UPCOMING PRESENTATION: SLSA 2013, University of Notre Dame, Oct. 3-6

I am looking forward to my first conference of the academic year and my first conference as an Assistant Professor.  I will be headed to 27th Annual Meeting of SLSA (Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts) at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.  This year’s theme is the “Postnatural.”  I love SLSA, and it is my go-to conference.  This will be my fifth time going and will be my third time as part of the “Critical Game Studies” stream.  My presentation:

vanellopebarrier

“Queer Glitches, or, The Recuperation of Vanellope Von Schweetz”
Edmond Y. Chang, Ph.D.
Department of English
Drew University

Alexander Galloway in “Language Wants To Be Overlooked” argues of digital code to “not to exclude the cultural or technical importance of any code that runs counter to the perceived mandates of machinic execution, such as the computer glitch or the software exploit, simply to highlight the fundamentally functional nature of all software (glitch and exploit included).”  In other words, how might glitches and exploits in computer programs, particularly in video games, be theorized as queer?  Video games in many ways are normative, structured, and deeply protocological even as gamers and game developers evince their promises of power, freedom, play, and agency.   This paper takes the glitch as more than an accident, interruption, or unwanted malfunction.  Looking at the 2012 video game-inspired animated feature Wreck-It Ralph, the “minus worlds” of Super Mario Brothers, and indie games like merritt kopas’s Lim, this presentation imagines the glitch as potentially denaturalizing, productively destabilizing of the technonormativity of games and considers the perils of “fixing” these queer glitches.

My paper will be part of the “Queer Videogame Ecologies” panel chaired by friend and colleague Stephanie Boluk (Pratt Institute):

Saturday, October 5
Session 7 (D)
Critical Game Studies 3: Queer Videogame Ecologies
This is one of a series of four panels dedicated to critical game studies. The panel features a range of approaches varying from the historical and theoretical to the artistic.  Participants include both game designers and scholars. The function of the series is to analyze how games operate in contemporary information economies and undertake a rigorous analysis of how games as a cultural as well as technological apparatus speak to larger political, cultural, and aesthetic issues.

I will be presenting alongside friends:

Is Flight Post-Natural? or, Air Travel’s New Media Dilemmas
Loyola University at New Orleans

In April 2013 an article made its way around the internet with the startling title “How a Single Android Phone Can Hack an Entire Plane.” Less interesting than the truth value of this article was the provocation it presented: that commercial air travel is now dangerously unmanned.  Aircraft have always depended on a litany of complex, networked technologies to give passengers more or less smooth, reliable flight. Yet the perceived threat posed by an ordinary phone reveals weird anxieties about a situation that has always been, in a sense, post-natural. In this paper we look at several new media contexts that comment on the mundane and naturalized dimensions of contemporary air travel. In addition to the above article, we consider airport scenes in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead, and Max Payne 3, the rhetoric around the Boeing Dreamliner, and two quasi-surveillance sites called “FreakJet” and “passenger shaming.” These texts stage compelling conflicts between the technological, the biological, the social, and the environmental. Human flight is itself arguably a post-natural phenomenon (enabled by technological ingenuity and Empire), one that is now of central concern to questions of sustainability. Typically air travel seems either to be accepted as inevitable because extant, or seen as complicit in and axiomatic of an always already occurring fossil fuel driven disaster.  Carving a space between these two positions, this paper meditates on the strange place of flight in a digital ecology and post-natural imaginary.

The Great Opening Up of Nature to All Mobs: Minecraft and Algorithmic Ecology
University of California at Santa Barbara

The title of this paper draws from the description Electronic Music Foundation President Joel Chadabe gave to electricity’s contribution to music production: “the great opening up of music to all sound.” In a similar way, computational representations of natural environments open up new orientations toward the environment that easily read as fantasies of capitalist frontier expansionism enabled by the reduced material constraints of the digital. The origins of a continuously expanding ecology might be seen in the early text-based Internet’s ability to add rooms to a MOO or MUD with a single command. Mojang Specification’s Minecraft takes a different approach to ecological generation, with procedurally expanding environments that are theoretically infinite but bound in practice by the data types used to calculate their generated “chunks.” This plentiful ideal is reflected even in the game’s crafting system, in which resources open up into increasingly small parts of themselves: one block of wood, for example, will yield 4 wooden planks, which can be crafted into 8 sticks total, and so on. At the same time as it creates a world ripe for the calculation of yield values, Minecraft’s algorithms produce stunning empty vistas that substitute spawning “mobs” (short for mobile units) for reproduction, stagnation for evolution, drop probabilities for history. Oriented away from heteronormative and capitalist temporalities, this algorithmic ecology–a postnature itself–opens up nature not only to human occupation for productivity, but to the trivial, nonproductive wanderings of digital inhabitants.

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