2023 Abstracts Stage 2

Dungeons & Dragons or Enlightenment and Play

This project socially critiques the tabletop fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. To this end, I engage with game studies to clarify notions of play and Joseph P. Laycock’s account of meaning production within D&D specifically. For these thinkers, play provides a space constitutively separated from and opposed to external life. This is an imaginative activity. Laycock highlights quasi-religious function of engaging in imagined worlds through a sacred order in D&D. I critique these accounts for their undeveloped social theory, which foreshortens their analysis, taking play or the religious sentiment as historically invariant rather than as social and historical products. As a background to this critique, I engage with the critical theory of Adorno and Horkheimer. For them, the self-defeat of the Enlightenment characterises the contemporary social world. The former failed to realise its promise of liberation and instead continued the domination it sought to overcome.
I go on to unfold the historical dialectic of D&D. From its inception, it has been a product of bourgeois society which serves its work process, despite its ostensible separation from external life. Play and narrative, in the form of the novel, both have utopian possibilities in turning against the world as it is; I contend that D&D regresses from these into an appendage of the work process which disappoints the existent possibilities of games and novels in truly opposing the ruling order. Rather than overcome magic, D&D mimics the magical practice of sacrifice in sacrificing the player’s own prohibited desires which would contradict the social process. Yet it does so in a form thoroughly characteristic of the Enlightenment; therefore, it can only be classed as regression.

2009 Abstracts Stage 3

Media Immobilising Britain: Educational Aspiration

This project investigates social mobility in Britain within the last 20 years, and after finding Britain to be socially immobile looks into the role that education has within making Britain immobile. The education system is then evaluated to explore the possibility of education having a causative role in forming an immobile society. A common underlying factor in education’s role within an immobile society is a poor level of aspiration among the lower classes. I then look at the possible role British media has to play in forming poor levels of aspiration under the theories of the culture industry from Adorno and Horkheimer, and Vattimo’s ethics of provenance , which is transposed onto the issue of false consciousness and Marxist ideologies. This project uses government figures to show that Britain is immobile; that the education system plays a key role within immobility, and that media is responsible for breeding students with low levels of aspiration. This, when explored with Adorno and Horkheimer’s views on the culture industry, shows that mass media deceives its consumers in order to keep the bourgeois’ advantage over the lower classes and reinforce Britain’s immobility throughout the generations by depicting mobility as unlikely within the media. This is backed up by figures which show that class and the media consumed is closely linked so the elite few in charge of the majority of media consumed by the masses can install a false consciousness in which it promises mobility to the lower classes whilst never having an intention of delivering it.