Bleed in Day to Day Social Media

We have seen many examples of how bleed affects actors and artists, but I have been thinking about how it affects our day to day lives. Over the last few years, there have been increasing movements against social media and its tendency to force people to construct false realities of themselves. On many social media platforms, their subcultures lead people to do one of two things: either you do ridiculous things ironically, or you capture the best parts of your life.

I believe both are dangerous because of person’s constructed social media can bleed into their personality. Someone may constantly seek to post their happiest selves on Instagram, look for the best moment of their day, or even worse, pretend there is one if you had an average day. Sometimes people extend this to their lives outside of social media and attempt to constantly show a version of themselves that they perceive as best. I should note that I speak from the bias of having nine sisters and seeing their true selves, how they act around others, and how they present themselves on social media.

This becomes extremely dangerous as people begin to live false realities, and convince themselves that their lives are/should be the best moment each time. This can lead people to bottle up their emotions, and push away “negative emotions” (a term I find unproductive) instead of healthily acknowledging them. Their social media selves have bled into their actual selves, and they see themselves as a profile that receives “likes” rather than a human being. Unfortunately, and maybe to the annoyance of the reader, I have a hard time finding facts to support this. These are potentially wrong observations that I see rise intertwined with the ubiquity of social media. Unfortunately, and maybe to the annoyance of the reader, I have a hard time finding facts to support this. These are potentially wrong observations that I see rise intertwined with the ubiquity of social media in friends, family, and after reflecting upon my younger self.

I would like to also note that I’m not claiming that social media is inherently bad. Rather, I believe there are developmental dangers with self-perception and bleed that have not been safely handled. In the world of acting, we have seen methods that are used to try to use bleed productively, or try to keep people safe from the negative parts of bleed. Younger and younger people use social media more and more and the reality is that it is becoming harder and harder for parents to control what their children are being exposed to. As a result, I think looking into how bleed is handled in artistic capacities can also serve as a good step towards finding how we can handle this rapid rise of social media and various ways to construct perceptions of yourself (the self-quantification movement, for example).

Harmful effects of bleeding

This week we talked about how a person interacts with his/her characater, either bleeding in to affect the character, or bleeding out to allow the character affect him/her. Through the documentaries, I saw how bleeding out can affect a person, and I wonder just how deep these affects can be. One can easily think of the news of people playing video games and turned up wielding a knife and stabbing people in real life; and sometimes a video game can affect the mental state as well, as we see many gamers collaspe in front of their computers, and some even dying. Yet I think the effects of video games are very individualized. Each kind of game targets a certain kind of person, and it only allows the “bleed out” to occur because there is already this notion or this intention present in the person before playing the game. Thus, technically, it should not be called “bleed out”.

For example, I think that people who get aggressive by playing video games already have a suppressed mental state of wanting to be aggressive, and that is why they choose to play violent video games (not to say that all who play violent themed video games aer potenitally violent). Playing such games is their way of releasing this “negative energy” outward–kind of like “bleed in”. And when they discovers that the game itself cannot indulge their fantasies, they turn their actions towards the real world. I think the game’s function in this, is not that of a affection, but rather more like that of an activator (in that it activates aggressiveness within the person), and a catalyst (in that it propells the notion of violence to grow). In some sense, this is a notion of bleed in rather than bleed out.

However, I feel that in ARGs, where a puppet master is able to amass a huge number of players, there is the potential of dangerous bleed outs. Each person becomes a player in the ARG, and sometimes, the responsibility of the requirement of the player affects the person outside of the game. I remeber that there was an ARG-like game, where at one part, the puppet master asked the players to sit in a room, with their backs to the door, and turn the lights off, while playing creepy music, and thinking fearful thoughts to themselves. It turned out that this kind of behaviour can induce heightened states of fear, and sometimes, even affecting the players so much that they would think of (and potentially committing), suicide.

