Exploring the Digital
Professor Bonnie “Bo” Ruberg (they/them pronouns) is broadening the conversation around digital media, expanding our knowledge of the diverse cultures at the heart of technology and the individuals who use it. “Technology is inextricably linked to issues of gender, sexuality, and identity,” Ruberg says. “The ways that we design, use, and talk about technology are fundamentally political and potentially radical.” Drawing from intersectional feminist frameworks, Ruberg’s work promotes social justice in and through digital media. With a background in the humanities, technology reporting, and community activism, Ruberg is an interdisciplinary scholar who combines insight and inspiration from a variety of fields—such as media studies, queer studies, American studies, and the digital humanities—to explore the cultural implications of technology.
Reclaiming Video Games
One of Ruberg’s key areas of focus is diversity in video games. Ruberg is a leading figure in the emerging scholarly paradigm known as “queer game studies,” which argues that video games can (and should) be reconsidered through the lens of LGBTQ experience. Since 2013, Ruberg has been instrumental in organizing the Queerness and Games Conference, an annual event that brings together academics and game developers, fostering community conversations across fields and making space for queer people working in and around games to thrive. “Historically, video games have been hostile to people who are different or who desire differently,” Ruberg says. “I am passionate about fighting discrimination and laying claim to the medium of video games—for queer folks, but also for people of color, people with disabilities, and many more who have been marginalized.”
Ruberg’s scholarship is founded on the belief that research and activism go hand-in-hand. Though theory is important to their work, Ruberg sees their efforts to promote diversity in and through technology as directly related to pressing issues that surround computing today. “There is a real, immediate need for change in the cultures and structures that have formed around technology,” Ruberg says. “Threats of online harassment based on gender, race, and sexuality loom large.” Yet, for Ruberg, technology also represents a site of immense potential. “Through video games and other computational tools,” says Ruberg, “we have the opportunity to see the world differently.”