David Ekdahl / Esports and Phenomenology

Having done my MA at CFS and being familiar with the wealth of talented scholars at the center, I chose to spend the first two months of 2020 as a visiting researcher during the last year of my PhD. During my stay, the center provided me with both a wonderful social- and work environment to write and receive feedback in. I am thankful to the wide and varied array of both permanent and visiting researchers at the center I got to spend time with as well as the center administrator Mette Seistrup and student assistant Kasper Møller-Nielsen for their very positive impact on my stay.

My research, in short, integrates insights from phenomenology (chiefly Merleau-Pontian insights on embodiment) with qualitative research methodologies. Importantly, the integration of phenomenology and qualitative research is in itself a question for the researcher of respecting and implementing criteria from both domains in a way that is reverential of both.

The project focuses specifically on the domain of esports professionals, or professional gamers, and their embodied relationship to their virtual practices, disclosing various themes of embodiment central for the practitioners during performance. The themes that have turned out to be central for esports professionals chiefly concern their sense of virtual (tele-) presence, their sensitivity to other players’ movements and actions as social (expressive and intentional) within the virtual world, their sensorimotor relationship to the equipment and abilities available in-game, as well as the role or place of emotion, temperament and personal style within the virtual worlds themselves.

By analyzing these themes phenomenologically and situating them within a philosophical framework, the project looks to esports practice as a real-life case of virtual expertise in order to gain a clearer understanding of what is possible in terms of embodying a virtual world, and thus to add much-needed complexity to the relationship between embodiment and virtuality in a world that is growing increasingly virtual by the day.

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