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Designing for Mod Development

Designing for Mod Development

Berkman Fellow Shenja van der Graaf

Games in general and computer games (PC) in particular are, in many cases, platforms for user creativity and which has become an important part of contemporary game culture. Software developer firms take different stands with regard to user-generated materials varying from not facilitating (and, at times, condoning) any such content à la Grand Theft Auto to actively trying to encourage practices, such as skinning and modeling, à la Half-Life, by providing content and tools; by opening up (parts of) the underlying technology; by dispersing information via e.g. wikis and manuals; and, by providing a (semi-)legal framework to facilitate and condition user-generated contributions. Such practices support the rapid pace of innovation and yield insight into the trajectories of participation and user-to-user and user-to-firm learning that are a regular occurrence among the developer firm, contributing users, and the casual user or gamer. As such, those practices have a profound economic and cultural impact. Yet many literatures approach games as particular forms of “designed experiences” in which gamers' understandings are developed through cycles of practices within the formal rule system designed into the 3D environment through which they actively instantiate their worlds and render them meaningful. There is code, interface, and social relations in games that give way to a ‘designed experience’ and governance can be found in the relations among gamers of a particular gaming platform that has certain modes of freedom in its design implying a variety of social affordances and, as such facilitating various social and economic practices. Such studies seem to overlook however the implications of user innovations when they are a subset of the economic system through sharing and/or commercialization, such as the particular status of these elaborate productions that have struck a chord with the developer firm's organization logic.

About Shenja

Shenja van der Graaf is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen, a consulting researcher at MIT's Convergence Culture Consortium, and is also conducting research at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research focuses on the organization and management of innovation and technology, especially user innovation, product development, and media uses in media and software industries. She has been awarded with grants and scholarships from among others, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences and the British Academy. Over the years she has worked with an extensive international network of companies including Valve, Hakuhodo and Ericsson.

Recent and forthcoming publications include "Media Literacy," which she co-wrote with Sonia Livingstone for /The International Encyclopedia of Communication/ in 2007; "The Second Life of Analogue Players in a Digital World," which she co-wrote with Garrett Cobarr in Alex Koohang and Keith Harman's 2007 book /Knowledge Management/; "The Mod Industries? The Industrial Logic of Non-Market Game Production," which she co-wrote with David B. Nieborg for a 2008 issue of the /European Journal of Cultural Studies/; and "Spill Over Practices of Virtual Markets: The ComMODification of Inventory Toolkits," which will appear in Japanese in 2008.


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Past Event
Jul 8, 2008
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM