Feminist Games

quo magis speculativa, magis practica

—-399: Intro to Critical Game Studies Syllabus

last spring i put all this time into drafting the syllabus for an experimental, small, upper-division course thematically oriented around the notion of ‘critical game studies’. while i would make changes to this syllabus given more time … why not share what i have now? if you find this useful or have comments, please share them. the only comment i’m not really interested in goes along the lines of: this looks like a lot of reading. …obviously.

[PDF: syllabus399]

dear auntie – updated

update 1: this post is regularly updated with new chapters as they develop. chapters do not develop in a sensible sequence due to the multithreading of conversations that can happen on facebook. chapter 1, however, was (what in retrospect) i will call ‘the beginning’—knowing, of course, all ‘beginnings’ are impure. 

update 2: as of publishing chapter 4, I have reflected more on what this post is supposed to be doing, and i have considered the potential harm it could be doing as a work that recontextualizes people’s words outside of their initial form and format. perhaps it is telling that i have decided not to discontinue the project and maintain this page as a repository for these observations (essentially, a kind of data collection). i am doing this because i think there is something about what’s going on in these posts, this project, that is of public interest. this is not the same thing as journalism, but there is something pedagogical in character to looking over people’s shoulders and listening in on how they conduct themselves in civil discourse on the internet in 2016. when most of the nations opinion leaders seem to be suggesting that politics should not be brought to the family dinner table around this Thanksgiving holiday, it seems of the utmost importance, then, to demonstrate other ways of weaving political discourse into the fabric of everyday life. this weaving is not inherently obvious in character or technique, and from conversations with my students in the classroom, there is a general demand for demonstrations of this rhetorical art form in practice. in sum, i see this project as a technological demonstration of sorts: a practical example of how i am using technology in everyday life to have conversations that seem impossible around the dinner table.

what is inherently technological about this practice of conversation is the ways in which Facebook affords a very different kind of conversation than what would normally happen at a family get-together. the space is differently-public, and time is differently-experienced; people speak and reflect in different ways when they write, compared to when they speak. the social pressure points and rhetorical subtexts are different. the process overall of engaging and disengaging from conversation is radically different. if my aunt or anyone else starts to express things that offend me, on Facebook i can walk away from the conversation for a few days, reflect on an appropriate response, type it up, review and revise, and then re-engage in the conversation. in the real world i don’t have those affordances, and the consequences are such that we don’t have political conversations at the table because when someone says something offensive, our instincts kick in and we start to act and behave in ways that both simultaneously shut down conversation and enact strategies for self preservation. in other words, we get defensive, and when we’re defensive, we’re not able to think strategically about the ways in which we can technically continue to engage with the offensive issue.  

attenuating to the form and format of technical engagement is increasingly an important aspect of my praxis. i am a white, cis-gendered, educated, employed, able-bodied person who comes from an upper middle-class (6-figure income) family who cares for me and accepts me. i am empowered in ways that help me cope with the ways in which i am not privileged as a queer, depressed, overweight woman. i can leverage that power to take risks, and engage in ways that others may not be able to afford—especially when it comes to having conversations with people in my kinship network. these conversations on Facebook, for example, take up a lot of the time i should be spending on my coursework or teaching, and taking this time to respond has definitely affected my ability to do good work on time for my supervisors. but—this is work that needs to happen. i am lucky enough to also be at an institution, working with generous scholars who know this. 

what i hope does not come of this project is the sense that i am doing this to make an example of the people in my family who voted for a fascist. i mean no ill will! this project is in many ways about being generous because generosity is a prerequisite for civil discourse. i am trying to model what generosity looks like in this particular socio-technological context. it is easy, after all, to talk in vague generalities. what i think people demand in a demonstration of civil discourse is a meaningful, concrete example of what an attempt at bridge-building looks like. again—an attempt. this might be a spectacular example of spinning wheels in mud, but i hold out hope that the process and the subsequent effort to document it has a longer-than-average-life in the context of Facebook comments. furthermore, bridge-building, once you have accepted the burden of first conceding time and effort into the project (remember, all beginnings are imperfect, but projects must start somewhere to nurture the phenomenon of duration), requires a strategic assessment of where common ground can be made. it must be a calculated and thoughtful process. generosity is aspirational, yes, and i cannot by myself say for certain if this project achieves its aims. 

another one of the many failings of this work as a censored blog post is that it does not characterize the subtexts that characterize power relationships in this kinship network. while i maintain the distinction between when i speak and my aunt speaks, i do so to underscore a very basic power relation that would have probably been self evident anyways from even a superficial assessment of writing styles. i also think this distinction helps make the work more relatable for some people, even if it does seem to compromise an expectation of privacy that may or may not exist for my aunt. this may be where this work transgresses ethical boundaries, but then again—i have many aunts. people who know what is going on in these posts are already privileged to this discourse if they were to read posts on my Timeline. if i am doing something that is transgressive, i hope this regrettable oversight (at the very least) inspires discussion on the unique situation of privacy on Facebook—especially in situations when their proprietary algorithms that govern notifications and ‘News Feed’ content selectively participate in opening up these conversations to people inside and outside my kinship network. this is to say, i think the politics of reblogging censored versions of these conversations differs from what would normally govern a research agenda or formal scholarly project. it is in this sense i feel obligated to characterize this project as an aspect of my work as a community activist.  

