"Gaming the Game" Conference kicks off with Keynote Timothy Lenoir

by Jenae Cohn, PhD student
UC Davis Department of English

The emergent impact of new media technologies on policy, politics, science, and education is undoubtedly staggering. Even in the seemingly ungoverned world of the Internet, increasingly powerful surveillance technologies adopted by the military and the U.S. government as well as the self-enabled surveillance of plugging into social networking sites are exerting increasing control over notions of privacy and policy.

The first annual at UC Davis aims to address some of these concerns and respond to the challenges of shifting technopolitical power. Today marked the first day of the conference, organized by Dr. Colin Milburn and Dr.  Kriss Ravetto. Lectures and roundtable discussions will continue through tomorrow afternoon in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre at the Mondavi Center.

Keynote speaker Timothy Lenoir, professor and primary Kimberly Jenkins Chair for New Technologies in Society at Duke University, opened the conference by exploring the relationship between the charting of neural pathways and the application of affect theory on marketing strategy. In short, one of Lenoir’s key questions was, “How are social media and smart devices being leveraged as data mines for affect strategies in marketing?”

Much of Lenoir’s talk shared some of the latest research in brain-machine interface technology. Neuro-prosthetics and implants may seem like devices for a dystopic, posthuman future, one in which man and machine are inextricably connected. Lenoir seemed to suggest the power of such devices not only for the improvement of human life, but also for political control. Indeed, much of new brain-machine interface technology involves charting neural pathways via translation into computer code and replicating the code of those neural pathways into programs for robots and machines.

One of the central questions at the end of Lenoir’s talk was that of resistance to these technologies and where a space might emerge to “opt out.” While Lenoir had no clear answer to the question, in a follow-up to the keynote, English Professor David Simpson suggested that his space of resistance may be best found in a re-thinking and re-formulation of the political world as we know it. Via a return to Heidegger’s anxieties with new technology, Simpson called for the necessity of overcoming the ethical burdens of technology and looking for solutions.

Perhaps a solution to some of these concerns may lie in adopting “gaming” strategies: cheating, hacking, and modding “the system” in order to find a space within it.

See  for the ongoing schedule of events and information about the conference presenters.

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