Game researcher positions: CoE GameCult

There are several games researcher positions open right now: the Academy of Finland has granted funding for the new Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies (CoE GameCult: 2018-2025 CoE Program), and there are currently 5 Postdoc or University Researcher (a senior researcher) positions available for application in the University of Tampere Game Research Lab (in UTA/COMS/TRIM). The total number of new researcher positions is larger, as there will be additional calls opening within the same CoE in the University of Jyväskylä and Turku/Pori Unit. There is general text of the call here:
https://coe-gamecult.org/
and link to the UTA recruitment system here:
https://uta.rekrytointi.com/paikat/?o=A_RJ&jgid=1&jid=1062.

On university mergers, and “Tampere 3”

As UTA staff representative in the Tampere 3 steering group, I have been asked to talk next week in the UTA professors’ forum event. Much is still in the air, and open, but here are some key themes that relate to this topic:

  • The primary goals of the university merger. There has been some unclarity how various parties (state government, university administration, students, staff, etc.) see the primary aims of this merger, but often the primary driver for starting this kind of merger processes has been economic one: consolidating education, research and services into larger units will supposedly open doors for savings. The quality reasons for improvements on the other hand are commonly expressed in terms of the “big is beautiful” model: various reports and policy statements have long claimed that there are too many Finnish universities as compared to the population size of the country (the wide geographical reach is rarely commented in these) and that there is too much fragmentation – small one/two person programs or disciplines have no “critical mass” to systematically evolve and carry out high quality research, or provide strong education. (What is clear is that the effectiveness and focus provided by smaller units is insufficiently understood in these discussions.) It now seems that Tampere 3 merger is moving forward and that it has aspects that both are related to rationalizing, as well as aspects that relate to profiling: i.e. that Tampere region takes a stronger role in some areas (and is then also expected to scale down involvement in some others). There is much need for wisdom and hearing of experts while such crucial strategic decisions are being made. Professors, teachers, other staff and students all have their important contributions to make in this process.
  • Innovation potential vs. realities of work. Change is always a burden, and (if my memory serves me) in UTA for example, the number of staff has already gone down from c. 2.500 to 2.000 in a few years. As there has not been a radical drop in bureaucracy (new requirements for reporting, quality controlling, etc., rather have been introduced in this period), this has meant that numerous tasks that have previously been handled by some assisting personnel, are today handled by professors and other key staff members themselves. There is no longer someone who would quickly and efficiently take care of your travel receipts: after each trip (which there are many, if you collaborate nationally and internationally, as is expected), a professor will stay late at work to do a few extra hours to scan documents, manually input all numbers and explanations of cost items into the travel system, or otherwise fill in and check working hours or budget numbers of his team’s projects into various spreadsheets and administrative databases. This takes its toll, on top of research funding (to give another example) becoming an increasingly competitive and collaborative effort, which, in turn, also means an increase in meetings of various kinds, as well as plenty of grant and plan writing, report writing and form filling work. The university staff is already overburdened, some are seriously struggling in keeping up with the various requests coming into their overflowing inboxes and shared electronic calendars, and the atmosphere towards starting yet another radical round of restructuration is therefore not exactly optimal. In UTA, there used to be over 30 discipline-based departments and a mid-layer of faculty structures on top of that, but in 2011 this was restructured into nine larger Schools, and some aspects of that change have yet not been properly processed, and continue to create their own challenges (see: http://www.uta.fi/ajankohtaista/yliopistouutiset/1010/0510/yksikkojako.pdf). Yet, that said, there is nevertheless also genuine potential to find mutually complementing counterparts in the Tampere 3 restructuration – or at least get an opportunity to fix some of the errors that were made in the previous restructuration rounds. “Change is good” mantra might sound like a joke for a tired and overworked academic staff member, but there truly is also catalysing potential and opportunities for genuine innovation when the wide range of UTA, TUT and TAMK education, research and societal collaboration activities are brought together in sensible and clever, new ways. But this sense and cleverness requires that the best expertise in understanding complex phenomena, and the true substance of research and other academic work is used and activated as this process moves forward.
  • Resources and promises. Much of this boils down to how the extra overhead related to the merger will be resourced and managed. Many members of staff are currently cautious, due to seeing all too well the dangers of committing to overambitious objectives with insufficient resources. On the other hand, there is also pent-up energy and need for taking the next steps and building the new university: there are highly dynamic young (and older) researchers, teachers and administrators who have witnessed the societal transformations, seen the potential for innovation, who have published research or piloted new models in their individual projects, but who have not yet been provided an opportunity to apply these lessons to wider scale in their own institution. Such best experts and research-based solutions are now in crucial demand, as the excellent opportunity potential in Tampere 3 finally starts to open up in a big way. The unique profile of Tampere 3 in societal, cultural, technical and health related research areas, as well as the strong expertise in some really interesting, collaborative and experimental work that has been carried out in Tampere means that a new and interesting university can be created that can in flexible and multidisciplinary manner tackle many of the challenges related to the future societal developments. But that creation process requires a lot of work. And when work needs to be done, both energy, enthusiasm, expertise – and money – need to come together, and be channelled in a wise manner. Let’s hope that we are lucky enough to have that wisdom in Tampere, as well as in the Finnish government.