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Draft: NCA Presentation 2016

this morning i presented the following material for an NCA practice panel. the organization of what i have here will changed somewhat in the next two weeks, and i definitely need more visuals (thanks audience feedback!); but, i’m sharing this preemptively because i wanted to respond to this tweet. the tweet speaks to the larger relevance of the work i’m doing here, because while i’m talking about a television show, my focus here is on lessons that can be applied in other media production contexts. without further context…


Thank you for your attention here today. My name is Iris and I am a PhD student with the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University within the Culture, Computing, and Society group. For the last several years I have concerned myself with questions of feminist praxis and industrial practice, and today I want to relay some initial conclusions I’ve come to following a year-longish analysis of an ambitious serial project that—like many similarly ‘risky’ shows—was prematurely cancelled. These conclusions follow from an analysis of possible shortcomings in existing scholarly projects that work to frame articulations of political practice in industrial media production settings. In particular, I’m interested in recovering value from aspects of producing a television show that are typically regarded as fluff or epistemologically suspect. These are moments that orient production workers in the position of explaining themselves in relation to their work, sometimes under the guise of ‘selling’ the show or themselves. What I take issue with is the derision of these moments; in particular because I think that they uniquely afford production workers an opportunity to ‘take back the mic’—to articulate interpersonal relationships and personal information that tends to complicate possible interpretations of what a project is and who a project is for. Thus, in thinking about what feminist praxis looks like in an industrial practice setting, I argue in this paper that it is by attenuating my analysis of the show to a study of mutually reinforcing discursive practices on both sides of the camera that I am better able to appreciate the many feminisms done in the production of Strange Empire. Read the rest of this entry »

MidweSTS 2016 || City-crafting for a Disaggregated Workforce: Defining Development in Terms of Access


Introduction: Mediating the Emergence of the Future

For decades, researchers across different disciplines have studied the relationships between infrastructure, geography, and networking technologies, working to articulate moments of  rupture, revolution, and disruption—moments of instability for traditional material and symbolic regimes of power. For scholars like Henri Lefebvre, the practical implications of this research directly related to radical improvements in knowledge and pedagogy around the production and maintenance of social spatial practices that characterize urban life (cf. 1991). Networking technologies inevitably became a focus in contemporary studies of modernity because they allowed for the emergence of societies without conceivable centers, which has had a profound effect on human imagination of how ‘infrastructure’ emerges from the perceived landscape (cf. Katie King, 2012; Scott McQuire, 2008; Manuel Castells, 2004; Arjun Appadurai, 1996).

My overarching framework draws from Latour’s actor network theory and infrastructure studies, which allows for scholars like me to attenuate to the ways in which “time, ideologies, and discourses of modernism have helped define the purposes, goals, and characteristics of those infrastructures [that provide the foundation of modern social worlds]” (Edwards, 2003, pp. 191). An inherent optimism emerges from the situation between actants, as they both play a role in mutually recognizing and feeding back information to the other—of shaping the other. For scholars like Nick Couldry and Anne McCarthy, Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, Arjun Appadurai, and many others, the recognition of this co-productive experience is uniquely mediated in networked societies by electronic media technologies.

Read the rest of this entry »

P335 Production as Criticism Syllabus & Course Schedule

posting this after our first class session. time will tell if i’ve scared anyone away, but i was also told “i’m so excited about this class” more times than i could count as people walked out the door.

let the semester begin.

P335 Course Schedule Fall 2016
P335 Syllabus Fall 2016


old visions

Today Kentucky Route Zero released chapter 4 in a long-awaited installment of the series. This inspired me to think back on an analysis I wrote for class on the first chapter of this game 2 years ago. IIRC, the theme was to write about a game and apply J.P. Gee’s learning principles to design principles or aspects embodied in the game or gameplay experience. I’m still meditating about what I’ve written—definitely some style issues that I would like to think I’ve let go of over the years. Still, there’s some work here that I think others would enjoy, so I’m publishing the essay without revisions at this time. I may write more following my replay of the game. Read the rest of this entry »


in the night arteries relax
hot blood flows quickly
to places of neglect
and the sorrow feeds back
into the system like a sap
a coagulant

sweet entropy save me
from the swift return of memory
that familiar ache, grief
my production of juglone

save me, histamine
provoke another transitional phase

today is a day to live

pathways into sts


i was supposed to be deep into helldivers, but the wireless card driver (i guess?) running on my bootcamp partition was acting up last night. in the middle of what was supposed to be fun time, i check twitter—like you do while windows decides to install ‘updates’ for 10 minutes instead of restarting like you asked. Read the rest of this entry »