January 16, 2020

FDG 2020 Workshop Call for Papers: Forgetting and Remembering

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This workshop seeks to respond to, and provide a forum for, the growing field of Historical Game Studies, focusing in particular on how the digital games medium may facilitate or resist the processes of forgetting and remembering. We are interested in how the ‘participatory environment’ for cultural heritage provided by digital media (Staiff 2014, 131), and specifically videogames as ‘participatory public history’ (McCall 2018), may contribute to the (re)constructions of both collective and individual memories, whether reinforcing the status quo or suggesting alternatives to it.

[Update: The conference is going ahead online, and registration is now open (http://fdg2020.org/registration.php). We are currently accepting proposals for our workshop on Forgetting & Remembering in Digital Games. We are extending the workshop submission deadline to 5th June, and we look forward to receiving abstracts from those interested in participating (of course, you can also participate by attending.)]

Video Games and Memory: Memory Studies Research

The workshop will seek to examine what digital games may contribute, and how their affordances shape and re-shape the reception and transmission of memory. The workshop will deal specifically with digital games that do, or attempt to do, ‘memory work’ (Cooke & Hubbell 2015), i.e. games that, in different ways, create, control, or contribute to making meaning of the past (Zelizer 2008).

We understand memory as a notion that, depending on the context, indicates a variety of things: a tool, an epiphenomenon, a process (see Halbwachs 1980, Kattago 2015, Bond et al. 2017, Groes 2016, Michaelian et al. 2018, Stone & Bietti 2015, Terdiman 1993). It can be studied at different levels: from the individual to the social or collective, from the transcultural, global, or entangled, to multidirectional or transmedial (Rothberg 2009; van Dijck 2007, 2017). The workshop welcomes proposals that reflect this diversified and multidisciplinary background.

Forgetting is Part of Remembering: How Do Videogames Affect Our Behaviour?

Additionally, forgetting will be foregrounded as a constitutive part of the memory-process (see, among others, Kansteiner 2015). This is particularly relevant in the case of both individual traumas and collective traumas such as genocides and atrocities (see, for example: Olick et al. 2018, Erll & Rigney 2018). As with its officially-sanctioned channel (as for example ‘national history’), memory in every case entails an act of forgetting: “For in fact every narrative, however seemingly ‘full’, is constructed on the basis of a set of events which might have been included but were left out” (White 1980, 14). Often, this selection occurs on the basis of ‘ideologically non-neutral decisions of inclusion and exclusion’ (Sterczewski 2016a): it is worth noting that, as a consequence, the process of remembering (and forgetting at the same time) is usually associated with negotiation (see for example, Sutton 2017).

On the side of dominant powers, the ability to write history maybe lead to violent impositions of narrative, re-appropriations, and ‘memoricide’, which may impact on ‘physical and social space’ (Webster 2018) – diverting or overwriting its symbolic quality as a ‘lieu de mémoire’ (Nora 1989), or even ending in its literal destruction. Digital games have – sometimes problematically – attempted to digitally reconstruct the lost, razed, or ruined site in question (Zarandona et al. 2018), in a move that may tend to de-localise cultural memory, but also aids its dissemination. The very tension between fragility or instability and desired permanence may be explored by the medium and its particular relation to spatiality, and is one point where memory and medium may engage in a fruitful and mutually-illuminating relationship.

This suggests that games may offer a channel for ‘counter-memory’ (Foucault 1980), challenging the stable monumentality of the dominant historical narrative, and revealing the latter’s contingency. Memory studies underline a link with the present – memory is culturally productive, and suggests the possibility of the coexistence of heterogeneous narratives, or even the cracking of the dominant one: “It is often true that […] establishing new lines with the past, breaking or re-drawing existing lines— is a radical kind of contemporary change” (Williams 1961, 69). Digital games seem particularly well-suited to this kind of multiplicity, in their ability to enable, as ‘computer environments’, ‘collaborative research and multiple voices’ in their approach to history (Kee et al. 2009, 319).

Cultural Impact of Videogames and their History: The Role of Videogames in Rembering and Forgetting

The FDG2020 workshop is therefore interested in what the medium has to contribute to the discussion of remembering and forgetting, and in the ways that the area may make its own demands on the medium, exploring its boundaries – including the ethical and political. This has already given rise to fascinating research on the way marketing and genre constraints, for example, have tended to favour individualized ‘heroic’ narratives and ‘forget’ the plight of civilians in war games (Sterczewski 2016b).

The workshop will aim to bring together researchers from different disciplines, for a productive dialogue on key questions including (but not restricted to) the ones outlined below:

- Cultural trauma and collective forgetting

- The medium’s possible complicity in processes of ‘remembering’ and ‘forgetting’

- The ways in which games could do ‘memory work’

- The limitations of games (consumer expectations, gameplay mechanics, game reception, gaming literacy, tropes, etc) in dealing with past events’ memory, and their ethical implications

- The way game retrospectives have shaped our perception of the history of the medium itself as a cultural artifact, through their necessary selectivity

- How digital games represent forgetting, and how forgetting can affect the bond between avatars and players, (amnesiac avatars and traumas, memory losses, brain damages, dementia, and so on)

- The expression of a virtual world’s memories through digital environments, such as ruins or other spaces that bear the traces of their past

- The selectivity of nostalgia

Each speaking participant will deliver a 10-15 minute presentation, followed by a panel discussion that would be opened up to the floor. If you are interested in contributing, please send a 300-400 word anonymised abstract and a 100-word bio in a separate document to memoryworkshop20@gmail.com, by the 5th of June 2020.

