Category: Life

CFP: SLSA 2013 at Notre Dame

Sadly, I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll be able to make this year’s SLSA, even though the theme of the “postnatural” is right up my alley! Passing the CFP along for others….

The 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA)

VENUE: The Campus of the University of Notre Dame
DATES: October 3-6, 2013


SLSA 2013 Site Organizer: Laura Dassow Walls, University of Notre Dame (
Program Chair: Ron Broglio, Arizona State University (


What does it mean to come “after” nature? In 2012, Arctic ice melted to the lowest level in human history; with ice everywhere in retreat, island nations are disappearing, species vectors are shifting, tropical diseases are moving north, northern natures-cultures are moving into extinction. Acidification of ocean water already threatens Northwest shellfish farms, while historic wildfires, droughts, floods, and shoreline erosion are the norm. Reality overshoots computer models of global warming even as CO2 emissions escalate. Yet none of this has altered our way of living or our way of thinking: as Fredric Jameson noted, we can imagine the collapse of the planet more easily than the fall of capitalism. What fundamental reorientations of theory—of posthumanity and animality, of agency, actants, and aporias, of bodies, objects, assemblages and networks, of computing and cognition, of media and bioart—are needed to articulate the simple fact that our most mundane and ordinary lives are, even in the span of our own lifetimes, unsustainable? If we have never been natural, are we now, at last, ecological?

Proposals and papers on the theme or on any other SLSA-related topic are welcome. Proposed topics may take up any work in literature and science, history of science, philosophy of science, science and art, or science studies. “Postnatural” has been chosen as a theme to organize ongoing conference threads and to invite a range of proposals from various dimensions of ecocriticism and environmental literature and history.

Presentation proposals will be accepted through the SLSA website, beginning in February, 2013. Individual proposals consist of a 250-word abstract with title. Pre-organized panels for consideration can contain an additional summary paragraph along with proposed session title.

SLSA MEMBERSHIP: Participants in the 2013 conference must be 2013 members of the Society for Literature Science and the Arts. For more information about SLSA, please visit the organization website at

Critical Game Studies Panels at SCMS 2013 in Chicago

This year’s SCMS will feature another exciting games-related lineup. I’m particularly excited to see more academic interest in game sound as well as continuing meta-level concerns with the state of the field.

Here’s the list of panels officially sponsored by the Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group (VGSSIG). My panel is at the end, but I’m thrilled to be writing and speaking about some new material on Journey.

Please note that there are other games panels that may be of interest, including presentations from my brilliant Cal friends and colleagues Irene Chien, Chris Goetz, and Kris Fallon.

B17 (Weds, Mar 6, 12-1:45, Room 17) : Debugging the History of Game Terminology: Critical Studies of Marginal Concepts

Chair: David Thomas
David Thomas (University of Colorado, Denver), “The Serious Problem of ‘Fun’ in Games”
William Huber (University of Southern California), “D-Day”
Audrey Larochelle (University of Montreal), “Graphical Projection in Game Studies: A Hitchhiker’s Guide”
Andrew (Andy) Keenan (University of Toronto), “Cheating: A Critical Exploration of Rules and Subversive Play”

C21 (Weds, Mar 6, 2-3:45pm, Room 21): Platform Studies: Debating the Future of a Field

Chair: Caetlin Benson-Allott
Ian Bogost (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Jonathan Sterne (McGill University)
Steven Jones (Loyola University, Chicago)
Peter Krapp (University of California, Irvine)

D24: (Weds, Mar 6, 4-5:45pm, Room 24): Engaging the Avatar

Chair: Harrison Gish Co-Chair: Jessica Aldred Harrison Gish (University of California, Los Angeles), “Avatar Interactivity: Modifying and Manipulating Play”
Brian Greenspan (Carleton University), “Mass Effects: Believable Avatars and Networked Engagement”
Jessica Aldred (Carleton University), “LEGO My Avatar: Abstraction, Convergence, and the Contemporary Movie-Game Character”
Reem Hilu (Northwestern University), “Embodying the Avatar: Transformative Play in Urban Games”

