Ironoia: the mistrust of things lecture poster


About the Lecture
There has been much talk of irony as an aesthetic penchant, an affectation of hipsters, and a failure to be earnest or true to oneself. But this critique of irony is hardly new—we’ve been hearing it incessantly for two decades – and it is not even really clear what irony is, anyway. A concept that is millennia old has slipped through many different meanings over time.

Combining his expertise in video games, philosophy, technology, and cultural critique, Ian Bogost presented a revised theory of irony that addresses the failure to earnestly encounter the outside world. From a perspective that orients objects at the center, Bogost asked and, at least in part, answered a series of questions:

How can we learn to live with things? How do we approach a world so replete, so overburdened with stuff that it is literally falling apart from the wear? How can we conceptualize ourselves as just another thing among so many others, rather than the masters of these servile objects? How can we value things for what they are, regardless of their role in our quotidian concerns, and how do we do so habitually, not just late one weird night? Finally, how do we do so without descending into the anguish of nihilism, without inevitably concluding that the universe is fundamentally indifferent?

About the Lecturer
Dr. Ian Bogost is an author and award-winning game designer. He is the Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies and Professor of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Bogost is also founding partner at Persuasive Games LLC, an independent game studio, and a contributing editor at The Atlantic, where he writes regularly about technology and popular culture. He has published many books including Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames and Alien Phenomenology, or What it’s Like to Be a Thing, among others. In addition to his work as a writer, Bogost is also co-editor of Object Lessons, a book and essay series about the secret lives of ordinary things (Bloomsbury/The Atlantic), and of Platform Studies, a book series about the relationship between hardware/software design and creativity (MIT Press).

Bogost’s video games about social and political issues cover topics as varied as airport security, suburban errands, pandemic flu, and tort reform. His independent games include Cow Clicker, a Facebook game send-up of Facebook games that was the subject of a Wired magazine feature, and A Slow Year, a collection of video game poems for Atari VCS, Windows, and Mac, which won the Vanguard and Virtuoso awards at the 2010 IndieCade Festival.

Bogost is currently working on a forthcoming book about living playfully in an age of irony.


The suggested reading list includes various reading and media recommendations provided by the lecturer. This list of materials can include projects authored by the lecturer or others, and provides further insight into the guest’s sources of inspiration and additional context surrounding the artist/scholar/designer’s work and practice. This list is shared with RMCAD students and faculty and is archived on the website for academic integration and research opportunities. The physical materials are archived in the RMCAD campus library and the VASD Program archive.

Alien Phenomenology by Ian Bogost

The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

Animal Crossing
Video Game, any edition

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
Book, sort of

Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino

Colors in Context by Naomi Kuno

Uncommon Places: The Complete Works by Stephen Shore

Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, Bravo
Television Show

Naked Airport by Alastair Gordon

iPhone Game

Persuasive Games by Ian Bogost

Metropolitan by Whit Stillman

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

“Greater Los Angeles,” BldgBlog,
Online Article

The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus

The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

Chopped, Food Network
Television Show

Barnstorming by Steve Cartwright
Videogame, Atari

Laws of Media: The New Science by Marshall and Eric McLuhan

Mythologies by Roland Barthes

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