Dl. 27.1.: haku Internet- ja pelitutkimuksen maisteriopintoihin

Vielä suomenkielinen muistutus tästä internet- ja pelitutkimuksen maisteriopintomahdollisuudesta – ohjelmaan ovat siis tervetulleita hakemaan myös suomalaiset opiskelijat (opintosuorituksia voi tehdä myös suomeksi, vaikka opintokieli onkin kursseilla yleensä englanti). Kotimaisessa maisteriopintojen erillishaussa tälle IGS-linjalle ei voi enää muuten hakea, deadline on tosiaan nyt 27.1. Kiitos jos levitätte tietoa eteenpäin mahdollisesti kiinnostuneille tahoille.

Perustiedot englanniksi:

The application period is now open (until 27 January) for doing the Master’s Degree in Internet and Game Studies in the University of Tampere – if you want to work in your studies with the team of researchers and teachers at UTAgamelab, check out the information below:

Master’s Degree Programme in Internet and Game Studies aims to provide an in-depth view to the fundamental character and development of games and Internet. Games have grown into an important form of culture and human interaction, expanding from entertainment to other areas of life. Internet and social media form an increasingly vital part of communication, social life and distribution of media and services. Degree Programme in Internet and Game Studies is particularly targeted at the questions of analysis, design and application of online services and digital games from user- and culturally focused perspectives. The programme directs students to develop academic skills like critical thinking, scientific writing and carrying out research projects while encouraging active and comprehensive involvement with the practical processes and phenomena related to games and Internet.

The programme is offered by the School of Information Sciences. The school has high profile research groups that are focused on Internet and game studies. There has also been a long history of education in hypermedia and in Information Studies and Interactive Media that forms the basis of this degree programme.

Graduates typically combine the skills and knowledge derived from Degree Programme in Internet and Game Studies with studies and proficiencies that enable them to work as experts of games and Internet in various professional roles, in research, public sector as well as in industry. The need for knowledgeable workforce is growing in the fields related to games and interactive media, but the students should adopt an active attitude in fashioning their own specific area of expertise and professional profile. The possible jobs of graduates include researchers, developers, critics and specialists working with the interpretation, evaluation or implementation of games and social media.

More about admission: http://www.uta.fi/admissions/degreeprog/programmes/igs.html

More about IGS programme: http://www.uta.fi/admissions/degreeprog/programmes/igs.html

Short history of game studies in UTA: http://gameresearchlab.uta.fi/history/

Some featured alumni from IGS and UTAgamelab: http://gameresearchlab.uta.fi/igs-alumni/

Also, feel free to send us mail, if you want further information;

– Frans Mäyrä (frans.mayra at uta.fi / 050 336 7650)

Year in review – my 2015 in game studies

The year 2015 was a busy year, and hard to summarise as it feels like there never really was any time to stop and reflect; thus I welcome this short review note as such opportunity. Much of my time this year was spent on administrative things, related processes, projects, work contracts and plans of restructuring at the multiple levels of the Finnish university system, Tampere 3 university fusion, internal University of Tampere structures, the School of Information Sciences, our degree programmes and the IGS master’s degree programme, TRIM as the research centre and our Game Research Lab, and its individual research projects and other work.