F5 (Thurs, Mar. 7, 11-12:45): War and Science Fiction in Contemporary Film and Video Games

Chair: Tanine Allison
Tanine Allison (Emory University), “The ‘Good War’… Now with Aliens! Remediating War in the Science-Fiction Blockbuster”
Gerry Canavan (Marquette University), “‘I’d Rather Be in Afghanistan’: Antimonies of Battle: Los Angeles”
Nathan Blake (Northeastern University), “Attack of the Drones: Science Fiction Terror and Combat in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2”
Matthew Payne (University of Alabama), “The Ludic P/remediation of American Empire–From Homefront to Spec Ops: The Line”

G1 (Thurs, Mar. 7, 1-2:45pm, Room 1): Canon Formation in Digital Game Cultures

Chair: John Vanderhoef
Felan Parker (York University), “Prestige Games”
Christine Kim (Ontario College of Art and Design University), “Blockbuster Exhibitions of Digital Games: Art or Spectacle?”
John Vanderhoef (University of California, Santa Barbara), “Retrogame Roadshow: Collecting and Canon in Classic Gaming Culture”
Sean Feiner (University at Buffalo), “Disciplined Design: Games Studies and the Digital Game Canon”

J19 (Fri, Mar 8, 9-10:45am, Room 19): Sound in Video Games and Interactive Media

Chair: Lori Landay
Respondent: Benjamin Aslinger (Bentley University)
Chris Russell (Northwestern University), “The Atari VCS and the Making of Digital Sound”
Costantino Oliva (University of Malta), “Soundmarks in Digital Games Soundscapes”
Lori Landay (Berklee College of Music), “Sound, Embodiment, and the Experience of Interactivity in Video Games & Virtual Environments”

L24 (Friday, Mar 8, 2:15-4pm, Room 24): Debugging the History of Game Terminology: Critical Studies of Key Concepts

Chair: Henry Lowood(Stanford University)
Raiford Guins (State University of New York), “Console”
Henry Lowood (Stanford University), “Game Engine”
David Myers (Loyola University, New Orleans), “Simulation”
Peter Krapp (University of California, Irvine), “Control”

M3 (Sat, Mar 9, 9-10:45am, Room 3): Playing the Past, Playing the Future: Time in Contemporary Video Games

Chair: Jen Malkowski(Smith College)
TreaAndrea Russworm (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), “Gaming the Racial Past into the Future”
Edmond Chang (University of Washington), ““A Man Chooses, A Player Obeys”: Bioshock, Transhumanism, and the Limits of Queerness”
Jennifer Malkowski (Smith College), “‘You’ve Got to Watch Them All the Time’: Games, Cinema, and Looking in L.A. Noire”
Alenda Chang (University of California, Berkeley), “Game Over? Duration, Distance, and Environmental Disaster in thatgamecompany’s Journey”

Upcoming presentations at MLA 2013 in Boston

If you’re going to be at this year’s MLA convention in Boston and you’re interested in what’s going on in the world of ecomedia, please consider attending the following panels. Saturday’s panel is sponsored by ASLE, and Sunday’s forms part of the growing DH line-up at MLA.  I’ll be presenting on both (though note that I’m missing from the official program for the second panel, due to some late-breaking schedule juggling).

Saturday, 05 January

428. Environment and Media

8:30–9:45 a.m., Beacon D, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment

Presiding: Rosario Michelle Ramirez Matabuena, Florida State Univ.

1. “Visualizing Extremes: Photography and the Representation of Climate Change,” Karla McManus, Concordia Univ.

2. “Playing Nature,” Alenda Chang, Univ. of California, Berkeley

3. “You Are Here: Locative Media and the National Park Experience,” Alison Byerly, Middlebury Coll.

Sunday, 06 January

763. Digital Technology, Environmental Aesthetics, Ecocritical Discourse

1:45–3:00 p.m., Public Garden, Sheraton

A special session

Presiding: Elizabeth Swanstrom, Florida Atlantic Univ.

