as an opportunity to outline the merits of scholars undertaking their own digitising effort, specifically in a digital scholarly editing context

One of the criticisms of digital integration in the humanities is the usefulness, or claimed lack thereof, of its digital tools where it has been perceived that digital humanities’ tools have the inability of reaching a general humanities audience, and that those to whom they did reach had very little ability to imagine what these tools could be useful for (Gibbs, Owens, 4, 18). It has also been claimed that “if digital humanities exists […][it] would not be what it purports to be now: a set of tutorials for the latest tools” (Baldwin 33), she also claims that the partial failing of digital humanities comes from the imbibing of a scholarly literary narrative that impinges on the implied new digital narrative (13). However, I would disagree with both these stances. Take for example, the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), it is a digital tool available to a wide audience, used for encoding texts with the purpose of creating digital editions. Any research into TEI would reveal vast results including explanations on its merit, as well as tutorials on how to use it. It is clear in that TEI seeks to add value to text by allowing a text to be digitally indexed, have accurate searchable content, and to link to external sources it may use. TEI has a very specific purpose and function in what it does. A question on the value of TEI is completely subjective, it is available to any humanities scholar, however it is not relevant unless a scholar requires to engage in the very specific task of creating a digital edition of a text, thereby making its usefulness entirely subjective. Importantly with TEI, it serves as an example of the literary and the digital working together cohesively rather than one narrative impinging on the other. Within a text that has been encoded with TEI, the textual narrative has been maintained to be faithful to the original, while the digital markup allows for an enrichment of this narrative by providing more information and making valid links between entities for traceability (e.g. character ‘x’ appears ‘n’ amount of times). The dismissal of digital humanities projects and tools based upon their relevancy for humanities as a whole is neither fair nor accurate.

There is also ongoing questions as to why is becoming imperative to having coding as a skill while being a digital humanities scholar (like here). This criticism comes from within the digital humanities, rather than externally as listed previously, however the solution is much the same and comes down to question of relevancy. If it is true that humanists are being pushed to code for the sake of coding, then this equates to being forced to use a tool without any understanding where, when, and why it is useful ( Ghajar). Digital skill sets should be learned within the specific contexts of when they are needed. If it is required for a scholar’s project endeavour then it should be learned. With the case of TEI it is vital that a scholar should learn how to do markup for the purpose of creating the digital rather than a computer technician. This is due to the scholar’s knowledge on the text that is to be encoded; with knowledge of TEI tags as well as this, the scholar can ascertain the prime way to markup the text, as well as prioritise different elements based on time restrictions. Passing the markup portion of creating a digital edition to a computer technician who’s knowledge of encoding is better, but knowledge of the text is incomparable passing off the encoding would be an unwise project decision. Ramsey made a similar argument when it came to building projects “I think the discipline includes and should include people who theorise about building, people who design so that others might build, and those who supervise building”, he posits that should you be creating a project, you should have the skill and knowledge to carry through in each aspect. It is a poignant stance to make as even if you are working a project that is too large for one person to execute, the person in question should still have a good working knowledge of each aspect for clarity and direction accuracy.

Digital Humanities have embraced a full range of online multimedia, by being able to capture, manipulate, and process various media projects due to advances in technology – however, its core remains firmly interested in text (Schreibman et al.). This is particularly true of digital scholarly editing where a text is an absolute requirement. TEI however, provides us with a great example of a bridge between a text and the digital; it is made by digital humanities scholars for digital humanities scholars, and can illustrate how a particular tool may only be relevant to certain projects.

Non Hyperlinked References:
Baldwin, Sandy. “The Idiocy of the Digital Literary (and What Does It Have to Do with
Digital Humanities)?” DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly. Digital Humanities
Quarterly, 7.1, 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
Gibbs, Fred, Trevor Owens “Building Better Digital Humanities Tools: Toward Broader
Audiences and User-centered Designs.” DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly:.
Digital Humanities Quarterly, 6.2, 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

Why Gamify?