The Digital Humanities Research Group

The workshop is organised by Stefano Caselli and Krista Bonello Rutter Giapponeis, who are part of the Digital Humanities Research Group at the Institute of Digital Games. The Research Group tackles topics at the intersection of digital technologies and subjects in the humanities, such as philosophy and literature. This crossroads is the natural home of digital games, as they are – by their very nature – multidisciplinary, combining art, music, writing and design with cutting-edge digital technology, and engaging with philosophical, literary and aesthetic concepts in the language of computation. As such, game scholars often find themselves doing research at exactly the crossroads referred to as “digital humanities”.

List of References:

- Bond, L., Craps, S., & Vermeulen, P. (eds.) (2017) Memory unbound. Tracing the dynamics of memory studies. New York, NY: Berghahn.

- Bosch, T. (2019) [Review of the book Memory Unbound. Tracing the dynamics of memory studies, edited by - ----Bond, L., Craps, S., & Vermeulen, P.] Memory Studies. 12(1), 98-101.

- Brown, S. D. (2019) “Comparison and evaluation in memory studies.” Memory Studies. 12 (2), 113- 116.

- Brown, S. D., & Reavey, P. (2015) ‘Turning around on experience: The ‘expanded view’ of memory within psychology.’ Memory Studies. 8 (2), 131-150.

- Cooke L., & Hubbell, G. S. (2015) ‘Working Out Memory with a Medal of Honor Complex’, Game Studies. 15(2).

- Erll, A. (2008) ‘Literature, Film, and the Mediality of Cultural Memory’, in Erll A. & Nünning A. (eds.) Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 389-398.

- Erll, A., & Rigney A. (2018) ‘Editorial’, Memory Studies. 11(3), 272-273.

- Foucault, M. (1980) Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, New York: Cornell University Press.

- Halbwachs, M. (1980) The Collective Memory. New York: Harper and Row.

- Kansteiner, W. (2015) ‘Of media scandals and regimes of forgetting: Strauss-Kahn, public history, and memory studies’, Memory Studies. 8(4), 395-389.

- Kattago, S. (ed.) (2015) The Ashgate Research Companion to Memory Studies. Burlington, England: Ashgate Publishing Company.

- Kee K., Graham S., Dunae P., Lutz J., Large A., Blondeau M., and Clare M. (2009) ‘Towards a Theory of Good History Through Gaming’, The Canadian Historical Review. 9(2), 303-326

- Groes, S. (ed.) (2016) Memory in the Twenty-First Century. New Critical Perspectives from the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

- Lundedal Hammar, E. (2017) ‘Counter-hegemonic commemorative play: marginalized pasts and the politics of memory in the digital game Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry’, Rethinking History. 21(3), 372-395.

- McCall, Jeremiah, ‘Video Games as Participatory Public History’, in A Companion to Public History, ed. David Dean (John Wiley & Sons, 2018), pp. 405-418

- Michaelian, K., Debus, D., and Perrin, D. (eds.) (2018) New Directions in the Philosophy of Memory. New York: Routledge.

- Nora, P. (1989) ‘Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire’, Representations. 26, Special Issue: Memory and Counter-Memory, 7-24.

- Olick, J. K., Sierp, A., and Wüstenberg, J. (2018) ‘Preface’, Memory Studies. 12(1), 3-4.

- White, H. (1980) ‘The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality’, Critical Inquiry. 7(1), 5-27.

- Williams, R. (1961) The Long Revolution. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

- Staiff, R. (2014) Re-Imagining Heritage Interpretation: Enchanting the Past-Future. London and New York: Routledge.

- Stone, C. B., & Bietti, M. L. (eds.) (2015) Contextualizing Human Memory. An interdisciplinary approach to understanding how individuals and groups remember the past. Hove, East Sussex: Psychology Press.

- Sutton, J. (2017) ‘Beyond memory again: Risk, teamwork, vicarious remembering’, Memory Studies. 10(4), 379-383.

- Rothberg, M. (2009) Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

- Sterczewski, P. (2016a) ‘Replaying the Lost Battles: the Experience of Failure in Polish History-Themed Board Games’, KINEPHANOS. Special issue, Exploring the Frontiers of Digital Gaming: Traditional Games, Expressive Games, Pervasive Games, 71-89.

Sterczewski, P. (2016b) ‘This Uprising of Mine: Game Conventions, Cultural Memory and Civilian Experience of War in Polish Games’, Game Studies, 16(2).

- Terdiman, R. (1993) Present Past. Modernity and the Memory Crisis. Itacha, NY: Cornell University Press.

- van Dijck, J. (2007) Mediated Memories in the Digital Age. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

- van Dijck, J. (2017) ‘Connective Memory: How Facebook Takes Charge of Your Past’, in Bond L., Craps S., Vermeulen P. (eds.) Memory unbound. Tracing the dynamics of memory studies. New York, NY: Berghahn, 151-173.

- Webster, S. (2018) ‘Heritage Site Simulacra in VR: Transforming Mnemonics’, Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media. 30.

- Zarandona, J. A. G., Chapman, A. and Darshana, J. (2018) ‘Heritage Destruction and Videogames: Ethical Challenges of the Representation of Cultural Heritage’, Transactions of DiGRA 4.2, 173-203.

- Zelizer, B. (2008). ‘Why memory’s work on journalism does not reflect journalism’s work on memory.’ Memory Studies. 1(1), 79-87.