In this case, it is scientifically explained that the actions affect the person, and thus it should be defined a bleed out. And we see just how harmful this can be. Especially in an ARG, where there are potentially thousands and thousands of people playing, and when they know nothing about how an action might affect themselves. Of course, at the time, they would think the requests of the puppetmaster weird and fun, but if we look back at this, and think about the potential casualties of this “game”, it does not look fun at all.

Bad News and Death

As the creators of Bad News prepared themselves for the start of their game I expected their world and characters to be fully scripted and handcrafted for the event. I was taken by surprise when the game master, or “wizard” as he referred to himself, opened up a python script which procedurally generated the world of the game.  The script simulated 150 years of relationships, jobs, and families in order to create the town that the player explored, each person the program created had a remarkable depth to them with at least 100 variables to each person. These variables ranged from their appearance to their love interests in the town and reminded me of the simulated characters from the video games Dwarf Fortress and Rimworld. Of this pool of characters one is selected to die and it is the player’s job to deliver the “Bad News” to their next of kin. What followed was not just an interesting narrative of a stranger exploring this small world of the game, but a conversation on how death is handled in games.

In most games, especially video games, death is a trivial manner to the overall structure of the game. Players can die and come back to life within seconds and many games involve the death of many non-player characters with little to no importance to the game at large. Bad News flips the situation entirely, making death a much more somber and emotional moment for the player and the world. By speaking to those who knew the dead subject the player and the audience is able to learn so much about the life they lived and how they touched the people around them. All this without ever actually speaking to this deceased character ever. Death is not portrayed as a trivial thing in the world but as something that has long-lasting impacts on the whole world and those who inhabit it. Bad News also shows how death is an inevitability that us humans strive to cope with.

Early on the gamemasters revealed to us that there are billions of possible unique outcomes for their simulation, meaning that each playthrough takes place in a unique setting with unique people. Once the game was finished the gamemaster quit the program, effectively erasing the generated world from existence. Due to the sheer number of variables and possible outcomes, it is impossible to create that world again even if you had several computers generating new outcomes a second. (Unless, of course, you’re astronomically lucky…) This made the idea of death within the game much more intimate because even if we play the game again for a billion times, we’ll never find ourselves in that world again. Much like how the dead are gone forever, we left that world forever.

Manifestations of Bleed

Watching the two documentaries, along with revisiting the Bowman article “Bleed: The Spillover Between Player and Character” and Tuesday’s discussion got me thinking more about the different kinds of bleed that can exist, even outside of non-game contexts and how more everyday bleed-like phenomenon creep into and affect our daily lives all the time. The distinction between the kind of “bleed-out” in which the character’s personality mingles with the player’s outside of the game (ie, immersing oneself in an assertive or aggressive character translating into the player becoming more assertive or aggressive in their own lives, such as in Jim and Andy and the Great Beyond, or leadership skills gained by leading things in-game translating to the application of those skills in post-game “real life” situations) and the kind of bleed-out in which the player continues to see the world in a more gamified way after the game is over and is unable to break out of the kind of thinking set up by the mechanics of the game is a pretty clear one, yet they are both examples of the game pushing out of its boundaries and affecting the player out of game.

Both of these types of bleed-out also have the potential to provide the player with positive effects or negative, and I wonder what some strategies for dealing with negative experiences of each might be and if they would be different. The first kind of bleed, the one Bowman is concerned with, since it is related to the personality or behaviors of the character bleeding into that of the player seems like it might be helped by things like an intentional separation of character from self during a debriefing session post-game. The second kind of bleed seems to be more about the way the character must view the world as a game bleeding into the player’s own view of the entire world outside of the game, and about the disorientation of switching back to the “real” world after the game is over. This would also probably be helped by a debriefing session, but it feels like there would be a difference in the mindset shift needed  between bringing yourself back into the self and bringing yourself back into an environment. Is there? Or is viewing the world in a gamified way/investing more in the game world than the “real” one just another part of the character a player takes on?  I’m interested in knowing other people’s thoughts on how far apart or not different forms of bleed might be and potential strategies for managing them. Conversely, how different (if at all) would the positive impacts of either kind of bleed be? And at what point (if any) are you able to say that immersion has gone “too far”?

