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Mary Flanagan

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Subject: Tiltfactor Lab, Öyvind Fahlström, Internet art, List of feminists
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Mary Flanagan

Mary Flanagan
Born Mary Flanagan
Nationality American
Known for Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities, Dartmouth College and Director of the Tiltfactor Lab.

Mary Flanagan is an artist, author, educator, and designer. She is the inaugural chair holder of the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professorship in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College and the director of the Tiltfactor Lab, an innovative game research laboratory. She graduated with a BA from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, earned MFA and MA degrees from the University of Iowa, and achieved her doctorate from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, UK. She studied film for her undergraduate and masters work while her PhD was in Computational Media focusing on game design. Her art has been exhibited around the world and she was featured in the video game art documentary 8 BIT. Within the field of culture and technology, she is known for her theory of playculture.[1]

Prior to coming to Dartmouth Flanagan had been on the faculty of Hunter College. She serves on the faculty of the Salzburg Global Seminar & the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy Academic Consortium on Games for Impact.


Flanagan's artwork deals primarily with how the design and use of technology can reveal insights into society. Through performance, sculpture, video game mods, software, interactive texts, and networked databases she investigates how human relationships manifest in, and are influenced by, the technological artifacts permeating the modern world. Other work is concerned with cyber-feminism and the representation of women in cyberculture. Her artwork has exhibited internationally at venues including the Laboral Art Center, The Whitney Museum of American Art, SIGGRAPH, Beall Center, Postmasters, Steirischer Herbst, Ars Electronica, Artist's Space, the Telfair Museum, The Guggenheim (New York), The Incheon Digital Arts Festival, and others.

Selected Works

[pile of secrets] (2011) Pile of Secrets is a video series exploring “what makes a game a game?” The work premiered at the Next Level Festival in Köln, Germany on 4 November 2011. Four pieces premiered at the festival: Jump, Ascend, Corridor, and Treasure. For "What is a Game but a Pile of Secrets," she captured several terabytes of video imagery from computer games published from 1980–present, answering the question, "What makes a game a game?"

[borders] (2009) [borders] is a video series documenting psychogeographic walks in virtual spaces around “virtual” historical sites. They are shown on monitors and projected in gallery space. [1] The work explores borders geographically, politically, and conceptually. The walks in [borders] are beautiful, and, as though we were transported directly into Thoreau's walking shoes, one can "glimpse Elysium,” but only as Thoreau might have: Whilst walking along, surveying the boundaries and divisions. In following virtual property lines, the walker becomes stuck in stones, sent underwater, and literally teeters at the edge of the world, thus exposing the algorithmic nature of the rendering of landscape and the invisible disruptions in a seamless world.

[xyz] (2009) Combining her interests in virtual environments and interactive writing, [2] allows participants to build poetry in 2 dimensional game worlds. Player-writers navigate three different worlds, each representing one axis and containing 1/3 of a larger text. As the players construct stanzas they are projected onto a central screen combining the three disparate texts into one new work. video

[giantJoystick] (2006) giantJoystick is a ten-foot-tall working joystick designed for collaborative play of Atari 2600 games. Among other exhibitions, it has appeared in the 2007 Feedback show at the Laboral Art Center, Spain[2] and at the Beall Center in Los Angeles. video

[domestic] (2003) domestic is a modification of the first person shooter game Unreal Tournament 2003. Combining elements of digital narrative and video game play, Flanagan uses the games engine to create a home-like environment that conveys images relating to a significant childhood memory of hers. The work is featured in the book New Media Art.[3] video

[collection] (2002) collection uses downloadable software to scan users' hard drives, glean random files, and store the collected information on a shared server. The combined data is then displayed, creating what has been described as a virtual networked collective unconscious. It has been featured in Sydney, Barcelona, and in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.[4]

[phage] (2000) phage excavates the unique digital artifacts of an individual's hard drive including internet downloads, web sites visited, images and emails stored. The computer program acts as a synthetic organism, filtering through all available material and displaying the results as a floating-3D world of data.[5] video


Based on her PhD dissertation, the book Critical Play: Radical Game Design (MIT Press, 2009) examines how artists and activists throughout history have used games as instruments for social critique.[6] With Austin Booth, Flanagan edited re:skin (MIT Press, 2007) a collection of fiction and theory exploring technology, interfaces, and the body. Similitudini. Simboli. Simulacri (SIMilarities, Symbols, Simulacra) (Edizioni Unicopli, 2003), a book she co-authored with Matteo Bittanti, investigates the fan culture of The Sims. Finally, Reload: Rethinking Women and Cyberculture (MIT Press, 2002) was also co-edited with Austin Booth and addresses gender issues in both fictional and real-life cyber-culture.][7] Flanagan has also contributed to a number of academic journals, anthologies, and conference proceedings. Values at Play in Digital Games (MIT Press, 2014) with Helen Nissenbaum features a collection of guest writers including Frank Lantz, Celia Pearce, Tracy Fullerton, and more. Recent research explores the psychology of change in games.

Flanagan is also a poet, with poems published in journals such as The Pinch, Barrow Street, The Iowa Review.


When Flanagan founded Tiltfactor at Hunter College in 2003, it was the only game research lab in New York City. Focusing on socially-conscious and innovative game design, Tiltfactor develops games for social issues such as changing biases and stereotypes, addressing public health, and using the power of games to transform institutions. The research lab is based at Dartmouth College and continues its mission to design, understand, and promote transformative games in all of their myriad forms: sports, car/board games, apps, locative media, and more.


  1. ^ :::::::::::::::: DocSMARTs: PhD in the SMARTlab Digital Media Institute :::::::::::::::
  2. ^ [3]
  3. ^ [4]
  4. ^ [5]
  5. ^ [6]
  6. ^ [7]
  7. ^ [8]

External links

  • Mary Flanagan's Website
  • Mary Flanagan's YouTube Channel
  • Flanagan's Artcyclopedia entry
  • Electronic Literature Collection
  • Newsweek article discussing Flanagan's work in the Whitney Biennial
  • Article about the British art show Game/Play where giantJoystick premiered
  • and Flanagan's "analysis of computer gamers' problematic relationships to representations of women."Digital Media Revisited: Theoretical and Conceptual Innovation in Digital DomainsReview of
  • Art JournalFlanagan's article on gender and cyberspace in .
  • Grand Text Auto, a blog on digital narrative, games, poetry and art Flanagan contributes to
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