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New Faculty Spotlight: Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux

The UC Davis Humanities Institute recently sat down with two new faculty members in the Division of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies. UC Davis welcomes Stephanie Boluk, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and Patrick LeMieux, Assistant Professor in Cinema and Digital Media. Together, Boluk and LeMieux will be creating exciting new collaborative teaching and research opportunities in the study of digital media at UC Davis.
Boluk and LeMieux are currently finishing their first co-authored book, Metagaming: Videogames and the Practice of Play, forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press (2016). The book pushes beyond games as objects, commodities, and intellectual property to explore what Boluk and LeMieux call “the community histories of play.” This includes metagaming practices like speedrunning, e-sports competitions, and hardware modification. Thus, the book is a historicization of “the wider media ecology of games we play in, on, around, and between videogames.”
Working often in the ModLab in 234 Cruess Hall, Boluk and LeMieux join a team of faculty members and graduate students who are developing new tools and methods for scholars focusing on new media technologies. Additionally, in Winter 2016, Boluk and LeMieux are team-teaching “Video Games and Culture,” a class that offers students critical approaches to the study of videogames and the relations of games to society, politics, economics, and other cultural forms. In focusing the course on metagaming specifically, Boluk and LeMieux are bringing an innovative and hands-on approach to the classroom—allowing students to experiment with designing and modding games, podcasting and streaming gameplay, and organizing and documenting tournaments.
In addition to their work in the ModLab, Boluk and LeMieux are developing another co-directed research lab: ALT-CTRL (Alternate Control Lab). Designed in collaboration with the ModLab as a workshop, gallery, classroom, and community space, ALT-CTRL will be a practice-based humanities lab operating at the intersection of critical disability theory and alternative interface design. Boluk and LeMieux explain: “Rather than emphasize a preventative or curative approach to disability, we hope ALT-CTRL can function as a platform for collectively thinking about and collaboratively working through the relationship between disability and technology.” The scholars are specifically interested in how screens, user interfaces, communication protocols, prosthetic technologies, and virtual worlds both enable and disable work and play in the twenty-first century. Along with a reading group and a graduate-level class on disability and media in the spring, they hope that ALT-CTRL will begin to work on projects at two scales: small collaborations with individuals and broader discussions about policy and design both inside and outside UC Davis.

Stephanie Boluk, Assistant Professor, Department of English


Stephanie Boluk joins UC Davis from the Pratt Institute, where she was Assistant Professor of Humanities and Media Studies. Earlier in her academic career, Boluk was a postdoctoral fellow in Media Studies at Vassar College and she holds a PhD from the University of Florida.
Boluk’s research and teaching incorporates game studies and media studies to explore videogames, alternative currencies, financialization, and the convergence of leisure and labor in contemporary information economies. She is currently co-editing volume three of the Electronic Literature Collection with Leonardo Flores, Jacob Garbe, and Anastasia Salter as well as working on a new book project called Money Games, which looks at how games play with capital through crowdfunding platforms, real time gambling websites, digital distribution services, alt coin exchanges, algorithmic trading, and the culture of play that attends the work of finance capital and startup culture in the Bay area.
In addition to the “Video Games and Culture” course co-taught with Professor LeMieux in Winter, Professor Boluk is teaching an English undergraduate course on surveillance cultures and an English graduate course on disability and media—both scheduled for Spring 2016.

Patrick LeMieux, Assistant Professor, Cinema and Digital Media


The Cinema and Digital Media program welcomes Patrick LeMieux, who received his PhD from Duke University, and his MFA from the University of Florida. LeMieux is an artist, media theorist, and game designer whose creative and scholarly work has been exhibited internationally and published widely.
LeMieux is currently working on a book project that explores the community histories of play and material practices surrounding one particular videogame: Super Mario Bros. The project examines how practices like speedrunning, hardware reproduction, and ROM hacking each have a particular history and culture, but also mirror the predominant threads of academic discourses like platform studies, software studies, and critical code studies. LeMieux has also extended this research in the form of an art exhibition, Platform Games, recently installed at Babycastles Gallery in Manhattan in May 2015.
With a background in teaching studio arts and media theory, LeMieux is developing courses for the Cinema and Digital Media program that enable students to combine creative practice with scholarly critique. LeMieux emphasizes that no previous expertise in coding, game design, or hardware development is required for a student to thrive in the classes he is planning for the CDM program. One such course under development for Spring 2016 involves repurposing of old Nintendo Entertainment System consoles and cartridge games to develop alternative interfaces and art games while also learning about the cultural histories surrounding videogames and the foundational theories of game studies. The course’s focus on hardware modification makes it unique among videogame courses across higher education.
—-Meg Sparling, DHI graduate student researcher

This page was last updated: October 26, 2015



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