The Invincibility of The Colbert Report to Bleed

In a 2014 video of The Colbert Report titled “Who’s Attacking Me Now?”, Colbert addresses the backlash from news and social media outlets regarding a problematic joke he had made as his character to parodize the actions of the person he was reporting on.

Some aspects that make Colbert strong against the bleed-out effect of actually adopting the problematic beliefs of his character is that he has a strong alibi, a facet of the social contract created when an audience member watches the show. When a person tunes into the show, they must understand that Colbert is depicting an actor, not his real self. In an RPG, the alibi provides “the premise that any actions in the game are taken by the character, not by the player…In principle, no individual is responsible for their actions in-character if those events could unfold plausibly within the fiction”. The stronger the alibi, the weaker the bleed; Colbert isn’t actually a conservative in real life, contrary to the conservative character he plays on the show. His choice to play a conservative character was to satirize the conservative personality-driven political talk programs. The role-playing experience is also a co-creative and collective one; from Colbert’s side there is the director, script writer, camera workers, and a whole crew working with him to create the character for his show. Not to mention the cheers, laughter, and clapping from the audience that demonstrate their participation of approving the character and allowing it to exist. There are so many people invested in the character, that it’s difficult for Colbert to experience bleed with it.

Some misconception on the distinction between the two Colbert’s could be attributed to having an implicit entrance to the “magic circle” as well as there being physical/name similarities between the two. When a viewer tunes into the Colbert Report, Colbert doesn’t announce “I’m going to start playing as the conservative character now, so don’t think what I’m going to say in this show aligns with my actual beliefs”. Instead, he immediately starts the show as his character. Another point that would encourage viewers to combine the two together is that they look exactly the same and share the same name, Stephen Colbert; by not donning a costume or taking on a different name, there is no immediate difference in physical appearance between Colbert’s real self and his show self.  

bleed, technique, and defamiliarization

Since the beginning of the class, I’ve been thinking about the way that ARGs can inspire us to think about our lives and daily actions in new, more creative ways. To me, the process of playing an ARG feels very much like it defamiliarizes our surroundings, especially in the mini-one we played for this class. In play, typical classroom objects and operations were gamified and thus made unfamiliar, re-training our perception. A PowerPoint becomes a trove of clues, special guests become “mysterious visitors”, and lecture becomes a constant guessing game over certain suspect phrases. I think often about how we would often message each other to point out particular words and sentences, even if those ended up not being central to the game and more likely just a part of lecture.

It’s really no surprise to me that ARGs operate in this way, since I often think that art is meant to defamiliarize our surroundings. However, in the concepts of bleed and technique, I also think it’s interesting how we can carry our new experiences and perceptions with us, not so much a process of defamiliarization but rather a re-orientation. Because bleed and technique make the boundary between ARGs/games and “reality” more fluid, I think that they can complicate typical understandings of art and defamiliarization. It’s almost like what was unfamiliar becomes familiar, integrated into our lives.

For example, we can think about the article about bleed and the concepts of bleed in and bleed out. While the character-creation process is different in ARGs – since we are mostly playing a version of ourselves, just one that believes in the new reality – much more of our life and self bleeds into the character, almost to the point where there isn’t a distinction. (I do think though that we might grow to “inhabit” a character during an ARG, even without trying, if we realize that we can experiment and try out new behavior patterns. We might find ourselves more willing to play around and change the rules than usual, for example. Our rebellious side might start to emerge.)

Bleed out, on the other hand, could describe the ways in which the ARG is able to foster skills and ideas in the players that they carry over, whether this is a sense of community or more practice with cipher-solving. Bowman also talks about the “bleed feedback loop”, which can make it hard to discern where the player and the character start or end. Perhaps we can think of playing an ARG as a type of feedback loop. However, we also might find ourselves slipping in and out of the ARG world and mentality, depending on how the game interacts with our “real” life. For example, my daily life was often interrupted by new Slack conversations about the hints, which would put me in a different mindset.

