IMMERSe Gaming Studies Grant


 The Humanities Innovation Lab at UC Davis has been producing cutting-edge scholarship and facilitating unexpected collaborations since its inception in 2009. Over the next six years, the lab will see a major influx of new work and international collaboration. The Interactive and Multi-Modal Experience Research Syndicate (IMMERSe), a collaborative initiative between the Games Institute at Canada’s University of Waterloo and the Humanities Innovation Lab at UC Davis, together with a team of researchers from several other Canadian universities (McMaster, Concordia, Carleton, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology) has won a 6-year, $2.5 million (CAD) grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to study the cultural impact of video games and immersive technologies.

The Humanities Innovation Lab’s director Colin Milburn (English) is a co-Principal Investigator on the project. The grant will allow IMMERSe to focus on the cultural impacts of video games and interactive media, examining questions of virtuality and immersivity, narrative, multimodality, serious games and gamification, and ways in which game technologies transform diverse aspects of everyday life around the world.

One key component of the research at UC Davis will address how games and virtual reality (VR) technologies might converge with the experimental practices of the sciences, building on work such as Joe Dumit’s “Expressing the CAVES.” Other phases of the project will examine relations of games to literature and the arts, urbanization, political activism, education, militarization, and social networks.

“This research grows out of the ongoing collaborative projects at the Humanities Innovation Lab,” said Milburn, “and it also incorporates several individual research programs developed by faculty and students participating in IMMERSe.”

One of these ongoing projects is “Going to the Movies in Paris in the 1930s,” which has used both Second Life and the KeckCAVES to create a multimedia project concerning cultures of film spectatorship in 1930s Paris. Another project, “Modlab: Cultural Heritage in Virtual Worlds,” seeks to adapt “off-the-shelf” strategies for scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences to develop immersive, thesis-driven research projects and publications.

A host of UC Davis researchers will contribute to IMMERSe, including Joe Dumit (Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies), Caren Kaplan (American Studies and STS), Oliver Kreylos (Geology, Institute for Data Analysis and Visualization), John Marx (English), Michael Neff (Computer Science, Cinema and Technocultural Studies), Josef Nguyen (English), Kriss Ravetto (Cinema and Technocultural Studies, Science and Technology Studies), and Eric Smoodin (American Studies). According to Milburn, additional UCD faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates will join the project over the next few years.