Critical Media Studies

Broadly defined, critical media studies is the exploration of all media--not just film, books, or games but all the things we use as tools and aids in communication, storytelling, and culture. Although my specialty is in game studies, my research often leads me to internet forums, obsolete technology, and other often-overlooked devices, places, and things. All media is worth study, from the construction of the ball-point pen to the virtual world.


The Studio for Mediating Play

Founded and co-directed by Dr. Josef Nguyen and Dr. Hong-An Wu, SMP "integrates critical research and creative practices with intersectional feminist theory to address pressing social and material issues through engagements with and about play." It's also a delightful collaborative space in UT Dallas, regularly hosting chats with scholars and thoughtful playthroughs of curious and/or infulentual games.

Fashioning Circuits

Another UT Dallas-based organization, Fashioning Circuits--helmed by Dr. Kim Knight--starts conversations about the fashion of circuits (the popularity of wearable technologies, how technology is presented to consumers, and how tech is woven into our lives) and the circuits of fashion (the fashion industry, fast fashion, and the life cycle of clothing). If you are interested in "the connection between media or technology and embroidery, sewing, knitting, crocheting, felting, haberdashery, quilting, scrapbooking, cooking, and other craft or domestic technologies," give them a look!


Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace by Janet H. Murray

Before I settled on critical media studies, I felt stuck, typecast by family and others as just a "book nerd" who would wind up teaching Shakespeare and the classics. This was partly because I simply hadn't had anyone share my passion for digital storytelling. One of my professors at ULM (Dr. Julia Guernsey-Pitchford) actually gifted me this book and pushed me to follow my passions instead. Janet Murray's Hamlet on the Holodeck is a wonderful exploration of how new media grew out of the early internet culture, the many reactions to narrative-focused games (including what would become the infamous ludology-vs-narratology debate), and a surprisingly accurate portrayal of how storytelling would be shaped by and also shape the technologies used to convey narratives.

How Television Invented New Media by Sheila C. Murphy

When someone asks me why "critical media studies" and not something specific (say, film studies), I ask them, "What is television?" This question is poised by Shelia Murphy in triumphant fashion as she explodes the notion of "television" into its many constituent parts. From the technology of the screen to the content displayed through them, How Television Invented New Media is a journey into the world of "new media" and how we can approach them as objects with histories and traces.

Game Studies

Critical Play: Radical Game Design by Mary Flanagan

From the publisher page: "For many players, games are entertainment, diversion, relaxation, fantasy. But what if certain games were something more than this, providing not only outlets for entertainment but a means for creative expression, instruments for conceptual thinking, or tools for social change? In Critical Play, artist and game designer Mary Flanagan examines alternative games--games that challenge the accepted norms embedded within the gaming industry--and argues that games designed by artists and activists are reshaping everyday game culture."

Gamer Trouble: Feminist Confrontations in Digital Culture by Amanda Phillips

Amanda Phillips' Gamer Trouble digs into the many ways gaming culture (and video games) have cultivated "trouble." Not only does the games industry continue to provoke the ire and derision of various communities from pearl-clutchers who recoil at how a game could let their children do terrible things to marginalized peoples staring down transphobia and racism, games can also be a site to instigate "good trouble" that challenges assumed norms and expectations.

Other Media

Tactical Media by Rita Raley

So you have all these ways of telling stories. But what can you do with them? Rita Raley's book explores how creatives have taken to all kinds of media to take aim at those who profit at other's expense. If you're interested in activist media, check out Tactical Media