Gamification has received both positive and negative attention in almost equal measure, there has been dispute over its definition and debate on whether is creates a positive user experience or it simply exploits its users to create addictive behaviour. Regardless of the debate, gamification continues thriving, suggesting that its more than a simple buzzword being used by corporate executives in attempt to provide assurance of success. Most recently it has been implemented in an educational context and it is here that it can been seen as having a predominantly positive effect. The use of gamification has the potential to engage learners and provide a more engaging educational experience that benefits the user greatly.

Gamifiction is the application of game based elements to non-game contexts. What this breaks down to is businesses and websites pulling certain elements of videogames and implementing a similar usage of them for their own purposes. Werbach breaks the ‘borrowed’ elements down into three categories: dynamics, mechanics, and components. The dynamics are narrative, emotionally, and socially based, wherein players engage because they are enjoying an ongoing goal to work towards, while simultaneously being able to share this experience with others. The mechanics rely on competition/cooperation, challenges, chance, feedback (score keeping), and rewards. The components consist of avatars, badges, content unlocking, quests, levels, and points. These elements all contribute to the creation of a good videogame and are now argued to be positive contributors to good business practice when integrated into a company product.

Within the list of elements there are some elements that are consistently disseminated with constant repetition and it is because of this some criticism of gamification is very astute. This tends to be the over reliance on points being awarded in various contexts for arbitrary reasons. Margaret Robertson argued that gamification, due to how businesses tend to rely on it, should simply be called pointsification. Pointsification is a misuse of something that has a lot potential, the over use of doling out arbitrary points with the aim of emulating a game like system; she states how actual gamification is the conversion of existing systems into functioning game. Robertson is accurate, however pointsification is a misuse of gamification rather than the rule on how to use it and when used in a suitable context having a point system in place can prove helpful. Ian Bogost referred to gamification as offering “simple, repeatable approaches in which benefit, honor and aesthetics are less important than facility” pointing towards how media standards have dropped in favour of the gamified box ticking ability of gamification. This cannot always be the case though, Bartle outlines how pointsification can only be effective in the short run because of our “brain chemistry”, he argues how pointsification will become easily recognisable to the individual and therefore avoidable. This is echoed in Werbach’s lectures when he outlines the different type of rewards systems used. One the most common is a fixed ratio reward system, when the user will receive a reward when s/he performs a task for the Nth time. But like Bartle he outlines how over time the brain begins to perceive this pattern and then loses interest in continuing the interaction. Yet in spite of this gamification has persisted in being an effective medium. The idea of ‘points’ does not have to be arbitrary and when integrated in an effective manner that is not a simple ‘box ticker’, they can prove to be both useful and positive. One of the integral parts of gamification is instant feedback to provide the necessary feeling of progression, points allow for this.

Looking at educational websites’ integration of gamification in how they present themselves to users illustrates how gamification, even with the inclusion of points, can create a positive experience. Taking for example Brainscape an educational website and app that teaches various different topics using flash cards. The user sees their flashcard and selects a colour based on a scale of one to five how confidant they are that they know it, the next time the card appears the card will provide a colour cue by being in the colour the user rated it previously. To left of the screen there is information on the users personal progression across all lessons in the selected category, the progression bar also depicts the ratio of colours the user has selected so far, occasionally stopping until the ratio of positive colours is higher than the negative. To the right of the screen is a leader board based upon users’ “mastery” a.k.a progression in the selected lesson. What this acts as is a form of points and a leader board. The progression bar goes up mirroring the collection of points, however it does not become a redundant pointsification. The relevance of the bar being there is to provide a visual reassurance the student is progressing while they are interacting while also being able to monitor how their confidence level is using the colour ratio. Rising higher in the leader board of users who have taken the lesson is a reward in that the user can feel like they are improving themselves, however the primary motivation is intrinsic, the desire to use the site comes from wanting to educate oneself, the gamification aspects within Brainscape simply make it an easier way to monitor one’s own progress by providing instant and helpful feedback. Many sites like Code Academy or Duo Lingo are taking this approach, they are gamified but are integrating it for facilitatory purposes to encourage rather than to create addiction. Importantly the gamified aspect of these educational sites airs on the side of subtlety and does not actively force fixed ratio rewards or points towards the user. In this context, rather than a commercial one, gamification’s merits are vastly improved upon, it can be seen as a tool used for a positive purpose rather than one used to promote addictive behaviour and conceal corporate intent. The debate on gamification’s usefulness will continue to be denigrated and lauded in equal measure, however like many arguments, context is key.

