Online gambling reproduces the frustrations of research and handicap


You are a researcher researching an archive. Another person in the archives is smiling at you. Do you a) smile back, or b) look away because you’re tired of people expecting you to smile?

“There are micro-moments in the archives where your privilege and position takes you on a different research route,” said Julia Chang, assistant professor of Spanish studies in the Department of Romance Studies at the College of Arts and Crafts. sciences, describing not only the experiences she and other researchers had in the archives, but also a time scheduled in a text-based online game that she developed this year with an undergraduate researcher.

An object of the digital archives linked to the online game “Found in the Archive” is a Spanish postcard advertising a play from 1909, containing a text which, characteristic of the period and of the genre, discriminates against men disabled.

The “Found in the Archive” game will launch at an online event on June 2nd at 2pm. the researcher who launches out in the search for a history of love, but ends up deviating from this project after discovering a history of ableism.

Chang received a Humanities Research Grant from the Society for the Humanities to carry out the project with computer science student Janie Walter ’21, an experienced game designer.

The Twine game is interactive fiction, Walter said. Players advance through a narrative, clicking on the linked text to choose a path through various challenges.

“In many ways this is a game meant to frustrate the player because the archiving work is frustrating,” said Walter, who took courses in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies with Chang. “It is difficult. It is often painful. And often there are rules that are not told to you but that you have to get around, especially when you are marginalized by doing this research yourself.”

Archival research – finding scholarly clues in a large collection – is inherently difficult, Chang said. On top of that, researchers are currently discussing the archives as a place that is not neutral, but rather designed for a certain type of person.

“I found some interesting analogies in game studies,” Chang said. “There is a lot of talk about questioning this idea of ​​a white, cis, straight male player as a normative gamer of the games. And a similar thing is happening with the white, male, cis researcher in the archives. “

Chang said that as a young Asian woman, she “inhabits a visible body” in European military records as she researched gender and disability in Spain from the 1890s to the 1970s. the subject of her second book project and, as a historically marginalized story, particularly hidden in an archive, she said.

“You can’t just go into a historical record and look under the word ‘disability,’ Chang said.“ It’s a contemporary concept.

Chang started this game as an educational tool, to help students understand that they need to be creative while researching the archives, especially trying to uncover marginalized stories.

Walter said educational games are often aimed at being useful as training tools: “We put more into this game than that,” she said. “There is something effective about teaching this feeling of frustration and hitting a wall in research that I think is valuable.”

“Found in the Archive” will complement Chang’s second book project, “Able-Empire: Gender and Utility in the Age of Spanish Fascism”. It explores the medical and social connotations of “worthlessness,” an official term Chang found in an 1824 archival document used to refer to corps unfit for military conscription or those disabled during military service.

“A lot of people think of the power relations embedded in archives,” Chang said. “Our game is part of a conversation about what the archive is, what it houses and who is allowed to access it.”

Kate Blackwood is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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