Author: matthewdessner

8 BIT ASSAULT (Advertising & Retro-Gaming)

This project involves a systematic interrogation of a collective nostalgia which has often been attributed to the classic video games of the late 20th century. Through the deliberate introduction of advertising as a foreign element into these celebrated titles such as Super Mario Bros, Pong and Zelda, we aim to provoke the collective unconscious of the nostalgic gamer through a comedic intervention, ultimately aiming to challenge and disturb a specific set of hegemonic discourses that have since become normalized.
Here is the full essay linked below.

Blog Post 3: The Online Space of a Musician

I’ve had to deal with a harsh reality as someone playing music in the 21st century –  the fact is that bands are brands. As an independent musician or group today, one must brand themselves – it’s half the battle; however, for myself and my band, this often becomes more of a nuisance than the liberty that most social networks advertise themselves to be. Like it or not, I find myself in charge of our band’s virtual representation through these online networks – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…etc – each of them designed to represent who we (think we) are in the best way possible.

As Lefebvre taught us, spaces are produced through social relations (289); therefore, as I design posts on Facebook for instance to reach the maximum number of people, in order to best market ourselves, I am acquiescing to the rules which govern the particular online space – rules which were developed through socially reinforced hegemonic discourses. When something creative is involved, like music for example, this becomes problematic. Writing music at its best is one of the most unique out of body experiences I’ve experienced. If I could best describe it, its like an explosion of creativity that becomes so all-encompassing that one is forced to live entirely in the present. Playing music live is a similarly visceral experience. It’s insanely difficult to dilute this awesome experience into this online body which is designed to conform to marketing and communicable purposes. This process of confining our senses and emotions into an arbitrary representation of something greater and more real is quite limiting; as Friedrich Nietzsche would describe, in speaking of “trees, colours, snow and flowers, we believe we know something about the things themselves, and yet we only possess metaphors of the things and these metaphors do not in the least correspond to the original essentials” (4). However, as a band, we must prescribe to these so-to-say metaphors, because if not, a 21st century audience would have no interest in our music whatsoever. I wonder if this struggle is in any way similar to a question pondered by Sarah Ahmed; she asks, “what does it mean to be orientated?” (1). By conforming to the socially produced spaces of society, are we in essence, being orientated? When we are asked by others, “what genre of music do you play?” and we struggle to find a best-fitting answer to that question, are we actually struggling to choose an orientation, similarly to the way a transgendered individual might struggle to choose what public restroom they should enter?

In a capitalist society – public space becomes an arena of sorts where each of us become mini-entrepreneurs vying for an audience to buy in. Since this hegemonic discourse is so all-encompassing, there is no way out. Any artist that avoids fitting in risks becoming the other – an alien to the system. As a musician aiming to achieve some sort of financial success, one must conform to these online spaces because they have become the norm. I will always be somewhat uncomfortable when using these spaces for all the above reasons; however, in analyzing our environments and in general, through studying critical communications we can only benefit by understanding the systems of power which are constantly at work in these spaces and by cautiously accepting them with a grain of salt. Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 3.19.39 PM

P.S. Here’s a link to this crazy interactive online map of sorts which shows “every” genre of music. Shows you how weird it can be to orient your type of music into a few words.


Ahmed, Sara. (2006) “Introduction – Find Your Way” Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, (1-24). Durham: Duke University Press.

Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On Truth and Falsity in their Extramoral Sense.” Essays on Metaphor. Ed. Warren Shibles. Whitewater, WI: Language Press, 1972. 1-13.

Blog Post 2: Re-Orientation Exercise

In my introduction, I spoke about the “stage”. The “stage” – as a space, however, can have many meanings. In academia, one might say that the classroom or lecture hall is the stage; and in the hospital, a doctor might consider the operating room to be his or her stage. With this notion, I recognize the stage as a moving a mental construct. In writing this reconsideration of sorts, I wanted to better understand the way a space preconditions specific bodies and actions.

Its worth noting however, that I tried to avoid writing this response in a concrete manner because, to me, the physical realm of the stage is less important than the sets of meanings which it produces. To illustrate this – I’ve attached a photo below of the last stage I played a concert on; if you ask me today what space comes to my mind when I hear the word “stage” – it would be the space you see here. However, if you had asked me that same question a day before that same show – I would have surely considered another space which meant something to me at that distinct time.


