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Politics of Play - Keynote

Presented at Intersections/Cross-Sections, March 23, 2013

Sara Grimes

on 25 March 2013

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Transcript of Politics of Play - Keynote

of Technology Politics
of Games Politics of Play Games
and Politics Politics of Play: Establishing a research agenda for studying the intersections of politics, play, technology and games Sara M. Grimes
sara.grimes@utoronto.ca Assistant Professor @iSchool_TO
Associate Director @ SemaphoreTO Instrumentalization of Leisure Child development & education theories both put the emphasis on outcomes.
Ideal play = Purposive play. Privileging of certain types of play – those that accord most harmoniously with other systems of social rationalization (capitalism, bureaucracies, industrial modes of production). Gender, class and race implications... Rationalization of Play Work/Play Toys, games and other play technologies embody & reproduce political, social and cultural biases, assumptions, ideas of those who design them. STS + Critical theory of technology approach - look at the designs, design processes, contents, regulatory conditions, ways in which tech is implemented and managed, user configurations and scripts, user resistance and unanticipated uses. Digital games are particularly well suited for investigations of the social & politics dimensions of technology. Make visible many of the processes and relationships involved in the social shaping of technologies. As van der Velden and Mortberg argue, “a script can be deinscribed because of unpredictable or unintended circumstances or because of a misplaced projection of future use and the future user into the script” (2012, 667). Play and the
Grand Narrative
of Modernity Huizinga's Magic Circle "Play is the work of the child" Oudshoorn et al (2007) "[E]ven in cases where users are not formally involved in the design, technologies may become adjusted to certain groups of users [and certain barriers incorporated] because of the incorporation of specific images of the future users” (p.31). Discursive & semiotic representations of the technology's intended users and/or use (van Oost, 2005) "Users Matter" Games at the center of various debates, controversies & initiatives around digital technology - Media effects (violence)
- Regulation of digital content
- Intellectual property & immaterial labor
- Anxieties around technological diffusion
- AND digital divide
- Piracy and copyright, technological locks
- etc. etc. etc. Whose Play is Privileged in these Definitions? Caillois (2001): as societies modernize, play is increasingly characterized by "ludus," progressing “from turbulence to rules,” and given form through the “conventions, techniques and utensils” (p. 29).

As rules and games are institutionalized, he argues, play is transformed “into an instrument of fecund and decisive culture.” Identity politics: representations of the gamer, representations of characters in-game. Increasingly "off limits" (esp. around representations of women/female characters)...why? Commercialization of play Surveillance & Control –
corporate, governmental and social Not all design features can be "worked around" or effaced through alternate readings Politics of Access - more than questioning who is playing, who is excluded. Also means paying attention to design-development:
who makes games
who sells games
who is “configured” as the primary market (the ideal user) & who is not Modern culture - systems of social rationality
(1) exchange of equivalents;
(2) classification and application of rules; and
(3) optimization of effort, calculation of results. AbleGamers Foundation: taking on the game industry, one title at a time Taylor Smith: 11 year-old hardware modder, Nintendo Wii enthusiast Questions about access. How, who, under what conditions are certain players (or potential players) excluded by design/usability or by marketing or by other players. "You own the rights to the material which you have created yourself on Stardoll’s websites, but in this agreement you give Stardoll the right, without special compensation, to publish the material for an unlimited time throughout the world and irrespective of the medium used. (Stardoll “Terms of Use,” 2012, para. 34). Mike Mika's Donkey Kong hack, enabling his 3-year old daughter to play as Pauline. Mike Hoye's hack of "Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker," enabled his 3-year old daughter to be addressed as female while playing. Changing the System Digging Deeper into Politics of Play Boy Scouts' "Astronomer" badge vs. Girl Scouts' "Sky Search" badge (via Sociological Images) 9-year old Mackenzie Wilson's Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost of attending an RPG STEM (game design) camp raised 10K in 1 day Yoko Arisaka (2001) highlights Japanese philosopher Kiyoshi Miki's argument that "The power of technology...has to do with its ability to make our imagination concrete. But in this process, our values are concretized as well..." Critical theories of technology, engagement with histories and theories of play:

Useful for broadening the focus beyond common claims of the primacy of subjective experience & meaning making, rhetoric of consumer sovereignty, etc. Works Cited: Hacking as Radical Act but also highly specialized Doll Smashing as Radical Act Commodifying Play Increasingly participate in design processes, through online forum, feedback, iterative design, and the R&D/immaterial labor provided by proams, modders, volunteer beta-testers, etc.
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