How might the critical tradition in media studies respond to the wildly proliferating media phenomena of today? In this presentation, Ken Wark starts with his own experience writing Gamer Theory as a “networked book”, mediating between Plato, WordPress, and World of Warcraft. This was an experiment in which critical media approaches were made to confront the computer game as an historically specific form, the form perhaps of our times. It was also an attempt to create online tools for a specifically critical mode of collaborative writing, at some remove from the argumentative and consensus style of the blog and wiki respectively. A third dimension to the experiment explored the relation of the gift of writing, of time, of attention, to the commodified form of the book. What can be learned from the results of this experiment? How can media studies be both in and of the emergent media forms, and yet retain a creative and critical distance from them? It is in its difference from what it studies that media studies begins to find the intellectual resources to respond adequately to the extraordinary world of media, in all its historical and anthropological depth and breadth.
McKenzie Wark is chair of Culture & Media and associate dean of Eugene Lang College, and an associate professor of critical studies at the New School for Social Research. He is the author of A Hacker Manifesto (Harvard UP, 2004), Gamer Theory (Harvard UP, 2007) and various other things.