The Advancing Science in America (ARCS) Foundation has recognized Informatics Ph.D. candidate Amanda Cullen as one of the “best and brightest” scholars studying science and technology in the U.S. As an ARCS Scholar, Cullen enters “a vibrant network of learning that goes beyond departmental, University campus and regional boundaries.” In support of her research, she will receive a $5,000 stipend per year for two years. The ARCS Foundation has awarded more than $100 million to ARCS Scholars since its founding in 1958.
“When I learned I had been selected as an ARCS Scholar, I was surprised,” says Cullen, whose research interests range from anthropology and game culture to social media, fandom/fan studies, and gender and sexuality studies. “It was very exciting for me to realize that there are people out in the world who see value in me and in the work I do.” Recently, Cullen moderated a panel discussion on “Video Game Live Streaming: Challenges and Possibilities for Diversity and Inclusion” here at UCI, and she plans to focus her dissertation on the experiences of women in video game livestreaming.
“In particular, I am interested in how the social and technological features of the livestreaming platforms themselves impact the labor of streaming performed by women,” she explains. “I’m also interested in how cultural understandings of women and their presence in media like video games influences expressions of femininity and feminism online in contexts like livestreaming.”
Cullen, the first in her family to attend graduate school, hopes to someday make a difference in the lives of students from marginalized communities. “I’m from a rural, working class background,” she says. “What I’d like to do after my Ph.D. is work as a researcher at a university where I can mentor students that come from backgrounds like mine, backgrounds that are marginalized or underserved.” However, she also admits that she could “be happy working in the video game industry as a researcher, because there’s a lot of opportunity for making a difference using the critical qualitative methods that I prefer.” Regardless of whether Cullen eventually lands in academia or industry, she clearly aims to have a positive impact on the lives of others.
— Shani Murray