Mary Flanagan crafts playful interventions with design, writing, and art.
Flanagan 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, Whitney, SIGGRAPH, 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 20 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), 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. Flanagan is also the founder of the board game publisher Resonym.com.
Flanagan’s work is showcased in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal and NPR as well as in popular game blogs such as Kotaku and Polygon. She is widely known as an expert on matters related to digital culture, publishing in venues such as USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Inside Higher Education, The Daily Beast, and more.
Flanagan has served on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Academic Consortium on Games for Impact, and has been an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow, a Brown Foundation Fellow 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, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (with Digital Mill), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In 2017 she will be Getty Scholar and 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; www.tiltfactor.org; 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.