How does digital culture shape and is shaped by various actors, in South Asia and beyond?

Xenia Zeiler explores video games and other forms of digital culture. For instance, she extends the benefits of educational games to Humanities and Social Science disciplines.

What are your research topics?

My research is situated at the intersection of digital media, culture and society, specifically as related to India and global Indian communities.

Today, people all around the globe interact with many media formats and spaces, in various ways and for different reasons, on a daily basis. This makes research on digital culture truly interdisciplinary, regarding questions, approaches, and methods. My focus within this wider field of digital culture is video games and gaming research, in India and beyond.

Closely related to and supporting this are my other major research areas. In order to understand how digital spaces such as social media or video games, and more traditional media formats such as film or TV, shape and are shaped by various actors, I study digital religion, popular culture, cultural heritage, and mediatization processes, especially as related to South Asia.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

Digital technology keeps evolving at a fast pace, and how persons interact with it are constantly changing. Today, cultural and social transformations are increasingly related to changing media environments and growing media use. These in turn lead to a new quantity and quality of (re)negotiations and (re)constructions of values, worldviews and cultural and social practices.

Intensified media use has diverse consequences and occurs on a global scale, in the so-called ‘West’ or Global North (especially Europe and North America) as well as in most world regions beyond this.

My research on the global dimensions of such mediatization processes contributes to deciphering transcultural, transnational, and transmedia flows – not only as flowing from the Global North to the Global South but especially also vice versa. In this sense, my work on digital culture in and as related to South Asia provides new findings that further novel methodical and theoretical discussions and developments for digital culture research overall.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

Video games play a highly significant role in shaping culture and society, for instance, by actively contributing to constructing the perceptions of values, identities, and society in general. Exciting ways of using this educational potential include game-based learning, gamification, and utilising game-based environments for teaching.

As studies continue to verify additional benefits of, especially, the immersion factors of educational games as compared to traditional teaching, I find it very promising to keep extending the benefits of educational games to Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines, such as South Asian Studies.

For example, in collaboration with an award-winning Indian game development studio, we recently developed two educational video games introducing selected core aspects of Indian culture and society, by taking the festival Durga Puja as a content example. With this, large audiences in and beyond academia can be reached, in hopefully unique and intriguing ways. 


Xenia Zeiler is the professor of South Asian studies in the Faculty of Arts.

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