Lecture: Justin Joque, “Deconstruction and the Weaponization of Knowledge”

Thursday, April 19, 2018
4:00 PM
Grucci Room, 102 Burrowes Building

On Thursday, April 19, 2018, Justin Joque (University of Michigan) delivered a lecture titled “Deconstruction and the Weaponization of Knowledge.”

Event flyer

Description of presentation

Russia’s attacks on the 2016 US election brought cyberwar to the forefront of American politics and demonstrated that this new type of warfare expands far beyond merely destroying infrastructure. These attacks yielded a rush to find technical solutions and appropriate political responses — all tempered by domestic beneficiaries of those attacks — but many of these responses underestimate the philosophical and epistemological depth of cyberwar. These types of incursion target the very fabric of our institutions and our collective ability to know the world, complicating any attempt to respond.

The Russia intervention touches on the nature of our twenty-first century technologies and on what Jacques Derrida calls the autoimmune nature of democracy — the proclivity for its structure to attack itself. This talk will rather argue that it is through theory, especially the work of Derrida, that we can begin to understand what is at stake in cyberwar. It will situate Russian interference in the 2016 election in the broader history of cyberwar and attempt to provide a frame for understanding cyberwar’s destabilizing effects in the context of Derrida’s later writing on democracy and reason.

Speaker bio

Justin Joque is the author of Deconstruction Machines: Writing in the Age of Cyberwar (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) and the visualization librarian at the University of Michigan. He completed his PhD in Communications at the European Graduate School and holds a Master’s of Science of Information from the University of Michigan, with a focus on machine learning and data analysis.

Lecture: Jennifer Rhee, “Drone Warfare, Drone Art, and the Limits of Identification”

Thursday, April 5, 2018
3:30 PM
Grucci Room, 102 Burrowes Building

On Thursday, April 5, 2018, Jennifer Rhee (Virginia Commonwealth University) delivered a lecture titled “Drone Warfare, Drone Art, and the Limits of Identification.”

Event flyer

Description of presentation

This talk comes from my book The Robotic Imaginary: The Human and the Price of Dehumanized Labor (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming 2018). I will trace connections between U.S. robotics technologies and cultural forms at the sites of dehumanization and devalued labor. I will argue that the figure of the robot in contemporary culture and technology is largely shaped by the conceptions of the human and more importantly of the dehumanized. I will look specifically at the labor of drone operators and what I call “drone art,” or contemporary artistic responses to drone warfare. Drawing on the racializing aspects of early cybernetics military research, I will look at drone art that responds to drone victims’ dehumanization by examining the limits of identification as a means of ethical response. Instead, drone art, as I will discuss, points to an understanding of the human through unrecognizability, difference, and unfamiliarity, rather than recognition, familiarity, and knowability.

Speaker bio

Jennifer Rhee is Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research and teaching are in science and literature and media studies. Jennifer’s book The Robotic Imaginary: The Human and the Price of Dehumanized Labor (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), will be published later this year. Her work has also appeared in journals including Camera Obscura, Configurations, Mosaic, and Postmodern Culture. She is currently working on her next book on counting technologies, from statistics to biometric surveillance.

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Lecture: Stephanie Boluk, From Metagames to Moneygames

Thursday, October 12, 2017
1:45 PM
Grucci Room, 102 Burrowes Building

On Thursday, October 12, 2017, Stephanie Boluk (University of California, Davis) delivered a lecture titled “From Metagames to Moneygames.”

Event flyer

Description of presentation

Metagames, simply put, are games about games. They are the games we play in, on, around, and through videogames. And although the word “metagame” has a long history—from Nigel Howard’s game theory in which he proposed a solution to the Prisoner’s Dilemma during the Cold War to Richard Garfield’s game design philosophy for Magic: The Gathering in the 1990s—since the turn of the millennium and especially with the emergence of social media and streaming services like Steam and Twitch, the term has become a common label for diverse forms of play occurring not only around videogames but around all forms of digital technology. After reviewing what “metagaming” means within various player communities, this talk will focus specifically on the movement from metagame to moneygame in the emerging economic ecology surrounding e-sports and livestreaming.

I will analyze the ways in which players have not “gamified” but “gamblified” their livestreams in order to produce a complex network of betting games that suture together Steam and Twitch. From thousands of dollars being gambled in virtual blackjack using live video feedback of Panamanian dealers to online poker games streaming from private yachts in the Pacific to subscriber chat lotteries giving away Counter-Strike skins obtained through grey market economies, this talk examines the flows of affective, informatic, and racialized labour of moneygames that do not evade surveillance technologies but flourish precisely as a result of the presence of ubiquitous real-time cameras and networked spectatorship. As players wager that their activity will result in a wage, money is not simply the outcome but the main game mechanic driving this massive multiplayer game.

Speaker bio

Stephanie Boluk is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and the Department of Cinema and Digital Media at the University of California at Davis. With Patrick LeMieux, she is the author of Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). She is also a co-editor of The Electronic Literature Collection Vol. 3 (2016).

Description, from publisher’s Web site

The greatest trick the videogame industry ever pulled was convincing the world that videogames were games rather than a medium for making metagames. Elegantly defined as “games about games,” metagames implicate a diverse range of practices that stray outside the boundaries and bend the rules: from technical glitches and forbidden strategies to Renaissance painting, algorithmic trading, professional sports, and the War on Terror. In Metagaming, Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux demonstrate how games always extend beyond the screen, and how modders, mappers, streamers, spectators, analysts, and artists are changing the way we play.

Metagaming uncovers these alternative histories of play by exploring the strange experiences and unexpected effects that emerge in, on, around, and through videogames. Players puzzle through the problems of perspectival rendering in Portal, perform clandestine acts of electronic espionage in EVE Online, compete and commentate in Korean StarCraft, and speedrun The Legend of Zelda in record times (with or without the use of vision). Companies like Valve attempt to capture the metagame through international e-sports and online marketplaces while the corporate history of Super Mario Bros. is undermined by the endless levels of Infinite Mario, the frustrating pranks of Asshole Mario, and even Super Mario Clouds, a ROM hack exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

One of the only books to include original software alongside each chapter, Metagaming transforms videogames from packaged products into instruments, equipment, tools, and toys for intervening in the sensory and political economies of everyday life. And although videogames conflate the creativity, criticality, and craft of play with the act of consumption, we don’t simply play videogames—we make metagames.

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