Conference 2016: Subjected to Play

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Call for Papers: First Forum 2016

Subjected to Play: Locating the Subject in the Promise of Play


Division of Cinema & Media Studies
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
October 14-15, 2016


Submission Deadline: June 3, 2016

As utopian aspirations for new and more participatory media meet the sobering realities of digital labor and the politics of self management, First Forum invites scholars to examine the ways play has shaped the rhetoric of subjectivity within academic and popular contexts as it relates to media production and consumption.

The conference will investigate how we as cinema and media critics, teachers, fans, artists and activists are rethinking play and the promise of agency in order to understand how these modes of address interpret subjectivity in a diverse media landscape, how they enforce or destabilize subjective boundaries, and how they define our own identities in the process. Moreover, this year’s First Forum intends to critically explore the relationship between the classical notion of the cinematic subject and how newly evolving media languages emphasizing interactivity and gameification have resituated this subject within the highly mediated moment of today.

What are the ethical implications of a playful relationship between subject – critic, artist, actor, avatar – and object – movie, game, novel, website? Where does the idea of an “active” subject fit within this historical narrative? How have ubiquitous screen technologies influenced our sense of interacting with the world and with others? How has media pedagogy responded to this interactive turn? What new demands are being asked of users and viewers as a result? Topics are encouraged to take a fluid approach to the theme and draw from a wide variety of critical lenses, as well as focus on any time period, genre, or medium.


Possible topics include:

the rhetoric of play; media archaeology and the history of interactivity; theories of play and subjectivity (phenomenology, post-structuralist, etc.); ethical play, newsgames, games for change; spectator and audience studies; gameification in the workplace, “playbor”; the representation of play and subjectivity in film (i.e. eXistenZ, Gamer); interactive cinema, second-screen experiences; screen culture; gesture and play; hypertext, the Internet, and social media subjectivities; Virtual Reality; postcolonial studies of play; feminist identity and critiques of play; queer subjectivities, queering play; the failure of play; teaching play


Sobchack1This year’s First Forum will feature a keynote address by renowned media scholar, Dr. Vivian Sobchack.

Additionally, conference events will include a roundtable discussion among USC faculty and alumni respondents for panel presentations.


Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words for a 20-minute panel presentation as well as a brief bio of no more than 100 words. Non-traditional, creative projects are welcome.

Please e-mail submissions and inquiries to zdcfirstforum@gmail.com by June 3, 2016.