PhD Oral Exam - William Robinson, Humanities
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Encoding Through Procedure explores the creation and transmission of ideas through game design. My primary argument is that rules have an agency that complicates current models of procedural rhetoric. In Chapter 1, drawing from Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding model, I prepare a methodological foundation to demonstrate the unique possibilities and difficulties that game rules offer as a communicative medium. Using Kim Sawchuck and Owen Chapman’s work on research-creation, I deploy a game-design-based method of research. The last methodological step explores Bruno Latour’s Actor Network-Theory both as a method of design and critique. In Chapter 2, I present a literature review of serious games and gamification. Here the field produces avenues for exploration, given the inconsistent positions it holds on serious games. In addressing these, I argue for the benefits of distinguishing gamification from serious games. Chapter 3 explores an additional set of literature interested in emergence and algorithmic representation. The argument here focuses on a lacuna in the field’s conception of procedural rhetoric. I agree with pre-existing literature, that emergent results can lead to convincing arguments. That said, there is no method to date for considering how designers might produce a work which reliably creates emergent results. Instead, I argue the field focuses on post-hoc readings of games successfully communicating authorial ideas. In Chapter 4, to address these concerns, I present my own design practices. I offer three examples of serious games I completed during my doctoral work. These demonstrate the various forces which alter the process of communicating across games. Each provides distinctly different moments of my own practice conflicting with the agency of my games’ rules.