I hold a PhD in Sociology from the University of Manchester; A research MA in Social Sciences from University of Technology, Sydney; and a BA in Communication (Writing and Cultural Studies) (First Class) also from the University of Technology, Sydney.
In addition to teaching experience at a number of institutions in Australia and the UK, I’ve worked with and for: The Social Inequalities Research Centre (Lancaster); Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA), methods@manchester, and The Cathy Marsh Institute for Social Research (University of Manchester); Urban Planning through Playful Participation (UPPP, University of Warwick); The Craft of Play project (Manchester Metropolitan University); the Transforming Cultures Research Centre (UTS); the mobile applications team at Three Mobile; and The Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific.
As of July 2021, I'm an Assistant Teaching Professor in Media Studies and The Berkeley Center for New Media and the University of California, Berkeley. I teach theory and practice courses on video games, new media histories, digital storytelling, digital media methods, digital culture, Queer theory, and creative digital media and art practice.
My research and writing
I'm currently working on a book about digital form and aesthetics, understood through the representation of the end of the city and apocalyptic imaginaries of urban collapse in digital video games. The book argues that through play, fragmentation, and the image, games depicting the imagined ruins of 'real' cities reveal the spatial and material dynamics at play in viritual worlds.
My PhD research focused on two key areas: digital space and modern urban ruins, understood through visual cultures and planning rhetorics. This approach considers the production of 3D and digital space in terms of urban play and design, with a focus on the depiction and navigation of ruined cities in video games in relation to urban experience and critical theory. This approach enables an understanding of the complex imaginaries of urban life, and in particular the highly spectacularised cultural trope of the end of the city as model for the ways in which a particularly American urbanism, with origins in Euro-centric urban modernity, envisions an ideal city of light and order, contrasted against a counter city of darkness and decay. These ideal cities, as depicted or inverted in digital media, are not only highly raced and classed, but also heavily dependent upon a shared spatial imaginary that both reflects and influences the ways in which cities are themselves imagined and constructed in the contemporary present.
Through Walter Benjamin's writings on history, images and commodities, the philosophy of history, and the Paris Arcades, my earlier work broadly considers regeneration, urban exploration, and modern ruins. I’ve conducted fieldwork, and produced photography and writing centred around embodied experience in Detroit, Berlin, Paris, New York, Sydney, Manchester, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chernobyl, Christchurch (NZ), and elsewhere.
My urban research is concerned with the transformation of cities through modernity and capitalism, from ruin to regeneration, and the intersection between urban experience, everyday life, and media representation. Sociologically, my interest is in the ways in which inequalities are perpetuated through spatial ordering and the politics of urban renewal, which stretch across both discursive structures (urban decay as a disease, for example, to be treated through expulsions of people and the injection of capital); and the lived, material experiences of urban deprivation as they manifest in spaces of decline, but are also structured through media representations of urban disorder and ruination.
I am a committee member for the Digital Geographies Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society, and a member of the British Sociological Association (BSA), and American Association of Geographers (AAG). I am also a member of the Playful Mapping Collective, and the Ludic Boredom Collective.
I’ve published work across sociology, media studies, and geography, including solo and co-authored pieces in Information, Communication and Society; Leonardo Electronic Almanac; Cultural Geographies; the European Journal of Cultural Studies, and The Double Negative, with forthcoming articles in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, and Visual Communication.
All images on this site are © Emma Fraser, 2007-2022