FEATURED: Rob Gallagher on reactionary digital politics (Part 1)

We are excited to present our first featured project: a series of podcasts on reactionary digital politics, written by Dr Rob Gallagher, a lecturer and researcher based in the Department of English.

Gaming Culture and Reactionary Digital Politics

By Rob Ghallagher

Did a group of disaffected gamers really birth a political movement that swept Donald Trump to power? How literally should we take accounts of malicious actors ‘gaming’ digital platforms to spread propaganda and misinformation? Is there something about videogames as a medium, or about the make-up of gaming communities, that would explain why gamer culture seems to have been so receptive to right-wing ideas? These are some of the questions I’ve been exploring in my recent research, questions I’ll be continuing to think about as a lecturer in Film and Media at MMU. In these posts for the Digital Politics blog I want to discuss that research, and to say a bit about Reactionary Digital Politics, an eight-part podcast series that I collaborated on with colleagues from Birkbeck and the University of East Anglia. The podcast tells the story of how groups hostile to liberal, left-wing and progressive ideas – from the #GamerGate movement to the racists of the ‘alt-right’, the anti-feminist ‘manosphere’ to the conspiracy fantasists of QAnon - have used digital media to drag political culture to the right. Through conversations with leading researchers the podcast unpacks the terms, imagery and tactics used by these movements, asking what we can do to combat their rise.

My route into working on these topics hasn’t been straightforward. As Master’s student I studied late-Victorian queer literature. My doctoral work focused on videogame storytelling. As a postdoctoral researcher I joined a project called Ego-Media, which aimed to investigate the impact of digital technologies on how people share their lives and understand their identities. As I’ll explain in my next post, the project’s five-year lifespan witnessed big changes in the popular conversation around digital media and politics, with optimism around the political potential of smartphones and social media gradually giving way to suspicion, alarm and outright panic…

Image: Untitled by Rob Gallagher