Communities and Social Networks OUA Conference 2014

OK, it’s not quite about making animation, but it is a big part of what animation is used for nowadays. The World Wide Web has animation scattered throughout its hyperlinked pages, from simple banner advertising to sophisticated short animated films.

One stop along the way is, what are commonly called MMORPGs, Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Player Games, such as World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Final Fantasy and Runecraft. In such arenas as these people can band together and create communities and social networks. Which, oddly enough, is the theme for the conference which I’d like to invite everyone to.

The Fifth Annual Communities and Social Networks Conference, is presented by  the Department of Internet Studies at Curtin University in partnership with Open Universities Australia.

Running from 28 April to 18 May 2014, this conference looks at various aspects of online communities and social networks, and how they affect people both online and offline.

Visitors to the conference are invited to read and comment on these papers and join the debates.

The conference can also be followed on Twitter @CSNC2014

In case you’re wondering . . . Yes, I have a paper in the conference and I’m looking forward to hearing your point of view about it!

MMORPGs: Designer Addictions

See you there!



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WEB207: RMWC Convergence and Digitisation

You can view my WEB207: RMWC Convergence and Digitisation video at

This video has been produced as part of my Bachelor of Arts (Internet Communication) coursework.

This video is released under Creative Commons Licence Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs

All logos, images and trademarks remain copyright of their owners and have been included here under Fair Dealing.

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creative commons symbols:

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone.

May 2014 bring you everything you wish for!

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Who’s to blame?

A recent case of ‘cartoon-inspired violence’ occurred in Rotherham, where young teens chose to re-enact ‘Kick a Ginger Day’, from the cartoon South Park, by kicking ginger-haired students. This has revived the ‘blame-game’ for violence in young people yet again. The program was given a TV-MA rating, which warns that the content is not suitable for children. Parents could be to blame for allowing their children access to the program or for not discussing what is, and is not, socially-acceptable behaviour. Media could be held accountable for portraying society as a violent place on their networks.  Children could also be to blame because, ultimately, they were the ones making the choice to hurt other children. Instead, the creators of South Park are being blamed.

The view that violence in cartoons causes the children who watch them to turn violent, or at least, to accept violence as a social norm, has been tossed around, studied and debated in detail for a long time. Some experts state that violence is shunned by children when watching programs, while others insist that violence should be removed from children’s viewing. It seems that parents cannot get a definitive answer on the question of violence in cartoons, but, while most children do not try to re-enact the action quite as literally by chopping up cats and expecting them to chase mice afterwards, medical records are available to prove that some do identify more literally with characters and actions than others.

I don’t have the answer to the ‘blame-game’, any more than the experts do, but in this case, South Park creators sent the program out with an ending which showed the character learning the error of his ways, and a warning that it was not suitable for children. They didn’t force anyone to watch it, and they didn’t force children to kick other children. A dilemma of story-telling is that to show the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour, both have to be present. In fact, I can’t think of a single story where the hero battles against thin air to show how ‘good’ triumphs over ‘evil’.  So, while the creators were totally responsible for the program content, I don’t believe that they were entirely to blame for cartoon-inspired violence.  To me, that would be the same as making a tool manufacturer responsible when we hit our own thumbs with their hammers.

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What’s it all about?

I’m not quite old enough to have seen the birth of television, but they weren’t a common household item when I was a youngster. The pictures were a little scratchy compared to modern television and the sound systems were a little tinny, but they were still treasured windows into another world. Books were much more common. We were encouraged to read and use our imaginations, which were, as my mother was fond of saying, our ‘own little televisions. You just need your imagination to bring the pictures to life’.

Essentially that is what animation is all about, bringing still pictures to life. This has been achieved by painting images on cave walls with the limbs in various states of movement; painting bowls or cylinders and spinning them to give the illusion that the painting is moving through each sequential movement. Then the more modern flip books came along, with sequential drawings on individual pages, before animation moved to the ‘modern’ era of film. Apart from the first, all of these methods move the images one by one, at speed, so that the mind focuses on the drawings which appear to be moving.

While the commercial marketing and publishing of animated films may be the province of film studios, the actual production of animation is not outside the reach of the average person. There are sufficient materials and methods for anyone to be able to make non-digital animations, such as flip books. With technology, such as a mobile telephone camera, laptop and open-source software we can digitize the drawings to create an animated film. The methods may not be as sophisticated as a large film studio, but they are certainly achievable with time and patience (and perhaps, a little artistic talent).