Photo taken at l’Abreuvoir

In referencing Henri Lefebvre and Merleau-Ponty, Sarah Ahmed discusses this relationship between space and action, stating that “the space of the study is shaped by a decision (that this room is for this kind of work), which itself then “shapes” what actions “happen” in that space” (52). In focusing upon the concert stage – it is a space designed for a select few individuals to play music for a larger mass of individuals. The space is created for this purpose and is quite different then the stage in a Theatre for example. In understanding this, I immediately thought about a story one of my audio engineering friends had told me; he was recently asked to control the live audio for a dance show in the same bar which I played a show in last week (above picture). He told me about how awkward the show was because the space simply wasn’t meant for dancing, an activity which, in most cases, is better suited to a completely different type of stage. The result was a group of uncomfortable dancers whose lacklustre performance failed to resonate with an audience that was equally uncomfortable in the misused space.

I also found it interesting to look at the work of CRESSON, the Centre de Recherche sur l’Espace Sonore et l’Environnement Urbain and compare their architectural approach to the design of a stage and music venue. A professor, J.J. Delétré mentions that “sonic quality is not a parameter ready to be programmed and conceptualized” when considering architecture and building practices (1), however I must somewhat disagree in that the recording studio and music venue might qualify as exceptions to that generalization. Keeping in mind Ahmed’s notion of how the space predefines actions – any recognized music venue has put a significant amount of effort into creating an acoustically-sound environment and an appropriately sized and placed stage. I won’t get in to the details of how this accomplished because it would take another entire blog post, however, every aspect of the space is often considered.

The objects in the space are just as important; Ahmed states how an object “also provides a space, which itself is the space for action, for certain kinds of work” (55). The old rug placed on the stage is waiting for a drum set to be sat on top of it and the amplifiers are waiting to be plugged in and played out of.

Perhaps my final project might subtly touch upon the borders of this space? Along the lines of the Dancing group I discussed, failing to impress the audience in the bar – maybe I could use this preconditioned space – the stage – to perform what Guy Debord describes as a “détournement” and to further study the audience’s preexisting expectations and their post-“performance” reaction.

Works Cited

Ahmed, Sara. (2006) Queer Phenomenology Ch. 1: Orientations Towards Objects, section “Inhabiting Spaces” (51-63). Durham: Duke University Press.

Debord, Guy. (1959) ‘Détournement as Negation and Prelude’, Bureau of Public Secrets.

Delétré, Jean-Jacques. (1995) How to integrate the sonic quality to architectural design… Florence (Italie), Alinea (1-8) (

Mis-Guide – Dirt: The Untoured Story

As per the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “dirt” conventionally refers to any sort of “excrement”; however, a more informal use of the word makes reference to any sort of “scandalous or malicious gossip”. In designing my mis-guide, Dirt: The Untoured Story, I made full use of this dual meaning to; (a) disrupt the tactically-planned design of a traditional Concordia University tour which would surely avoid focusing upon any possibly-questionable areas; and (b), to make the participant cognizant of the overwhelmingly acclamatory dominant ideologies associated with a reputable institution like Concordia, further persuading them into reconsidering these associations. Essentially, a normal campus tour would show the institution at its best – mine does just the opposite.

Watch in 720p!

“Run Like a Girl” – Super Bowl Ad

We we’re talking about the “like a girl” negative connotation, so I found it quite interesting to see this on my Facebook news feed. It’s a Super Bowl ad, so it’s definitely a bit dramatized – and sponsored by a brand of course – but it has the good message we were discussing in class – changing the connotation of the “like a girl” phrase.

Where Am I? – Mapping, Augmented and Virtual Reality

Loyola Campus on Google Maps

Loyola Campus on Google Maps

This week’s focus was on mapping – a vital process in attempting to understand one’s location in space through a representational medium. Ever since the dawn of man, the human race has been trying to situate itself and understand its surroundings. Mapping is never a finished process; despite having fully illustrated the Earth, the land around us is always changing – and furthermore, there are infinite amounts of ways to understand the spaces we inhabit. In Mobile Interface Theory’s second chapter, “Mapping and Representations of Space”, Jason Farman explores how mobile technology has provided the foundation for a whole new contextually meaningful set of mapping practices.