Technique, in the Crease and Lutterbie reading, combines the concepts of bleed and defamiliarization in an interesting way. First, the authors bring up that learning how to use our bodies can actually be the way we come to know ourselves as subjects. They note, “in the process of learning to move our bodies, we give form to them.” In this way, learning to use our bodies is a process of formation and familiarization. The authors then discuss how technique can give us new ways of expressing ourselves and our bodies. Once we learn that technique, we then move on to learning new things, since “we can put it in the service of some other performance, using it to deliver us to a situation where […] a new kind of interplay with phenomena becomes possible” (Crease and Lutterbie). This quote very much reminded me of the process of playing an ARG; we reach a clue, acquire the skills needed to solve it, and then move on to the next puzzle that is now possible. In addition, ARG designers can scaffold the puzzles and experiences so that the players are learning new skills and putting them to more difficult tests as the game continues.

Technique is thus a process of defamiliarization. The authors note that when we enter a space or rehearsal, “the body already has technique […] Therefore, a part of the training process is getting the student to “unlearn” ways of moving or speaking” (Crease and Lutterbie). In the process of learning a new technique, then, we must try to abandon what we know in favor of altering the way we speak and act. This also applies directly to ARGs, which often re-train our perception to notice things we don’t usually pay attention to.

This defamiliarization is also asks us to move away from our typical actions and attitudes. The authors mention the idea of “quotidian energy” – everyday energy based on efficiency. The process of learning new techniques is also a process of working against this drive for efficiency and focusing instead on creativity and intensity. (This reminds me of our social experiments, where we tried to get people to approach everyday activities – like walking – in playful and affectively different ways.)

However, most importantly, this defamiliarization again bleeds into our lives and becomes, in a sense, familiar. The authors end the chapter by stating, “the acquisition of a technique necessarily involves self-transformation” (Crease and Lutterbie). It is not like a costume or a character that we can pick up and put down according to our desires; “it has consequences or the way our bodies interact with the world.”

I suppose, in thinking about the concept of technique and bleed, we can come to see how ARGs depend first on a process of re-training and defamiliarization, which then transfers into the player’s life and changes the way they relate to the world. In our design process, we might consider how we will accomplish this defamiliarization, teach the players new skills and techniques, and build a structure that encourages them to take those lessons and attitudes with them outside of the magic circle.

Works Cited

Bowman, Sarah Lynne. “Bleed: The Spillover Between Player and Character.” https://nordiclarp.org/2015/03/02/bleed-the-spillover-between-player-and-character/

Crease, Robert P. and John Lutterbie. “Technique.” In Staging Philosophy: Intersections of Theater, Performance, and Philosophy.

This is Not a Game .. or is it?

In McGonigal’s piece “This is Not a Game”, she describes a particular game called the Beast played by a group of online gamers called the Cloudmakers. The Cloudmakers were a group of around 7000. After 9/11 they wanted to help solve the puzzle for who the terrorists were. Cloudmakers thought that their extensive experience in puzzle solving from the Beast would be valuable in a real life tragic event. However, the creators of the Beast quickly put this to a stop a few days later. They believed that this was not a game and should not be treated as such – but why not?

The game makers themselves stated how unbelievable the Cloudmakers were at solving problems. What the game designers thought would take the Cloudmakers months to solve took them a single day. Particularly with the Beast, the game had no game boundaries. The games and clues would be hidden in everyday life on websites, advertisements, faxes, and phone calls. McGonigal says “nothing about this virtual play was simulated” (McGonigal 3). In fact, the game the Beast became such a large part of the Cloudmakers life that once the game ended, the players’ lives were completely altered.
What makes it a game? The fact that there are game designers and clues planted? How is that different from a murder mystery or even a terrorist attack? They each have clues and can be solved. I think that this is one of the most powerful things of ARG’s. If implemented a certain way that can actually solve real world problems or at least bring awareness to the problem.
Another thing that stuck out to me in this reading was the lingering effects of immersion that the game players faced. It almost seemed unethical how invested they were in the game and the effects that the game had on them. A Cloudmaker moderator says “You find yourself at the end of the game, waking up as if from a long sleep. Your marriage or relationship may be in tatters. Your job may be on the brink of the void, or gone completely” (McGonigal 5). The game has taken so much of a player’s life that it has literally changed them even though it is just a game. In this case, it almost seemed for the worse. I think this is a pretty interesting topic of debate because this is the case for video games as well as ARGs. The gaming industry is going to get bigger and bigger as time progresses. Games like Fortnite, FIFA, etc consume most of a lot of students/kids lives. Time spent on gaming means less time spent on personal improvement, relationships, athletics, and maybe hurts education. Should time spent gaming be regulated? Although games can be a positive to society there are also many negative externalities that should be accounted for.