Digital Scholarly Editing vs. Google: Quality or Quantity?

Digital Scholarly Editing is emphasised as one of the strongest sectors of Digital Humanities because of what it has the potential to achieve: An expansive, seemingly infinite collection of knowledge through its digitization of history through pieces of text. Although most scholarly editors cannot afford to include everything in their digital editions, editorial principals are clearly defined and omitted text will be rationalised (e.g. ‘due to time restrictions the editor may be unable to include illegible text). This style of project work echoes similarly with the work of Google’s library project which seeks “to work with publishers and libraries to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalogue of all books in all languages that helps users discover new books and publishers discover new readers.” the words “card catalogue” are somewhat misleading as although they are indeed creating a card catalogue, they omit their digitizing of complete editions (some of which are available to view, and others which are not). Both Digital Scholarly Editing and Google use encoding to make their texts searchable, and accessible to their viewers. So what makes Google the villain of digital editions while digital scholarly editors are hailed as revolutionising how we look at literary works? I believe it comes down to an argument over quality versus quantity.

Google books or Google Library project was an endeavour to digitize multiple libraries across several academic institutions which then came under fire after alleged copyright infringement. The ensuing litigation that occurred between Google and Copyright holders led to ongoing debate on the ethical implications of creating digital editions of literary works, particularly orphaned works or those that are still under copyright. It is because of these ethical considerations I feel that it is important to offer the differences between academic level digital scholarly editing and that of Google’s library project. Firstly, scholarly applications of digital technology are considered to improve on an edition as it is more effective at communicating an edition’s content, the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI- a form of coding to allow for identification of an array of elements between computers and scholars) utilised by the majority of Digital Scholars, gives access to “quantifiable data about texts, information about word usage, phase patterns, and grammatical choices through textual analysis” (Jewell 31, 33). Yet it has been argued that Google does not embrace this level of digital standards, it is not informative because it does not add value to the original text, it is instead a duplicative process referred to as “no more than a form of parasitical publishing” ( Baksik ). Despite the jibe from Baksik, she makes the important point that Google does not add anything of significance to a title, its main contribution is that it allows the book to be searchable on a Google search engine.

To further the difference between Google and Digital Scholarly Editing one must look at both parties attitudes towards copyright. Complaints about Google’s lack of compliance with copyright legislation initially arose in 2005 (Baksik).While digitising books for universities that were still in copyright concern over the lawfulness of the activity was raised. Following this, rather than asking for permission to make copies of books, Google instead provided a quietly available opt-out system for publishers to find if they did not want their books copied. It must be pointed out that digital edition supplied to the libraries by Google were treated with the same copyright distinction of their hard copy predecessors. However, In spite of this Google still held questionably unlicensed digital editions en mass. From all the digitising thus far it is estimatied that only 15% of it scanned collection is allowed for display ( Nunberg ). Digital scholarly editing differs in that it has to be fully accountable for copyright infringement and thus takes extensive measures to ensure it does not impinge upon it: copyright applies to a work that is original and fixed in a material form, the author owns it even if it not explicitly declared, with the only exception being ‘Sweat of the Brow Doctrine’ (The legal definition of this varies depending on Country so here is a rounded off *don’t shoot the messenger* Wikipedia summation). Authorial ownership is respectfully followed, with Ireland going so far as to provide copyrights to unpublished works (Act 1963).

The final aspect I take issue with in Google’s attempt at being an in depth source for literary knowledge is its lack of accuracy when digitising. Nunberg outlines how a large proportion of errors present is Google’s own doing due to insufficient data checks after scanning, for example a 1901 History of Bookplates was incorrectly dated as 1574 which was picked up from the bookplate on the frontispiece.This is a recurring motif throughout Google books’ data with books being listed in incorrect genres or authors being listed in books years before they were born. It illustrates how Google’s method for extracting metadata is insufficient for scholarly purposes. However Google’s metadata does display links to the publisher and where a book is available to buy or a publisher allowing for some rights ownership despite being digitised. Digital scholarly editing, although having strict metadata standards simply cannot compete with Google for speed of production or reaching the same level of dissemination.