In terms of published research, it was delightful to follow how many interesting book projects were finished and came out during 2015 (many of these are already out and available, even if their official publication year is 2016). Particularly the Routledge Advances in Game Studies series was in high gear, as several important research volumes were published there; my research articles were included in The Dark Side of Game Play, The Video Game Debate and Video Game Policy books. (There were other important books in the series, too, including Rachel Kowert’s Video Games and Social Competence, and Ashley ML Brown’s Sexuality in Role-Playing Games.) For more, see: https://www.routledge.com/series/RAIGS My own work included analysing the subversive uses of chidren’s games, exploring the gaming communities, and (together with Gareth Schott) re-conceptualizing game violence.

In other published work, I was proud to be part of the editorial board of Finnish Yearbook of Game Studies (Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja; with the new editor-in-chief Raine Koskimaa), have in-depth analyses of our game researcher survey study come out in esteemed Journal of Communication (Thorsten Quandt, Jan Van Looy as the main authors in this article). I also published a historically oriented overview of Finnish games and game culture in the Video Games Around the World volume, edited by the amazingly productive Mark Wolf for the MIT Press. I also wrote an article exploring the character and development of mobile games that was published in the International Encyclopedia of Digital Communication & Society (Wiley-Blackwell). Last but not least, the long-waited book, Playful Identities: The Ludification of Digital Media Cultures came out from Amsterdam University Press. My piece there deals with the culture and identity of casual online play.

Our research team’s work in 2015 again covered a large part of the games, player experiences, design research and game cultures landscapes. Our particular emphasis is on the emerging and transforming aspects of these, multiple and interconnected phenomena and research topics. In 2015 we wrapped up the research projects Hybridex – The User Experience in the Future Playful Hybrid Services and Free2Play – Best Practices for Free-to-Play Game Services. Some of the research publications, including the full final reports from these projects are still coming out, but you can find some of this work at: https://free2playproject.wordpress.com/publications/ and https://hybridex.wordpress.com/ . Our work in the emerging, and newly re-configured borderlines of physical and digital dimensions in play also included also practical design experiments in the TSR funded OASIS research that studied intermixing of work and play, as well as with the playful MurMur chairs (originating from the Hybridex project). Featured in local as well as in international media, such practical implementations of fundamental research particularly appear to attract the attention of wider audiences. The high-quality research on gamification was also getting wider notice this year, including many publications that were coming out from Koukku, Neuroeconomics of Gaming and Free2Play research projects on this theme. Many thanks to all members of our research team, from these, as well as other research projects.

Much of such research that includes direct applications and links with games industry and other end user or interest groups were funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, as well as by various industry partners. Many thanks to all our collaborating partners, and Tekes in particular for their interest and belief in the significance of games and games related research. The Skene games programme ended in 2015, but everyone very much hopes that the huge funding cuts to Tekes, Academy of Finland and directly to the basic funding of Finnish universities does not stop work in themes that are important for the advancement of fundamental knowledge, cultural richness, and capacity for innovation – be those related to arts, technology, humanities, social sciences or e.g. human well-being (studies of games, play, gamification and playfulness relate and touch upon all those research areas).

Our work continues in active mode also in 2016, thanks to two new Tekes research projects (Hybrid Social Play; STREAM/eSports), the Academy of Finland funded Ludification of Culture and Society project, and other ongoing work that is based on individual research grants that members of our research teams have won, as well as other continuing research projects. There are many important themes that are logical continuation of the earlier work we have done (and I have probably forgot to mention many important achievements above), but there are also new innovations and expansions into new areas that are going on. Directing my time and energy into new research on e.g. hybrid play applications while simultaneously participating in other ongoing work will probably mean that in 2016 there will not be as many publications coming out from myself, but that is part of the natural rhythm, ebb and flow of academic life. It is also important that the new tenure-track associate professor in game culture studies position, announded in summer 2015, will be filled hopefully in early 2016. We are also joining forces among the Finnish game scholars to have more supportive structures and collaborative initiatives to start in 2016.

