CfP: Media Fields Journal – Issue 8: Playgrounds

This issue of Media Fields investigates the connections between media,
space, power, and various approaches to “play” across culture and
society. In this issue we seek conversations that embrace play in all
its polysemy. We invite papers that investigate how mediated play
spaces can become spaces to negotiate labor, power, resistance,
agency, or subjectivity. To that end, what is a mediated play space?
What is the history of mediated play spaces? How are non-play spaces
subverted to become play spaces, and what are the political
consequences of this subversion? Moreover, what is the political
potential of play?

Submission Deadline: Dec. 1, 2013

In video game studies, play is often discussed as a free activity that
nonetheless is governed by structures, rules, and protocol; and driven
by clear goals or win states. This understanding is largely built upon
the theoretical work of Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois. Although
play can often be seen as non-political, frivolous, and anathema to
the serious concerns of society and culture, play in fact constitutes
– and itself mediates – our everyday lives, (re)shaping our material
world and producing new fields of meaning and action. In Roland
Barthes’s discussion of the term, play designates a capacity for
variation and change: to have play. Alternatively, play enables, or is
activated by, expressions of individuality and agency: to play. In the
first sense play is expressed as capacity; in the second sense play is
agential, a co-active engagement of player, interface, and
environment. However, software studies has cautioned that spaces of
play, in all of their manifestations, are also bounded spaces,
geographically, algorithmically, and ideologically. Indeed, Alexander
Galloway has explored both the ideological power of interfaces and
code as well as the agentive potential to resist or subvert these
forces through various forms of play. We purposefully invite a range
of submissions that continue to map these relationships between
bounded structure and playful expression, especially within, but by no
means limited to, virtual worlds and digital games.

We are inspired by the work of those media scholars who have explored
some of these issues already. Henry Jenkins’ influential article,
“‘Complete Freedom of Movement’: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces,”
provides an early and enduring example of an approach to the problem
of media, space, and play through a gendered perspective. Likewise,
Bernadette Flynn’s essay, “Geography of the Digital Hearth,” explores
the migrating play space of the video game experience from the arcade,
to the den, to its central place in the living room, offering not only
a genealogy of video game play space but also a significant
contribution to the continuing study of changing living room dynamics
explored by Lynn Spigel, Cecila Tichi, and more recently Michael Z.
Newman and Elana Levine. Finally, although digital games lend
themselves to the study of mediated play spaces, we are also seek
scholarship interested in the ways other media, including film,
television, radio, and digital culture, construct and are constructed
as fields of play.

Thus, our approach is multivalent. We invite a wide range of
submissions that consider this complexity, possibly addressing the
following topics:

■ Military Play Space: How is play deployed to reproduce
or aestheticize positions of power and Empire? How can play subvert
and reconstruct these spaces? These questions may extend the work of
Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter into digital and cultural

■ Sport, Space, and Experiences: How can we understand
the experience of viewing sporting events in relation to mediated play
spaces, either in the living room, at the sports bar, or even at the
live event itself? How does play – L.A.R.P., Parkour, or
skateboarding, for example – reclaim space and reimagine space?

■ The Domestic Space and Video Games: Following work by
Bernadette Flynn and Ben Aslinger, how do digital games and other
entertainment technologies augment the spatial, social, and family
dynamics of the contemporary domestic space? How does play reshape the
domestic space?

■ Gender, Sexuality, Race, Class, Identity, and Online
Spaces: How do people play with identity and power in virtual spaces?
How can virtual space be used tactically to oppose oppressive powers?

■ Queer/Feminist Gaming: representations of gendered and
sexualized spaces in mainstream video games, gendered/queer
geographies of video game production, gendered/queer spaces of gaming

■ Spaces of Surveillance: How can play be mobilized as a
form of resistance to spaces of surveillance? Work here might follow
in the vein of projects from the Critical Art Ensemble.

■ Play and Labor; Play and Anonymity; Play and
Resistance; Counter-Play

We are looking for essays of 1500-2500 words, digital art projects,
and audio or video interviews exploring the relationship between
media, space, power, and play. We encourage approaches to this topic
from scholars in cinema and media studies, anthropology, architecture,
art and art history, communication, ecology, geography, literature,
musicology, sociology, and other relevant fields.

Email submissions to Alex Champlin and John Vanderhoef at

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