The work of Google, although problematic in a number of ways cannot be easily dismissed, coming from the position of a digital humanities scholar I believe there is still great worth in what Google books/ Google Library project are doing. The work may be reproductive yet can be considered an invaluable source for record keeping, the spread of knowledge, and are sufficient for base literary education. Importantly I do not believe it an implausible task to have a joint venture between digital scholars and Google if strong fair usage policies and strict encoding standards are in place. Each party is currently at a very different standpoint when it comes to digital editions, but both could benefit from the other, the prospect of joint forces allows for the hope of quality and quantity.

Becoming Digitally Critical

An ongoing struggle I’ve been having with Digital Humanities is its lack of engagement with cultural criticism and examining our social structures as they are represented digitally, with it instead looking at the select niche of cultural heritage, a relationship which which Digital Humanities appears to be stuck in a long term engagement with. As a counter measure to this preference I will put forward an example where Digital Humanities can prove itself as an exciting way to interact with cultural theory. To be exact, I would like to continue with my coverage of virtual worlds while incorporating the role of the female within this context. As I pointed out in a previous post, depending on what kind of virtual world you are engaging with, you as an individual will be required to follow that world’s rules, many of which stem from social convention and perceptions of the real world. Gender tropes are one such aspect that pervades virtual worlds and is the most easily identifiable within gaming.

The most overt occurrence of imposed female identities appears through the portrayal of female characters within video games. Although video games are heavily mediated compared to their MMO counterparts, players of video games become less aware of this feeling and instead enact the prescribed identity of a game’s protagonist (Jansz, Martis). This is particularly interesting as although there has been an influx of strong, dominant, female protagonists they are still portrayed as hyper sexualised ideals of women. What this indicates is regardless of the individual player’s age, gender, or race they must play as socially ideal version of femininity (large breasts, large buttocks, white ethnicity (Jansz, Martis)). The portrayal of the female form in this highly idealised form reveals the ongoing meta-narrative that dictates what a ‘beautiful woman’ should look like.

The more interesting and covert manner in which video games reveal social gendering is through the gendering of certain types of game. Unlike the ongoing debate of what a woman should look like, this occurrence is relatively new. With the emergence and sky-rocketing popularity of casual games, this had led to the gendering of games themselves. Casual games have become “discursive representations of of passive consumption and femininity” where they are seen as a threat to ‘hard-core’ gamers who represent the masculine, heteronormative ideal (Vanderhoef). This ‘threat’ that is posed, is now being heightened by the attention that feminism has been giving to gaming and gamer culture. It’s illustrated with in the backlash that many feminist critics receive after writing anything that suggests that games, are not by default, belonging to the masculine(Huntemann). One example of this is the reaction to critic Anita Sarkeesian who received large amounts of rape and death threats following her YouTube series Tropes vs. Women in Video games (n.b. I would only recommend her channel if feminism in video games is a new starter topic for you, Sarkeesian tends to use broad brush strokes to analyse her subject matter and occasionally misrepresents it in order to make her point)(NY Times). Although her critiques are flawed, the sheer viciousness of the threats that followed illustrate the importance of gender studies in virtual worlds. It is the great shame of virtual worlds that after the cultural shift to a post feminist paradigm that sexism and misogyny, both real and virtual, is supposed to prove that feminism has succeeded – where sexism and the hyper sexualised feminism is claiming to be self-aware and ironic (Vanderhoef).

The topic of gendering games is fascinating for me, it reveals a pendulum effect where both the virtual and the real are having great impact on one another, what occurs in one will have a swing on effect in the other. This is where I believe Digital Humanities is missing out- there are many aspects of culture being affected by the digital and rather than them being monitored or testing the effects of new variables being placed into situations (such as testing what would happen if you entered an unattractive female lead in a video game? Will people play it and how would they re-act?) cultural studies are, for the most part, being left untouched. It could provide clearer answers in projecting cultural narratives and could provide us with the digital tools to change the narrative where necessary.

Jansz, Jeroen, and Raynel G. Martis. “The Lara Phenomenon: Powerful Female CHaracters in Video Games.” Sex Roles 54 (n.d.): 141-48. Ebscohost. Web. 7 Dec. 2014