Year of Start: 2010
Subject: Material Culture/Digital Anthropology
Working Title: Presence, Absence and Transcendence: The Digital Materiality of MMOs.
Primary Supervisor: Prof. Daniel Miller
Secondary Supervisor: Dr Lane DeNicola
MA Material Culture
My research is concerned with developing theories of digital materiality for anthropology by bringing together formal perspectives developed in textual studies and information studies with anthropological theories of material culture. As such my interests focus on issues of presence and absence as different registers of materiality that are the consequences of engagement with digital gaming technologies as players work to produce ideal conditions for transcendence of the immediacies of space and time. While transcendence is the goal, materiality is both a necessary and contingent factor that is at times essential for the achievement of this state and at others an obstacle or hindrance and includes the materialisation of other players as specific kinds of subjects, in-game objects and the structural and technical limitations of the hardware and software that makes these games possible in the first place. Over time these material limitations become increasingly difficult to transcend, resulting in boredom and frustration which ironically requires reengagement with material forms and structures.
I’m currently carrying out ethnographic fieldwork with videogamers across London in both conventional, physical space and across several multiplayer videogames. This multi-sited approach has drawn out various forms of transcendence and associated material practices, for example the more temporally oriented processes such as romance and education concerned with the realisation of conventional relationships between subjects through intimacy and immediacy, as opposed to the more spatially oriented processes of escapism that attempt to construct new subjectivities that are
fleeting and more object-like.
The fundamental aim of this research then is to position the role of digital materiality alongside the roles of more conventional forms of materiality in order to better define what makes it novel and how it is utilised as such.
- Theories of materiality and immateriality.
- Digital materiality of technology, gaming and software.
- Virtuality, escapism and the transcendence of time and space
- Friendship, relationships and networks.
- Work, commitment and obligation.
- Value creation and transformation.
- Normative order and fairness.
- Structure, possibility and contingency.
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