Here is a selection of books and other resources about board games. It came after a flurry of emails on academic listserv. Thank you to all of those who have suggested materials for this short bibliography !
The Community Arcade team met yesterday, with valiant efforts from many members to show up despite illness, deadlines and other imponderable events. In the end, Scott and I shared a fascinating conversation about the partnership grant I am a member of as well as the broader topic commercialisation of ideas in the humanities and social sciences from the perspective of graduate students. Minutes and thoughts herein.
I was invited by Bertand Gervais (UQAM, Literature) to join a SSHRC Partnership grant project dubbed Littérature Québécoise Mobile (LQM). In addition to a dozen of researchers from universities in Québec and Europe, this project brings together a coalition of trade associations and publishers from La Belle Province. The goals are to (1) document, (2) support, and (3) take part in enabling the literary community to embrace the cultural, social and economic dimensions of the digital universe. The focus is on “self declared” book publishers and authors, in the classic sense. I will focus my energies on legal and institutional issues, thinking about topics involving copyright, legal deposit, public lending rights, libraries, metadata, and probably the kitchen sink.
My main motivation to align my research activities to this partnership are twofold. On the one hand, I want to describe the current state of “cultural laws and institutions” in Québec, which is referred by some as the cultural exception à la française, implemented in the North American context. This is a unique opportunity to take a snapshot of “how things are” before they are swiped away by what I fear will be a neoliberal digital storm caused by online platforms, populist governments and, well, evolution. On the other hand, I want to confront “self declared” publishers to the realities of the digital world, essentially exploring the hypothesis that the digital universe has shifted the agency they may have had to exclude certains socio-economic agents from from their networks – I call this “supply-side” issues in cultural economics. Librarianship stems from the “demand-side” of cultural markets and confronts industry desires with the needs of communities.
So, I want to describe at how things are all the while looking at how they could shift. Copyright law is my environment and open access is my hypothesis. Books are the object at hand but I sense that video games will provide for a meaningful counterfactual object to study. I’m already having a lot of fun just thinking about all this! (imagine this: last week, I was at a conference discussing digital kids lit and I asked questions about playfulness and games – which lead to some aha moments in the hallway! Here is the equation I proposed: ebooks + interactivity = game. Shocking!)
At this point, the conversation shifted to Scott’s projects. Of all the things we discussed, I do want to highlight a part of our exchange which centered on how a graduate student could leverage graduate work, research labs and the peer community to build a sustainable and ongoing initiative (let’s not call it a business) after having completed their studies. This meant aligning research contracts, thesis work, teaching gigs and other projects around the idea of transforming ideas and research projects into various forms of intellectual property. We discussed research ethics, open access mandates of tri-council funded research and, well, hacking neoliberal rhetoric using utilitarian theory in economics to generate a public good.
As Scott aptly pointed out, this is exactly what I’m trying to accomplish with the Community Arcade initiative. You know, creating a physical object to hack very complex legal and institutional issues with an elegant solution. In a moment of self-reflexive criticism, of which I may one day become famous for, I declared that my single most important contribution to TAG would be to continuously fail at this, providing the fertile ground for others, namely amazing grad students to best this drunken master at his own game…
Needless to say, you had to be there to really get the most from our dynamic and inspiring exchange !
We had a very productive meeting today. Around the table were Jessie, Michael, Kalervo, Valérie, Scott, Fabio and your humble servant (some people had to run in or out, but most were around for the duration). Hope I didn’t forget anyone!
Of the many things we discussed, I wanted to flag that we are “rebranding” the initiative as “Community Arcade” rather than Indie Games for Libraries. The goal is to make it more meaningful for non-librarians (ahem) and open up the boundaries of our action. Of note, Jessie is working on “discoverabilitty” of games and it dovetails nicely on the metadata work Michael and Valérie are involved with (more on that in a second). Scott is looking at games in community centers, also close to libraries but not quite the same. So, the focus is not only on libraries, but settings where games are contextualized beyond the consumer… other institutions (like museums, archives) or groups (the idea of sharing). I have to admit that libraries are a strong focal point still, but I’m happy to broaden it up a bit. I also love the concept of the “commons” as a non/post-proprietary field of research (yeah, like “creative commons” but with an institutional twist). Tip of the hat to Prem for this very interesting tweak.
