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  This summer will see the first ever gaming convention that focuses primarily on LGBT issues and community. GaymerX (formerly known as GaymerCon) will be held in San Francisco and will include panels, contests, cosplay, and opportunities for play for LGBT gamers (sometimes called “gaymers”) and their straight allies. Since this is the first convention of its kind, I am interested in how the con’s organizers intend to use the space to address issues pertaining to the games themselves, primarily the representation of LGBT and other characters in games, as well as issues in gaming society, particularly the huge problem of hate speech and bullying.


Further, I intend to analyze how GaymerX came to be -- particularly, its use of online technologies to gain popular support and funding through Kickstarter and, as a result of that massive success, the development of of a GaymerConnect app (which allows participants to find and connect to others with similar gaming/geek interests) as well as maintenance through Facebook, Twitter, and the GaymerX website. The use of Kickstarter essentially made corporate sponsorship of this event a non-necessity, allowing the event organizers more autonomy in creating a specific alternative convention (altcon).


Research Questions

Specifically, some of the questions I’d like to ask are as follows:

1) How does the GaymerX event serve as a space of both counterpublicity and counterpower?

2) Will the con be able to discuss and work to implement solutions to the above problems on an institutional level? (This to counteract typically neoliberal proffered solutions by both gaming companies and users, solutions that include anything from self-policing to simply ignoring the problem in the hopes that those who can’t stand the heat will get out of the kitchen.)

3) How will the con offer a safe space to all event-goers? And will the con really be inclusive of all gamers (queer gamers of color, women gamers regardless of sexual orientation, etc.)?

4) How have the event organizers utilized online social networks to build the event, and how does the use of these technologies serve what Castells calls "the autonomy of the social actor"? (7).

5) What is the relationship between the GaymerX event and the general consumer framework of conventions in general?

Methodology

Because I consider this a folkloric event and because it is so very visual, I would like to create a film about the con. As a documentary setup, I would include not only footage from the con (floor action, panels, contests and community get-togethers) but also interviews with attendees and event organizers. The fieldwork would be combined with theoretical grounding that comes from the fields of American Studies, digital technology studies, leisure studies (game theory), queer theory and folklore, at least. As a queer gamer, I have an emic perspective on this subject, and so my challenge (as always) is to strive for as much reflexivity as possible and to consider the experience from an etic perspective, as well.

Argument

My hypothesis is that the event organizers are really looking to transform the convention space – from a potentially unsafe space consisting of “booth babes,” overly judgmental cosplay, and panels that neglect or only pay lip service to LGBT issues in gaming to one that that celebrates the queer gamer/geek, strives for inclusivity for all, and really attempts to bring awareness to the very real social problems that accompany these sorts of leisure activities. The need for this kind of awareness is important particularly for a generation where “everybody games,” which is the GaymerX motto. It’s not literally true, of course, but video game culture has become more mainstream than ever and serves as a primary source of recreation for many young people. In this visual/online culture, the chances of being exposed to hate speech and misrepresentation of LGBT communities have multiplied greatly, so the idea of creating a safe space for “gaymers” (particularly young gaymers) is significant.

One argument I’d like to make pertains to the social value of altcons such as these to bring publicity to an area that some people tend to dismiss as “frivolous.” But it is precisely because gaming is perceived mainly as “play” that it becomes important as an area of study and transformative power, however. In folklore, “ludic recombination” is an integral part of any ritual, for through play people learn the social mores of their communities. If in gaming people learn that epithets against race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. are acceptable, or they are exposed to stereotypical representations of LGBT people, racial minorities, indigenous peoples, and women, then these are carried into other parts of their lives. Further, the anonymity provided by the Internet allows for the perpetuation of biases and makes hateful speech easier to get away with and harder to police.

I am hoping that how this con uses its space will help find ways of fighting these issues beyond the individual, forcing gaming companies to change their policies with regard to hate speech as well as include representations of LGBT peoples and other less dominant groups that are less stereotypically racist and/or misogynistic. This con has the opportunity to demonstrate to gaming companies that tolerating hate speech and creating racist/sexist/ableist misrepresentations in their games and at other gaming conventions is unacceptable because it DOES impact how people operate outside of these leisure frameworks.