Oculus Rift - Virtual Headset

Oculus Rift – Virtual Headset

Farman argues that mobile technology (i.e. GPS navigation using Google Maps on a smartphone) has a significant affect on the way we embody and conceive of a space. It’s also noted that this relationship between the virtual representation of reality and its literal counterpart are becoming so seamlessly integrated; so much so, that if a perfect representation exists, physical reality begins to lose meaning. Thus, Farman is in accordance with John Rajchman in stating that virtual reality shouldn’t aim to perfectly imitate reality but to cooperate and create a dialogue with it; this ultimately leads us to the notion of “augmented reality”.

In contrast with virtual representations of space, augmented reality will act as an additive element to material space that interacts and influences our embodied experience. Jason Farman identifies the importance of such augmented realities and their significance in our perception of physical space, largely because media has become increasingly mobile. Through the cell phone, we can now collect information on our environment that contributes to our experience.

Streetmuseum APP

Streetmuseum APP

Google maps is an obvious example used by the author to understand the difference in the experience of space through cell phones in contrast with paper maps. As users of the Google maps application, we are able to contribute to the visual representation of the space we use to help us navigate. We can filter our searches, view traffic predictions and choose a mode of transportation or a route option. As such, the overhead map made available to us through smartphones acts an augmented space from which we are disembodied from, in contrast with virtual nature of the street view. Another example is the app, “Streetmuseum” which lets its users point their phones at different landmarks and discover relevant historical information.

It is predicted that by 2018, virtual reality systems will be found in more than 80 millions dwellings (Dugal, par. 2). Virtual reality, as the name suggests, is a new technology that will allow us to travel and experience new sceneries, in the comfort of our home. It is an encounter with new spaces, as if we were truly there. Contrarily to augmented reality, virtual reality evokes a simulated world. Although the space depicted may be real, it does not take place in real time. The idea of “presence” is very important to this type of reality, as the spectator actually feels part of the environment, feels involved with it.


Second Life Application

In recent years, numerous technological companies jumped on the bandwagon, hoping to make virtual reality THE biggest innovation of the 21st century. The particularity of virtual reality is the combination of senses, mostly sight and hearing, helping to make the experience even more credible. Most of all, this marvelousness proves how easily our brain can be fooled, and how the human is prolific when it comes to imagining the world differently.

Questions to Consider

1. Might you consider being restricted rather than empowered by augmented reality tools such as google maps?

2. Farman mentions Umberto Eco’s argument, stating that, “once there is a 1:1 relationship between the representation and the thing it represents (such as a map that is the exact size of the space it represents), the former will destroy the later. They are unable to coexist.” Do you believe this to be true?

3. Do you believe applications such as Second Life to be harmful?


Dugal, Matthieu. “Voyager dans le creux de votre sofa.” La Presse + 16 Nov. 2014, Screen 2. Web. 25 Jan. 2015.

Thanks for reading,

Béatrice Viens Côté, Matthew Dessner, Joelle Cytrynbaum

Arcade Fire – My Body is a Cage

Hey y’all,

When we started last lecture, I couldn’t get this song out of my head and I thought the meaning was quite relevant. It kind of speaks upon the limits of the mind and body, further attempting to separate the two. I posted the lyrics below if you’re interested!



“My Body Is A Cage”

My body is a cage that keeps me
From dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

My body is a cage that keeps me
From dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

I’m standing on a stage
Of fear and self-doubt
It’s a hollow play
But they’ll clap anyway

My body is a cage that keeps me
From dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

You’re standing next to me
My mind holds the key

I’m living in an age
That calls darkness light
Though my language is dead
Still the shapes fill my head

I’m living in an age
Whose name I don’t know
Though the fear keeps me moving
Still my heart beats so slow

My body is a cage that keeps me
From dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

You’re standing next to me
My mind holds the key
My body is a

My body is a cage
We take what we’re given
Just because you’ve forgotten
That don’t mean you’re forgiven

I’m living in an age
That screams my name at night
But when I get to the doorway
There’s no one in sight

I’m living in an age
That laughs
When I’m dancing
With the one I love
But my mind holds the key

You’re standing next to me
My mind holds the key

Set my spirit free
Set my spirit free
Set my body free
Set my body free

Set my spirit free
Set my body free