Now, Michael and Valérie reported on their research around metadata standards for describing games & preservation. They are compiling an annotated bibliography of papers on this thread and will look into migrating it to Zotero (if you don’t know what that is, that means you are creating your bibliographies manually… Zotero is a citation managent tool and used correctly, it can really accelerate the citation process – let me know if you want some training on this!)
I reported on some news: I am co-applicant on a successful SSHRC partnership grant! The project entails looking at digital book publishing in Québec with threads about interactivity and thinking at the “edges” or “boundaries” digital objects including installations or experiences. As you would suspect, I’ll be picking up a lot of the copyright and law-of-the-book research (yeah, that’s a thing), which intersects directly with digital games and our work with libraries and other institutions/contexts. I’m speaking next week at a conference on school (K-12) digital book publishing and will be at the kickoff meeting of the partnership grant the following week. More on this soon…
Another thread involves contacting devs at indie studios and librarians to talk about needs, prospects, possibilities… The group will start compiling the names of people we want to contact but first, I have to submit ethics approval forms . I’ll be sharing the ones we had worked on during the 2015 Knight Foundation project (remember Alice, that video game console we created then?) to expedite the process.
We also started to dig around “getting games in libraries” – specific next steps & action items. There was sone discussion of a process to select games, describe them and similar threads. Of course, this implies talking to devs and librarians so we need ethics approval should we want to write about all of this (and we do). So, next meeting we will work on the “indie pitch” – essentially, the 2-3 page document we would use to explain the project once the ethics-approved protocol is completed. We would want a selection that is diverse, local and interesting, amongst other dimensions. But right now, we are aware that we’ll probably focus on studios which are “close” to TAG… Tip of the hat to Kalervo for suggesting this.
Another salient thread is training of librarians and school teachers. They have different needs but this is seen as a meaningful activity to further our goal of launching & curating Community Arcades.
So, our next meeting is Tuesday May 21st 4-6pm at TAG. We’ll probably go share a beverage afterwards on a yet-to-be-determined location.
Long term preservation (legal deposit, national bibliographies, literary archives and fonds management)
Research and scholarship (academic labs, academic library acquisitions, interlibrary loans, copyright exceptions)
Certify & contextualize (publishing, bookstores, fan culture)
Access (public libraries & schools)s
We discussed a few points from this list…
Long term preservation
I’ve asked around (informally) about digital preservation initiatives in libraries & archives. All of my contacts indicated the same information: everyone is trying to “feed” existing initiatives rather than hosting/launching new ones. Most cited initiatives to preserve software (e.g.: digital games) include UNESCO’s https://www.softwareheritage.org as well as the Internet Archive’s https://archive.org/details/softwarelibrary. Valérie and Michael are digging into this thread.
Research & scholarship
We talked about the idea of a games anthology. The main question centered on the process by which we would “pick” games to be included in the listing. One of the goals of this anthology would be to promote (or kick start or support) the long-term preservation of games (e.g. a studio would have to deposit their games in a software archive to be considered for the anthology). This fits well with the work done in an academic research lab (e.g.: TAG) and identifying “important” games is a key element of certification and contextualization.
Certify and contextualize
We discussed the idea of donations as in-kind support of the research and scholarship in games. A “crazy idea” would be to offer indie studios a “ticked to eternity” : by “gifting” their games for long term preservation and offering flexible licensing terms to allow for research and scholarship, we would then consider them for inclusion in a publishing/access model funded by library subscriptions. This is a very complex idea essentially summarizing the “institutional structure” around other, more “mature” cultural copyrighted works, are handled in our society. Prem is really interested in this area.
There was a lot of talk around the training/education/pedagogical needs of librarians and other professionals. In fact, Scott and Valérie are interested in this, and are working on a way to establish a relationship with professionals in how they express their learning needs about games. Prem flagged that he would focus on the relationship with a narrower set of settings, more in the pilot project scenario. This final thread makes me think that we should perhaps broaden our scope to look beyond libraries as there are similarly unmet needs in the school (K-12) setting.