Bleeding and Performance

The concept of “bleed” can definitely be applied to Lady Gaga and the way she is presented in the documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two. As Sarah Lynne Bowman writes, “role-players sometimes experience moments where their real life feelings, thoughts, relationships, and physical states spill over into their characters’ and vice versa;” this seems to be true, too, for Lady Gaga and the way in which she represents herself to her fans (l. 2-4). To begin with, “Lady Gaga” is a separate identity from Stefani Germanotta, and in some sense this is the avatar that Stefani chooses to represent in her career as a performer. Additionally, Gaga channels more than just her usual persona of Gaga; naming her album Joanne is not only a tribute to her dead aunt, but also a new identity that Gaga takes on: she “bleeds” into Joanne when she asserts that since Joanne was her father’s sister, and she her father’s daughter, that she herself is Joanne. It is through this “bloody” channeling that Gaga is able to manifest into music the essence of her aunt in the single “Joanne”.  

However, while Lady Gaga is comparable to role-players in that she merges identities with her musical personas, her position as a role-player is performative in a different way from gamers. For one, Lady Gaga must consider how her character will be received by her fans; she cannot just assume a new identity and become the girl who wears a t-shirt and jeans, for her fans expect her to be a spectacle: wearing a meat dress to one award show, arriving to the Grammy’s in an egg. Her “bleeding” is therefore always contingent on an audience’s reception.

Additionally, the “players accept the premise that any actions in the game are taken by the character, not by the player” through the concept of “alibi” (l. 25-6). As such, the player has the option of escaping completely into the magic circle of the dream world. Conversely, Lady Gaga does not have as much flexibility in regards to the alibi, for two reasons. The first, as aforementioned, is her character’s dependance on fan response. The second is that her career is inextricably linked to these characters; from a Marxist perspective, she experiences alienation from the self when assuming a new character in relation to her economic livelihood as derived from a chosen character.

In thinking about the different stakes that “bleeding” has depending on context (bleeding in a game versus bleeding in a career) I wonder, too, how bleeding can be a negative side-effect of a game, because sometimes “the intensity of emotion has become overwhelming to the mind, causing confusion and difficulties with immediate processing and distancing” (l. 48-9). Thus, the puppet master has an ethical responsibility to create a world where players can escape their day-to-day selves, without losing themselves in the process.

After watching Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, I kept asking myself how far Jim Carrey’s method acting truly went during the filming of Man on the Moon. While the cameras are rolling its clear that he was fully committed to this act, as he said it was a Jekyll and Hyde moment for him. I wonder how this act changed when there were no cameras on him and it was explicitly a moment outside of any film. The documentary informs us that for the most part when Carrey adopted the role he was fully engulfed in the character for hours, sometimes entire days. Early on the film, my initial thoughts drifted to what other members of the crew thought about Carrey’s performance. How many of them found his performance funny and how many were unable to voice discomfort due to the immense pressure of telling Jim Carrey to do something other than act. The film glosses over this question unless its Jerry Lawler not reacting positively to Carrey’s teasing. For the most part, it seems as if the majority of the cast and crew went along with whatever the act asked of them. But there is one moment that stuck out for me towards the end of the documentary.

