After a couple of months of being away from Utrecht, I will return to my desk and continue my research on Monday. The past couple of months were crazy and turbulent, so they deserve some reflection.
Walking around the harbour of Dundee I was struck by the beautiful shades of deep blue splattered in the Scottish water. Walking towards a mixed crowd of old and young folk, with their smartphone sticking out in front of them reminded me again of why I was in Scotland. I had the pleasure of presenting at the Digital Games Research Association and the Foundations of Digital Games (DiGRA-FDG) conference.
After participating in the summer school for comparative conflict studies in Belgrade, I can conclude that this summer is off to a great start. I participated in the track ‘from intervention to non-intervention: the triumph of state sovereignty over human rights?’ led by dr. Maxine David from Leiden University. The course addressed four core themes in the study of humanitarian intervention (sovereignty, legitimacy, legality, human rights) through a comparative case study of Bosnia, Kosovo, Darfur, and Syria. For me, the program was relevant, intense, highly valuable, and David is an inspiring lecturer who pushes you to think beyond your preconceptions and disciplinary training. I can highly recommend anybody who is interested in learning more about the history of contemporary conflict and humanitarian intervention, the Balkans, or transnational justice to go next year. In this post I will share with you some of my reflections and insights from the course.
Although mailing lists can be dauntingly intense for your mailbox, there are rare gems that make you glad that you keep checking them. One such example is the MECS Conference ‘Agent Cultures and Zombielands’, hosted by Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures for Computational Simulation (MECS), Leuphana University in Lüneburg. As fate would have it, I had booked a train from Utrecht to Berlin on the starting day of the conference. So I decided to exit during my stop in Hannover, and head over to Lüneburg. The focus of this conference was social simulations, and we saw a variety of social scientists and simulation experts sharing their knowledge and research.
Great success! Two weeks ago we played the selfie-treasure hunt with refugees from the Utrecht refugee center to have them playfully explore the city. The selfie-treasure hunt is developed by me and my fellow PhD candidate Sjors Martens, and research master students Nico Lopez Coombs and Arash Ghajarjazi. The main objective of the game was to create a safe and playful way for this vulnerable group to explore the city. This is the second time we’ve played it.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, me and my game colleagues at Utrecht University developed a semi-analog location-based game for the refugees in Utrecht. The game is a selfie treasure hunt, and uses play as a way to turn the space of Utrecht into a more familiar place. The play test exceeded our expectation and as it turns out, the selfie is a universal phenomenon.
This is the first post of the series ‘theories of violent conflict’, where I will engage with theories and perspectives in conflict and peace research. In this post I aim to highlight two things: first and foremost, I will explain a dominant view on studying contemporary conflict: rational choice theory and the ‘greed theory of war’ (Collier 2003). This theory assumes that people will conduct in civil war if the perceived costs outweigh the benefits. Second, I will contextualize this theory in relation to the politics of portrayal.
Visiting the Control Conference in Utrecht, I was particularly looking forward to the talk held by 11 Bit Studios representative Paweł Czaplarski, who shared the studio’s experience with designing the game This War of Mine. As both a player and a researcher, I was particularly interested in how the team designed for specific emotions, and their process of user-testing.