Perspective on Flanagan’s work: A Brief Artist Bio.
Mary Flanagan’s work explores the anxious and profound relationship between technological systems and human experience, with an ongoing exploration of rule systems, games, and what she calls ‘critical play.’ Her artwork ranges from game-based installations to computer viruses, embodied interfaces to interactive texts; these works are 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, and more.
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 five books and works across genres including essays, poetry, fiction, and opinion pieces for USA Today, Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Gamasutra and more. Her book Critical Play is standard-issue reading for those interested in, or studying, computer games. She has garnered numerous accolades and awards including an honorary degree in Design from IIT. She recently won 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.
And here, The Bigger Picture.
Flanagan is a prolific creator of playful interventions in design, writing, and art. She has achieved international acclaim for her novel interdisciplinary work that includes a studio art practice and entrepreneurship alongside humanities scholarship and scientific inquiry. Her artwork ranges from game based systems to computer viruses, embodied interfaces to interactive texts; these works are exhibited internationally at venues including the Laboral Art Center, The Whitney Museum of American Art, SIGGRAPH, Museum of Fine Arts Cologne, Beall Center, Postmasters, Steirischer Herbst, Ars Electronica, Artist’s Space, the Telfair Museum, Guggenheim, Incheon Korea, ZKM Germany, and others.
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, and other books & periodicals. She has written more than 30 critical essays and chapters, and her books in English include reload: rethinking women + cyberculture (2002), re:SKIN (2007), Critical Play (2009), and the co-authored Values at Play in Digital Games (2014) with philosopher Helen Nissenbaum, all with MIT Press.
In her award winning design practice, Flanagan is a leading innovator whose works have included everything from game-inspired art, to commercial games that shift people’s thinking about biases and stereotypes. She created the first internet adventure game for girls, and she researches and creates games at Tiltfactor, an internationally acclaimed hub for social impact design work that she founded in 2003. Tiltfactor uses an evidence-based investigation into values in game design, implementing psychological principles to change hearts and minds about public health, the commons, and biases and stereotypes. More broadly, her research illustrates the value of incorporating experiential components, such as narrative, embodiment, and role-playing, in designing effective games for social change. Flanagan is also the founder of the board game publisher Resonym.com. Flanagan also founded TechARTS, a thriving technology education program for urban girls, nearly two decades ago in Buffalo NY.
Flanagan’s work has been covered by The New York Times, The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, NPR as well as in popular game blogs such as Kotaku and Polygon. To ensure policy-makers and the public are informed about the implications of her research and her lab’s work, Flanagan has served on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Academic Consortium on Games for Impact, and published widely in popular news venues, including the Huffington Post, USA Today, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Honors include being an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow, a Brown Foundation Fellow, a Getty Museum Scholar, and a MacDowell Colony Fellow. Her work has been supported by commissions and grants including The British Arts Council, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Justice (via the University of New Hampshire), the National Endowment for the Humanities, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (via Digital Mill), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In 2017 she will be a Senior Scholar in Residence at Cornell Society for the Humanities.
Flanagan is known as an engaging and lively public speaker who gives frequent keynote lectures: 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’s spoken at MIT, the Game Developer’s Conference, Microsoft Research, USC, NYU, Games for Change, SIGGRAPH, the Smithsonian, and many international venues.
In 2015 Flanagan was awarded the Higher Education Video Games Alliance award for “advancing theory & research” in the field of game studies. In 2016 she was awarded the Vanguard award from Games for Change. Flanagan has a PhD from Central St Martins, University of the Arts in London and holds an honorary doctorate in design from The Illinois Institute of Technology. She is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College. Find her: @criticalplay on twitter; @critical.play on instagram.
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 impermanence of the medium and its forms: the simultaneous fleeting 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 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 tenets of openness and experimentation. 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. Like Duchamp, I call my work ‘laboratory experiments’: a blend of research, process, procedure, and performance.