The Mod Theory conference

Activity: Conference/talk/lecture/symposium/speech/workshop, etcEvent organized by HKBU


I organised one of the first online conferences to be conducted inside a computer game in May 2020. The Mod Theory conference hosted scholars from the City University of Hong Kong, IT University Copenhagen, University of Potsdam, University of Manchester, New York University Shanghai, University of Prague, University of Malta, University of Nottingham Ningbo and University of California Davis. It was conducted within the game Garry’s Mod and streamed live to YouTube.

Mod Theory is a multidisciplinary investigation into sandbox game platforms as an expression of the contemporary political unconscious. Today’s digital economy is structured by precarity and play, prompting questions about the relationship between new media and platform capitalism and paradigmatic environmental changes. The complex materiality of game platforms and the procedural nature of their experience require that we think beyond content or representation and instead sketch a cartography of playable digital landscapes sprawled across precarious platforms, often interlaced with politically-charged symbols and practices. These incoherent environments are our ‘cognitive maps,’ lenses that bring the contemporary interrelation of natural, economic and digital surroundings into focus. Mod Theory 2020 builds on our previous discussions of the cartography of digital games and examines four topics – representation and the ontology of objects in digital games, space, grids and ruins in virtual space, the landscape as playground, and the political unconscious of simulation. The seminars will occur over four separate evenings in May 2020 in a speaking venue built within Garry’s Mod. Audience members will be invited to join the chat and watch the live stream. We will conclude by inviting speakers to a plenary session for a recap and general discussion on themes raised during the event. Text chat, voice chat and game footage will be recorded, edited and uploaded to the Mod Theory website and YouTube as a record of the 2020 event. Depending on interest from participants, we will seek to produce a publication based on the seminar presentations.
Period18 May 202028 May 2020
Event titleThe Mod Theory conference
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational

User-Defined Keywords

  • computer graphics
  • animation
  • media art
  • machine learning