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This talk examines the automation of creativity in the games industry through Procedural Content Generation: PCG refers to techniques for creating game content algorithmically, by manipulating data through sets of computational operations and parameters. Generative techniques are increasingly a routine part of digital art ecosystems in games development, animation, visual effects, and beyond. By producing scalable results with combinatorial diversity, procedural generation is touted as the future of content, yet flouted as the harbinger of technological unemployment in game art production. Critical scholarship on automation suggests that the real danger is not job loss per se, but the constitution of an underclass of artists whose vital work of conditioning algorithmic outputs is denigrated as derivative and ‘manual’.

Using PCG as a case study, Aleena Chia will discuss how ideas about creativity are framed by liberal humanist ideas of agency: in this context, PCGnaturalizes trade-offs where the autonomy of generative machines is contingent upon the automatism of its human conditioners. This organisation of creative labour deepens the racial rifts of outsourcing (especially of art and animation) and the gendered stratifications between art and technical disciplines in networked production such as game development.

The talk will end by suggesting how automation in fact reinforces the ideological tethering of creativity to personhood, which obfuscates how social constructions of creativity are moulded on technical tools and cast in histories of racial capitalism. Understanding this shifting construction of creativity is crucial to struggles for labour justice according to principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion as creative industries automate.



Aleena Chia is Lecturer in Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. She uses ethnographic and textual approaches to research creativity and innovation practices in game development and computational wellness. She is co-editor of Reckoning with Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, 2022, with Ana Jorge and Tero Karppi) and co-author of Technopharmacology (Meson/University of Minnesota Press, 2022, with Joshua Neves, Susanna Paasonen, and Ravi Sundaram). Her work is published in Convergence, Television and New Media, Internet Policy Review, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Journal of Fandom Studies, among others.

How to join

For external visitors, please email Alfie Abdul-Rahman to arrange access.
Location: Bush House Centre Block, (S)5.01

Event details

Bush House (S)5.01
Bush House
Strand campus, 30 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BG