Please note that you may also be interested in my French-language blog called “culturelibre.ca“
This morning, I had the great honor of leading an undergraduate communications studies class lecture and discussion around the topic of “copyright” within the context of media policy. I recorded my session with a wrist-bound smartwatch, here are the two resulting audio files:
The last 30 minutes was devoted to open classroom conversation and I did not record this part.
The students were asked to read Sara Bannerman’s excellent article titled “Canadian Copyright: History, Change, and Potential” published in the Canadian Journal of Communication in 2011 (Vol 36 (2011) 31-49). This article presents the history of copyright media policy in Canada starting in the mid-19th century. Back then, the United-States produced unauthorized copies of published British books to support their burgeoning publishing sector.
These american copies were finding their way to the Canadian market, squeezing out opportunities for local entities to flourish and pricing authorized British copies out of the market. Bannerman doesn’t quite get into this in her article, you really have to read her excellent book at UBC Press (The struggle for Canadian copyright : imperialism to internationalism, 1842-1971). Nonetheless, I tried to position the copyright rules presented by Bannerman in the late 19th and early 20th century to some contemporary issues faced by Internet users.
Specifically, I explained that Bannerman is presenting Canada as a “middle power” (p. 31) state engaged in negotiating a multinational trade instrument. In the 19th century, Canada was still a colony, under the aegis of the British but also had to deal with the situation in the United States.
Bannerman states (p. 36),
The United States, in 1891, took measures to recognize international copyright on strictly limited terms. Instead of adopting the Berne Convention, the United States granted copyright to foreign nationals on a bilateral basis, on the condition that works be registered and printed in the United States (Boyde & Lofquist, 1991-92; United States, 1891). In this way, the United States adopted a bilateral and protectionist international copyright policy, while Canada was bound to the Berne Convention, which disallowed the types of industry protections built in to the American law.
Canada shifted its position, as exemplified during the 1910 Imperial Copyright Conference.
At the conference, whose proceedings were kept secret, the Canadian representative secured a commitment that the imperial government would negotiate, for Canada, terms that took the form of a protocol to the Berne Convention in 1914 (Protocole additionnel, 1914). This protocol eased Canadian concerns and paved the way for Canada to adhere to the Convention. Under the 1896 revision of the Berne Convention, authors from non-Union countries such as the United States could obtain copyright throughout the Berne Union by publishing their works first in a Berne country (such as Canada). This gave non-Union countries “back door” access to the rights granted by the Berne Convention without requiring said countries to join the Berne Convention. Berne Union authors (including Canadians) did not receive reciprocal protection from the United States; they faced stringent domestic manufacture provisions before they were eligible to receive copyright protection in that country (Berne Convention, 1896, Article 1, Item II; Berne Convention, 1908, Article 6). The 1914 protocol, however, allowed a country of the Union to restrict protection granted to the works of non-Union authors whose government failed to protect in an adequate manner the works of authors of the Union (Protocole additionnel, 1914). This gave Canada the flexibility of recognizing American copyright on a more reciprocal basis, a key requirement for Canadian adhesion.
During the interwar years, which were characterized by optimism about international institutions’ potential to bring about justice and peace, the Berne Convention represented for Canada a powerful international community and a forum for the expression of Canada’s newfound international personality (Hillmer & Granatstein, 2005). Canadian leaders felt that a failure to join in that Union would make Canada “an outlaw among the copyright nations of the world” (O’Hara, 1919), an “outsider in the general community of nations” (Canada, House of Commons, 1921, p. 3833), and a “non-harmonious and non-musical instrument” (Canada, House of Commons, 1931, p. 2309) within the concert of nations.
(Bannerman, p. 37)
But, again, Canada’s position shifted a few decades later.