As to why anyone would want to create complex animations that can be as complex an answer as the animation itself. Animations can be used purely for entertainment, for us as their creators or for others, but they can also be used as tools. They can be used to demonstrate concepts and procedures in the workplace or in classrooms. They can be used to learn these things too, by students from all levels of education. The only thing which limits their usefulness is our imagination. Which means my mother was right all along; to bring my pictures to life, I need my imagination. Oh boy I can hear her now . . .

“I told you so!”

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Ever been on a mystery tour?

I remember going on wonderful adventures when I was a child. Dad’s work kept us moving from country to country, which was adventure enough for most people, but Dad firmly believed in ‘seeing the world’ while we were there too.  So, we would all pile in the family car on weekends and head out to see the latest place he’d read about or heard of. At least, that’s what Dad would tell us our destination was.

Personally I think he just picked a direction and headed off down the road. Invariably he would know a ‘short-cut’, or would see an ‘interesting road’ and ‘wonder where it went’. As soon as that phrase was uttered we knew there was going to be a change in direction and we’d be heading down that interesting short-cut of a road. We would stop as soon as ‘something interesting’ came along and get out to ‘stretch our legs’ and look around. We continued doing this through different countries and finally ended up in Australia. My legs never ended up any longer and the trips never got any shorter, but I must admit, the journey was always interesting.

When I decided to learn animation I looked about for different ways in which to do this. I could undertake formal education for a year, or three. I would gain skills enough to be employed by a studio and be part of a team which produces animated films. This route, though the destination is assured, would have been completed at a price though. I’m not talking of the monetary cost, although that is not inconsequential. The price would have been all of those ‘interesting roads’ that I would have missed along the way; the people I would not have a chance to meet and the places I would never explore.

So, instead I’m planning on ‘seeing the world’ as I go along. Granted, it will take me longer, but hey, animation is not my primary employment. Rather it’s an interest which may become a tool for work, or a game I can enjoy with family and friends. I plan to explore the world of animation. Starting with my own knowledge of ‘flip-books’ I’ll see where the road takes me. I warn you, if you choose to travel with me, the route will not be direct, and I will probably ‘side-track’ along the way. So, if you see any ‘interesting roads’ be sure to point them out. By the time we reach the end of our trip, this blog could be an interesting, even if not direct, learning journey into animation.

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In Search of Magic

As a child I believed in magic. In my heart of hearts, I still do. One early encounter with it had me being carried from the theatre; kicking and screaming in protest of the cruelty of hunting; as Bambi called plaintively for his mother. My parents patiently explained about a magic called ‘animation’ in the foyer . . .  while the rest of the theatre patrons returned to the story on the screen in peace.

Animation wove through my childhood. I watched, entranced, as Dougal and Zebedee told stories of ‘The Magic Roundabout’, and the ‘Wombles’ gathered rubbish on Wimbledon Common. While Disney remained the acknowledged master of the art of animation, I began to see other examples; closer to home.

My grandfather would take unassuming lumps of plasticine and weave the magic through them. While not quite as grand as a picture theatre, a rainy afternoon in a grandparents’ living-room, watching those magical lumps come to life, were part of what makes a childhood grand. Somewhere in that childhood I was given a glimpse into the making of that magic. I learned to make flip books.

Just a corner of a book and a pencil was all that was needed for this incantation. Suddenly I could make people climb ropes, walk to unknown destinations and dive into pools of water. I had the power to make seedlings grow into mighty trees or delicate flowers. Of course, my teachers weren’t as happy as I was at this new-found power. But what was a simple biology class compared to a ‘living, breathing’ example of plant growth?

So what happened? Was I the next ‘Disney’? Did James Cameron call on me to help out with ‘Avatar’? Well . . . not exactly. Life happened. I finished school, got a job, got married, had kids and generally . . . grew up. Did the magic leave? Never! I introduced my children to it and yes, they cried for Bambi too. I taught them the basics of flip books and let them explore with their own imaginations.

So does that mean the wonderment has gone for me? Of course not! Wonderment is far too strong to fade away. I wonder if I can still conjure life into inanimate objects. The development of technology and the ability to travel the Internet makes the exploration of this field just as new and exciting a journey as it was in my childhood. So now I am about to embark on a rediscovery of old techniques and an exploration of new ones.

Will I become the next Disney? Probably not. But perhaps, in time and with practice, I might just be able to weave a bit of magic into my grandchildren’s lives. And maybe their childhoods will become, just a little bit, grander for it.

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If there is “a …

If there is “a time and a place for everything”

then can I dream, here and now?

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