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Presented By: Digital Studies Institute

DSI Esports Symposium | #TechFail: From Intersectional (In)Accessibility to Inclusive Design

Kishonna Gray in Conversation with David Adelman

A distorted image of a neon-lit room with a person wearing a gaming headset in front of a computer screen A distorted image of a neon-lit room with a person wearing a gaming headset in front of a computer screen
A distorted image of a neon-lit room with a person wearing a gaming headset in front of a computer screen
This talk provides an exploration into the (in)accessibility of gaming technologies, most notably the Xbox Kinect. While the gaming world remarked on the possibilities created when the body becomes the controller, many Black gamers illustrated the centrality of race in deciding who can (and cannot) participate in this technological potential.

Microsoft’s introductory video for the Kinect was met with extreme enthusiasm by gamers. However, the cinematic trailers previewed during my ethnographic observations illustrate the landscape in which the Kinect was built, highlighting the pervasiveness of whiteness at the core of this technology. In the video, we meet a white family using the Kinect and exploring the possibilities therein. Later, we are introduced to a black family, but their few seconds on-screen confirm the process of “adding and stirring,” or incorporating diverse bodies in limited ways, hoping that their screen time will be enough for the diversity checkboxes.

While my observational narratives introduce readers to gaming tech’s limited potential and its inaccessibility, this talk also illustrates the possibilities that appear when inclusivity is at the core of design. Thus this talk will provide an intersectional exploration into (in)accessible gaming technologies, and morphs into a discussion of inclusive design, highlighting various design approaches to increasing accessibility in gaming technologies. I consider how accessibility in technology affects marginalized users’ adoption of technologies.

Dr. Kishonna Gray is an Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, & Digital Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky. She is also a faculty associate at the Berkman-Klein Center at Harvard University. Dr. Gray is the author or co-editor of numerous books and articles including her foundational 2014 work Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live: Theoretical Perspectives from the Virtual Margins, 2018’s edited collections Woke Gaming and Feminism in Play (from our very own University of Washington press) and most recently Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming. She also has a book currently under contract with NYU Press entitled Black Game Studies. She’s a highly sought-after speaker and regularly addresses both academic and industry audiences such as at the Game Developers Conference. She is the winner of a number of awards over the years including The Evelyn Gilbert Unsung Hero Award and the Blacks in Gaming Educator Award.

David Adelman is a DISCO Network Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Digital Accessible Futures Lab at the University of Michigan. His research interests center on disability and crip studies, with a particular emphasis on disability media studies, digital disability cultures, disability film studies, and critical sexuality studies. Through an interdisciplinary crip studies/feminist lens, he pursues questions that emerge at the intersection of power, culture, technology, identity, and desire.

This event will be a hybrid event with both a physical meeting space and an online meeting space.

Please register for in-person attendance at the University of Michigan's Central Campus here:

Please register in advance for the online Zoom Webinar here:

CART will be provided. If you anticipate needing additional accommodations to participate, please email Eric Mancini at Please note that some accommodations must be arranged in advance and we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.

We would like to thank the following Student Group Co-Sponsors:
Michigan Computer Graphics
PokemonGo UMich
UM Esports

We would like to thank the following Department Co-Sponsors:
Center for Japanese Studies
Department of Recreational Sports
Institute for Research on Women and Gender
Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies
Nam Center for Korean Studies
School of Information DEI Office
The DISCO Network
Digital Accessible Futures Lab

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