Keynote Speaker
Chris Ferguson

Christopher J. Ferguson is a professor of psychology at Stetson University. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and has conducted dozens of studies on the behavioral impacts of video games across multiple realms including violence, addiction, sexism and body image. He has coauthored the book Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong. He lives in Orlando with his wife and son

Sex, Lies and Videogames: Why Videogames Still Struggle to Overcome Moral Panic

For the past few decades video games have been the focus of widespread concerns regarding violence, addiction and sexist content. In the United States, video games are blamed for high gun violence rates. The World Health Organization (WHO) has claimed that excessive gaming is tantamount to a disease. Activists worldwide express concerns that the sexist content of some games may lead to sexism and misogyny in real life. But is there good research evidence to support these claims? Lessons learned from the “video game violence” research era are instrumental. The term “violent video game” never held conceptual, scientific value, yet was used as an emotional loadstone. This resulted in overstatements of evidence by politicians, scholars and professional guilds such as the American Psychological Association. In some cases, hyperbole continued despite mounting evidence that action-oriented games are associated with, if anything, declining trends in violence and evidence for even effects on mild aggression remained inconsistent. Nonetheless repetitions of this trend continued with discussions of “sexist” games and their impact on sexism in real life as well as the controversy over the WHO’s “gaming disorder.” In both cases activists for particular positions which appear to disparage games pushed forward aggressively despite the presence of evidence that might have advised a more cautious approach. It is time for a reassessment of games research and how a societal culture of moral panic impacted games research over the past few decades. However, these cultural issues can be repaired first by understanding the historical patterns of moral panic that scholars contributed to and second by embracing a culture of open science.

Keynote Speaker
Sarah Jane Pell

Artist Dr. Sarah Jane Pell is uniquely positioned as a commercial spaceflight candidate, spacesuit validation test pilot, and space VR designer. She expands her expertise as a commercial diver, performance artist, and interdisciplinary researcher by designing for critical play, human performance and expression in extreme environments. Pell currently collaborates with the Monash Immersive Visualisation Platform (MIVP) as an Adj. Associate Professor (Research), in the Faculty of Engineering, Engineering Office of the Dean, and the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, Monash University. She is also the Vice-Chair of the International Astronautical Federation Technical Team for the Cultural Utilisation of Space, and former Chair of the European Space Agency Topical Team Art & Science, collaborator of the Exertion Games Lab, and SymbioticA: the art and biotechnology lab. Prestigious Awards include Australia Council Fellow, TED Fellow, and Gifted Citizen (Hon. Mention).

The Artist, Astronaut, and Avatar in Space Exploration

Human expression and connection fuels our evolutionary humanity, curiosity and passion. So how far can we go? Pell is designing modes for following the body’s natural edge to the abyss of space. New works including the parallel design of human-robotic performance protocols undersea and human-cinematic robot performance onstage, have inspired new modes of trans-disciplinary dialogue to understand affective visualization applications in performing astronautics. Technical concepts derived through play and performance on EVA (extra vehicular activities or spacewalks), have led to the development of technical configurations supporting the Spatial Performance Environment Command Transmission Realities for Astronauts SPECTRA (2018). Various SPECTRA experiments on Moon/Mars analogue missions have expanded protocols, for example the confined/isolated Lunar Station analogue mission simulations [Lunares 3 Crew] with transmission of LiDAR imaging and the choreographers’ moves for anartist-astronaut’s interpretation on the analogue Crater. Pell has demonstrated that interactions with SPECTRA systems have a direct impact on the artist-astronaut’s range of spatial awareness, orientation, geographic familiarization, and remote and in-situ operational training for amplifying performance capabilities on EVA. The significance of these new approaches is the widening of the definition of both technical and cultural activities in astronautics through play and performance. Other research from cinematic robotics, and mixed realities including virtual reality, LiDAR projects and big data immersive visualisations platforms, to an astronaut dance is about designing systems for improved performance and cultural engagement for exploring the critical pathways, discourse and cultural practice surrounding space as inspiration for new works of art, and new ways of working with art and space, during a unique mission simulation. These opportunities also support safe forums for reflexive analysis of our human ambitions, and indeed our assumptions, about a human return to the Moon, and future extra-terrestrial culture. SPECTRA tools translate visions for architecting a new era of spaceflight. Outcomes also signal new research and impact pathways for the artist, astronaut and avatar in space exploration and discovery.