PhD course

Acting together on technological playing fields:

Computer games, e-sports, and team play

PhD course

IT University of Copenhagen

Rued Langgaards Vej 7; DK-2300 Copehagen S

26-28 May 2010

Accommodation and Transportation
Practical information regarding accommodation and transportation can be found on the ITU’s webpage “For Guests”

T.L. Taylor, IT University of Copenhagen (course responsible);

Henry Lowood (Stanford University) – “Players, athletes, and art”

Garry Whannel (University of Bedfordshire) – “Look Out! Some problems of method and theory for Screen Studies and Games Studies”

Belinda Wheaton (University of Brighton) – “Understanding alternative/extreme/lifestyle sport cultures: theoretical and methodological considerations”

Time & Room
9:30 – 17:00. Room 2A.14 on May 26 & 27, AUD 2 on May 28

T.L. Taylor (ITU) & Emma Witkowski (ITU)

How to sign up
Sign up by send an e-mail T.L. Taylor ( All students must submit with their application to the course an abstract of their work as it relates to the course and the subject of their poster which will be used to help organize the sessions. Applications should be submitted by May 17.

Course description
This PhD course will focus on exploring the artefacts, structures, practices and cultures of team-based computer games through a sociology of games and sports. Students will share their research on the subject and discuss/engage with a collection of literatures and questions related to team games with the purpose of gaining some analytical and methodological tools to critically think with throughout the remainder of their research. The course will be taught of several scholars working specifically in the area of team play, e-sports, and sociology of sports.

This course will focus on situations and practices of the modern (computer game) team: player practices, formal structures of team games and local structures shaping team-play, in addition to the ways technological artefacts are woven into this sporting scene. The core course material will be steeped in the situation of team games played with a foundation in modern technology. This context is flexible enough to include in its objects of study everything from massively multiplayer online games (such as co-ordination and cooperation in guilds or multiplayer clans), gaming events (such as identity performances at locally networked Counter-Strike pro/am tournaments), the rise of e-sports as its own domain, and instances of traditional sports where technology is used in game altering ways (such instances might include the value of prosthetic technologies in relay teams or the meta-play of doubles tennis players with non-human officiating systems).

The arrangement of modern gaming technologies and team play/group practices opens up fordiscussions on, but not limited to;
– Mastery and performance in shared spaces/virtual environments
– Community administration – player/team/organization
– Team histories & player/team narratives
– Surveillance and management / Divergent team practices / Conduct and behaviour intemporary teams
– Gaming rules – local / global / human / non-human
– Officiating systems and knowledge management
– Amateurism – professionalism
– Team structures / Leadership and communication
– Status and identity / Passing online / Team attitudes – individual expressions
– Team (numbers) complexity
– Interdependence/Intradependence – Role specialization
– Virtual/Physical boundaries
– Physicality and training
– Cyborgs and cyborgian-teams
– Goals – individual vs. team / disruptions and damage control
– Performing and observing – being your own audience
– Learning to group – learning together
– Group stability/retention/recruitment
– Values in team sports/games
– Bureaucratization of cooperative leisure activities
– Gender/race/age performativity and divide in teams games/sports
– Barriers, borders and “transgressions” in team games
– Boundary objects – traditional sports & computer games

Through reflecting on their own research & data, the course readings, lectures, and group discussionstudents from various disciplines – including those working in sports studies, computer games studies,anthropology, sociology, media/cultural studies and internet studies – will bring together theirinvestigations and reflections on the organization(s)/structure(s), player/group practices and values oftheir object of study.

Program (draft)

Day one (Wednesday, May 26 Room 2A.14)
9:30-10:00 – Welcome and brief introductions (Dr. Taylor)
10:00-11:00 – Thematic brainstorm
11:00-12:00 – Discussion
12:00-13:00 – Lunch
13:00-14:00 – Afternoon lecture – Henry Lowood , Players, Athletes, and Art
14:00-15:00 – Discussion
15:00-15:15 – Break
15:15-17:00 – Student presentations/discussion

Day two (Thursday, May 27 Room 2A.14)
9:30-10:30 – Morning lecture – Garry Whannel, Look Out!  Some problems of method and theory for Screen Studies and Games Studies
10:30-11:30 – Discussion
11:30-12:30 – Student presentations/discussion
12:30-13:30 – Lunch
13:30-14:30 – Afternoon lecture – Belinda Wheaton, Understanding alternative/extreme/lifestyle sport cultures: theoretical and methodological considerations
14:30-15:30 – Discussion
15:30-15:45 – Break
15:45-17:00 – Student presentations/discussion
19:00 – Group dinner

Day three (Friday, May 28 Auditorium 2)
The final course day is framed as a symposium on the topic of e-sports and cyberathleticism. The purpose of the event is to bring together researchers and people actually working – and playing – in e-sports and to document via oral histories, artifacts, and discussions this emerging area. The event is free and open to the public. The workshop is comprised of three panels: Players, Teams & Leadership, and Communities & Spectatorship. Topics covered in the panel discussions will include player recruitment and retention, performance and play, leadership & coaching, team management, governmental politics of e-sports, physicality and movement, fans, spectatorship and broadcasting, tournaments, sponsorships, and life after e-sport.


Preparation & Course format
Enrollment is limited to 15. All students must submit with their application to the course an abstractof their work as it relates to the course and the subject of their poster which will be used to helporganize the sessions. Approximately one month before the course students will receive the readinglist and pdf’s of the articles and should come to the course having prepared with this material. Eachday’s sessions will be devoted to a combination of guest lectures, discussion, and presentations by thestudents. Students are required to bring with them a conference-style/quality poster detailing theircurrent work in relation to the subject of the course. The posters will be displayed both during thecourse and on the special third day event.

No formal exam but full participation, including poster, required.

3 ECTS for preparation, participation, and bringing a conference-style/quality poster to the course.

Amount of hours the student is expected to use on the course
Participation: 22
Preparation: Students will be preparing for the course in two ways:
1) prepaing the reading material which will be about 10-12 articles and
2) preparing a conference-style/quality poster on the subject of their own research project as it relates to the course.


  • Emma Witkowski, ITU
  • Anna-Sofia Alklind Taylor, School of Humanities and Informatics, University of Skövde, Sweden
  • Jana Rambusch , School of Humanities and Informatics, University of Skövde, Sweden
  • Ashley Brown, University of Manchester, UK
  • Rikke Toft Nørgård, University of Aarhus
  • Björn Sjöblom, Linköping University

Non-student participants:

  • Steven Conway, University of Bedfordshire, UK
  • Fern Delamere, Concordia

Course literature

Protected: PhD course articles