1. “Decoding the Desert: Reading the Landscape through the Transborder
Immigrant Tool,” Mark C. Marino, Univ. of Southern California

2. “Thoreau in Process: Reanimating Thoreau’s Environmental Practice
in Digital Space,” Kristen Case, Univ. of Maine, Farmington

3. “Networks, Narratives, and Nature: Teaching Globally, Thinking
Nodally,” Melanie J. Doherty, Wesleyan Coll.

4. “Games as Ecomedia,” Alenda Y. Chang, UC Berkeley
For a more detailed rationale and abstracts for this session, visit Lisa Swanstrom’s site.

Mark Sample also has a convenient list of all the digital humanities panels to be found at this year’s MLA on his site.

CFP: The History of Games

I helped host Carl for a talk here at Berkeley last year (regarding his work on gaming and narrative), while he was completing some postdoctoral research at Stanford with Henry Lowood. Though he’s back in Canada now, he and Henry and some other colleagues are organizing the following international conference, and they’re looking for strong representation from the West Coast.

The History of Games International Conference CFP

2012-2013 History and Theory of New Media talks

H&T Fall 2012The Berkeley Center for New Media has organized a second year of the History and Theory of New Media lecture series, the first of which takes place this Thursday. It’s an excellent line-up, and though I technically have to be at every talk as one of the event organizers, I would no doubt have been drawn by the tantalizing topics (particularly the focus on materiality). Here’s the full line-up, with additional information for the kick-off lecture this week.


September 6: Applied Topology / Geoff Manaugh, BLDGBLOG / Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley

September 27: Camouflage Media / Hanna Rose Shell, MIT / 470 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

October 25: Imagined Networks / Wendy Chun, Brown / Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley

January 31: Media Materialities / Stefan Andriopoulos, Columbia / 370 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley

March 14: Amateurdom / Lisa Gitelman, NYU / 370 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley



Applied Topology, Geoff Manaugh, BLDGBLOG

Thursday, September 6, 2012, 5:00 pm
Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley
Geoff Manaugh (BLDGBLOG) kicks off the 2012-13 History and Theory of New Media lecture series with his talk “Applied Topology,” on burglary, tunneling, and urban perforation. Manaugh will discuss the city as seen—and, more importantly, used and misused—by people other than architects and urban planners. Ultimately asking if spatial crimes such as breaking & entering and burglary have anything to offer urban theory, “Applied Topology” explores an alternative, even ilicit, understanding of how the city can be used and operated. From Gordon Matta-Clark to the tunneling crew of The Bank Job, how does applied topology – the forced introduction of unplanned connections, performations, holes, tunnels, and cuts – transform our relationship with architectural space?
Geoff Manaugh is the author of BLDGBLOG, former senior editor of Dwell magazine, and a contributing editor at Wired UK. With Nicola Twilley, he is currently co-director of Studio-X NYC, an off-campus event space and urban futures think tank run by the architecture department at Columbia University.

The History and Theory of New Media series is produced by the Berkeley Center for New Media with support from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).

Playtests and Pie Charts

I’ve spent a good chunk of the past week trying to drum up support for AirQuest, including our first official playtests in Fresno and a trip to University of Washington for the Research/Design videogame studies colloquium. Thanks especially to Donald Brinkman, the Research Program Manager for Games for Learning, Humanities, and Heritage at Microsoft, and Fresno High School teacher Karl Kaku and his students! Here’s a picture of Greg (Niemeyer) explaining our co-design process to the Fresno High students.

It’s not often that someone from a primarily humanities background finds herself suddenly immersed in genuine data and design, but I’ve been spending hours in Google Form/Docs and PowerPoint designing pre- and post-game player surveys, collecting, processing, and representing the feedback data, and even drawing a new flowchart for our game design. Coming from a world where every word is carefully weighed for nuance, there’s a certain satisfaction in generating pie charts and bar graphs for yes/no answers and measurements given on scales of 1 to 10, or using icons and pointy arrows to connect neatly encapsulated domains.

