Aleena Chia: Inspired to uncover the infrastructures behind addiction vs engagement in the gaming industry

Photography: Jenni Toivonen / University of Tampere

Aleena Chia

Assistant Professor
Personal Website

My goal with this research is to understand and shape collective stories about what hobbies and leisure mean when work is flexiblized, automatised, and casualized.

SFU School of Communication welcome Aleena Chia as our new Assistant Professor in gamification and gaming culture. Her research studies how infrastructures and institutions in creative industries cultivate structures of feelings that bind vocational passion to occupational precarity. Her goal with research is to understand and shape stories about what hobbies and leisure means when work is flexibilzed, automatised and casualized. By engaging ethnographically with game hobbyists and industry aspirants, she hopes to redirect prevailing narratives about the future of work and reform its social policies towards economically and emotionally sustainable livelihoods in creative industries. 

Prior to joining SFU School of Communication, she was an intern at Microsoft Research New England and this experience was formative in framing her research on games and play as part of digital labor, platform capitalism, and the overarching datafication of society. The interdisciplinary academic community at Microsoft Research also primed Aleena to translate the distinctiveness and significance of humanistic approaches to economists, engineers, and computer scientists. Her postdoctoral research position with the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies was vital to honing her expertise in the field of game studies and games research beyond the scope of her own projects.

Her interest in gaming cultures stems from her passion in the politics of digital labour and the structures of feeling of the digital modern. The gaming industry touches upon the tension between playfulness versus productivity, the guilt of addiction versus the thrill of engagement and the glamour of virtual versus the banality of networked socality.

Book Recommendation from Aleena Chia

I would recommend Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015) because it demonstrates how ethnographic analysis can conciliate the empirical and theoretical, the local and global across conceptual, temporal, and spatial scales in a style of writing that is enjoyable and engaging.