My Comprehensive Exam Reading List: Feminism, Activism, and Video Games

The PhD program that I’m currently in at Michigan State University is, fortunately for me, pretty lax when it comes to comprehensive exam reading lists. The program is diverse and interdisciplinary, and as such, there are no prescribed readings which all students in the program need to get through for their comprehensive exams. I was able to create a reading list based on what I wanted to read, as well as on the advice and recommendations of my advisor, Steph Jordan, and my committee members (Casey O’Donnell, Jean Hardy, and Kjerstin Thorson).

I made this list with the intent of reading things which I hoped would help me further down the line, and particularly with my dissertation proposal. For my dissertation project, I would like to do some kind of virtual ethnographic work with players of video games, and particularly players who a) play competitive online games with others and b) don’t identify as men. Video games, and particularly online competitive games, are frequently coded male: that is, the expectation of many players (and even many non-players) is that young men are the people playing these games. Players who aren’t male and/or don’t conform to male norms face a lot more harassment in online games because they don’t fit norm. And that sucks.

As a woman-identified gamer myself, I’m particularly interested in how players who aren’t male find others to play with and practice resilience in online games and related spaces. I’m also interested in how players practice activism within these spaces. I’m not sure what direction my dissertation project will take in terms of methods yet, but I’m hoping to be able to spend a lot of time talking with and playing games with other women and queer gamers.

To that end, my reading list consists of four sections: 1) feminism, feminist theories, and technology; 2) communities as potential activist spaces; 3) game studies, with a specific focus on critical theories, gender, and communities; and 4) methodologies, with a focus on virtual ethnography and feminism. The full list consists of 30 books and 57 articles.

Feminism, feminist theories, and technology

Foundational feminism

  • Judith Butler (1990) – Gender Trouble (book)
  • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (4th ed., 2015) (book)
  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (2017) – How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (book)

Feminism and tech

  • Susan Leigh Star (1990) – Power, Technology and the Phenomenology of Conventions: On being Allergic to Onions (article)
  • Donna Haraway (1991) – A Cyborg Manifesto (essay)
  • Judy Wajcman (1991) – Feminism Confronts Technology (book)
  • Ellen van Oost (2003) – Materialized Gender: How Shavers Configure the Users’ Femininity and Masculinity (book chapter)
  • Oudshoorn, Rommes, and Stienstra (2004) – Configuring the user as everybody: Gender and design cultures in information and communication technologies (article)
  • Judy Wajcman (2007) – From Women and Technology to Gendered Technoscience (article)
  • Lisa Nakamura (2002) – Cybertypes (book)

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and feminism

  • Lucy Suchman (1993) – Working relations of technology production and use (article)
  • Shaowen Bardzell (2010) – Feminist HCI: taking stock and outlining an agenda for design (article)
  • Nancy A. Van House (2011) – Feminist HCI meets facebook: Performativity and social networking sites (article)
  • Shaowen Bardzell and Jeffrey Bardzell (2011) – Towards a feminist HCI methodology: social science, feminism, and HCI (article)
  • Sarah Fox, Rachel Rose Ulgado, and Daniela Rosner (2015) – Hacking Culture, Not Devices: Access and Recognition in Feminist Hackerspaces (article)
  • Amanda Menking, Ingrid Erickson (2015) – The Heart Work of Wikipedia: Gendered, Emotional Labor in the World’s Largest Online Encyclopedia (article)
  • Casey Fiesler, Shannon Morrison, and Amy S. Bruckman (2016) – An Archive of Their Own: A Case Study of Feminist HCI and Values in Design (article)
  • Shaowen Bardzell (2018) – Utopias of Participation: Feminism, Design, and the Futures (article)
  • Menking, Erickson, Pratt (2019) – People Who Can Take It: How Women Wikipedians Negotiate and Navigate Safety (article)
  • Catherine D’Ignazio, Rebecca Michelson, Alexis Hope, Josephine Hoy, Jennifer Roberts, and Kate Krontiris (2020) – “The Personal is Political”: Hackathons as Feminist Consciousness Raising (article)
  • Michael Ahmadi, Rebecca Eilert, Anne Weibert, Volker Wulf, and Nicola Marsden (2020) – Feminist Living Labs as Research Infrastructures for HCI: The Case of a Video Game Company (article)

