Sept. 19, Lenina st., 23, room 501, 17.00 – 20.00
Free admission, everyone is welcome. The seminar is conducted in English.
(PhD in Political Science and Sociology, European University, St. Petersburg)
"Hooking Into the Game Engine: Capitalism, Code Resistance, and Innovation in Fan-Made Video Game Modifications"
Today video games are big business. With 2.2 billion gamers and average gamer aged 31, video game market is expected to reach 108.9 billion dollars revenue in 2017. In fact, this revenue is extracted not only from passive consumption of games by players, but also from players’ active involvement in designing their own experience of gaming. Using toolkits provided by game developers and external software, players design their own levels, textures, models, sounds, scripts, and even entire games. Known as “modding” in the gaming community, this activity is embedded in the game industry and constitutes a significant share of revenue for game developers. However, video game scholars rarely analyse modding as a part of broader political and economic formation. When they do, political economy constraints are considered as imposed on modding from above, not embedded from inside. Consequently, these scholars find typical forms of resistance to these constraints lacking in terms of organised political resistance. First, to contribute to this academic discussion and public debate about gaming, I will situate modding in the broader political economy formation and show how it is tied to the transformation of late capitalism originating in the 1970s. Moreover, based on two outstanding mods – Boris Vorontsov’s ENB and Script Extenders for the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series – I will also argue that economic constraints are not only imposed from above, but also embedded in the game architecture itself. I thus conclude that political resistance in modding does exists, but the battle takes place at the level of code.
(PhD in English, Duke University)
"Platonism and Transhumanism"
According to a standard schema for understanding history in the West, the period since the 16th century is properly described as 'modernity', characterised by its pursuit of technological progress, the rise of post-religious materialist philosophies and the triumph of liberal democratic forms of government. Criticisms of the modern project as being a front for imperialist politics are common in leftist academic circles, while conservatives often accuse moderns of not recognising their debt to the history that preceded the birth of the modern. This paper is about some of the ways the premodern past survives in the modern period, in popular culture and in techno-utopian dreams of a transhuman future. It argues that an ancient dialogue between the followers of Plato and Epicurus is still being played out in the twenty first century and can be discerned in the imagery and plotting of some of the most successful films of the last two decades. It also suggests an alternative schema for understanding historical change based on the philosophy of Jean Gebser.
(PhD in Sociology, European University Institute, Italy)
"Sociology of political knowledge"
The sociology of knowledge studies how both scientists and ordinary people produce knowledge that can be seen as truth or false, convincing or misleading. I use this approach as a method for researching protest action. Empowerment, engagement, and mobilization are based on beliefs, expectations, and impressions of people involved in politics. In my presentation, I will demonstrate how what we perceive as veracious or unreliable, influence our engagement and disengagement in collective action.