When Jim Carrey plays Andy Kaufman and announces that he has cancer, there is one actor who immediately objects to this act. Danny Devito objects to Carrey’s performance and makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with this part of the joke and it’s clear through his actions that he feels uncomfortable with the situation. This moment raises the question that lies at the core of this documentary. At what point does a harmless joke become something much worse? What I believe it comes down to is the responsibility of the actor to know the audience. Not every joke is going to be perfect and even the best jokes will be frowned upon by someone. That doesn’t make this a terrible film nor does it make Carrey a horrible person for going too far on occasion. The film goes to great lengths to show how he’s grown as a person since he played this role and there’s definitely a sense of maturity in the way that he handles the interview. It’s something to consider when creating any form of art that seems obvious but is often brushed over. When we experiment and try new things in art we shouldn’t expect it to be perfect or comfortable for us, and when things fail we should take responsibility for our failure and make sure that we grow as whatever kind of artist we strive to be. So that when we do cross the line we can step back, take responsibility for our actions, and ensure that we do better next time.

Everyday Performance and the Willingness to Accept It

In “Technique,” Crease and Lutterbie describe a view of technique as “inseparable from human experience” (162). This understanding points to a kind of everyday performance in which we use learned techniques, often involuntarily, in our daily behaviors. Sociologist Erving Goffman writes about a similar concept, suggesting that we cement our identities and social roles by performing to others in our everyday interactions. But he suggests that, in order to give a convincing performance, we “tend to show [the audience] only the end product” with the effort that goes into performing concealed (44). I’m interested in considering how these everyday aspects of performance can be revealed, and what the implications are when they’re modified.

The Push provides one way of thinking about this: By putting its subjects in extreme scenarios, their performances were drastically modified to the point that they eventually attempted murder. But I’m interested in looking at this idea of performance in scenarios closer to daily experience, so I’m instead going to primarily focus on another example. Since watching The Push, I’ve been thinking a lot about the comedy reality show Nathan For You, which uses somewhat similar tactics of manipulation and deceit. In it, deadpan comedian Nathan Fielder goes to small businesses with elaborate stunts framed as business advice, like a rebate at a gas station that requires customers to hike up a mountain and solve a series of riddles to claim. (If you’re interested, the episodes “Smokers Allowed,” “The Hero,” and “The Anecdote” seem particularly relevant.)

In the show, Fielder performs as a deeply socially awkward version of himself. In interviews, he describes the persona as an exaggerated version of his real-life awkwardness, suggesting a blending of self and character somewhat reminiscent of Colbert. There’s a frequent discomfort that comes from that, as it can be difficult to judge Fielder’s true feelings or intentions at any given moment. But what I think is especially interesting is how he interacts with the performances of his unknowing participants. Goffman describes a tendency people have to cooperate with each other’s performances, playing along so as to avoid discomfort. But Fielder doesn’t do that in interacting with people for his show. As he explains, “In my personal life, I will do whatever it takes to make a situation comfortable… if I’m talking to someone [and] there’s a silence, I’ll try to fill that gap… But in the show, I don’t do that, and I let those moments sit.” This creates a certain frailty to the interactions portrayed on the show, as he leaves people’s performances, or their techniques, very exposed. And often, there’s a poignant humanity in that, and the show presents its subjects with surprising empathy.

The show plays with the idea of performance in several other interesting ways. The idea of bleed described by Bowman frequently seems relevant. Not only does the public draw meaning from some of Fielder’s marketing-based stunts (several have been mistaken for Banksy pieces), but Fielder himself often seems affected by his own performances. When audiences find meaning in his bizarre stunts, he finds meaning in them too. And there are moments in which he uses his own fictions to comfort himself, in one instance asking an actress to portray one of the small business owners in order to tell him he did a good job. As he constructs his elaborate fictions, there’s an extent to which he seems to believe them on an emotional level.

In this way, I think the show highlights our frequent willingness to believe performances, both of others and of ourselves. We tend to accept and cooperate with the version of a person we’re presented with. And when we don’t, it’s disorienting. I’m interesting in exploring both that willingness to believe and the discomfort of leaving a performance exposed.

(Goffman quotes are from The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life)