Authors/Texts

Thus far, Coombe’s discussion of counterpublicity and how it operates is useful in informing I would approach the con as having a specific political agenda. I am also interested in Castells discussion about networks of power and how they operate, and I would like to discover how the con is a practical application of those ideas. I’m hoping that perhaps others in the class will have recommendations for expanding my theoretical framework?
Rachel Sauerbier
2/10/2013 18:29:26

Tiffany, this is such an interesting convention. You know I love just about anything that can be made queer, so I am interested in seeing how the convention planners make this a truly "queer inclusive" space. In you texts section, you asked for some suggestions. I think I have a few places for your to start. First, in your research questions, you talk about counterpublicity and counter-power, and a good reading for that would be Michael Warner's "Publics and Counterpublics." This would be a great place to start with understanding the role and dynamic of counterpublics within society at large. Also, Spivak's work on the subaltern would be good to look at too (although for some reason, I've been reading a lot of stuff that makes it seem like it's no longer chic to cite Spivak, so maybe you should ignore that suggestion). Finally, there is a book chapter in "Habermas and the Public Sphere" by Nancy Fraser called "Rethinking the Public Sphere." This might be a good start for understanding/justifying why conventions like GaymerX even need to exist for members of the queer counterpublic. As someone who fancies themselves as a burgeoning queer studies scholar, I look forward to your (potentially) multimedia project!

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Tiffany
2/10/2013 19:16:14

Thanks, Rachel! Warner is definitely on the short list, as that particular work of his has come up more than once in reference to this project. Will also look into the Fraser. Much appreciated!

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Jen
2/10/2013 23:13:48

Hi Tiffany,

I love how you are planning to make this into a multimodal project! Video recordings and interviews provide rich, thick data for analysis. To justify your methodology - or even just look at how other multimodal studies have brought their projects together - I suggest the following texts:

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/17.1/inventio/lauer/index.html
http://ccdigitalpress.org/transnational/intro4.html

Both of these are from my field, so the content might not be particularly interesting for you. The webtext in the first link does a great job of combining video footage and analysis. The second link goes directly to the author's rationale for their multimodal methodology.

Also, I was surprised that you did not mention Coleman under your authors/texts section. Her analysis of the hacker convention (chapter 2 I think) might be helpful for your project.

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Kim Christen
2/11/2013 18:18:52

This is a great project with lots of possibilities.

1. PUBLIC-- you need to unpack and analyse the space in all its guises. Rachel had some good suggestions, Coombe is very good for this regardless of what type of activity you are looking at. Try not to just frame it as counter or normative, so much gets lost when we fall into this binary

2. multimodal projects are great. You need to be careful to make sure that you are theorizing as well as creating the doco...embed the critique and the theoretical intervention in the visual, it's tricky but I am sure you can do it.

3. Unpack the technologies and the gaymers use of the tech. Don't leave these as somehow normalized, there must be a range of uses and techs and we can't assume some natural hierarchy and or use patterns. Look to the technology as an actor too...see Bruno Latour's work and or Donna Haraway.

4. I think Tsing will be useful although maybe not at first glance...but ou are looking at a type of globalization from below which would be good to unpack and analyse using her framework.

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Somava
2/12/2013 13:45:10

Hi Tiffany,

Great project idea. The first idea that struck me was the concept of public sphere. along with Rachel's suggestiion check out this books also
Habermas J (1996) Between Facts and Norms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Jacobs RN (2000) Race, Media, and the Crisis of Civil Society: From Watts to Rodney King. New York: Cambridge University Press.
The second book makes understanding the concept of public sphere easier, it would help I think in unpacking Habermas!!

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Jorge
2/12/2013 14:26:13

"Ohhh....Hey Internet!" (Haha love that part)

Tiffany,
This is really cool launching point. It's great to see how much you've developed since we last spoke about this. The recommendations made during the week look very instructive in building this piece. I really don't have any suggestions at the moment, only can offer support. Keep at it office mate! :)

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Lizeth Gutierrez
2/12/2013 15:53:47

Great project Tiffany! I am really excited to see how you put together the documentary. I agree with a lot of what has already been said. I specifically want to stress Kim's first point about staying away from binary analysis of normative and counter-normative frameworks. This is something I will also deal with in my own project, but I think working from a multimodel angle will really allow you to show the complexities of your research questions. I also think Castells discussion of consciousness will be useful to your analysis, especially when thinking about how the con allows for material and symbolic networks of communication. Good luck!

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2/13/2013 17:47:04

Tiffany, great project. I envy your finesse working with multi-media.

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