Again: many thanks for everyone in our team, project collaborators and international friends who have made 2015 such a successful and productive year – wishing you all the best, and hoping to make 2016 also a great year together!

Edit: Oh yes – Jaakko Stenros defending his PhD thesis should of course be mentioned here; every doctoral dissertation from our research team is a major milestone!

UTAgamelab has new website!

The website of University of Tampere Game Research Lab has been redesigned, with updated information about our research projects, research staff, the university degree education we provide, plus with information about seminars, conferences, public talks and other activities that we engage in. Check them out at: http://gameresearchlab.uta.fi.

Tenure Track Associate Professor, Game Cultures Studies, University of Tampere

Please help spreading word of this new opening in UTA/SIS & Game Research Lab:

The School of Information Sciences (SIS) invites applications for a tenure track position in Game Cultures Studies at associate professor level. The successful applicant will be first appointed to an initial term of five years starting 1 February 2016 or as agreed.

SIS is one of the internationally leading centres in game studies, and the education and research carried out in the School represent a wide selection of disciplines concerned with information, interactive media and the processing, management and use of data.

The person appointed to a position must hold an appropriate doctoral degree, high-level academic qualifications and experience in directing scientific research, be able to provide high-quality, research-based instruction as well as to have a track record of international scientific activities. In order to perform the duties included in this position, fluent command of the English language is required.

The remuneration of the post is based on level 7 of the job-related salary element for teaching and research personnel in the salary system of the Finnish Universities, at present EUR 3819,56 per month. In addition, a personal salary element based on personal performance is paid which is at most 46.3 % of the job-related salary element.

Four-month trial period applies for the appointed person.

Please address your application to the Rector of the University of Tampere. The closing date for applications is at 15:45 (Finnish time) on 22 June 2015. The application must be submitted by the online application form; the form and more information are available at:
https://uta.rekrytointi.com/paikat/?o=A_RJ&jgid=1&jid=596 .

New research into ludification and gamification

[Reposted research news from the University of Tampere:]

“Pervasive ludification and gamification, as well as the spreading of interactive media and online services are changing social interaction and the practices of work, learning and leisure as we speak,” says Professor Frans Mäyrä from the University of Tampere.

“That is why we need wide-ranging interdisciplinary studies in this area.”

The research into ludification in the society includes research into playfulness as an attitude that is also possible for adults, as well as into the different applications of gamification meaning the application of game elements in non-entertainment contexts. These, and several other themes are investigated in a new research project that is carried out in collaboration between three Finnish universities. The four-year research project Ludification and the emergence of playful culture is a joint effort of researchers of the digital culture at the universities of Tampere, Jyväskylä and Turku. Professor Frans Mäyrä is heading the research that is funded by the Academy of Finland.

Ludification at a more general level, and gamification in its more specific applications is a direction of development that is renewing the culture, society and businesses and it is also the common theme in three other research projects, which Professor Mäyrä and his research team have started.

Gamification is analysed in more detail in the research projects called the Neuroeconomics of Gaming and Koukku, which are collaborative efforts with the researchers at the Aalto University. In these projects, the focus is on the psychological aspects of buying and selling games and of the ethical issues involved. These projects are a part of the Skene Research Programme funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

OASIS is a project that applies games as an integral part of university research and instruction and develops and studies a novel, playful and creative learning environment that supports a culture of informal information sharing and sense of community. This project is funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund.

For more information, please contact:
Professor Frans Mäyrä,
frans.mayra@uta.fi, tel. +358 50 336 7650
School of Information Sciences, TRIM / Game Research Lab

Source: http://blogs.uta.fi/news/2014/10/08/ludification-renews-the-culture-society-and-businesses-a-wide-ranging-new-research-project-starts/