current biography

Iris Bull (they/she) is currently a Ph.D student in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at Indiana University, working with Dr. Nathan Ensmenger, Dr. Ilana Gershon, and Dr. Hamid Ekbia. They acknowledge and honor the myaamiki, Lënape, Bodwéwadmik, and saawanwa people, on whose ancestral homelands and resources Indiana University Bloomington is built. They must also acknowledge the Yamel (the “Yam Hill” band of the Kalapuya), Santiam, and Kalapuya people, who were forcibly removed from their homelands by colonizing Oregonians. They acknowledge that their ancestors benefited from systematic acts of violence, and that the maintenance of ‘normal life’ for friends and family continues to rely upon the systemic marginalization of Indigenous communities. They also recognize that land acknowledgements are no substitution for material support required in the continued fight for recognition and respect sovereign peoples deserve. In addition to diverting funds to varied Indigenous community projects when possible, they advocate for broader recognition of imperial colonialism as a cultural matrix through which to conduct sociotechnical inquiry and ground social theory.

Drawing from science and technology studies, Black studies, Indigenous studies, gender studies, disability studies, and social informatics, Iris’s present work aims to theorize experiences of toxicity in competitive video gaming communities as engagements with colonial imperialism. Using the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries in tandem with observable media ideologies, their work documents the cross-platform phenomenology of ‘toxic’ controversies as disagreements about the role of technology in the maintenance and manipulation of social order. This approach requires that they consider representations and experiences of ‘toxicity’ in popular texts and ephemeral encounters, and establish a meaningful continuity of experience across analog and digital media grounded in a specific historical context.

Iris is presently engaged in documenting an ethnography of toxicity in the competitive Overwatch player community in North America, inclusive of a survey of different technological solutions often leveraged to address ‘toxicity’ in Overwatch-player groups. The focus of their investigation attends to how stakeholders imagine and discuss specific surveillance, identification, and communication technologies. Theorizing a material continuity between imperial colonial consumer culture and the structural marginalization of specific bodies, they intend to show how modern social media and gaming platforms amplify, multiply, and maintain specific grammars of suffering that are constitutive of contemporary debates about sociotechnical ethics and platform politics. Attending to the relevance of imperial colonial consumer culture in mediating debates about proper conduct, their work critically evaluates the material beneficiaries of contemporary debates about internet regulation and content moderation policies.

Iris completed a master’s degree in Media Studies from the University of Oregon and previously published on notions of ‘genderlessness’ in the Minecraft universe. They have recently co-authored a literature review with Ilana Gershon on the topic of digital labor for Digital Anthropology: Second Edition edited by Haidy Geismar and Hannah Knox (forthcoming, March 2021). They are currently engaged as a co-editor for a special issue of ROMchip: A Journal of Game Histories on ‘Esports.’

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