Mary Flanagan is an interdisciplinary thinker and maker at the crossroads of art and technology. She has written or edited six books and works across genres including academic writing, poetry, fiction, product design, creative studio practice, and journalism for Salon, USA Today, Huffington Post, SF Chronicle, and Gamasutra. Her book Critical Play is standard-issue reading for those interested in, or studying, computer games and establishes the link between art history and contemporary game design, and her writing about art, technology, feminism, and play is widely recognized. Mary Flanagan is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College. She holds a PhD from Central St Martins, University of the Arts in London and an MFA from the University of Iowa.
In 2018, Flanagan won the Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica in the Interactive art+. Flanagan is the recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship, the Thoma Foundation 2018 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art, and has been awarded residencies with the Brown Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Bogliasco, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in 2019. Flanagan has lectured widely including at Oxford, Cornell, Trinity College, Columbia, Harvard, and the Sorbonne. She was recently a John Paul Getty Museum Scholar, a Senior Scholar in Residence at Cornell Society for the Humanities, and Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Jackman Humanities Institute. In 2016 she was honored as a ‘Vanguard’ from Games for Change and received Honoris Causa in Design, Illinois Institute of Technology. Flanagan was one of the 2018 invited cultural leaders at the World Economic Forum at Davos for her leadership in crafting values-centered technologies. Flanagan has served on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Academic Consortium on Games for Impact, and her work has been supported by commissions and grants including The British Arts Council, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Flanagan’s work has been showcased in The Atlantic and repeatedly on National Public Radio, and she is widely known as an expert on matters related to games and digital culture. She’s given keynotes to groups ranging from the Association of Professional Futurists to Computer Supported Cooperative Work, from Philosophy of Computer Games to Games Learning and Society, from the experimental STRP Arts Festival to Women in Games.
As an Artist
Flanagan’s practice(s) extend into science, design, computational systems and psychology to explore the anxious and profound relationship between technological systems and systems of human experience. She examines how our data, rule systems, and context of play represent human fears and desires, occupying both onscreen spaces as well as physical spaces and actions. Flanagan’s work has been exhibited internationally at venues such as The Guggenheim and Tate Britain, and is featured in public and private collections, including The Whitney Museum and ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien Germany. Flanagan’s engagement with science is a defining influence in her work. She consistently refers to her studio as a laboratory, and for 15 years has led an interventionist art project that follows the rigorous scientific methods of a psychological game research laboratory.
As a Game Designer
Flanagan has won numerous design awards. She founded Resonym, publisher of board games and ephemera. As the founding director of the research laboratory and design studio TILTFACTOR, the first game-focused research lab to take on the psychological underpinnings of social change, Flanagan designs for change in learning, public health, social challenges such as bias, and sustainability using community action, crowdsourcing, and play. She develops and utilizes novel creative methods to tackle problems from left field, showing how change emerges by shifting psychological mindsets. She helps groups ranging from physicians to theme park designers to arctic scientists encounter their impact potential and use what she calls ‘evidence based design’ to change minds about the worlds most pressing problems and back this change up with high quality research. By creating apps, physical games, tools, scenarios, VR, and large scale experiments, she works to create encounters that transform old systems and imagine the new.
Professional recognition, honors, awards
2019 DiGRA Distinguished Scholar
Robert Rauschenberg Foundation residency; 2018 Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica in Interactive art+
2018 Cultural Leader, World Economic Forum; Invited Participant, World Government Summit
Class of 1964 Outstanding Leadership Award, Dartmouth College
Thoma Foundation 2018 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art
2017 John Paul Getty Museum Scholar
2017 Higher Education Video Game Alliance Fellow
2017 Senior Scholar in Residence at Cornell Society for the Humanities
2016 ‘Vanguard Award,’ Games for Change
2016 Doctorate Honoris Causa in design from the Illinois Institute of Technology
2015 Higher Education Video Games Alliance award for “Advancing Theory & Research” in the field of game studies
2015 Best Serious Game, Boston Festival of Independent Games
2014 Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Jackman Humanities Institute, U. Toronto
2014 Remarkable Women of New Hampshire
2014 Brown Foundation Fellow
2013 Bogliasco Fellow
2013 Top 50 Speakers, Game Developer’s Conference
2012 Meaningful Play awards
Best Digital Game, Best Non-Digital Game
2012 Major Fun Award
2012 Iron Game Designer at IndieCade 2012
2010 American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship
2009 LAYOFF game on CBS News, Chronicle of Higher Education.
MacDowell 2007 Fellow
Featured in the documentary 8Bit on video game art, 2006
CUNY Faculty Fellow 2006, CUNY Outstanding Scholar 2004, 2007
2003 Susan Koppelman Award given by the Joint Women’s Caucus of the Popular Culture/American Culture for the book Reload
Fulbright Scholar 2000-2001
Stephen H. Coltrin Award for Excellence in Communications Education (IRTS) 2000
University of Iowa Fine Arts Fellowship 1994. Mortar Board, Golden Key, Phi Beta Kappa.