CfP: DiGRA Italia 2019: Sub Specie Ludi

DiGRA Italia 2019: Sub Specie Ludi
Date: October 11th, 2019
Venue: Università di Torino, Italy
Submission deadline: 14th June (notifications of acceptance will be sent in 2-3 weeks).
Curated by: Riccardo Fassone (Università di Torino), Paolo Ruffino (University of Lincoln, UK), Marco Benoit Carbone (Brunel University London, UK).
Contact: digraitalia@gmail.com


For the past two decades the study of games has been progressively institutionalized within universities and research centres. The perspective that has predominantly emerged in European and North American universities has privileged the study of digital games. Video games, supported by a global industry, have attracted scholars from various disciplines: from narratology to computer science and from design to cultural and media studies. DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association) was born primarily as an association of video game scholars, while maintaining a constant presence of researchers interested in role-playing, table games, and other forms of ludic practices. However, the complexity of game studies cannot be reduced to the study of a category of texts defined on the basis of their technological support. The study of games necessarily combines an awareness of both the conceptual and disciplinary complexity of a broad philosophical category and of the many and diverse contexts of play that are investigated by the social and anthropological sciences.

Canonical texts in game studies pay attention to these complexities. Johan Huizinga, in his seminal Homo Ludens (1938), outlined a study of culture through games (sub specie ludi), where divergent human activities are kept together through the lens of play. In the equally important Man, Play and Games (1961), Roger Caillois explored social, anthropological and biological phenomena identifying therein free and competitive forms of play, as well as open and structured, mimetic and chaotic games. Other influential studies have explored games in the fields of pedagogy and psychology (Playing and Reality, Winnicot 1971; The Ambiguity of Play, Sutton-Smith 1997), anthropology (The Interpretation of Cultures, Geertz 1973) and philosophy (Play as Symbol of the World, Fink 1960). These examples, drawn from different geographical and historical contexts and disciplines that include history, philosophy and the humanities, do not include further conceptualisations of play devised within fields such as ethology and natural sciences, which have only been discussed concomitantly by transversal, boundary-bending thinkers such as Roger Caillois.

The DiGRA Italia 2019 conference intends to encourage an inclusive, multidisciplinary and philosophical perspective on game studies, creating a dialogue across various approaches and disciplines. After a series of conferences focused mainly on the study of the video game, DiGRA Italia intends to shift the perspective: no longer focussing on the study of a medium, but on games in the broadest sense, intended as texts and practices from which to read complex social, cultural and historical contexts and phenomena. The conference aims to question the methodologies adopted by scholars of different backgrounds and how these delimit their own territories, boundaries, and objects of study.

The conference encourages a consideration of games not so much, or not only, as objects with specific technological and material characteristics. Instead, it invites scholars to reflect on the game as a lens through which they may be able to read and understand social, cultural, economic, linguistic and technical phenomena. The broadly encompassing remit of the conference encourages a plurality of perspectives. The following list is intended to solicit the interest of participants from different departments and research backgrounds. Inviting interventions in the following areas:

  • Play, mimicry, biology (animals, insects, vegetation)
  • Language games, language as game
  • Performance and role-playing games
  • Learning and education through play
  • Ethnographic approaches to play practices
  • Mathematics, economics and game theory
  • Social media and the playful in online cultures
  • Ideology, propaganda, political movements as serious play
  • Quantified bodies and playful self-help methods
  • Games as social threats, apocalyptic visions and determinism
  • Game theory, theory as game

Please send your proposals to digraitalia@gmail.com by June 14th, 2019. They accept abstracts of up to 500 words, or complete papers of up to 5000 words. Please attach a short biographical note (150 words).

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