Platforms, Play and Cartography: The Political Unconscious of Digital Landscapes
When? 27 May 2019
Where? University of Amsterdam BG 2 0.12 and BG 1 0.16
ECTS? 2 EC
Coordinator? Dr Bogna Konior (UvA)
Open to? PhD Candidates and RMa students, max. 15 participants
Today’s digital economy is structured by precarity and play, prompting questions about the relationship between new media and platform capitalism. Increasingly, these inquiries increasingly ponder the relationship between new media, emergent forms of labor and the natural environment, especially with regards to climate change. The popular dismissal of online multiplayer environments, modding economies, and computer games as isolating virtual experiences misses the opportunity to examine them as a form of digital geography through which we can analyse dramatic shifts in human relationships with the physical environment. The complex materiality of game platforms and the procedural nature of their experience require that we think beyond content or representation and instead sketch a cartography of playable digital landscapes sprawled across precarious platforms, often interlaced with politically-charged symbols and practices. These incoherent environments are our ‘cognitive maps,’ lenses that bring the contemporary interrelation of natural, economic and digital surroundings into focus.
The workshop is organized by Dr Bogna Konior, a lecturer in new media and digital culture at the University of Amsterdam, and co-taught by Dr Peter Nelson (Assistant Professor, Hong Kong Baptist University), who have published in the fields of new media, digital culture and politics, and computer game studies. They are currently engaged in developing a multimedia project across theory and practice, which considers the relation between subcultural digital politics, platform economies, virtual environments and climate change.
This seminar and workshop event brings together a range of scholars from geography, media and game studies whose research has engaged with the digital geographies of computer games. The morning session will comprise seminar presentations from our speakers. Special topics will include the cartography of digital games, locative games, data and platforms, the blurring of play and labour, and the political, meme-filled unconscious of modded game environments.
The afternoon session will comprise a workshop, which will take participants into the virtual world Garry’s Mod, where we will build, discuss and test ideas in a real-time, publicly accessible virtual environment. Garry’s Mod offers a unique configuration of mechanical sophistication, player numbers (approximately 20,000 at any given time) and the type of hedonistic, asinine and anarchic online environment that can be a fertile ground to experiment with theoretical praxis. The workshop will include a ‘boot camp’ for basic interactions and building methods. As the workshops develop, we will introduce participants to more advanced techniques of saving and iterating built components, such that experiments can generate a ratchet effect and iterate upon acquired knowledge, all while navigating this politically and culturally-charged space.
The workshop will be filmed by a virtual camera, recorded and streamed on YouTube and Twitch. This content will then be archived for the production of the final project publication. Over the course of future workshops, we will make these files available to participants via Google Drive, where we can also share readings and collaborate on theoretical texts.
Assignment for graduate participants:
Through player accounts on Steam that we will provide, the students will be taught how to use the GMOD environment. They will make a short screen captured video using mods, dupes, saves and images we develop together and integrate the theoretical and conceptual insights into them either in the form of a voiceover or a text input via the multiplayer chat. These will be graded according to the ability to incorporate the preparatory literature and insights from the seminar (4 points), the clarity of the arguments made (2 points) and creativity (2 points). The grade will be awarded as the workshop grade for those requiring 1 EC for the completion.
- Küchlich, Julian. 2005. “Precarious Playbour : Modders and the Digital Games Industry The History of Modding The Economy of Modding.” The Fibreculture Journal, no. 5.
- Kirby, Alan. 2009. ‘Digimodernist Culture’ in Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle The Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. New York and London: Continuum.
OPTIONAL: Nelson, Peter. 2017. ‘A Game Made From Other Games: Actions and Entities in Garry’s Mod.’ Proceedings of the Philosophy of Computer Games Conference, Krakow.
Seminar, BG2 0.12
09:00 Welcoming address: Dr Peter Nelson, Hong Kong Baptist University & Dr Bogna Konior, University of Amsterdam
09:30 Prof Sybille Lammes, University of Leiden
10:00 Thijs Van Den Berg, University of Amsterdam
10:30 – 11:00 **COFFEE BREAK**
11:30 Dr Clancy Wilmott, University of Manchester
12:00 Dr Alex Gekker, University of Amsterdam
12:30 – 13:30 **LUNCH**
13:30 Dr Marc Bonner, University of Cologne
14:00 Dr Emma Fraser, University of Manchester
14:30 – 15:00 **COFFEE BREAK**
Workshop, E-Lab BG1 0.16
15:00 – 18:00 Climate Unconscious in Computer Games: Theorising in Online Sandbox Environments
**DINNER & DRINKS**