Aphra Kerr was a visiting scholar at the Annenberg School for Communication (Spring 2011) and is a lecturer and researcher at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. She has been researching the production, consumption and regulation of digital media on European and nationally funded projects for the past ten years. Her current funded research projects include governance and user innovation in online games, future internet debates and cultural diversity and transnational media practices. She is the author of The Business and Culture of Digital Games, and serves on the editorial board of Popular Communication. Aphra is a founding member of the digital games research association DIGRA, a committee member of Women in Games (Europe) and she runs the community website in Ireland www.gamedevelopers.ie.
What one insight from your field, approach, method, findings etc. do you think is most important for scholars working in this topical area?
Despite the demand for interdisciplinary research the doing of interdisciplinary research is much more difficult than most people anticipate. I don’t mean collaboration with people in neighboring disciplines like media, cultural studies, communication, sociology or human geography, but collaboration with legal scholars, computer scientists, engineers and interaction designers. However, I believe such collaborations are more crucial than ever to understanding contemporary cultural production given the rules, assumptions and affordances that are designed into both public and private media networks and the documents that govern their use.
What are two issues that are not adequately treated within current work on cultural production in the digital age in your field or in others?
There is still a dearth of qualitative research into working conditions in professional new media production companies. The discourse of non-hierarchical, flexible, highly skilled, gender blind and fun work and the use of this discourse by educational institutions and companies alike needs to be empirically examined and in many cases challenged.
At a more macro level there is increasing competition between nations and regions to attract footloose new media producers which is bringing to the fore very real, but we might have thought historic, political and cultural issues.
Are humanistic values such as justice, equality, democracy or (insert preferred humanistic value here) currently served by cultural production in a digital networked environment?
It is hard to give a yes/no answer to that question; maybe in some contexts and not in others. In fact often we do not know. Humanistic issues have emerged in my studies of new media, even when they were not explicitly the focus. Issues have included equality in the workforce, cultural diversity, challenges surrounding governance in networked environments and user rights. Humanistic values deserve attention given the prevalence of security discourses in Western political, economic and research environments and the implications that these discourses bring.