B.A. (magna cum laude) History, Maryville College
M.A. Anthropology, University of Washington
Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Washington
Mailing: Box 358530, 18115 Campus Way NE, Bothell, WA 98011
I teach courses primarily in media studies, digital game studies, and the anthropology of war and violence. As an educator, I see my primary goal as being to enable students to interpret media that they use everyday with a more critical eye. Many of my courses focus on video games, a medium that a majority of undergraduate students use on a regular basis. I view this popularity of video games as a chance to engage students with complex issues of gender, sexuality, race, and class that inevitably arise in any medium, especially games. I also deal with issues of violence, militarism, and war, especially as they relate to media. I see the bottom-up approach of ethnographic research and writing as an important means for connecting students to these issues. For this reason, I often assign (and train students in) ethnographic research, for the purposes of not only understanding a specific culture of media users in a holistic way, but also learning firsthand how a large portion of social scientists go about collecting, analyzing, and making sense of often ambiguous qualitative data.
Recent Courses Taught
BIS 236 Introduction to Interactive Media
BIS 313 Issues in Media Studies: War and Entertainment
BIS 313 Issues in Media Studies: Digital Game Studies
BISGST 397 Topics in Global Studies: Culture and Violence
My research focuses on the electronic entertainment industry, and pays particular attention to how new forms of labor emerge through not only the making of games, but also within games themselves. I am also interested in the militarization of media, specifically in asking how games and virtual simulations take part in both the imagination of national enemies and in the recruitment, training, and rehabilitation of soldiers. As an anthropologist, I see self-reflexive ethnographic research (virtual and actual) as being the essential set of methods by which I go about discovering, analyzing, and interpreting data. For my past National Science Foundation-funded ethnographic research project I was able to move within the network of commercial game studios, government offices, and military bases that developed the U.S. Army's official video game, America's Army. I am currently working to turn this research into a book, and am now also in the process of starting new projects looking at fan game labor and software beta testing.
Robertson Allen. 2013. “Virtual Soldiers, Cognitive Laborers.” In Virtual War and Magical Death: Technologies and Imaginaries for Terror and Killing. Sverker Finnström and Neil Whitehead, eds. The Cultures and Practices of Violence edited series. Durham: Duke University Press. Pp. 152–170.
Robertson Allen. 2012. “Games Without Tears, Wars Without Frontiers.” In War, Technology, Anthropology. Koen Stroken, ed. Critical Interventions: A Forum for Social Analysis, Vol. 13. New York: Berghahn Books. Pp. 83–93.
Robertson Allen. 2011. “The Unreal Enemy of America’s Army.” Games and Culture 6(1):38–60.
Robertson Allen. 2009. “The Army Rolls Through Indianapolis: Fieldwork at the Virtual Army Experience.” Transformative Works and Cultures 2.