I spoke at the American Anthropological Association meeting as part of a panel titled, “Emerging Socialities: Towards an Anthropology of Social Media.”
My Contribution Title:
#GAMEDEV: Game Developers Producing Culture in 140 Characters or Less
My Contribution Abstract:
What kinds of ethnographic stories can the social computational algorithm tell? This presentation draws on more than eight years of participant observation and ethnographic fieldwork amongst game developers and brings it into conversation with computational social network analysis. The relationships formed amongst Twitter users posting messages tagged as #gamedesign, #gamedev, #gdc, #gdc11, and #gdc12 are analyzed. By examining the interactions that take place between developers on Twitter, I explore, ethnographically, the clusters, sub groups, communities, sub-communities and outliers identified using these traditional clustering algorithms. While individually computational social analysis offers a rubric for identifying these groups, when combined with extensive ethnographic knowledge, new stories emerge that were not previously visible. In concert the two methods offer anthropologists tools that work at different scales. This presentation examines Twitter as a platform, in both the social and computational sense for cultural production for game developers. The essay troubles the largely technological frame of “platform” studies (Montfort & Bogost 2009) through this context. The creative and performative elements of Twitter shape the kind of interaction and discussion that occur amongst developers. Modes of inclusion and exclusion not dissimilar from the game industry more broadly are simultaneously absent and present. The presentation makes the argument that Twitter as a platform produces space through which aspiring game developers can test their social and cultural mettle as they attempt to “break in” to the industry while others re-inscribe cultural norms of what it means to be a game developer.