Communities as potential activist spaces

  • Paulo Freire (1968) – Pedagogy of the Oppressed (book)
  • bell hooks (1994) – Teaching to Transgress (book)
  • Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (2018) – Care work: dreaming disability justice (book)
  • adrienne marie brown (2017) – Emergent Strategy (book)
  • adrienne marie brown (2020) – We Will Not Cancel Us: Breaking the Cycle of Harm (short book)
  • Mariam Asad (2019) – Prefigurative Design as a Method for Research Justice (article)
  • Sciannamblo, Cohn, Lyle, Teli (2021) – Caring and Commoning as Cooperative Work: A Case Study in Europe (article)
  • Elijah Anderson (2015) – “The White Space” (article)

How narratives mobilize protest

  • Francesca Polletta (2006) – It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics (book)
  • Dimond, Dye, Larose, Bruckman (2013) – Hollaback!: The role of storytelling online in a social movement organization (article)
  • Zizi Papacharissi (2015) – Affective publics and structures of storytelling: sentiment, events and mediality (article)

Mobilized political action in non-political spaces

  • Henry Jenkins (2015) – “Cultural acupuncture”: Fan activism and the Harry Potter Alliance (article)
  • Neta Kligler-Vilenchik (2015) – Qualitative Political Communication| From Wizards and House-Elves to Real-World Issues: Political Talk in Fan Spaces (article)
  • Neta Kligler-Vilenchik, Ioana Literat (2018) – Distributed Creativity as Political Expression: Youth Responses to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election in Online Affinity Networks (article)
  • Communities of practice
  • Etienne Wegner (2011) – Communities of practice: a brief introduction (brief article)
  • Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger (1991) – Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (book, skim)
  • Stephansen, Couldry (2014) – Understanding micro-processes of community building and mutual learning on Twitter: a ‘small data’ approach (article)
  • Joe Curnow (2016) – Situated Learning, Situated Knowledge: Situating Racialization, Colonialism, and Patriarchy Within Communities of Practice (article)
  • Gabriela T. Richard (2017) – Video Games, Gender, Diversity, and Learning as Cultural Practice: Implications for Equitable Learning and Computing Participation Through Games (article)
  • Gabriela T. Richard, Kishonna L. Gray (2018) – Gendered Play, Racialized Reality: Black Cyberfeminism, Inclusive Communities of Practice, and the Intersections of Learning, Socialization, and Resilience in Online Gaming (article)
  • Komorowski, Huu, Deligiannis (2018) – Twitter data analysis for studying communities of practice in the media industry (article)

Game studies

  • T. L. Taylor (2006) – Beyond Management: Considering Participatory Design and Governance in Player Culture (article, revisit) 
  • Kishonna Gray (2012) – Deviant bodies, stigmatized identities, and racist acts: examining the experiences of African-American gamers in Xbox Live (article) 
  • Jenny Sundén (2012) – Desires at Play: On Closeness and Epistemological Uncertainty (article, revisit) 
  • Alexis Pulos (2013) – Confronting Heteronormativity in Online Games: A Critical Discourse Analysis of LGBTQ Sexuality in World of Warcraft (article)
  • Adrienne Shaw (2014) – Gaming at the Edge (book, revisit) 
  • Whitney Phillips (2015) – This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture (book) 
  • Shepherd, Harvey, Jordan, Srauy, Milner (2015) – Histories of Hating (article) 
  • Salter and Blodgett (2017) – Toxic Geek Masculinity in Media: Sexism, Trolling, and Identity Policing (book) 
  • Shira Chess (2017) – Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity (book) 
  • Karen Skardzius (2018) – Playing with Pride: Claiming Space Through Community Building in World of Warcraft (book chapter, from Woke Gaming) 
  • Amanda Cote (2018) – Curate Your Culture: A Call for Social Justice-Oriented Game Development and Community Management (book chapter, from Woke Gaming, revisit) 
  • Gray, Voorhees, Vossen (2018) – Reframing Hegemonic Conceptions of Women and Feminism in Gaming Culture (book introduction, Feminism in Play) 
  • Tom Welch (2018) – The Affectively Necessary Labour of Queer Mods (article) 
  • Harvianien, Brown, Suominen (2018) – Three Waves of Awkwardness: A Meta-Analysis of Sex in Game Studies (article) 
  • Christopher Paul (2018) – The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games (book) 
  • Megan Condis (2018) – Gaming Masculinity: Trolls, Fake Geeks and the Gendered Battle for Online Culture (book)
  • Bonnie Ruberg (2019) – Video Games Have Always Been Queer (book) 
  • Amanda Phillips (2020) – Gamer Trouble (book) 
  • Amanda C. Cote (2020) – Gaming Sexism (book) 
  • Kishonna Gray (2020) – Intersectional Tech (book)