This fall’s SLSA conference will take place September 27-30 in Milwaukee, WI, on the theme of the nonhuman. Since nonhuman agency or an ethics of digital interaction with nonhuman entities (environments, organic and inorganic processes and forces, our world conceptualized as data) is an important component of my work on games, I can’t help but appreciate the organizing concept. (Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway, among others, undergird my criticism in often implicit ways.)

Furthermore, Patrick Jagoda and Stephanie Boluk have assembled another fabulous proposal for a critical game studies stream, panels below (I’m listed in #5). Game studies truly has some traction, now. It should be a great start to the year!

1. Virtual Worlds and Procedural Stories
Chair: Priscilla Wald
– Stephanie Boluk/ Patrick LeMieux: “Dwarven Epitaphs:
Procedurally-Generated Storytelling in Dwarf Fortress”
– Victoria Szabo: “The City Talks Back: Traversing Annotated Landscapes”
– Katherine Hayles: “Mapping Daemon : Geography, Power, and Mixed
Reality in the New World Order”

2. Aesthetics of Play
Chair: Patrick LeMieux
– Patrick Jagoda: “Games of Failure: Thresholdland and Transmedia
Aesthetics of Play”
– Mary Flanagan: “Playful aesthetics”
– Eddo Stern: “The design philosophy behind Darkgame”

3. Family Resemblances and Videogame Histories
Chair: Patrick Jagoda
– Ian Bogost: “Bone of My Bones and Flesh of my Flesh: The Genesis of
Ms. Pac-Man”
– Zach Whalen: “A Counterfactual Historiography of Three Game Platforms”
– Nick Montfort: Three Family Reunions and Some Black Sheep”

4. Simulation and Its Discontents
Chair: Stephanie Boluk
– David Golumbia, “Game of Drones”
– Ed Chang, “Gaming the Posthuman”
– Luke Caldwell and Tim Lenoir, “Reality is Expensive: Making a Better
Military-Entertainment Complex”

5. E-Cologies and (Post)human Nature
Chair: Mark Marino
– Lisa Nakamura, “Sexual Harassment and the Discourse of Indigeneity
in Digital Game Culture”
– Timothy Welsh, “The Vitality of the Digital: Bioart and Videogames”
– Alenda Chang, “Playing Nature”

It has been a surprisingly busy year on the job market, with campus visits to University of Michigan, NYU, and CSU-Fullerton, along with a fair number of other interviews, but for now it looks like I’ll be staying at Berkeley for another semester to a year while I send out another round of applications. At least Irvine’s request for my complete dissertation in December forced me to draft my final chapter (in a bit of a hurry), so now all that’s left is the never-ending process of revising and contemplating the project less as a dissertation than a first book. Another bonus: the Routledge commissioning editor for media and cultural studies contacted me after reading my short piece in ISLE on farm games, and after chatting with her at SCMS I’m now in touch with some great new contacts working in ecocinema and ecomedia, more generally.

Happily, I finally scrounged together enough time to draft a course description for my summer teaching position as the instructor/lecturer for Film and Media 25B: Histories of Sound Film (Summer Session D). This class is one of the lower-division requirements for aspiring film majors at Berkeley, generally completed after taking 25A on early/silent film. My mind still boggles at the idea of covering the history of sound cinema from 1930 to the present in six weeks, but not surprisingly, the course has tended to focus on commercial narrative cinema rather than documentary or experimental film, with Hollywood as a primary site. Perhaps this is where I finally get to indulge my Barbara Stanwyck fandom? Or admit that I actually liked Wings of Desire?

Film and Media 25B: Histories of Sound Film

This introductory course will survey key developments in film history, beginning with the advent of sound cinema in the early 1930s and concluding with film’s transformation in the contemporary digital era. Along the way, we will become conversant with significant movements and genres in commercial narrative film (and to a much lesser extent documentary and experimental or avant-garde film), including classical and post-classical Hollywood cinema (musicals, Westerns, screwball comedies, and so on), Italian Neo-Realism, the French New Wave, New German Cinema, non-Western world cinema, and film in the age of “new” media.

