New CHID Focus Group on Bioshock

CHID 496 F: “Bioshock: Cyborg Morality & Posthuman Choice”
Autumn Quarter 2009
W 1:30-3:20 PM
http://staff.washington.edu/changed/496f/

2K’s CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED first-person shooter Bioshock (Xbox360, PS3, PC) presents body modification as the natural outgrowth of an individualist ethic institutionalized as the foundation of a utopian society called Rapture. The game box describes: “BioShock is a shooter unlike any you’ve ever played, loaded with weapons and tactics never seen. You’ll have a complete arsenal at your disposal…but you’ll be forced to genetically modify your DNA to create an even more deadly weapon: you.” As players navigate the fallen city of Rapture, the game presumes to offer player the choice to embody its Ayn Rand-esque morality or to resist it, weaving the player’s in-game decisions into the development of the plot. Bioshock thus affords us an excellent opportunity to investigate the moral, political, and cultural issues attached to body modification and posthumanism more broadly.

OUR FOCUS GROUP, as part of a continuing series on video games generated by the Critical Gaming Project at UW, will address technological and biological determinism, individuality and objectivism, post- and transhumanism, and technological mediations of race, gender, and sexuality. Playing Bioshock and a selection of cyberpunk short stories will be deployed as theory alongside formal video game and posthuman critical theory. Readings may include texts by Cory Doctorow, Maureen McHugh, Geoff Ryman, Donna Haraway, Katherine Hayles, Alexander Galloway, Clint Hocking, and others.

THE COURSE will meet once a week for 2 hours to engage guided discussion, analytical and reflective writing, and game play. There will be no formal paper requirements, but students will be asked to participate in online discussion and keep a weekly play-log (plog).

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