Dr. Mathias Fuchs

Mathias Fuchs studied computer science and composition in Erlangen, Vienna (University of Technology and the Music Academy) and in Stockholm (EMS Fylkingen). In 2010 he obtained his PhD at Humboldt University, Berlin with a dissertation on musical semantics. Mathias worked as a lecturer and researcher at University of Applied Arts and the Music Academy in Vienna, at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and at the University of Salford in Manchester, UK, where he developed and headed three Master’s level programmes. He has pioneered in the field of artistic use of games and is a leading theoretician on Games Studies. From 2012 to 2015 he held a professorship at Leuphana University, where he directed the research project „Art & Civic Media“ and founded the Gamification Lab. Recent Publications: Diversity of Play (Ed.), Lüneburg 2015 (meson press); “Predigital Precursors of Gamification”. In: M. Fuchs, S. Fizek, P. Ruffino, N. Schrape (Ed.): Rethinking Gamification. Lüneburg 2014 (meson press).



The Staging of Computer Simulations

When Brenda Laurel published her book with the catchy, yet slightly misleading title “Computers as Theatre” she created a successful narrative based on the assumption that certain forms of software (not to be confused with “the computer”) could be talked about as dramatic structures (not to be confused with “theatre”). Laurel arrived at her proposition from an Aristotelian concept of dramatic art. Obviously the dramatic arts had developed forms as different as epic theatre, absurd theatre and other flavours of theatre. Directing styles by Peter Brook, Heiner Müller or Ariane Mnouchkine have been well known by the time Laurel published her book. Yet the author mingled the diversified field in calling it “theatre”. What I find of interest however, is Laurel’s appreciation of the aspect of production and staging for software – a product that is usually considered a tool rather than an event.

What I want to suggest here is to consider computer simulation (CS) in regard to its dramatic aspects. In other words I want to analyse computer simulation as work “on stage”. Staging is seen as an ensemble of image, sound, context and practices that is superimposed upon the simulation in order to mediate it. Like a facial mask this very process of mediation transforms the appeal of CS-data and legitimises simulation as viable and valid. By staging simulations the focus of attention is shifted from the question of whether the simulation corresponds to physical reality to issues of interface rhetoric. To take an example from weather report practice: On the level of aesthetic discourse it makes a whole lot of difference whether we see precipitation levels staged as roundish, white and two-dimensional cloud symbols or if we see them as coloured bars on a histogram. Contextual aspects further add to the effects of visualisation: the time the weather report is broadcast, the announcer’s gender and personality, the TV-channel and so on. Or, to look at another example, we observe how the staging of the Lunar Lander computer game has been influenced by technological constraints, available hardware, interface devices, programming style and design trends.

The starting point for my research project will be a small number of artistic projects I did on urban simulation in cities like Manchester, Bradford and Lüneburg. Analysing urban simulation software and the staging of urban simulation will lead towards a critical assessment of types of CS-staging. Historic context will have to be looked into as well as the aesthetic framing of simulation, because it is not likely that Brenda Laurel captures the whole picture when she states that “the representation is all there is.” (Laurel 2013: 116)