Beginning with the transition from silent to sound film, we will pay particular attention to the relationship between sound and the moving image. However, crucial to our approach will be the recognition that film history is not simply the history of a medium; neither is there a single film history. Instead, there are histories—and these histories are inextricably tied to contested social and political histories. Our focus will therefore be on those films and texts that illustrate both the development of film styles and forms as well as important changes in the film industry—from censorship and the globalization of markets to radical alterations in the ways that films are shown and consumed.

The course will develop your ability to analyze individual shots (composition and mise-en-scène) and sequences (editing), while situating the films we view in relation to broader sociocultural and political contexts. Alongside general readings on film history primarily provided by David Cook’s A History of Narrative Film, we will also study nuanced secondary criticism from leading film scholars as models for film analysis and writing. A course reader will be made available at Replica Copy (2138 Oxford Street, 510.549.9991) during the first week of class, containing excerpts from the work of Ruth Vasey, Lee Grieveson, Michel Chion, Tom Gunning, Miriam Hansen, Lynn Spigel, Mary Ann Doane, Kristen Whissel, and others.


I’ve also been offered a couple of the discussion sections for the Fall 2012 Media Studies 102: Effects of Mass Media course taught by Jean Retzinger, and after talking to Jean and looking at the syllabus I’m excited to teach media from a slightly different perspective than my usual one (this course, a requirement for Media Studies majors after taking Introduction to the Mass Media, combines cultural criticism with more social scientific work). Given that videogame criticism almost inevitably runs up against the question of media effects, I’m particularly interested in reading and re-reading the work of Lazarsfeld, Katz, Castells, etc. Here’s Jean’s brief description of the class:

Media Studies 102: Effects of Mass Media

This course will familiarize you with the often contentious history of communication theory concerning media effects. At issue among scholars working within different research traditions are core disagreements about what should be studied (institutions, texts, audiences, technologies), how it should be studied, and even what constitutes an “effect.” Course readings and lectures stress an understanding of these various research traditions by focusing on the social, political, and historical contexts surrounding them, the research models and methods employed, and the findings and conclusions reached.

Big Week at Berkeley

This week is shaping up to be quite the new media funfest, so for those of you in the area I encourage you to take advantage of these (mostly) free events:

1) Tonight, the last Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium lecture of the year, given by choreographer Jonah Bokaer.

2) On Thursday:

3) Also on Thursday, the last talk in the History and Theory of New Media lecture series, given by Rita Raley.

4) On Friday and Saturday, the Digital Inquiry symposium featuring keynote speaker Bernard Stiegler.

I’m personally planning on attending 3 out of 4 of these great events (okay, I have to go, since I’m working tech and moderating a panel, but still)!

SCMS and our new AirQuest Promo

It’s been a hectic week trying to squeeze all I can out of this year’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) conference in Boston, while fielding requests from the other coast in the lead-up to a grant deadline for our AirQuest game. The good news is, there’s been a substantial game studies line-up at SCMS this year, with one rather unexpected highlight being a presentation by Ralph Baer, the developer of the first video game console and the well-known game Simon, as well as the Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group’s celebration of Baer’s 90th birthday with a cake in the shape of a Magnavox Odyssey:

The raw and the cooked? The actual Magnavox Odyssey and its tasty simulacrum.

The Motorola empowerment grant is also in, and the short video that went with the application shows some of the interviews and other footage we recorded on our last trip to the San Joaquin Valley (in early March). It’s great to see some sort of product come out of our crazy stops on the side of freeways, our tour of the cogen/waste incineration plant in Stanislaus, covert stops at dairy farms, and months now of building relationships to Valley communities, including students, educators, air officials, air-quality advocates, medical professionals, families and more.

Please watch and pass it on–the more views and feedback the better!