Tag Archive: ASLE

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.

New farm games article available

I’ve just received an advance-access copy of a short piece I wrote for Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, called “Back to the Virtual Farm: Gleaning the Agriculture-Management Game.” The print version will be out in the next issue, 19.1 (Winter 2012), but you can now access the PDF here. This article is a slightly expanded version of a talk I gave at ASLE this past summer (and the essay that was awarded best paper)… here I’ve added more detail regarding farm games’ treatment of water and soil, but the full, chapter-length version will have to wait until I publish my larger dissertation work.

I’ve received several requests for the paper from ASLE members and artists and scholars working at the nexus of food politics, environmental justice, and environmental history, so I’m happy to make this work available. If you get a moment, please let me know how you use the work in your classes and whether or not it’s helped you to bring both games and food-related issues into discussion. For example, I believe that Barbara Eckstein at University of Iowa has incorporated the work into a “Locally Grown” Literature & Society class (involving undergraduates, actual farmers, and IT professionals), and I’ve had several stimulating conversations with artist Amy Franceschini of Futurefarmers over the potential for a different kind of farm game: New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife are pursuing one such idea, and the University of Washington Bothell has turned social farm-game mechanics toward wetlands restoration. But I think we’re just scratching the surface of what is possible!

More Reasons to Love ASLE

I was already a fan of ASLE (AZ-lee) before I attended the ninth biennial conference this year in Bloomington, Indiana. After all, one of my very first conference experiences took place in Chichester, England in 2004 with a tiny group of ASLE-UK academics, poets, and environmentalists. At that time, I was busy getting the word out that nature documentary was a genre worth studying in terms of its visual and masking rhetorics, and my best buddy at the conference turned out to be a German graduate student working on Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (I’ll never think of pork in the same way again).

Years later, a couple of veteran SLS and ASLE members approached me after my talk at SLSA 2009 in Atlanta and encouraged me to bring the work to the next U.S. ASLE, at that point nearly two years away. While my co-panelist lovingly described player agency and creativity in Quake through mastery of a semi-hack “strafe” jump for our miniscule audience, I felt a growing dread that my own topic, the representation of scientific principles in digital gameplay (using Will Wright’s game Spore and the evolution vs. intelligent design framework), would seem esoteric at best. So ASLE Pauline, thank you! I was secretly relieved that someone, anyone, actually wanted to hear more.

And that brings me to this year’s ASLE, from which I have just returned, laden down with evidence of the association’s goodwill. Still somewhat concerned that my emphasis on technology would rub the naturalist bent of the core ASLE constituency the wrong way, I was surprised and flattered to receive both a Graduate Travel Award and the Graduate Student Paper Award for best scholarly paper. Though I didn’t get to meet all of them or shake their hands, I’d like to thank paper judges C.A. Cranston, Carmen Flys-Junquera, and Greg Garrard, as well as Awards coordinator Tom Lynch, and the Travel Awards Committee members (Annie Ingram, Sarah Jaquette Ray, Tom Hillard, and Chia-ju Chang). And of course, managing director Amy McIntyre, without whose gentle hint I may have missed the award presentation entirely, and president Ursula Heise.

As if all this was not enough, I was blessed to room with and present alongside Melody Jue of Duke, who spoke about Google Ocean and the experience of diving, and who has given me a long list of wonderful marine-related must-reads. My colleague Danielle Christianson of UC Berkeley was unable to attend at the last minute, but we presented her work on imaging a forest transect in Sequoia and I am always grateful to bend a working ecologist’s ear. Last but not least, I was thankful to share that Birch dorm quad with Katrina Dodson of UC Berkeley, as well, for Katrina was the incredibly open-minded guest editor of the Qui Parle special issue on ecocriticism that just came out featuring a sample of my work on games as environmental objects. It was rewarding for me to see Katrina acknowledged for all her grueling work on that issue, a true labor of love, and I hope that the issue and my own writing make their way into classrooms and instigate new pedagogical approaches.

So as I sit here at my desk in a miasma of toner-scented air, having just printed out a stack of final papers to grade, I am already looking back fondly on the events of the past week and looking forward to the next installment!

Coming Up: Designed Environments Panel at ASLE

If you’re interested in the digital mediation of nature and planning on attending this year’s Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) conference at Indiana University in Bloomington, come check out the following panel that I put together and say hello:

G13. Designed Environments: Public Landscapes, Digital Ecologies, and the Visualization of Complexity
(Traditional Panel/Scholarly; Stream 11)

Friday, June 24, 2011

8:30 – 10:00AM


Alenda Chang, Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley, “Your Cow is 90% Ready: Back to the Virtual Farm”

Danielle Svehla Christianson, Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley, “Seeing the forest for the trees: Using digital environments in ecological science and education”

Melody Jue, Literature, Duke University, “Google Oceans: Virtually Representing Ocean Space”

Panel Description:

Conventional environmentalism and what Lawrence Buell has described as “first-wave ecocriticism” have generally been susceptible to criticisms that what counts as “nature” or “natural” has tended to exclude designed landscapes as well as modes of mediated interaction that purportedly detract from direct experience of the natural world. However, as populations continue to shift toward urban centers and modern media gain unprecedented entry into everyday life, it seems increasingly vital to turn our attention to nature as a mediated experience, whether that mediation takes the form of the city skyline, the public park, climate models, Google Earth, or popular game environments.

Our panel brings together diverse perspectives—environmental design, game studies, economics, ecology and marine biology, and science education—in an attempt to trouble the often assumed divisions between the natural and the technological (what we could also call the real and the virtual). Chang’s work reveals how the issue of right environmental relations can arise even in the unlikely realms of online gaming, particularly the recent spate of “farm” simulation games. Christianson’s work speaks to how technological visualizations may overlay reality in ways that make it easier, not harder, to understand the complexities of ecological interdependence. And Jue’s work explores the increasing “digitalization” of the world’s oceans through a detailed consideration of Google Ocean.

Our work deliberately juxtaposes these various analog and digital natures in order to demonstrate their often uneasy but just as often gratifying complementarity—the virtuality inherent to the real and reality’s subsistence in the virtual.