September seminars

We are proud to present two very interesting visitors and talks in HUMlab in September. Everyone is welcome! Both seminars will be live streamed and archived.

[25 september, 13.15]
Mixed Realities: Information Spaces Then and Now
Bonnie Nardi, UC Irvine

In collaboration with the Department of Informatics

I discuss the evolution of information spaces based on my ethnographic research in North America and China on a popular video game, World of Warcraft. I describe certain aspects of a trend to go “back to the future” in the evolution of such spaces.

[26 september, 13.15]
Desires at Play: Queering World of Warcraft
Jenny Sundén, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

In collaboration with Umeå Pride 2008

Part reading, part lecture, this is an exploration in the intersections of queer theory, queer lives and the study of online games. How do corporeal desires and belongings map onto games? Could certain game spaces or moments of play be termed ‘queer’? The feminist critique of representations of femininity in games often engages with how female avatars tend to be designed along the lines of a hyped-up, ‘stereotypical’ sexuality. This argument presumes that excessive female sexuality is a problem, since it turns women’s bodies into objects of a (straight) male gaze. It also presumes an understanding of play primarily passed on identification. How would an analysis with queer sensibilities make the picture shift?

Even if game cultures rarely encourage non-normative (or anti-normative) ways of doing gender and sexuality, it is possible for players to come together and play at least partly on their own terms. In interviews with queer female players, it becomes clear that the strategies can be many and varied. They belong to guilds carrying names such as “bad girls”. They play around with the in-game censorship of ‘bad’ words, such as the impossibility of naming certain female parts. They meet up, they flirt, and have hot play dates across candle lit kitchen tables. World of Warcraft becomes in such moments a space for sexual attraction and desire in ways not predicted by the game design.