Counter-fun, scholarly legitimacy, and environmental engagement – or why academics should code games

  • Marina Khan Western Sydney University
  • Liam Magee Western Sydney University
  • Andrea Pollio Politecnico di Torino
  • Juan Francisco Salazar Western Sydney University
Keywords: Counter-fun, Antarctic cities, Serious games, scholarly legitimacy, climate change, digital academic, environmental engagement

Abstract

Acknowledged as urgent and complex, the communication of environmental science is at once an outcome and a subject of academic research. In this article, we detail the results of workshops with young residents of five “Antarctic gateway cities” (Hobart, Christchurch, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, and Cape Town) who helped design and evaluate an online game that sought to communicate complex intersections of climate policy and science. We focus here on secondary effects of the workshops and game. On the one hand, outputs such as digital games respond to renewed desires for and from researchers to reach beyond scholarly sanctuaries and engage with real-world issues and communities in ways that question barriers of expertise and institutional entitlement. On the other, such dissolutions expose gaps in competency that can unnerve both researchers and participants, interrogating the expediency of collaborative game design and evaluation, and posing questions about the broader role and scope of “non-traditional” research outputs. Elaborating on Pérez Latorre’s notion of “counter-fun”, we chart our efforts to engage youth audiences in Antarctic cities through workshops, social media and anonymous statistics derived from gameplay. We conclude that game design and evaluation, as methods that bind and orient researchers and participants toward common objects of interest, can yield surprising channels of speculation and dialogue that align neither with conventional research nor the planned engagement of non-traditional outputs.

Author Biographies

Marina Khan, Western Sydney University

Ph.D. candidate at the institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. Marina’s research explores diverse aspects of international migration and mobility focusing on the lived experiences of migration, and her recent work has appeared in International Migration. She also the co-producer of a research communication podcast called Blab Coats.

Liam Magee, Western Sydney University

Associate Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. His research spans technology, media, cities and the environment. He was Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council Linkage Grant Antarctic Cities and the Global Commons: Rethinking the Gateways (2017–2020). He is Chief Investigator on two further Australian Research Council projects, Autonomy, Diversity & Disability: Everyday Practices of Technology, and The Geopolitics of Automation. His work has appeared in Information, Communication & Society, Geoforum, Futures and Environment and Planning C.

Andrea Pollio, Politecnico di Torino

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Department of Urban and Regional Studies of the Polytechnic of Turin, and at the African Centre for Cities of the University of Cape Town. Andrea’s work addresses the entanglements of digital technology, international development and urban change in Africa, and has appeared in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Environment and Planning A, the Annals of the American Association of Geographers and in Urban Studies.

Juan Francisco Salazar, Western Sydney University

Professor of Media Studies at the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and Fellow of the Institute for Culture & Society at Western Sydney University. He is an environmental anthropologist and documentary filmmaker who has work in Antarctica for over a decade. He was Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council Linkage Grant Antarctic Cities and the Global Commons: Rethinking the Gateways (2017–2020). From 2012 to 2016 he was Co-Chair of the Humanities and Social Sciences Expert Group of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR). His recent books include the co-edited volumes Anthropologies and Futures (Bloomsbury, 2017) and Thinking with Soils: Material Politics and Social Theory (Bloomsbury, 2020). His recent films include Nightfall on Gaia (2015) and The Bamboo Bridge (2019).

Published
2021-01-17
How to Cite
Khan, M., Magee, L., Pollio, A., & Salazar, J. F. (2021). Counter-fun, scholarly legitimacy, and environmental engagement – or why academics should code games. First Monday, 26(2). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i2.11427