The Object of Platform Studies: Relational Materialities and the Social Platform (the Case of the Nintendo Wii)


Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System,by Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort, inaugurated thePlatform Studies series at MIT Press in 2009.We’ve coauthored a new book in the series, Codename: Revolution: the Nintendo Wii Video Game Console. Platform studies is a quintessentially Digital Humanities approach, since it’s explicitly focused on the interrelationship of computing and cultural expression. According to the series preface, the goal of platform studies is “to consider the lowest level of computing systems and to understand how these systems relate to culture and creativity.”In practice, this involves paying close attentionto specific hardware and software interactions–to the vertical relationships between a platform’s multilayered materialities (Hayles; Kirschenbaum),from transistors to code to cultural reception. Any given act of platform-studies analysis may focus for example on the relationship between the chipset and the OS, or between the graphics processor and display parameters or game developers’ designs.In computing terms, platform is an abstraction(Bogost and Montfort), a pragmatic frame placed around whatever hardware-and-software configuration is required in order to build or run certain specificapplications (including creative works). The object of platform studies is thus a shifting series of possibility spaces, any number of dynamic thresholds between discrete levels of a system.

Digital Humanities 2011 (DH2011)