December Wrap Up Academic Books

December Wrap Up: Academic books from the MIT Press

For December, we are highlighting six new academic books published by the MIT Press. Noah Wardrip-Fruin considers two questions: What are the fundamental ways that games work? And how can games be about something? Wardrip-Fruin argues that the two issues are related in How Pac-Man Eats. Examine the datafication of family life—in particular, the construction of our children into data subjects in Child Data Citizen. Eugene Richardson, a physician and an anthropologist, contends that public health practices—from epidemiological modeling and outbreak containment to Big Data and causal inference in Epidemic Illusions.

How Pac-Man Eats 

By Noah Wardrip-Fruin

How the tools and concepts for making games are connected to what games can and do mean; with examples ranging from Papers, Please to Dys4ia.

“In drawing out the connections between the deep logics and models of games and the interpreted meaning that players derive from them, Wardrip-Fruin has taken an important step toward a poetics of games: a way to think about them that bridges formal analysis and player responses.” —Raph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design

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By Stephen Chrisomalis

Insights from the history of numerical notation suggest that how humans write numbers is an active choice involving cognitive and social factors.

“In Reckonings linguistic anthropologist Stephen Chrisomalis takes his lay audience on a sweeping cross-cultural journey through the vast domain of ideas and principles underlying quantitative reckoning. Philologists will delight in his early chapters on the rise and fall of Roman numerals, while anthropologists and archaeologists will find their place in the closing chapter. —Dr. Anthony Aveni, Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Colgate University

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Owning the Street

By Amelia Thorpe

How local, personal, and materially grounded understandings about belonging, ownership, and agency intersect with law to shape the city.

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Child Data Citizen

By Veronica Barassi

An examination of the datafication of family life—in particular, the construction of our children into data subjects.

“In this superb book, Barassi provides a rich and illuminating account of the way data about children is collected and used, why it matters, and what we can do about it.” —Lina Dencik, Reader at Cardiff University and Co-Director of the Data Justice Lab

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Epidemic Illusions

By Eugene T Richardson

A physician-anthropologist explores how public health practices—from epidemiological modeling to outbreak containment—help perpetuate global inequities.

“A brilliant text that learns from our great thinkers in the Global South. Epidemic Illusions decolonizes global public health, and it should be required reading for every course on outbreaks and pandemics.” —Agnes Binagwaho, Vice Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity

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The Elusive Shift

By Jon Peterson

How the early Dungeons & Dragons community grappled with the nature of role-playing games, theorizing a new game genre.

“The philosophical conundrums at the heart of role-playing in the 1970s that Peterson lays out in this book are still with us, still challenging us to meet them with fresh insights and new perspectives. An eye-opening and inspiring book!” —D. Vincent Baker, cocreator of Apocalypse World

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