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PhD Studentship: "Games for Change": social impact gaming and 'playing' at geopolitics.

Posted on 16/05/2017

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship to examine the integration of ethical and moral values into a new generation of online gaming by engaging directly with developers, players and advocates of so-called ‘social impact games’. The Leverhulme Magna Carta Doctoral Centre at Royal Holloway University of London is making this award. The project, due to begin on 1 September 2017 or if preferable 1 January 2017 at the latest, will be supervised by Alasdair Pinkerton (Lead Supervisor: Senior Lecturer in Geopolitics, Department of Geography) and Rikke Jensen (Second Supervisor: Research Fellow, School of Law).

The Studentship

Founded in 2004, Games for Change functions as a social movement and advocacy group that seeks to promote political participation – to raise awareness of global humanitarian issues, and to provoke discussion about the civil rights of marginalised groups – through the facilitation, creation and distribution of digital games. Using this collective as a starting point, the PhD project will explore the integration of ethical and moral values into a new generation of online gaming by engaging directly with developers, players and advocates of so-called ‘social impact games’. It is increasingly recognised that technologies, including digital games, embody social and political values, yet, the extent to which games designers have the power to shape players’ engagement with and interpretation of such values is less clear. To this end, this project will be driven by a number of key research questions, including, (i) What motivates developers and advocates of social impact games, and how do they reflect on their own values? (ii) To what extent do these values materialise within social impact games, and the act of playing? (iii) How do players engage with and interpret the values encoded within social impact games?

Methodologically, the research will be primarily qualitative, combining semi‐structured interviews with game developers and advocacy groups; discourse analyses of social impact games; interviews with game players; and digital gaming ethnographies. Separate funding will be required for travel and subsistence associated with this fieldwork and the student will work with the supervisory team to secure such funds through grant applications.

The Institutional Setting

In 2015, Royal Holloway University of London was awarded over £1 million from the Leverhulme Doctoral Training Studentships scheme to create the Magna Carta Doctoral Centre, supporting interdisciplinary PhD research on the theme of Freedom and the Rights of the Individual in the Digital Age. The Centre is funding c. 10 Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholar awards per year and is one element of the soon to be launched Royal Holloway and Runnymede Institute for Freedoms. The studentship holder will be expected to support the collective ethos of the Centre, including being prepared to contribute to seminars, write for public audiences and participate in the academic life of the Institute for Freedoms. The student will be supervised across the Department of Geography and the School of Law. Royal Holloway's Department of Geography provides a stimulating and supportive research environment. It was ranked joint 2nd in REF2014 for Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies units of assessment. The student will be based in the Department's Politics, Development and Sustainability (PDS) research group, which has at its heart a graduate school of c. 40 PhD students (further details can be accessed here). The School of Law is a newer research community within the college with expertise in law, social media and criminology. Within the School and beyond, the student will be able to draw on the expertise of colleagues working with social media and digital geographies. There are opportunities to participate in seminars, workshops and training activities throughout the college and the University of London (further details can be accessed from here). Royal Holloway University of London has its main campus in Egham, Surrey and a central London base in the Bloomsbury area.

How to Apply

Applicants should have a good (at least 2:1) undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline such as Geography or another social science subject, and have completed or be undertaking a Masters level degree that includes advanced social science research training. Preference will also be shown for candidates who already have a strong working knowledge of, or working connections within/to, the Social Impact Games industry. Leverhulme Magna Carta awards are for a full-time studentship, with an annual stipend of £16,553 and an HEU fee waiver. Limited support may be available to support students in research training activities.

Applicants should: (i) provide a maximum two-page curriculum vitae, including the name of an academic referee; (ii) append transcripts of degree marks, as appropriate; (iii) submit a maximum two-page letter outlining your qualifications for, and interest in, the studentship; and (iv) arrange for your reference to be sent to Dr Alasdair Pinkerton, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University of London (via email to a.d.pinkerton@rhul.ac.uk). These materials should arrive no later than 5.00pm Tuesday 30th May 2017. Interviews for shortlisted applicants are likely to be held on Thursday 8th June 2017. For enquiries about the studentship, please contact Alasdair Pinkerton (a.d.pinkerton@rhul.ac.uk) or Rikke Jensen (Rikke.Jensen@rhul.ac.uk).


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