(Im)Material Worlds: An Exploration of the Discursive Construction of the Materialities of Fictional Worlds through Information-in-Social-Practice

  • Author / Creator
    Stobbs, Robyn E.
  • The objective of this study is to explore how fictional worlds are constructed and engaged with in tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs). The research is interdisciplinary in nature, situated in the fields of human ecology and library and information studies to study an everyday life leisure activity. I draw on conceptualizations of materiality from material culture studies and conceptualizations of information and studies of information practices and behaviour from library and information studies as a foundation for this research. The methodological underpinnings of this research are grounded in ethnomethodology, and I used a big and small stories approach, with a focus on small stories, and an analytic lens derived from conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis. Data collection occurred at three sites to enable in-depth analysis of three groups of gamers. With three groups of participants there was a total of 17 participants in this study. Natural language data was collected by video recording live games, and an interview was conducted for each group (with either the game master or the group as a whole, depending on the game type). The data analysis focused on three areas:
    1) ways that players orient themselves in relation to identities, actions, locations, and objects, with particular attention to how these orientations are discursively formulated and used to inform understandings of the fictional world in unfolding gameplay;
    2) ways that roles and rights to know about the world and gameplay influence the ways the fictional world is built and engaged with; and
    3) ways that (im)materialities are discursively created and informed by the players through references to previous experiences and other works (also referred to as intertextuality).
    The findings of this research demonstrate ways that TRPG players construct and orient to the (im)material worlds of games through their talk, how epistemic asymmetries and ecologies are implicated in interaction, and how the continuous and intertextual nature of experience is made relevant and informative to the creation of shared understandings. The micro-information behaviours examined in this research demonstrate ways that fiction and reality inform one another in the everyday activity of TRPG play. The research contributes to discussions of immateriality in material culture studies by examining fictional environments in talk, as well as to scholarship on everyday information behaviour in library and information studies by examining the particularities of orally based information creation and use in the specific context of TRPGs.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.