Evolution of Community in World of Warcraft

  • Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell, Moore (2006) – “Alone Together?”: Exploring the Social Dynamics of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (article) 
  • Mark Chen (2009) – Communication, Coordination, and Camaraderie in World of Warcraft (article) 
  • Bonnie Nardi (2010) – My Life as a Night Elf Priest (book, revisit; also in Methods section of list) 
  • Crenshaw, Nardi (2016) – “It Was More Than Just the Game, It Was the Community”: Social Affordances in Online Games (article) 
  • Crenshaw, LaMorte, Nardi (2017) – “Something We Loved That Was Taken Away”: Community and Neoliberalism in World of Warcraft (article) 
  • Amanda Braithwaite (2018) – WoWing Alone: The Evolution of “Multiplayer” in World of Warcraft (article, revisit) 

Methods and methodologies

The Basics (good for citing)

  • Emerson, Fritz, Shaw (2011) – Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes (book; read parts)
  • Kathy Charmaz (2014) – Constructing Grounded Theory, 2nd Ed. (book; read parts)
  • Lora Bex Lempert (2007) – Asking Questions of the Data: Memo Writing in the Grounded Theory Tradition (book chapter)

Ethnography, general

  • George Marcus (1995) – Ethnography in/out of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography (article)
  • Susan Leigh Star (1999) – The Ethnography of Infrastructure (article)
  • Virginia Eubanks (2007) – Trapped in the Digital Divide: The Distributive Paradigm in Community Informatics (article)
  • Jenna Burrell (2009) – The Field Site as a Network: A Strategy for Locating Ethnographic Research (article)
  • Kim Fortun (2011) – Figuring Out Ethnography (article)
  • Laura Nader (2011) – Ethnography as Theory (article)
  • Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (2015) – The Mushroom at the End of the World (book)
  • Dorothy Howard, Lilly Irani (2019) – Ways of Knowing When Research Subjects Care (article)

Ethnography, online / virtual worlds

  • Boellstorff, Nardi, Pearce, Taylor (2012) – Ethnography and Virtual Worlds (book, revisit)
  • Tom Boellstorff (2008) – Coming of Age in Second Life (book, revisit)
  • T. L. Taylor (2006) – Play Between Worlds (book, revisit)
  • Bonnie Nardi (2010) – My Life as a Night Elf Priest (book, revisit)
  • Jeffrey Snodgrass (2014) – Ethnography of Online Cultures (book chapter)
  • Robert Kozinets (2019) – Netnography, 3rd Ed. (book)

Feminist methodologies

  • Donna Haraway (1988) – Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective (article, in Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader)
  • Patricia Zavella (1993) – Feminist Insider Dilemmas: Constructing Ethnic Identity with “Chicana” Informants (article)
  • Lucy Suchman (1995) – Making Work Visible (article)
  • Sandra Harding (2004) – Introduction: Standpoint Theory as a Site of Political, Philosophic, and Scientific Debate (intro, in Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader)
  • Adele Clarke (2003) – Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory Mapping After the Postmodern Turn (article)
  • Barbara Lazar (2007) – Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis: Articulating a Feminist Discourse Praxis (article)
  • Christopher Le Dantec, Sarah Fox (2015) – Strangers at the Gate: Gaining Access, Building Rapport, and Co-Constructing Community-Based Research (article)

Ethical approaches for working with digital data

  • Fiesler, Young, Peyton, Bruckman, Gray, Hancock, Lutters (2015) – Ethics for Studying Online Sociotechnical Systems in a Big Data World (article)
  • Fiesler, Proferes (2018) – “Participant” Perceptions of Twitter Research Ethics (article)
  • Suomela, Chee, Berendt, Rockwell (2019) – Applying an Ethics of Care to Internet Research: Gamergate and Digital Humanities (article)
  • Michael Zimmer (2010) – “But the data is already public”: on the ethics of research in Facebook (article)

Note: I chose not to include full citations for each work on the list above, as pretty much all of them can be found easily on Google Scholar with only the title, author last name(s), and year published. And the list is much easier to read this way. But if you’re interested in reading a particular book / article / essay and can’t find it, feel free to contact me!

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