Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Game play and social networking.

Joost Van Loon's encounter with the MMORPG Runescape engages some questions in relation to Derrida's reworking of the gift.

As an avid gamer myself, I have started to consider how I might combine my so called ‘addiction’ (passion sounds too much like ‘X-Factor talk’) and my professional role as an academic researcher. Being a member of the steering committee of NTU’s Centre for Contemporary Play, I am involved in attempts to bring game-research into a truly interdisciplinary field. The CCP already has a footing in four key areas of gaming: computing science, art and design, social science and humanities. This enables us to develop a unique platform to create truly exciting cross-disciplinary research projects.

My own research focuses on one particular MMORPG (Massively Muliplayer On Line Role Playing Game) called Runescape.
Quite recently, I have finished a bit of research on the role of the gift and reciprocity in engendering associations. This is to be published in the journal Parallax in 2010.

This article reflects on the coming into being of ‘networked actors’. Its aim is to provide some reflections on what could be a more productive way of conceptualizing ‘action’ in relation to questions over embodiment and disembodiment. Rather than engaging with questions about subjectivity and agency, or the nature of authenticity in virtual worlds, or the ontology of virtual bodies, it simply asks what happens if we start thinking about the gift as constitutive of actors (rather than the other way round)? Starting with a critical engagement with Derrida’s reworking of Mauss’ theory of the gift, it seeks to distantiate itself from the implicit subjectivism that underpins the axiom that gifts and commodities are different in essence. Instead, it provides an understanding of gifts and reciprocity that does not treat gifts as ‘mere objects’, but instead shifts attention to the central roles played by gift-objects as modes of enactment. It thereby posits in place of the ever-deferred subject, a net¬-worked¬ being whose existence is always already heterogeneous and dispersed.

It is this ‘networked being’ that I would now like to encounter in a larger variety of empirical situations. I am particularly interested in the ambivalent relationship between on-line and off-line transactions and associations.

(Photo credit: marti macg, permissions)

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