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Now guest-starring Celia Pearce!

One of the awesome things about GAMBIT is the never-ending stream of fascinating folks that stop by our lab for a visit. Such previous guest-stars have included Mia Consalvo, Denis Dyack, Jason Rohrer, Warren Spector and Chris Swain, and this week our lab is pleased to welcome the brilliant and inestimable Dr. Celia Pearce.

the many faces of Celia Pearce

Readers of this blog may know Dr. Pearce from her work as the director of the Experimental Game Lab at Georgia Tech; from her work as the Festival Chair for the independent games festival IndieCade; from her 1997 book The Interactive Book: A Guide to the Interactive Revolution; or from her many other projects as outlined on her website Celia Pearce and Friends.

GAMBIT is pleased to invite anyone within traveling distance to a public talk by Dr. Pearce this Thursday evening here on the MIT campus. The talk, part of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Spring 2009 Colloquium Lecture Series, will be held on Feb. 5, 2009 from 5-7PM in Room 2-105. Here's the description:

Identity-as-Place: Fictive Ethnicities in Online Games & Virtual Worlds

This talk explores the connection of identity to virtual place, referencing in particular anthropology, humanist and socio-geography and Internet studies to look at the construction and performance of "fictive ethnicity" tied to a specific, though virtual and fictional, locality. To illustrate, Pearce will use the example of the "Uru Diaspora," a game community from the defunct massively multiplayer game Uru: Ages Beyond Myst (based on the Myst series), which immigrated into other games and virtual worlds, adopting the collective fictive ethnicity of "Uru Refugees," and referring to Uru as their "homeland." The study referenced concerns the largest group of Uru refugees, who immigrated into the virtual world These players developed unique hybrid cultures other games, including the creation of Uru-inspired digital artifacts, and through an eventual process of "transculturation" (Ortiz 1947) eventually transformed from "Uruvians" into "Uru-Thereians," integrating both virtual places into their collective identity. Through this example, Pearce will argue that in the current historical moment, in which connections between identity, community and place are being supplanted by the generic placenessness and identilessness of "global markets," the tendency of players in the Uru Diaspora to construct a shared, place-based identity may reflect a larger need by individuals to associate themselves with affinity groups and reclaim a sense of connection between a specific locality (place), community and identity.

Celia Pearce is a game designer, author, researcher, teacher, curator and artist, specializing in multiplayer gaming and virtual worlds, independent, art, and alternative game genres, as well as games and gender. She began designing interactive attractions and exhibitions in 1983, and has held academic appointments since 1998. Her game designs include the award-winning virtual reality attraction Virtual Adventures (for Iwerks and Evans & Sutherland) and the Purple Moon Friendship Adventure Cards for Girls. She received her Ph.D. in 2006 from SMARTLab Centre, then at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London. She currently is Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture at Georgia Tech, where she also directs the Experimental Game Lab and the Emergent Game Group. She is the author or co-author of numerous papers and book chapters, as well as The Interactive Book (Macmillan 1997) and the forthcoming Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds (MIT 2009). She has also curated new media, virtual reality, and game exhibitions and is currently Festival Chair for IndieCade, an international independent games festival and showcase series. She is a co-founder of the Ludica women's game collective.

We would like to extend the warmest of welcomes to Dr. Pearce, and we hope to see you all on Thursday evening!

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