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“Outside-In” Engagement
July 8, 2015

“Outside-In” Engagement: Identity Transformation and Agency in Digital Story Based Games
Theresa Jean Tanenbaum, Transformative Play Lab, UCI

Let’s explore issues of identity transformation in digital narratives and story-based games – the focus of Theresa Jean Tanenbaum’s PhD thesis. First, we’ll draw on theories of method acting training to investigate how to support the experience of transforming into a character in a digital narrative. Then we’ll discuss the relationships between embodied game interfaces, tangible storytelling, game-based-learning, virtual worlds, and nonverbal communication – with a little design fiction, steampunk sustainability, and DIY and Maker Culture for spice.

About the Speaker

Theresa Jean Tanenbaum is an artist, maker, and assistant professor in the Department of Informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California,  Irvine where she is a founding member of the Transformative Play Lab. Her PhD research took place at Simon Fraser University in the School of Interactive Arts + Technology, where she also received his MA.  She is a recipient of the Pacific Century Graduate Scholarship, and the first inaugural Graduate Research Award in Interactive Arts + Technology. She also serves as a consulting researcher at the Nokia Chief Technology Office’s Advanced Engineering group where he advises on matters of storytelling and wearable technology.

Her doctoral research examines identity transformation and empathy in digital narratives and games, drawing on theories and methodologies from the performing arts and human-computer-interaction.  Her work has been funded by Canada’s GRAND NCE initiative, and the Canadian Heritage New Media Research Networks Fund. Her first book, edited collaboration with Magy Seif El-Nasr and Michael Nixon, entitled Nonverbal Communication in Virtual Worlds: Understanding and Designing Expressive Characters was released in early 2014 by Carnegie Mellon Universities ETC Press.

An experienced game designer, Tess’s work incorporates physical objects, wearable technology, and interactive tabletops to explore embodied interactions with digital games and stories.  In 2010 she was the lead designer for Futura: the sustainable futures game.  Collaborating with Karen Tanenbaum, she created The Reading Glove: a tangible, wearable, work of electronic literature where a reader explores a collection of evocative physical objects to piece together a historical narrative. The Reading Glove was recently shown at MLA 2014 as part of the Pathfindersexhibit.

Tess is also a “Steampunk” artist, and maker, whose work on DiY culture appears in the book Vintage Tomorrows, Garnet Hertz’s Critical Making ‘zine, and ACM’s interactions magazine.  Her award winning steampunk superhero creation, Captain Chronomek was featured at the 2012 Emerge Conference exhibit Powered by Fiction, and is also a founding project of the Critical Making in the Digital Humanities Archive.  Her work on Critical Making and Design Fiction is regularly presented at CHI, most recently in the form of a Critical Making Hackathon workshop that gave rise to the extremely successful Quantified Toilets design intervention at CHI in Toronto.”


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