David Kirschner

Dr. David Kirschner

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Chair of Studies

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Biography

Dr. David Kirschner earned his PhD in Sociology in 2014 from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His dissertation, "Gameplay Socialization: Meaning-making, Player-computer, and Player-player Interaction in Digital Games," explores how novices experience socialization into the virtual environments of popular video games. How do they make sense of unfamiliar digital worlds and game rules? What stages comprise gameplay socialization? What roles do non-human interactants play in the learning process? How do players handle increasing complexity in digital gameplay? The answers to these questions outline an argument for the serious study of digital games, and digital media more broadly, in everyday life. This focus is reflected in his research and teaching.

Currently, Kirschner is engaged in two ongoing research projects. First, Kirschner and Dr. Patrick Tiedemann (assistant professor of language and literacy education, GGC) are seeking to understand how people learn to participate in single-player virtual worlds by becoming members of groups of artificial intelligences. “Communities of practice” describe groups of people who engage in a sustained process of collective learning in a shared domain of activity. Such groups can be designed into virtual worlds and may be comprised of primarily nonhuman objects (such as non-player characters, or NPCs). Players move from outsider status, to the periphery, and eventually achieve member status as they learn the group's culture, their history, norms, values, beliefs, and practices. Membership in this kind of virtual community of practice in digital games raises important questions about the design of artificial intelligences, human-nonhuman interaction, and identity as we continue to shift many face-to-face professional training programs, educational experiences, and other interactions to virtual spaces.

Second, Kirschner and Bert Buyukozturk, a PhD candidate in Sociology at Florida State University, are conducting a content analysis of video game images on the Steam platform. This content analysis, coupled with others in the literature, seeks to explore the role of the 2014-2015 Gamergate controversy as a potential catalyst for shifting gender representations in video games. Content analyses of video game characters, box art, and advertisements conducted on games released before 2015 consistently show under-representation and over-sexualization of women, even though now over 40% of video game players are women. Gaming community demographics are shifting away from the white-heterosexual-male stereotype, game appeal is widening through diversity in form and content thanks to the independent and casual gaming revolutions, and increasingly progressive game developers are creating counter-normative games that challenge sexism, heteronormativity, and negative disability stereotypes. Consistent with older studies, newer studies such as theirs find an overrepresentation of white and male characters along with conformity to stereotypical gender representations of women characters, though bright spots of change exist. Their work focuses on these bright spots and addresses questions of agency, embodiment, inclusion, and gender in video games.

Kirschner has published research in various outlets, including the journals Symbolic Interaction and Simulation & Gaming, edited books such as Role-Playing Game Studies, and conference proceedings of the Digital Games Research Association and other professional organizations. He regularly presents at annual meetings of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction and the Southern Sociological Society.

Teaching is Kirschner’s main passion at GGC. He has been teaching in various capacities for the past 15 years. He has taught special education, high school history and government, and has tutored numerous students in research methods, writing, statistics, and other subjects. While pursuing his PhD in Singapore, he taught Social Psychology, Environmental Sociology, and Culture, Self and Identity. At GGC, Kirschner teaches numerous courses in sociology and human development and aging services, such as Media & Society, Development of Social Thought, Death, Grief, and Dying, and Writing in the Social Sciences. Kirschner creates student-centered classrooms and utilizes a vast array of teaching methodologies and resources. For example, he often experiments with game-based learning strategies and has co-created a learning community for first-year freshmen that teaches introductory sociology through the lens of video games and gaming culture. His courses always aim to relate the study of sociology and human development to the everyday lives of students.

Education

  • Doctorate – sociology – Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Master’s – social science education with emphasis in history – University of Georgia
  • Bachelor’s – sociology – University of Georgia

Academic Interests

  • Human-computer interaction
  • Gaming
  • Media and society
  • Socialization
  • Qualitative research methods