Mary Flanagan is an inventor, artist, writer and designer whose quirky games, engaging installations, wild poetry and critical essays forge a unique vision of technology, pop culture and avant-garde art. With five scholarly books, over fifty essays and chapters, and a collection of poetry to her credit, Flanagan also publishes in Salon, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Gamasutra. Her internationally recognized artwork ranges from game-inspired systems to computer viruses, embodied interfaces to interactive texts exhibit at museums around the world such as The Whitney Museum, The Guggenheim, Tate Britain, and museums in Spain, New Zealand, South Korea and Australia. Flanagan is the recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship, the Brown Foundation Fellowship, the MacDowell Colony Fellowship, the Bogliasco Fellowship, and was recently a John Paul Getty Museum Scholar. She was Senior Scholar in Residence at Cornell Society for the Humanities, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Jackman Humanities Institute, University of Toronto, and a Distinguished Visiting Artist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She lives in New York and New Hampshire, and in 2016 was honored as a ‘Vanguard’ from Games for Change and received a Doctorate Honoris Causa in design from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Flanagan 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, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Flanagan founded the award winning design research laboratory Tiltfactor and the publishing company Resonym.
Flanagan is known as an engaging and lively public speaker who lectures at institutions such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Reina Sophia, the Getty, the Telfair Museum, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, USC, NYU, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, University of Toronto, Northwestern, Trinity College, and Oxford. She’s given keynotes to groups ranging from the Association of Professional Futurists to Computer Supported Cooperative Work, from Philosophy of Computer Games to Games Learning and Society, from the experimental STRP Festival to Women in Games. Flanagan holds a PhD from Central St Martins, University of the Arts in London and is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College.
Find her: @criticalplay on twitter; @critical.play on instagram.
Perspective on Flanagan’s work: Arts Focused Bio
Mary Flanagan’s work plays with the anxious and profound relationship between technological systems and human experience, exploring how our data, rule systems, and context of play represent human fears and desires. Her artwork ranges from game-based installations to computer viruses, embodied interfaces to interactive texts; these works have been exhibited internationally at venues including The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Guggenheim, Tate Britain, Postmasters, Steirischer Herbst, Ars Electronica, Artist’s Space, LABoral, the Telfair Museum, ZKM Medienmuseum, Siggraph, Ars Electronica, and museums in New Zealand, South Korea and Australia.
Mary Flanagan is the founding director of the research laboratory and design studio TILTFACTOR, the founder of the publishing company Resonym, and the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College. She is a cross-disciplinary designer, systems thinker, artist, writer, and maker of experimental and emerging forms, working to design for change in learning, public health, social challenges such as bias, and sustainability using community action, crowdsourcing, and play. Flanagan develops and utilizes novel creative methods to tackle problems from left field, showing how change emerges by shifting psychological mindsets. She helps groups ranging from physicians to theme park designers to arctic scientists encounter their impact potential and use what she calls ‘evidence based design’ to change minds about the worlds most pressing problems. By creating apps, physical games, scenarios, essays, and through large scale experimental research, she works to transform old systems and imagine the new.
Perspective on Flanagan’s work: A Brief Writer Bio.
Mary Flanagan has written or edited six books and works across genres including essays, poetry, and fiction. Her book Critical Play is standard-issue reading for those interested in, or studying, computer games. Mary Flanagan, the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College, is also a well-known game designer with over 30 games to her credit. Her fourth acclaimed book, Critical Play (MIT 2009) revealed the incredible art history of games; Values at Play in Digital Games (with philosopher Helen Nissenbaum, MIT 2014), demonstrates that thinking about values in games is key to innovation. Ghost Sentence, a volume of her poems, was released at the end of 2017.
In the field of creative writing, Flanagan is known as a writer of electronic literature, poetry, and fiction, with work in FENCE, The Iowa Review, The Pinch, Barrow Street, Heavy Feather Review, and other books & periodicals. A book of poetry, Ghost Sentence, is forthcoming in 2017. She has written more than 50 critical essays and chapters, and her books in English include reload: rethinking women + cyberculture (2002), The Sims: Similitudini, Simboli & Simulacri (2003, with Matteo Bittanti), re:SKIN (2007), Critical Play (2009), Values at Play in Digital Games (2014) with philosopher Helen Nissenbaum, all with MIT Press. A book with Mikael Jakobsson with the working title Playing Oppression is currently in development.
Flanagan’s work has been showcased in The Atlantic and on National Public Radio. Her research is regularly featured in popular game blogs such as Kotaku and Polygon.
She is widely known as an expert on matters related to games and digital culture publishing in venues such as Salon.com, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Inside Higher Education, The Daily Beast, and more. She has garnered numerous accolades and awards including an honorary degree in Design from IIT and the Vanguard award at Games for Change. She has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the ACLS, and a distinguished scholar at Cornell and the University of Toronto. She was recently a Museum Scholar at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
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”
My creative practice investigates human relationships with systems — technological, representational, linguistic, and social. I explore the anxious and profound relationship among technological systems, play, and human experience. Systems and their intersections with mundane aspects of everyday life are particularly of interest; therefore, games, computer viruses, search engines, email — seemingly ordinary things — become for me extraordinary and revealing artifacts. Games are of particularly ripe type of system to explore and utilize in my work. In my studio I use particular methods (chance operations, OULIPO style algorithms) to defamiliarize myself with my own experiences of these systems, to be able to see them anew, and confront their inherent world views. Computer game engines, play frameworks, and networked databases are materials by which to explore the cultural impact of systems as they permeate and mediate everyday life, while it in turn daily life is continually reshaped by the systems people make.
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 to negotiate a type of peace with the both the fleeting nature of the medium and its forms: the invisible nature of bits and bytes and conversely, the way these ephemeral forms forge lasting conceptual systems. Relationships of power interest me greatly.
My investigations manifest using a variety of forms: web-based media, installation, poetry, computer applications, games, and performance. These forms are governed by rule sets that render possible worlds under constraint. Most works involve aleatoric, experiential interventions including rule systems of the oulipo variety. My goal is for the work to be as experiential as it is imagistic, and that it abides by tenets of openness and testing of form. I want to craft a challenging type of sense-making—rich forms and media that challenge absoluteness. Each work invents its own grammar and executes through associative narratives in images and collisions. Like Duchamp, I call my work ‘laboratory experiments’: a blend of research, process, procedure, and performance.