Mary Flanagan is a leading innovator, artist, educator and designer, whose works have included everything from game-inspired art, to commercial games that shift people’s thinking about biases and stereotypes. Her interest in play and culture led to her acclaimed book, Critical Play, with MIT Press (2009). Her fifth academic book, Values at Play in Digital Games, with philosopher Helen Nissenbaum, was just released from MIT. Flanagan established the internationally recognized game research laboratory Tiltfactor in 2003 to invent “humanist” games and take on social through games. At Tiltfactor, designers create and research catchy games that teach or transform “under the radar” using psychological principles.
Flanagan has been an American Council of Learned Societies fellow, a Brown Foundation Fellow, and a MacDowell Colony Fellow. She has served on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Academic Consortium on Games for Impact, and her work has been supported by commissions and grants including The British Arts Council, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (with Digital Mill), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Flanagan is known as an engaging and lively public speaker who gives several keynote talks a year and travels for many invited lectures at events such as TEDx; Business Innovation Factory; Games, Learning and Society; IndieCade, Vienna Games Conference; Women in Games; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She has given invited talks at MIT, the Game Developer’s Conference, Microsoft Research, USC, NYU, Georgia Tech, University of Toronto, Games for Change, SIGGRAPH, the Smithsonian, and many international venues.
Her innovative scholarship was showcased in 2014 The Atlantic article, “Not Your Father’s STEM Job.” Her lab is regularly featured in game blogs such as Kotaku and Polygon. She is widely known as a pundit of matters related to digital culture, publishing popular scholarship in venues such as USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Inside Higher Education, The Daily Beast, and more.
Dr. Flanagan is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College. @criticalplay; http://www.tiltfactor.org; http://www.maryflanagan.com
Interview: Insert the poetic where we’d least expect it, about electronic writing and poetry by Eric Goddard-Scovel
A radio interview for FM4, as part of the 2011 Salzburg Global Seminar, “Health and Healthcare Series III, Innovating for Value in Health Care Delivery: Better Cross-Border Learning, Smarter Adaptation and Adoption”
As an internationally-exhibiting artist and as a writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, I see my work in the conceptual framework of imagists such as H.D. and others who emphasized the ‘thingness’ inherent in the world around us. The “chairness” of a chair, for example, interests me. So does the “technologicalness” of a technology. I’m interested in larger philosophical questions while grounding these in concrete images and examples. It is this fruitful tension between the concrete and the abstract with which I play to create my work.
My creative practice investigates human relationships with systems — technological, representational, linguistic, and social — from my position in a technologically-infused society. In my work I explore the relationship between such systems and their intersections with everyday life. Therefore, games, computer viruses, search engines, cell phones, email — seemingly ordinary systems — become for me extraordinary and revealing artifacts representing themes of human desire, intimacy, language, and the conceptual spaces of machines themselves. Games are of particularly ripe type of system to explore and utilize in my work: they are up to 8,000 years old and represent core aspects of human understanding. I use particular methods to defamiliarize myself with my own experiences of these systems, to be able to see them anew; computer game engines and networked databases are materials by which to explore the cultural impact of digital technology as it permeates everyday life, while it in turn is continually reshaped.
The process of creating the work feeds from ‘net culture’ and ‘computational customs’ where flippant trends become ongoing conceptual and physical ‘truths.’ Making these works is a way of creating alternate systems which reach a peace with the both the impermanence of the medium and its forms: the simultaneous fleeting nature of bits and bytes and conversely, the way these forms forge more lasting conceptual systems. Relationships of power interest me greatly.
My investigations manifest using a variety of forms: web-based media, poetry, computer applications, games, and social relationships. These forms are governed by rule sets that render possible worlds under constraints. Most works involve serendipity and accident as aleatoric, experiential interventions. My goal is for the work to be as experiential as it is imagistic, and that it abides by a tenet of openness in fields of possibility. It is my goal to create a challenging type of sense-making—rich forms and media that challenge absoluteness. Each work invents its own grammar and executes this through associative narratives in these images and collisions. Duchamp called his own work ‘laboratory experiments’; my intention is to pursue a blend of research, process, procedure, and performance using a similar experimental framing. In this way the conceptually driven investigations form a hybrid of research, process, and performance.