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March 8: Scholar To Examine Social Meaning of Video War Games in Giler Humanities Lecture


Jonathan Potts

Scholar To Examine Social Meaning of Video War Games
In Giler Humanities Lecture at Carnegie Mellon    

PITTSBURGH—Science and technology scholar Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi will give the annual Giler Humanities Lecture at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 22 in the Giant Eagle Auditorium (Baker Hall A51) at Carnegie Mellon University. Her talk, "What Is It Now? An Ethnographic Study of Defense Simulations-In-The-Making" is sponsored by the university's Humanities Scholars program. The event is free and open to the public.    

Ghamari-Tabrizi earned a doctorate in social studies of science and technology in 1993 from the University of California at Santa Cruz. From 1996 to 1998, she was a post-doctoral fellow in the history of cold war science and technology at Carnegie Mellon. In 2005, she wrote her first book, "The Worlds of Herman Kahn: The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War."

The National Science Foundation awarded Ghamari-Tabrizi a grant in February 2003 to underwrite two years of ethnographic field work at several U.S. sites where the military and sectors of the entertainment industry are collaboratively producing war games, interactive training simulations, virtual environments and narrative films visualizing future technologies, tactics and scenarios. Her new research explores the cultural and social meanings of military simulations and war games against the background of America's media-saturated society. Among the topics that Ghamari-Tabrizi will discuss at Carnegie Mellon is the U.S. Army's "America's Army" video game.    

"I think the Army game is historically new. It is probably too soon to assess its actual significance. But putting together a picture of its diffusion into American society is a useful exercise," Ghamari-Tabrizi said. "Laying out the social geography of the game — from Army branding to the invention of the data-collection system about registered players to the fan forums — at this degree of resolution will be illuminating."    

The Giler Humanities Lecture is funded by Carnegie Mellon alumni Kim and Eric Giler. Kim Giler earned a bachelor's degree in English and Spanish in 1978, and her husband graduated in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in industrial management. The Humanities Scholars program is a rigorous, four-year interdisciplinary program open by invitation to applicants to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Besides taking seminars together throughout their undergraduate careers, the students have the option to live in the same dormitory cluster their first year in order to create a vibrant community of scholars.