Bent “Gloom” Stamnes has again updated his statistics on demoscene productions. See the blog post here: http://blog.subsquare.com/state-of-the-demoscene-1991-2014/
Added Amiga ASCII -taide, Heikki Lotvonen’s BA thesis which was recently accepted at the Aalto University. The thesis is in Finnish and deals with Amiga ASCII art – the author has also made some nice works himself as the production part.
We just added a detailed abstract of Brendan Ratliff’s MA thesis on tracked demoscene music. The author, known to demosceners as “Syphus”, produced an extraordinarily well-written introduction into tracked music, its history and technologies, its specific correlation with demoscene ethics, and its survival in the age of MP3. While originally defended in 2007, it was put online by the author only recently. We highly recommend it as a sound and enjoyable introduction into the subject. You can find the abstract, alongside with a link to the PDF version, in our bibliography.
The Kultura Gier Komputerowych 3 conference was held in Poland on May 23–24 at the University of Łódź. This time the theme of the event was “Behind the Scenes”, which lured also demoscene researchers in. See the full program here. Our representatives Markku and Gleb were there, in addition to which Patryk Wasiak and Paweł Grabarczyk gave presentations on demo-related topics. Here’s a little recap of the presentations in chronological order:
- Patryk Wasiak: Początki polskiej demosceny i “polski model komputeryzacji” (The Early Days of the Polish Demoscene and the ‘Polish Model of Computerisation’). The presentation placed the birth of the Polish demoscene in the context of the introduction and popularisation of home computers in late-socialist Poland, encompassing phenomena like state-sponsored computer education and pirate software streetmarkets. It credited the scene with creating computer “brand communities” in Poland, i.e. collective identities formed around computer platforms.
- Markku Reunanen: Generations of Consumer Computer Graphics as Seen in Demos. The keynote dealt with various generations of consumer computer graphics starting from the 1970s, using demos as illustrative examples of how hardware has been pushed and misused creatively. The main paradigms presented were character graphics, bitplanes, hybrids, chunky modes, fixed-function pipeline and finally shaders. Slides
- Paweł Grabarczyk: Born Retro – Reflexive Demos on Forgotten Platforms. The essence of this presentation was “born retro demos”, i.e. new productions for old platforms that didn’t have a scene back in their heyday. Another interesting concept was Technical Evaluation Context (TEC), which encompasses various factors that matter when demos are evaluated by the scene.
- Gleb J. Albert: The 1980s Cracking Scene: Counterculture, Youth Subculture, or Part and Parcel of the Games Industry? The presentation gave an insight into the early cracking scene and its conceptualisation. It challenged the two predominant narratives – viewing crackers either as subversive “digital activists” akin to hackers, or as criminal teens becoming the future personnel of the IT industry after “growing up” – and proposed instead a perspective on the cracking scene as being entangled with the early computer games industry from the very beginning, focussing on the multiple interactions between both spheres.
- Markku Reunanen, Anders Carlsson and Tero Heikkinen: PETSCII – A Character Set and a Creative Platform. In this presentation Markku, Anders and Tero described PETSCII, the character set used on 8-bit Commodore computers, and its creative uses based on their first-hand experiences on various retro projects. Slides
Some of these studies will be extended to research articles later on. The upcoming issue of Replay, the Polish Journal of Game Studies is one potential candidate. We thank Maria B. Garda, Paweł Grabarczyk, and the rest of the organising team for an excellent conference experience.
“GOT PAPERS?”: a new project launched with the aim to digitise and preserve material artefacts of the cracking- and demoscene – digital subcultures from the early era of home computing whose productive output was/is mostly digital and thus rather well-preserved, yet its substantial non-digital output (magazines, flyers, stickers and such) is largely scattered through private collections and thus out of reach for activists and researchers alike. Check out the website at gotpapers.untergrund.net for more info, and if any activists/veterans happen to have any relevant materials that they would like to contribute, please do get in touch through the contact form.
Added Text-Mode and the Live PETSCII Animations of Raquel Meyers – Finding New Meaning through Live Interaction by Leonard J. Paul. The article was published on Leonardo Electronic Almanac in 2013 and it discusses the live character-based performances by Raquel Meyers, also known as AcidT*.
International Journal of Communication has just published another “special section” on piracy. One of the articles, Crack Intros: Piracy, Creativity, and Communication, written by me, Patryk Wasiak and Daniel Botz deals with the origins and characteristics of crack intros.
Added Textual Demoscene (2015) by Piotr Marecki, an online report published by The Trope Tank. The paper focuses on various kinds of text found in Polish demoscene productions.
Usually, George Borzykowski’s 1996 study “The Hacker Demo Scene and Its Cultural Artifacts” is considered the first scholarly treatment of the demoscene as a phenomenon in its own right. However, without questioning the pioneering character of Borzykowski’s work, it appears now that demoscene research is older than assumed. The German sociologists Roland Eckert, Waldemar Vogelsang, Thomas A. Wetzstein, and Rainer Winter conducted a study of “computer freaks” in 1990, and published their results in a collective monograph, “Auf digitalen Pfaden. Die Kulturen von Hackern, Programmierern, Crackern und Spielern”, the following year. In the chapter on the cracking scene, they dedicate several pages on the back-then new phenomenon of intro coders, graphics artists and musicians within pirate groups beginning to care less about the cracked games and more about producing standalone intros and demos. The authors see in this development a potential for a new form of digital art, and they introduce the term “demoscene” as a self-description by the scene’s participants. Read a detailed summary of this forgotten pioneer work in our bibliography.
We’re not going to try and include all piracy-related publications here, because it’s a different sandbox after all. Having said that, the topic is surely interesting to many of our readers, so here’s a link to the brand new issue of Popular Communication (1/2015) with the topic Piracy and Social Change. In addition, just came across a similar “special section” on the International Journal on Communication: Piracy Cultures (find it under “more special sections”).