Speaker: Andreas Gregersen (University of Copenhagen)
What do we mean when we say digital being? …and who are “we”? Well, I will assume that this “we” could refer to researchers that can identify, at least a bit, with the label “game studies”. This is in part due to personal, if not idiosyncratic reasons – if I have anything to contribute to this debate, game studies will play at least some part, somewhere. Would it help or hinder a discussion of digital being to situate it within the study of games? That depends, I think.
On the one hand, digital games have become a pervasive phenomenon in the lives of many people. We also have a reasonably large amount of scholarship devoted to the study of games. Game studies, however, is far from a unitary field, and it includes many different academic disciplines (Quandt et al., 2015). Power struggles between these disciplines have been known to occur. In fact, the mere usage of the terms “field” and “discipline” could be seen as an indicator of particular loyalties: these terms have been particularly influential within debates native to the territory of communication studies and, lately, media studies. Communication studies have famously been described as a crossroads where “scholars come into it from their own disciplines, bringing valuable tools and insights, and later go back … to the central concerns of their disciplines” (Schramm 1959, p. 8).
While there are important parallels between this and the history of game studies, I would suggest that the situation is a bit different. I think that there is, at present, an overall tenuous relationship between social science, media studies, and game studies. All of these fields are exactly that, in that they are non-unitary and cover a plethora of approaches under their respective umbrellas – and every field, discipline and/or approach has a tendency to think that this place right here, this is where the crossroads meet.
In other words: Are we looking for:
One disciplinary ontology to rule them all, one searchlight to find them
One field to bring them all and in the light bind them?
Or, are we rather standing underneath our individual lampposts, searching for the keys to unlocking the true nature of digital being – even as we suspect that we lost those keys somewhere else, a place less illuminated?
Quandt, T., Van Looy, J., Vogelgesang, J., Elson, M., Ivory, J. D., Consalvo, M., & Mäyrä, F. (2015). Digital Games Research: A Survey Study on an Emerging Field and Its Prevalent Debates. Journal of Communication, 65(6), 975-996. doi:10.1111/jcom.12182
Schramm, W., Riesman, D., & Bauer, R. A. (1959). The State of Communication Research: Comment. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 23(1), 6-17.
This is a Critical Investigations of Digital Culture Seminar, organised by the Digital Work and Living Research Group.