Blog Post

Hi, and works-in-progress dim sum

Hi, fellow HASTAC Scholars and the rest of the HASTAC community!  As the first HASTAC Scholar from Arizona State, I'm psyched to be here, and to find a community of colleagues (even if most of you are way more impressive than I am - I'm loving having examples to strive for!).

I'm in an interdisciplinary PhD program that's basically STS with a heavier than usual public policy component...where I do and teach videogames studies. No, it doesn't make all that much sense, but I've got the best committee in the world, and they're incredibly supportive of me doing legal anthropology in World of Warcraft, and feminist STS in Second Life and kibitzing in rhet/comp and ed tech and....

I'm supposed to be doing dissertation research while I'm waiting to hear back on the 5th draft of my prospectus, but people keep coming by with wonderful, tasty things... so, here's what's on my plate right now.

  • I've got a wonderful project on the construction of identity and community among people who present as unusually busty in Second Life. At the individual level, I'm inquiring into images of womanhood and concepts of the body underlying avatar presentation, why the community has defined itself largely around a common sense of hostile criticism from the mainstream, and how technological changes in avatar tools have contributed to the dispersion of the community. And rhetorics of engagement with the mainstream in user profiles: denial of or embracing sexuality, evocation of archetypes, and other rhetorical tools for defining the self in community. I'm going to be presenting a preliminary analysis at Staging Illusion: Digital and Cultural Fantasy at the University of Sussex in December, and developing it as my semester project for ASU's Ethnography Studio, so this one's at the top of the list. I'd love to workshop what I've got with anyone with a background in the construction of gender and body image - please ping me if you'd be interested.
  • I'm about to start a research project in one or two LiveJournal-based, textual virtual worlds built around pan-fandom roleplay. I'm stunned that these communities haven't been academically examined: they're a big source of women's (about 95% women members) collaborative writing, support and identity construction, where much of the writing is slash-roleplaying male characters. I've done a little bit of RP in a tiny game that didn't really take off, and I'm working on my applications for two big ones, with the prospect of a dissertation-level study of an upcoming "constitutional intervention" in the structure of one of the gameworlds.
  • With my advisor, Betty Hayes, I'm working on writing up lessons learned from our less than successful course last year, "Discourse, Community and Power in Virtual Worlds." tl;dr version: don't assume graduate students in English have or can easily acquire basic gamer skills, or are going to be comfortable doing particpant-observer ethnographic work; do assume that they'd rather read books than play games or talk to strangers.

What else?  I'm teaching a "stealth seminar" in the anthropology of videogames, where I've got the best bunch of students, most of whom are on their third class with me, gods know why. I'm blogging more, and always looking for feedback.

This weekend I'll be attending a workshop in International Humanitarian Law at ASU, with an eye to bridging peace studies, military planning and videogames.  Next week I'll be at Stanford for "Explosions of Virtuality," a workshop on avatar identity, and the following week in Seattle at #ir12, where I'll be chairing the virtual world session. I'd love to meet up with local HASTAC'ers at either one - please let me know if you'll be around!

I love collaborative work, so if anybody'd be interested in sharing some of those tasty bits, or has something of their own they'd like share, say hi and let me know in comments. Thanks!

 

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