A 1957 Royal Commission on Patents, Copyright, Trade Marks and Industrial Designs concluded that the Berne Convention represented a European approach to copyright, granting high levels of copyright and placing the rights of authors above the interests of users, consumers, and the public. The commission suggested that a more American approach—with a utilitarian view of copyright that understood copyright as serving the public interest above the interests of authors—might be more suitable to Canada as a net copyright importer— a nation of copyright consumers more than a nation of copyright exporters. (Bannerman, p, 37)
It seems that Canada is still flip-flopping:
Under CETA it appears, according to leaked documents, that the European Union is pushing for Canada to adopt a longer term of copyright protection (70 years rather than 50 years after the death of the author for standard works and other term extensions in other areas), a new resale right for art, a new distribution right, new rights for broadcasters, including a fixation right and a retransmission right, and the extension of reproduction rights to performers and broadcasters (Canada-EU, 2010). (Bannerman, p.40)
The result of this for Canadians today is the possible erosion of Canadian copyright sovereignty, the possible Americanization of Canadian copyright law via American-style digital locks provisions—without the extensive fair use safeguards of the American system, the potential unbalancing of rights and rewards, and the further unbalancing of international flows. (Bannerman, p. 43)
(For the record, these are the passages I cite in my lecture.)
Finally, here are some sources I suggest for further reading:
I discuss an article which attemps to measure the « optimal » lenght of copyright’s duration. It is this one: Landes, William M. and Posner, Richard A., Indefinitely Renewable Copyright (August 1, 2002). U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 154. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=319321 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.319321 (it was published in the University of Chicago Law Review in 2003).
The Knight Foundation has already granted us “prototype” funding last year to create our alpha prototype, codenamed Alice (family pictures on the proposal page). Now, we want to develop and test our library videogame system with partner libraries (Brooklyn NY, San José CA, Civilla in Detroit and with the Indigenous Futures communities in the North) over the next few years. The Knight Foundation focusses on the USA and rest assured that we will be seeking support to deploy our system in Canada and elsewhere!
Because the News Challenge uses an “open” community based evaluation process (in addition to a formal review), you can help in some very simple ways:
1. Please click on the link to get the page view count up.
2. Register an account on the system to either “heart” the proposal or leave a comment. Some useful comments could be “I would love for my local public library to have indie/digital games” or, if you are a game maker, “I would love for libraries to add my game to their collection” (or some variation thereof). Of course, please feel free to add your own comment!
3. Forward this email to anyone who believes that libraries should have Game Clubs and Indie Games.
The Comment phase of the granting cycle closes in about 2 week.
On a more personal note, my ambition is to strengthen libraries everywhere by devising an open social computing platform so that everyone can play and make games. This will also help libraries acquire and preserve digital content through open markets (fixing some pesky collective action & copyright & technological issues). I am blessed with a myriad of colleagues at Concordia who also share this vision and are willing to embark on this quest!
Thanking you in advance for your support of our project,
The context of the lecture is the “Knowledge Management” graduate course in Education. Although this is in the EdTech program, a sizable proportion of students are in traditional teaching roles but may want exposure to other contexts. I also understood that the students will be called upon to either manage copyrighted content for others or be the creators of copyrighted content (as freelancers).
The lecture will be divided in three sections:
Introduction to copyright (Canadian copyright, reserved rights, moral rights, exceptions…)
Managing copyrighted content (CMS, importance of policies & contracts, permission vs. exceptions, open licensing…)
Copyright & the freelancer (rights & responsibilities, work-for-hire & contracts, going to court…)
48 Before reviewing the scope of the fair dealing exception under the Copyright Act, it is important to clarify some general considerations about exceptions to copyright infringement. Procedurally, a defendant is required to prove that his or her dealing with a work has been fair; however, the fair dealing exception is perhaps more properly understood as an integral part of the Copyright Act than simply a defence. Any act falling within the fair dealing exception will not be an infringement of copyright. The fair dealing exception, like other exceptions in the Copyright Act, is a user’s right. In order to maintain the proper balance between the rights of a copyright owner and users’ interests, it must not be interpreted restrictively. As Professor Vaver, supra, has explained, at p. 171: “User rights are not just loopholes. Both owner rights and user rights should therefore be given the fair and balanced reading that befits remedial legislation.”
I’ve always wanted to learn a few more languages, and I am going to add a new one to my “must earn before I die” list: econometrics. I sense that this is the analytical tool that I will eventually have to use to really dig deep into the problems I want to research. The problem is that I’ve already done the math when I was younger, but I couldn’t remember it to same my life.
In any case, here are some sources to read… in my free time…